12 days in Croatia

A few years ago, a study came out concluding that most people derive more joy from planning a vacation than actually being on it. I am not one of those people. Travel is how I recharge my batteries, whether it's a long weekend close to home or a week-plus somewhere more far-flung. Although, to be fair, I do enjoy the planning part too. This particular Croatian vacation (or "Crocation," as we started calling it) was years in the works, thanks to various intercontinental moves, major life changes, and, oh yes, the pandemic. But it was totally worth the wait. Thanks to various circumstances, it ended up being the longest vacation I've ever taken in my life, and as a result, it was one of the most relaxing. I walked thousands of steps every day, visited places that were thousands of years old, ate like a queen, basked in the sunshine, and, most importantly, spent quality time with some of my favorite people in the world. Here's everything we did during our week and a half in Croatia. 

Days 1-2: Split

The impetus for this entire trip was a boat charter (more on that later) that embarked in Split, Croatia, which is where a lot of them do. (Fun fact: 40% of the world's charter boats are registered in Croatia.) We opted to arrive arrive a few days early, which was a good choice, because one other couple in our group missed a connecting flight and ended up arriving a mere two hours before our ship left the port. The Split airport is very new and modern, by the way, and is about 30 minutes away from the old town, which is where all of the action is. Split is the second-largest city in Croatia; it was originally a Greek colony founded in the 2nd or 3rd century BC, and the Roman emperor Diocletian built his palace there (which is still standing!) in 350 AD. The old town in Split is a magical place—there are all sorts of restaurants, bars, and shops tucked into the smallest nooks, and some of the streets are so narrow, you can stretch your arms and touch both sides. You can get away with spending only a day here, but I'd recommend two if you can swing it.

Split Recommendations 

Diocletian's Palace is the main event here, and it's worth strolling through (bonus points if you climb the tower). It's free, which is a nice bonus. For Game of Thrones fans, check out the cellars—it's where Daenerys kept her dragons. 

Mestrovic Gallery is a bit off the beaten path (it took us a little over 30 minutes to walk there from the old town) but worth seeing if you're into sculpture. The building has lovely views too. 

Restaurant Adriatic we ended up at kind of by accident for lunch—we were starving after our walk to the Mestrovic Gallery—and we were blown away by both the fresh seafood and the stunning view. There's also a more casual pizza restaurant attached. 

Uje Oil Bar was our other favorite restaurant. Incredibly fresh fish (we got to pick it out from the market across the street), great wine, and lovely service. 

Noor is a teeny-tiny bar that makes major cocktails—perfect if you want something slightly stronger than an Aperol spritz. 

Day 3: Brac

Just before sunset on Saturday, we boarded the Saint Luca, our home for the next week. We looked at A LOT of boats and decided on this one because it was newer, just the right size for our group, had a lot of outdoor space, and came highly recommended by the charter agency that we worked with, Gulet Holiday. We chose to do half board, so we ate breakfast and a three-course (!!!) lunch every day on the boat, plus a couple dinners, and I was blown away by how amazing the food was—not to mention, the chef cooked it all with a hot plate and a microwave. Plus, the crew was super fun. Since we only had a couple of hours of daylight on our first day, we sailed straight to Pucisca, Brac, where we docked for the night. Note: if you stay there on a Saturday, you will be awakened by some VERY LOUD church bells on Sunday morning!

Day 4: Hvar 

After sailing around the other side of Brac, with the famous golden horn beach, we headed to Hvar. One of my favorite parts of being on a boat for a week straight was that we got to go swimming every day. Croatia is on the Adriatic Sea, and I found the water to be pleasantly warm, really clear, and surprisingly buoyant. Hvar is known as the party island of the Dalmatian Coast, and if you go to the town of Hvar, there are apparently beach clubs galore. Being a group of mostly fortysomethings, we opted for Stari Grad instead, which is the old town. It has a bunch of old churches as well as lots of cute artisan shops, and great restaurants too. Our captain arranged for us to have dinner at Velo Misto and it was one of the best meals we had on the trip. 

Day 5: Vis

After a morning swim, we arrived in Vis, and my first thought was "hmm, there's not a lot happening here." We found out in the afternoon, however, that's by design—Vis was a former military base and only started allowing tourism about 30 years ago. We took a tour of the island in an old Range Rover and learned a lot about the island's role in WWII and afterward, when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. Vis is also home to lots of winegrowers; we had dinner at Roki's, and of all the amazing Croatian wines we had on the trip, theirs were among my favorites. 

Day 6: Blue Grotto and Korcula 

The island of Bisevo has a blue grotto that's a Unesco geopark; I highly recommend visiting. The catch-22 is that if you get there anytime after 9 a.m., you're going to wait for several hours, however the best time to see it is between 11 a.m. and noon. For us, this worked out quite well—we went back to the boat and had breakfast while we were waiting. To see the grotto, you have to do a sanctioned tour in a special boat, because the entrance to the grotto is so low, you have to duck to get inside. I've never seen anything like it before!

Because we got a late start with the grotto, we didn't arrive in Korcula until after sunset, but thankfully the shops and restaurants on this island are open late. For many in our group, this was our favorite island. It's a walled town where Marco Polo was born (Marco! Polo!), and the Italian influence was very strong here—we decided to have pizza for dinner, followed by gelato for dessert. Important thing to note: the gelato in Croatia is amazing, and I recommend having some at least once a day, as we did. 

Day 7: Mljet 

One of the things that struck me about Croatia is how many monasteries there are, although I suppose if you're going to be a monk, it's not a bad place to do it. There's a famous Benedictine one in the Mljet National Park that was built in the 12th century; your park admission gets you a free boat ride to it. I highly recommend taking a swim in the small lake afterward to cool off. We spent the rest of the day sailing through the Elafiti Islands, with a pre-dinner swim stop.

Day 8: Sipan

At this point in the trip, we realized that 1) we had hit all of the places on our must-see list and 2) our captain was a master at evading bad weather and rough waters. There had been a looming thunderstorm that we eventually ended up hiding from in a very protected cove; aside from some overnight lightning, which woke us all up at 5 a.m., we avoided the worst of it and even got another swim in. This was the day when the ladies lingered at the table after lunch and kept drinking all afternoon. It felt incredibly decadent and somewhat irresponsible, but it was entirely fun and, hey, we were on vacation! My apologies to the owners of the pizzeria on Sipan where we had dinner, though—we were all drunk

Day 9: Slano

Once it became clear that we could no longer hide from the storm, we decided to cut our last stop in Ston and instead head to Slano, where we were to disembark the next day. This ended up being incredibly serendipitous because after being on the boat for most of the previous two days, we were all eager to get off, and, even better, there was a five-star resort with a spa right in the harbor. Three of us booked massages, the rest got spa passes, and by sunset, the rain had stopped and the sky was clear again. Shout out to Restaurant Mirakul for hosting our last dinner before disembarking!

Day 10-11: Dubrovnik

As amazing as our time was on the boat, I was really looking forward to being on dry land for awhile, and especially checking into St. Joseph's, our amazing boutique hotel in Dubrovnik, which I can't recommend enough. For the five of you who've never seen Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is where much of the series was filmed, and there are tours and souvenir shops everywhere in the old town reminding you of this. Dubrovnik's old town is a bit newer and more spread out than Split's; it's also surrounded by a wall that has beautiful views of the coastline. Dubrovnik definitely has their hospitality dialed—the restaurants were top-notch, service was fantastic everywhere, and the city is impeccably clean—however it felt a little like a tourist wonderland to me, and were a lot of Americans everywhere. Two days is definitely enough time to see everything in town; if you're ambitious, you could probably do it in one. 

Dubrovnik Recommendations

City walls: As long as you are mobile, this is a must—the views are amazing, and there are photo ops galore. Your ticket also gets you into Fort Lovrjenac (pictured above), otherwise known as the Red Keep for the GoT fans. Just be prepared to climb A LOT of stairs. 

Shame stairs: Yep, the ones that Cersei walked down while naked (they're just outside this church). Bonus: there's a bar at the foot of the stairs that sells "shamejitos" to go. 

Cable car: It's not cheap, but the views are amazing, and it sure beats hiking up to the summit (which you can do if you're in amazing shape and/or nuts). I recommend leaving about an hour before sunset and grabbing drinks at Panorama (reservations highly recommended, unless you like standing). 

Posat: We had our last group dinner here, and this place is a splurge, however the seafood was super fresh and there were a bunch of well-heeled locals here, which is always a good sign. 

Pizzeria Oliva: This was hands down the best pizza we had on the entire trip (and we had quite a bit of pizza). If we had eaten here on our first day in Dubrovink, I would have come back again the second day—that's how amazing it was!

Above 5 Rooftop: Delicious, well-presented food with lovely service and a very serene rooftop setting. We did the later seating but I feel like it would be even more magical at sunset. A word of caution: you do have to climb 6 flights of stairs to get there. 

Restaurant Dubrovnik: Another excellent fine-dining experience, which we saved for our last night. You can do a tasting menu or a la carte; we did the latter, which I was thankful for, because the food was so rich, we didn't have room for dessert. 

Buza Bar: Literally everyone recommends this place—it's outside the wall and on a calm day, you can swim there. It's a chill, no-frills place to stop and rest your feet and enjoy the views; the drinks are bottled only, and they only take cash. 

Ala Mizerjia: A super fun little beach bar that was perfect for watching the sunset (and swimmers on a calm day, which it was not when we were there). They served some of the freshest bruschetta I've ever had in my life, and the Hugo spritzes were tasty too. 

The Bar: This place was tiny but so good, we went there twice. They have a rather exhaustive list of cocktails, but we discovered they make a most excellent sidecar. 

Franc & Rudolf: Strangely, I found the shopping in Split to be much better than Dubrovnik, however this jewelry store was a standout. The brothers who run it are so friendly and lovely, and their jewelry was incredibly high quality (plus you can shop there duty-free). 

Day 12: Day trip to Montenegro 

Because we had chosen to spend three nights in Dubrovnik, we decided to do a day trip to a neighboring former Yugoslavian country; Bosnia was an option as well, but Montenegro was a little closer, so that's what we went for. We booked a private tour, and I'm glad we did—we saw huge buses stuck at the border whereas we sailed right through. Our guide took us to Perast, Kotor, and Budva, and it was the perfect balance of information and free time to wander. Perast is a quiet seaside town with cute-looking restaurants; Kotor is a more bustling old town with a moat, a drawbridge, and a lot of "designer" shops (anti-counterfeit laws are apparently not enforced there); and Budva, where we stopped for a late lunch, is the "Miami of Montenegro," however I'd recommend skipping the touristy seaside places and heading straight to the old town, which was artsy and scenic. As our guide pointed out, Montenegro hasn't quite nailed their hospitality yet, but they are definitely planning to develop their tourism industry, and everyone we interacted with was very friendly and welcoming. More importantly, the country is stunningly beautiful and definitely worth a visit—especially before it becomes overdeveloped. 

TL;DR, we had an amazing vacation in Croatia. It was the perfect mix of city and country, old and new, excitement and relaxation. Everyone was incredibly friendly (and spoke English), we felt safe everywhere, and especially since the dollar is so strong at the moment, everything felt like a good value. You don't have to be a Game of Thrones fan to appreciate the history, culture, and beauty of the country, and you don't have to charter a boat either (although I highly recommend it). Stay tuned for my post next week on what I wore! 

BRB, going to the ATM 


Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

I have never been there but it is on my wislist. Feiends did go there last summer and say it is such a beautiful country too!

Lovely said...

This looks like a fun vacay! Beautiful pictures and your outfits are cute.

Gail Is This Mutton? said...

I've been looking forward to your Croatia post! I've never been to Croatia or Montenegro. One of my friends named her daughter Hvar after a wonderful honeymoon! Your holiday looks amazing. I love the photos. I've never considered a yacht charter but it looks a great way to see different places.

RLG said...

Hope you had great days in Croatia, Such amazing places to visit specially grotto my fav one wish to visit there multiple times :)

XOXO- James
Leather Jackets from Movies

Mica said...

You managed to fit in so many amazing things on your trip! I am just loving the grotto though, it looks absolutely beautiful! Sounds like travelling by boat was a good way to go even with the storms, you saw so much!

Thank you for joining the Weekday Wear Link Up! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend :)

Away From The Blue

Avec Amber said...

What an amazing trip! I love that your group rented a sailboat, that sounds like such a great way to get around the islands and is definitely on our radar for our next visit to Croatia. =)

I hope you are having a great week so far!


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stylesplash@live.co.uk said...

Such a great, informative post! I've never been to Croatia but I really want to go, it looks amazing! Thanks for linking up!

Emma xxx

Laura B said...

This looks like the trip of a lifetime! What an amazing time!

Thots lifes said...

Very amazing post thanks for share

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