Summer On The Adriatic – How To Experience The Best Of Croatia & Montenegro
After a long and unintended hiatus from European travel, I jumped at the opportunity to take an educational tour through Croatia and Montenegro in June of 2021. For as long as I can recall, I have dreamt of visiting this slice of Dalmatia which is known for its sparkling waters, breathtaking mountain vistas, unique history, rich culinary traditions and viniculture.
While the Dalmatian Coast can be enjoyed throughout the year, the summer months – from June through September – are the best time to explore its many historical island towns, ideally by boat.
Please bear in mind, travel advisors tend to travel hard and fast – from the number of destinations & hotels we visit, to the tours, activities and food consumed – I don’t recommend this pace of travel to my clients. Our trip was only 9 days, but for this specific itinerary, I’d recommend 14 days to maximize your level of immersion, enjoyment and relaxation.
Illuminated by the piercing blue Adriatic and awash in Limestone and terracotta, vibrant Split is the perfect starting point for any Southern Croatian itinerary, and an excellent gateway to your island hopping adventure. Wander through its narrow cobbled streets in the Veli Varos neighborhood and explore Diocletian’s Palace – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Move yourself up the stairs of Marjan Hill to reward yourself with jaw-dropping city and seascape views. And when you are ready to hone the Croatian art of doing nothing, ‘fjaka’, chill at one of its seaside cafes along the Riva Promenade for a glass of wine and plate of oysters.
Pro tip: Nature lovers must add on an additional day for an excursion to the stunningly beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park – located 2.5 hours outside of Split.
Where to Stay & Eat
Eat the fresh catch at Nostromo, just across from the fish market. Stay at the lovely boutique heritage hotel Judita Palace or within the palace walls at Vestibule Palace. To enjoy seaside views in a quiet neighborhood just outside of old town, stay at the newly opened, ultra-modern Briig Hotel.
Suggested Length of Stay: 2-3 nights
Often referred to as Croatia’s sunniest island, Hvar is home to lively Hvar Town – known for its glamorous yacht-filled port that draws up to 20,000 visitors a day during high season, yet there is so much more to explore. Mountainous Hvar Island is a mecca for hikers, and gourmands will appreciate that its rolling vistas and seaside climate fashion it to be an ideal wine & olive oil making region. From day beach clubs and private mountaintop picnics, to discovering your new favorite Croatian varietal, holiday dreams really do come true on Hvar.
Pro tip: Charter your vessel of choice for a day of exploring the many island gems surrounding Hvar – Brac, Vis, Korcula and the Paklinski islands.
Where to Stay & Eat
Overlooking the marina and once the private home of Empress Elizabeth, Hotel Palace Elisabeth embodies 5 star luxury and mediterranean grandeur. For those with a 4 star budget, sea-facing Hotel Adriana also enjoys stunning marina views. The newly opened luxury hotel Maslina, a Relais & Chateux property, is just 15 minutes outside of Hvar town and offers a full service spa, larger villa accommodations and a lovely respite from the revelry.
For waterfront fine dining, reserve your table at Gariful. Grab a local snack at Menego, global cuisine at Giaxa, or take a boat to experience the one-of-a-kind Toto’s and enjoy traditional Croatian cooking. Do not miss the opportunity to try Croatian comfort food- Peka- a dish that includes roasted meat, veggies and potatoes.
Suggested Length of Stay: 3-4 nights
THE PELJESAC PENINSULA- Orebic & Ston
The slim fingerlike Peljesac Peninsula is a must-visit for oyster & wine lovers. On one end is Orebic, a small and idyllic seaside town that sits on the tip of this peninsula which is a prime wine growing region and the perfect spot to taste the famous Croatian white varietal Plavac Mali. About an hour south, sits the once fortified village of Mali Ston and its turquoise hued bay & shellfish farms. Here you can hop on boat and indulge in oysters & mussels plucked directly from its salty waters.
Where to stay & eat
Indulge yourself with stay at the ultra ornate 5 star Villa Korta Katerina, an 8 suite villa and winery where you can fine dine alfresco and taste throughout their unforgettable selection of rosé wines. Dine harborside on just harvested shellfish while overlooking the Mali Ston Bay at Bota Sare.
Suggested Length of Stay: 1-2 nights
When first witnessing this city of red tiled roofs and walls which were erected as early as the 11th century to protect it from war and epidemic, you’ll either feel like you’ve entered a living museum or a movie set. Referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” for good reason, any first time visit to Croatia must include several days in Dubrovnik. Get up early to beat the heat and crowds and take a leisurely walk along the walls for a birds-eye view of UNESCO protected Old Town, then kayak along the Bay of Dubrovnik in the afternoon. Game of Thrones fans take note: much of the show was filmed in Dubrovnik (and greater Croatia as well) so schedule your GOT tour to discover where. Take a foodie tour to experience the best of Croatian food & wine and snag a seat at ‘Buza’ (a cliffside bar) to enjoy a cold drink with the Adriatic sunset.
Pro tip: If you can, travel to Dubrovnik by boat so you can catch your first views of this amazing city from its harbor.
Where to stay & eat
For views of the walled city, stay at the contemporary Hotel Excelsior – the best option for families – or a little further astride at the the iconic white washed Villa Dubrovnik – for 5 star service and incredible gastronomy. The recently renovated Hotel Bellevue is another solid 5 star option.
Fine dine alfresco at Nautika for unrivaled views of the walls illuminated at night or Michelin starred 360 set within the walls and overlooking the harbor. Casual but delicious options include family owned and operated seafood spot Kamenice, Zuzori for freshly sourced local organic ingredients and Gradaska Kavana for a light lunch and great people watching. Break up your mid-city tour with an hour at D’vino to nosh on Croatian cheese & charcuterie and to taste through their list of 90+ labels -many of which are Croatian.
Suggested Length of Stay: 3-5 nights
Small but mighty, some say this this undiscovered Balkan gem of a country just south of Croatia may be destined to become the next French Riviera. With its mountainous backdrop and alluring villages around every turn, a boat ride through the exquisite Bay of Kotor may bring you to tears. Nature lovers and hikers will appreciate its varied terrain and history buffs will love unpacking the stories of villages like Perast and Kotor. With one small road winding its way down the coast, the nautically inclined are best suited to explore the stunning Montenegrin coastline. Where else can you find beach clubs, ancient monasteries, multiple national parks and fine wine all in one place?
Pro tip: If you have only 7 nights, pair Dubrovnik with Montenegro. They are only one hour apart by car but if you can, charter a boat in Dubrovnik and head to Montenegro that way.
Where to stay & eat
Located in the charming Mediterranean-styled village of Portonovi, with a sandy beach, 5 pools, 3 restaurants and a Chenot spa, the newly opened One & Only Portonovi is a truly splurge worthy luxury resort experience. For those looking for smaller boutique setting, the Forza group has two lovely properties located right outside of Kotor- Forza Mare & Forza Terra.
Vinophiles should not miss a visit to Savina Winery for wine tasting, lunch and breathtaking views. Break up a day of sailing Boka Bay with a lunch or dinner at the ever elegant seafood restaurant Forza Mare. Grab a cabana & some sashimi and party with the other jet setters at One & Only’s Tapasake – their beautiful beachfront indoor/outdoor Japanese restaurant.
Suggested Length of Stay– 3-5 nights
Are you ready to journey to the Adriatic? Contact Jen Terra Travels to design your summer 2022 trip to Croatia & Montenegro.