August 21st, 2017

Three Nights in Dubrovnik with a Mostar Day Trip

Last week I boarded yet another ferry to travel to Dubrovnik. I’d intended for this to be the last city on my island hop, but since I detoured home and then to Tisno, it was a completely separate trip—so a 7 AM, six hour ferry ride, it was. (Technically the ferry is only supposed to take four and a half hours, but it was massively delayed on the way there and back, so I don’t buy it. If you’re hoping to go straight from the ferry to the airport, plan accordingly.)

I was a little tired after the back and forth, and I might have skipped Dubrovnik entirely, but a new friend on the trip decided to join me for the first night. She provided exactly the motivation I needed to get my butt out of bed and to the ferry dock. 

Day 1

Our adventure got off to a late start—not only was the ferry slow, but the Airbnb host left us sitting at a cafe for over an hour. Luckily, I’d packed a lunch, so we ate chips and shared a peanut butter sandwich while kicking things off with a couple beers, which we regretted as soon as we saw how many steps were involved in reaching the apartment. Once we made it up there, though, we realized the view was more than worth it.

After Instagramming our fill from the windows, we walked down into the old city. Walking in the gates, you truly do feel like you’re entering an ancient castle. We were instantly charmed. 

Not quite satiated from half of a sandwich, we proceeded to snack our way through town, starting with a 10% off happy hour pizza, followed by iced coffees. Thus fortified, we were able to scout an actual destination, D’Vino Wine Bar. We sat on stools in an adorable alley and each had a wine flight, while sharing an exceptional cheese plate with goat cheese and fresh ginger. 

Then with just a couple hours until dinner, we had to work up our appetites again, so we decided to walk the city walls. The views were fantastic, and while the walk had a few (a lot) more steps than we’d anticipated, it wound up being my favorite Dubrovnik activity. It’s crowded no matter when you go, but aim for early in the morning or, like we did, an hour before closing when you get the golden hour light. 

By the time we completed the circuit, it was nearly time for dinner at Nautika. The restaurant overlooks the water and the city walls, and everything—the views, the service, the food—was delightful. We started with scallops covered in flakes of black truffle, then had sea bass and tuna. The portions are relatively small, but the flavors are excellent. With dessert, we tried two of their signature cocktails. Our waiter served my whiskey-based drink in a teapot, and I was very. very. happy. 

We turned in early, but the beach club down the hill, Banje, had the music going, so we opened the windows and felt like we had the best of both worlds, listening and lying in bed.

Day 2

We had a leisurely breakfast on a patio in the old city (just pick one; they’re very similar), and then we powered up the steps to get to the cable car. The wait was a little long and a lot hot, but eventually we made it up the mountain to take in the view:

If you only have time for one touristy activity, I’d pick the walls over the cable car, though both were fun. I said goodbye to my travel companion, as she decided to Uber to the ferry from the top of the hill, and I went back down the way I came.

By then it was mid-afternoon, and I didn’t have quite enough time to visit the island of Lokrum (pictured above) or head to the beach, so I finished exploring all the twists of the old city. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan (I’m not), there’s a lot to see—I accidentally settled in for a short break on what I thought were just some picturesque steps and then ran away after the fifth group walked by filming themselves yelling, “SHAME, SHAME.” Ugh.

Even though it’s incredibly touristy, I decided to check out Buza Bar, basically built into the cliff. It’s ridiculously crowded, but the ocean views are lovely. I then had an early dinner at Kopun and ate rooster (capon) prepared in the traditional way, which I highly recommend.

I had to get up early the next morning, so I headed home and spent the evening watching the sun set from my apartment’s window. My Airbnb called itself “Apartment Perfect View,” a surprisingly honest description. 

 

Day 3

On my last day, I took a day trip, booked through Viator, to Mostar, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar—as you can tell from the name—is famous for Stari Most (old bridge). Originally built in the 16th century, the bridge was completely destroyed in the war in 1993 and reconstructed in 2004 with the help of global donations. We arrived just in time to see a member of the Mostar Diving Club jump off the bridge, a leap they make a few times a day. 

Beyond the bridge and the bazaar, there isn’t too much else to see in Mostar, but I appreciated learning a bit more about the history of the region on the guided tour. It made me realize just how little I know—I had no idea the country was divided into Bosniaks (generally Muslim), Serbs (Orthodox), and Croats (Catholic) and that the presidency is comprised of one person from each of these groups, who fill a rotating chair position.

Though Mostar was full of tourists, the country is in the early stages of tourism. You can still see some of the ruins from the war around town, and our guide was generally pessimistic about their recovery. I bought a few books to help me better understand, but I’m glad I was able to visit in person to gain some context. And I love these guided tours for solo travelers; it would have been difficult to replicate this experience on my own.

On the way back to Dubrovnik, we stopped at Kravice Falls—not quite as beautiful as Krka, but very pretty. The description of the tour unfortunately failed to mention this, so I didn’t think to bring a swimsuit, but I had a nice sit on the riverbank.

We returned in the early evening, and I grabbed a quick pasta dinner before watching the sun set once more and packing up my things for the long and early ferry ride back to Split.

 

Dubrovnik is one of those places that’s incredibly touristy but still manages to hold onto its appeal. I’d recommend it over Split, should you be deciding how to spend your time; while Split is technically larger, Dubrovnik’s old city is much more impressive. If you’ve been, let me know what you think in the comments. And check out my Instagram for more photos of these magical places.