Croatian coasts have become a booming destination for summer holidays since the past years. Besides its crystal clear water and the beaches, the old city of Dubrovnik gets very crowded in the summertime. Our journey in Croatia debuted in Dubrovnik.
Since we flew in late in the afternoon to Dubrovnik, we went for the cable car which took us on top of the Mountain Srd, perfect timing for sunset watching over the whole town of Dubrovnik with a stunning view. In fact, sunset watching became a ritual.
Surrounded by thick walls, the old town holds a lot of history. Dubrovnik’s city walls are a series of defensive stone walls that stretch completely around the old town, a distance totalling 1,940 metres (6,360 ft) in length and reach a maximum height of about 25 metres (82 ft). With numerous additions and modifications throughout their history, the walls of Dubrovnik have been considered to be amongst the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period. A mesmerizing place especially walking on the city walls with an infinite view of the Adriatic sea.
Coffee bar, restaurants and designer shops are along the Main street Placa called the “Stradun” as well as theatres and museums. The small and lovely streets, plants and flowers hanging off the balcony make the old city an enchanting place. Restaurants and animation are in the Old town, go there as well when it gets dark, a whole different atmosphere.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is also reputed for hosting the famous HBO series Game of Thrones as a shooting spot for King’s Landing. There are special GOT guided tours taking you around the old town giving you some private insights and gossips that happened on the set as some of the guides helped in the making. I opted to do the tour on my own and walking down the Stradun and the small streets looking for the spots. I found it fun walking with a city map in my hands and once you are in front of it, what a satisfaction.
Here are the locations within the City Walls of GOT:
- St Ignatius Church, the Staircase of Jesuits – Where the walk of shame was shot
- The Pile Gate
- The Dominican Monastery
- Fort Lovrijenac
- Fort Bokar
- Minceta Tower
- The Pile Bay
- Lokrum Island – where you can find the Iron throne (boat available from the Old Port)
Once you are in the Old Town, do not forget to also visit the Lokrum Island, a boat is available for 150 Kuna. Access to Lokrum Island is only from the Old Port, transfer to and back is available every 30 minutes. The island has some interesting spots, like the dead sea, a few museums, and the visitor’s centre where you see the behind the scenes of GOT and the Iron Throne. (See photo below) Restaurants are available on the island where you could stop for lunch and other beach bars.
A famous beach there is the Banje beach having as background view of the Old Town. (see picture below) Later for sunset drinks go to the Buza Bar, it is found behind the Old Town wall, a unique feel where you are seated on a cliff facing the sea and enjoy the sea breeze, great way to end a wonderful day in Dubrovnik. It is difficult to explain how to get there without getting lost. The best way is to get closer to the Church of St Blaise and ask for the Buza Bar to a local.
Day 3 in Dubrovnik, we went to discover the hidden beaches on the neighbour islands; Kolocep Island and Lopud Island.
Tickets to these two islands are available to the Dubrovnik new port ticket desk. For two persons it was 120 Kunas. We did Dubrovnik – Kolocep – Lopud and from Lopud – Dubrovnik. Please check the time the ferry comes to organize your time on each island or if you just want to do one island a day. See this link to get the ferry tickets https://www.jadrolinija.hr/ Jadrolinija, is the Croatian ferry company that connects most of the Croatian Islands to the mainland by carrying regular passengers and vehicles. We used the Jadrolinija ferry services for island hopping together with our rented car.
Kolocep Island and Lopud Island.
Tickets to the islands are available at the new Port, outside the Old town. The beaches on these islands are quiet and peaceful not so crowded. I was impressed by the beauty and the island is untouched. Same for Lopud island, great beaches but you need to walk to the other side of the island (Sunj Beach). I would suggest you prepare lunch on the go, sandwiches and bring some drinks along because to the other side of the island there is nothing.
If you expect to see sandy beaches, the Croatian coast is not the right place. Pebbly, rocky or semi-sandy beaches, there is for all taste. You will see some tourists using special shoes to walk on non-sandy beaches and use also a cushioned beach mat to lie down. They are available to buy in all the beach shops around.
On the main beach of Kolocep is the Villa Ruza Restaurant, a stop there for lunch is perfect after a good session of tanning and swimming on the isolated beach in Kolocep called Placet, the best spot with stairs which take you down to the crystal water.
The next day, before leaving for Trpanj we went to another quiet beach I have been looking for. Pasjaca Beach, located in Konavli town, below the village of Popovici, the beach is protected by giant Konavle cliffs. You will have to take carved stairs and pass through dug out tunnels. A car park is available at the top. (see picture below)
Trpanj, what a beautiful finding, this town was not on our itinerary. We stopped there because it was halfway to Makarska, and because we had to take the ferry to Ploce. All over Peljesac is known for the Empire of wine. The local wineries produce about 40 varieties of red wine. Besides the wine, I discovered homemade liquor called “Orahovac”, made with walnuts. Additionally try the Nespola, grappa and the limoncello.
Trpanj offers a couple of great restaurants too where seafood is King – try the fresh oysters, they are to die for. For dinner we went to Konoba Ribar, a seafood restaurant ran by a family; the father is a fisherman and he is the one at the grill, the mother in the kitchen making risotto and other local gastronomy and the son is with the guests. I opted for a grilled sea bass served with potatoes and Mangold, what a delicacy. I must say that throughout my stay in Croatia, I was having fish every night.
Beautiful sunset in Trpanj.
Makarska is known too for its famous beaches and nightlife. But again was the same problem we were faced with – crowded beaches. Instead, we drove a little higher Makarska to a town called Omis. There we could find a quiet beach called ‘Lokva Rogoznica’. On the way back to Makarska, there is the Brela beach as you can see in the picture as well as Punta beach.
Here is a list of beaches you could go to in Omis:
- Lokva Rogoznica
Take a walk along the Riviera, the harbour offers a wide choice of gastronomic restaurants and unusual restaurants like on a boat. Very lively, every night is the market from 6pm to midnight and the cave nightclub called “Deep” next to the Osejava hotel. It is not often that you get to party into a cave. “Deep” is a natural cave transformed into a nightclub.
Our next stop after Makarska was the Island of Hvar. Options to take the ferry there are either you take it from Split or from Drvenik. Drevenik was what we went for because Split tends to be very busy during summer time but also from Drevnik the ferry cost was 3 times cheaper. The ferry ticket price is 140 Kuna for 2 adults and a private car.
The Island of Hvar
Hvar island is known for its nightlife, lively bars and island trips to the several Pakleni islands just offshore from which you can go by renting a boat from the harbour. Different types of boats are available to you even if you do not have a boat licence you can rent a 5 or 6 HP motorboat to go around and discover the beauty of the islands nearby at your own pace. Or if you do not want to rent one there are boat transfer services all day on which you can jump on. The Hvar city is a car-free zone. You have two main parking lot where you can leave your car, and do the rest of your journey on foot.
Not to mention the beaches. Here is a list of beaches you can go while you are staying on the island of Hvar; Dubovica, Milna, Zarace, among other beaches, the choice is big.
Definitely, a must do also in Hvar is to have dinner at the Ko Doma Restaurant, which brings to you the authentic local dishes with a twist, the real grandma’s cuisine. It is 4 courses with 10 -12 different dishes, not bad right.
Hula Hula beach bar
With its unforgettable sunset views, grooviest music, and amazing people, the Hula Hula Beach Bar is where you will create summer memories! During the day you can enjoy the lounge beach atmosphere with chill-out music, sunbeds, VIP tables and open-air massage pavilion. They also offer a wide choice of culinary delights made with fresh and quality ingredients, good wine, cocktails and many more. When it is the sunset hour, Hula Hula beach bar is a great place to watch the sun going down. At the same time, the DJ starts with good music and the relaxed atmosphere turns into the best dance place.
Bonj Les Bain Luxury Beach Club
Bonj “les Bains” has a unique touch of retro-Mediterranean luxury. The restaurant creates signature dishes with the Hvar local spices and ingredients as well as refine cocktails. After your lunch, you can book your sunbeds, private pontoons or a cabana and perfect your tanning game with a seafront ambience and dive in the water. At Bonj les Bains, you are sure to get intimacy at its best while sipping your favourite cocktail.
Must Do on the other Islands
Laganini Beach Lounge
Laganini Lounge Bar Fish house is one of Croatia’s most exclusive seafood restaurants located on the beautiful island Palmizana next to Hvar. Besides the exotic seafood restaurant, it has the most “chilled” lounge bar with direct access to the beach. The location is easily accessible with boat transfers from Hvar. Just imagine yourself watching the sunset over the bay of Vinogradisce, as you sip a fabulous Laganini cocktail after a delicious seafood dinner! Ahhhh !!! Holidays.
Carpe Diem Beach Club
Carpe Diem Beach on Stipanska, Pakleni Islands, where you will enjoy the popular night entertainment, run by world-famous DJs till the early morning hours of the next day. The most famous nightclub in Hvar. Do not get confused, there are two Carpe Diem, one is the Carpe Diem Bar found in Hvar city and the other Carpe Diem nightclub is on Pakleni Islands.
Exploring the Blue cave and the Green Cave
Start the day in the sea with the majestic Green Cave and Blue Cave and including Vis and the Pakleni islands! There are different boat tours which offer to cruise between Hvar and the islets of Ravnik and Biševo. You will get to do the Green Cave, swim inside and enjoy the emerald light show, the Stiniva Cave, the Blue Cave regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful natural phenomena, this cave is a mustsee. Then you will also do the island of Vis, the Paklinski Islands and also stop at one of the archipelago’s most popular bays, Vinogradišce at Palmižana, where you can have a seaside lunch at some of the best restaurants in the Adriatic! After lunch, you can swim, relax or even go dancing at the Laganini lounge club beach bar, a famous island hangout where Bono enjoyed THAT 10-course lunch and later transfer back to Hvar. This is the best options if you do not have much time in Hvar and you want to do the best in a short time. It is between 60 – 70 euros per person sharing a speedboat with up to 6-16 other guests.
We are getting close to the end of the Dalmatian Coast Holidays. Heading to Split. So we left the Island of Hvar by ferry to Drevenik and from there we drove to Split. Unfortunately, with the busy ferry trips, we lost about three hours and by the time we arrived in Split, it was already late afternoon. Casually, we decided to stroll around the old city streets and have dinner there. The next morning we were already flying back to Vienna.
Split also has an Old Town. The Diocletian Palace, an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian that forms about half the Old Town of Split. (see photo below) this place is always lively with people sitting on the stairs reading a book, listening to music, chatting… and not to mention the narrow streets with shops, restaurants, bars. Actually, it is hard not to fall in love with the vibes of the Old Town of Split.
Other points of interest in Split is the harbour which gets very animated in the evening with the night markets, music bands, live shows, restaurants and bars. The Cathedral of Saint Domnius, the Marjan Hill, take a walk in the forest and climb the steps. Once on top, you will enjoy a unique viewpoint completely surrounded by the city and the sea. Great location for sunset watching too and very romantic. (see picture below)
I will end this wonderful trip by giving you some good restaurants suggested by a local friend of mine which you could go while in Split:
- Dvor Restaurant
- Bokeria Kitchen and Wine bar
- ZOI restaurant
Make sure you make a reservation, if you show up like this you might not have a table.
From my personal experience, I recommend you visit the Croatian coast end of May – Start of June or the start of September to avoid the crowded areas.
Hvala (Thank You) Croatia, you have been amazing once more.
If you have any questions or you want to share your personal experiences from your Holidays in Croatia, please write in the comment box below.
Again for any travel booking inquiries, see with Itineris Travel agency https://www.facebook.com/itinerisyourtraveldesigner/ my favourite travel agency on the Island.
Big thanks to Shain Ramjan again for this beautiful itinerary illustration of my summer vacation in Croatia. Always an awesome work.