I must admit Šolta wasn’t on my to-do list when I decided to spend five days discovering the sights in and around the picturesque Adriatic town of Split.
On a solo trip after a long time, I choose to base myself in this city-by-the-sea to make it a more immersive affair, whilst enjoying the Dalmatian summer.
I did pre-book a couple of day-trips to a few must-see destinations, from here. One of which was a long day trip to Dubrovnik. I was parting with a mammoth 11-hours of my life to see the ‘pearl of the Adriatic.’
However, life and travels are always full of surprises, and a cancellation email from the tour company, 24-hours before the trip, meant I now had to find something else to do while consoling my broken heart.
As I was narrating this setback to the owner of the beautiful guesthouse I was staying at, I realized how unwise the trip would have been in reality. Imagine packing in all that history in a mere three hours.
He didn’t leave room for doubt by stating pragmatically, ‘you were doing an injustice to the city by not giving it enough time.’ Though seeing my dejected look, he promptly helped me with a few options but insisted I consider Šolta, ‘a hidden gem.’
I suspect this persistence was because his beautiful wife belonged to one of the tiny villages on this island. But I didn’t want to second-guess him and decided to spend the next day exploring Šolta.
Located nine nautical miles from the coast of Split, Šolta is virtually an extension of this city, though a world apart.
A scarcely populated island with hilly terrain and winding roads through quaint settlements, it is a comfortable day trip from Split. Most of these settlements are no bigger than five to six houses, which blend effortlessly with the surrounding limestone hills and scattered vegetation.
Inhabited by humans since antiquity, its popularity shot up during the Middle Ages under the Greeks and Romans, and later during Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia.
While the Roman Emperor Diocletian commissioned a fishing pond here for his legions from Split, Tito converted the 18th-century castle into a luxury hotel for wealthy Germans. I was curious to see if the island does justice to this slightly lopsided history.
Up early on the day of the trip, I reached Split harbor and headed towards the very end to catch the ferry for Šolta. Along the way, I passed boarding points of boats to Hvar, Brač, and Korčula. Says something about Šolta’s ‘hidden’ tag, I suppose. But I still had an hour on the ferry to find out of it truly was a ‘gem.’
The ferry, mostly occupied by locals, debarked us on the island. Two buses, headed in opposite directions of the island, were ready to take passengers to their final destinations.
The port is a short walk from the heart of Rogač, a seaside town with a small promenade, a relatively empty pebbled beach, and a few restaurants.
I was headed to Grohote, the administrative center located up the hill. During my last-minute research a night before, I learned that the primary activities on the island revolve around fishing, olive farming, and beekeeping. I planned to experience at least one of these.
Located in Grohote is Tvrdic Honey. It is a beekeeping farm run by the Tvrdic family for three generations. As is common in Dalmatia, they also have a small olive grove, home-make their schnapps and, nowadays own a small family-run guesthouse. Phew!
A two-hour session here takes you through the beekeeping process and helps you understand the role honeybees play in maintaining a balance in our environment by giving us more than just honey.
Though I have to admit, the honey tasting session towards the end was the highlight. A bottle of wild rosemary-flavored honey (Olintio) from here rests proudly in my cabinet at home.
After a somewhat hurried lunch of seafood broth and a glass of homemade peach schnapps, I scampered to the solitary bus stop just in time for the next bus heading east.
Considering Solta is about 20kms long and 4.5kms wide, public transport means only two buses. They both ply in two different directions from the port. One route takes you to Stromoska in the east, and the other to Maslinica, the westernmost destination.
About 10min from Grohote, down a winding road, my bus arrived at Nečujam (derived from Latin meaning Deaf Bay). The youngest settlement on Solta, it has a wide bay bordered with a few shops and restaurants and an almost empty pebbled beach overlooked by the only resort built during Tito’s time.
But my destination, Stromoska was still a 10min ride back up the hill and further east down another hill.
The bus rattled and squeaked; descending languidly into this cozy settlement that felt like I had stumbled straight onto a movie set.
A V-shaped waterfront makes up the center of the village, which is lined with a couple of convenience stores, a post office, a few restaurants, and old stone houses on either side. A five-minute walk on any side of the bay brings you to one of the two-pebbled beaches.
Being amongst the oldest settlements on the island, some traces of its fishing traditions can still be seen in its waters. Here, modern sailing vessels and small wooden fishing boats jostle for space at its picturesque dock.
After cooling off in the Adriatic, I found a shaded spot along the cove and settled for a siesta. An invigorating breeze and the sound of waves gently tapping on the rocks soothed my soul.
This, I realized was how I had pictured an ideal Dalmatian summer after all.
Image Courtesy: Pixabay and Author