The Best of Croatia: a 12-Day Photo Tour

Croatia - boats in the harbor awaiting the day's activities

Warning: lots of wanderlust and beauty ahead – prepare to catch a solid dose of the travel bug! Thank you Croatia…we miss you already!!!

We spent the last few weeks covering some of the roads less traveled throughout Croatia: from our secret saltwater escape to Mljet to Croatia’s Island of Love, and finally discovering Fishermen’s Night in Vela Luka, where locals & tourists alike gather to enjoy good food & music, while supporting a wonderful, humanitarian cause.

Today, we bring you our complete 12-day tour of Croatia, highlighting our absolute favorite places & activities through photography, and some basic need-to-know info. If you’d like to know more about any of the spots we visited, please comment at the end of the article, or send us an email!

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Dubrovnik

A trip to Croatia would not be complete without a visit to The Pearl of the Adriatic. After a magical experience in Montenegro, our Croatian adventure began here in Dubrovnik. Check out some of the highlights!

Dubrovnik, from above.
Welcome to Old Town, Dubrovnik. To find the streets this empty, get out and explore in the early hours of the morning!

The iconic walls of Dubrovnik are a great way to see the city from above, transport yourself back to historical times or just soak in the beautiful views of the surrounding Adriatic. You’ll need at least an hour to explore all of the walls by foot.

travelhelix tip: to beat the crowds, either get there right when the entrances open, or at the end of the day, around sunset. Check online for ticket prices and exact opening & closing times. When we went, adult tickets were 150 Kuna (roughly $24 or 20€) and 50 Kuna for Children (roughly $8 or 7€).

Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia at Sunset
Sunset views of Fort Lovrijenac or St. Lawrence Fortress.
If you stay inside the walls, definitely take an evening outside of the walls to watch the sunset. Beauty is in abundance!
Restaurant Kopun – we were told they have the best Brudet (Croatian seafood stew) in town! It lived up to the hype, but be prepared to spend a few extra $/€.
Gradska Kavana Arsenal – that time A sweet-talked our way ahead of multiple reservations to get his Boo a table by the water.
Sunset drinks at Buža Bar – everyone will tell you to do this. Do it! It’s gorgeous, but super crowded. Get there early if you want to get a spot closer to the water. They do not serve food here, FYI!

Dubrovnik in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: 2 nights
  • Getting around: explore the Old City by foot. Some of the stone streets & staircases can be slippery, so be careful if you’re walking in sandals! Comfortable walking/athletic shoes recommended 🙂
  • Accommodation: Villa Sigurata was perfect. Located within the Old City walls and air-conditioned, which was a lifesaver! Our room was small but comfortable. We used Chase points to book our stay.
  • Dining & imbibing: sunset drinks at Buža Bar should not be missed. For a phenomenal waterfront dining experience, head to Gradska Kavana Arsenal.
  • Day trip idea: nearby Lokrum island is only a 15-minute boat ride away

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Mljet

Mljet — Croatia’s Green Island — is 90% forest, 10% water, and 100% tranquility. As we biked along the paths that surround the island’s internal saltwater lakes, it seemed as if a personal aquatic sanctuary awaited us around every corner. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path alternative to some of the more crowded Croatian islands, look no further than this serene island paradise.

Check out our complete guide to Croatia’s secret saltwater escape here!

Mljet in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: 1 night
  • Getting there: ferry from Dubrovnik → Mljet takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. Buy tickets online 30 days or more in advance, otherwise you’ll need to purchase from the ticket office at Gruž Harbor.
  • Getting around: bike around Mljet National Park and cool off in the internal saltwater lakes. Don’t forget to bring water shoes to protect your feet from spiky sea urchins!
  • Accommodation: Hotel Odisej — the only hotel on the island — features two restaurants, air-conditioning, free WiFi and a laid-back beach bar.
  • Dining & imbibing: Mali Raj was our sanctuary for afternoon beverages & homemade brandy! They also have a full restaurant as well as apartments available for rent.

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Vela Luka, Korcula

While Korčula Town is widely regarded as Korčula’s main destination and cultural center – we were convinced that the small fishing village of Vela Luka – on the opposite side of the island – was the place for us. We nailed it, and were moved by our experience here. The spirit and sense of community we experienced during Fishermen’s Night was humbling, inspiring, and definitely hit close to home.

Check out our full story from Fishermen’s Night here!

Vela Luka, Croatia
Sunset over the bay of Vela Luka.
Sunset over the bay of Vela Luka.

Vela Luka in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: 3 nights
  • Getting there: ferry from Mljet → Korčula will pick you up in front of Hotel Odisej and get you to Korčula Town in 30 minutes. From there, it’s a 1-hour bus ride across the island to Vela Luka.
  • Getting around: explore Vela Luka by foot, but don’t hesitate to use a water taxi to cross to the other side of the harbor. The 20-minute walk takes 2 minutes by water taxi, and only costs 5 Kuna.
  • Accommodation: Hotel Korkyra is ideally-located and the staff is fantastic. Stay here!
  • Dining & imbibing: if you’re there on a Thursday, join hundreds of locals & tourists for Fishermen’s Night down in the town center. Alfa Pizza also came highly recommend and did not disappoint!
  • Day trip idea: Proizd island is only a 35-minute boat ride away…continue reading for more on Proizd!

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Proizd

Simplify, unwind, and disconnect on the the uninhabited island of Proizd. Also known as the Island of Love, Proizd is a day-trip destination that offers silence & sanctuary, just a half hour from the west coast of Korčula.

Check out our complete guide to planning the perfect day trip to Proizd!

We had a feeling this pathway would lead to something spectacular…

Proizd in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: day trip only!
  • Getting there: ferry from Vela Luka → Proizd takes 35 minutes. 4 outbound trips and 3 return trips, 7 days per week from June-September (route does not run in the low season!)
  • Getting around: explore the island and each of its 4 beaches by foot!
  • Accommodation: none! the island is completely uninhabited. Stay at Hotel Korkyra in Vela Luka.
  • Dining & imbibing: Restauran Proizd – the only restaurant on the island – is open daily from 12:30 – 16:30. We recommend bringing your own food, water and anything else you might need for the day.

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Hvar

These days, Hvar is known as one of Croatia’s centers of nightlife & partying. We took the complete opposite approach to experiencing this beautiful island, and have no regrets! Whether you’re looking to walk, hike, or go on an afternoon aquatic excursion, Hvar has plenty to offer the adventurous traveler that also wants to be in bed by 9:00pm!

Snacks before a homemade birthday dinner!
The hike up to the top of Hvar Fortress (Spanjola) took us 45 minutes and was not too difficult!
Hike up to Hvar Fortress – view from halfway.

On our last day, we rented a small boat and took our own self-guided tour of the nearby Pakleni Islands. It was all smooth sailing until the anchor rope got wrapped around the outboard motor!

Beautiful day for an aquatic adventure!

Hvar in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: 3 nights
  • Getting there: ferry from Vela Luka → Hvar takes less than 1 hour. Only 1 ferry per day!
  • Getting around: walk around Hvar Town, hike up to Hvar Fortress or rent a car to explore the island’s lavender fields.
  • Accommodation: Aparthotel Pharia was exactly what we needed: far from the madness of the crowds but only a 2-minute walk down to the water. Another amazing stay booked with Chase points!
  • Dining & imbibing: restaurants & bars on Hvar are some of the most expensive in Croatia, so we stocked up on food & beverages at a local grocery store and cooked for ourselves for 3 days!
  • Day trip idea: ferry out to the world-famous “Golden Horn Beach” (Zlatni Rat) on the island of Brač, or rent a boat and explore the nearby Pakleni Islands.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park

Turquoise lakes…dramatic waterfalls…natural dams…diverse species of flora and fauna…Plitviče Lakes National Park quickly became one of our absolute favorite Croatian locations!

But we are not alone: every year, more than one million tourists visit the park, making it the most visited destination in mainland Croatia. It’s absolutely packed every day during the high season (June – September), yet at certain times during our visit, we felt completely alone with nature. Much of that had to do with how we planned and executed our trip.

Check out our ultimate guide to beating the crowds at the Plitviče Lakes!

Plitvice Lakes

Plitviče Lakes in a nutshell:

  • Length of stay: 2 nights
  • Getting there: ferry from Hvar → Split harbor. Uber from Split harbor → Split airport. Drive from Split airport → Plitviče Lakes (3 hours by rental car or 4 hours by bus).
  • Getting around: explore the park by foot. No swimming allowed, but you can rent a paddleboat on one of the lakes! Get there 30 minutes before the park opens to beat the crowds!
  • Accommodation: Guest House Ljubica was perfectly-located (5-minute walk to the North Entrance of the park) and the owner, Ljubica, was extremely warm and welcoming!
  • Dining & imbibing: after exploring the park, have lunch at Lička Kuća, across the street from the North Entrance. For an authentic local dinner experience, head to either House Katarina or Pansion Danica.

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So…are you ready to explore the Adriatic?! We’re certainly ready for another visit to incredible Croatia!!

Next stop: Slovenia!

Cheers!

-DnA

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