The little city of Dubrovnik is probably best known to y’all as a Game of Thrones haven due to parts of the series being filmed there. But I can now reveal that Dubrovnik is a brilliant holiday destination for non-GoT fans as well!
Croatia is becoming more and more popular as a tourist attraction because of its climate and breath-taking scenery of the Adriatic Sea and the waterfall-filled National Parks inland. It’s a fairy tale land with a lot to offer for every kind of traveler.
I’m going to do a little series of posts about what we got up to on our holiday in Dubrovnik and the surrounding areas, but let’s start with how to get there.
Dubrovnik is a small city but since Game of Thrones became the phenomena that it is, they’ve had to spruce up their transport services a bit. So, nowadays they have a well functioning airport and good roads winding their way around the surrounding mountains offering amazing views of the city below and the luxury yachts gliding in the sea.
In Europe traveling is super easy, just hop in a car and drive from one country to the next. Croatia is a little bit of an oddity, though, because it is not part of the Schengen treaty, which means that you will be stopped at the border for a check-up. I’ve gotten so used to traveling without a worry if I sometimes forget my passport that it came as a bit of a surprise when we had to queue for a passport check at the airport.
But despite this short extra stop traveling to Croatia is really easy and there are multiple vehicle options: you can choose to fly, drive or catch a cruise ship. Dubrovnik receives multiple giant cruise ships per week.
In my family I’m known fundamentally as a travel disaster. Every time I travel, whether on land, sea or in the air, it comes as a surprise to no-one when things go wrong.
This time our journey to Croatia got its first complication before we even arrived to the airport; our connection flight from Riga was delayed for 3 hours. OK, that’s fine, I thought, I wasn’t traveling alone this time so everything’s good.
By the time we got to Riga our flight was one more hour delayed. Then another half an hour, and another, 10 more minutes… Finally our gate was announced and we were able to board a plane 5 hours behind schedule.
Now, I’m afraid of flying. I used to love flying but too many problems and incredibly bad odds have taught me to fear for my life every time I approach a plane. So, when they announced that we were going to have to fly THROUGH couple of thunder storms I was done.
In the end the flight went really well, even the thunder storms didn’t cause more than a little shaking. But I had been convinced by the early announcement that we were in grave peril and about to die so even the slightest tremor opened up the tear canals.
Thankfully the staff at our arrival to the hotel was absolutely wonderful and our room even more so with a huge balcony opening to the sea ahead. If nothing else then at least standing on the balcony and listening to the waves crashing to shore calmed me down. Best sound on Earth <3
We stayed in one of the more luxurious hotels about 10 minutes’ drive away from the Old Town with a view out to the Adriatic Sea and to the beautiful villas and beaches running along the rocky shore. The hotel had every possible service available from a private beach, spa, car rentals and boutiques to multiple restaurants, so if we had chosen so, there would’ve been no need to leave the hotel for the whole week.
If you’re traveling on a budget, no need to worry! Croatians are very accustomed to the 6 months of tourist invasion every year and a lot of them rent out rooms or entire houses for the peak season. You don’t necessarily even need to book accommodation in advance, just show up, walk around and you will find every other house branded with the blue signs declaring “Apartments!”
Just like most Eastern Europeans, Croatians are very welcoming and wonderfully laid-back people so there’s no need to hesitate to just knock on one of these doors and ask for a room.
Getting around in Dubrovnik is easy because the city isn’t too big. By purchasing a Dubrovnik card you can use the buses for free, or wave down a local taxi (agree on price in advance!) or just order an Uber. During the peak seasons I would recommend walking. The roads are very small and completely stuck especially when the cruise ships arrive to the port allowing even ten thousand extra people into the city.
Even though we knew that by walking we would get wherever we were going faster we usually took a taxi and had a nice little chat with the drivers. Croatians are, as I expected, delightful people and very open and talkative. My favourite kind.
Most tourists roam around their travel destinations without much thought for the local culture and people. But I’ve traveled enough to know that getting to know even a little bit about the country’s lifestyle brings a nice extra flavour to the whole holiday. In addition the stories that the locals tell you are simply interesting!
By chit-chatting with our taxi drivers we learned that most Croatians work 7-day-weeks 6 months a year for the peak season. People move into the tourist destinations like Split and Dubrovnik specifically for that period and after the season is over they retreat back to Zagreb, the capital, or their home towns inland to study or, in most cases, just chill through winter.
While listening to these life stories a part of me went “That’s a dream!” But all the locals said that they would rather have 8-hour jobs throughout the year than work like slaves through Summer and then have nothing to do for 6 months. Since they have to live on the money they make in Summer very few of them can afford to travel much during the Winter break.
Makes you appreciate that the 8-hour-days 5 days a week might not be quite as bad as we (Northeners especially) like to make them sound.
Next I will write about our road trip to Montenegro and what to see and do in Dubrovnik, and after that we still have Elafiti Islands and food culture to cover. So, stay tuned for more inside info, tips and stories!