Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Croatia Part 2: Don’t Split your time – Head directly to Hvar

When my boyfriend and I planned our trip, we weren’t really sure where to go in Croatia – we just heard the country was beautiful. So we noted the major cities, but also knew we only had a week and wanted a beach trip – so focused on Dubrovnik (definitely must-see, as my part 1 attests) and Split, which we learned is more a transit-hub. Besides these, I’m certain that in-land, Zagreb would be interesting (I’ll get there next time). However, if your goal is exploring the beaches of Croatia, I suggest making Hvar your home-base.

 But you will have to go through Split – so here’s what I found:
Diocletian Palace internal square

Cathedral of St. Lawrence
Split provides the incredible Diocletian Palace – a UNESCO site that’s integrated with day-&night-life of the city as shopping mall, diverse cafeteria, and concert venue (as it clearly has operated for millennia). Another nearby highlight is another UNESCO site at Trogir. It’s worth a stop to see the incredible carvings at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence (don’t forget to bring something to cover your shoulders, or don’t wear a tank!) and another beautiful Palm-laden promenade. We skipped the small fort, which didn’t appear to have much inside (it was all about the view from outside).

Palm promenade of Trogir
After returning to Split we headed east of downtown, attempting to find a gay “beach” down a cliff-side (upon a google gay-map recommendation) but it was just a couple of naked old men trying to get handsy. Important tip: When a naked old man gestures for the sunscreen you’re putting on, expect he wants to rub it on you (not that he needs some). Plus the water was for the first time murky! So, we abruptly left and checked out Kasjuni Beach, likely the best beach in Split (and the only one with a gay/nude part).

View from Tvrdava Fortica - Hvar
After a day for Split – we felt that more beaches beaconed on nearby islands! So, despite booking 4 nights in Split, we ended up spending a night in Hvar when we realized it would be too time-consuming to go back and forth to visit the nearby islands (and with the heat, a inland, zipline trip or hike wasn’t on our to-do list). We set out to Hvar early, and walked up to Tvrdava Fortica (the Fort) above the port city, with expansive views of another beautiful Palm promenade and old city below. Back in the city (before it got too hot), our fort ticket also provided entrance to one of the oldest theaters in the world.

After a quick meal, we took a quick water taxi to the gay (and thus of course nude) beach on Jerolim Island. Finally, after meeting very few people on beaches, we found gay friends and people our age! With a floating raft in the middle of the bay, we lounged and met 4 guys, including one couple (2 traveling parties) all from Paris.

Floating raft at Jerolim
Becoming fast friends (how can you not when you’re naked?) the 6 of us spent the evening together – enjoying gay pool time (and I think shocking some straight Brits who made fun of our frivolous femme water frolicking). Later we grabbed squid ink pizza and then drinks al fresco at Ka’lavenda, mainly just an expensive bar. It seems many gays mentioned it as a hangout, but it’s just generally a popular spot for a drink. No, Hvar isn’t about the nightlife – but there’s always Grindr, where one of our new single friends made-out.

Out of 6 of us, 3 had had NYC hats!
The next morning while the French crew (some of whom spent entire week there in Hvar) rented a boat together and visited new islands – we travel-anxious Americans took off for Brac (pronounced Brach). Our plan was to visit what some blogs said was a top beach in Europe – Zlatni Rat. Besides its natural beauty, there are also cute food stations. But we just headed directly to the gay (and thus naked) spot at the far western edge, and chatted with guys there, including more Parisians and a couple from Chicago. The couple disappeared for some time swimming and I had to help save their stuff from a big wave that hit. It’s good to note: you need not worry about leaving your belongings on the beach – but don’t place them near the waters edge!

To be honest, the beach was not so different than many others, what’s incredible about all of these beaches (beyond that they are rocky, not sandy) is that you’re on the salty Mediterranean so you can easily lay back and float! No need for a raft, just relax and listen to the sea.

Next time, I’m hoping to explore more on the island of Hvar, which has another beautiful old port city, Stari Grad – and I’ll be happy to dart around to other beaches as well. I suggest arriving via air in Split spending the night there so you can see Trogir, the Palace and have fabulous meal (there certainly are a multitude of options). Then the next day, you can head to Hvar for the main part of your stay in the area. You could easily spend a week, especially if you enjoy lots of beach time. It’s not the gayest locale, but there will always be some. Still, consider it more of a get-away than a place to socialize.

My next trip to Croatia will have to include Zagreb – and a return to take in rays in Hvar.

Panoramic view from the tip of Zlatni Rat - popular beach on the island of Brac