Croatia: The beach, the architecture and the history
From Kotor to Dubrovnik, we took a ferry across the bay (still travelling by minibus) and then hit the road straight into Croatia. The mountain roads wound around and around and up and down but the two hour journey provided some spectacular scenery. I would love to return, in my own hire car, just to stop at every opportunity to capture all of the different sights. Definitely nature at its finest!
Arriving into Dubrovnik was quite exciting. More old city walls stood proud on the outskirts of a modern and developing city. I could not wait to go and get stuck in to more UNESCO heritage site winding alleys and cobbled pathways leading to quirky boutiques and photo opportunities galore. This was where my dreaming came to an end. Remember the cruise ships I mentioned in Montenegro? Well, they also stop in Dubrovnik but Dubrovnik is also super popular with the rest of the world and I was visiting in the height of summer so it was absolutely heaving! There were so many people everywhere. My first day visiting the Old Town, I left quickly and retreated to the beach. I stayed at Hotel Ivka in an area called Lapad. This is more of a beachy district and away from the busy-ness of the Old Town. From Lapad, it is a short walk to the beach. I walked along the promenade (which offers fantastic nightlife in a variety of options) to a hotel called The Cave. This is a must-visit spot, slightly off the beaten path and away from the crowds of the cruise ships. You can sit for the day, eating and drinking, jumping off the deck into the Adriatic. It was located in a quiet and peaceful spot and the food was excellent. In between the promenade and The Cave, there are also natural spots where the rocks have formed sunbathing 'decks' over the ocean. Simply climb down, put your suncream on and you're set for the day! This is free so definitely cheaper than paying one of the bigger hotel chains for use of a subbed and a strip of beach for the day.
You can guess what I am going to say next about Dubrovnik's Stari Grad... head into the town before the sunrise and you'll have the place to yourself, except for maybe a nun and a couple of cats. But the chances are, they will only add interest to the photographs you take. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering up and down and around and along the streets of Dubrovnik's Old Town. I was the only person around and it was worth waking up early for.
Whilst in Dubrovnik there are plenty of opportunities to explore further afield. Several different companies run kayaking trips, boating outings, Game of Thrones tours to name a few. I decided to take a trip to three islands surrounding Dubrovnik on a boat trip. The boat help forty people and there were about thity passengers. The trip cost 30 Euros and included lunch, son drinks and alcohol throughout the day. The company even provided a shuttle to and from the hotel. The captain : John, greeted passengers with a shot of local liquor; nothing like a potent shot to help settle your sea legs! The day was fantastic. At each of the three islands, there were opportunities to explore the local area, visit bars and restaurants and get some sunbathing or swimming into the itinerary. Passengers were free to come and go as they pleased as we docked at each place. This was an excellent value trip which you won't regret taking. Shop around for the best price as lots of companies sell the trip. I booked direct with After Dubrovnik, I travelled to Hvar Island. Scroll down to read more.
I arrived in Hvar fresh off the boat from Dubrovnik. The travel time was around three hours and the cost for a one-way ticket is around £20. More information on travel times and prices can be found by clicking here. The sun was setting over Hvar upon arrival and this painted the harbour in a beautiful orange light. After meandering through the main square and walking the outskirts of the harbour, we made it to our hotel. Since the likes of Prince Harry visited Hvar Island several years ago, the island has seen a lot of investment and many modern hotels have cropped up. I stayed at Pharos Hotel which was perfect - cheap, cheerful and clean. Its sister hotel was the fancy Adriana and anyone staying at the Pharos could access the facilities there for free; including the very swanky pool and bar areas. After waking early to hike up to the fort and admiring a sunrise, I spent the next couple of days chilling by the pool. Though humid, Croatia's summer temperatures are perfect for anyone looking to sunbathe.
If you're not into early morning hikes then you would visit Hvar for the nightlife. Every second establishment seemed to be a nightclub or bar. There is even a teeny tiny island with nothing but a nightclub on it. This is accessed from the harbour and takes around thirty minutes to reach. Clubbers pay for entry and the ferry is included in the price. For more information about nightlife on Hvar, click here.