My wife and I (in our 50s) stayed in 4 towns in Croatia, arriving Aug 24 (Thu) and departing Sep 1 (Fri). We wouldn't change anything. Among our travels, this was our "most" Rick Steves-y trip. The advice and recommendations were spot-on.
We chose to start in the south (Dubrovnik) and end in the north (Istria). It worked well for us as the atmosphere became more relaxed as we moved.
This report will be posted in 3 parts, with two as replies to this message (to keep them all together.)
Part 1: DUBROVNIK
Aug 24 - 26 (two nights, Thu-Sat): DUBROVNIK. 2 nights was the right length. City was crowded. One local in the tourist industry told us that the number of tourists was up 40% year-on-year (2016 to 2017), and was forecast to jump another 25% in 2018. Most of the service industry folks we saw working in restaurants and at the car rental appeared quite exhausted and suffering from insufficient sleep - but nonetheless provided good service.
- LODGING: RESERVE EARLY! Stayed at the smaller apartment of Jadranka Benussi, a Rick Steves recommendation. Perfect. Kitchen, 5 minute walk to PILE gate entrance of old city.
- DINNERs: Pleasant surprise as our expectations for food were low. First evening we ate at Kopun. Beautiful location in a courtyard facing an old church. The server provided great advice and we decided on fresh fish and chose THE fish we ate.
On our second night we made our own dinner, using fresh produce bought at the morning produce market in the city and items from the small Kozum grocery store near the apt.
- City wall walk. Definite must-do. One must start when it opens at 8am to minimize crowds and heat. At 8am there was already a short line of people.
- Produce market. Morning produce market located in square next to Rector's Palace is a worthy visit if you want fresh vegetables, fruits, etc.
- Fort of St Lawrence. We did not go inside the fort, but spent time in Orhan restaurant on the beach next to it. This area was peaceful after the crowds inside the Old City. Relaxing under the canopy with cold beer and fresh salads. From Fort Lawrence we followed a trail above the coast a few hundred meters northward. Deserted and shaded, with nice view of beaches below.
- Cable car. We went at 11am, and waited 45 min in line. Rode to top, and stayed 20 min before returning (almost no line). The view of the city made it worthwhile.
- CAR RENTAL. On Aug 27 we picked up a car at the Hertz rental near the Old City. We went there on the 26th to confirm our months-old reservation. Glad we did, because Hertz had mis-calculated and there were not quite enough cars for all the reservations.
- TIP on NAVIGATION: I brought my Android phone from US, but did not connect to any local cellular network. Before leaving US, I downloaded country map of Croatia using the HERE application. That allowed me to navigate throughout Croatia in our car, and even on foot with almost no problem.
Aug 26 (Sat): Drive to Split. We wanted to see the Peljesac Peninula, so did not drive through Bosnia. Visited 2 wineries. One was a big US-style new winery that we learned catered to busloads of (mainly) American tourists in the afternoon. It was nice but not so different from an experience one can get in the US. The drive to the other winery, and the winery itself, were great:
- We drove the narrow road along the steep vineyards of the southern coast of the peninsula from Trstenaki to Potomeje. Beautiful views with almost no traffic. Then one takes (not on all maps) the small one-lane tunnel to Potomeje, takes an immediate right and arrives at the wonderful small VIOLIC WINERY (with Rick Steves sign out front). We mentioned to Boris, the owner, that we learned of him through Rick Steves; Boris took great care of us.
We then took the car ferry from Trpanj to Ploce; from there we drove the coastal road to Split.
TIP: You can purchase your ferry ticket in advance on-liine