Two Days in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik

One of the highlights of our tour through Croatia and Slovenia was our visit to Dubrovnik. I think that Dubrovnik lives up to the hype you hear, particularly in the early morning and the late evenings when it is not so crowded. I loved the old buildings with the orange roofs and the walls that surround the old city. We spent two days in Dubrovnik, Croatia and here is a rundown of the things we did.

The History of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is on the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia.

It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it’s very crowded when the cruise ships disembark in the area. In 2011, its population was 42,615. Dubrovnik and its famed walls joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 1979.

In 1991, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was besieged by Serbian and Montenegrin soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army for seven months. During our trek to Cavtat, a neighboring village, on Day 2, we had a Dubrovnik resident telling us her first hand experience of being in the city when the siege took place. Their family friends from a town outside of Dubrovnik had sent their kids to Dubrovnik for school that morning. After the siege happened, her dad picked up their friends’ kids from school. The kids ended up staying with her family for over six months. How scary for everyone!

The city suffered significant damage from shelling. Repair and restoration work was completed in in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and now Dubrovnik has re-emerged as one of the top tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.

Two Days in Dubrovnik Croatia

Day One

We arrived in Dubrovnik in the mid-afternoon and had some free time before going into the old town for dinner that evening. Our hotel was within walking distance to a rocky beach so that’s where I headed after checking into my room. Our bags hadn’t been delivered to our rooms yet but I didn’t let that deter me. I went in my jeans and gym shoes. I didn’t plan to swim anyway.

The beach wasn’t crowded and the rocks were smooth and colorful. It was so nice to chill and listen to the waves come in. Apparently I let myself relax too much though because I got so distracted by the waves that I didn’t notice a bigger wave come to shore until it was too late and it soaked my gym shoes.

Doh!

After hanging out by the beach for a bit, I decided to get a glass of wine and write some postcards to home at one of the outdoor cafes between the beach and our hotel. The nice thing about organized tours is that your tour mates are always nearby. After sitting for a bit, a couple of my tour mates walked by and asked if they could join me. We ended up spending the rest of our free time sharing travel stories and drinking wine while enjoying the beautiful afternoon. It was lovely.

For dinner, we headed to the city center for our group farewell dinner at Gusta Me. This wasn’t our last night on tour though. The weather was suspect that evening so our tour director switched the dinner with our sunset cruise. It was worth the change even though it didn’t rain until later in the evening (more on this later).

Day Two

The next morning, day two of our two days in Dubrovnik, Croatia, we got up early and headed back into the old town to explore. Heading there early was strategic because it allowed us to walk around and see what we wanted to see before the hordes of cruise ship passengers arrived.

We had a bit of a guided walking tour and then were on our own. I headed to the wall entrance. The walls around Dubrovnik are the largest and most complete I have seen so I was definitely wanted to check them out.

The Walls of Dubrovnik

The city walls that surround Dubrovnik today were constructed mainly during the 12th–17th centuries and are a source of pride for the city. The walls run an uninterrupted course of approximately 6,360 ft in length, encircling most of the old city, and reach a maximum height of about 82 ft.

One thing to consider before deciding to walk the walls is that it is not cheap. It was $30 USD (200 kunas) to enter. I thought it was worth it for the views and the exercise but if you are on a tight budget, this might be something you should skip.

The views. They were spectacular! The sea on one side, Dubrovnik on the other. It doesn’t get much better than that. The walk itself was fairly easy. The path at the top of the wall was well maintained. There were stairs but not too many after the entrance, where there were a lot of them.

I spent about an hour admiring the views and snapping photos. The thing I didn’t realize is that there aren’t many exit points. Once you enter, you are committed for over an hour. When I did finally find an exit, I took it. I was heading away from the city for an afternoon excursion to escape the crowds and didn’t want to miss the boat. I also wanted to get some lunch before we boarded.

Burek Deliciousness

For lunch, I had a burek with spinach. Burek is a family of baked filled pastries made of thin flaky dough known as phyllo and stuffed with cheese or meat. My favorite was stuffed with spinach and cheese. I would go back to Croatia just to have a burek. They were delicious! They are available at the bakeries you see along the streets. Make sure you have one when you visit Croatia!

After lunch and ice cream for dessert (when in Europe, you have to have at least one ice cream a day. I think it’s a rule for all tourists, right?), we boarded a boat and spent the afternoon in the village Cavtat, a much more relaxed, less crowded mini Dubrovnik.

The Sunset

For dinner that evening, we boarded a different boat from the local marina and set out for a sunset cruise. There couldn’t have been a better way to end our tour.

The food and wine on the boat were great! I had the fish and enjoyed it as much as the company. But then it was time for the sunset and it was FABULOUS! I love Hawaiian sunsets but the sunset on this night was even better. The colors were so vivid and were always changing. It was a great night. Several times I had to pinch myself to remind myself that I really was in Dubrovnik with a glass of wine in my hand while experiencing a stunning sunset. It doesn’t get much better than that!

It was the perfect way to end my two days in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The Rain and My Shoes

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that it rained overnight during our first night in Dubrovnik. Remember I also said that my shoes got wet when I went to the beach? Well, to dry the shoes out, I put them outside to dry. Clearly that backfired because it stormed for hours so they were wetter the next morning than when I put them out to dry. Unfortunately, they were my only gym shoes and since we were going to be walking so much that day, I had to wear them.

It was a squishy morning but overall, it was fine…

At least I thought it was until I got home a couple of days later.

I wore the shoes home as well (I always wear gym shoes when flying because I never know when I’ll be running to my next gate). I took them off when I got home and put them by the door. A couple of hours later, I walked downstairs and it smelled awful. I spent about ten minutes looking around, thinking that something was rotting or that my dog pooped in a corner…until I realized it was my shoes.

Yikes! So gross!!!

I ended up putting them outside until I could throw them in the washer. They are okay now but man, I considered throwing them straight into the dumpster in the moment.

Dubrovnik and Game of Thrones

I have never seen the Game of Thrones so the significant or interesting places related to the show that our guide mentioned during our walking tour didn’t mean anything to me. If you are interested in doing a Game of Thrones tour during your visit to Dubrovnik, this tour has great reviews. It looks like it sells out quickly though so buy your tickets ahead of time if you can.

Want to keep reading? Check out my other posts from Croatia here and here.

Save this post to Pinterest!

Two Days in Dubrovnik Croatia

Fortress Lovrijenac
Fortress Lovrijenac is built on a high sheer rock overlooking the sea, This detached fortress was of prime importance for the defense of the western part of Dubrovnik, both against attack from land and the sea. During its service fortress was manned by 25 man garrison and a Commander of the fort.
Dubrovnik Walls
Starting my walk along the top of the walls surrounding Dubrovnik
Two Days in Dubrovnik Croatia
Beautiful Dubrovnik.
Houses in Dubrovnik Croatia
The hill behind the buildings in this photo was where the Serbs’ bombs were fired from in 1991
My on the walls of Dubrovnik
I finally asked someone to take my photo 🙂
Two Days in Dubrovnik Croatia
Back to selfies
Walls in Dubrovnik Croatia
A look at the outside of the walls from the top
Dubrovnik Croatia in two days
The walls surrounding Dubrovnik from the outside
Burek in Dubrovnik
My favorite food find in Croatia – the burek. This one is stuffed with spinach and cheese. So delicious!
Dubrovnik from the water
Dubrovnik from the water
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik from the top of the hill. So pretty!
The Franjo Tu?man Bridge in Dubrovnik
The Franjo Tu?man Bridge in Dubrovnik. Construction of this bridge was interrupted by the fighting after this bridge. Its completion represents Dubrovnik’s triumph recovery from the war.
A picture of the bridge as the sun began to set.
Dubrovnik Sunset
A beautiful sunset and a very happy traveler.
Sunset in Dubrovnik
Those colors!
Selfie at Sunset in Dubrovnik
What a prefect ending to a great trip!

Why I Won’t Go Back to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

I try to stay positive on this blog. Most of my posts are about travel and travel is my happy place. So let’s face it, it isn’t hard to be positive. But, I feel it is necessary to state my true feelings about Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Don’t get me wrong, it is one of the most beautiful parks I have been to.

There are sixteen beautiful lakes and waterfalls everywhere you look.

There is also a definite downside.

Let me explain…

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia Background

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. It was founded in 1949 and added to the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979. The park is located in the karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It extends over 73,000 acres and takes between three and four hours to hike through. Each year, more than one million visitors visit the park. It is located in a remote and poor part of Croatia that is still recovering from the war. Due to its remoteness, it is best to stay in the area for one night when visiting.

On Easter Sunday in 1991, the first shots of Croatia’s war with Yugoslavia were fired in the park. The first casualty of the war was a park policeman. Until 1995, the Serbs controlled the park. Virtually no tourists were allowed to visit which allowed the ecosystem to recover from the impact of so many visitors prior to 1991.

Arriving at the Park

We arrived to Plitvice Lakes National Park in the early afternoon after riding in the coach for a couple of hours. By the time we arrived, the lines at the entrance were already long and the park was really crowded.

We had to choose between two options when visiting the park.

  • We could skip the lower part of the park and walk along the rim with our tour director and look down at the views. This was the less strenuous option and would take a couple of hours to complete.
  • We could do a longer 3.5 hours hike with a park guide. This option would take us down by the waterfalls and lakes. It was much more strenuous.

I chose the second option.

The First Half of the Hike

To be honest, the hiking part wasn’t too bad until the end, when it was straight up a hill for a bit to get to our hotel. Were were warned that was the worst part.

The guides were wrong. That was not the worst part.

We got down to the bottom of the valley on our way to the big waterfalls and the path was a wooden platform two people wide. There were no railings and tons of people going both ways, with some visitors trying to push their way in front of other people. This part of the hike was terrifying for me and it lasted for about an hour and a half.

I could not pay attention to or enjoy the views around me because I wouldn’t let my eyes leave the platform. I am a klutz so I was afraid I would trip and fall if I looked up. If that wasn’t enough, I was always braced, ready to protect myself in case I was pushed, determined that I was not going into the water and if I was going in, I wasn’t going in alone. And in case you’re wondering, yes, people get pushed in. It happens a lot and happened to our guide a few weeks before we were there.

I had my DSLR camera and my phone with me. Right away, I wished I had left my good camera with my luggage on the bus (and would recommend you do it if you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park). I’m a good swimmer so I wasn’t worried about drowning if I fell into the lakes themselves because they were calm with no marine animals that would want to eat me. However, parts of the walk were directly over gushing waterfalls. There is no way I could survive a fall down those rushing waterfalls unscathed. My anxiety was off the charts.

We did make it down to the water falls without. We also made it back out. No one from our group fell in, hallelujah! A lot of patience was required along the way but we did it. The waterfalls were beautiful. The color of the lakes along the way was also amazing,. The color reminded me a lot of the color of the water in the Bahamas – a beautiful bright aqua blue.

The Second Half of the Hike

After an hour and a half or so of hiking and waterfall admiring, we reached the end of the wooden platform path. From there on, we were on real ground. Even though the path was still the same width, it made a huge difference to be on real ground. There were no lakes or waterfalls beneath us, only beside us. The path was gravel but smooth so I wasn’t so worried about tripping. The crowd was still thick but since there was only water on one side and rocks and walls on the other, we could all move over a bit.

I could relax and enjoy the experience a bit. It was much appreciated. The beautiful views continued. We saw some fish in the water along the way. There are a few ferries on one of the upper lakes but they are electric so they don’t pollute the water. As a result, the water was very clear, making it pretty easy to see fish.

The Hotel

I wish I could tell you we stayed in a plush hotel that I loved.

But I can’t.

The biggest problem? I was in a room at the end of the top floor with a sloped roof above me. I knew there might be a problem when I went to change my shirt before dinner and hit my hands on the ceiling when I lifted my arms up.

And then it was time to take a shower. The shower head was way too short for me since the tub bottom added several inches to the floor. So, I took a shower on my knees. I could handle that but then on top of it, there was no shower curtain. No matter how hard I tried to keep the water in the tub, it refused to obey and water went everywhere. At one point, I just stopped and started laughing. The whole situation was so ridiculous. It still makes me laugh today.

Luckily, we only stayed one night in this hotel. My mantra is that I can handle almost anything for one night. I did the best I could to get clean, got dressed and then dried up the bathroom as best I could before heading to bed.

I considered it a funny travel story that makes that hotel unforgettable.

My Conclusion about Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Looking back, I guess I am glad the park was part of our tour and that I was able to visit it. But I wish I had done tour option 1 – the hike around the top. According to those who did it, it was much less stressful.

I can say with certainty that I will not visit the valley area of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia again unless they add railings and crowd control measures. We were there in September, which is a shoulder season for tourism in Croatia so it wasn’t as crowded as it is in July and August. I cannot imagine being there when it was more crowded and really hot on top of that. Where do all of the people go? There is no way anyone enjoys it.

My advice to you if you are going to visit the park is to go first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon after the crowds have dissipated a bit. And definitely try to go in April/ May or September/October when it “isn’t as crowded.” It is beautiful. I cannot dispute that. However, the crowds make it worth consider skipping.

Are you interested in reading more about my trip to Croatia and Slovenia? Check out two of my previous posts here and here.

Save this post to Pinterest!

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Big Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
If you look to the middle left of this photo, you can see people walking on the boardwalk along the cliff. It is two people wide with no railings and they’re about to walk over the rushing waterfalls. So scary!
Big Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park
The big waterfalls from the very bottom of the valley shown in the previous photo
Plitvice Lakes National Park waterfalls
Me…delirious from the walk to the bottom of the valley and a lack of sleep.
Plitvice Lakes
Scary but so beautiful. This is under the boardwalk. If I trip and fall or am pushed, I am going to end up at the bottom in that pool of water.
Beautiful colored water at Plitvice Lakes National Park
The water was so clear and bright blue.
Pretty water flowing in Plitvice Lakes National Park
So pretty
Pretty colored water and water falls. The perfect combination.
Pretty views and lots of people reflected in my sunglasses
I look like a giant in this shower!