Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro
If someone said that in four days you could cover Split, Ston, Hvar, Mostar in Bosnia, Dubrovnik and Kotor in Montenegro you may think this would be a little foolhardy. As I sit on the plane flying home from these incredible places, with a head full of wonderful experiences, I would certainly suggest a slower pace for my clients but they are places I felt so passionate about after seeing, that I couldn’t even wait to get home to write about them.
We started our journey in Split, a beautiful town on the sea with a new treat down every cobbled street. This is the theme of all the towns we visited and they are great for people who enjoy exploring and discovering the history of the place while wandering the many beautiful alleyways. Split is very much a town where people live and work and tourists visit alongside the local community.
I won’t go into detail about all the hotels we saw as there were many and all had their place for my clients. The overriding theme was a relaxed seaside feel somehow combined expertly with a city hotel. I will absolutely know the right one to recommend for each trip so whether it is beachfront with an easy stroll to town or central and boutique with an amazing roof terrace we will choose well.
The food was exceptional throughout our trip, from a tiny farmhouse with an open wood fire in the garden to an extremely exclusive meal at a very experimental restaurant in Split to our lunch in Ston where mussels are grown in the sea right there. Our last lunch was spent watching a waterwheel work while a stream flowed past us, down little cascading waterfalls.
Then we visited tiny Hvar with its sleepy port and much more relaxed way of life. In the height of summer when all the yachts are moored it becomes quite a party town but retains the magical atmosphere of cobbled streets with people dining outside. It was on Hvar that after a full day of travelling we were told we had another bus to a restaurant in the middle of the island. It seemed odd with the marina having so much to offer but as we were welcomed by a local man and his wife who was tending a huge fire in their garden it made sense. The only other people eating were locals and we were treated to a stunning meal by a cosy fire. It was a real highlight for everyone and well worth the effort for anyone who stays on the island. I’ll arrange this for any of my clients that would appreciate it.
The next day we journeyed into Bosnia and up to the beautiful town of Mostar. The scars of the recent war are still everywhere and our guide had lived in the town through the most intense fighting. His positive outlook was amazing and he gently described the past with a strong sense of the future he hoped for. As with any growing tourist place the usual shops were springing up all over the old town but it is really worth the visit if it is something you are interested in. It is certainly a little off the beaten track and very special.
A friend had said before my trip, you start in Split and think wow and then when you get to Dubrovnik you really say wow! I can see what she meant. Dubrovnik is absolutely stunning and really one of the most picturesque places I have been to. I felt immediately excited and hugely comfortable there. The combination of a beautiful city where you can walk everywhere with the sea and Mediterranean feel of the place made it absolutely magical for me. I could have spent a week there. It is true about the cruise ships and that it has become very much a place for tourists but with careful planning you can avoid the crowds and there is a reason so many people go there; it’s amazing.
Dubrovnik really would work for everyone but I especially thought for a first city break with kids just outside peak season. There are pools and beaches to play in during the warmer days and then an easy stroll to town in the evening to explore and learn a little about the history. It is a gentle city to be explored at an equally gentle pace.
Our last stop was Montenegro. It is a stunning and still very unspoilt country. The drive round the lake to Kotor was incredible. It was like a mix between the Swiss Lakes and the Norwegian Fjords. Once in Kotor the history is evident around every corner, only to be broken up by a coffee and cake stop in the square.
Then it was time to fly home and try to work out how to sum up this incredible trip whilst leaving enough to be a wonderful surprise for everyone who visits. The views, the food, the history and variety found in such a small region is amazing and I will be sending my clients there whenever I can, but perhaps at a slightly more civilised pace!