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.

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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!

Traveling Solo Through Croatia and Slovenia

This is the story of how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. You might think that this was my plan all along but it was not. Let me explain…

One of the countries I had wanted to visit for a while was Croatia. Every time I started planning, I would get overwhelmed and end up going somewhere else. When a friend mentioned to me that we should travel together this fall, I immediately said “yes.” After some debate, we settled on visiting Croatia (other options included Portugal and Switzerland).

Instead of trying to plan it on our own, we decided to go with a tour. If you know me, you know that planning a trip is my favorite part of traveling. I love doing the research and the bookings and then executing my plan. Going with a tour was a change for me but I knew it would be best for this trip because we were booking pretty last minute (we booked in mid-July for a trip in September).

I reviewed the itineraries for a bunch of different companies and we ended up settling on Trafalgar and their “Best of Croatia and Slovenia” tour. I have seen Trafalgar tours during my previous visits to Europe and knew they were a reputable company. Trafalgar has been around for over 70 years and is a sister company to Contiki, which is the under 35 tour I traveled with on my first trip to Europe in 2011.

This is where the story should continue with how we successfully booked the trip, packed our bags and had a great time. But things don’t always work out as planned.

We both booked the tour separately and requested to share rooms. It turns out, there was only ONE spot left on the tour. We didn’t find this out until AFTER I paid my deposit for the trip. Ugh!

So where to go from there?! I ended up canceling my registration. The deposit was only $100 so it wasn’t a huge deal to lose it. My friend and I discussed other locations for a few days and then she decided that she really wanted to go to Italy. She found a tour she wanted to go on and asked me to join her.

It was a tough decision because I wanted to travel with her but I have been to Italy twice already and may go back for a third time at some point with family. I didn’t want to go this year when there are so many other places in the world I want to explore. In the end, I politely declined but I told her to go ahead! I knew that’s where she really wanted to go and I was more than fine with her doing that.

After thinking about my options for a couple of days, I decided to email Trafalgar and see if that one spot on the Best of Croatia and Slovenia tour was still available. It was and they were willing to re-book my registration and apply my previously paid deposit to the new booking.

That is how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. Well, sort of solo at least. I was with a tour that included 46 other people but I wasn’t traveling with anyone I knew. So I guess I traveled solo-light. Ha!

The trip was a great success and I had a nice time. I am so glad I decided to go even though my friend wasn’t able to go with me. As I write this post, I’ve been back from the trip a few days. I will publish some detailed posts about the various places we visited in the coming weeks but I have a few initial thoughts/fun tidbits that I thought I would share here.

Skip the cruise

Skip the cruise (or at least the big cruise ship)! Traveling through Croatia via a land tour or small ship that can navigate the rivers is the way to go. Croatia and Slovenia are both beautiful counties. I got to see so much more of both countries than I would have on a cruise. Plus, we could plan our sight seeing and excursions to avoid the deluge of cruise passengers that arrive in cities like Dubrovnik each day.

Traveling Solo

I never felt unsafe when I was on my own in either country. While I was often with my tourmates, I ate meals alone several times. I would also often set out on my own to explore during our free times. People were always very kind and almost everyone spoke great English. The food, particularly the seafood, was fresh and tasty. I never felt on guard and may have felt safer on my own during this trip than I have in any other foreign country I have visited. I highly recommend traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia (and with Trafalgar) if you are looking for a good solo travel destination.

Slovenia, Croatia & the European Union

The members of the European Union recognized Slovenia as an independent state in January 1992. The United Nations accepted it as a member in May of 1992. Slovenia joined the EU on May 1, 2004. It uses the Euro for currency.

Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003. The European Commission recommended making it an official candidate in 2004. Croatia officially joined the European Union as its 28th member on July 1, 2013. While it is part of the EU now, it still does not use the Euro.

Speaking of Croatia and Its Currency

While switching to the Euro is likely inevitable for Croatia, they currently use a currency called the kuna. The kuna is a weasel-like animal common in the region. In midieval times, the pelts from kunas were used by the Croats as payment for goods and services. When Croatia became an independent state in the 1994, they adopted their own currency and named it the kuna after this old payment practice.

Yugoslavia and the war

One of the things I liked best about touring Slovenia and Croatia as part of a land tour is the opportunity it gave me to learn about the history of the region. I knew that Slovenia and Croatia were both formerly a part of Yugoslavia but didn’t really know much about the region’s past and what caused Yugoslavia to split into the countries it currently is today (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo (which is still being disputed)). While most of the areas are safe and peaceful today and travel is encouraged throughout, we were advised to avoid Kosovo.

Some tension do remain among the countries. This became evident on the second day of our tour. It took us three hours to get through the Croatian/Slovenian border. While very inconvenient, particularly for our coach driver and tour director, it gave me lots of time to nap and try to fight off the jet lag.

A Bit Different Than What I’m Used To

I currently live in Chicago, a city full of people with different skin colors, religions, languages, traditions and beliefs. I thrive on this diversity and love learning new things, meeting new people and observing how different people live. One thing that struck me over and over about Slovenia and Croatia was how non-diverse the countries were. About 85% of Croatians are Catholic. Using my observations as a gauge, I’d guess about 99% of them are white. It was so different than what I’m used to.

The Best Time to Visit Croatia

You probably don’t want to hear this but I think the best time to visit Croatia was probably 3-5 years ago. The word is out and the crowds have arrived en mass. Not only are the inland towns being inundated with land tours, cruise ships are now docking and dropping off thousands of additional tourists every day. I found the crowds in Plitvice Lakes National Park and Dubrovnik to be especially overwhelming. My advice is to go during the shoulder seasons (April/May/September/October). If you go during the summer, plan to explore early in the mornings before most of the crowds are up and moving about. You will have a much more relaxing, enjoyable time.

Croatia and Its Outdoor Cafes (with a Catch)

Croatia has one of the most vibrant cafe cultures I’ve ever seen. Everyone sits outside in cafes to enjoy their coffee and people watch. I love outdoor cafes and I could get used to that lifestyle very easily. The unfortunate thing is that most people in Croatia smoke cigarettes, which was a major annoyance for me. Every time I would sit down to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea, someone would sit next to me and instantly light a cigarette. It was the most annoying thing about this trip for me and it happened EVERY SINGLE TIME I sat down! I would quickly finish, pay and then move on.

The Necktie

Croatia has given the world many things but no Croatian invention is as internationally renowned as the necktie. The history of the necktie can be traced back to Paris in 1630. King Louis XIII was inspecting a line-up of Croatian mercenaries in traditional costume when his eye was taken by pieces of fabric that the soldiers were wearing around their necks. The material ranged from tatty cloths for the soldiers to fine silks for the officers, but the stylishness was ubiquitous. King Louis was impressed by this modern fashion. He recommended it be adopted by the people of France and soon, the necktie became the hottest fashion accessory on the streets of Paris.

Those are my initial thoughts along with a summary of how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. I will post more soon but in the meantime, check out a few photos from the trip below and a post listing Four Benefits of Traveling Solo here.

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Traveling Solo Through Croatia and Slovenia

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Our home away from home for the duration of our trip – the Trafalgar coach. Yes, it even had Wifi.
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Tour life. We would get off the bus and go to our rooms and then the hotel staff would deliver our bags to our rooms.
Neckties and Croatia
Pretty Croatian neckties
Cats in Dubrovnik
There were a lot of cute, healthy cats in Dubrovnik and Split. Don’t worry, I didn’t touch them so my allergies weren’t impacted. I admired them from afar. 🙂
Postcard in Dubrovnik
Writing postcards to Iowa with a glass of rose at an outdoor cafe in Dubrovnik. I’ve turned my 9 year old nephew into a postcard monster with all of my travels. He he always reminds me to send him postcards whenever he knows I am about to leave for a trip.
Flat Stanley in Croatia
My constant companion throughout this trip was this dude – Flat Stanley. He was cut out and colored by my 9 year old niece. Here he is in Plitvice Lakes National Park. Look at the color of that water! Stanley was kicking his feet up in excitement because he loved it so much! 🙂
Flat Stanley in Croatia
Stanley wanted to drive the coach…but I told him “no.”