I think this period of our Balkans travels was a real, real treat. We’d just left the stunning Bay of Kotor behind, and were winding our way towards the increasingly famous, and stunningly beautiful, Dubrovnik. After two nights in Croatia, we would then be heading to our old favourites Mostar and Sarajevo – places we’d fleetingly visited the year before and couldn’t wait to spend more time in. Such an exciting time!
Dubrovnik – Day 1
The road to Dubrovnik from Kotor is really quite a fun drive – but the real treat arrives at the end of the journey. The route sees you hugging the cliffs, and our number one tip to anybody getting a bus on the same route is to sit on the left! The views of Dubrovnik from afar as you approach the city are absolutely stunning. Don’t miss out (or fall asleep – I’m pretty sure Lucy had to wake me up).
The only annoying thing about Dubrovnik is the location of the bus station. It’s actually a much bigger place than you might otherwise give it credit for – there’s no shame in admitting that you only ever think of Dubrovnik as the Old Town. However, the bus dumps you a good 45 minute walk (at least) from the famous city walls – and with the added insult of having to climb a relatively large hill to boot. We bought our tickets to Mostar for a couple of days time as soon as we arrived – no chance we were trekking back to the bus station again!
With our journey out of Dubrovnik all sorted, we began the familiar walk towards the old town and our accommodation. For budgetary reasons, we’d gone for a place with good reviews about 15 minutes walk from the old town. We eventually found it, after quite some wandering around, down an unlikely-looking cut through. With no idea how to actually announce our arrival, we bravely rang the doorbell and were greeted (bizarrely) by a 12 year old girl who welcomed us, gave us keys and accepted the payment. To her credit, she spoke amazing English for her age!
So it turned out that our room was literally just in their family home, and whilst it had an ensuite bathroom, it was only separated from the bedroom by a thin wooden sheet – basically a curtain. How amusing. After a quick refresh and chill out (we had climbed a hill after all!), it was time to get reacquainted with Dubrovnik Old Town!
Unfortunately for us, a day’s travelling (and the heat) had taken its toll on both of us; we ended up spending most of the time complaining and despairing at the number of tourists. It was easily the most touristy place we’ve ever been. So beautiful, but so busy.
Feeling slightly defeated by the world, we treated ourselves to ice cream and a chill out by the waterfront. Somehow, ice cream never fails to improve any situation. Nevertheless, we retired back to our bizarre family fake-ensuite bedroom shortly afterwards…and it was absolutely not a 15 minute walk back up the hill from town as advertised! Exhausted. Sleep. Recharge the batteries.
Dubrovnik – Day 2
Today was Sunday, and I’m reliably informed by myself (via Lucy’s trip diary) that it was “a better day”. There was even a slight hint of a lie-in – relatively speaking, of course. A full blown lie-in would have to wait for another day – there were city walls that needed climbing!
At first glance, £10 to walk on some walls could be seen to be extortionate. You don’t get anything else for your money – no museums, guided tours or information booklets. You don’t need them. The city walls are worth every penny of the entry fee – spectacular views all around, and a welcome relief from the packed chaos of the streets below. It’s a fantastic way to get a whole new perspective on the old town, spying alleys and terraces that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen – as well as a cute little clifftop bar which we decided to try and find later.
Meandering along, the orange rooftops of the city were a particular highlight – classic picture postcard Dubrovnik. Towards the end of our trek around, we even went looking for the dragons in the House of the Undying (a reference which will be lost on any non Game of Thrones viewers). In total, we probably managed to spend just under 2 hours slowly trekking around – we’d quite happily have done another loop, but water supplies were running low and you’re only allowed to go round once.
Having made our way back down to ground level, we grabbed some Burek (obviously) and continued the Game of Thrones theme by taking a walk down to Blackwater Bay, where we amused ourselves by listening to the horrendously overpriced Game of Thrones tours which were taking place. Seriously guys, just Google the locations and wander around yourself – it’s all free! We trekked up to a castle-thing, before dragging our overheaty selves back into the old town on a quest to find the clifftop bar!
And find it we did! What an amazing location, and one which we’d never have found if it wasn’t for the city wall trek. Two cokes and a gorgeous view kept us amused for a good hour or so – there are plenty of boats and kayaks drifting past below you to keep you entertained for an entire afternoon if you wanted. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a relaxing spot away from the busy main streets.
Following the clifftop bar (probably all downhill from there!), we went on a hunt for food of the non-pastry variety. Burek is great, but it does leave you feeling slightly greasy after a while! Our “healthy” food came in the form of a rather nice family run seafood restaurant in a side square – it wasn’t cheap, but it was so fresh. We decided to get a massive sharing platter of seafood – calamari rings, baby octopus, and white bait; all served with healthy portions of salad and chips. So yummy. You couldn’t go to a town like Dubrovnik and not have the seafood!
After dinner, it was time for another adventure – the cable car up to the top of the hill overlooking the city. We didn’t know too much about it, so we wandered to the ticket booth and decided to go for it then and there. We got the cable car up just before the sun began to set – which meant we got some absolutely stunning views of the old town and the islands as the light faded.
We left the main viewpoint and walked past the imperial fort – a symbol of the defence of Dubrovnik during the war in 1991, but now (as with many relics of the war) left to ruin. Climbing up some steps led us to an almost deserted mountain top from which we could see a much clearer view of the old town to our left and the islands to our right. We sat down on some very uncomfortable rocks and just enjoyed the sunset. Needless to say – wow. If you find yourself going up the cable car for sunset, ditch the main area and walk past the fort. So worth it.
Once the light faded and we had our views of Dubrovnik at night, we headed back down for a final wander through the old town before trekking back up the hill to our room for some much needed sleep before a self-imposed early start the next morning.
Dubrovnik – Day 3
If you’ve read all of this post, you’ll have noticed that we’re not a huge fan of crowds of tourists. Yes, yes – I know that we are technically part of the crowd, but that’s beside the point.
To avoid the crowds, we decided to deliberately wake up at 5:15am – drastic action, but our plan was to head in to the old town whilst it was completely deserted. It’s such good fun wandering around a place that you know is going to be heaving in a few hours time. And it makes for great photos in the sunrise!
Our tactic worked, as we walked through the main gate completely alone.
The only people around in the old town were setting up their restaurants and shops – which meant that, for a whole glorious hour, we had the old town completely to ourselves to explore.
We darted around, taking photos of all our favourite spots – undisturbed and unobserved! Gradually, from about 7am onwards, the tourists (coaches and cruises) started to arrive and we made our exit.
Before we knew it, our two nights in Dubrovnik were over and it was time to pack up and leave our bizarre accommodation. Another overheaty trek to the bus station later, and we were Mostar bound! It was sad to leave Dubrovnik behind, but we’d packed so much in to our time there that we left nice and content – and we will, at some point, be back.