For those of us living in the U.S., we were a bit slow in realizing how amazing of a vacation destination Croatia is. However, the tides have turned in recent years (so much so that Dubrovnik can’t handle it) and now everyone is in on the secret (thanks HBO!). With crystal clear Mediterranean waters and a lovely food and wine scene, it doesn’t take much convincing to plan a trip. TwentyA spent eight days in Croatia with brief interludes in Montenegro and Bosnia. We made the trip in early May which turned out to be an ideal time to travel there. May is right on the cusp of tourist season so the weather is decent (not cold, but not scorching hot either) and there isn’t as many tourists. We were shocked to hear that in the peak of tourist season people would wait hours to go into the Blue Cave (while we did not wait at all), and that it could be difficult to walk in Dubrovnik. We noticed the occasional cruise ship, but it was nowhere near the upwards of 30,000 people/day during peak season. The trip was perfect–below was our itinerary!
Friday – Saturday: Overnight flight to Split, Croatia
We arrived in Split, Croatia around 3:00 pm (pro tip – there’s a convenient and inexpensive bus that travels directly from the airport to the city center). Our Airbnb was located in the heart of Old Town where all the tourists try to stay. The Old Town is essentially the remains of the Roman Diocletian Palace, an ancient palace built for Roman Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century. So yes, our Airbnb was quite literally in a palace ;).
Our typical “day 1” energy surge allowed us to tackle Marjan Hill, a hill near Old Town that offers sweeping views of the city and sea. It was about 300-ish steps to the lookout area but there are plenty of benches along the way. We then explored the rest of central Split before eating dinner at Toto’s Burgers. Food in Croatia was extremely affordable compared the U.S. so guilt-free overindulging was a major plus!
Sunday: Speed Boat Island Hopping Tour
Our first full day began with breakfast pastries that literally cost a dollar (this is our version of heaven tbh). We then ventured to Toto Travel for our Blue Cave – 5 Islands tour. Our guide for the day, Peter, was a fun-loving Croatian and we had no doubt that it’d be a great and interesting day. We also had a fine-ass co-captain whose name is unknown but he deserves to be a model for Ray Bans.
Anywaysss, an important thing to note was that our army-grade speedboat was super fast and quite uncomfortable. It was fun, but definitely takes some getting use to. If you’re looking for a leisurely way to see some of the islands, do not do a speed boat tour. We were basically straddling a cushion the entire time and it gets pretty windy. However, we didn’t mind as we were interested in seeing as much as possible in one day without having to spend too much time traveling between places. Also, Toto provided windbreakers which helped a lot. They also would blast A+ pop music while in transit so it was good vibes all around. When Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” came on, one member of TwentyA said she “peaked in life.”
It was an hour and a half ride to Bisevo which is better known for the blue cave. Our next stop was the town of Komiza – a small fisherman’s village where we had a quick hour to explore before heading to Stiniva Bay, which is apparently one of the most beautiful coves in Europe and it definitely lived up to it! Next was the green cave followed by the blue lagoon. Our final stop was the well-known island of Hvar. In Hvar we ate, walked up to the fortress to take in views of the city and surrounding islands, and relaxed on the beach. We returned to Split salty and sore but had a great day overall. There was so much to see off the coast that one full day didn’t seem enough, however it was a great introduction and it definitely gave us a reason to want to come back to Croatia. Our night ended in Split with people watching and gelato by the water. What more could you want?
On Monday we ferried from Split to Dubrovnik (about a 4-hour journey). Ya’ll, photos of Dubrovnik don’t do it justice–the Old Town is stunning! We walked the city walls and got a 360-view of literally everything. There were a lot of stairs and our legs were sore the next day, but we definitely recommend doing the full walk. Afterward, we visited the fort that was in Game of Thrones (entrance was included in our city walls ticket!). Again, so many stairs to get there, but so worth it.
The next day we took a day trip to Bosnia via a small van tour (max of 8 people), but thankfully there were only six of us (#blessed). Our first stop on the tour was the city of Neum which is the only Bosnian city along the coast. This basically means Croatia was a dick and wanted all the coastline for themselves and we had to cross the border three times before being fully in Bosnia.
Our next stop was Pocitelj – a village with past strategic significance that was also under Ottoman rule at one point. Basically we walked up a hill to a fort and saw the super pretty surrounding area- including the buildings and mosque on the same hill.
Next up was Medugorjie – a place where apparently six boys saw Mary and baby Jesus (can you see our eyes roll?). Now the town is a major tourist clusterfuck where people come to find salvation, redemption, and literal Jesus, or whatever the brochure says. Also, you can purchase your fake Gucci or Adidas at one of the many surrounding stores! You can also buy Pope outfits or Jesus statues. Basically it’s a strange place and we sure as hell did not find any miracles (or Jesus!) there. However, we are genuinely glad that it seemed to contribute to the local economy.
Finally we made it to Mostar! There we did a walking tour of the old town and learned about the war. It was very sobering but so incredible to learn what happened from someone who actually lived through it.
We also watched people wait for someone to dive off of the bridge (but apparently the diving club only does it once they’ve gotten enough donation). Food in Bosnia is crazy cheap and it was amazing (I paid like 1$ for gelato!).
Back in Dubrovnik we freshened up and grabbed dinner at Cafe Festival. The cafe is perfectly situated in the old town for people watching. So we ended the day with nightcaps and doing just that.
Wednesday: Dubrovnik and Lokrum Island
Wednesday started with a much more satisfying meal at Cafe Festival. We were also seated in an adorable alleyway so we are now in the background of many photos.
Next, we went to the cable car that takes you to the top of the hill for great views of Dubrovnik.
Once back down, we headed inside Old Town to the Old Port (we get it everything is old) to catch the ferry to Lokrum island. Lokrum island is about 600 meters away from Dubrovnik but it’s a really nice getaway from the city crowds. We literally watched a peacock mating ritual on the island so that’s the kind of vibes. There’s also a nude “beach” aka a rocky area where old men can just be themselves. We recommend checking out the Dead Sea pool which was super peaceful and pleasant.
The monastery was also lovely to see and that was where we FINALLY FOUND THE IRON THRONE (in the HBO Game of Thrones room). Unlike the one in old town, this one was free! Obviously we took a million pictures in it.
We then did the painful hike up to the fort. It was very rocky and hard to find but I guess the view was cool. Tbh jury is out on whether the walk was worth it.
Back in Old Town we had coffee and crepes before taking a Game of Thrones boat trip from Gruz Port. Oh yeah, we went there. The ship was gorgeous and thankfully pretty empty. There was an old man dressed as the ‘king’ aka Joffrey and there were costumes on board for people to dress up in. We opted not to dress up but we enjoyed watching those that did. The narrator was a chick who worked as a stand in actress for the show and she had plenty of interesting anecdotes about filming. The hour cruise ended in Old Town around sunset. We walked to the infamous location of the “Shame” scene before getting pastries and chilling in one of the squares.
Thursday we awoke early, had our pastries, and got picked up by our super awesome tour guide for our Montenegro trip. Luckily, there was only one other couple with us. Our first stop was a photo op of Dubrovnik followed by a photo stop at Our Lady of the Rocks church which is on a manmade island.
Our next stop was Kotor where we had a guided walking tour and free time. We had initially wanted to climb the walls to the fort (1300 steps) but then learned it was 3 euros (“I’m not paying 3 euros for pain”). Instead we got coffee and cake (first of two instances today). Side note – the joke of Montenegro is that everyone is lazy and likes to rest so we were just fitting in.
The next stop was Budva which apparently is a party town and has the most millionaires per capita (but the population is only like 20,000). In Budva, we explored Old Town and went to our fav tour guide’s recommended restaurant – Jadran. We paid 16 euros for two entrees, two drinks, AND there was free bread – what a deal. We had a table right above the water and it was fantastic.
We then walked to a beach and relaxed. Back in Dubrovnik we headed to Old Town for our final night. We ended up getting coffee and cake pt 2 at a cafe. After, we went to our fav pastry chain Mlinar and then headed to the Old Port where we made it just in time for the sunset. We saw some puppers, some loud preteen girls, and two Korean couples with their own photographers taking engagement (?) photos. We walked up those god damn 200 steps for the last time and made it to our Airbnb.
Friday we took a bus back to Split and arrived in time for lunch. We spent the rest of the day exploring the rest of the Diocletian Palace / Old Town area including the film location of where Daenerys housed her dragons (yes we are GoT nerds).
Saturday: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Saturday was the last day in Croatia. We took a guided trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park which is a must see! The park has crystal clear lakes and numerous waterfalls. It was a completely different world and such a wonderful last day. It was nice being on a tour because we basically just followed our guide and he made sure we saw everything. It was stress-free and beautiful but make sure to bring water!
That covers our week in Croatia. Basically it’s stunning, very affordable, and definitely worth adding to your bucket list. Is there anything we missed that we should’ve seen? Let us know!