The final leg of our Balkan summer adventure had us based out of Dubrovnik for a week. Our trip up to this point was nothing short of phenomenal, with visits to Zagreb, Lake Bled, Plitvice Lakes, Split, and Hvar. Like many, my fascination with Dubrovnik started with Game of Thrones, and only intensified as I continued with my research. Nestled along the stunning Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik stands as a living testament to centuries of captivating history. From its medieval origins as the Republic of Ragusa to its resilient spirit during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, this enchanting city has withstood the test of time.
After arriving in Dubrovnik via the ferry from Hvar, we checked into our hotel and got settled. We stayed at Hotel Lero, which is a little outside of old town. The hotel was close to markets and restaurants, and was only a couple euros to ride to old town via UBER. It also had a fantastic breakfast buffet and a pool for my son. After dropping off our bags, we made our way to Stradun. Stradun is the limestone-paved main street of Dubrovnik, serving as the vibrant artery of the city. Lined with charming shops, bustling cafes, and centuries-old architecture, Stradun invites visitors to stroll through a captivating tapestry of both medieval and Baroque influences. We only spent a short while along Stradun before making our way up to the walls of old town.
Embarking on the ancient walls of Old Town Dubrovnik unveils a breathtaking panorama of terracotta rooftops, the azure Adriatic Sea, and the rugged Dalmatian coastline. The well-preserved medieval fortifications, spanning almost 2 kilometers, offer an immersive journey through centuries of history as you walk the same paths that once guarded this maritime republic. Gazing over the iconic red-tiled roofs, you’ll catch glimpses of architectural wonders, such as the imposing Fort Lovrijenac and the renowned Stradun below. The walk not only provides a captivating perspective of Dubrovnik’s past but also immerses you in the city’s timeless beauty and the echoes of bygone eras.
The weather was perfect for the entirety of our time in Dubrovnik. A little warm and humid later in the days, but sunny and free from rain throughout. It was easy to stay cool and hydrated with abundant cafes and ice cream shops nestled throughout the old town.
After a few days in Dubrovnik, we rented a car and took a day trip to Montenegro. Nestled on the shores of the Bay of Kotor, the quaint town of Perast was our first stop along the day trip. Perast is a hidden gem that exudes charm and historical richness. With its well-preserved Baroque architecture and a backdrop of towering mountains, Perast offers a picturesque escape for those seeking a taste of Adriatic beauty. The town is renowned for its medieval stone houses and the intriguing array of islands just off its coast, most notably the iconic Our Lady of the Rocks. As you wander through the cobblestone streets, Perast beckons with a captivating blend of natural splendor and cultural heritage, making it a must-visit destination for those enchanted by the Adriatic’s allure.
Our second stop on our Montenegro day trip was to the town of Kotor. The fortified town of Kotor is a living testament to centuries of rich history and architectural marvels. Encircled by ancient walls that climb the surrounding hills, Kotor’s UNESCO-listed Old Town invites visitors to wander through narrow cobblestone streets, discovering hidden squares and well-preserved medieval buildings. The imposing Kotor Cathedral, with its Romanesque and Gothic elements, stands as a prominent landmark amidst the town’s atmospheric landscape. As you ascend the city walls, breathtaking vistas of the bay and surrounding mountains unfold, offering a glimpse into the timeless allure of this Adriatic jewel.
Cats hold a special place in the heart of Kotor, Montenegro, as they gracefully roam its ancient streets, adding a touch of charm to the city’s historic ambiance. Acting as unofficial guardians of Kotor’s heritage, these feline residents are believed to bring good luck and have become symbolic of the town’s resilience and enduring spirit. Beyond their role as endearing companions, cats in Kotor contribute to the unique cultural fabric, embodying a living connection to the city’s past and fostering a sense of community among locals and visitors alike.
Despite the muggy air and high humidty, we wanted to hike up to Kotor’s fortress walls. This hike is an a tough one that promises panoramic views of the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountains. As you ascend the well-worn stone path, each step unveils a breathtaking vista, making the hike a rewarding experience that captures the natural beauty and historical allure of this Montenegrin gem.
When we returned from our day trip to Montenegro, we felt like we needed a day to just chill and relax. That feeling lasted for only a short while though, and we instead decided to take a kayaking tour around the walls of the old town. Kayaking around the Old Town of Dubrovnik is an amazing adventure, offering a unique perspective of the city’s ancient walls and coastal splendor. Paddling through the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, kayakers are treated to unobstructed views of Dubrovnik’s iconic architecture, including the medieval fortifications and terracotta-topped buildings. This immersive experience not only provides a refreshing way to explore the city but also allows for a tranquil connection with the maritime history and natural beauty that have shaped Dubrovnik’s identity.
After our relaxing day kayaking and walking around Dubrovnik, we rented another car with our sites set on the Bosnian city of Mostar. Mostar epitomizes a captivating blend of diverse cultures and rich history, with its iconic Stari Most bridge serving as a symbol of unity. Nestled along the Neretva River, the city showcases a harmonious fusion of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav influences in its architecture and traditions.
One of the highlights of mostar was watching the bridge jumpers! Bridge jumping in Mostar is an exhilarating tradition where daredevils leap off the iconic Stari Most, plunging into the emerald waters of the Neretva River. This heart-pounding activity, known as “mostari,” has become a symbol of courage and skill, attracting both locals and adventurous visitors who seek the adrenaline rush of diving from the historic bridge.
After watching a few people leap from the Stari Most bridge, we wandered through the cobbled streets of the Old Bazaar and did a little shopping. It was a bit of a tourist trap, but still showcased some local artisans and craftspeople that we couldn’t help but patronize.
After a little shopping we were ready for lunch and found a spot right along the river. I tucked into a plate of delicious Bosnian sausages, and can honestly say, it was one of the tastiest meals of the trip for me. It was just after lunch that we heard the call to prayer, which is quite the sight and sound.
On our drive back to Dubrovnik from Mostar, we stopped by a waterfall to do a little swimming and cool down. Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia are a natural wonder, cascading over a horseshoe-shaped limestone cliff into a stunning emerald-green lake. Surrounded by lush greenery and towering cliffs, the waterfalls create a picturesque oasis, inviting visitors to revel in the beauty of this hidden gem. The tranquil ambiance, coupled with the refreshing plunge pools, makes Kravice a perfect retreat for those seeking a peaceful escape in the heart of Bosnia’s captivating landscapes.
After our day trip to Mostar, we made our way back to Dubrovnik and prepared to leave the beautiful Balkans. After two weeks of travel, our journey was coming to an end. Luckily, we had a one day layover planned in Dublin before we had to return home. My mom’s side of the family is as close to 100% Irish, and one of these days I’ll have to take an extended trip through the country. For this journey, a one day walking tour of Dublin will have to suffice. Until next time!