What a change of scene – from the lush, green hills of the UK and Ireland to the hot and sunny beaches of Croatia! After landing in Dubrovnik, the sun was setting behind the giant stone walls of the old city as we bussed in to town, and we were already in awe of Croatia’s unique beauty.
The old city of Dubrovnik is like nothing we’ve ever seen – tall ancient stone walls, up to 20 feet thick in places, surround the narrow torch-lit walking streets inside. The tops of the walls are adorned with sculptures and castle-like towers, it’s like a scene straight out of Game of Thrones (many scenes from the show were filmed here).
We were lucky enough to meet up with our fabulous friends, Rich and Kacie, and we immediately took to the streets of the old city. It happened to be the first night of Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival, so we grabbed a slice of pizza and a glass of rose by the waterfront and watched the epic fireworks show that marked the kick off of the festival in town. What a spectacular welcome!
We spent the next day lounging and swimming in the warm turquoise water at two of the local beaches. We dove off the rocks, swam, and sipped wine, all with views of the old city. We topped it off with a dinner of classic Dalmatian style seafood in a romantic alleyway. It was a pretty rough day.
We spent the afternoon and evening of our third day on a small private boat touring the nearby islands (50 Euro/person – 200 Euro for four hours). This was money well spent! We set sail (okay it wasn’t a sailboat) at 4pm, which our captain said was a good call because we avoided the roasting heat of midday and also got to watch the sunset. We visited two different swimming areas and several islands as we boozed and snacked on BYOB wine and a gourmet spread of cheese, crackers, and olives.
Check out this quick video with highlights from our Croatian boating excursion, and be sure to turn on HD when watching the video: Hit play –> click the settings button on the bottom right–> Quality–> HD.
The first swimming area – the Blue Caves – was truly unforgettable. You can swim through the small opening of a cave that opens up inside. Once inside, the light from the cave opening creates an amazing turquoise color in the water. We bouldered from the cave ceiling, snorkeled with schools of fish, and jumped off the nearby cliffs.
The second swimming area was said to be the most sandy beach in Croatia (most of the beaches are rocky or made up of small pebbles). We stopped here and swam in the evening light. The salt content of the water in the Adriatic makes it particularly easy to swim and float, so the swimming is extra enjoyable. We returned to Dubrovnik whilst enjoying one more glass of wine and a picture perfect sunset, feeling like some of the luckiest fools on the planet. It was definitely worth a few extra Euro for the private boat upgrade, and the evening time frame just couldn’t have been better.
After three nights in Dubrovnik, we were off via ferry to Hvar, the world renowned party island. It’s hard to take your eyes off of the stunning shades of turquoise and blue in the water… until you get distracted by the fleet of elegant mega yachts and the beautiful people wandering the boardwalk.
Upon arrival, we immediately sought refuge in a nearby beach. There are a dozen swimming areas within walking distance of Hvar town and plenty of other beaches if you wish to explore other parts of the island. The weather and water were perfect for long days at the beach. It was hot enough that it was hard to be out and about all day without being able to cool off periodically in the water. Because of the heat and the nightlife, the town is best explored at night.
As the sun sets, the town comes alive. Hvar has a similar look to Dubrovnik – old white stone buildings, narrow walkways with shops and restaurants hidden around every corner – but it is smaller in scale and not as busy. Hvar is also unique because of it’s upscale club scene – there are dozens of high end clubs lining the waterfront. By day, tourists sunbath in cabanas, sip cocktails, and swim, but as the evening takes shape, the DJ’s come out, the volume is turned up, and the dancing begins. If you want to partake, be prepared to spend money and make reservations if you want a table. There are also a handful of cheaper bars and clubs in Hvar town if bottle service, VIP areas, and cover charges are not your style.
Two nights partying in Hvar (and recovering on the beach) went by quickly, and in no time, we were back on a ferry and heading to Sibenik, a town just north of Split. Having done little research (really only looking for a quieter and more affordable town close to Split), we were surprised to again find ourselves in an old village square that was strikingly beautiful. It shared the same classic look of the other Croatian towns – polished white stone streets and buildings, red ceramic tile rooftops, a walled off “old town” section with a maze of walking streets winding this way and that. Around any corner you can find a small restaurant tucked in a back alley, flowers and vines growing up cracks in the old stone walls, travelers dining at a garden side table.
Another trait of most Croatian villages is that they are guarded by an old fortress or castle, and Sibenik happens to have four. They certainly add to the mystique and look of the town, and they typically offer tours and nice views as well. We hiked up to Sibenik’s St. John’s Fortress just for the view, which was well worth it for us.
The sweet ambiance of the old town in Sibenik combined with it’s nice boardwalk area and nearby beaches made it a perfect place for us to spend two nights regrouping and planning our next move. We decided to skip the nearby KRKA waterfalls and head northeast for Plitvice National Park instead. Having recently acquired our tent (thanks to some very helpful friends and family members), we were able to camp at nearby Korana Camping, which maintains a nice campground and offers a free shuttle to/from the park.
Plitvice National Park is large with a lot of hiking trails, and the waterfalls themselves are stunning and otherworldly, certainly some of the most beautiful falls we’ve ever seen. The shapes and colors of the waterfalls are incredibly unique. Every shade of blue, green, and turquoise can be found in the water, highlighted by bright yellows and golds, and there are waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. We walked just about every trail in the park in 5 hours, which made for great exercise and many wonderful views. The only downside of Plitvice Lakes is that you can’t swim and the park tends to be really crowded. For us the beauty of the park and the fun of camping again still made the excursion completely worthwhile.
We spent our last night in Croatia in the town of Trogir, another convenience stay chosen simply for it’s affordability and location (near the Split airport). Yet again we were surprised to find an incredibly beautiful village. The old town of Trogir is uniquely situated on a small island, and we had fun getting lost in yet another maze of walking streets, going for a final swim at a nearby beach, and trying to soak up every last bit of Croatia’s beauty. We enjoyed spending our last Kuna in the local market, which offered colorful fresh fruits and veggies, delicious cheeses and cured meats, and enough homemade olive oil to last a lifetime. We gathered up the essentials and made a delicious meal, celebrating the conclusion of a real highlight of the trip.
We heard a lot of mixed reviews about Croatia leading up to our visit. Many said that it was overrated, finding it to be too touristy and crowded. For us, this certainly was not the case. Between the unique beauty of the old villages and the perfect water and beaches, we would happily return any time and would highly recommend it to anyone.
If you have any questions about our journey or thoughts you’d like to share, please comment on the blog or send us a message on Instagram @theadventuregoeson!