Two Days off the Beaten Path in Dubrovnik
So my fam and I decided that after our 6-night cruise on the Celebrity Reflection, we would hop over to Dubrovnik for a few days to round out our time in the region. To be totally honest, I knew nothing about the ancient (like, really ancient) city except it was "really, really beautiful" and every single person I spoke to named it a must-see on their travels. I am so glad we added it on! We were in Dubrovnik for a 2 full days plus an evening. (Spoiler alert - not enough time, but sufficient as a teaser). Next time, I'd recommend a third day, especially if you take a million pics like we do, or you want to spend time at the beach.
This time, we decided to work with the company again that sent us to Iceland last year to plan our entire time in Dubrovnik.
Wait. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that the same tour company that you had a not-so-great trip to Iceland with this time last year? Yes, it is. But after speaking to the CEO in great length, we agreed to give them another chance to try to make what happened last year right. Just like people change, companies can change too and they learn from their mistakes to come out even better. So, we allowed them to handle every single detail of our time in Dubrovnik. So, how did they do? Read on to find out!
Day 1, Tuesday. A Sunset fit for a Queen and Fresh Seafood
We disembarked our ship in Rome at 9 am and didn’t land in Dubrovnik until after 7 pm, thanks to 3 flight delays. Needless to say, it was a long day full of airport cuisine and we were dying for some real food. We had reservations at a seafood restaurant called Amfora that our travel agent, Samantha recommended to us.
Our driver from Suntransfers was waiting for us at the airport with a sign with my name on it - ahhhh always my favorite thing to see! Our first view of Dubrovnik was WELL worth the flight delays though - as we drove north along the coast to the Old Town, the sun began to set, casting shades of lilac, peach, and pink over the Adriatic sea. These photos don’t do it justice though - what an incredible welcome!
We met our lovely Airbnb host, dropped our bags and ran (a.k.a, called Uber) to dinner. Sam was more than willing to call the restaurant twice for us (sorry!) to move back our reservations due to the flight delays. Amfora couldn't have been more accommodating with their excellent service and fantastic seafood.
Day 2, Wednesday: Lokrum Island Kayak Tour and Bowa Beach Restaurant
Since we had limited time in Dubrovnik, I really wanted to do and see a lot of this incredible and ancient city yet stay off the typical tourist path as much as we could. August is high tourist season and there were also several cruise ships in town each day (here is a nifty site to tell you what ships are where and when!). We had heard about Lokrum Island (another GoT location), an island just .35 miles/.6 km off Dubrovnik that boasts a botanical garden, the remains of a Benedictine monastery, and a nude beach (sorry friends, no pics but let’s just say it did not disappoint...)
Since my dad and brother are pretty outdoorsy and I love being on (or in) the water, we decided to take a private kayak excursion to the lush island. This was such a great decision and I highly recommend it to you!
Our kayaking guide was Ivica Gluncic, who worked as a freelance guide for Leonidas travel - I cannot recommend either of them enough! We kayaked to the island, about 40 mins there. Thanks to me getting us a late start (sorry again) we only had about an hour on the island. Grab a bite at Lacroma snack bar alongside a dozen nosy bees (bring repellent!) and then snap some pics right off the rocky beach overlooking Dubrovnik. Lokrum Island is also known to be the home of plenty of peacocks and bunny rabbits!
If you visit Lokrum Island, definitely plan for more time here - I’d recommend at least 3 hours! (just don’t plan on spending the night - you’re not allowed). We didn't stay longer as we had to kayak back and catch a car further north to a restaurant I had spotted on Tripadvisor. It ticked all the boxes - it was simply stunning, needed a private speedboat to access, and served the freshest fish. Did I mention the pics we would get? That was one boat not to miss!
The restaurant was called Bowa, and it was beyond perfect. Seriously - truly an experience. Brsečine Port is where you meet the private Bowa speedboat that takes you directly to the beachfront restaurant nestled beneath a cliff. Its about a 10-minute ride from the post to the restaurant, where I recommend the tuna steak and grilled veggies - simply put, the best tuna I'd ever eaten. Don’t forget your camera - I got some of my favorite shots from the trip here (of course, it helps that my brother is a photographer :-D
After our Bowa experience, we headed back to Dubrovnik to see the city with our private guide, Vesna, also from Leonidas. I always recommend a private or small group guide so that you can go at your own pace for a more tailored experience - especially when you’re short on time in a destination!
Vesna met us at the base of the cable car with our tickets already in-hand, 150 Kunas ($23 USD, 20 Euros). Seems kinda expensive for a 5-minute ride each way, but the view really is spectacular. I think at dusk would have been even more unique! We took the cable car back down and she then showed us around the Old Town. I'm not into history so I just looked around - just keepin it real for you guys - but here are some pics of what we saw. I will say this - the Old Town had me in awe of how incredibly ancient, rich and detailed it is:
Day 3, Thursday: Beach Hour and Croatian Cuisine Tour
Well its no surprise to anyone that knows me knows that I love two things: the beach, and to eat. But, as beautiful as a coastal town Dubrovnik is, there are few beaches due to the rocky coast and steep cliffs. After dropping my dad and brother off for their private Segway tour (that they loved btw), our driver, Mato, helped me find a beach to catch some rays at. Banje Beach Club is really close but can be packed - so we headed up the coast to find a hotel resort where I could get a chair and umbrella for a few hours.
I think this is where advance planning on my end would have been better - by the time I got on my little beach chair, it was 11:30am and I had just over an hour there. Sad face! I recommend heading out way earlier if you can and have a solid plan to where you’re going - even if you have to pay for a chair at a hotel resort.
After my hour of sun-soaking (I’m leaving out the name of the hotel I “crashed” so no one gets in trouble - it was meant for hotel guests only but I smiled nicely and tipped well), it was time to head back to the city for my other favorite activity - eating! We love to eat while we are traveling and Sam set us up to do a food tour with Vesna. I HIGHLY recommend it - even if you have allergies. My dad is gluten-free and everyone was very accommodating to his restriction!
Walking food tour overview if you want to recreate it yourself:
Sporki makaruli (translates to “dirty pasta”) at Pizzeria Skalin, Brsalje 10, Dubrovnik. The pasta was excellent - however the grilled veggies (with just olive oil and sea salt) were the best I have EVER had. Just wow.
Wine tasting at D’vino Wine Bar, Palmotićeva 4a - Dubrovnik Old Town. I am not a huge wine drinker (I like the sweet stuff) but this was still a nice stop and the sommelier was a doll. Croatia actually has a HUGE wine industry that we never knew about! Highly recommended if you like wine.
Tapas at Zuzori, 1 Ulica Cvijete Zuzoric - Dubrovnik Old Town. We had Sea bass carpaccio, and a croquette with Adriatic chorizo. It was beyond phenomenal!
Rooster and barley risotto at Restaurant Kopun (Michelin Star) - Poljana Rudera Boskovica 7 - Dubrovnik Old Town. Bonus: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, its right at the top of the Jesuit Staircase that the infamous Season 5 “Walk of Shame” scene took place on. Here we had the Kopun of course (one of Croatia’s national dishes - the rooster is made with orange and apricot marmalade!).
Ice cream at Dolce Vita - Nalješkovićeva ulica 1A - Dubrovnik Old Town. Dozens of guide books will tell you this is the best ice cream in Dubrovnik - and they aren’t lying.
At this point we were beyond stuffed. But we had one more special stop to go for the crème de la crème of Croatian cuisine. We were going to Konoba Dubrava and we needed to call 3 hours in advance because that’s how long Peka, a signature Croatian dish takes to prepare. My dad had heard about Peka from a friend who spent time in Croatia. She wouldn’t stop raving about it, and who am I to say no to this mysterious dish?
So after a little siesta/digestion (this wasn’t part of our tour with Vesna, although she did kindly make the reservations for us!), we were on our way up the hill to Knoba Dubrava. Peka is a huge metal dish that has a dome-shaped lid. Inside, meat and potatoes along with herbs, olive oil (and magic, if you ask me) - bake for 2-3 hours under the iron bell (becoming the meal also called “peka”), and the potatoes will be unlike anything you have ever eaten - seriously, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I was beyond stuffed but kept eating because it was THAT GOOD.
Satisfied, we reluctantly headed home to our Airbnb to pack and head back to the States the next morning.
So how did the “surprise” tour company do this time around, were we happy booking our entire trip through them? Did they make right what happened last year? Well nothing can quite reverse it 100% - however, this trip went off seamlessly, Sam was there for us at every turn (and all of my tardinesses!) and I would definitely recommend them for others now, after they handled this trip so well. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? Thanks guys!! :)
Tell me below - is Croatia on your bucket list?