Three Weeks Exploring the Croatian Coast (Recap Video + Expenses)
All photos and video by Josh Meister Photo.
We spent three weeks total in Croatia, the majority of them moving up and down the coast and a few days inland checking out the Plitvice Lakes area. Watch the video below for a quick 2-minute recap, and then scroll down to see more of the trip in depth.
We started off our time in Croatia with a week on the westernmost island, Vis, where we chilled out on the rocky beaches and listened to music during the Goulash Disko festival, a pretty laid back sponsor-free festival. It was a great opportunity to stay in one spot for a bit, meet some fun travelers, and relax. (For some festival action, check out the video above!)
On the last day of the festival, we hopped on a ferry to Split where we were meeting up with my parents – yay! We had two quick days in the city with them, walking around town, picnicking, and checking out the local soccer team during a home game, which was a fun experience despite the pretty poor loss. Our top restaurants were great recommendations from some friends – Sexy Cow for sort-of burger wraps (hard to describe, but delicious), Kantun Paulina (there's probably a line, but it moves fast and is totally worth it), and Restaurant Fife by the water.
Then it was on to the islands! We hit up Hvar first. It's the most popular Croatian island for travelers, and we could easily see why – the harbor is pretty picture perfect. Unfortunately, we were caught by fairly frequent thunderstorms during our time there, so we didn't get to explore outside as much as possible. We did climb to the old city fortress for the amazing views, walk the coast as far as possible to check out the fancy hotels and hidden coves, and rent a car for a day to drive around the island and see some of the other towns.
The overwhelming favorite of those was Stari Grad, a cute little town with windy old streets and buildings and some delicious restaurants. After we stuffed ourselves at lunch there, we hiked up Glavica Hill to the large cross and open-air church for an ideal span of the town. Next up was Vrboska, which the rental car woman said was her hometown and not at all worth visiting, but we ignored her and went anyway and were glad we did. It's got a canal running through it, narrowing out to nothing in the center. There's a few wine tasting places, and it's quietly charming. After the vino, we hit up our last destination, Jelsa, which is another really popular tourist spot. By the time we got there, the clouds had redoubled, we were all shivering, and it seemed like the town had decided it was too cold and gross out to stay open, so there wasn't much for us to see.
My parents and I were ready for warmth and a nap, so we headed home, and Josh took the car out for a bit more exploring. He headed southeast from Hvar Town this time to check out a tiny little cove, Dubovica Beach. The clouds had cleared a bit by the time he got there, and he wound up with a stunning sunset on an almost-deserted piece of beach.
The next day was nice enough to check out some of the beaches in earnest. We took the water taxi to Amo Beach, which turned out to be a (very) nude-friendly beach – oops! - and Stipanska Beach for a day of sun and relaxing.
When we returned from the beaches, we hopped on an evening ferry to Korcula. This island is fairly small, and the old town is on a bit of a peninsula, making it pretty easy to navigate. We only had 2 days to spend here, and we explored the town thoroughly. There's a nice walk up the hill overlooking the Old Town, there's a few tiny beaches, and there's some fun attractions to climb including the main bell tower and a super cool old wine bar in a tower of the castle walls that has crazy steep steps to a rooftop sitting and drinking area. We also fell for the tourist trap of “Marco Polo's Home”, which was a misnomer on two levels. First of all, there's no proof that Marco Polo actually lived there, and secondly, there's no actual home. It's basically just a staircase next to the ruins of a house that there's proof some of Marco Polo's relatives owned. Duped.
Tourist trap complete, it was time for another evening ferry, this time to Dubrovnik, which is one of my most favorite cities so far on this trip! We stayed in a very old building that's typical of the city – incredibly tall and slightly narrow (four stories with one room on each floor), right on one of the several staircase streets that come up off the main street verrrrry far below. It was enchanting and extremely good leg work. We loved it.
Dubrovnik is deservedly an incredibly popular destination, and we were happy to be staying inside the city walls because that meant we could easily explore it early in the morning and fairly late at night when a lot of the crowds weren't there.
There's a lot to do in Dubrovnik, and we didn't have a ton of time, so we narrowed our priorities and walked the city perimeter on the walls (best early in the morning before the cruise ship passengers get there or later in the afternoon once they're gone), went on a fantastic private Game of Thrones tour with a local who has been an extra in several important scenes, including a favorite, the “Shame!” scene, and took the cable car up the hill for a fantastic sunset.
After saying goodbye to my parents, we headed north to Omis for a couple of days of hiking and exploring. Omis is more of a regional destination, and they've got a lot to offer – affordable accommodations and tons of outdoor activities. We opted for some pretty spectacular (and arduous) hiking.
Next, we headed inland to check out a national park that had been a top must-hit spot when we started planning this trip.
Budget self grade: A+! We squeaked in juuuusst under budget ($3,000 in 3 weeks) here! Croatia was one of the destinations we thought would be very affordable, but we were mistaken. Islands are islands, so food and drinks are almost always costly since they have to be brought in, and Croatia has become such a popular destination that they can afford to charge more in popular areas. We were pretty conscious of our budget throughout this whole country as we felt like we'd been spending so much for the last few months. That meant my parents had a to eat cheap quite a few times too (sorry Mom and Dad), but they were great sports about it!