This is my write up and tips from my 7 day, 6 night Croatian road trip. I posted earlier this month about my plans for this trip and now I’m back to tell the tale!
We arrived in Dubrovnik where we spent two nights, then on to Split, Zadar, Plitvice Lakes and finally finishing up in Zagreb. The next few posts cover my reflections on the trip as well as some practical information for those planning a trip to Croatia.
We arrived in Dubrovnik slightly delirious after a very early flight from Gatwick. The shuttle bus heads to town for a very reasonable 90kn each, taking around 30mins to Pile Gate. We opted for a taxi as we had already been delayed around an hour and were told the bus was waiting another 30-40 mins for another flight to arrive.
The taxi was 300 kn (we were told 270 in the airport)…rather pricey but we were keen not to lose any more time. The views out along the coast from the car were amazing, a beautiful first taste of Croatia. Although the roads wrapped this way and that around the mountains they seemed quiet and unhurried, a good sign given we had 800km to drive throughout the rest of the week.
We arrived in Dubrovnik dragging our cases through the Ploče gate. Huge cream walls towered on both sides as we wound our way down into the town. The central street, Stradun, runs like an artery through the Old Town. The sun shines blinding off the reflective stone paving, polished to a mirror shine from centuries of feet passing by.
After collecting our keys from the tiniest little restaurant we were led to our equally tiny lodgings for the next 2 nights. The room was completely central in town but rather shabbily furnished with a small window out onto bustling Stradun. ‘Don’t worry, it’s not noisy, double glass” said our host, Milo (he wasn’t entirely truthful).
We ate lunch in Taj Mahal, a Bosnian restaurant recommended by both TripAdvisor and rough guide. One of my favourite moments on any holiday is that first holiday beer, a moment of pure relaxation. We sat in the tiny alley under umbrellas that filled the whole Street with our first cold beer enjoying the moment and planning what we’d see over the next two days.
The restaurant was a tad pricier than hoped and tasty rather than spectacular. I left wondering if I’d ordered the right thing having seen the glowing TripAdvisor reviews, but if ordered the house speciality (veal and beef wrapped in dough with a small cheese covered baked potato on the side), so many it just wasn’t that good!
After lunch we finally hit the walls. It was a beautiful clear and sunny day which gave us beautifully picturesque views across the city. The terracotta roofs were bright orange under the blue sky and the creamy stone buildings made a striking contrast with the rich blue sea.
Dubrovnik Old Town is astoundingly beautiful and every vista from the walls seemed more beautiful than the last. We took endless photos on the 2km anticlockwise loop around the walls. It wasn’t too busy, although apparently it can be rammed in high season although and on days when cruises arrive in town (which we appear to have missed).
I highly recommend this as a first activity in Dubrovnik as it’s a great way to get a sense of the scale of the city and to orient yourself. From the walls, we could see out to Lokrum island across the sea, up to the hill behind where the cable car runs tourists up and down, the fortress perched on the hill opposite the walls and across all the towers and spires of churches in the old town.
The best views are from the final fortress before you descend the walls (Minčeta) which is much higher up than the others, commanding a broader panorama of the town and sea. It’s a bit of a gruelling climb up to the very top especially in the direct heat of the sun 140kn (about £16) gets you entrance to the walls, one of the more expensive attractions but not one you could miss.
On the way back to our room to freshen up for dinner we stopped to admire Onofrio’s Large Fountain and the tiny St. Saviour’s church at the foot of the entrance to the walls. We also headed into the Franciscan Monastery, site of Europe’s oldest pharmacy. The beautiful cloister is surrounded by dainty Romanesque columns topped with a variety of beasts and figures.
Dinner was beer and pizza to try to save some money. We sat in the same alley in which we had eaten lunch, in a little pizza place called Mirakul. I had the capricciosa which was adequate but not really like Italian pizza.
As we were halfway through dinner we started to see the odd flash of lightening and hear the odd thunder clap. Gradually the rain started, heavy and persistent at first followed by completely tropical. The staff obviously knew the drill and wound the awnings out to full stretch so they more or less covered the entire width of the tiny street. As the water started to overwhelm the awning, pouring from the gutters and down the walls, punters dropped like flies, seeking shelter inside the tiny restaurant.
Still fairly dry, we hung on at our table finishing our beers. We soon realised a small river was rushing past our feet under the tables- with nothing but shiny stone and the odd drain, the water built up quickly into a torrent around our ankles and we had to keep our feet up, chairs like small islands amidst the rising current.
We wondered if we would ever get out, but the rain gradually eased and we waded, shoes in hand, across to the restaurant to use the card machine. It was still fairly heavy as we picked our way gingerly down the narrow streets from awning to awning looking for shelter back to our room. The water was icy underfoot having been accompanied at some points by hail. Quite a first night adventure!