The Croatia part of our trip concentrated on southern Croatia in Dubrovnik and Split, although we did get out to Plitvice Lakes. We're saving northern Croatia for a future trip. We had been in Budapest and took the train to Zagreb. We did a day trip to Plitvice from here, and the lakes are absolutely gorgeous. It was good weather, and while there were tour busses, we weren't overwhelmed by those numbers. We took a path such that we got to see all 16 of the lakes and only a couple times did we run into a large group of people -- mainly at the electric boat dock. On the way to Plitvice from Zagreb, we stopped briefly at the open air memorial site in Karlovac and also stopped for a while at Rastoke. It doesn't take long to visit Rastoke, but a stop in that picturesque little town is well worth it.
We returned to Zagreb to fly down to Dubrovnik. The domestic flights are all quite affordable, and we opted for this so that we could be in Dubrovnik the next day and then work our way up the coast. As I mentioned previously, the only problem was that the pilot couldn't land for more than an hour due to the high winds. Still, it was much faster than taking the bus all the way. We based ourselves in Dubrovnik for several days. We did a day trip into Montenegro (Perast, Kotor, Budva), and another day trip to Bosnia (Mostar), as well as spend time in Dubrovnik itself.
While Kotor is better known, we enjoyed Budva a little bit more. We reached Kotor in the middle of the day, and even in May, the cruise ship traffic was thick, so we went on to Budva first. There were still plenty of tourists, but nothing like Kotor. Later in the afternoon, we went back to Kotor. It was good that we did this side trip before we really took the time to explore Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik was by far our favorite Old Town to explore. We hiked the walls, took the cable car to the top of the mountain, and when we were done exploring, we just camped out by the water and enjoyed being on the Adriatic.
Even though it doesn't really fit with an Adriatic vacation, I wouldn't pass up a trip to Mostar. Anyone who has an interest in history or culture should go. It's hard for me to sum up my feelings of standing in the epicenter of the Bosnian War, but it's something worth experiencing, especially for anyone (American or otherwise) who has never known the harsh realities of war. Aside from these reminders of war, the old town itself is vibrant and you can easily lose yourself for a while wondering up and down those little streets.
From Dubrovnik, we took a catamaran up to Split. The total trip was about 4 hours. I had originally wanted to spent time on Korcula, but we eventually decided against it and opted for Hvar only because of the current ferry schedule and Hvar's proximity to Split -- we could much more easily do a day trip to Hvar from Split. From Hvar, we went sailing around the Palenki Islands and stopped for a while at Palmizana. Unfortunately, the day we did this turned out to be extremely windy and not a good day for sailing or swimming. The sailing part was fun, but the weather was a bit of a disappointment. Of course, it was a hot summer day the day before as well as the day after!
While in Split, we spent a lot of time in Diocletian's Palace, nearby old town, and Riva promenade. We didn't have the time (or the energy by this point) to get out to Trogir or Solin. After our days in Split, we hopped on the bus back up to Zagreb and then flew to Paris, and then back home.