The best things to do in Croatia right now

There’s more to Croatia than Game of Thrones, apparently. Just kidding because I’ve never watched the show, but some people really flock to this South East European country because they saw it in the famous show and want to experience GOT’s landscapes in real life. .

Earlier this year, after getting vaccinated, a couple of friends and I decided to plan a long-awaited European vacation, but not to one of the most popular places. Underestimated and 120% worth it, Croatia awakened this desire in me to travel again after being locked up for what seemed like 16 years.

The Dalmatian coast is home to the friendliest people (everyone we spoke with said we were living in a rare moment in the days when towns weren’t overcrowded with tourists, Americans, and cruise ships). All roads lead to crystal clear turquoise waters where you can swim without any worries as there is no dangerous marine life (aka sharks) here. It seemed, for such a picturesque place, that there were more Michelin rated restaurants within a very narrow radius than in New York. It’s overkill, but there were quite a few.

If you are planning a trip to Croatia, summer is a bit hot. It’s also more expensive since that’s when most people plan their longer vacations. Opt for a spring or fall trip, but if you opt for summer, this is the perfect time for water sports, ferry rides, and other outdoor / seaside adventures. water.

Our trip was short – just over a week – so we stayed along the Dalmatian coast, islands and towns in town every other day or so to be able to experience all that the area had to offer. On the way to Croatia? We’ve got you covered with tips, activities, dining options and more.

Dubrovnik

In Dubrovnik, your best bet is to book an Airbnb, inside or outside the walled city. Be aware that wherever you stay there will be stairs, which involves lugging your suitcases up and down when you arrive and when you leave. If you prefer the luxury of hotels, Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik, Villa Orsula Dubrovnik and Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik offer stunning views of the Adriatic and are located just outside and within walking distance of the Old Town.

You will find the little restaurant Above 5 at the top of a boutique hotel and yes it has five floors. But the climb is worth it in this Michelin Guide restaurant with a 360-degree view of the old town. Reservations are essential as there are two scheduled seats per evening here and around eight to ten tables in total. Go for three or five courses at this rooftop restaurant; the mushroom ravioli are spectacular, as is the sea bass and the mango panna cotta.

Notable bars include the D’Vino Wine Bar (where you can sample local and regional reds and whites in an alleyway), Bard and Buza Bar – two cash-only outdoor venues located one next to the another on a cliff overlooking the island of Lokrum.

Popular activities here include kayaking and day trips to nearby islands including Lokrum. Climbing the Jesuit Stairs from Game of Thrones is a must even if you are unfamiliar with the series and be sure to take a cable car tour or a walk around the Walls of Dubrovnik for a better overview of the picturesque Old Town .

Hvar

Take a three-hour ferry (or a four-and-a-half-hour ferry if you’ve hired a vehicle) from Dubrovnik to the resort town of Hvar and prepare to be in awe of this yacht-filled island with plenty of secluded beaches for lounging and pine forests for hiking and maybe even to get off the beaten track a bit. Hvar is known for its lavender and wine, fig and olive trees which can be seen bearing fruit by the roadside almost everywhere one looks.

Book a room at the 4.7-star Park Hvar hotel if you want to stay in the heart of the action. Breakfast is included at this hotspot, there’s a semi-private courtyard where you can read a book, and there’s a small restaurant right outside the hotel called Black Pepper that serves modern Croatian dishes with a twist. Central Park Club, also attached to the hotel, is a great place to end the night with drinks and live music; like everything else in Croatia right now, bars and restaurants close at midnight every day.

Book a Hvar Sunset Boat Tour for an experience like no other with a guide who will happily share his favorite spots in town and bring wine and snacks for the trip. Don’t miss the market in the square where you will find locally made jewelry, lavender products and more. Our other favorites here were a hike to Pachamama and Robinson Beach (there is sometimes a water taxi that will take you back into town) and dinner at the Konoba Luviji rooftop restaurant. Cooked whole fish, local cheeses and homemade cold meats are a must here, as well as Croatian wines and dessert, of course. We recommend that you stay in Hvar for at least three nights and check out the super cute gift and design store called Isola before you go.

Korcula

Board a 1-hour ferry from Hvar to Korcula and make sure you’re hydrated and a good night’s sleep. Summer temperatures here can slip into the 90s, and there’s a good chance you’ll be spending time outdoors visiting the city and various swimming spots. If you don’t have a car in Korcula this is a good place to hire one so that you can drive around the island and discover little places to eat outdoors as well as all of Lumbarda’s wineries. There are at least a handful. Grk is the local white wine produced from an indigenous grape that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Visit Bire Winery for variety and Lovric Winery for a white, rose and red tasting that includes small snacks like cheese-stuffed tomatoes and anchovies and ends with a hit of homemade grappa. Make the most of your stay by booking an Airbnb or rental apartment in Lumbarda or Korcula Old Town for a few nights. Get ready for the next step in your adventure, but not before discovering the Massimo Cocktail Bar (not for the faint of heart, this rooftop bar atop an old fort is accessed by a ladder), the LD Restaurant Michelin star inside Lesic Dimitri Palais and Restaurant Filippi.

To divide

Last but not the least, Split. We took the ferry from Korcula to Split which was quite early in the morning so be sure to check the ferry / catamaran times and book accordingly. Azur Palace is a cool little boutique hotel with an almost invisible entrance on a side street / alley opposite an Asian market. The loft-style rooms are perfect for a group of two or four, and the hotel has a small, quiet courtyard and an indoor library area with books and magazines available for loan. This city felt the most touristy and the bars / restaurants were quite crowded given that there were still no cruise ships docked at the time.

Rent a car or take a bus ride to Krka National Park. Swimming is no longer allowed here, but the waterfalls are still a sight for sore eyes if you have at least half a day to spare. If you are driving, Bibich Winery is a nice stopover on the way back to Split from Krka. Ask for a personalized tasting and don’t dare to skimp on the food, it’s delicious.

Explore Diocletian’s Palace on foot; you could spend hours walking in and out of the little souvenir shops, pubs and lane bars. You can’t go wrong with breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Fig Split; there are gluten free and vegan / vegetarian options on the menu which can be a good way to switch it up after tons of seafood and cheese filled meals. Another option for a lively dinner is the Bokeria kitchen + wine bar. The restaurant offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu with croquettes, gourmet burgers, charcuterie platters, pasta dishes and more.

A few nights in Split should be enough if you don’t plan on doing more than a road trip or two. From there you can take the ferry or a bus back to Dubrovnik if that is where you are coming home from. Be aware that the bus stops once at a rest area / market and twice in Bosnia and Herzegovina for passport control.

Dubrovnik old town, Dalmatia Croatia

The village of Vela Luka on the island of Korcula, Croatia

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