This post has taken me a little while to write, apologies! Towards the end of September last year, Stew and I spent one glorious week exploring Dubrovnik in Croatia, and Kotor in Montenegro. Our trip consisted of flying into Dubrovnik and spending 2 nights in a cute Airbnb, before getting a coach over the border into Montenegro, where we spent a further 4 nights in another sweet Airbnb in Kotor, before eventually making our way back to Dubrovnik to spend our final night and fly home. We decided to do things this way because flights fly more regularly into Dubrovnik and it worked out cheaper. However, you can get flights direct to Montenegro, but not into Kotor. You would need to get a bus or taxi from the closest airport in Tivat.
Either way, it’s a good idea to do both Dubrovnik and Kotor in the same trip as they are located fairly close to each other across the Croatian/Montenegrin border. Coaches leave both Dubrovnik and Kotor on the hour in peak season, and at least 2-3 times a day out of season, and take between 3-6 hours (depending on traffic and border crossing). It’s always best to book in advance in peak season as the buses will get booked up. However, as we went at the end of September, we were able to purchase tickets on the day from the bus station and our coach was fairly empty. This also meant that our trip and border crossing were easy and made in good time. Whereas, friends of mine who have done the same trip in June/July have experienced delays of up to 6 hours trying to get across the border.
If any of you have previously travelled across land borders in Europe, you will have a good idea of what to expect. It’s a rather odd experience. As we approached the main crossing on the way into Montenegro, clothed border personnel proceeded to step onto the coach demanding to see everyone’s passport. As we were you UK/EU nationals they didn’t look twice, but anyone outside of the EU had theirs taken off them for closer inspection. This didn’t take too long though before we were back on the road. However, on the way back into Croatia, we were instructed to get off the coach and walk across the ‘invisible’ border line. Again, our passports were checked and we were allowed to get back onto the bus 20 yards up the road – very odd!
One last thing to note – the Old Town of Dubrovnik is quite small with narrow streets and steep steps in places. Thousands of tourists descend each day from docked cruise ships making it very busy. Even out of season on some days we would have to queue to get through the main gate into the town! It was a little overwhelming but the tourists tend to take the same route with their guides, so you soon become aware of where they are and how to avoid the large crowds.
Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s move onto the more exciting part. I’ve decided to split my posts out, so this one primarily focuses on Dubrovnik. This is because both cities have so much to offer in terms of sights, excursions, food and drink, and photo opportunities, that it would be far too much information to squeeze into one post. Plus I have about a million photos I want to share with you!
Top 5 things to do in Dubrovnik:
- Walk Dubrovnik’s city walls
- Spot scenes from Game of Thrones
- Grab a drink at Mala Buža Bar
- Catch a boat across to Lokrum Island
- Take the Dubrovnik Cable Car at sunset
Dubrovnik City Walls
Encircling the entire old town of Dubrovnik are the magnificent city walls, which you can climb up to and walk around, offering the most fantastic views of Dubrovnik, including a sea of red roofed buildings (pictured above). To access the walls you will need to buy a ticket at one of the entrances, dotted around the city. Tickets cost no more than £13-£15 and the walls are open every day of the year, except Christmas Day. During summer months the walls are open until 7.30pm, allowing you to visit at sunset. Otherwise, I would recommend going early in the morning as around lunch time things can get very busy, and the walls are very narrow in places. We bought our tickets just after it opened at 8am and it was a lovely pleasant start to the day. Although it was sunny, it was still cool at that time, another benefit of going early as there is little shade on the walls to escape the sun. To walk around the entire length of the walls, with stops to take photos, takes around 1-2 hours. By which point the walls had become very busy. So go early or late! Either way, this is a must see attraction.
Game of Thrones
If you’re a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones, you will most definitely want to visit Dubrovnik, where many of the scenes were filmed. Whilst you can buy tickets from just about anyone, offering walking tours of the GOT sights, it’s fairly easy to spot them yourself and it’s lovely to get lost in the old town trying to find them. Plus if you do your own thing, you can stop by one of the many ice-cream parlours to cool down. Located just inside the main gate into the old town, on Stradun street there was one parlour with a big crowd around it. Unfortunately I can’t find the name on Google maps, however it won’t be hard to spot and they offer a variety of flavours at extremely cheap prices. 1 scoop in a waffle cone was just 1 Euro, and look at what they class as a ‘1 scoop’!! Amazing value for money. It’s safe to say we stopped here a couple of times during our trip.
Mala Buža Bar
There are 2 bars offering incredible views across the sea surrounding Dubrovnik. Located in the city walls, Buža Bar is by far the most popular, with it being mention on every website about Dubrovnik. However, it can get busy and quite rowdy. It attracts a younger crowd and is the kind of place you might go to have a bit of session in the sun all afternoon, or to start your evening off with a bang! However, that’s not to say it’s not beautiful, but just around the corner there is a second bar that not so many people seem to know about. It’s called Mala Buža Bar (confusing I know) and is much quieter, offering the same idyllic views. Here we were able to find a table and a couple of chairs in the sun easily, and were able to catch some rays and rest our legs with no one bothering us for more drinks. There were more families at this one, with kids taking a dip in the sea and some more confident swimmers actually diving off the cliff above. We could’ve spent hours here, whiling away the time, watching the divers, but alas there is so much to see in Dubrovnik and we only had a couple of days. I would definitely recommend this bar though. There’s no where quite like it. Steeped into the cliff face itself, with a small hole in the wall to enter, steps lead right down into the sea. Incredible!
Another area of Dubrovnik used in Game of Thrones, is Lokrum Island, located just a few hundred meters off the coast of Dubrovnik. You can catch a boat across to the island for a small fee and are free to explore the island as you wish. There are many points of interest and plenty of paths leading to long walks in the shady forest. Otherwise there is also many small beaches and rocky outlets for sunbathing and swimming. One thing that is a must do on Lokrum Island is to climb up right to the top of Fort Royal. This is quite a steep walk in places so take your time, but once at the top the views are worth it. You will be able to see out across the sea and across to Dubrovnik. There are a couple of benches at the bottom of the Fort or you can sit up on top of the structure itself. Either way it’s lovely to take a break, catch your breath and admire the view.
Dubrovnik Cable Car
I’ve left the best till last… The Dubrovnik Cable Car is a MUST do attraction. With the entrance close to the old town you take the cable car up to the top of the hill overlooking Dubrovnik. From here you can see for miles across the old town out towards the see, with stunning views of Lokrum Island and many others in the distance. My top tip for the cable car is to go up an hour or two before sunset, because there’s also a fantastic museum at the top, offering information and photography on the war of the nineties, that played a huge part on the town of Dubrovnik that we visit today. For me, having been too young at the time, I knew very little about this devastating war. It’s hard to believe that it took place within our lifetime and that before it happened, Dubrovnik was a thriving tourist destination, just as it is today. But during those very dark, bleak years a lot of sadness took place here and much of the town and it’s historical relics were destroyed.
To read and look at all of the information, you need at least an hour or two to get around the museum, and once finished you can take the stairs within the building up onto the roof. From here you get the most magnificent view! It costs a little more to visit the museum, but honestly it’s so worth it. You will see hundreds of tourists crowding around the panoramic restaurant trying to get the same view, but failing miserably with selfie sticks in the way. Whereas we shared the roof of the museum with maybe 5 or 6 other people. And just look at that sunset. Wow!
If any of you are planning a visit to Dubrovnik, I would more than happily answer any questions you might have. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for Kotor, Montenegro, next week 🙂