Croatia is replete with walled Medieval cities and priceless views of the Adriatic. But where's the best place to admire the sun as it sets into the sea? Here are 7 great places to get a great view as twilight descends on the Mediterranean and bid the sun good night.
The broad stone ramparts of the old fortress town have been luring visitors for centuries. Today, cruise ships dock early and leave before sunset, which makes it easier to find a spot to enjoy the last rays of the day. The best strategy is to climb to the top ramparts and find a café with a view before the sunset lovers crowd in. A lift can take you up the mountain outside of the old town, or heartier souls can hike up for the best view of the Croatian city.
Note: As stated (re: cruise ships), Dubrovnik has become an unbelievably popular destination in recent years, partly because it's a shooting location for Game of Thrones. If you're looking for a peaceful little hideaway, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The castle town of Split is much like Dubrovnik in popularity but without the elevation. Stroll along the Riva, the waterfront promenade, where glossy cafes will tempt you to stop but keep walking to the National Park of Marjan. You'll need good walking shoes, as about 300 stairs lie between you and the hilltop. If time before sunset allows, stop to admire the views as you progress. There's a café at the top but the hours are limited and seasonal.
Bavice Beach is another sunset hangout in Split, away from most of the tourist crowds. Walk about ten minutes or take a taxi from town to the only sand beach in the area. There are several clubs for the dance crowd and a few hotels with waterside views.
Croatia has over 1,200 islands and many are inaccessible. They may be uninhabited, private, or government owned. Just as many have tourist hubs that support local communities. Small cruise lines and public ferries run in and out of the islands that dot the coast. When planning an itinerary, note that weather can dictate how accessible the islands are, so check conditions before you leave the mainland.
With that in mind, here are two islands famous for their charm.
Brac island is famous for its marble quarries and is home to a famous sculpture school in the village of Bol. Once, the local economy relied on fishing, but today the small bay is popular with boutique cruise lines and private sailboats. The center of the island rises to the highest point in the archipelago. Vidovo Gora has panoramic views, is accessible by trail and car, and there's a tavern near the summit.
Sunset views are easier to enjoy on the island of Hvar. A castle overlooks the medieval city, and locals claim you can see all the way to Italy on a clear day. The bay below the castle is dotted with catamarans and sailboats. Sleek hotels and luxury villas dot the hillside. Reaching the castle is a challenging uphill hike that takes about thirty minutes. It's much easier by car, and there's a viewpoint restaurant inside the fortress. Admission is by ticket and the tables start to fill up half an hour before sunset.
Back to the mainland!
One of the most celebrated sunsets along the Croatian coast is to be found in the port city of Zadar. Once it was the walled center of Dalmatia; people have lived here for over five thousand years. Artists have memorialized it in word and work. Even Alfred Hitchcock was taken with the view, saying, "Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida."
A Sea Organ was created near where the port meets the open sea. The pulsing waves push air through the 'organ' tubes, and sitting benches curl near openings where the tones are strongest. Artist Nikola Basic embedded a large disk of solar panels called 'Greeting to the Sun' into the surface of the promenade. As dusk arrives, the sculpture glows in different colors and crowds play across the surface. If you want a picture, be prepared to join a chorus line of photographers waiting for the peak sunset colors.
Continue up to the Istria Peninsula to experience a more European ambiance. Sunset in the luxurious town of Opatija has been enjoyed since the 1700s by residents and clients visiting famous spas, sanitoriums, and elegant villas. Celebrities and aristocrats would vacation here to avoid summer crowds. Today, the atmosphere remains, but you don't need a trust fund to enjoy the sunset views. Pack a light meal and take to the seaside trail that runs for twelve kilometers along the waterfront. Walk to the famous statue, The Girl with Seagull, which faces the sea and sunset. She was erected to replace a family memorial, the Madonna of the Sea, that was degrading in the elements.
If you're not up for the walk there are many cafes and bars throughout the town. One above the harbor owes its name to the writer Ernest Hemingway. The famous American wrote of his adventures in the region but there's no record that he actually traveled through Croatia. Still, the name lives on in the spirits served. The Hemingway lounge bar claims to have 'one of the best views of the Adriatic', and patrons are expected to dress the part.
On the opposite side of the stout Istria peninsula are ancient fishing villages as well as industrial ports dotted with Roman ruins.
Pula is one of the largest, and ruins of its Coliseum rise as tall as the Roman one -- without the architectural complexities or the crowds.
Continue up the coast to the fort promontory and the ancient city of Rovinj. Popular with Europeans, the city is accessible by ferry from Venice, by car or bus across Croatia, and by airplane from Trieste -- a three-hour ride to the north. The old city is blessed with winding cobblestone streets, shops, and pathways. Cafes and bars perch over the water and the cathedral at the top of it all hosts a wide plaza park perfect for sunset views.
There's nothing more romantic than watching a sunset with someone special. And nowhere better to do that than Croatia. Happy trails!