As promised, what follows is a more detailed description of what we thought of the various hotels, guides and tours. All in all, it was an amazing trip that you put together for us. I wrote this and Ellyn took a look at it, so I think it encompasses both of our views but she can add in anything I missed. (Rich also read it and concurs.)
Airport transfers and drivers during the trip – on time, nice people, nice clean cars.
Hotel Kompas – We were very happy with the hotel. The rooms were large, we had good service and it was a beautiful setting to watch the sunsets. We enjoyed our breakfasts outside as well as one dinner. The breakfast spread was huge with a lot of variety of Croatian and other dishes, pastries etc. I was concerned about the hotel not being in the city, but we were quite pleased with the location and so glad you recommended it. It was easy and quick to uber to the Old City for dinner, and we enjoyed the beautiful location. We are sorry that we were so busy that we didn’t have time to enjoy the pool or beach.
Old City Tour – Matija was an excellent and informative tour guide with a good sense of humor. We would highly recommend him to anyone – not just Jews, but it was especially interesting to learn about Croatian Jewish history from him.
Just a note on activities on our own. We loved walking the city walls in the late afternoon. Based on Matija’s recommendation, we did not take the tram for the view. Matija said that the lines were long – an hour to wait for a quick view and the view was nice from the walls. Instead he recommended that we visit Lokrum Island and we followed his advice. On a hot afternoon, wandering in the shaded trees among the peacocks and rabbits was delightful.
Korcula Island –
Korcula Tour – Lea our guide was excellent and informative. She told us so many interesting things about the architecture and history. We also loved that she had lived in Korcula all her life and could share so many stories and facts about the island and its residents, even introducing us to one of the first female stone masons. We recommend her highly. We all enjoyed our tour with her and she recommended a nice restaurant along the water.
Driver – Eddy – great guy, stopped when we wanted to stop, interesting information about Croatia etc. Having a good and interesting driver was important to our day because it was such a long drive. We were able to learn about Croatia from him.
This day trip was fun and we liked Korcula but it was a long drive (as you had warned). It would have been better if we could have spent more time in Korcula but the ferries were not that frequent and we wanted to get back in time for an 8 pm dinner in the Old City. One issue was the timing on the way out – we spent 45+ minutes in Ston. We think that 15 minutes would have been enough, and then we could have taken an earlier ferry. Instead, when we arrived for the ferry, one had just left and we had to wait 45 minutes in that town.
Drive/Ferry to Stari Grad –
Driver – Eddy – again, so glad we had him as our driver. Stopping along the way at the markets was a highlight.
Hotel Apolon – This is a charming hotel and we liked the location along the water in Stari Grad. However, as you know, we were very unhappy with the lack of hot water in the morning (both days – even though after we told them the first day, they said they would fix it). This is really unacceptable for a hotel not to have enough hot water for the guests. We were happier with the hotel than the Pontells – their room was much smaller. Breakfast was fine with made to order eggs, but was the worst of all of the hotels. They ran out of fruit and didn’t have much selection of anything else – limited cheese, croissants etc. All of the other hotels had much more to offer.
Note on dinner - We didn’t eat at the hotel. Someone in one of the shops told us that it had gone downhill since its Michelin mention. We noted some reviews online said the same thing. We ate at Pharia which was recommended by a local and it was very good in a charming setting.
Guided tour of Hvar
Guide was good and informative, but not as outstanding as Matjia, and the two Leas. She just didn’t have the same warmth but she was still a good guide and tried to cater to our interests. For example, we walked down from the fort and she knew we liked plants and she then incorporated that into our tour. She was more interesting and excited about Hvar Town (where she was from) than Stari Grad.
Wine tasting – excellent. We had resisted doing a wine tasting when you suggested it but it was really fun and we so were glad we did. The wine and snacks were great. We liked the setting and enjoyed the chance to sit and sample the wine and food. We were sorry that we couldn’t ship the Croatian wine home to the US.
Lunch – excellent. We loved the setting and the traditional food (Peka). It was delicious, and we loved that we had our private meal outside. It was a very special lunch (and then we just ate ice cream for dinner).
Driver – Rich left his prescription sunglasses in the van. The driver went above and beyond in returning Rich’s sunglasses to him the next morning on the ferry – it was amazing that he tracked us down and boarded the ferry before it left to find us.
Hotel Piazza Heritage – We were very happy with the hotel. It has a great location, beautiful large rooms in a charming small hotel. We enjoyed the delicious breakfasts at the restaurant next door.
Spllt Walking Tour - Our guide Lea was outstanding. We learned so much from her and she gave us an amazing tour. You could feel her genuine warmth and excitement about Split. It was also really interesting to meet her father at the synagogue and talk to him as well. Although she gave us a tour with a focus on the Jewish aspects, she also was excellent on everything else and we would highly recommend her. She was so organized in her presentation of Split and its history, and gave so many interesting details. After a 3 hour tour it was dinner time (8 pm) and she tried to get us into one of her two favorite restaurants. We ate at them (one each night) and enjoyed them (Bokeria and Apetit: you also had recommended Bokeria).
Cooking Class with Chef Tatjana – As promised, this was an amazing day, even for those of us who don’t like to cook (my husband). Going to the market to shop with Tatjana was fun, we all enjoyed cooking, and the lunch was delicious. It was great to cook and then try so many dishes. The day was made special by Tatjana who is such a fun person to be with.
Hiking Tour & Picnic with Dom - As promised, this too was an amazing day and one of our favorites. We didn’t really know what to expect but we loved our guide, Dom, and had so much fun with him. We loved all of our stops – from cappuccino in the square, to the lakes, old church, and the hike by the river. The picnic he prepared for us was delicious. Again, the day was made special because Dom was fun and interesting, and he planned a great day with interesting stops. One note – his SUV was a little tight in the back for 3 people (for poor Ellyn who was in the middle as she had the shortest legs). It was fine and we were OK with it, but other tourists may not be as comfortable.
Plitvice Lakes National Park - Our guide was fine and know the best way to see the park to avoid some of the ferry lines. He knew the material well about the Park but he wasn’t the same quality level as the other guides we had during the drip.
Driver to Zagreb was very nice, interesting to talk to, etc.
Hotel Explanade – This is a beautiful hotel with beautiful rooms and good service. We are sorry we didn’t have time to enjoy it except for drinks and dessert in the lobby bar that evening after dinner.
We were sorry we didn’t have more time in Zagreb. Even just a morning for a tour of the old city would have been nice but we did see a bit of it at night and had a very good meal at Trilogija.
We had a wonderful trip and I have been telling people to visit Croatia and if they do, to contact you to arrange the trip! Croatia is a beautiful trip and the people are so nice and friendly to tourists.
Now, do you want to plan a trip for us sailing from island to island? Maybe in another summer or two...