Medieval cities and jaw-dropping lakes
For the last two years, I have been dreaming about travelling to Croatia and last month I was lucky enough to make that dream a reality. Whilst my mum was visiting me in London we decided to take a few weekend trips away, one of which included Dubrovnik. Safe to say I was hoping to catch the end of summer but much to my disappointment, October is just pushing it that little bit too much for warm weather. We flew into Dubrovnik with a direct flight from London Gatwick and then got the airport shuttle bus to the old town. When we arrived, the weather was extremely disappointing, very overcast and drizzling. Not what I signed up for! But nevertheless, that was not going to stand in our way. We made our way from the old town to our hostel which turned out to be more of an Airbnb than a hostel, which was more than okay with me. Our hosts were a Croatian family who were more than happy to answer questions and provide us with recommendations for our stay. After freshening up, we walked back to the old town and entered the walled city through one of the Pile Gate. The old city was a lot smaller than I had expected; don’t get me wrong it was beautiful and it is incredible to see such a well preserved medieval city but it was just a lot smaller than I had anticipated. Walking into the old town, you can’t help but feel like you’ve just walked into a scene from the infamous HBO series Game of Thrones. We wandered down the main street and made our way to the harbour side.
After some lunch, we wandered through the city a little more but with the weather taking a turn for the worse, we decided to head back to our accommodation and explore the city more the following day as the weather forecast was looking significantly better. Lucky, we left when we did is the least I can say! We caught the bus to our accommodation which took all of 10 minutes but within that time, the heavens opened up and the roads started to flood. Our 2-minute walk from the bus stop to the hostel made us look like we had jumped into a swimming pool. So definitely not at all what I had anticipated from a trip to Croatia but things were looking up for the following day. Our second day in Dubrovnik was a significant improvement on our first; waking to sunshine with no sign of rain anywhere. We wanted to maximise the sun, so headed into the old city without delay. One of the main attractions in the old city is to climb the city walls, an activity that will set you back around $25. But it is the main highlight of Dubrovnik and provides you with the best views of the city and surrounding areas. To walk the entire length of the walls takes roughly 2 hours but you can also just walk certain sections of it if you’re not up for the whole thing, although it is well worth it.
After completing the wall walk, we headed into the town wandering through its narrow, winding, cobblestone streets. We came across a secret opening in the walls which lead to a bar sitting on the edge of the sea called Buza bar which translates to 'hole in the wall'. As secluded as it is, it is also very well known by tourists and locals. But being off-peak it was not too busy so we were able to enjoy some drinks in the sunshine admiring a unique view of the sea. In the summer months I can imagine that it would be near impossible to get a table.
We decided to head out of the old town for lunch and were delightfully surprised with delicious Croatian food at Otto's Tavern, although we did have to take quite a trek to find it. Having seen the town from the walls, we thought we should admire it from the sea as well. There were plenty of boat companies offering trips around the area. We went with a company that took us on a small 12 seat boat, which they advertised it as a Pirate boat, but we knew that wouldn't be the case. It was a small sailing boat but it was a perfect way to gain another perspective of the town. To end our final day we took the cable car up to the viewpoint over the whole of Dubrovnik and watched the sun slowly set whilst admiring yet another view of the beautiful Croatian seaside town.
Once the sun had set we headed to the airport for a flight to the Croatian capital of Zagreb. The flight was extremely quick having us landing within an hour of takeoff. We had organised to do a day trip to Plitvice Lakes, a UNESCO world heritage site. The public transport links to Plitvice Lakes are relatively good with connections from Zagreb, Split and Zadar. We chose to go from Zagreb mainly due to the best connections back to London, because the travel time is roughly the same from all the destinations. We booked the bus the night before, but really we could have purchased it on the bus that morning. If you're travelling in peak season though I would recommend to purchase the tickets at least a few days before since it is a very popular route. The bus ride took us approximately 2 hours from the Zagreb Bus Station. There are two entrances to the Lakes, entrance one and two. The first entrance is for the lower lakes, whereas the second starts at the higher lakes. Most people got off the bus at the first entrance but we decided to do the opposite and I think it was the better decision. We caught a small ferry to the first section of the lakes and explored the area over the winding walkways, forever chasing the beautiful waterfalls. There are multiple different walking trails, all dependant on how much time you have to spend in the park. We covered most of the trails in order to see as much of the terraced lakes and waterfalls as we could. Although the weather wasn't great we still had a fabulous time. The day slipped away so quickly but our cameras were filled with never-ending images of magnificent waterfalls and beautiful turquoise lakes.
Another 2 hour bus ride later and we were back in Zagreb for the evening. Having not seen any of Zagreb, we decided to quickly explore the city the following morning before our mid-day flight. It was a nice city, but not one that really excited me, but it worked out great for our day trip to the Plitvice Lakes. So although I didn't get another splash of summer, I absolutely loved Croatia and I'm sure I'll be back, but maybe I'll book for the summer next time round.