Yes, the title is as exhausting as it sounds…but so worth it!
We teamed up with Hostel World for an incredible 3 days exploring this gorgeous region. Let’s just say that if we had to list our top travel resources on one hand, Hostel World would definitely be one of them! Whether you’re with a group of friends or traveling solo, whether you want a 12 person dorm or a B&B, Hostel World has compiled all the best budget/boutique options in thousands of cities across the globe. This site is often our first stop when researching accommodation for a new city. The website and app are so handy to use and you have the security of booking through a trusted global brand. The best part of staying at Hostel World properties is you know you will end up with some new friends! We always leave a trip with several new adventurers added to our Facebook friends list. These are friends we’ve kept in touch with and have even crossed paths with down the road!
Our base for the weekend was Dubrovnik, which is referred to by travellers and locals alike as the Pearl of the Adriatic. It only took watching one incredible sunset for us to see why. The Old City is surrounded by medieval fortress walls and feels as though you’ve stepped back in time (or into a Game of Thrones episode – the later seasons of the show were filmed here!). We stayed at Hostel Villa Angelina – a lovely little Hostel World property perched high above the sea within the walls of the Old City. The views from our bathroom (yes, bathroom) were among some of the best we saw the whole trip! They also have a terrace with ivy covered walls and sweeping views of the city – the perfect place to recap your day of exploring Dubrovnik. The staff was so welcoming, helpful and fun to chat with, it almost felt like we were staying with friends. Speaking of friends, we always met people in the common area and were never without dinner partners each evening!
During our time in the city, we strolled down the Placa Thoroughfare (the main street in Old Town with lots of shops and restaurants) and got lost in the endless winding passageways. For those not staying in the Old City, Pile Gate is the main entrance and will put you right in the middle of the action. Venture past gothic, baroque and renaissance architectural gems down to the Old Harbour and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch at Restaurant Lokanda Peskarija. If you’re in the mood for some seaside drinks, Mala Buža Caffe Bar is the perfect place for a Mojito while overlooking the sparkling water.
For sprawling views of the entire city, head up the cable car and overlook all of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. By far, our favorite views came from walking the Ancient City Walls at sunset. Allow about an hour to cover the whole thing (more if you’re stopping for a local beer at one of the many drink stands or snapping photos!) and know that you will be climbing several sets of stairs. The Old City set against the pastel sea and setting sun were some of the most spectacular views we’ve ever seen! Be sure to keep your entry ticket because for the 120 Kuna (16EUR/18USD) price, you also get access to Fort Lovrijenac. We loved this post-card worthy vantage point during the day, the turquoise water was so vibrant in the sunlight.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
We spent one of our days exploring this country on a tour booked through our hostel with Adriatic Explore. The tour was extremely informative, easy and much better than the car rental idea we were toying around with the night before (not sure why we thought dealing with crossing international borders in a rental was a good idea). We first visited the village of Počitelj which was charming in its size and blend of both medieval and Ottoman influences. We continued onto the city of Mostar and received a walking tour from a local guide through the old town area (filled with gorgeous handmade and local products – we’ve never wished for an extra suitcase until this point!). The city is still recovering from the country’s turbulent past – there is a fascinating and evident divide between Muslim and Christian residents. The city is essentially divided into two parts. Be sure to walk around the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby, you’ll find the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a reconstructed medieval arched bridge where local divers jump off in the hot afternoon temps into the icy cold water (risking heart failure, which is why only trained divers can jump). The best view in town is found by climbing the minaret of the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque for jaw-dropping views of the city. This is also the place to try the best of Balkan cuisine, whether it be ćevapi for lunch or a Turkish coffee!
On our last day, we departed yet again with Adriatic Explore to tour nearby Monetnegro. The country may be small but the landscapes are larger than life. We stopped first in the beach town of Budva. Though the rest of the city is fairly new and touristy, stone walls built by the Venetians surround the narrow streets of the medieval Old Town (Stari Grad). The beach nearest to the Old Town offers dreamy views of the city when you walk out to the edge of the dock that juts out over the ocean.
We then journeyed on to the town of Kotor, dramatically perched at the base of stone mountains in a secluded corner of The Bay of Kotor. The Old Town is also protected by UNESCO and is charming to explore. We made the hike up the old city walls leading to the Fortress of Sveti Ivan (so.many.stairs.) for some spectacular vantage points. The dramatic fjords and lush, mediterranean plants will leave anyone yearning to dive into the pristine Adriatic swimming areas surrounding the bay. This would be the perfect place to rent a car and drive around the whole Bay area…there were countless times we wish we could have stopped our tour bus!
Stunning views, affordable cuisine and a rich blend of cultures made our three day Balkan adventure worth every step (and there were a lot of them)!