*Croatia is now open for tourists with some guidance and restrictions, for more information on travelling to Croatia click here.
With crystal clear water, terracotta roofs and the best of Mediterranean cuisine, Croatia is an idyllic getaway. This past September, my boyfriend Nick and I, hopped on a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik to spend a week in this historic and breathtaking country. Here is a day by day overview of our carefully booked itinerary featuring photographs from our trip.
Day 1 – Fighting Jet Lag at the Beach
Waking up to the golden sunrise over the Adriatic Sea was a magical way to start our holiday. I made myself a cup of tea and spent my morning curled up on our balcony with a book and a fluffy white robe (while Nick showed no signs of waking up early).
Still recuperating from a delayed flight and late night arrival, we decided to grab breakfast at our hotel and head down to the beach. While much of Dubrovnik’s accommodation lay within the walls of the busy Old Town, we opted to stay just outside, at Hotel Bellevue which sits on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Our hotel offered a small elevated patio with beach chairs in a sectioned off area next to a larger public beach; Plaža Bellevue. The public beach was buzzing with locals, some of whom hiked up the cliffs to go cliff jumping, providing for some great entertainment and prompting very loud gasps from awestruck onlookers.
In the evening we decided to walk to the Old Town, we ventured into the smaller side streets to escape the evening crowds and search for a place to get dinner. (Tip: if you’re searching for dinner in the Old Town try to steer clear of the tourist traps on the main stretch).
We discovered Lucin Kantun, a quaint Mediterranean tapas bar packed with a healthy balance of tourists and locals. We ordered the Mediterranean fish plate for two and enjoyed some local wine, recommended to us by the waiter.
Day 2- Exploring the Old City
Following several groans and liberal tapping of the snooze button we finally woke up at 6:30 AM to go for a walk around the Old Town. If you really want to see the Old Town and walk the length of the walls, I recommend getting up early to beat the tourist crowds and the guests streaming in from the cruise ships that will dock here during the day.
We walked the majority of the old city walls (1,940 meters in total) and ended up at Cogito Coffee, for a much-needed caffeine pick-me-up. After getting a little lost in the small winding back streets of the city, we came across Buza Bar II, a literal hole in the wall and a popular destination for enjoying the sunset and watching daring cliff jumpers. While unintentional, getting lost in the old city streets was a welcomed break from the crowds, and a great way to discover some hidden gems (and very cute cats).
The steep steps in the Old City, while providing fantastic free cardio, are a sure way to work up an appetite. In the evening we went to Sesame, a Mediterranean restaurant just outside of the old city walls, where we had some delicious fresh seafood and great cocktails (by this point I realized it’s hard to have a bad meal in this city). We went back to our hotel to grab some more cocktails and unwind to the soothing sounds of live music on a terrace overlooking the sea.
Day 3 – A day on the Adriatic Sea
After days of staring longingly at the sea, we decided to explore it for ourselves. We hired a private boat through Explore Dubrovnik and worked with our fantastic guide, Elvis, to create an itinerary of things we wanted to see and do ahead of time. This is definitely an indulgence but a great way to explore the islands around Dubrovnik with someone who knows so much about the area, and who can bring you to special hidden spots you wouldn’t get to see otherwise.
Elvis took us to snorkel at the blue caves in the Elaphiti Islands, where the sunlight reflects off the ocean floor to illuminate the water and cave walls with an ethereal blue glow. For lunch we had asked to go to BOWA, a hidden beachside restaurant on Sipan Island where ingredients, from the olive oil to the sea urchins, are all locally sourced.
If you’re looking to spend a day here, you can rent a cabana and order the tasting menu, which is served over the course of 4-6 hours, with swimming and sunbathing breaks in between (need I say more?). It ended up being one of the best meals I had in Croatia and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique culinary experience (tip: you have to book this place far in advance and it’s only accessible by hired boat). We finished the day with a tour of the coast and harbor at sunset and cold beers on the boat with our guide.
Day 4 – A Much Needed Day at the Spa
After a big breakfast on our hotel’s terrace, we spent our morning curled up with books at the beach. When the sky turned to overcast in the afternoon, we decided it was a good opportunity to try the spa at our hotel. We indulged in a couple’s massage and enjoyed the spa’s indoor pool with views of the ocean. For dinner we tried the hotel’s Michelin guide restaurant, Vapor, which ended up being yet another incredible meal (of course). Some of our favorite dishes were the Lamb Meatballs with pistachio in pomegranate and orange sauce, polenta with sun-dried tomatoes and the Piper fish fillet served on a mango cream with black rice and papaya.
Day 5 – Exploring Bosnia and Herzegovina
While there are so many day trips you can take from Dubrovnik, we really wanted to go see Mostar and the Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We went on a small all-day group tour with Laus Travel.
After hours driving along the beautiful Croatian coast, a bumpy bus nap, and a small hike, we made it to the waterfalls. It was a chilly day, and nobody was really swimming or kayaking in the water, so we found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the views.
On the winding road that leads to Mostar it’s evident that this is a country in the process of healing and rebuilding. This beautiful city is vibrant and bustling with very welcoming locals and excited tourists; it’s almost hard to believe that it was just over 20 years ago when this charming city was overwhelmed with war and destruction.
The streets of central Mostar are lined with small shops and lively vendors selling copper goods, Turkish lamps and ornate fabrics. We stopped for lunch at a small cafe before wandering to the famous Stari Most bridge. In a tower beside the bridge we discovered Enclave, an exhibit by New Zealand born photojournalist Wade Goddard. His exhibit displayed fascinating and at times heartbreaking photographs taken during the Bosnian War that celebrated the resilience and pride of the people of Mostar.
After a long delay crossing the border back into Croatia we finally got back to our hotel and set out to find a place for dinner. We wandered into the residential neighborhood across from our hotel and discovered a small Italian restaurant, Vita Bella, which seemed to be a popular spot amongst the locals. The pizza was incredible (and that’s coming from a self-proclaimed pizza snob) and a big glass of the house wine was exactly what we needed after a long day on our feet.
Day 6 – Touring and Toasting the Peljesac Peninsula
While most people probably don’t think about Croatia as a thriving wine region, they have actually been producing wine for over 2,400 years. Its lack of popularity in the wine world is mainly due to the fact that a large portion of their wine stays within the domestic market, but since their entrance into the EU in 2013, Croatian wine has become more popular around the world.
We were curious to learn more about the wine industry in Croatia, so we booked a tour of the famous Peljesac Peninsula with Insider Holidays . Our guide, also the founder of Insider Holidays, Bozidar Jukic, is a Dubrovnik born sommelier and author of the blog Wine Lovers Croatia. While driving through the picturesque Croatian countryside, Bozidar was an incredible guide and spoke to us about the history of the Peljesac region and the art of winemaking in Croatia.
Our first stop was to Milos Winery, where we got to meet the owners, tour their cellars and have a full wine tasting at their bar. At the final stop, Grgurevic Wines, we shuffled into a small basement in the owner’s seaside home where we had olive oil soaked cheese and charcuterie to accompany our wine tasting. Getting to interact with the locals, who were all so passionate about their country and proud of their wines was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Day 7 – A Culinary Treat
In anticipation of returning to cold rainy London, we spent our final day in Dubrovnik sunning ourselves on the beach. In the evening we walked over to the Old Town to enjoy our final dinner, at the Michelin Star restaurant 360.
360 is located on top of the old city walls, giving it a one of a kind views of both the city and the Sea. Since it was our final night we decided to go all out and opted for the “retrospective” tasting menu with a wine pairing. Every dish placed on our table was not only aesthetically crafted but also had to be some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Our week in Dubrovnik was better than we could have ever imagined. The friendly locals, incredible food and breathtaking views are only a small part of what made this experience so extraordinary. I would highly recommend it for anyone who has the opportunity to come to Dubrovnik and experience this special place for themselves!