July 19th – 23rd, 2018
I went to Dubrovnik after my summer abroad in Barcelona. My mother met me in Barcelona, and we traveled together for a while, Dubrovnik was our second stop, after Prague. We picked that location because a few of my English and Australian friends were going to be there around the same time. Croatia is a beautiful country right on the Adriatic Sea. It isn’t as popular as some of the other countries on the Mediterranean, like Greece or Italy, so it wasn’t as packed with tourists during the summer but was still just as beautiful. Our first three nights in Dubrovnik we stayed in a hotel near the Old City then the last night we stayed in an Airbnb like home closer to the airport.
The Old City – The Old City is like taking a trip back in time. It is full of great shops and restaurants in old fashioned buildings with red roofs. There are some beautiful old churches which are always my mother’s favorite. You could walk around inside the old city walls for hours just exploring the various walkways and shops. There are a few high-end shops along the main central street, but as you walk past, there are some smaller gems tucked just out of sight. We explored the Old City for a few days, and I still feel like I didn’t see all of it.
Walking the Wall – You can not go to Dubrovnik and skip walking the wall. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you can take special tours devoted to the franchise where they show you all of the places where they shot, the wall being part of it, or walk along the wall separately. It is a small fee to get up onto the wall, and from there you can walk all around the city. We did this around sunset one night. That way, it was a little cooler, and it was beautiful. From the wall, you get a great view of the city, cliffs, and the Adriatic Sea. There are restaurants in the cliffs that you can have a beautiful dinner while looking out at the sea that we wish we had known while we were there.
Cliff jumping at a secret beach – If you continue walking on the main road out of the old city, there is an area where the road goes along the cliffside. If you take the stairs down the cliffside, there is a secret “beach club”. By beach club, I mean a tarp to get out of the sun and a ladder so not much, but it allows you to tan and jump off the rocks into the Adriatic, which was FREEZING. It was hard to stay in the water for long periods without losing feeling, but If you can tolerate it snorkeling, there is probably amazing. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom without even putting your face in it. Look up Club Boninovo on Google Maps to find this hidden beach club. If you are looking for other beaches close to the city, you can check out Bellevue Beach (we could see this from the secret beach, and it looked great) or Porporela, a pier right outside the Old City walls.
Srđ – This is another must do in Dubrovnik. Srđ is a mountain that overlooks the city. There are a few ways to get up to the top of the mountain. You can hike, drive or the most popular route, which we did, take a gondola. The ride is about 5 minutes and takes you to the main building at the top, which has a bar, restaurant, and lots of hiking trails that give you a panoramic view of Dubrovnik. We went up right before sunset, so we had a great view. We walked out as far as we could go and watched the sunset over the surrounding hills. After the sun had set, we carefully made our way back to the building and had a drink before heading back down for dinner in the Old City.
Lokrum Island – While we were there, we both wanted to do an island tour; however, at the time being on a boat for that long was something I felt like I couldn’t handle. To read more about my experiences traveling with anxiety, check out this link. Instead of doing an island tour, we decided to visit one island, Lokrum. If you have seen Dubrovnik’s pictures, this is the island you can see right off the coast, covered in trees. It is a short and inexpensive ferry ride from Dubrovnik to Lokrum, and once you are there, there are many things you can do for the day. There are beaches and kayaking rentals on the island, but we went mostly for the hike. From where the ferry docks, you can hike up the large hill to Fort Royal. It is about a 45-minute hike up the hill, and it is relatively steep, but once you get to the top, there is a beautiful view of Dubrovnik and the Croatian coast. After our hike, we visited the Monastery and gardens on the island and stopped for a quick lunch before heading back to the mainland. The island is beautiful and an excellent way to spend a day in Croatia, though looking back, I wish I had been able to do a tour of multiple islands or a tour in Bosnia or Montenegro. If I went back, those would be excursions at the top of my list.
Where we ate
Thinking back on Dubrovnik, there is one place that stands out as one of the best meals I have ever had. It was a salmon dish from a restaurant names Wanda’s in the Old City. We happened on this restaurant entirely by chance. We were wandering around the Old City our first night there looking for a restaurant and just read the menu and thought it looked good. We loved this restaurant so much that we continued to go back every night we were in Dubrovnik for dinner and got the salmon every time.
Where we Stayed
Hotel Adria – We stayed in Hotel Adria, which was nice, and it was great to have a pool, but finding our way around took some learning. The buses were slightly confusing, and walking down was not something that would’ve been safe or easy. The bus stopped right outside the hotel, so it was convenient, but if we went again, I would stay in the Old City so that everything was within walking distance.
Home near the airport – Our last night in Croatia, we stayed a little closer to the airport in an Airbnb-type house though we booked it through Booking.com. The people who owned the property were friendly. They had food for us left in the fridge for breakfast, and when we arrived, they gave us a bottle of sherry and wine that they had made as a welcome drink. We talked to them for a bit, and they were excellent. If I remember correctly, they were farmers who ran the rental on the side. The building was nice with AC and multiple bedrooms, and it was a great way to see the Croatian countryside and talk to some people from the area. If you want an authentic experience anywhere, I would recommend doing something like this. It is the best way to talk to people who live and work in the city or country and taste what life is like there.
Recommendations for Next Time
- Lovrijenac Fort
- Go to Cliff Bar or Restaurant
- Go to The Red History Museum
- Get a drink at a local club or bar
- Go on a wine tour
- Kayaking in the Adriatic
- Blue Cave Boat Trip
- Montenegro – Day Trip
- Elaphite Islands – Boat Day Trip
- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Day Trip
- Kravice Falls, Bosnia and Herzegovina – Day Trip
- Krka National Park, Croatia – Day Trip
- Split, Croatia – Multiple Day
Croatia is an amazingly beautiful country on the Adriatic Sea. It has some of the clearest water I have ever seen outside of the Caribbean and some gorgeous architecture. If I went back, I might pick a location a little less touristy than Dubrovnik like Split, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Dubrovnik and eat at Wanda’s again if the opportunity presented itself. If I decided to go again, I would probably find something closer to the Old City to walk to the places on my list instead of taking the bus.