Last year in May I traveled to Croatia with one of my best friends. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months (yay for international friendships) and decided that a girls trip was in order. So
we I started planning. (I’m a huge planner. You’ll see.) And now I’ve decided to share my super organized travel guide to the Dalmatian Coast.
We knew we wanted to travel somewhere cheap but different. That meant we had to stay in Europe and yet find a place none of us had yet visited. Because we’ve both been fortunate enough to have traveled a bit, that made it a little trickier to choose a destination. Luckily, though, none of us had visited Croatia yet. And that turned out to be the perfect place to explore.
We had just 7 days so we needed to plan our itinerary and make the most of our short time in the country. Croatia has plenty to offer: the vibrant capital of Zagreb, the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park, the gorgeous islands, and, of course, the dreamy Dalmatian Coast. I knew I really wanted to visit Dubrovnik so we planned our trip around that. In the end, we wound up exploring (almost all of) the Dalmatian Coast during our one week in Croatia. Here’s how we did it:
DAYS 1 + 2: ZADAR
We were coming from different places so I arrived first, at night unfortunately. I had booked a dorm room at Old Town Hostel for the first night and a private twin room for the two of us for the following night. The host was SUPER nice though and offered me the private room for the first night too – no extra charge needed! Also, her name was Ines. (Apparently it’s a pretty common name in Croatia too? Who knew!).
As soon as the BFF arrived the next day, we got ready and headed into town. Zadar is a lovely town and one day was plenty of time to explore all of its major sites. Our hostel was very well located (right in the heart of the old town) which made it really easy to explore everything on foot.
- The waterfront: Zadar is perched on the Adriatic Sea and a large part of the old town is located right on its shores. The waterfront is just a charming place to enjoy a nice walk and take some photos. The BFF and I took the opportunity to catch up on all of our latest adventures and gossip over some delicious ice cream. We took some photos, got a feel for Zadar’s size and atmosphere and then ventured into the heart of the old town.
- St. Anastasia Bell Tower: The tower is located right on the main square in the old town. You can climb up the tower bell to get a sweeping view of the city. It gives a really cool perspective of the city’s ancient ruins.
- Sea Organ: This was one of my favorite places in Zadar! Along the shore and a little north from the main square in the city’s old town, we found what the locals refer to as the “singing steps”. They’re a number of steps that produce a beautiful melody as the waves gently beat against them. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard!
- Sun Salutation: Another of my favorites in Zadar. Just next to the singing steps, the floor is covered in a really cool panel that creates a beautiful reflection of the sun as it sets on the Adriatic Sea. It’s a really cool place to just hang out or people-watch.
DAY 3: DUBROVNIK
On Day 3 we woke up super early to catch a 6-hour bus to Dubrovnik. Did you know you drive through Bosnia Herzegovina on the way from Zadar to Dubrovnik? Seriously! ! We entered and then exited the country to get there. And because Bosnia Herzegovina isn’t part of the European Union (unlike Croatia), we were lucky we remembered to bring along our passports! We had to hand them in at two border checkpoints.
We got settled at House Tereza, a cute appartment lost somewhere in the narrow cobbled alleys of old Dubrovnik. After the drizzle stopped, we headed out to discover the city. Most historical sites and monuments were closed, so we decided to walk through the streets looking for a nice place to enjoy the evening. We were wandering aimlessly when we came across a really unique sign on the city’s walls that said: Cold drinks with the most beautiful view →. We, of course, followed it and were not disappointed:
Our wild night ended at an Irish pub. Because yes.
DAY 4: DUBROVNIK
After a delicious brunch on Stradun (Dubrovnik’s main street), we headed out for a typical day of sightseeing. We hit up all the major tourist spots and ended the evening eating some delicious mussels and enjoying local wine at Poliksar.
- City Walls: The ancient city walls that embrace the old town of Dubrovnik are open to the public. For a small entrance fee, you can walk along them all around the city (or climb down whenever you want). It took us longer than expected but it really helped us get a sense for the size and feel of the whole city!
- Cable Car: There’s a cable car that leaves from the old city and takes you up to a viewing point and then back. A return ticket can get a bit pricey so you can opt for trekking up or down the hill. We opted to take the cable car both ways and it was definitely worth the experience. The postcard view of Dubrovnik from the top is simply stunning!
- The maze of cobbled streets: What I loved most about Dubrovnik is that you can spend hours and days wandering through its narrow alleyways and you always seem to find something new. Sure, there are tons of tourists everywhere (blame it on Game of Thrones) but a quiet spot away from the crowds isn’t hard to find. If you just know how to look for it.
DAY 5: SPLIT
After so many days of sightseeing, it was time for a little break. So we headed to laidback Split on Day 5 of our trip (driving through Bosnia Herzegovina yet again). We stayed at Beach City Pearl Apartments close to Bačvice beach but unfortunately the night scene (for which the beach is famously known) was still pretty
We took the day to relax, do some food shopping and walk leisurely by the sea as we watched the sunset.
DAY 6: SPLIT
Day 6 was all about sightseeing again. We hit up all of Split’s major spots and then caught a ferry to our final destination: Hvar.
- The Diocletian Palace: The old city of Split is filled with Roman ruins but its most interesting site is the Diocletian Palace. Although the palace itself ended up being destroyed and can no longer be visited, its basement levels are open to the public. It sounds really boring to visit a palace’s underground levels but this was actually really fun. The site is huge and contains some interesting artifacts as well.
- St. Dominus Cathedral and Bell Tower: This was a pretty cool place to visit as well. The cathedral’s interior is very opulent with golden ornaments and velvet everything. The bell tower is very, very high (higher than Zadar’s) and it has tons of glassless windows which made for
a frightningan interesting climb.
DAY 7: HVAR
Finally, on our last day, we were really going to relax and do (almost) nothing. We stayed at Hvar Out Hostel. I didn’t really like our room (it wasn’t particularly clean) but it was super close to the harbor. And the host was really fun and arranged a night out for all the guests. So in the end it wasn’t such a bad choice.
Hvar is usually known for its huge (and very posh) party scene in the summer. Its harbor is usually lined with glamorous yachts and Prince Harry apparently vacations here a bunch as well. Luckily, we were traveling in the off season so we got to see the quieter side of Hvar. And we loved it.
- Free Walking Tour: I’m not sure if this is a regular thing in Hvar, but when we were there the tourism office informed us that a free walking tour would be taking place at 6pm departing from the harbor. We went along, of course, and got to know all about Hvar’s long history as a tourism spot (initially wellness tourism) and about how its social class clashes shaped the city today.
- Hvar Fortress: The trek up there is long but not strenuous. The view is gorgeous.
DAY 8: HVAR-SPLIT-ZADAR
Our last day was a bit of a bummer but we had to make it back to Zadar one way or another. We woke up early to take the 6am ferry to Split and then took the 11am bus from there back to Zadar to catch our flights home.
It was a sad day, as it always is when you’re leaving a lovely place behind. But you haven’t seen the last of me yet Croatia.
Have you visited Croatia? What part of the country did you see?