Dubrovnik, Croatia

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Backpacking the Balkans:

  1. Backpacking the Balkans – Introduction and Our Route
  2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  3. Mostar, Bosnia
  4. Sarajevo, Bosnia
  5. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
  6. Kotor and Jaz Beach, Montenegro
  7. Photos from the Balkans
As beautiful as the photos! (this is Blackwater Bay btw)

As beautiful as the photos! (this is Blackwater Bay btw)

Sara and I first talked about visiting Croatia back in 2005, when we “heard” that Croatia had beautiful beaches and as a little more off the beaten track than other parts of the mediterranean (French Riviera, for example). Coming to Europe, Croatia was at the top of our “must-see” list, and so when we saw a cheap flight for this past Saturday to Dubrovnik, a major tourist city in the south of Croatia, we jumped on it. Plus the fact that a lot of Game of Thrones, including the battle of Blackwater Bay, was filmed here!

It turns out both of our original thoughts about Croatia (nice beaches and off the beaten track) were both decidedly false, but that didn’t take away from the fact that Croatia is definitely the most beautiful place we have visited on our 9-month adventure. What makes Croatia so beautiful is the color of the water, and how clear it is. Swimming in it, or even looking at it from afar, you can easily see 20 feet below you. It’s incredible. Unlike, say, Thailand or the Galapagos, there is not much in the way of sealife, and all of the beaches are rocky and not that nice; however, the crystal-clear water more than makes up for it.

Dubrovnik old town

Dubrovnik old town

That beauty was amplified in our first destination, Dubrovnik, because the water is set against a beautiful old city high on a cliff with large stone walls and towers, old shops with bright orange roofs, and luxury yachts and sailboats cruising the waters. It was definitely postcard beautiful. Of course, once we got on the ground it lost some of its luster: it is a really hilly town so we had to climb a ton of stairs; the public transportation system is pretty poor; everything is expensive, from $3 to a bus ride to over $40 for a basic dinner; cruise ship passengers overrun the place during the day. It was because of these things we took every opportunity we had to get out of the city and see the surrounding area.

Our first day in Dubrovnik we woke up early and went to the ferry terminal to catch a ride to Mljet. 2 hours later, we arrived at the port, paid about $20/person, and caught a van ride into the national park, and then a boat out to the monastery, which was on an island on the island. The National Park staff did a good job of coordinating the bus and boat transfers so that no one had to wait if one was full, as most of the parks visitors were just day-trippers (like us) from Dubrovnik. Anyway, the island with the monastery was nice to walk around, and enjoyed just starting out at the blue water around the island’s largest saltwater lake.

Boat ride to the monastery across crystal clear blue water

Boat ride to the monastery across crystal clear blue water

Later in the afternoon we took a connecting ferry to the mouth of the smaller lake, where you could rent canoes, go swimming, or do some nice hikes around the lake. We elected to do the latter two, and they were both really nice, relaxing experiences (although the water was a bit too cold). That night, we headed back to Dubrovnik and went into the Old Town for the first time to have a nice seafood dinner; the highlight was the stuffed calamari. The US/Portugal World Cup game started late here, at midnight, so we elected to go back to our room and watch it instead of at a bar. We are glad we did, since the 95 minute game-tying goal made us want to go right to sleep anyway.

After a late next morning, we again set out for Old Town, where we had lunch at an Asian/Mediterranean fusion restaurant that was quite tasty. Afterwards, we hopped on a 15-minute, $7 ferry to the island of Lokrum, where a lot of locals go to swim and relax. We had a great few hours there just catching some rays and dipping in the Adriatic. It was quite entertaining to watch all the boats and kayaks go by the island’s nude beach (of which there are quite a few in Croatia) and to see their passenger’s reactions.

View from high above the city walls

View from high above the city walls

We returned late in the afternoon and decided to hike around the city walls, which is a bit expensive at $20/person but affording some amazing views of the old town, the fort, and the surrounding water and boats. The whole way around was 2.2km, or 1.5 miles, with quite a few stairs in the heat, so it was definitely not for the faint of heart. These walls were where many of the King’s Landing scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed, so that was pretty cool.

After going home and freshening up, we went back to the Old Town to the Revelin bar, which is one of the major nightclubs Croatia is famous for, inside of a former fortress. On the roof, they were showing the Croatia/Mexico World Cup game on TV, so we figured it would be fun to watch it with the locals. Unfortunately they lost 3-1, so everyone was in a bit of a dour mood afterwards, but we still enjoyed a few dance moves courtesy of some famous DJ.

We made the executive decision to head into Bosnia as our next stop, so the next destinations on our (now modified) route are Mostar and Sarajevo, Bosnia, and then into Montenegro. We think we’ll be able to find better beaches and similar water in Montenegro, so we’re trying to give ourselves extra time there. Plus we’ll probably be back to northern Croatia in late July, so we should have plenty other opportunities to experience the picturesque vistas of Croatia in the near and distant future.

<< Backpacking the Balkans – Introduction and Our RouteMostar, Bosnia >>
This entry was posted in Croatia. Bookmark the permalink.