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! Thank you Croatia…we miss you already ♥

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Our complete 12-day tour of Croatia will take you through the following beautiful destinations:

The guide includes photography, trip-planning logistics and recommendations for food, lodging, activities and day trips.

If you’d like to know more about any of these places or if you need help planning your Croatian vacation, please comment at the end of the article or send us an email!

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Dubrovnik

A trip to Croatia wouldn’t 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!

Walk on walls

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 – super gorgeous but super crowded. Get here early to snag a spot closer to the water. They don’t serve food here, FYI!

Dubrovnik in a nutshell:

      • Length of stay: 2 nights
      • Getting around: explore the Old City by foot. The stone streets & staircases can be slippery. Comfortable walking 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.

Our complete guide to Mljet will help you plan a day trip or extended stay!

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 afternoon sanctuary for beverages & homemade brandy! They also have a full restaurant and apartments available for rent.

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Korcula

Korčula is Croatia’s 6th largest and 2nd most populated island. Although Korčula Town is the island’s main destination and cultural center, we chose to stay in the fishing village of Vela Luka on the opposite side of the island. We nailed it.

We were also blessed to stumble upon a beautiful local gathering that takes place every Thursday in July & August. The spirit and sense of community we experienced during Fishermen’s Night was humbling, inspiring, and hit very close to home.

Read the full story of our Fishermen’s Night experience 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 a 35-minute boat ride away…↓

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Proizd

Also known as the Island of Love, uninhabited 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!
View from the top of Hvar Fortress (Spanjola). The moderate hike up took 45 minutes.
Hike up to Hvar Fortress – view from halfway.

Day trip: Pakleni Islands

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’re not alone: the park welcomes more than one million tourists each year, making it the most visited destination in mainland Croatia.

We came in mid-July—the peak of the high season—yet at certain times, we felt like we had the park completely to ourselves. It’s all about how we planned and executed our trip. Our guide will show you how.

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

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice 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 at least 30 minutes before the park opens to beat the crowds.
      • Accommodation: Guest House Ljubica is perfectly-located (5-minute walk to the North Entrance of the park). The owner—Ljubica—is 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 House Katarina or Pansion Danica.

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So…are you ready to explore the Adriatic? We’re certainly ready for our next Croatian vacation. In the meantime, let us know if we can help you plan yours!

Next stop: Slovenia!

Cheers!

-DnA

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