Dubrovnik is the Croatian city that everybody comes to see. If you visit no other part of Croatia, you have to visit Dubrovnik. It is super touristy and ridiculously expensive, but it’s also one of the most beautiful cities you will ever see.
I have to say one of my favourite parts about Dubrovnik was the bus ride there from Split. I showed up early to the bus station to make sure I would get a window seat on the right side of the bus (i.e. the opposite side to the one the driver sits on) because I knew there would be some seriously sick scenery on this ride. Well, it turned out to be even better than I expected. For the last couple of hours we were driving right along the water, the glorious Croatian coastline, in all its sparkling turquoise beauty. I had my face glued to the window the whole time, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures and videos. It was seriously the most exciting 4.5 hours of my life. I felt kinda bad for the people on the other side of the bus, but then again — they should have gotten to the bus station sooner. Sucked to be them!
As for Dubrovnik itself, the #1 tourist attraction in the city is the wall around the Old City. It costs 150 HRK (about $30 CAD) to climb up to the top of the walls and walk around the city. That’s a ridiculously high price, but as I said, Dubrovnik is a ridiculously expensive city, and walking along the Old City walls is something that you absolutely MUST do when you are there. The views you’ll get from the top of those walls are priceless.
After your walk along the walls, go for a wander through the beautiful streets of the Old City.
There’s one other thing that you should definitely not miss while in Dubrovnik. There’s a cable car that takes passengers all the way up to the top of Mount Srð, a mountain just outside the walls of the Old City. There’s a viewing area up there that allows visitors a magnificent view of the city. The cable car is expensive (surprise, surprise) at 140 HRK per person for a round-trip ride, but there are other ways of getting to the top of Srð. There’s both a road for cars and a footpath, so you can drive, take an Uber, or walk. Personally, I didn’t actually take the cable car, so I can’t tell you what it’s like. I had made plans with a girl I met in Zadar to have a picnic at the top of Srð while watching the sunset. We decided to take an Uber up the mountain because it was a little cheaper than the cable car if we split the cost. Once we got to the top, the view blew us away. Going just before sunset was a great idea.
The only downside to taking an Uber up the mountain, of course, was that we had to walk all the way back down. The footpath is not an easy one — it’s full of rocks and stones, so that you’re never stepping on even ground. My feet were hurting pretty badly by the end of the walk. It was a long walk, too, probably about 40 minutes or so. I thought it would never end. On top of that, it was dark at this point, so we had to use the flashlights on our phones or else we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. I can’t even imagine walking UP that hill, especially on a hot summer day. I’m not going to tell you not to attempt it, but please be aware that it will be far from an easy hike!
Let’s talk about day trips, shall we? Just like other cities on the Croatian coast, Dubrovnik is well situated for day trips to nearby islands. Three popular islands — Lopud, Koločep, and Šipan — are part of a group known as the Elephiti Islands, and they’re all very easy to get to from Dubrovnik.
I chose to visit the island of Lopud. It’s only an hour away from Dubrovnik by ferry, and a round-trip ticket cost me 46 HRK. Lopud is best known for its beach, Sunj, whose white sand makes it a rarity in Croatia. (Most beaches in Croatia are rock or pebble beaches rather than sandy beaches.) It’s not an amazing beach by any means, but it was definitely nice to see a beach with actual sand for a change.
The only other thing I really did on Lopud was to hike up to the fortress overlooking the island. This is something I definitely recommend doing. Not only is the view from the fortress beautiful, but you’ll probably have the whole place pretty much to yourself if you go up there. I hung around the fortress for quite a while and only saw a few other people the whole time. It was definitely a welcome respite from the incessant crowds in Dubrovnik.
If you fancy ticking another country off your bucket list, you can take a bus to Kotor, Montenegro from Dubrovnik and back in a day. Just make sure you catch one of the earliest buses of the day because traffic at the border can be heavy, and the trip will take at least three hours each way. You’ll feel that the long ride was totally worth it once you set eyes on the majestic Bay of Kotor though. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the Adriatic coast. The Kotor bus station is conveniently located only a few minutes’ walk from the bay and the Old Town of Kotor.
The first thing I did once I arrived in the Old Town of Kotor was to climb the steps to the fortress overlooking the town. (It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of hiking up to fortresses on this trip.) If you wander through the Old Town you’ll see signs pointing you to the fortress, so it’s easy to find. Climbing to the fortress is something you should definitely do if you visit Kotor, but be warned: It was by far the most gruelling hike I’ve done on this trip so far. It was about 35°C that day, and there is very little shade on those steps. My romper was drenched with sweat and I had to keep stopping to rest every couple of minutes. I thought I was going to spontaneously combust. But eventually I made it to the fortress and was rewarded with the most incredible view. That Bay of Kotor is something else.
In short, I’m glad I did the hike up to the fortress but I’m even gladder that it’s over now and that I’ll never have to do it again.
After I got back to ground level I bought myself an ice cream cone as a reward for my terrible labours, and then wandered through the streets of the Old Town for a while. The Old Town of Kotor is quite similar to the Old Town of Dubrovnik. It has a couple of churches that are worth stopping to photograph.
When I had had enough of the Old Town, I decided to walk along the waterfront for a while. That bay is the #1 thing I came to Kotor to see, after all. It certainly is lovely, with its glassy, greyish-green water, and those majestic mountains looming over it. It seems like every body of water in Europe has its own distinct colour that you can’t find anywhere else. And they’re all stunning.
Next up: the one and only Amalfi Coast!