Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

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How to Visit Krka National Park from Split on a Day Trip

Krka National Park is the second most visited Croatian national park, after Plitvice Lakes. It is situated in Šibenik-Knin County, in central Dalmatia.

Its main phenomenon is the Krka River, which has springs near Knin and is famous for beautiful waterfalls, tufa barriers, and karst caves. 

The park encompasses an area of 109 square kilometers (about 42 square miles) and offers dozens of natural and cultural attractions, too many to see in just one day!

If you’re staying in Split and you want to organize a day trip from Split to Krka National Park, you’ll have to decide on which part of the park you’ll want to visit, as you can’t hope to see it all. It all depends on your preferences.

Don’t worry, we’ll cover all the options in this post and hopefully make the decision a little bit easier for you! If possible, I do however recommend you spend a couple of days in the park and experience everything Krka has to offer. I guarantee you’re not going to be disappointed. However, even if you only can do a day trip from Split to Krka, we’ll make sure you see the best of it!

How to Get to Krka from Split

 It’s very easy to get to Krka National Park if you’re staying in Split. The distance between the city and the northern part of the park is only about 100 km (approx. 62 miles). I strongly recommend renting a car as a way of transport.

The bus from Split would take you only as far as Skradin, which is the southern part of Krka National Park. If you want to visit the northern part of the park, you would need a car. From Skradin you can take one of the tour boats to visit some of the “southern” attractions, but you won’t be able to see the northern part of the park.

If you opt for a bus, use this website to check the availability and prices. The one-way ticket costs from 40 to 90 kunas ($6 to $14 USD), depending on the season.

The ride would take about an hour and a half if there are no delays. Remember that June to September is the high tourist season in Croatia, and traffic jams are common. Also, make sure you reserve/buy your ticket in time. A lot of tourists visit Krka from Split during summer, so there’s always a possibility that no tickets would be available.

Psssst. Try to avoid using the Split Bus Station website. It often crashes and the search engine doesn’t work properly!

Renting a car is a great option if you’re traveling in a group. You can check the prices and availability via our favorite car rental search engine in the Balkans, Discover Car Hire. They search over 500 companies to ensure you’re getting the best price on your rental. Check car rentals from Split here.

Depending on the package you choose and the size of the car, it will cost you from 110 to 1000 kunas ($16 to $140 USD). Yes, it’s quite a range, so it depends on quite a few factors!

It would be a simple drive from Split. The park is situated near the A1 highway. The highway will take you from Split to Šibenik, and there are two possible exits you can take to get to the park from there.

Car on the Zagreb Split highway

If you want to use the Lozovac entrance, take the exit “Šibenik”. Use the “Skradin” exit if you want to enter the park in Skradin. Just remember that Skradin is the most popular entrance, so it could be crowded.

Tolls for both options would cost you between 30–40 kunas ($5–$6 USD), one way. The gas for the round trip would cost you about 140 kunas ($20 USD), and the drive would last about one to one and a half hours.

The other option is to use state roads to avoid tolls, either a D1 state road from Split to Knin or a D8 road from Split to Šibenik.

The routes to the park from both Knin and Šibenik are clearly marked by signs and info boards. The drive could last a little longer, depending on the traffic jams and possible delays or round ways. There’s an official parking space in Lozovac and it’s free.

If you want to park at the Skradin entrance, you’ll have to pay 7 kunas (about a $1 USD) per hour.

Extra tip: if you’re using an electric car, you can find the charging/power stations at the park, at Lozovac (southern Krka) and Laškovica (middle Krka).

You could use a taxi service to get to Krka, but I would only recommend it if you’re traveling in a group of 6-8 people and none of you is a driver.

The taxi is pretty expensive and there are not a lot of options to choose from. The round trip would cost you about 1200 kunas ($180 USD) for a car that fits three people. Check out the prices here.

Renting a car is a much better option in my opinion. It would cost you less, even with the tolls and the gas.

There’s always an option to book a tour from Split to Krka. However, bear in mind that most of the tours cover only the southern part of the park and the prices usually don’t include the entrance ticket to the park.

There are a couple of tours to choose from (some offer a short side trip to Šibenik as well), but I would recommend this tour, which you can book online here and present a mobile voucher for. It combines a trip to Šibenik and also covers the entrance fee to Krka, so the only extra is food, drinks, and optional souvenirs.

If that tour doesn’t suit, there are plenty of others. I always recommend Get Your Guide platform for booking tours. This tour is a bit cheaper, but it’s a bit rushed and doesn’t include entrance fees. This tour includes entrance fees and also enjoys superb reviews, plus time in Šibenik. These tours are very popular, so make sure you book them in time, especially in high season!

Krka National Park Entrance Fees

Before buying a ticket to visit Krka, you should have in mind which sites in the park you’d like to visit. There are certain parts of the park that can be reached only by boat, so you’ll have to buy an additional boat ticket to see those.

The prices depend on the season and the popularity of certain sites.

A general ticket (covers all land sites) will cost you from 30 kunas ($5 USD) in the low season and 200 kunas ($30 USD) in the high season ($3-$18 USD for children aged 7-18).

To visit Roški slap you’ll need to pay an extra 30 to 100 kunas ($5-$15 USD) or 20-55 kunas ($3-$8 USD for children).

A ticket for the northern part of the park (Kistanje, Burnum, Puljane) costs 30-40 kunas ($5-$6 USD) or 20-30 kunas ($3-$5 USD) for children.

Note that people with disabilities and children to 7 years of age can enjoy free entrance.

The ticket includes a boat ride from Skradin to Skradinski buk (except in January, February, March, November, and December), and a bus ride from Bogatići and Laškovica to Roški slap (only in June, July, August, and September).

From March to November, the park offers a bunch of boat rides to various sites. The prices range from 50 to 100 kunas ($8-$15 USD) for adults, and 25 to 90 kunas ($4-$12 USD) for children aged 4-18.

You can check all the prices and boat excursion schedule here.

General Information for Visiting Krka National Park

I recommend buying your tickets online (though if you’ve booked a guided tour with an entrance ticket included, you can ignore this step).

You can buy them at several places in the park, but sometimes that means waiting in line for a really long time, especially when it comes to tickets for boat excursions. Online tickets allow you to enter the park directly, without waiting at the reception.

There are eleven (yes, 11!) park entrances. Lozovac, Skradin and Skradin most are entrances for the southern part of the park. If you want to visit the middle part, you’ll have to use Visovačka kuća “Kuželj”, Roški slap, Laškovica or Ozidana pećina. The northern part of the park has three entrances: Kistanje – manastir Krka, Burnum and Manojlovački slap.

The park is open practically 365 days a year (except on the 25th and 26th December), and working hours change, depending on the season (you can check them here).

What to See in Krka National Park

As I said, the park is divided into three general parts (northern, middle and southern) and it’s not possible to see all three in just one day. To help you decide which part to visit on your Krka National Park day trip, here’s a little guide on locations and sites.

So, let’s start with the southern part of the park, the most visited part. Its main attraction is Skradinski buk, a beautiful tufa barrier with impressive seventeen waterfalls.

Tufa rock formation with long exposure waterfalls

You can take a walk on a couple of available trails, all connected with charming wooden bridges. There’s an overlook you can climb on for an amazing view of the park.

The trails are well-marked and there are a lot of info panels with stories about Krka’s cultural and natural heritage.

From Skradin, you can take a boat excursion to Visovac, a tiny island on which you can visit a 17th-century church and a monastery.

Aerial shot of monastery on small island in middle of blue lake

The center attraction of the middle part of the park is Roški slap, a beautiful waterfall with a bunch of little cascades known as “The Necklaces”.  You can take a boat ride to Roški slap from Skradin.

Be sure to visit a prehistoric cave Ozidana pećina, but bear in mind that you’ll have to climb over 500 steep steps, so you’ll need to be somewhat fit.

Visovačka kuća “Kuželj” is an educational park. From there you can take a short walking tour through old oak forests and learn something about natural diversity and woodland ecosystem.

One big waterfall cascade in Krka National Park

You should opt to visit the northern part of the national park if you’re interested in cultural heritage and historical sites. There, you can visit Burnum, the only fully restored Roman military amphitheater in Croatia.

If you visit the park in August, you can join the festival Burnumske Ide, a spectacular portrayal of the life of ancient Romans.

If you’re interested in old churches, be sure to visit Krka Manastir, a Serbian Orthodox monastery that dates to the 16th century. Be sure to dress appropriately. The monks live a very secluded life and if you wear something revealing (something that shows legs, midriff and arms), you won’t be able to enter the monastery. If you plan on visiting this site, bring a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.

Orthodox monastery in Krka National Park with tower

You can take a boat ride to monastery from Roški slap. There’s another beautiful waterfall to visit here – Manojlovački slap, the highest waterfall in the park. You can climb a Roman trail to the Burnum site, but again, you should be physically fit to be able to do it.

Additional Information on Visiting Krka National Park

→ If you’re organizing a trip to the park yourself, it would be helpful to use this brochure. It contains all the info on how to get to certain parts of the park, so you can plan the boat rides you’d need to take and mark hiking trails that will get you to certain sites.

→ Park rangers are very helpful and there are many of them, so feel free to ask for advice or recommendations.

→ Remember that swimming is possible in the park, but it all depends on the season and water levels, so bring your suit but ask around if it’s safe to swim.

People swimming in waterfalls at Krka

→ July and August are the most popular months to visit the park, so beware of the crowds!

→ There are a bunch of restaurants in the park, but you are allowed to bring your food with you. Just remember than all the money you spend in the park goes to the fund for the protection and preservation of the park’s cultural and natural heritage!

→ You can take your dog with you to the park, just make sure your pet is on the leash. Dogs are allowed everywhere except on Visovac, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to visit the island.

Dog on leash at the park with owner

→ There are a few bike paths you can use if you want to bring your bike with you. Be very careful about where you ride your bike. It’s strictly forbidden to ride a bike on hiking and walking trails, and the park rangers could fine you.

→ Remember that you can always contact the park officials for advices and additional information. I have nothing but pleasant experiences with them. Here’s all the contact info.

Have fun and enjoy yourself at Krka National Park!

23 Intriguing Things to Do in Izmir (+ Day Trips!)

I grew up in Izmir. As I grew older, I understood the beauty of Izmir more. With its beautiful cityscape and most importantly with its kind-hearted people, Izmir has become more and more popular especially in recent years.

These days, I see many of my friends moving from Istanbul to Izmir, who don’t want to get far away from the sea yet still look for a vibrant city like Istanbul.

If you have plans to travel to Turkey in the near future, take a look at the below things to do in Izmir before organizing your trip to Turkey’s beautiful west coast.

The Best Things to Do in Izmir

Hang out in Kordon

Promenade with intricate tilework and blue sea and pier

I can’t imagine Izmir without Kordon, meaning “promenade”, the seafront stretching from Cumhuriyet Meydanı to Alsancak and from Konak Pier to Konak Meydanı.

Locals go to Kordon every day to relax on the grass, to meet with friends, and of course, watch the epic sunset.

You can hire a bicycle and ride by the seaside as long as you want to. There are a lot of places to hang out like bars, local restaurants, and cafes.

The iconic symbol of Izmir, Kordon also is home to several attractions like Ataturk Museum, Zubeyde Hanım Museum Ship, and Arkas Art Centre.

Take a boat ride from Konak to Karsıyaka

City view of Izmir from the ferry on the water with white buildings and hill

Locals cross the sea everyday from Konak to Karsıyaka either to get to work, meet with family members, or just to enjoy themselves in the sun.

Ferries leave from Konak’s Pier to Karsıyaka from the waterfront. It lasts only about 20 minutes and the views are beautiful!

Get cultured at Izmir’s top museums

Turkey's Ataturk Museum in a building in Izmir

If you a museum enthusiast, make sure that you visit Izmir Museum of History & Art for its collection of sensational ancient artifacts. Pergamon, Miletos, Teos, and Smyrna attract thousands of tourists every year.

The museum is scattered across an area of 13,320 square meters, leaving you tons to explore. There are areas dedicated to different times; namely the Precious Pieces Area, the Ceramic Pieces Area and the Stone Pieces

Area. Izmir Archeology Museum is another strong player in the city. You can visit the Works of Stone Hall where there are portraits, large statues, masks, and busts. Do not miss the marble “Androklos Statue” which dates back to Roman times.

If you have additional time, head to Izmir Atatürk Museum. The museum that is on the 1st Kordon – Atatürk Street and you can see the bedroom, barber room, library, bathroom, study room, and the aide room which Atatürk used to use when he stayed there. 

Shop ’til you drop at the Kızlaragası Han Bazaar

Mosque and bazaar in Izmir

If you are into Turkish carpets and jewelry, you should definitely visit Kızlaragası Han Bazaar, the best-hidden market in town located in Kemeraltı Market.

“Bedesten” means bazaar in Turkish, and there are different bedesten to visit inside like, Bakır, Cevahir, and Cuha Bedesten.

The copper bazaar is the most well-preserved area, hosting the city’s best copper workshops. If you like something, do not forget to bargain before buying, a custom appreciated by the locals (it is not seen as rude, unlike in much of the world, if you barter with a friendly attitude).

Kızlaragası dates back to the 18th-century and it is a historic caravanserai that makes you feel like you have traveled back in time. Now 200 meters from the shore, it was previously located by the seaside. Natural disasters like earthquakes and fires damaged the Han throughout the centuries, but it has been renovated several times.

The historic caravanserai scatters around 4000 square meters and its courtyard is 600 square meters. The historic courtyard has coffee and tea houses, my favorite “Şükrü Bey’in Yeri” being one of them where Turkish coffee is brewed on top of coals.

Both tourists and locals like to come to Kızlaragası Han Bazaar to breathe in the historic atmosphere and enjoy themselves on a sunny day.

Have dinner at Aysa with the locals

Three borek rolls served with Turkish tea on a blue table

If you can find a seat at Aysa, make sure that you order Bosnian borek, a traditional pastry of Turkish cuisine.

Located in Abacıoglu Han, this local lokanta (similar to a Greek taverna) has variety of meze small plate options as well as meat and vegetable food in the menu. If you cannot find a place for dinner, try a tasty Turkish breakfast there!

 Visit Zübeyde Hanım Museum Ship

Museum ship moored in Izmir harbor

Izmir is the symbol of Turkish Independence War. Therefore, the city is famous for its love for Atatürk and everything he represents.

Located in Kordon, the ferry weighs 307 tons and is 50 meters long, attracting hundreds of tourists everyday for its historical and engineering importance.

Locals especially bring their children so that they can learn about Atatürk’s mother who died in Izmir. In fact, my mother took me there too when I was just 9 years old.

Snack on sweets at Meşhur Hisarönü Şambalicisi

Sambali - a sweet made of yogurt, flour, and honey

Made from almond, semolina, sugar, and yoghurt, “şambali” is a local must-try.

The bakery Meşhur Hisarönü Şambalicisi has been serving its customers since 1942 behind Hisar Mosque, and it’s a local favorite.

Shop at Kemeraltı Market

Market stall selling fish

Many locals visit Kemeraltı Bazaar to buy a traditional Turkish wedding costume. Young women wander around trying hard to find the perfect wedding dress.

The atmosphere can be a bit buzzy; there are shopkeepers who smile and shout in order to attract potential customers all the time.

Meanwhile, if you’re not planning a wedding but you are a curious foodie, there is plenty of local food options to sample!

Nothing can beat Izmir’s Agora

Ancient stone arches

Most tourists start their tour of Izmir from the Agora, the city center’s ancient monument.

Imagine walking around market streets, residential neighborhoods, and tall commercial buildings, discovering the best of Izmir at your own pace.

In the 2000-year-old marketplace, visit the archways on the lower floor, drink water from the fountains, and have a glass of tea in this magical setting once an important stop of the Silk Road.

There is even a local song dedicated to the Agora called “Agora Meyhanesi.” Meyhane means an inn where people gather to drink.

Enjoy the green spaces in the city

Izmir Culture Park in the city center with trees and walking paths

Izmir has many beautiful gardens and theme parks to enjoy during the day and at night.

One of these parks, Kulturpark is a large entertainment complex and it has play areas for children, a zoo, a park for picnics, and local cafes.

On the other hand, Olof Palme Park is equipped with sports facilities for more active outdoor enthusiasts.

One final option, Adnan Saygun Park, hosts concerts during national holidays and it is very popular with locals and curious tourists. Just enjoy the sun by laying down on the grass and enjoy your drink!

Check the time in İzmir Clock Tower

Lone clock tower standing up between two palm trees on sunny day

This was always the perfect spot to meet my friends when I went out on Saturdays. I guess it still is!

In order to celebrate the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II’s 25th anniversary of his coronation, the tower was built by Raymond Pere, a French architect.

The order was given by Grand Vizier Küçük Sait Paşa. German Emperor Wilhelm II gave the clock as a present in 1900 to Sultan Abdülhamit II.

Today, it’s a popular meeting spot and point of interest for tourists, and you’ll find a small mosque around the tower, too!

Get a haircut in Alsancak 

Barber chairs, a popular thing to do in Izmir

I know this is not a very traditional way of writing about Alsancak, but it is true!

Get a haircut in one of the barbershops where they use very unique techniques to get rid of facial hair such as wax and burning cotton.

Alsancak is the heart of Izmir and it is home to many bars, shops, and restaurants.

It is home to the Kibris Sehitleri Street, the longest shopping street in town. In fact, you can think of it as Izmit’s answer to Istiklal Street in Istanbul. If you don’t want to leave town without a Turkish souvenir, you should definitely shop here!

Take the elevator and enjoy Izmir’s cityscape

Izmir elevator at sunset with gorgeous views of buildings and sea and sky

Get on the “Asansör” and enjoy the views on the hill where you can see the entire city and the Aegean Coast.

It is a popular spot for tourists who would like to enjoy their Turkish coffee with a view. Karatas, Izmir’s Jewish quarter is also located near Asansör, and makes a great place to visit after the Asansör.

Home to several synagogues, Karatas attracts Jewish people on a daily basis. Nesim Levi is known to have built the elevator back in 1907, which is located in Dario Moreno Street.

Soak up the history in Kadifekale

Ancient Turkish castle with stone work

Built by General Lysimachos, Kadifekale is an ancient castle and fortress, where you can see the magical panoramic views of the Gulf of İzmir from the hill.

When twilight falls, the views get more and more beautiful and you can even see people working on carpets from where you stand.

Incredible Day Trips from Izmir

Check out Ephesus & Pergamon Acropolis

Turkey - Ephesus

There are a lot of things to do in Izmir, but there’s plenty to do outside of the city limits, too. And of them all, Ephesus is undoubtedly the most famous.

Welcoming two million visitors a year, this ancient city was once a very popular stop on the Silk Road. There are 12,000 scrolls preserved within the double walls of Ephesus, an amazing reminder of the port that people visited once to buy textiles, exotic spices and fruits.

It is also home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as to the Library of Celsus … not to mention temples, marble roads, antique theatre, and tombs to boot!

If you want to visit Ephesus from Izmir, there are guided tours making it super-simple for an affordable price. We recommend this guided tour (which you can book online easily here).

The Pergamon Acropolis is a must-see as well in the town of Bergama dating back to the 2nd-century BC. Don’t forget to get lost in the back streets of this town and discover hidden gems while talking to locals. For this, I recommend you hire a guide — it is worth it! You can get a reputable guide easily on the Get Your Guide tour platform; check here for details.

Go windsurfing in Alacatı

Windsurfers on blue sea in Alacati Turkey

If you like windsurfing, Alacatı is a must-see destination for you. Just two hours away from Izmir by car, it is the ultimate escape from the hustle of nearby cities.

Surrounded by windmills and vineyards, Alacatı is the most popular vacationing spot for windsurfing enthusiasts. There is wind all the time and the hot sun seems to leave you with a tan instantly!

For beginners and advanced windsurfers alike, check out Alacati Surf Paradise Club, Alacati Windsurf-Kiteboard School, and Active Surf for windsurfing classes.

At night, people dress up and walk on the streets of the old town. Make sure that you have had a reservation for the restaurants as the area is extremely popular with local cuisine!

Drink local Turkish wine in Sirince

Beautiful Ottoman era town in Sirince Turkey

They say Sirince is the perfect combination of a traditional Turkish village and a traditional Greek village. To me, it reminds me a bit of Berat in Albania!

The village is 12 kilometers away from the ancient city of Ephesus and 85 kilometers away from Izmir, so it makes a logical stop en route to Ephesus. 

Sirince is famous for its wine, crumbling but beautiful old houses, artisanal products, and friendly shopkeepers. A photographer’s dream destination, Sirince attracts thousands of tourists every year who want to soak up the afternoon sun while drinking sweet wine.

Using cars in the center of the town is strictly prohibited, therefore the loveliness of the narrow streets are preserved. Horses are allowed, though.

The Sirince Bazaar is one of a kind. Feel free to try a piece of things before you buy, as this is a custom local behavior and is not considered to be rude. Shop for traditional items like dried fruit, soaps, handmade clothing, jewelry, amazing trinkets, and souvenirs.

There is a fun fact I’d like to share with you. There were people who believed that the apocalypse would begin on December 21st, 2012 in the town of Sirince! Believers came to the town to spend the night and wait for the end of the world… which, clearly, never came. This fun fact has only made Sirince more popular throughout the years!

Swim your heart out in Cesme

Cesme beach gold sand with umbrellas and blue sea

Of course, the most popular activity during the hot summer months is swimming. Izmir doesn’t have any beach to speak of, but an hour’s car drive can take you to many sandy spots on the Aegean Sea.

Cesme is home to the best beaches, these are Ilıca Beach (white sand), Altınkum Beach (golden sand), and Pırlanta Beach (wind and waves).

“Cesme” means “fountain” in Persian and it is one of the most vibrant towns of the Turkey’s coast. Make sure you visit the 500-year-old castle in city center, the old town which is home to houses built in Ottoman and Greek style, fountains, and traditional cafes and shops.

Either rent a car and enjoy the roadtrip or take the metro to Uckuyular Bus Station and head west!

 Visit the charming sites of Sardis and Seferihisar

Seferihisar, Izmir, streets with white walls and pink flowers

Just 45 miles east of Izmir City, Sardis is a remarkable archaeological site. Around 334 B.C, it was the capital city of Lydia. The city then fell to Alexander the Great, but then rose from its ashes during Byzantine era.

While you walk around Sardis, you will explore a bathhouse, a gymnasium, and a synagogue. It is basically an open-air museum, to be honest.

Seferihisar, on the other hand, is full of citrus and olives trees and vineyards. It is Turkey’s first “slow city”, which officially recognized Cittaslow movement.

28 miles from Izmir Province, Seferihisar has also a 16th-century castle and a harbor where you can eat fish and drink rakı, the Turkish favorite spirit flavored with anise! Dilute it with some water and watch it turn milky-white!

Where to Stay in Izmir

Budget: Who knew that a 5-star Hilton Hotel in Izmir could be budget? For as little as $80 a night for a double room [in high season, I should add], you can enjoy a 5-star hotel in style. Located in the heart of Konak, Izmir’s coolest neighborhood along the seafront, you’ll love the excellent amenities that you’d expect from a 5-star price! Oh, and some of the lower-end rooms even have literal castle views. You’re welcome!

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Of course, while $80 USD a night for a 5-star hotel is undoubtedly a steal, there are even more budget friendly options. The Park Inn by Radisson has doubles under $60 USD a night, and the Wyndham has hotels under $70 USD a night for a double, also in peak season!

Boutique: For a chic and luxurious place to stay without the ‘big-name’ recognition of many of the world’s top hotel brands, there are plenty of choices in happening Izmir. Met Boutique Hotel offers modern and sleek design with an eye towards the new and trendy, a fantastic location, and personalized attention to detail.

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: For ultra 5-star luxury, look to the inimitable Swissotel Grand in Izmir. This gorgeous luxury hotel costs less than $150 USD a night in much of the peak season, though executive suites and other premium rooms can soar in cost. With spas, indoor/outdoor pools, yoga classes, fitness centers, massage centers, saunas and hammams, nail salons, fine dining, tennis courts… it’s basically all you’ll ever want to have, at prices you won’t believe are possible.

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

What to Pack for Izmir

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

We have a guide of what to pack for Turkey, but here are five things you definitely want to bring with you!

The Lonely Planet Turkeya good guidebook can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out in the city and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific neighborhood information that will help you in different parts of the city, and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!

Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (Stephanie uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use for all our travels. It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag, yet it’s still quite stylish for all of its security features. If you’d rather bring something smaller, you can pack a money belt instead. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water is *technically* safe to drink in much of Turkey, I would still avoid it. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Turkey – being on the water! A trip to Turkey isn’t complete without a cruise or at least a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Turkey Travel Resources

Turkey - Istanbul - Stephanie Ortakoy Mosque

We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Turkey!

If this will be your first time traveling to Turkey, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.

If you’re heading to Istanbul as well as Izmir, we have you covered. Start with our essential Istanbul Travel Tips and guide to staying safe in Istanbul

We’re working on our massive things to do in Istanbul post, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, tips for shopping in Istanbul, the best Turkish food to eat, how to plan an Istanbul honeymoon, and what to do in Istanbul at night.

If you will be visiting in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide plus an overview of Istanbul weather in January.

If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!

Headed to Cappadocia? If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We also have posts on the best things to do in Cappadocia, and how to plan a perfect 3 day Cappadocia itinerary, plus how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul.

We have tons more Turkey and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Turkey and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Turkey, it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.

For travel insurance, Stephanie and I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

>> Get your free quote from World Nomads here <<

Pin this Guide to Things to Do in Izmir (+ Day Trips from Izmir) Here!)

Planning a trip to visit Izmir, Turkey? This city is full of culture, history, ruins, shopping, and great day trips from Izmir where you can find Ephesus, Turkish beaches, gorgeous Ottoman villages, wine, and more! Here are the best things to do in Izmir and around the Izmir region for your Turkey itinerary!

17 Insanely Useful Balkan Tips to Travel the Region Hassle-Free

The Balkans are quickly becoming one of the most sought after regions in Europe.

As overtourism peaks in many Western European cities, much of the Balkans is still relatively under-touristed (shy of a few destinations in Croatia and Greece).

With Instagram, travel blogs, and travel magazines are finally showing off the beauty of this formerly underappreciated region, tourists are arriving in the Balkans in droves – but not all of them are prepared for some of the, shall we say, quirks of traveling the region.

Stephanie and I have been living in the Balkans for the last 3+ years and running this blog for nearly 2 — and today, we’ll share with you all of our essential Balkan tips so you can plan a hassle-free trip to the region.

Our Top 17 Balkan Tips

Beware of taxis!

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Taxis

One of our biggest tips for traveling the Balkans is to be cautious with taxis. Unfortunately, Balkan taxi drivers have an unsavory reputation that’s rather well-deserved. While it’s likely that your trip to the Balkans will go smoothly, it’s also almost certain that at some point during your trip, you will overpay for a taxi ride or two.

Most taxi drivers are kind people working hard, but there are enough scam artists (and sometimes even entire scam taxi companies, like in Sofia), that you should be careful.

To prevent this, we try to use whatever taxi app is most commonly used in the city. In Bucharest, we use Uber; in Sofia, we use TaxiMe; in Belgrade, we use CarGo; in Athens, we use Beat. Other cities have different apps, which you should research before arrival, as unfortunately, Uber isn’t universally available in the Balkans.

When taxi apps aren’t possible, here are three tips to avoid scams.

  1. Register your ride with the taxi company by calling and ordering the taxi. Alternately, if language barriers are an issue, have someone at your accommodations or restaurant call on your behalf. We did this when arriving in Belgrade without WiFi – we stopped in a local hotel by the bus station and they were happy to call us a taxi.
  2. When it’s not possible to register a ride, keep your eye on the meter to make sure it starts, stops, and doesn’t jump rates at an alarming rate along the way. Have a set amount in mind where you know you’re overpaying and you can refuse to go further if you notice the meter is rigged.
  3. Carry small cash bills so you can pay without having to worry about getting the correct change back from your driver — they can sometimes act as if they don’t have change. It’s rare for taxis to take cards.

Another tip is to generally avoid taxi drivers outside of major landmarks and transit points unless you know that the lines are monitored (for example, it’s safe to take a taxi from Sofia Airport or Sofia Bus Station, but not from Sofia Train Station).

Research visas if necessary

What would you do if your passport got stolen?

There are twelve countries in the Balkans and each has different visa policies which the exception of Slovenia and Greece which are part of the Schengen zone. There are also three EU countries which are non-Schengen: Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia.

Depending on your nationality, you may need to acquire visas. For people with generally ‘strong’ passports (US, UK, EU, Australian) you likely won’t need a visa for anywhere in the Balkans with the exception of Turkey.

For people with less passport privilege, you can usually leverage a valid multi-entry visa from the US, Schengen, or UK in order to allow you into non-Schengen countries without needing a separate visa.

We can’t hope to cover every country and nationality of traveler in this article, so we urge you to do your own research… I know of a handful of seasoned travelers who got totally caught off-guard by needing a Turkish visa, so don’t let this be you! (And if you do need a Turkish e-visa, be sure to print it!).

Don’t try to cover too much on your Balkan trip

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Bus from Heraklion to Rethymnon
Unless you want to see this for the entirety of your Balkan trip, you should probably scale pack your itinerary

Being active in many Balkans travel groups, we often see people post questions online that look like this:  I have ten days to travel the Balkans and I want to see twelve cities in five countries. What’s the best itinerary for this?

To which my answer is always: Please don’t do this. You’ll hate your trip. You’ll spend half the time on buses, and you won’t see anything. Slow down.

My #1 Balkans tip is that it’s always better to go deeper into a single place than try to spread yourself too thin. Here are my recommendations for the maximum number of times you want to switch cities or countries for the amount of time you have.

One Week Trip: Best off with two cities plus a day trip. Stick to one or two countries. One city is better than two if you want to get to know the place.

Two Week Trip: Put a cap at four cities plus one or two individual day trips. Stick to three countries or less.

Three Week Trip: A maximum of five cities plus day trips. By week three you will be exhausted and ready to slow down. Stick to a maximum of four countries, but less is better!

Four Weeks or More: Keep your itinerary loose and give yourself the option to slow down. You may fall in love with a city and want to spend more time there. Don’t expect to cover the entire peninsula in a month.

Not every bus timetable online is accurate

Bulgaria - Burgas - Bus Station

It’s really common for bus routes online to be wrong, especially when it comes to seasonal information or local schedules between cities. While sites like Rome2Rio, Omio, and BalkanViator can be useful, they’re not always up-to-date.

Don’t rely solely on bus times you see online. We suggest you go to the bus station yourself, call and ask, or ask a local. Unless you can physically purchase your tickets online (which is rarely the case!), there’s a chance that the online schedule posted isn’t up to date.

Yes, you should tip in the Balkans

On a bill like this, we’d round up to 35 leva

If you’re from a country without a tipping culture, that’s cool, but please be sure to tip when you visit the Balkans!

Many locals in the tourism industry basically survive off tips, as the wages don’t really match the increasing cost of living, especially in major cities and places impacted by tourism. Factor in paying tips into your trip budget. If the service is truly awful, you are not compelled to tip, but we generally advise planning to tip when sitting down to eat, taking a taxi, or staying in a hotel. Here is roughly what to tip around the Balkans:

Restaurants & Bars: Tip 10% for good service

Taxis: Round up to the nearest amount that makes sense. i.e. Pay 400 dinar for a 350 dinar cab fare ($4 USD vs. $3.50 USD for a tip of 50 cents) or Pay 5 leva for a 4.20 leva cab ride (2.50 euros for a 2.10 euros cab ride)

Massages, Salons, etc.: 10% for good service or more for excellent service

Housekeeping: $1-3 USD per day

Tour Guides: Approximately 10% of the tour price. For free tours, start around $5 USD per person.

You can’t always use credit cards, so be prepared with cash

Be sure to always carry some cash for tips and places that don’t accept cards!

You will be able to use credit cards at many restaurants, hotels, and other spots in major cities that cater to tourists. However, credit card usage is not universal. Generally, I’ve found that credit card usage is increasing, especially in major capitals around the Balkans, but in smaller cities it’s rarer.

As with the rest of the Balkans, a good rule of thumb is to always ask ahead of time. Between places that don’t take cards, the occasional card reader issue or malfunction, and needing to leave a tip in cash, you’ll always need to have some cash on you. 

Note that American Express is not accepted in most of the Balkans, so if you only have AmEx, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have extra cash on you.

WiFi in the Balkans is generally good, but there are exceptions

Serbia - Belgrade - Laptop
The WiFi in Belgrade is fast enough to stream Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so it met all of our needs

Overall, traveling the Balkans for the last few years, I’ve found the WiFi is generally pretty excellent. Especially in Bulgaria and Romania, where you’ll find lightning-fast connections are basically the norm.

However, I’ve found that Greece consistently has some of the worst WiFi in all of the Balkans and all of Europe, to be honest.

Turkey as well has some WiFi issues, and there are some political issues that prevent access to several sites you’re probably used to accessing, such as Wikipedia and Booking.com.

Be sensitive to regional issues and politics

Serbia - Belgrade - House of Flowers and Museum of Yugoslavia Lenin and Marx Statues

It may be one region, but there are millions of different political opinions here.

Thousands of years of conquering, rebellion, oppression, occupation, and wars created a tinderbox that literally led to the start of World War I, with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (it’s not often mentioned that Austro-Hungary was occupying Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as much of the Balkans, at the time).

Between the different feelings about the fall of communism, Kosovo independence, the Balkan wars, the Macedonia name debate, and how Yugoslavia came apart, we find that it’s better to listen and learn than to interject with your own limited understanding as an outsider.

If you pay attention, you may find things are always more complicated than they appear on the surface.

Don’t only visit capitals

Serbia - Subotica - Lake Palic

If you just do the Balkan capitals, you’ll miss out on some of the best cities in the Balkans! Some of my favorite places are the smaller towns and villages. We suggest pairing them with visits to the capitals to see a bit of each side.

For example, add Subotica to Belgrade when in Serbia, or add Bansko to Sofia when in Bulgaria. Trebinje makes a delightful add-on to Mostar and Sarajevo, and Ohrid is a must-see when visiting Skopje.

Squat toilets are not entirely uncommon

If you thought squat toilets were only for Asia… think again.

You’ll often find squat toilets at bus stops and at small off the beaten path sights that aren’t super prepared for tourists, such as at Saeva Dupka cave in Bulgaria.

Even in big cities like Istanbul, many public toilets are squat toilets. It’s not the end of the world, even if they’re not our favorite, but be prepared to use one (and that’s why we always include some toilet paper and wet wipes on our Balkan packing lists!)

English is relatively widely spoken, but a little local language goes a long way

Serbia - Subotica - Street Sign
You’ll find a lot of uses of the Latin alphabet alongside Cyrillic, but knowing Cyrillic in the Balkans always comes in handy.

The rule of thumb for most of the Balkans is that until the fall of Communism, Russian was the most common foreign language taught in schools. After the fall of Communism, most schools switched to teaching English.

Thus if someone is under 30, it’s likely they at least studied English at some point. People in large cities who work in the service and tourism industries tend to speak good to great English since they use it so often.

However, for the rest of the population, they may or may not use much English so it may be rusty. Be patient and learn a few words of the local language as a courtesy. We recommend learning at least hello, goodbye, thank you, and please in the local languages.

However, be aware that the more off the beaten path you get, the less English you’ll find. We recommend having a local SIM card or having the Google translation of the country you’re visiting already downloaded in your phone. If you plan to spend a lot of time in countries with a Cyrillic alphabet, such as Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Serbia, learning Cyrillic could be quite useful (and it’s not nearly as hard as you think).

If you’ll visit Kosovo and Serbia back to back, start with Serbia

Kosovo - Monastery - Pixabay

So many people have this one backward, so let’s clear it up.

It’s actually quite simple. If you want to visit Serbia and Kosovo on the same trip back-to-back, you must start with Serbia. You’ll get a Serbia entry stamp on your passport. Then you can cross the border into Kosovo.

If you start with Kosovo, you won’t get a Serbian entry stamp and Serbia will consider you to have crossed into their country illegally.

Regardless of your political beliefs about Kosovo, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Serbian border control (or any border control, for that matter).

I have heard that if you can enter Serbia with an identity card instead of a passport (like many EU citizens can), it is OK to enter Kosovo first because there is no stamp. However, having an American passport and not being able to test this out firsthand, it’s still something I would generally advise against

If you want to visit Kosovo first and then Serbia, we suggest you leave via Kosovo back to Montenegro or North Macedonia, and then visit Serbia. I have done this twice and had no issues with Serbian border control either time I visited after visiting Kosovo a few weeks before with Kosovo stamps in my passport.

If you choose to visit Serbia, then Kosovo, and then head to another country without crossing back into Serbia, this is technically OK; however, you risk Serbia considering you to have overstayed your visa and not letting you back into the country down the road, so we’d suggest visiting Serbia, visiting Kosovo, entering back into Serbia, and then leaving via a Serbia-controlled border.

Complicated? Yes. But that’s traveling in a post-conflict region for you!

SIM cards do not work between non-EU countries

Serbia - Subotica - Telenor SIM Card

If you’ll only be spending time in the EU countries that make up the Balkans, you don’t have to worry: Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria all are part of the EU and as a result, if you have an EU phone plan with roaming enabled, you can use your EU SIM with no extra charges.

I used my Bulgarian SIM in Greece without an issue recently. You just need to check a setting to allow roaming, which varies by carrier.

However, since most of the Balkans aren’t in the European Union, you’ll need to get different SIM cards when traveling between them. Each experience has been pretty painless, but each country has its own quirks. For example, I had to list my father’s name to get a sim card in Athens, despite the fact that I am over thirty years old!

Since data is so cheap, we recommend getting new cards rather than roaming in non-EU countries, unless you have a generous international plan.

For example, we paid 300 RSD (about $3 USD)  for Serbian sim cards with 3 GB of data. If you don’t have an unlocked phone and use international roaming from the US or Canada, the plans will work fine in the Balkans, but it’ll be pricy — usually about $10 USD a day. Just note that it may cost you significantly more than getting your company to unlock your phone ahead of time, so think ahead of time before deciding what to do!

You’ll be changing money frequently

Euro Notes - Pixabay

It’s Europe, right? Shouldn’t they all take Euros? Nope, not necessarily. You can only use your Euros in Slovenia, Greece, Montenegro, and Kosovo. Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, while EU countries, all have their own independent currencies.

Always make sure to have the right Balkan currency on me and leave currency from other places back in your hotel, unless you plan on exchanging.

Money in the Balkans can get tricky. I once had an ATM in Mitrovica, Kosovo spit out Serbian dinars, which no one in the rest of Kosovo would take (which uses the euro). I left Macedonia with extra denar and couldn’t find an exchange in Albania who would make the trade. I once exchanged money with a hostel employee who gave me Serbian dinars for my Bosnian marks at a fair rate, since she was going home to Bosnia for the weekend.

Throughout the Balkans, you’ll find the Romanian Lei, Bulgarian Lev, Croatian Kuna, Bosnian Convertible Marks, Albanian Lek, Turkish Lira, plus the four places which use Euros. It’s a lot to keep track of, and you’ll have a lot of opportunities to run into bad exchange rates or to pull out the wrong cash.

Confused? We don’t blame you. Read our Balkan money guide (below) before you go!

Read: Balkan Currency Guide: What You Need to Know about Balkan Money

If you plan to rent a car, be sure you can make border crossings with it

Serbia - Lake Palic - Allison Rental Car

The idea of a Balkan road trip is a popular bucket list item… but people don’t realize that it’s a bit more complicated than just hopping in a rental car and going!

If you plan on renting a car in the Balkans and driving across a border, you have to call ahead and check with your rental company to make sure you A) can actually cross the border with the car and B) you have the correct insurance set-up to cover you in case of an issues.

One summer, Stephanie booked a rental car for three weeks with the intention of taking it from Sofia to Ohrid to Sarande to Kotor to Prishtina and back. Oh, how naive she was!

When she called ahead to check, they told her they only allowed border crossings into Serbia, Romania, and Greece. Luckily she was able to cancel and did the trip by bus instead, but it was a last-minute change she had to make.

Now we know that it’s easier to get permission to take a rental wherever you want if you start in Skopje, that taking a rental into Kosovo is a nightmare regardless of where you start or end your trip, and while driving in Serbia is delightful the gas prices there can blow a hole in your budget.

While road tripping the Balkans is always worthwhile, do be aware that it gets infinitely more complicated if you’re not bringing your own car, and prepare to dedicate a few hours to researching rental cars (we have our best Balkan tips for renting a car here, including multi-country-friendly car rental companies) rather than just booking the cheapest one and going.

Smoking indoors is hit and miss in the Balkans

Bulgaria - Sofia - Drekka Coffee Shop
While smoking bans exist in many Balkan countries, it’s not applicable for all of them, and some countries straight-up ignore smoking bans

We personally don’t care whether or not you smoke. Both Stephanie and I at one point in our lives were smokers, and we’re not the type to judge. However, one thing that troubles us and many other travelers to the Balkans is the prevalence of indoor smoking.

We know that many people travel with different health needs. Some are allergic to nicotine, some are pregnant (like Stephanie at the moment), some are traveling with small kids, some get migraines around smoke (like me), some have asthma, and some just don’t plain like the smell. If smoking indoors doesn’t bother you, great! You’ll have a fantastic time basically anywhere in the Balkans.

If you’re sensitive to indoor smoke, take extra caution in the countries where smoking indoors is more prevalent: Greece (although someone living in Greece recently told me they are cracking down on this), North Macedonia, and Serbia, where I find the indoor smoking the worst. Parts of Croatia have this problem as well, I’ve heard. I was in Albania and Kosovo recently and had no issues with smoking inside, but it was summer, so I’m aware this could change in the colder months.

Smoking is quite common in other Balkan countries like Romania and Bulgaria, but generally speaking, smokers are seated outdoors or in a specific, separate smoking section like a heated terrace in the winter. We don’t mind smoking at all — to each their own! — but indoors, it can get overwhelming. It’s something you should note if you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in the Balkans, especially if you are visiting as a digital nomad who needs to spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

While traveling the Balkans is very safe, travel insurance is still key

Greece - Crete - Seitan Limania Goat Pee
Travel insurance – the best way to get your dress replaced when a goat pees on it in Greece. Unfortunately, since it was only a 10 euro dress, it did not meet my travel insurance excess.

Travel insurance is a must-have for traveling around the Balkans. While we’ve been lucky enough not to need to make a claim while traveling abroad, there are horror stories of people who didn’t have travel insurance getting into an accident and having insane bills as a result.

Travel insurance covers a variety of situations, from small inconveniences like petty theft like pickpocketing to trip cancellation to lost luggage to catastrophic coverage such as medical evacuations, repatriation, and medical emergencies. Make sure you have a policy that covers both.

We both have used World Nomads, paying out of pocket for our coverage, for three years and it’s the only company we recommend to other travelers. We’re satisfied with their extensive coverage, ease of renewing on the road, and clear explanations of what is and isn’t covered.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

21 Things to Do (+ Eat!) In Thassos, Greece

As far as records go, Thassos appears to have been originally inhabited as far back as 13th century BC by the Thracian tribes and was later colonized by the Greeks. It served as a trading center of ancient Greece, where gold and marble were produced and traded.

It wound up in Roman possession later on, before being returned to Greece, only to be taken by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, and then reunited with Greece in 1912.

In more recent times, Thassos has gained popularity for several reasons, including a perfect temperature throughout the summer (as opposed to the mainland, the ocean surrounding the island acts as a great temperature buffer, so temperatures never rise as high as in other parts of Greece), wonderful lush greenery and fantastic seas.

Thassos is a great place to kick back, relax and enjoy your holiday, but you can also find yourself an adventure here!

A Quick History of Thassos

According to Greek mythology, there once was an eastern Phoenician king named Agenor, who had three sons and one daughter, named Europa. Zeus transformed into an ox, kidnapped Europa and carried her on his back to a cave in Crete, and from that rendezvous three sons were born.

Agenor, in the meantime, called upon his sons and grandson, named Thassos, to search high and low for Europa, and not to return until they find her. None of them were able to find her, however, and Thassos, ending up on an island in Thracia (yup, you guessed it) and being captivated by its lush greenery and wonderful climate, and unable to return without Europa, decided to settle on the island, which bore his name ever since.

Additionally, Thassos is rumored to be home to sirens, devilishly beautiful half-women-half-fish that would lure seamen with their beautiful song, and then devour them whole. These were, in fact, the mermaids we see in the Wanderings of Ulysses!

15 Best Things to Do in Thassos

Visit the Ancient Theater of Thassos

Many theaters from the ancient period remain in Greece, peppered throughout the entire country. This is one of them, built into a natural concavity at the bottom of the Acropolis hill in Limenas, and it dates back as far as the 3rd century BC.

During the Roman rule, it served as an arena for gladiator and animal fights, but outside that period, it was a place for plays, concerts, philosophers to hold speeches and so on.

Go back in time at the Archaeological Museum

In the town of Limenaria, you can experience pieces of Greek history, dating from between the 7th century BC and 7th century AD.

You can see over 1,500 pieces, including traditional Greek Kouros, pieces of ceramics, pottery, coins and so on. There are also classical and Roman period ruins located in an underground space of the museum.

Marvel at the Monastery of Archangel Michael

Monastery overlooking the blue sea

Built on top of a cliff, and featuring a spectacular view, including a view of Athos, this monastery built in the 18th century is the most popular religious site on Thassos.

It is inhabited only by nuns, and its most prized treasure is part of a nail of the Crucifixion of Christ. The nuns insist on a dress code, so if you’re visiting make sure you’re wearing long trousers (for men) or a long skirt (for women) and a top with covered shoulders.

Wander around the ancient Agora

Built between the 6th and 2nd century BC, and located within walking distance from Limenas, this spot once served as the center of the ancient town of Thassos.

Featuring various buildings, including temples, administrative buildings as well as other markers of everyday life in ancient Greece, this is an unmissable sight on your list.

Explore the Ancient Site of Aliki

Old ruins with stones and pillars

Located on the Aliki peninsula, this is an over 2,000-year old site broken up into two parts and featuring marble queries (more on that below) .

There’s also a beach called Aliki, so you can relax after having an adventure!

Check out the ancient Aliki Marble Quarry

This site was a primary source of marble in ancient Greece, since it was very easy to access, and you can still see the artifacts of that operation.

The site operated for over 1,200 years, until the Slavic invasion of Greece in the 7th century AD, when it was abandoned.

Spend time in Kastro, Thassos’ oldest village

Believed to be the oldest village on Thassos (it’s unknown when exactly when it was founded), Kastro is named after a citadel or castle (kastro means castle in Greek) probably built in medieval times, the remains of which can still be seen today.

The center of the village features a church, dating back to 1804, which the sultan granted permission for… with a catch: only if it could be completed in forty days.

The entire town came together to build the church, and they succeeded, dedicating the church to St. Anastasije. This is a sleepy little village that serves as a window into Greek countryside life, as well as a little bit of history.

Visit the charming Theologos village

This beautiful village, dating back to the 13th century and featuring influences of Macedonian traditional architecture, is an unmissable feature of Thassos.

For part of its history it served as the capital of Thassos, and today it’s protected as a cultural site. You can experience many pieces of Thassos traditions, including the Thassian folk wedding and amazing food characteristic to Theologos. There’s also a folklore museum in the village to further delve into the history.

Check out the quirky Crown of Limenaria

This is a little circle formation consisting of 12 marble stones featuring all 12 signs of the Zodiac carved into them.

It’s located in Limenaria, and, even though it might seem mythical, it was actually built in 2005 by a group of professors from Stuttgart University (I know, I was a bit disappointed too!).

Take a dip in the lovely natural ‘infinity pool’ at Giola Lagoon

This is a natural pool set at a height of about 8 meters above sea level.

You can swim in the beautifully blue pool and simultaneously get a fantastic view of the seas!

Climb Thassos’ highest mountain, Ipsarion

Ipsarion is the highest peak on Thassos, standing at 1204 meters high, so naturally it offers the best view!

If you’re a fan of hiking and nature, this might be the adventure for you! You have to get an early start, though, since the view becomes less clear when the sun starts shining brighter.

The summit is also accessible by car if you have difficulty hiking. At the top, you can sign your name into a guestbook to claim your accomplishment!

Visit the charming trio of springs, nicknamed the ‘Love Springs’

Located in Panagia, the three springs are a must-visit if you’re nearby. Apparently, this sight is where local men would come to wish for their wives to have boys.

There’s a café right next to the springs, so you can enjoy a coffee next to the pretty sight!

Check the scenic Maries Lake and Waterfall

Located in the village Maries, under the Monastery of Archangel Michael, is Maries Lake, featuring its waterfalls. You can take a waterfall shower if you’d like, and then go right into the sea afterward!

You can also enjoy the village of Maries on your way to the lake. There are also Kastro and Apostoli waterfalls on Thassos, although they are a bit harder to get to.

Relax on Thassos’ gorgeous beaches

If you’re on holiday in Thassos, you’ve probably come for the relaxation and a swim or two. As you can imagine, Thassos has so many different beaches, all of them beautiful.

You can find sand, pebble or white sand beaches, and I’ll recommend some of my favorites. Marble (Saliara) Beach, Paradise Beach, Golden Beach, Aliki (mentioned above), La Scala (if you’re looking for something a bit fancier) and Notos Beach which is basically a small secluded alcove for the adventurers.

Shop until you drop in Thassos’ boutiques

Thassos has some phenomenal shopping: here are my two favorite shops on the island.

Costis Pottery – This is a highly recommended little pottery shop with local handmade pieces great as a little souvenir from your trip.

Iris Gold Jewelry – Probably the biggest jewelry store you’ll find, Iris Gold offers not only a huge variety of pieces but also a great view and a little cafe where you can rest from your shopping. Additionally, you can find many jewelry stores in Thassos itself, with really good prices and lovely gold and silver pieces.

6 Must-Try Foods in Thassos

Some of Greece’s most famous dishes include gyros, moussaka, souvlaki and of course, fresh seafood.

As far as desserts go, kadaif (also written kataifi) is a classic you must try, as well as the traditional loukoumades, a delicious Greek donut. Additionally, Greek coffee is another sort of specialty.

You can always find things like pizza or pasta, but I really suggest you try traditional Greek food – you won’t be disappointed! Don’t forget that Greek wine is truly spectacular, and any house red is going to enhance every meal (although beer is a popular option with gyros)!

Gyros

Probably the most popular Greek specialty – not least because of the low price – you’ll hardly be able to miss Gyros on your trip. You can find it everywhere – from fast food joints dedicated to the specialty to fancier plated versions in restaurants.

Gyros are usually served in a pita, with tzatziki (which is for some reason extra everywhere, but it’s essential if you ask me), tomatoes, onion, French fries, small pieces of spiced meat (pork or chicken), ketchup, and mustard – or at least that’s how I always order it.

You can of course opt out of any of these extras, but I always go for everything on my gyros. The backbone of the dish is the pita, meat and french fries, and you can choose everything else. A Greek beer pairs really well with gyros.

Moussaka

Moussaka is kind of like a casserole and is actually quite popular around the entire Balkans, but Greek Moussaka is quite specific.

It contains minced meat with loads of spices, grilled eggplant, tomato, and is covered with béchamel and feta cheese. It’s very juicy and flavorful, traditionally featuring warm spices like nutmeg.

Souvlaki

Souvlaki is a traditional food consisting of small pieces of meat (traditionally pork, but most restaurants also offer chicken) grilled on a skewer sometimes alongside vegetables.

It’s served with French fries, pita bread and/or a salad, and although it’s meant to be eaten on its own (sometimes covered with lemon), you can also get some sauces for it.

Seafood

Since you’re on an island in the middle of a fish-rich sea, you can rest assured that your seafood is perfectly fresh.

Your best bet is to ask the waiter what fish they have today, but the most common Greek fish menu items are anchovies, sardines, mackerel, bogue, and pike.

Loukoumades

Loukoumades are small doughnut balls, usually sold out of carts on every street corner in pretty much all of Greece. They’re formed and fried on the spot, placed in a carton and covered with a variety of extras, from the traditional honey and cinnamon to things like chocolate syrup or fancier extras in more upscale locales.

As I’ve said, you can usually find a food cart somewhere along the way (and these are in my opinion the best), but Stamatis Patisserie is said to have amazing loukoumades as well.

Kadaif

Kadaif is a traditional Greek sweet, made with a special, noodle-like pastry made from wheat flour, traditionally filled with a mix of walnuts and pecans, although you can also find raisins in the filling and then flooded (metaphorically, but also kind of literally) with sugared water.

It’s truly delectable, but, as all Greek sweets, very very sweet (have it with a bitter Greek coffee to tone it down). Os Ev Parestite has the best rep when it comes to traditional kadaif (and all desserts really!), so be sure to visit it when you’re in Limenaria.

Best Restaurants in Thassos

Most Greek restaurants will serve all of the things listed above, unless they’re specialized seafood restaurants or gyros joints. Some of the places I’d recommend are Tavernaki, Taverna Ai Giorgis, Taverna Lampiris, Restaurant Nisi for seafood, and Plus Minus if you’re looking to get something other than Greek.

***

As you can see, there’s plenty of great things to do in Thassos, whether you’re looking to kick back, relax and enjoy the amazing beaches and food, or if you’re looking to add a bit of adventure to your trip!

Where to Stay in Thassos

Budget: For a cheap yet cheerful stay in Thassos, look to Aphrodite of Thassos in Skala Marion. This hotel offers studios a mere 200 meters away from the beach, with epic sea views. Featuring A/C, en-suite bathrooms, room for up to 5 guests, and balconies with sweeping views, this is as good as it gets on a budget in Greece.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here.

Boutique: For an affordable yet chic stay, check out the Meli Boutique Hotel just outside off Limenaria. Featuring stylish rooms with quirky design like funky ceiling lights and sleek lines, as well as modern amenities like A/C and flatscreen mounted TVs, you’ll love the rooms as well as the views.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury: For an adults-only getaway that’s the ultimate in luxe sophistication, check out the 360ᵒ Luxury View Collection. This hotel features private pool suites with beautiful sea views, tons of open-air lounge areas, stylish rooms and suites with tons of personality, and all sorts of luxurious amenities like rain showers and lush Coco-mat mattresses for a perfect night’s sleep.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here.

What to Pack for Thassos

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage
Our trusty PacSafe bag is on the right

Mosquito repellent: Mosquitos in the summer can be nasty! You can bring ones with DEET or without DEET, or I love having some of these mosquito repellent wipes that I can keep in my bag in case I suddenly start to get swarmed and don’t have my regular repellent with me.

Sunscreen: You can buy sunscreen in Greece, but it’s likely cheaper at home or bought online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions.

Water shoes: Thassos has both sandy and rocky beaches. The thing is that pebble and rocky beaches in Greece are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the pebble seafloor is what creates that gorgeous deep turquoise-colored water that is hard to beat, as the lack of sand means you have incredibly clear water. However, on the other hand, pebble beaches and rocky shores can be downright painful!

Our friend recently cut his foot on a rocky beach in Croatia; had he been wearing water shoes, he’d have avoided such unpleasantness! We suggest these unisex water shoes. They’re not sexy, but they will make your trips to the beach far more pleasant!

A secure backpack: We both carry the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe not only on our travels but in our day-to-day lives. It’s cute, it’s functional, it’s comfortable, and it’s secure. We’re talking about interlocking zippers (which you can then put through a second clasp for two layers of security), slash-proof wire mesh construction, and RFID blockers to keep your personal data safe.

It’s neutral enough to be unisex, it’s roomy enough to fit a small laptop, large camera, and tons of odds & ends, and it fits under the plane seat in front of you. We’re obsessed. Check it out for yourself!

Grayl Water FilterTap water is not always safe to drink in Greece. In Thassos, it’s generally considered safe overall, but quality varies and therefore it’s safer to drink filtered or bottled water. To both be safe and not buy dozens of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste.

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Greece – being on the water! A trip to Greece isn’t complete without a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Greece Resources

Chania - Greece - Colorful buildings, chairs, doors, alley ways, harbor entrance and street scenes

Headed to Greece? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. Next, you’ll want to read our all-season Greece packing list.

If you are still trying to figure out your Greece itinerary, check out our guides on where to go in Greece, the best places for island hopping in Greece, and when is the best time to visit. 

Many people combine a trip to Thassos with a trip to Thessaloniki or Chalkidiki. We’re still working on our Chalkidiki content, but in the meanwhile, you can check out our Thessaloniki resources. We have guides on Thessaloniki Instagram spots and visiting Meteora from Thessaloniki, and more on the way.

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Pin This Guide to Things to Do in Thassos for Your Trip!

If you’re planning a trip to Thassos, Greece here’s our guide to the best things to do in Thassos! Thassos Island is full of nightlife and cute villages like Limenaria, Limenas, Thassos beaches, photo spots like Giola Lagoon, restaurants, and great hotels. Read this Thassos travel guide before you go to plan the ultimate Greek island vacation!

How to Visit the Kranjska Gora Christmas Market for a Magical Alpine Christmas

Kranjska Gora, the charming Alpine mountain village near the shores of Lake Janska, is located near Slovenia’s borders with Austria and Italy. As such, Christmas in Kranjska Gora is a wonderful mix of Germanic, Slavic, and Italian traditions, making it one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Slovenia! The Kranjska Gora Christmas Market, or Alpine Village Kranjska Gora, is a must-see for anyone looking for some Slovenian Christmas cheer!

We spoke with Elizabeta S. from the Tourism Board Kranjska Gora, to get the best insider tips so you can plan a flawless visit to Kranjska Gora at Christmas.

Read Next: 13 Delightful Things to Do in Slovenia in Winter for a Fairytale Escape

Can’t read now? Pin for later!

Kranjska Gora Christmas Market

How to Visit the Kranjska Gora Christmas Market

Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip to the Alpine Village Kranjska Gora this year to celebrate Advent in Kranjska Gora:

What are the dates and times for the 2019 Kranjska Gora Christmas Market?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of the Archive of the Tourism Board Kranjska Gora

The Kranjska Gora Christmas Market opens on November 30th, 2019, and it closes with New Year’s Eve celebrations on December 31st, 2019.

Where is the Alpine Village Kranjska Gora located?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of the Archive of the Tourism Board Kranjska Gora

The Christmas Market is set up in the Kranjska Gora Town Square in front of The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

What kind of entertainment will there be for adults?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - people skiing on slopes in winter scenery in Kranjska Gora in Julian Alps, Slovenia

Of course, you’ll want to start with some shopping at the stalls, but there are also special concerts and musical events to enjoy. If you’re coming to Kranjska Gora to ski, you can enjoy some of the special December apres-ski events to relax and unwind while staying festive!

What kind of entertainment will there be for children?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of the Archive of the Tourism Board Kranjska Gora

There will be children’s music performances and special concerts for children, plus appearances by Santa Clause (St. Claus). There is also a special Live Nativity nearby in Mojstrana offered between Christmas and New Year’s. 

What kind of goods will be for sale?

Slovenia - Ljubljana - Christmas market with delicious sweets.

The goods are mostly traditional Slovenian crafts (which are some of the best in the world!). If you want some ideas of what to buy in Slovenia, here are our favorite Slovenian souvenirs. Of course, in addition to regular Slovenian souvenirs, you’ll find Christmas and Advent themed crafts, ornaments, and gifts. 

What kind of food and drinks will be available?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Christmas Market

The market serves traditional Slovenian cuisine, mulled wine, tea, and other treats to warm you up on a cold night! Bring cash, since the vendors do not take credit cards!

Is there a ticket price to get into the events?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Sunny day at lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora guarded by statue of a Capricorn

There is no cost to visiting the open-air Christmas Market. Certain performances may have a separate price.

Are there any other special festivities in Kranjska Gora this November, December, or January that travelers might want to attend?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Krampus, December, Slovenia

For anyone interested in the Krampus tradition, there is a Krampus-themed event called the Fire Spectacle held towards the end of November. You can learn more about it here.

There are many events held throughout December. One especially interesting one is the Blessing of Horses, held on St. Stephen’s Day, which is December 26th. You can find out more about this year’s event here.

On New Year’s Eve, the Christmas Market hosts its last night with a big party. There are fireworks, champagne, and crowds full of cheer. You can check for more information here.

Is there anything else you would want a visitor coming to Kranjska Gora this winter to know before they visit?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Sunny day at lake Jasna in Kranjska Gora guarded by statue of a Capricorn

There will be a free shuttle running around the Municipality to help you get around. There are a lot of other events outside of the town which are also very interesting. Make sure to visit the Advent Market and the Live Nativity in Mojstrana.

How can travelers learn more?

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Kranjska Gora in the winter Christmas. Snow, Ice-skating, Ski slope - Winter sunset on Lake Jasna near Kranjska Gora in Triglav National Park, Slovenia

We have our recommendations and resources for visiting Kranjska Gora below. I want to thank Elizabeta S. from the Tourism Board Kranjska Gora for answering our questions about this spectacular event! For more detailed information about the market, check out their website, which has lots of great resources!

Where to stay in Kranjska Gora

Slovenia - Kranjska Gora - Slovenia - Kranjska Gora in the winter Christmas. Snow, Ice-skating, Ski slope - Image

We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in various Slovenian cities, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible since this is a popular time to visit the city.

What to Pack for Slovenia in Winter

Slovenia - Lake Bled - Man in Winter

We have a full Slovenia packing list, but in case you just want the quick version, here are a few essentials you shouldn’t forget to pack!

A good guidebook: While travel blogs are great, we still think a good guidebook is always handy. We suggest Lonely Planet Slovenia if you’ll be traveling quite a bit around the country, or if you are planning a multi-country Balkan trip, Lonely Planet Western Balkans includes Slovenia and many of its neighbors.

One or two swimsuits: While swimsuits may not come to mind for ski season, if you’re staying in a ski resort with a sauna, indoor pool, or steam room, you’ll likely want one! We suggest bringing two so you never have to put a cold wet one back on. We love this one.

Plenty of winter clothing: You can check our packing list above for our full winter packing suggestions for men and women. At a minimum, you’ll want to bring a warm winter jacket (I love this North Face parka), cozy snow boots, warm wool socks, touch-screen friendly gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.

Any ski equipment and clothing: We’re not skiers ourselves, so we don’t have specific ski gear equipment, but special ski clothes — waterproof pants and jackets, goggles, etc. — and ski gear obviously should be on your packing list, unless you have decided to rent it all when you arrive at your Slovenia ski resort.

Moisturizer: Travel will beat your skin up in the best of times — and winter travel in addition to skiing will do a number on it! If you use a moisturizer at home, bring it. If you’ve never used a moisturizer before, you really should start. You’ll be happy to give your face a boost before heading outside in the cold all day.

Sunscreen: We strongly suggest wearing sunscreen when you spend time outdoors, no matter the weather outside. The higher altitudes combined with the reflection of the sun off the snow can lead to unexpected sunburns. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen – it’s mess-free, works well in carry-ons, is ultra-protective, and blends in well.

Read Next: Essential Slovenia Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Slovenia

More Slovenia Travel Resources

Slovenia - Piran - View of Piran and Coast Stephanie

If you’re just starting to prepare for your trip to Slovenia, read our guide to planning a trip to Slovenia which features an 11-step checklist!

Most visitors will spend time in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s wonderful capital. If you’ll be in Ljubljana in December, here’s how to visit the Ljubljana Christmas Market.

If you know you’ll be coming to Lake Bled near Christmas, check out our guide to the Lake Bled Christmas Market, the best things to do in Bled in winter, and how to celebrate Christmas in Bled. And check out the best things to do in Slovenia in winter if you’ll be seeing more of the country.

If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll find our Instagram guide to Bled helpful (Ljubljana on the way!). 

Coming to Slovenia solo? Here’s our guide to staying safe in Slovenia.

If you need more Slovenia travel inspiration, check out the best places to visit in Slovenia, the best Slovenian castles, the most breath-taking Slovenian waterfalls, and what Slovenian souvenirs you should bring home.

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Slovenia and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Slovenia (or really, any part of the world)! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel (especially during the winter!) so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

Pin this Guide to Visiting the Kranjska Gora Christmas Market for Your Trip!

Kranjska Gora Christmas Market

 

Kranjska Gora Christmas Market

11 Heavenly Things to Do in Hvar, Croatia’s Island Paradise

As you walk the cobblestone streets of this quaint town on the Adriatic Sea, you can’t decide if it feels more like the Italian Riviera, a medieval keep straight out of Game of Thrones or something else entirely.

In truth, this spectacular spot is a little bit of all of those things. As with a lot of Croatia, it’s undeniably been shaped by the Venetian influence but has maintained that classic Croatian flare.

Every sight is magical, and every small side street is irresistibly Instagrammable. Although the pace here is charmingly and characteristically slow (as in most of these small bits of paradise strewn across the Mediterranean seaside), there’s plenty of delightful things to do in Hvar, whether you wish to lean into the life the locals lead, or go a more adventurous route.

Quick Note: During high season (typically the second half of July to middle August), the prices for both accommodation and food are higher, and the crowds are much bigger, so if you can manage it, I’d recommend going in the shoulder season.

The Best Things to Do in Hvar

Sun yourself on one of Hvar’s stunning beaches

Dubovica beach in Hvar with beach

If you’re visiting Hvar in summer, you’re probably here to enjoy a swim in the marvelously clear waters or kick back on the sand of one of Hvar’s many picturesque beaches.

One of the many things I love about Hvar is the fact that many beaches are surrounded by thick pine trees, providing not only the best shade but also that quintessential Mediterranean vibe (and not to mention, they smell amazing!).

Additionally, most of the beaches are pebble rather than sand, ensuring crystal cleat turquoise seas.

If you’re looking for the best beaches on Hvar, here are my picks.

Dubovica Beach – This is one of the most popular spots in Hvar, and for good reason! It’s a real slice of Mediterranean heaven, with all of the qualities listed above. Because of all of this, however, it does get pretty busy, so I recommend you head here a bit earlier to secure your spot.

Pokonji Dol Beach – This spot is pretty accessible from Hvar town, and as an added bonus, it doesn’t get too busy. There are also two restaurants serving seafood, and you can hire a sunbed if you prefer (this might be a good idea, since the beach is quite pebbly).

Milna Beach – With a retro vibe, this cozy little cove located in the town of Milna truly is a place to enjoy the slow pace of life on Hvar. In town, you can find several restaurants and bakeries, and there’s even a little market. 

These are, of course, just a few of the fantastic beaches you’ll find on Hvar Island, and if you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of tiny, unnamed coves just for you to discover.

Set sail to the lovely Pakleni Islands

Aerial view of Pakleni Islands - blue and turquoise water with small islands and sailboats

Ironically enough, the name of this archipelago right off the Hvar coast translates to “Hell Islands,” which could not be farther from reality! With incredibly clear waters, hidden coves and incredible views, Pakleni Islands feel more like heaven than anything else.

There are several ways to get to the islands, including water taxi, renting your own boat (boats called Pesara boats are easy to operate and you get the benefit of planning your own day), getting a private tour of the Islands or joining a group tour (this is the least expensive option; check tour prices and availability here).  

The main thing to do on Pakleni Islands (also referred to as Paklinski Islands) is swim in the fantastic waters and sunbathe on the beautiful beaches. Some of my favorites are Ždrilica and Stipanska Beach, located on the island of Marinkovac, and Vlaka Beach on Sveti Klement Island.

As far as food is concerned, depending on how you chose to get to the islands, you might want to pack your own lunch, but if you’d like to check out some of the restaurants there, the most recommended are Mamato Bar on Marinkovac, and Laganini Bar on Palmižana.

Another great spot is the Carpe Diem Beach Club, where you can enjoy the fantastic views of the sun setting over the Islands along with a drink, or party on into the night. A side note: this place is kind of exclusive and pretty expensive!

Take a day trip to Bol on Brač Island

Aerial view of a beach with golden sand and blue water

The island of Brač is just a short ferry ride away from the coast of Hvar (ferries travel about every half hour during high season).

The main attraction easily accessible from Hvar is the town of Bol (meaning pain in Croatian, yet another misnomer!), and within it, Zlatni Rat (translating to Golden Cape).

The cape is truly something else, with its triangular shape that is constantly changing, literally before your eyes, due to winds.

Aside from the beach on the cape carrying the same name, the town of Bol is rich in historical buildings, forts, churches, as well as wonderful restaurants, bars, and clubs. I also recommend the Stina Winery serving Stina wine, made from a special varietal endemic to the island of Brač.

Scope out the Blue and Green Caves

Dark blue cave with turquoise colors

The Blue Cave (also known as the Blue Grotto), is a truly mesmerizing cave located on the nearly island of Biševo.

The iridescent opal blue color occurs naturally when the sun hits the cave at a specific angle during the day, and the light reflects off the white sand lining the grotto and refracts off its walls (if there are any physicists reading this, I deeply apologize for butchering this explanation!).

Sadly, you cannot swim inside the Grotto, and the lines are quite long (over an hour in high season), but all who have visited say it is very much worth it.

Another naturally occurring phenomenon nearby, on the island of Vis, is the Green Cave, which (you guessed it), is bathed in beautiful, emerald green light thanks to the same magic (aka physics) at work in the Blue Cave. You can swim in this cave, but boats are also allowed inside, so be careful!

Note: Many day trips cover both the Blue and Green Caves and the Pakleni Islands this affordable day tour from Hvar includes both!

Indulge in some wine tasting

Vineyards on island overlooking coast

Okay, I have a confession to make: I’m a total wine nerd.

That’s why I’m very excited about Hvar’s rich and long winemaking history, as well as its significance in the winemaking industry today.

Not only is Hvar the place with the greatest number of sunny days in all of Croatia (which lends itself to exquisite winemaking), it’s also the home of over 130 endemic wine grape varietals. In line with this, you will find numerous wineries on the island offering incredible experiences.

Note: Plavac Mali is Croatia’s most famous varietal, so it’s getting its own section later on the list!

Waves and Wines – this is Hvar’s best-kept secret – a winery built into a cave right on the water! You can only access it by boat, and when you dock, you will get to experience the wines of Toni Bojanić, one of Croatia’s most influential vintners currently.

Tomić Winery – Owner of this winery, Andro Tomić, has recreated a typical Roman dining room in his wine cellar, so you can wine and dine like Roman emperors! You can taste their wines on this tour.

Zlatan Otok Winery – located in the town of Sveta Nedelja, this unique wine cellar belonging to Zlatan Plenković houses the first Croatian wine to be awarded the Grand Cru status (this translates to it’s real good) – the Zlatan Plavac. This excellent wine tour visits them, as well as several other wineries!

Wine & Chocolate Tour – if you’d like to get better acquainted with the history of wine on Hvar, as well as taste some of it alongside some delicious chocolates, this tour is a fantastic way to do that! Check prices and availability here.

Sample the local Plavac wine

Close up of red grapes for wine

One of the most famous varietals coming from this region specifically is the Plavac wine.

Okay, let me geek out about this wine for a minute: the grape variety it comes from is called Plavac Mali (plav means blue and mali means small).

It was originally thought to be the same varietal as Zinfandel (that should give you a clue as to what Plavac tastes like), however genetic testing later proved that it was in fact not the same varietal, but rather the lovechild of Zinfandel and a regional varietal called Dobričić (no, you don’t need to be able to pronounce that).

This varietal is endemic to the Dalmatian coast, and the wines it produces are tannin and alcohol heavy (12-17%), best described as “dense and robust reds with black cherry flavors and notes of pepper, smoke and spice,” as well as blackberries and dry figs.

It pairs well with several local specialties, including stuffed bell peppers and ćevapi, or, if you’re like me and believe wine-food pairings are naught but a conspiracy, pair it with whatever you like!

Shop your heart out at the Hvar Market

Sachets of purple lavender at market

One of my favorite things about travel is the opportunity to experience different lives people lead in different places.

If you combine that with Hvar’s incredible agricultural capacities (including but not limited to wine and fish), you get the Hvar Town Market!

There’s nothing particularly special about this market, except for all of the things that make Hvar and its people special, but if you’d like to experience a morning shopping like a local (and eat some amazing fresh produce), you’ll enjoy this very much. If you want a souvenir to bring home, we suggest local Hvar lavender!

Marvel at the Tvrđava Fortica

View of islands and water from old fortress

The fort that we see today sits on the foundations of an Illyrian settlement dating back to the 1st century BC, and in the 6th century AD, a citadel was built here by the Byzantines.

Construction of the current fortification by the Venetians originally began in the 13th century AD and was finished by the 16th century. Shortly thereafter, it served as a hideout for the people of Hvar when the city was rampaged by the Ottoman Empire, effectively saving their lives.

A couple of years later lightning struck a building in the fort where gunpowder was stored, causing a massive explosion and consequent damage to both the fort and part of the town surrounding it.

Throughout the following centuries, the fort was repaired, but at the start of the 19th century, as Hvar lost militant significance, the fort became abandoned. In 1971, reconstruction began, ultimately turning the fort into the tourist attraction it is today.

Pro Tip: The position of the fort allows for the most amazing views of Hvar and its surroundings!

Note: The name Fortica is derived from Italian, but the fort is also commonly referred to as the Spanish fort, probably due to the Spanish builders involved with its construction.

Visit the charming Franciscan Monastery

Monastery with tower in front of blue water and boats

Situated on the waterfront, overlooking a small cove, this renaissance piece of architecture dating back to the 15th century is not only a beautiful sight, but home to many artifacts, such as amphorae, lace, coins and a 1542 edition of Ptolemy’s Atlas.

It also features gorgeous art by Venetian painters like Francesco Santacroce and Palma Junior. A special feature of the monastery is The Last Supper, a painting measuring 2×8 m in size, believed to be done by Matteo Ingoli, although some claim it was painted by Palma Junior. Another noteworthy piece of history is the 300-year-old Cypress tree in the monastery’s courtyard.

Get lost in time in Stari Grad

Stone archway and restaurant

I’m going to start off by saying that this passage isn’t going to cover Stari Grad nearly in the way it deserves. That being said, I’ll try to introduce you two properly.

Stari Grad is where most ferries dock upon arrival on Hvar Island. It’s located about 2 km from Hvar town, and it’s well worth a visit.

Originally, it was a Greek colony called Faros, dating back to 385 BC. The marvelous cobblestone streets and old houses lining them make you feel as though you’ve stepped out of the modern world and into a slow-paced slice of renaissance Mediterranean heaven.

Featuring historical spots like Tvrdalj Castle, the Stari Grad Plain (a World Heritage Site), and the Dominican Monastery, as well as local shops and restaurants, this is an unmissable part of your Hvar experience.

Pro tip: enamel plated jewelry is a Venetian specialty that is quite rare today, but local jewelry stores carry some truly beautiful pieces that make a fantastic Croatian souvenir!

Brownie points: some of the best places to eat in Hvar are the number one rated Dalmatino, Konoba Menego, Nonica patisserie if you’re feeling like sweets and Icy Bar Hvar for ice cream right by the water. Some good bars are Central Park Club, Hula Hula Beach Bar and Kiva Bar.

As you can see, there’s plenty of great things to do in Hvar, this fantastic town on the Mediterranean, but the beauty is – I’ve barely scratched the surface! So whether you’re looking to kick back and enjoy the sun, get your history fix, or experience an adventure – Hvar is the place for you!

Where to Stay in Hvar

Budget: If you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Hvar’s Old Town, look to the beautiful City Center Room Olivia. With affordable en-suite doubles going for under $75 a night in high season, this is the place to go if you don’t want to sacrifice privacy but you do want a charming, budget-friendly stay in a central location. Rooms feature flatscreen TVs (with Netflix!), A/C, and a patio area.

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Boutique: For a guesthouse with a sleek sense of design at a mid-range price — under $200 a night in high season — History Hvar Design Heritage Suites is a fantastic choice. It’s under a minute to much of Hvar’s best attractions and offers gorgeous views of the fortress. The aesthetic is modern, yet it pays homage to its roots: built in 1529, this stone-mason house has been lovingly restored. There are only three apartments, each designed by Ana Vuckovic, one of Croatia’s top designers.

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: The chic 5-star hotel, Palace Elisabeth, is Hvar’s oldest and is quite literally a restored 19th-century palace, set in a prime location between St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hvar Theater on the Pjaca, Hvar’s main square. Rooms offer striking sunset views over Hvar Bay and the islands surrounding Hvar. The hotel complex includes two delicious restaurants as well as a cocktail bar featuring jazz music, and complete spa facilities including a steam room, pool, massage center, fitness center, and sauna.

Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

What to Pack for Hvar

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

Mosquito repellent: Mosquitos in the summer can be nasty! You can bring ones with DEET or without DEET, or I love having some of these mosquito repellent wipes that I can keep in my bag in case I suddenly start to get swarmed and don’t have my regular repellent with me.

Sunscreen: You can buy sunscreen in Croatia, but it’s likely cheaper at home or bought online in advance. I love this solid Neutrogena sunscreen. Who doesn’t love a good solid for liquid swap? Great to keep in your bag without worrying about sunscreen explosions.

Water shoes: Pebble beaches in Croatia are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the pebble seafloor is what creates that gorgeous deep turquoise-colored water that is hard to beat, as the lack of sand means you have incredibly clear water. However, on the other hand, pebble beaches and rocky shores can be downright painful!

Our friend recently cut his foot on a rocky beach in Croatia; had he been wearing water shoes, he’d have avoided such unpleasantness! We suggest these unisex water shoes. They’re not sexy, but they will make your trips to the beach far more pleasant!

A secure backpack: We both carry the CitySafe backpack by PacSafe not only on our travels but in our day-to-day lives. It’s cute, it’s functional, it’s comfortable, and it’s secure. We’re talking about interlocking zippers (which you can then put through a second clasp for two layers of security), slash-proof wire mesh construction, and RFID blockers to keep your personal data safe.

It’s neutral enough to be unisex, it’s roomy enough to fit a small laptop, large camera, and tons of odds & ends, and it fits under the plane seat in front of you. We’re obsessed. Check it out for yourself!

Grayl Water FilterTap water is generally safe to drink in Croatia, but if you’re not used to drinking tap water from other countries, the typically harmless bacteria found in all water can cause some gut irritation. To both be safe and not buy dozens of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Croatia – being on the water! A trip to Croatia isn’t complete without a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Croatia Travel Resources

Dubrovnik - Croatia - Boats in the harbor with view of old town in background

Headed to Croatia? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip.

First read our guide to planning a trip to Croatia, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a packing list for Croatia in all seasons that will surely be of help!

If you’ll be visiting Dubrovnik, check our guide to the best Dubrovnik day trips and Instagram spots.

For Zagreb, check out our Instagram spots, as well as our guide to visiting Plitvice from Zagreb.

For Split, check out our guide to the best day trips from Split.

We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how the kuna, the local currency, works in Croatia and local tipping customs.

If you’re still putting together your itinerary, here’s a great list of places to visit in Croatia, our Croatian islands guide, and our Croatian waterfalls guide to help you choose.

Finally, you’ll want to read our guide to shopping in Croatia so you know which souvenirs are truly local gems.

If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan busroad trip, and itinerary guides. 

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Croatia and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Croatia (or really, any part of the world)! We have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

Pin This Guide to Things to Do in Hvar

If you’re planning a trip to Hvar, Croatia, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Hvar! Hvar Island is full of nightlife and cute villages like Jelsa and Star Grad, Hvar beaches, lavender fields, delicious restaurants, and great hotels. Check out day trips like Bol and Zlatni Rat beach, the Blue Cave (Grotto), Hell Islands, and more, plus tips on Hvar Croatian wine! Read this Hvar travel guide before you go.
If you’re planning a trip to Hvar, Croatia, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Hvar! Hvar Island is full of nightlife and cute villages like Jelsa and Star Grad, Hvar beaches, lavender fields, delicious restaurants, and great hotels. Check out day trips like Bol and Zlatni Rat beach, the Blue Cave (Grotto), Hell Islands, and more, plus tips on Hvar Croatian wine! Read this Hvar travel guide before you go.
Planning a trip to Sofia? Check out our best free trip planning resources