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Croatia + Bosnia + Montenegro

16 Day Roadtrip Itinerary:

1. Zagreb, Croatia

2. Motovun, Croatia

3. Rovinj, Croatia

4. Pula, Croatia

5. Plitvice National Park

6. Zadar, Croatia

7. Trogir, Croatia

8. Split, Croatia

9. Mostar, Bosnia

10. Kotor, Montenegro

11. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro: Destination #10 Our driving to Kotor, Montenegro was rainy, foggy, steep and AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL! We had a quick passport stamping at the smallest mountainside border crossing between Bosnia and Montenegro and within 90 minutes the roads were winding and offered views like these: Fun fact: Some call the Bay of Kotor the southern-mostContinue reading “Kotor, Montenegro”

Mostar, Bosnia

Mostar, Bosnia: Destination #9 Mostar is located on the Neretva River and is named after the bridge keepers who guarded the Stari Most Bridge (Old Bridge) in the medieval times. We made a day trip to Mostar after leaving Split and on the way to Kotor, Montenegro! Traveling distance from other nearby cities: Split, CroatiaContinue reading “Mostar, Bosnia”

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia: Destination #8 Home of Diocletian’s Palace, Spilt is one of Croatia’s most famous destinations. Located along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea less than 30 minutes from Trogir, Split is the largest city in the region of Dalmatia and the second largest city in Croatia (behind #1 Zagreb). After getting settled inContinue reading “Split, Croatia”

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro: Destination #10

Our driving to Kotor, Montenegro was rainy, foggy, steep and AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL!

We had a quick passport stamping at the smallest mountainside border crossing between Bosnia and Montenegro and within 90 minutes the roads were winding and offered views like these:

Photo taken from the car window

Fun fact: Some call the Bay of Kotor the southern-most ‘fjord’ in Europe, but this is incorrect as these mountains were not carved by glaciers.

Instead, Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor is a ‘ria’, a submerged river canyon, with a stunning backdrop of steep black cliffs that plummet to a narrow inlet of the Adriatic Sea.

While driving in, the views of ‘Our Lady On The Rocks’ Church were incredible (more on this later when we visited on our last day in Montenegro {or skip to page 2!}.

After a long day trip in Bosnia, we finally got into our rental around sunset and enjoyed some of the homemade wine left by the host on the balcony. 🍷

Kotor apartment balcony views 😍
Balcony views 😍

Nothing like a cruise ship to give some depth perspective of these magnificent black mountains!

Our first night in Kotor included dinner at ‘Ladovina’ Restaurant & Bar. After a long day of traveling through 3 countries/ 2 border crossings, we celebrated with a charcuterie board + catches of the day + pasta + local beer. 🍻


Our first morning in Kotor, we set out to explore the old town including the high number of well-maintained Orthodox and Catholic churches— both of which are evidence of the city’s past.

The old city of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built in the Venetian period and was added as a UNESCO’s world heritage site in 2017.

The overwhelming majority of Montenegrins are Eastern Orthodox Christians, yet St. Tryphon Catholic Cathedral remains a strong symbol in the city center.

Built in 1166, the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon is one of very few Roman Catholic Churches in Montenegro and is quite the site to see with the vertical black mountains in the background.

St. Tryphon Cathedral

Nearby on the square Piazza Greca in Kotor, is the church of Sveti Luka (St. Luke) which has traits of both Roman and Byzantine architecture.

Church of St. Luke

St Luke’s Church speaks volumes about the history of Croat-Serb relations in Kotor and is a testimony about the harmonious co-existence of Catholic and Orthodox people.

Originally constructed as a Catholic church in 1195, the church today is significant because of the fact that it has two altars, a Catholic and a Serbian Orthodox one, with each faith taking turns to hold services here.

The Catholic Church has since gifted it to the Orthodox Church as a gesture of coexistence. ❤️ ☮️

Fragments of 12th century frescos are still visible in the church with surrounding Romanesque and Byzantine elements.

St. Nicolas Church

Located on the northern part of the old town, St. Nicolas is one of the most beautiful and important Serbian Orthodox Church in Kotor.

The main facade has two bell towers with black domes topped with golden crosses that were gifts from Russia. On the second floor the Serbian flag hangs just above the entrance with a marvelous mosaic.

Built in 1909, St. Nicolas is relatively one of the ‘newer’ churches in Kotor.

St. Nicolas interior

St. Claire‘s Church (below) is also a hidden gem and is adjoined to the Franciscan Monastery and dates to the 18th century.


For the next several hours, we walked the cobblestone alleyways and soaked up all of the architecture and history.

The historic stone houses with green shutters and orange tiled roofs have been well-preserved within the city walls.

Peeking into the narrow stores and window shopping for souvenirs and Christmas ornaments provided a day well spent in Kotor!

😍

Interestingly, there were cats EVERYWHERE in Kotor… If you love cats, you will especially love Kotor! 🐈


After a long day exploring the old city of Kotor, Jeff decided to spend a few hours climbing the ancient city walls to St. John’s Fortress in the rain. Meanwhile, I stayed home on the balcony and absorbed these views:

Balcony views 😍

Looking directly to the left, St. John’s Fortress and the Ladder of Kotor are also visible from the balcony (as seen below).

Balcony view of Kotor city walls

During the day, the wall and St. John’s Fortress is camouflaged with the landscape of the black mountains.

At night, the wall is completely lit up, fully revealing how magnificent of a fortification it really is.

With over 70 switchbacks on a trail with long history, here are Jeff’s phenomenal views of the Bay of Kotor after climbing ~940 meters on Ladder of Kotor, then back down nearly ~1,400 steps to town.

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO >> SKIP TO 2:20 AND 3:58 AND 5:35 FOR SOME OF THE BEST VIEWS OF THE BAY OF KOTOR!

Kotor, Montenegro- San Giovani Castle Hike via Ladder of Kotor

After a day exploring Kotor, we got cleaned up for our dinner reservation at ‘Galion’ Restaurant.

This was a recommendation I found in the Rick Steeves book and I am very glad we stopped here!

Even in the rain, this restaurant offered an incredible view of the Bay of Kotor and the food was delicious!

Galion restaurant views
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

If ever near the Bay of Kotor, we would definitely recommend a dinner at Galion!


Our booking.com rental in Kotor was also perfect for our stay— It included a garage, washing machine, premium coffee maker, and wonderful balcony views (even in rainy/foggy conditions) 😍

Morning views from bed 😍
Virtual tour

Link for Apartments Magic Sea View:

http://www.booking.com/Share-2N4Rwr

I must admit—watching a cruise ship do a sharp 180* turn in the middle of the narrow ‘ria’ from your balcony is very satisfying to witness every night.


The next day we headed to ‘Our Lady on the Rocks’ Catholic Church floating on an artificial island in Montenegro– Check out page 2 for details!

Mostar, Bosnia

Mostar, Bosnia: Destination #9

Mostar is located on the Neretva River and is named after the bridge keepers who guarded the Stari Most Bridge (Old Bridge) in the medieval times.

We made a day trip to Mostar after leaving Split and on the way to Kotor, Montenegro!

Traveling distance from other nearby cities:

  • Split, Croatia (2 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia (2 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Kotor, Montenegro (3 hours)
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia (2 hours)

When Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, Croatia was split into two, leaving 12 miles of coastline (known as the Neum Corridor) to Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Peljesac Bridge will eventually connect Croatia so that going through Bosnia is not necessary; however, the bridge has not been completed.

As of 2020, in order to get to Dubrovnik you HAVE TO change borders anyways so you might as well travel a little further inland to Mostar– you will be happy you did 🙂

Mostar, Bosnia is a great place to stay for the night or just to visit for a day trip, even in the rain!

Stari Most Bridge

The original Stari Most Bridge was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks.

Construction of the bridge was initially complete in 1566 and is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architectural achievement in the Ottoman controlled Balkans.

Stari Most Bridge

During the armed conflict in the Bosnian War in the 1990s, the bridge was destroyed. Re-contruction was initiated in 1999 and completed by July 2004.

The current single arch stone bridge is an exact replica of the original bridge that stood for over 400 years.

The Stari Most Bridge area of the old city of Mostar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2005.

Views from the Stari Most Bridge

The bridge is steep and spans approximately 94 feet across the Neretva River with a 69-80 ft. drop to the water below depending on the water levels.

Stari Most Bridge

The Halebija and Tara Towers have stood in the background of the bridge as guardian watchtowers and warehouses for ammunition, with the Tara Tower now housing the Museum of the Old Bridge.

On both sides of the bridge, there are endless markets and stores along the cobblestone path.

The streets that line the Stari Most Bridge are filled with clinking and hammering of metals including Mostar’s top exporters– copper and aluminum.

🔨 🔨🔨

Many of the shops still sell authentic paintings and copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most Bridge, pomegranates (the natural symbol of Herzegovnia) or the stećaks (medieval tombstones).

We walked up and down the streets several times until we found *the one* that we wanted to add to our travel wall art collection at home.

And then we fell in love with THIS shop!

Mr. Badžak

Here is Jeff and I with Mr. Badžak himself, a business owner whose family has owned this store next to the Stari Most bridge since 1918.

He showed us photos of his family (and photos of the exact shop we were standing in) before and during the war. He was so proud of his town, heritage and family name.

He told us his version of the events that took place when Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, and when the Stari Most Bridge was bombed November 1993.

I’m thankful for our chance to meet Mr. Badžak and learn some history of Mostar directly from him!


When crossing over the Stari Most Bridge, you can’t help but to notice the beautiful mosque towering over the left bank of the Nerteva River.

Originally built in 1617, the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque was destroyed in the Bosnian War of the 1990s then completely reconstructed by 2001.

Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque Interior

There is an option to climb the 89 steps to the top of the minaret (which is 1000% recommended!)

*The spiral staircase is NOT for the claustrophobic… it is one-person wide and occasionally has slit windows to let in air. When coming down, you pretty much have to come down backwards.

THE VIEW IS INCREDIBLE THOUGH and absolutely worth the 12KM ticket (~$6.80USD) for a birds eye view of the Old Town Bridge, complete with a 360* view of Mostar with the rushing Neretva River below.

The views from the top of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque were absolutely breathtaking.

This video taken at the top the minuret overlooking the Stari Most Bridge captures another one of my most favorite moments of the entire trip! ⬇️

All I could say was WOW!!

Top of Koski Pasha Mehmed Mosque Minaret

The platform at the top of the minaret gives 360* panoramic views of Mostar.

It was hard to comprehend all the history in this exact place.


The rain really started to pick up, so we headed indoors for a Bosnian lunch and coffee break.

Lunch times views – Mostar, Bosnia

We found ourselves on the top floor of a restaurant overlooking the bridge — it was an great spot to have lunch!

When the rain let up, we headed back to the bridge to watch locals jump ~75 feet into the rushing river waters (on purpose).

Yes, you can jump IF YOU DARE….

Jumping from the Stari Most bridge is seen as a ‘right of passage’ for local men.

**Instead of risking injury, you can also donate/pay a few Bosnian Marks ($) to the local jumpers and they will jump in the river all day long for your viewing pleasures! 😉

It was raining, but that didn’t stop anyone.

Below is the video Jeff captured of a local Stari Most Bridge jumper in rain!

Jumping from the Stari Most Bridge – Mostar, Bosnia

The Start Most Bridge is well known for its Red Bull diving events and local jumpers. It’s pretty crazy watching in anticipation as someone jumps off a bridge in the river the below, for fun!

The annual Stari Most Bridge Jump and Red Bull diving competition takes place typically in late July and can be observed from the rock shore below.

I am so thankful we were able to visit Mostar during our road trip!

I underestimated how much I would quickly fall in love Bosnia. My short time here definitely opened a can of travel worms and I can wait to explore other parts of this region.

With respect, it is not lost on us that 1993 is very recent– We must not ever forget what happened here in both Croatia and Bosnia.

*Bonus memory: We may or may not have received a Bosnian speeding ticket (even though we were NOT speeding!!)

Oh well. Easy ~$12 fix (all paid in cash on the spot) and we were on our way to Montenegro!

Bosnian traffic jam

Next stop –> Destination #10: Kotor, Montenegro 🇲🇪

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia: Destination #8

Home of Diocletian’s Palace, Spilt is one of Croatia’s most famous destinations.

Located along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea less than 30 minutes from Trogir, Split is the largest city in the region of Dalmatia and the second largest city in Croatia (behind #1 Zagreb).

After getting settled in our adorable Airbnb (more details later!), Jeff and I headed for a stroll within the old city walls.

Diocletian’s Palace is so sprawling that it encompasses about half of the old town of Split.

Fun fact: 3,000 people still live in the interior of Diocletian’s Palace today!

West Gate (Iron Gate)

We entered via the West Gate (Iron gate) and headed straight to the underground cellars of Diocletian’s Palace.

  • The North Gate (Golden Gate)
  • The East Gate (Silver Gate)
  • The South Gate (Bronze Gate)
  • The West Gate (Iron Gate)

After his retirement on May 1, 305AD, Diocletian intended for this Palace to be his retirement residence where he lived forever and ever, happily ever after.

Unfortunately for him, he only lived in his Palace for a few years before his death in 311AD at 66 years old.

Heading underneath Diocletian’s Palace, we toured the cellars made famous by Daenerys and her dragons.

We practically had the whole underground level to ourselves! There was a private 3- person Game of Thrones tour going on and we could hear the tour guide’s descriptions echoing through the stone wall hallways, so I feel like we got a free showcase of where GOT scenes took place. So cool!

Underground Cellars of Diocletian’s Palace

After our self tour, we explored the underground souvenir markets then ended up at Konoba Pjaca restaurant near the Iron Gate for dinner.

Jeff ordered a black squid risotto which turned his mouth black! (We were too busy laughing so we forgot to take a picture 😂)

This is the point in our trip that our google searches include “how much cheese is 1 person allowed to bring back to the USA?” 🤣


The next day, we ventured back to Diocletian’s Palace for more exploring, focusing on the historic center, Diocletian’s mausoleum (now the Cathedral of Saint Domnius) and the Temple of Jupiter (now the baptistery).

In 1979, the historic core of Split was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The above and below images shows a view of the Peristyle, a rectangular open court intended to become the heart of the palace.

This exact spot is where the most powerful Roman citizens gathered— It was pretty incredible to stand where Emporers have stood.

The Palace was also decorated with numerous 3500+ year old granite sphinxes, gifted from Egyptian Kings.

Sphinx at the Peristyle

Directly adjacent to the Peristyle is the Cathedral of St. Domnius which is considered one of the oldest cathedrals in the world (formerly the mausoleum of Diocletian).

Saint Domnius Cathderal and Bell Tower

Short story of Diocletian: He was not a good guy and played a role in the persecution of many Christians.

Saint Domnius was martyred with 7 other Christians by Emporer Diocletian. Upon Diocletian’s death, Saint Domnius became the city’s patron saint and the Cathedral of Saint Domnius was built in the mausoleum of Diocletian himself, the emporer that martyred him.

Cathedral and Bell Tower of Saint Domnius

Christians arrived to Split during the middle ages and converted the mausoleum into a place of worship and removed all pagan images.

They also removed the sarcophagus of Diocletian and threw his remains into the sea.

It is estimated Diocletian is responsible for the death of over 150,000 Christians during the 3rd century. 

To this day, the remains of several martyrs have been placed within the alter, while Diocletian got booted from his own burial grounds. Interestingly, this is a rare example of a sarcophagus being used as an altar.

Inside the St. Domnius Cathedral is an incredible sight to take in.

Saint Domnius Cathedral and Bell Tower

After our tour of Saint Domnius Cathedral and the crypts we headed towards the baptistery of St. John the Baptist (former Temple of Jupiter).

We tossed a few coins for good luck into the fountain and took in the sights of this beautiful roof that was created between 295 and 305 AD during the construction of the Palace.

Temple of Jupiter roof – Split, Croatia

We made a quick detour to the market outside the East Gate (Silver Gate) before heading to lunch on the Riva.

East Gate (Silver Gate)- Diocletian’s Palace

On the way to the Riva, we started to hear amazing singing… then stumbled across THIS GROUP! (check out the video! 🎶)

🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵

This moment is one of my favorite travel moments from our time in Split—- just walking along, soaking in the scenery and stumbling across THIS SOUND! 🎼

For lunch, we ended up at Storija restaurant on the Riva. The bread included balsamic vinegar and olive oils and an assortment of salts that were an incredible combo!

It started to rain after lunch, so we (I) headed back to our place for a nap 💤

Jeff meanwhile ran up Marjan Hill in the rain (yes, he’s a little crazy) for some great views of Split, even with dark clouds in the background.

For dinner we were our own chefs and stayed inside and made our own pesto pasta in the small kitchenette of the Airbnb.

Amfora Luxury Studio- Airbnb

The Airbnb has everything— a small kitchen, comfy bed, old town views, helpful host and great location near the old town and Marjan Hill. Highly recommend this Airbnb in Split!

Amfora Luxury Studio virtual tour- Airbnb

Link to Amfora Luxury Studio:

https://abnb.me/CtRmBpOJz6


The final morning in Split was a Sunday and we woke up to SINGING outside— both birds and humans! What a way to wake up and start your day with the bedroom windows open (after a night of listening to the rain!)

Check out this 30 second video! 🎶 It was the cherry on top to our stay in Split.

Church service from the bedroom window 🎶

3 days in beautiful Split, Croatia was definitely not enough.

It would be easy to spend 5-7 days here alone. We will be back to Split! 🇭🇷

Next Stop –> Destination #9 Mostar, Bosnia 🇧🇦

Trogir, Croatia

Trogir, Croatia: Destination #7

After leaving Zadar, we decided to continue our road trip 1.5 hours down the Dalmatian Coast to Trogir for a quick stop on the way to Split.

Trogir is located only 17 miles away from Split, so it is a definite must-visit if you are in the area!

Zadar –> Trogir –> Split

Trogir’s historic city center and Kamerlengo Fortress have been included as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1997, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this beautiful old town with our own eyes.

Trogir, Croatia 🇭🇷

We headed straight to Kamerlengo — a castle and fortress built by the Republic of Venice in mid 15th century as part of an expansion of the Veriga Tower built on the site in the 14th century.

St. Mark’s Tower in the north end of the fortress was built shortly after and its roof once was armed with guns to fight invaders.

Fortress Kamerlengo – Trogir, Croatia

It’s pretty breathtaking to walk up to this magnificent fortified castle next to the sea, with airplanes flying super close overhead to land at the Split airport!

Kamerlengo Castle

Being able to explore and hike the ancient walls of this incredible fortress while overlooking the Adriatic Sea was definitely a special moment!

Kamerlengo Castle

Of course, we headed straight to the top 😉

Top of Fortress Kamerlengo
Views of Trogir, Croatia from top of Fortress Kamerlengo

Short list of the amazing sites to see in Trogir include:

  • Fortress Kamerlengo (15th century)
  • City Gate (17th century) and city walls (15th century)
  • The Duke’s Palace (13th century)
  • Cippiko Palace (15th century)
  • Cathedral of St. Lawerence (13th century)
  • Historical city core, with about 10 church’s and numerous buildings (13th century)

We enjoyed soaking up more beautiful views of the Trogir Riva waterfront and getting lost in the winding city streets.

Trogir Riva stroll

With a labrynth of narrow cobblestone streets enclosed by ancient buildings and palaces, Trogir is full of architectural treasures.

Our next pit stop was at the gelato store! I was on a lemon gelato kick on this trip and this one was no exception 🍋

So glad that we made a pit stop in Trogir, Croatia!

Next stop —> Split, Croatia 🇭🇷

Zadar, Croatia

Zadar, Croatia: Destination #6

As the oldest continuously-inhabited Croatian City, Zadar is located on the Adriatic Sea along the northern Dalmatian Coast.

Zadar is known for its Venetian city walls, Roman ruins, art installations, fresh seafood and dreamy sunsets galore. Even Alfred Hitchcock who visited in 1964 said “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world”….

… and I would agree! (But we will get to that)

Adriatic Sea views from Airbnb balcony

We stayed only 1 day in Zadar and our #1 mission was to see and HEAR the Sea Organ which is adjacent to the ‘Greeting to the Sun’ monument (seen from our balcony).

Balcony views of ‘Greeting to the Sun’

The ‘Monument to the Sun’ art installation produces a solar powered light show every night when the sun goes down. It was definitely a bonus to be able to watch it from the rental balcony, minus the crowd!

Airbnb rental location

Starting from our Airbnb rental (circled in blue), we headed out to explore some of the great things Zadar has to do/see including:

  • Sea Organ
  • Roman Forum
  • Church of St. Donatus
  • St. Mary’s Church
  • St. Anastasia’s Catherdral
  • City walls and gates

It was so nice to have all of these things in such close proximity!

🎵 Zadar Sea Organ 🎵

By cutting steps into a section of the concrete waterfront promenade, the Zadar Sea Organ has underwater pipes that creates musical notes when filled with water.

🎶 Sea Organ tunes 🎶

As boats rode by and the waves crash, there is a corresponding harmonic sound that creates a unique tune 🌊 🌊

Sea Organ listeners

Sitting there with everyone listening to the wave tunes was a bucket list moment 🎶 ✅

🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶

It was even more amazing in person! 🎵

Around the corner is the Roman Forum, including the Church of St. Donatus towering as the largest pre-Romanesque building in Croatia (construction beginning in the 9th century).

It’s incredible to be in the presence of such historic locations.

St. Donates Church + Roman Forum

We then headed down the winding markets and streets inside the city walls.

Front porch plant goals 😍

As a recommendation from a local, we found ourselves on the patio of Restaurant Bruschetta (because with a name like that, you can’t go wrong!) for some fresh Croatian seafood and adult beverages.

Restaurant Bruschetta

Jeff ordered his new favorite dish, monkfish, and we enjoyed some fresh air with the remains of Church Stormorica in the background.

Because our detour to Zadar came after our long day of hiking Plitvice Lakes, but before we headed to Split… we figured we would probably be pretty worn out and in need of a break.

Soooo, of course, I made sure our Airbnb rental had all the essentials— comfy bed, balcony with views, and a BATHTUB overlooking the Adriatic Sea 🛁😍!

Like for real… these bathtub views are 💯

The rest of the evening was spent agreeing with Alfred Hitchcock as we watched what I would definitely consider one of the longest (over 2 hours) and one of the most beautiful sunset in the world from our balcony.

Sunset balcony views

Link to ‘Luxury Residence Zadar’ Airbnb rental:

https://abnb.me/Ic44yWB2A4

Virtual tour of ‘Luxury Residence Zadar’

*Splurging on the balcony and bathtub views were most definitely worth it 😉


The next morning, I went for one last stroll on the Sea Organ to listen to the sea tunes 🌊

🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵 🎶 🎵

Next stop –> Destination #7: Split, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park: Destination #5

Plitvice Lakes left me absolutely speechless.

With the 16 terraced lakes and seemingly endless waterfalls, hiking in this park on the elevated wooden platforms above the water was one of those bucketlist moments that exceeded ALL of my expectations!

This UNESCO World Heritage site is quite possibly one of the most beautiful parks I have ever played my eyes on.

See for yourself!! 👀 ⬇️⬇️⬇️

😍 Entrance 1 views 😍

Based on recommendations, we parked at entrance 1 and completed the route C (starting with Veliki Slap and waterfalls along the lower lakes).

On our way to the Veliki Slap waterfall (the big one!)… you can hear the roar of the rushing water and the wooden platform extends near the edge of the cascading waterfalls for views like THIS…

*Not going to lie, it was a littttle bit terrifying (but simultaneously awesome) to be standing on top of shaky wooden planks, with the force of rushing water from the Sastavci waterfall (26m/85ft) under your feet!

Overlooking Sastavci waterfalls

On the other side, you immediately come across this magnificent Veliki Slap waterfall measuring 78 meters tall (~256 feet).

Veliki Slap Waterfall- Plitvice National Park

Plitvice National Park is open 365 days of the year, rain or shine.

We were lucky to see the waterfalls truly FLOWING thanks to the on-and-off rain during the days before…. but the skies opened up and the sun peeked through which made all the waterfalls *extra* awesome!

🌈 Veliki Slap 🌈

It was definitely an incredible moment getting covered in waterfall mist, soaking in the rainbows! 🌈

After visiting Veliki Slap, we turned around and headed to explore more of the lower lakes before the crowds arrived.

Route C requires walking slightly uphill most of the way, but our views were walking TOWARDS the waterfalls.

In contrast, the opposite downhill direction will keep you turning around to view the waterfalls. Regardless, both trails are an amazing experience, but it was nice to always see the waterfalls in front of us.

After a break for some brunch, we took a boat to the other side of Kozjak Lake, then walked along the upper lakes and waterfalls.

It was so quiet and peaceful as we walked along the upper lakes!

So dreamy 😍

Veliki Prštavac Waterfall

To put these waterfalls in size perspective: the Veliki Prštavac pictured above is 28m (~92ft) and the Mali Prštavac waterfall pictured below is 18m (~59ft)!

Mali Prštavac waterfall + Jeff

*Although swimming is NOT permitted here, you CAN swim in similar Krka National Park (only 2 hours away!).

The trails open at 7am in the summer (8am rest of the year), and get reallyyy busy by about 10am. Getting there earlier allows a much quieter, less crowded morning experience.

Galovački Buk waterfalls

Our hike was capped with views of the Galovacčki Buk waterfall, which is situated in the heart of the upper lakes and is fed by inflow waters of Milino Lake and Gradinsko Lake.

Even the views headed back to the car are incredible!

Milanovački Slap on walk back to the car

Plitvice National Park is a MUST VISIT!


The Zrinka House rental deserves a rating of 10/10. 5 stars. 2 thumbs up — Zrinka’s House was *on point with their hospitality!

*Travel tip: Staying in Grabovac, Croatia (6 km drive from Entrance 1 allowed us to beat the crowd and tour bus swarms by a few hours!

Zrinka House- Grabovac, Croatia

At the suggestion of Ms. Zrinka, we ate dinner at Plum Bistro & Cafe in Grabovac the night before traveling to Plitvice National Park and it was delicious.

Zrinka and her daughter prepared an unlimited breakfast the next morning and allowed us to pack a lunch for our hike, which was super helpful.

Link to Zrinka House:

http://www.booking.com/Share-LJkRQcb

In our opinion, it was DEFINTIELY worth it to stay nearby the night before.

I look forward to the day I am able to explore this area again! 🇭🇷

Next stop –> Destination #6: Zadar, Croatia

Pula, Croatia

Pula, Croatia: Destination #4

As the largest city along the Istrian Pennisula, Pula offers incredible views of 1st century Roman ruins including an amphitheater that overlooks a natural harbor of the Adriatic Sea.

Pula Arena

When we got out of the car in the shadows of the Pula Arena, it was breathtaking.

We were SO LUCKY to find the world’s tiniest parking spot directly next to the Colosseum, but I can see how parking could be quite difficult in this bustling town.

Our rental “Best View Pula” defintiely lived up to it’s name— The views from this balcony and bedroom were AMAZING (and quite possibly the best in all of Pula!)

View from our rooftop balcony

*Fun fact: The Pula Arena was constructed in 27 BC- 68 AD (!!) and is among the world’s six surviving Roman arenas. It is also the only remaining ampitheatre to have 4 side towers with all 3 architectural orders entirely preserved.

The balcony was GIANT (with plenty of room to get some sun with privacy), and the ringing bells from the Sveti Antun church was music to my ears.

Balcony views of Pula Arena + Sveti Antun Church

Link to Apartment ‘Best View’ Pula:

http://www.booking.com/Share-4Cy4Kg

As a bonus, our rental in Pula also came with a washing machine (yes, this is a hot commodity), so we turned our Pula day into LAUNDRY DAY and took advantage of the spacious rooftop patio!

Laundry day- Pula, Croatia

*Travel tip: When living out of a backpack for multiple weeks, it is helpful to strategically book a rental place with a washing machine to refreshen and recycle your wardrobe. Places with access to a dryer get extra bonus points!

While our laundry was drying, we walked all over Pula along the harbor, through the Arch of Sergii, and enjoyed a charcuterie board outside the Temple of Augustus.

Arch of Sergii – Pula, Croatia

The Arch of Sergii, one of Pula’s older ruins, was constructed in 29-27 BC. Walking under the same arch that millions of others have walked though for over 2000 years is an incredible experience!

After a delicious outdoor dinner at Hook & Cook, we headed back to our rental to catch the sunset from the balcony and enjoy our wine with THIS view…

Pula, Croatia 🇭🇷

This Croatian sunset overlooking the Pula Arena and harbor was INCREDIBLE. 😍

*BEST SUNSET VIEW*
Balcony views Pula, Croatia

WOW.


The next morning in Pula started off by waking up to the Sveti Antun church bells and this view FROM BED:

Sveti Antun Church views FROM BED of Apartment ‘Best View Pula’

Before leaving town, we headed for coffee at Caffe Bar ‘Lipa’ next to our parking spot adjacent to the Pula Arena.

Jeff at Cafe ‘Lipa’ Cafe- Pula, Croatia

This coffee view was particularly refreshing ☕️

Very glad we stopped in Pula, Croatia and I would recommend a 1 night stay or day trip from Rovinj!

Next stop –> Destination #5: Plitvice National Park

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia: Destination #3

Rovinj, Croatia quickly became one of our most favorite towns along the Istrian Peninsula (and possibly one of my favorites in the WORLD)!

Rovinj is a sea port town only about 3 hours away from Venice, Italy so the Italian vibes are VERY strong and I kept forgetting I was in Croatia.

The endless cobblestone streets. The colorful buildings. The fresh seafood. The history. I loved all of it.

Cobblestone streets of Rovinj

Our rental in Rovinj was one of my favorites on our whole trip— It required a steep climb, but was spacious with *amazing* rooftop views of the old town and overlooking the Adriatic Sea and Rovinj Market.

Rooftop view of St. Euphemia

Rooftop views from our room at Hotel Irundo Rovinj

*Note to self: Sometimes the balcony IS worth a little splurge 😉

Link to Hotel Irundo Rovinj:

http://www.booking.com/Share-8SeKfO


Things to do in Rovinj, Croatia:

Standing 60 meters (~196.5 feet) tall atop the town’s highest hill, the St. Euphemia bell tower was designed in the same style as the tower at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. It is incredible to climb this tower that was built in the mid-1600s (before the current church), and includes a statue of St. Euphemia that acts as a weather vane on top.

On vacation, Jeff and I are on a mission to hike up ALL the old church bell towers… The climb to the top of St. Euphemia bell tower was BY FAR the SCARIEST wooden staircase I have ever seen and included 192 rickety stairs that required concentration of foot placement.

St. Euphemia Bell Tower

The views at the top are ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL and worth all the sweaty palms and shaky knees! We strongly recommend hiking up the bell tower to take in the views of Rovinj– totally worth the 20 kunas (~$3) per person!

Views from top of St. Euphemia
Views from top of St. Euphemia bell tower- Rovinj, Croatia

Views from top of St. Euphemia bell tower- Rovinj, Croatia

*Fun fact: Inside this church, Relics of Saint Euphemia are preserved in a Roman sarcophagus from the 6th century (but adapted in the 15th century)! Check out the story of Saint Euphemia:

https://www.inforovinj.com/eng/rovinj/znamenje/legenda-sv-eufemija.asp

In less than a 10 minute hike (all downhill) from St. Euphemia church, you can be on the marina side of Rovinj eating the freshest seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

Rovinj, Croatia 🇭🇷

Fresh seafood with these views is always recommended!

Per Rick Steves’ recommendation, we tried to visit the beautiful Mediterraneo Bar, but were bummed to find it was closed (another reason for us to revisit 😉).

Instead, we stumbled across Valentino Cocktail & Champagne Bar by accident, and were so lucky to have the entire place to ourselves to watch the sunset!

Valentino Cocktail & Champagne Bar
Rovinj, Croatia

We *may* have stayed for an extra drink or two, soaking in the sunset that was shining through the clouds. 🥂

Valentino Cocktail & Champagne Bar on the rocks- Rovinj, Croatia

We really enjoyed our time in Rovinj and strongly recommend stopping here for 2-3 days if visiting Croatia or nearby Venice, Italy!

See you again, Rovinj!

Rovinj, Croatia

Next stop #4 –> Pula, Croatia

Motovun, Croatia

Motovun, Croatia: Destination #2

On our way from the capital Zagreb, we headed west towards the Istrian Peninsula and made a pit stop in Motovun, Croatia.

We found the best parking near the cemetery and hiked the rest of the way to the top via this very steep one way cobblestone road.

Motovun is knows for their truffles, so we headed straight for all the “black diamonds of Istria” at Restorant Hotel Kaštel and it was AH-MAZINGLY delicious.

Afterwards, we definitely had to walk off the pasta, so we went on a hike around the city walls to take in all the views 😍

Hiking Motovun city walls

I’m glad we made the small detour and stopped to enjoy this cute hilltop town of less than 1,000 people!

*Fun fact: Mario Andretti and his twin brother were born in Motovun, Croatia! 🇭🇷

Motovun, Croatia

Goodbye, Motovun! I will forever remember you for your amazing truffle pasta 🤤

Next stop #3 –> Rovinj, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia

Destination #1: ZAGREB, CROATIA

We loved our time in Zagreb and were pleasantly surprised with its charm! Starting in the Capital allowed us to learn the history of the war that wreaked havoc throughout Croatia in the 90s. When traveling, we find it is important for us to understand the history of where we were visiting!

Places in Zagreb we enjoyed visiting include:

  • Museum of Broken Relationships *
  • Museum of Contemporary Art *
  • Zagreb City Museum *
  • Museum of Naive Art
  • Dolac Market
  • Gornki Grad area
  • Stossmarte area
  • Lotrščak Tower
  • Zagreb 360 Tower *

*TRAVEL TIP: A 72 hours Zagreb card covers entry to everything with ‘*’

The second day, we rented a car and headed to Trakošćan castle, 1 hour north of Zagreb near the Slovenia border. It rained the entire way, so we were excited when the sun peeked out and we got to enjoy the entire castle by OURSELVES! We had an ENTIRE CASTLE, just the two of us! It definitely made for a memorable experience.

Trakošćan castle

Whole entire castle to ourselves! 🤴🏽👸🏼

Trakošćan castle– Trakošćan, Croatia

After a wonderful day of exploring Trakošćan castle, we headed back to the Zagreb 360 observation tower for a drink and sunset views. This top floor bar had wonderful 360 views of Zagreb and Jelacic Square from above!

Zagreb 360 tower views of Jelacic Square

*Our Airbnb was on the Jelacic Square and is the building with the red fabric construction coverings (to the left of the yellow building), but our room faced the back side, directly towards the Dolac Market (see below).

View of Dolac Market from bedroom

Our rental ended up having a *perfect* overview of the Dolac Markets, so we were able to watch the iconic red umbrellas go up in the morning, and come down in the evenings! It was a wonderful place to stay and I would recommend these Main Square Residences if visiting Zagreb.

View of our bedroom from the Dolac Market (white building with balcony)

Link to booking in Zagreb, Croatia:

http://www.booking.com/Share-ljvLHO

http://www.booking.com/Share-ljvLHO

Wandering around the Dolac market— Zagreb, Croatia

We loved our time in Zagreb and are so glad we stopped here first in our roadtrip through Croatia!

Next stop –> Motovun, Croatia