How to Spend the Perfect Day on Croatia's Most Magical Island
Bourdain called himself an idiot for not visiting Croatia sooner, and you’ll feel like one too if you overlook the nearby charming island of Šolta. Roughly 10 miles from Split, it’s a speck of a place teeming with great food and natural beauty. You’ll find sleepy fishing villages, lazy beaches and outdoor activities, not to mention world-class Mediterranean seafood.
“All year round is a great time to go,” says Julie Banning, a luxury travel advisor with Ovation Vacations in New York, who often plans day trips to Šolta. It’s similar to Patmos in Greece, with a small population (about 2,000), religious past and strong foodie culture. And it’s nothing like Hvar, Šolta’s more famous sibling, where parties rage all night long.
The vibe in Šolta is blissfully sleepy, and it’s all about soaking up nature. You’ll learn why the locals take pride in their honey and the secret to making great olive oil. You’ll soak up magnificent views at the restaurants and go on the dive of a lifetime. If you don’t come back to Dubrovnik feeling relaxed and recharged, you’re probably doing it wrong. Here are 10 fun activities to plan for a day trip to this magical island gem.
Make Your Own Honey
Anyone with a sweet tooth should see a beehive up close, says Gwen Kozlowski, the general manager of Exeter International in Tampa, Florida. Tvrdić Bee Farm, or “The Island of Honey,” as the third generation of farmers the Tvrdićs call it, offers tours for just that, and you can get your hands sticky while you’re at it. For 20 additional Euros, end your buzzy adventure with a three-course Mediterranean meal.
Croatia is an oasis for birdwatching, and sunny Šolta is no different, says Kozlowski. (The tiny Čuvita owl is its national symbol.) Watch for the scarlet-billed Andouin’s gull, regal short-toed eagle and increasingly rare hen harrier, which makes a spectacular display as it soars and dives down. For a more konoba (traditional tavern) experience, feast on peka, a savory blend of vegetables and meat, at Iko’s ostrich farm near Gornje Selo.
Take an Olive-Making Tour
Bone up on your knowledge of Croatia’s famed export with the Taste Like a Pro tour at Olynthia Natura, where you’ll learn how olives are made into oil, says Kozlowski. It’s not how you think: a stainless steel mill gets the job done in 45 minutes. Run by the Kastelanac family for four generations, their embrace of computer technology will make you rethink your next tin of olive oil.
Find a Pebbly Beach
Pebbly Nečujam to the north is one of Šolta’s most popular beaches, says Kozlowski. Bring the kids, jet skis, a good book and some change to hit up the kiosks and bakeries. (Also: a parasol, since shade from the palm trees is scarce.) When the oontz-oontz music gets going around 8, make a beeline for calamari at Pasarela.
Go Sea Kayaking
Nečujam isn’t just great for people-watching, you can also rent kayaks from Barić Nautika right on the beach, says Banning. “Explore the inlets around the bay, watch the water change from blue to turquoise, and take in the serene scene,” she advises. Maslinca on the west is another option for exploring the islets.
Try Dobričić Wine
“The darkest wine in Dalmatia” is not to be missed, says Banning. Once planted across Šolta before World War II, the red varietal’s production declined by the 1990s and now only a handful of vineyards remain. Fortunately, you can taste the sour cherry tang for yourself at Agroturizam Kaštelanac in Gorne Selo and the Purtić family house in Srednje Selo.
Seasoned bikers will love exploring Šolta, says Banning, who recommends booking a guided or self-guided tour through Discover Croatia. Self-guided tours include maps, mountain bikes and transport to and from the ferry, while others can explore the ancient villages dotting the island from Gornje Selo to Maslinca.
Go Scuba Diving
Whether you’re a rookie or seasoned pro, Leomar Diving School, in the old port of Stomorska, is a great option, says Banning. Explore a mysterious shipwreck, or scale vertical walls and shadowy caves. You’re guaranteed a remarkable glimpse of the sea life — including corals, Gorgonians and fish — and the crystal-clear waters of Šolta.
Take a Hike
Head for Šolta’s highest point, Vela Straža in Gornje Selo, says Banning, where you’ll get a dramatic bird’s eye view of the island. Nečujam and Peskeria are both on display, as are the lush olive groves. The short, easy trail is roughly three miles, and the peak is marked by a cross.
Go on a Culinary Tour
Konobo Mareta in Nečujam serves traditional Croatian seafood that goes perfect with views of the sunset. To the south, Lonely Paradise is just what it sounds like: “a true hidden paradise immersed in the shadow of palm trees,” says Banning. Sampjer, just a five-minute walk from the center of Maslinca, sits on a hill where you’ll find stellar views of the Adriatic (and even better fish soup).