Known for Nikola Tesla, inventing the first fountain pen, producing some of the best olive oil in the world and of course now in the 21st century, Game of thrones; the most popular location being Dubrovnik, whose city walls and forts became King’s Landing. Dubrovnik, nicknamed ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ is one of the most popular tourist attraction across Croatia and the Mediterranean and it’s not hard to see why. This is easily one of the most picturesque settings. But there is a lot more to Croatia than just Dubrovnik and thanks to a sailing trip I was able to experience the many wonders of this breath-taking country.
We visited 7 different islands and below I have listed one thing you have to do on each island
Day 1: Dubrovnik
We started our week long journey in Dubrovnik where we got to spend a full day before we set sail. As we stepped onto our boat we were greeted by the friendly crew who would be hosting us for the week. We were then treated to a traditional cuisine which consisted of a North Croatian green soup starter, Gregada which is a fish stew cooked with white wine, parsley, onions, garlic, capers, salted anchovies and potatoes as main course and pita od kupina (Croatian Blackberry pie) as dessert. The food was amazing and a great way to start our Croatian trip.
Dubrovnik City Walls: This one is pretty obvious but because we had such a short time in Dubrovnik and we got so busy exploring the old town we came so close to not doing this. The impressive walls that surround Old town are 2km long and we walked them in an hour. From atop the walls you get an amazing view of the Old Town with beautiful 360 degree views of the deep blue adriatic sea, as well as the array of red rooftops of the Old Town buildings along the way. The crowds can be unbearable in peak season but what is expected of a city that is so eternally enchanting? Tickets will set you back 150 Kunas and opening times vary depending on the time of year. Operating times are generally between 08:00 to 18:30. You can find more information about Dubrovnik at Lonely Planet.
Day 2: Mljet
Mljet is the most southerly and easterly of the larger Adriatic islands of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. Much of the island is covered by forests and the rest is dotted with fields, vineyards and small villages. We didn’t make it very far from the port because we didn’t need to. This island is breathtakingly beautiful and graced us with one of the most magical sunsets that we have ever experienced. There is nothing quite like when dusk hits and the sea is lit up in a gorgeous rose-pink light that ignites the skies above.
Eat out at Stagnum: Instead of dining at one of the more popular restaurants along the port edges we wandered up a small side street and came across a quaint family restaurant. It’s run by Ante and Sanja and offers classic Croatian cuisine. The food is fabulous and freshly barbecued on the grill outside. You can enjoy your meal in the open-air courtyard surrounded by vines and flowers. You can taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients used in each dish. The best part about this hidden gem is that Ante has a vineyard nearby and produces his own wine. If you love your wine you must try his house red – it is to die for!
Day 3: Korcula
Nicknamed ‘Little Dubrovnik’ this ancient city is among the most beautiful on the Croatian Coast. It boasts Dubrovnik type scenery with its medieval squares, church palaces and houses but without all the crowds! One of the main attractions is the alleged house of birth of Marco Polo.
Massimo cocktail bar: If you find yourself on the island of Korcula you must have a cocktail at Massimo. It’s pricy (My Gin fizz cost 80 HRK) so we opted for just one but it was well worth it. Set up at the top of a Venetian Fortress you will need to climb a set of stairs and a steep ladder to reach the top. Perhaps also why it’s advisable to have just the one drink! Drinks come to you by pulley (as it would be absurd to expect anyone to walk up and down that ladder carrying drinks) as you take in the view as far as Pelješac. The cocktail list is extensive and the view is truly beautiful! This is probably the best place to be for sunset in Korcula.
Day 4: Hvar
Hvar is the longest island in the Adriatic and is famous in Croatia for its super-yachts and celebrity status. Olive groves, fruit orchards, and lavender fields make up a large part of the agricultural landscape. Most famous for its night-life, if you are into the party scene you should check out Carpe Diem. Unfortunately we didn’t make it there but some of our fellow travellers did and we hear that it is epic! As a town that certainly has looks on its side and with almost 2800 hours of sunshine each year it’s a no wonder that this little island is a favourite for many. The palm trees, the sunshine, the nightlife, the sea – it’s just perfection.
Hvar fortress: When in Croatia, climbing the hill to explore the 7th century fort ruins overlooking is a must. The path to the top takes you amongst a lovely pine tree forest and is about a 20 minute walk. Entrance is worth the 40 kuna. You get some of the most stunning views of Hvar standing on the walls of the citadel. You are also able to explore the prison area of the fortress. This is complete with green lights to set the mysterious creepy mood.
Day 5: Hvar Stari-Grad
Stari-Grad is a quaint habour town on the northern side of the island and the oldest town in Croatia, dating back to 384BC. It is a quieter, more cultured affair than Hvar town and without a doubt something special. If you listen very carefully and with an open heart, every stone will tell you an interesting story. We enjoyed wandering through these small cobblestone streets with a café on every corner. There is something magical about the way the fresh air makes you feel at the coast.
Wine tasting: You have most likely already drank wine that originated in Croatia, you just don’t know it! Wine in Croatia has a long history. It was the Greek settlers who first introduced vineyards to the Croatian coasts and wine production has flourished ever since. So obviously when in Croatia you can’t miss the opportunity for wine tasting. There is no better place to sample some of the best wines than at UNESCO protected Ager Wine Field. This was definitely one of the highlights of our Croatia trip. Nothing quite beats sipping wine on a Croatian Ranch filled with so much culture and history all while devouring local cheese, olives, bread and olive oil.
Day 6: Makarska
This lively town is situated on the edge of the Dalmatia region, on the Adriatic coast and is made up of sand and pebble. We spent the day here roaming through the main square, shopping at the market, cliff jumping and enjoying dinner at a stunning beachfront restaurant. There certainly isn’t a shortage of things to do in Makarska. That and the fact that it probably has one of the best beaches that Croatia has to offer. Not to mention the views are enough reason to add this one to your list.
Club deep: Don’t miss out on the unique experience of enjoying some drinks at this natural cave by the sea. Also known as the ‘Rave cave’, the party only gets going from about 11pm but the bar is open all day for those who would prefer to enjoy an early sundowner. The cave is not as big as it looks in pictures so it does get very crowded. But the party does extend out onto the beachfront so you are free to dance the night away under the stars with the fresh sea breeze running through your hair and the sea at your fingertips. The music is good and the atmosphere is incredible with a vibe that last until the early hours of the morning.
Day 7: Split
One of the more popular cities of Croatia, Split has the perfect balance of tradition and modernity. You will find dozens of bars, restaurants and shops surrounding the Diocletian’s palace. This became a prominent settlement around 650 CE when it succeeded the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Truthfully speaking though this was probably our least favourite place that we visited in Croatia. It may have to do with the fact that this was our last day in Croatia and we had already experienced the beautiful island life. Split, being a city, is a lot more commercialised and not as aesthetically pleasing AND it rained! Nevertheless we still had an amazing time here.
Coffee at To Je To: As an avid coffee lover and not having had much luck finding good coffee in Croatia, this little café was a winner! The coffee was hot, it was delicious, the baristas were young and lively and tucked away in the Old town the setting gives off a real local vibe. I could have sat here for hours taking in the last of the refreshing Croatian air. To Je To use certified organic roasted beans from Cogito Coffee Roasters who import green beans from the world’s best boutique green coffee farms. I must have visited this little gem at least 4 times in the day and a half that we were in Split – it is that fantastic. The vibe is always cheerful and the coffee ALWAYS great!
While trying to see so much in one trip and only visiting each island for a day/night it can seem overwhelming but this has been one of our favourite ways to travel. It was a dream to sail the Croatian coastline and we will be back for more!
If you are planning a Greek island trip you can get some great tips here.