I have no idea what to say about Croatia’s coast that would do it justice. Before coming here, I pictured it would be stunning; rocky cliffs, open ocean, winding roads, that whole thing. I was right for the most part. It is all of those things, but it is also so much more that I never could’ve imagined:
Hundreds of grape vines, lavender fields, olive groves that go on for miles, mountains that seem to grow straight out from the sea, lime trees, ancient castles that appear from nowhere off the side of a cliff, beautiful towns filled with old stone buildings topped with a blanket of red roofs. On top of all that, visible from nearly every road we’ve taken;
The clearest water I have ever seen in my entire life.
We have spent weeks exploring different towns along the coast of Croatia, and I knew I would have a difficult time figuring out how to write about each one of them in a meaningful way.
After leaving Molat, we headed down the coast, stopping in the following five coastal towns:
(we also took a two day detour through Bosnia, but I’m saving that for a separate post). Instead of attempting to write about each city individually, I decided to do something much lazier, and rank the five cities in ascending order, starting with my least favorite. I should also point out that I did love all of the cities, so it is like comparing different shades of gold, but who doesn’t like a good list?
Split and I did not get along as well as I had hoped. The reason that it comes in 5th place is mostly because it was crawling with what felt like an entire cruise ship full of kids on spring break. The Old Town itself was absolutely beautiful; centered around a huge palace with the classic winding, narrow European streets.
On top of exploring the history and beauty of the city, we loved being able to go on a quest to find locations used in Game of Thrones, one of our favorite shows.
Favorite thing we did:
Because of the crowds, we were craving some solitude where we could really enjoy Split the way we wanted to. Luckily, Split has a park area that basically grows out of the city center, called Marjan Hill.
Marjan hill is about 2 miles long, and packed with nature, trails for biking, running, or hiking, and 360 degree views of Split:
It was the perfect day excursion for us, and gave us the introvert fix we were needing.
Tribunj is a quiet fishing village, and claims to have the cleanest, clearest water in the Adriatic. In my opinion, the water was about as clean and clear as any of the other cities we went to, but I guess it’s a good enough excuse as any to check out this small town. We stayed in the the Old Town (which is really tiny) which is connected to the rest of the mainland by a single stone bridge.
This town isn’t particularly a ‘hot spot’ but its location along the tourist waterway in Croatia means it is frequented more often. It seems like popular things to do here are scuba dive, eat, drink, relax, and boat. We were only here for two nights, but it was the ideal place to rest after Split.
Favorite thing we did:
The perfect location of our Airbnb is what made this stop so memorable. Our tiny studio opened right up to the sea, with our very own patio. We could swim, read, and when we were hungry, just throw our stuff back into our apartment and walk two steps to a restaurant. It was perfect.
Before we went to Dubrovnik, I had read horror stories about the insanely expensive costs and masses of tourists that clog the streets from June through September. One blog I read even described their experience walking through Dubrovnik’s walls during tourist season as ‘entering the gates of hell.’
Therefore, I set my expectations accordingly, and braced myself for the crowds, and the potential reality of entering a giant tourist trap that had passed its glory days as ‘the jewel of the Adriatic.’
I don’t know if it is because I expected things to be much worse, but I ended up loving Dubrovnik. Yes, there were crowds, and yes, things were a bit more expensive than what we had been used to, but overall I completely understood why Dubrovnik is as popular as it is.
There is something grander, more imposing about Dubrovnik compared to all the other old cities we saw. Perhaps it is because my mind associates it with Game of Thrones, but even more so, it is just such an impressive looking place. The stone walls wrapping around for what looks like miles, hundreds of copper red roofs and cathedral-like buildings, the huge circular watch tower placed in the forefront, the giant castle to the right of the city, all built on TOP of huge cliffs. It’s so old, and so well preserved.
Favorite Thing We Did:
This one is almost impossible to pick a favorite memory for. Al and I were lucky enough to be able to explore Dubrovnik with two of our best friends Nina and Zach, which made our time here so much sweeter. We went on hikes, explored the Old town together, and even spent an hour playing around on a floating water playground. Not to mention, we also found great entertainment in recreating some Game of Thrones scenes:
One of my favorite memories would have to be the moment that we walked into our shared Airbnb, blasted the Game of Thrones theme song, and drank wine out of goblets together overlooking the Old Town (also known as King’s Landing). It was one of those surreal life moments I’ll never forget.
Al and I went from Hvar to the island of Korcula, which meant that we had to drive about 5 hours and take two separate car ferries. We seriously considered cancelling our time in Korčula because of how much we were loving Hvar, and the effort it was going to take to get all the way to the island of Korčula. We decided to just bite the bullet and make the trip, considering we had already booked the accommodation.
As soon as the car ferry docked on the island, I was so glad we decided not to bail on Korčula. We stayed in the small fishing village of Lumbarda, only about 3 miles from Korčula’s Old Town (where they claim Marco Polo was born).
Bonus: The island of Korčula is also covered with wineries, and famous for it’s delicious GRK wine. It’s also just stunningly beautiful:
Favorite thing we did:
My favorite memory of Korčula is also one of my top favorite memories of our entire trip so far. After a day of swimming and hiking, we decided to hop in our car, roll the windows down and drive around to the west side of the island. We expected to go for a quick 30 minute drive, but the scenery was so mind blowing, that the drive ended up being over two hours.
At one point, we were driving through the middle of a mountain; the sea on our left and the road winding up the edges of the mountain. We were so close to the sun, which was floating in the sky, radiating the surrounding landscape with a fiery red-orange hue. The colors of the sea, mountains, and sky all started to blend together to the point that I was no longer sure if we were driving on the road or if the car had actually lifted into the air and was driving us into the sun.
Al and I were both too awe-struck in the moment to take a single picture of the drive, but it is one that I will remember forever.
Finishing off this list in my number one spot is the island of Hvar.
Hvar was my favorite island, because of how beautiful and diverse the landscape was. Hvar had some of the most magnificent sea views we had seen yet, but also had lavender fields, olive groves, so many different types of fruit orchards, vineyards (obviously) and even pine forests.
Hvar also has the original Stari Grad (meaning Old Town) and is the oldest town in all of Croatia, dating back to 384 BC.
There are only so many ways for me to keep describing how unbelievably beautiful these islands are, so I am just going to say that Hvar was (in my opinion) the best of them all.
Favorite Thing We Did:
Hands down, renting a little motorboat to chug ourselves around the Paklinski Islands for a day was one of my favorite days on our trip thus far. The Paklinski Islands are right off the southwest coast of Hvar. We packed a delicious lunch, some water, and beer, and set off exploring.
We felt like we had the whole world at our fingertips with our little boat. We would stop and anchor to explore coves, swim in the sea, or just to simply look around and fully take in what we were doing. We spent six hours adventuring and pretending we were explorers out on the open sea, and headed back to the mainland completely satisfied with our day.
Now that I’ve experienced a huge chunk of Croatia’s coast, I can finally consider my own question to myself: Is it the most beautiful coastline in the world?
I have no idea. It is such a subjective question, and is impossible to answer as I have not yet seen all the coastlines in the world (but I will continue to work on it for as long as I live).
However, I can say that I would be really, really shocked to find one out there that offers more than what we experienced during our time here.
Al and I already miss our long, sunny sea-filled days spent along Croatia’s coast. It is something that I know I will always look back on as some of the most fun, beautiful and carefree days of our entire trip.