Kastela means castles in Croatian (wouldn't you know?) and this part of the Dalmatian coast is rife with them. Located between Split and Trogir, the "town" of Kastela is actually composed of seven coastal villages built around 15th and 16th-century castles (see a map of Kastela). At the time, upper-crust families in Split felt greatly threatened by the march of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. One by one, they filed into Kastela bay and built fortified mansions. With the sea in front and Kozjak hill behind, they were in a good defensive position. As it happened, the Turks never arrived but the castles remain. Most have not been restored which lends the villages an authenticity that other coastal destinations sometimes lack.
The charms of Kastela are subtle: narrow stretches of beach, local taverns, shady parks, church bells calling the faithful to prayer. Even without rock 'em sock 'em attractions, the town makes a relaxing day trip from Split or a stop on the way from Split to Trogir.
This 16th-century castle, now a private residence, is on an islet connected to the mainland by a drawbridge. In wandering the little village, make sure to notice the 1500-year-old olive tree. The oil made from its olives makes a unique souvenir.
The "castle" here is a cluster of 16th-century dwellings and a parish church once surrounded by a wall. Along the seaside promenade is a striking statue of a horseman by native sculptor, Marin Studin.
The long pebble beach and seaside promenade makes Kastel Stari a more resort-y destination but there's still a crumpled, medieval ambience around the 15th-century castle. Hikers can set out to the 480m top of nearby Malacka hill along a marked footpath and then go on to Birnje at 631m.
The castle here is the most architecturally impressive. Built at the end of the 15th century and finished in 1564, the transitional Renaissance-baroque style is unique on the coast. The heavily renovated castle now houses a small museum, exhibition center and tourist information office. There are a few small shingle beaches and a leafy seaside park.
The cylindrical form of this castle is unique but otherwise the main reason to head here is to take one of the hiking paths that lead up to Veliki vrh (780m), the highest point of Kozjak.
Benedictine sisters built this fortification in 1529 on a sea reef called Gomilica. Immediately, 16 families took shelter there and more moved in later. Notice the carved baroque doors on the 18th-century parish church.
This is the oldest Kastela village, dating back to the 10th century. The first tower was built in 1392 and the castle got its final shape in 1509. Unfortunately, the 16th-century parish church was largely destroyed by the Allied bombing of 1943. Kastel Sućurac is the beginning of a marked mountain trail that leads to Vela stina, the mountain house Putalj (480m), and continues to the church of St. Luka (690 m).
Getting to Kastela
Bus No 37 runs between Split and Trogir, stopping at Kastela.
The tourist information office is in Kastel Luksic.