2017 seems to be a popular year to visit Croatia. I know loads of people who have gone, or want to go this year. I was struggling to think up where to go that wasn't long haul and costed a small fortune - when I was bombarded with social media images and videos of Dubrovnik. So after some social media brain washing it was decided that Croatia was the way to go. Dubrovnik's beautiful medieval charm, great weather, and close proximity to other countries meant was a perfect choice for a bit of an adventure! Going in June/July guaranteed nice sunny weather...... but unknown to me a massive heat wave was on it's way, causing blisteringly hot days of around 40 degrees Celsius (104F) or more for the majority of the time I was there. The surge in heat also caused some forest fires which got very close to where I was travelling (see images further down).
I used Booking.com because I am a poor student and always look for the best deals around, but you can also use plenty of reputable travel sites to get here as it's a very popular place for tourism, especially after Game of Thrones aired as a lot of it is filmed there!
Due to Dubrovnik old town being quite an expensive place to stay, it was settled that this apartment near Gruz harbor area was a decent choice to set up camp. It's a nice quiet area with restaurants and shops, and is only about 20 minutes walk to get to the old town. Gruz also has a market on most days, so if you are self catering then its a good place to get some fresh fish, and vegetables.
There are also a few pebble beaches dotted around the harbor coast for when you fancy a dip in the sea and do some fishy spotting. If you are prone to loving the sea, I would recommend getting some aqua shoes for Croatia. There are loads and loads of Sea Urchins around and the last thing you want is one of those spikes in your foot. I saw a few people picking at their feet after being in the sea in several areas around Croatia. The shoes are cheap - I got mine for about £5 and will help save you from damaging your tootsies!
Dubrovnik old town is beautiful, jam packed with tourists, but beautiful. If you want to see it at a quieter time of day I would recommend getting up really early and getting there for about 6am. The streets are near deserted apart from bin men and a few shop staff getting to work.... oh and all the cats... but I will get to the cats later on. Doing the wall walk is something you need to do quite early as well, as it is a very popular tourist attraction and the last thing you want is a hoard of tour groups invading your space. The wall walk is about 150 kuna for adults and 50 kuna for kids and is worth it for the views, also whilst you are up there, you will spot a fort a short distance away which is also worth a look at as it has some nice views from the top also. There is also the Dubrovnik cable car which goes up to Fort Imperial which is now a war museum.
After the wall walk, had a wander around the maze of streets that seems to have a never ending amount of restaurants, shops, and ice cream parlors, I managed to get lost and came across a cool little cat sanctuary place - which for me is my dream retirement job to be a crazy cat lady!! All about Croatia (and even Kotor in Montenegro), you will see loads of cats.... some timid and others who just want a cuddle. Some of the cats are in good shape, other are not, but some locals do try their best to help these stray cats as best as they can. I myself made a best friend after giving some yummy chicken to a cat in Kotor and got to be a cat bed for a while!
There are loads of tours and boat trips to the small islands that are around Croatia. There is even a pirate ship, the Karaka, that you can go on to travel to several of the more popular tourist islands. Other boats take you to places like Lokrum, that is known for some parts of the Game of Thrones series being filmed there.
If you want something different, and not as touristy as some of the larger islands, you can try and catch a taxi boat to the abandoned, and supposedly haunted, island of Daksa. This island was the brutal setting of the execution of 48 people accused of being Nazi sympathizers in 1944. There isn't much left on the islands apart from a few run down derelict buildings and a memorial for the people who were executed, but if you're into a bit of urban exploration then it might be a good place to see. You may, or may not, have difficulty getting to the island.... I read that sometimes it can be hard to get to as many locals think it is haunted and don't want to get too close to the island.... but I had not problems with the water taxi guy I used.
Bosnia and Herzegovina - Kravice Waterfalls and Mostar
As Dubrovnik is close to the border, a mini adventure into Bosnia and Herzegovina was called for. First off heading to Kravice to see the amazing waterfalls and take a dip to cool off. I do reccomend visiting here if you have the time. Its a great place to relax, but it can get quite busy so try and get there early so you can find a spot to relax. You can go right up to the waterfalls and get battered by the power of the water and there are also some places you can do a bit of rock jumping (although it really didnt seem deep enough to do that - knowing my luck if I tried it, I would have ended up broken!). So after spending a few hours exploring the waterfalls and the surrounding woodland area the next stop was Mostar.
I had heard good things from people about Mostar..... but if I am honest, it really wasn't worth the travel to get there. It has a nice 'Ye Olde' feel to it and has the Stari Most (a 16th-century Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina that crosses the river Neretva and connects the two parts of the city) and it might have a lot more, but all the hours travelling meant that exploring time was cut a little short. Don't get me wrong, if you are a shop-a-holic then this is a great place, but for me, looking at shops with trinkets and souvenirs isn't my idea of having a good time. Saying that though I did have a little look in some of the shops, and well.... they have some strange stuff! I went into one shop selling vintage second hand stuff and as I looked down, there was a pile of Nazi based stuff...stamps with Hitlers face on, SS badges and even a leather bag with the SS initials burnt into it.... so yeah, that was a bit odd.
So as it was getting late, it was time to start heading back to Dubrovnik trough the beautiful, near untouched landscape. On the way back I spotted a forest fire in the distance, and it was very close to the direction back to the Croatian border! Eek! But I had to get back as there was literally nothing and nowhere to stay on the route back. Luckily it wasnt too close to the road, but the smoke was quite thick and filled the air. At one point the smoke got really thick and covered the setting sun, which caused some amazing colours and hues to cover the sky! Unfortunately with the smoke came darkness so my images are quite rubbish and the colours don't represent what the sun actually looked like (blood red in colour). Needless to say, I didn't burn to death and got back to Dubrovnik safe and sound!
Montenegro - Kotor
I'm not going to lie, the day I visited Montenegro and the beautiful walled town of Kotor was one of the hottest days I have ever felt in my life (and I have been to the Sahara Desert!!). It was a day of downing copious amounts of water and eating all the ice cream ever, especially on the epic journey walking up the steep steps to get to the little church. I would have gone on further, but I probably would have died of heat stroke by the time I got to the fort right at the top, so I just settled for the little church with the stunning views over Kotor. I would recommend taking a drive here as the scenery on the way is just beautiful, and Kotor is such a cute little place to wander around.
As I mentioned earlier about stray cats, this is the place to go if you love furry little felines. They are nearly all friendly and just want some attention. Kotor also prides itself on its cats, and there are several shops called 'Cats of Kotor ' and similar that sell all sorts of kitty related things. There are other tourist shops as well selling the usual stuff..... but there are some others like the 'Santa shop' that sells... you guessed it, hundreds of different Santa figures!
I have decided when I am old, I am going to come here and become a crazy cat lady! mew mew mew mew!
If you are interested in visiting Croatia, flights and hotels can be found on the links below:
Flights, Hotels, Tours and general Information - just click on a banner to go to their site
Another good site for flight price checking in On The Beach
Even more incredible and exciting excursions can be found on Urban Adventures
Booking.com is great for finding cheap hotels anywhere around the world!
G adventures have a great selection of tours and information
Titan travel have some fantastic packages for group and solo travelers
Lonely Planet has great PDF & physical books that give you fantastic hints and tips on many destinations