Šolta: The Forgotten Island Kingdom in Croatia
The island of Šolta charmed Illyriqan queen Teuta into building her castle there, was one of emperor Diocletian’s favorite fishing spots and inspired poet Marko Marulić – and today this central Dalmatian gem is one of the few yachting spots that has escaped the merciless hand of modern tourism
Location, location, location – but also natural charm and maritime heritage. Island of Šolta has it all and is a must-see for all ships cruising the waters of central Dalmatia. On this island mere nine miles south of Split, all four inland towns have their port – Gornje, Srednje and Donje Selo, and Grohote are served by Rogač, Nečujam, Stomorska and Maslinica.
Island of Šolta: Rogač port
The biggest among them is Rogač, on the northern side of the island and the home of the newly built tourist liner port. If you chose to sail into Rogač from the north-west, around the Gradina cape, you’ll come across Kašjun cove and its pristine coast ideal for a summer swim. The old Rogač promenade stretches from the gas station inwards, and hosts berths for locals and visitors – all in the shade of an old fortress built in the 17th century.
On the other side of the cove you’ll find 70 more yards of promenade, with water and power supply systems. The coast continues with a long beach stretching almost all the way to the next cove, the miniature Banje cove that has in recent history become interesting to both tourists and hydro-archaeologists – supposedly it’s a location of a now sunken Roman-era settlement. Port of Rogač offers protection from all wind except northern.
Discover Nečujam, the deaf port of Šolta
Half a mile from Rogač lies the largest port on the island, the port of Nečujam. Dubbed Vallis Surda by Romans – the deaf port – Nečujam enjoys unique acoustics: sounds there dissipate into mere whisper. As peaceful as it is, it’s no wonder it was a favorite fishing spot of Roman emperor Diocletian, whose enclosed fishing pond can still be seen underwater.
Many centuries later, the father of Croatian literature, poet Marko Marulić, found inspiration for his many works in the serene, quiet cove that today is colloquially know as Marul’s cove. Another poet, Petar Hektorović, was so in love with the cove he described it in his most important work Fishing and Fishermen’s Talk, but in the last decade or so the cove has attracted visitors much louder than poets.
The old resort hidden by thick pine woods was replaced by a visually noisy new one, that has forever ruined the harmony of that most beloved spot on the island. West from Nečujam there are smaller, calmer coves of Šumpjivina, Potkamenica and Mala Maslinica, all safe – but also popular among the yachting crowds in the summer months.
Island of Šolta: Small fishermen’s village Stomorska
Farther south-west from Nečujam, toward Bok od rata, the waters are safe, but continuing to Tanki rat, the sea is randomly shallow and sand shoals abound, so keep a safe distance from the coast. Two miles south-east from Nečujam lies the famous and beloved port of Stomorska, a small port lined with small houses whose humble appearance belies its importance.
Read more: Elaphiti Islands: Adriatic Mona Lisa
Fleet of imposing wooden sailing ships
The oldest port on the island and the birthplace of tourism on the island, Stomorska was centuries ago a busy port where wares and travelers boarded ships from dawn until dusk. Famous for their fleet of imposing wooden sailing ships, locals earned their living transporting wine, oil, figs, wood and other goods produced inland.
In the 1960s, the islanders rebuild the ancient wooden fleet (this time around with engines), added several brazzeras and developed the first tourist fleet in the Adriatic, taking tourists island hopping long before the rest of the coast caught up. Tourism soon started bringing in too much profit for the locals to be interested in shipping, so the remaining few wooden sailing boats now serve as tourist boats, as well.
Stomorska is an attractive town beloved among both yachting aficionados and gastronauts, who all gather here in the summer months, anchor their yachts in the 25-berth port or at the 2-berth superyacht dock and visit one of the many restaurants dotted along the promenade. Further south-east from Stomorska lies the easternmost inhabited cove on the island, Gornja Krušica.
Senjska Cove and a legend of Illyrian queen Teuta
Farther toward Split gates strait, beware of the Tanki ratac cape shoal, that stretches for about 100 yards into the sea, and is used by local fisheries. The part of Šolta oriented toward Splitska vrata, the busiest central Dalmatian channel, lies mere half a mile from the island of Brač.
The outer side of the island, Izvanje, wild and not easily accessible, but pristine and dotted with hidden coves: Livka, a hydro-archaeology location and thus very popular among divers; Vela Travna, steep and inaccessible; Stračinska, deep and beautiful, with lovely small beaches and several private homes, much like Grabova and Senjska farther north-west.
The legend has it Senjska cove was a favorite spot of the Illyrian queen Teuta, who chose to build one of her castles there. Local fishermen still honor the queen’s memory by throwing the first two fish of every batch back into the sea as tribute.
Island of Šolta: Unspoiled beaches
Coves keep getting smaller the farther south you go – Lučica, Jorja and Tatinja are tiny, but all accessible, dotted with small private homes and offering berths.
West from Tatinja, you’ll find other lovely small coves. Two of them, Zaglav (locally known as Velaluka) and Poganica, are especially picturesque and have lovely beaches. After that, pass Marinča rat and enjoy the view of tiny islands sprinkled across the blue. Follow the islands of this minuscule archipelago that begins with Kamičić rock and they’ll lead you to the most beautiful cove on the southern side of the island, Šešula.
In Šešula, there are things to enjoy – seaside restaurants offer both excellent food and berth, and see – the oldest limekiln on the island, known in the past as the source of lime for construction purposes: as everyone around here will tell you, Šolta built Split.
Island of Šolta: Maslinica and Martinis Marchi
Maslinica cove on the westernmost part of the island is almost hidden behind the many small islands sprinkled in front of it, and even more charming for it. The biggest of those tiny protectors, Stipanska islet, is best known for the 5th century early christian basilica and Benedictine monastery. Maslinica, once a quaint fishing village dominated by the Alberti family castle built in 1708, is now a lush little slice of heaven. The aristocratic summer home has been renovated and is now a sumptuous Martinis Marchi Heritage Hotel with a private 50-berth marina.
The old heart of the city is as picturesque as it gets, with orderly little stone houses and restaurants offering the very best of island of Šolta produce, fish and meat.
Read more: Magic labyrinth between Zadar and Kornati
Read more: Inside Šibenik archipelago
Back on the norther side of the island, the stretch of coast from the westernmost point of the island to port of Rogač only offers one cove, Donja Krušica, which does have a lovely beach, but is exposed to gusts of northern wind. The inland of Šolta differs from the coast in every aspect: the climate is harsher, the towns look, feel and breathe differently.
The first of the four, Grohote, is the administrative center of the island. This lovely village with stone houses and stone-paved streets lies next to the large agricultural area that used to feed the entire island, as well as the much larger Split and its surroundings.
Try the local dobričić wine
The fields have fallen into disuse, save for an occasional vineyard brought back to life by mostly younger winemakers bent on reviving the local dobričić wine. Unlike fields and vineyards, olive groves on the island are as lush as ever, and count for most of the agricultural output of Šolta.
West from Grohote there are two more villages – Srednje and Donje Selo, both very authentic, with small stone houses and a small church right on the green. Gornje Selo, east from Grohote, has a somewhat larger church of Our lady of Stomorija, beloved among locals.
Part sleepy and quaint, part modern, Šolta seems to be on the right track to become another hip tourist destination – or to attract back permanent settlers, as now it is well connected to the nearby Split.
Surrounded by endless blue, this green oasis of central Dalmatia is gaining popularity, and after decades of disconnection and oblivion coming into focus as a serene place to spend a few days – or forever.
Photos Yachts archive, Boris Kačan, Martinis Marchi, Jure Ravlić, Mario Paparela, Beep Pictures and TZ Šolta
Video Visit Šolta