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Croatia Trip Report

Hi all,
We wanted to write a trip report to help others who plan to travel here. This was part of a larger trip including Slovenia (posted in the Slovenia forum) we followed RS’s 2 week tour traveling during the last two weeks of May. Overall we thought the 2 week tour was perfectly paced. We stayed at the following towns: Lake Bled (2 nights), Ljubljana (3nights), Motovun (2nights), Plitvice Lakes (1night), Split (2nights), Hvar (2nights) and Dubrovnik (3 nights). We are an active couple in our early thirties.

Once we got into Croatia the clouds cleared and it was sunny and 80 everyday. The locals said it doesn’t usually get this warm until July (we went last week of May), the water was also in the 70s which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the summer weather without the crowds!

On our way to Motovun we stopped at Rovinj for the day (surprisingly at the border they didn’t check our passports, they just waved us through). We decided to stay at Motovun because we would later be staying in Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik so we decided to experience something different. Rovinj was a beautiful seaside village with cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings everywhere you turn. It’s impressive how the buildings are practically at the edge of the water. Luckily for us there wasn’t a lot of tourists at all when we went. We would definitely recommended climbing the bell tower as it gives you a great view of the water and the town. The climb is very scary if you are afraid of heights because the stairs are just wooden planks, some being very skinny, and at places there were big spaces in between - but you will be rewarded at the top. Another great experience was just finding the bars that are literally on the rocks near the sea. It was very relaxing and beautiful. We ate lunch at Lampo which RS recommended and ordered fish. The next day we went on a wine tour and the tour guide actually knew the place and said it was a good place and the owners are actually fishermen. Overall Rovinj is a beautiful seaside village where you can just get lost on the many small side streets.

After a day at Rovinj we headed to Motovun, we stayed at Villa Borgo, which was a very nice B&B with a beautiful view of the valley. It was very exciting driving to Motovun as you see it in the distance and the steep climb up the hill. If you love truffles, inland Istria is the place to be, we had it for breakfast with eggs, for lunch with cheeses and atop pasta for dinner! Supposedly they even had truffle ice cream! The first night we ate at the popular restaurant Mondo Konoba, the food was delicious. We liked Motovun because it felt like a real town and not very touristy.

The next day we scheduled a wine tour with “Istria Wine Tours”, we did this tour because we both wanted to enjoy the wines and didn’t want to worry about driving. The tour consisted of 3 very good wineries with beautiful views of the hill towns and vineyards, along with A LOT of food at each place, olive oil tasting, brief stop of Groznjan for a walk/free time and a 4 course lunch with wine! The lunch place was delicious, definitely not a place we would have found on our own. The tour was for 9 hours. We learned some interesting facts regarding Istria: they are one of the top 10 ten wine regions in the world, Sweden recently voted them the best wine region in the world (so more Swedish tourists are visiting there), and the olive oil is ranked #1 in the world - according the an international olive oil taste test done in Italy. We could definitely tell all the places had great quality food, wine and olive oil. This region is known for white wines, which was great in the hot weather. We would definitely recommend this tour if you love wine, food and olive oil! It’s a great way to discover the hills of Istria and our tour guides Mihaela and Agnieszka made our day enjoyable and memorable.
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Posted by Adam OP
NJ
42 posts

The next day we headed to Plitvice Lakes for one night. We stayed at House Tina recommended by RS it’s a nice clean place, cheap, only 10 minutes from the park and they packed us a lunch for the park. We got to the park at 7am to beat the crowds. We are glad we did because we pretty much had the whole park to ourselves. We followed RS route through the park, which was perfect. The lakes are unbelievably beautiful, crystal clear water, the many waterfalls and the best part was the boardwalk feels like you are immersed in the park and lakes. You are literally walking over waterfalls, it was a very cool experience. We finished the whole park around 1pm, then we headed to Split and dropped our car off at the airport.

As RS says - Split definitely has a Split personality between being touristy and a port town. It’s amazing how old the ruins are and how people over time lived in the Palace. We stayed at an Airbnb, a 10 minute walk from town in the cool Varos neighborhood. It was a cheap place to stay and very nice, we had the view of the town and the port. The best experience we had here was walking the Riva, hanging out on the Peristyle enjoying a drink at the bar Luxor with live music, and walking down the small streets of the old town.

The next day we took the ferry to Hvar, I definitely recommend buying the ferry tickets in advance online. In Hvar we stayed at Apartment Mare recommended by RS. Unfortunately during booking they didn’t respond by email so we had to book through Airbnb, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a cheap place (included kitchen and 2 patios with great views) and only 10 to 15 min to the old town and 10 minutes to a very nice beach and the Hula Hula bar. We thought we were going to be bored here but really the best part was just relaxing and enjoying the beach. Since we had great weather, we did stand up paddle-boarding which was very cheap, they also have other water sports and jet ski rentals too. We checked out the Hula Hula bar before dinner one night, they had a DJ and a live saxophonist, which was pretty cool. There was a lot of young kids partying (as expected), but everyone walking by young and old loved the music and were stopping to take videos and listen. We would definitely recommend checking it out for sunset to grab a drink and enjoy the views and entertainment.
We ate at both RS recommendations - Konoba Menego and Alviz, they were both great local places with delicious food and cheap. In the end, we could definitely see ourselves enjoying more time there if we were to return, since you can do excursions to other islands and explore the rest of Hvar. Next we headed to Dubrovnik for our final 3 nights via ferry.

We stayed at Villa Ragusa in the old town recommended by RS and we were able to get the top room, which had beautiful views of the town and water. Dubrovnik is definitely the pearl of the Adriatic and very beautiful. We did most of the RS recommendations in the town. The cruise ship people come like a tidal wave between 10-3pm. A way that we escaped the crowd was to do the panorama cruise and then they dropped us off at St. Jakob beach, 3 hours later they picked us up. The beach is beautiful with great views of the city walls in the distance. We got back in late afternoon and it was a lot less hot, crowded and more enjoyable.
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Posted by Adam OP
NJ
42 posts

We also did a day trip to Mostar, which we highly recommend. We got a private driver Ermin, from RS, to take us for a day. I would recommend either to get a driver or rent a car compared to the tour buses due to the border crossings. Our driver took the mountain road with only one border crossing and it went quickly. In Mostar we got an RS guide (Ermin’s son, Yaz) and followed RS recommendations. It was sad to see what war did to the beautiful city and country, along with the high unemployment rate and the continued tension among the different religious groups. Despite the current state of the country the people we met seemed excited for the future and very optimistic.

Croatia was a great experience, it has such different landscapes and beautiful scenery. The driving was easy in both countries, there was no language barrier - most people speak English, but it seemed like people appreciated when we tried to speak a few words in their language, especially thank you and hello. We would definitely recommend this trip to anyone, it was great to be able to see the differences between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and learn more about this part of the world.

Let me know if you have any questions!
Adam

Posted by CathyG
Australia
58 posts

Great trip report Adam! I’ll pick your brain if that’s ok! We’re doing a very similar trip to you.
I’ll head over to the Slovenia forum to read your report there too!
I’ll get back to you with questions when I have them!

Posted by Fran
NJ
22 posts

Thank you, Adam, for the wonderful trip reports! My family and I will be doing a similar itinerary starting next week and I especially appreciate the restaurant suggestions. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

Posted by jlschandler
323 posts

Thanks Adam for your two reports. Very informative for our upcoming trip! Glad you enjoyed yourselves.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2332 posts

I read this one too when you first posted it but forgot to comment.

I did the exact opposite in Istria: I spent a few nights in Rovinj and did a day trip out to the hill towns including Motovun. I'm glad I stayed in Rovinj, because it was a real highlight for me - I saw the only sunset into the sea of my entire trip to Croatia here (not rain other days on the Dalmatian coast later just clouded over). By the time I got to visiting Motovun it was rainy and whatever beautiful view I might have enjoyed from up there was not much. Motovun did seem a bit touristy to me - lots of cars parking in the lots below town, even though I wound up driving up and parking along the main road.

But clearly staying over in the hill towns is a great experience for some! There's no right way to do it.

Posted by diveloonie
Eagle River, AK
451 posts

Nice trip report, thanks for sharing. It looks to be a lovely part of the world.