After several visits to the region, there are five places that stand out from the others. Places that due to their nature, history, culture or people I will recommend everyone to pay a visit, and that I hope to see again sometime.
1. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
Why: Even though Dubrovnik is packed with visitors during the summer season, it is an unbelievably charming city. It is definitely not a museum, people live their lives in the narrow alleyways. You get everything here: culture, history, beaches and great food.
How: Dubrovnik airport is 30-45 minutes drive from the old town. Are you coming from other places in the region, there are plenty og buses and ferrys scheduled for Dubrovnik every day during the summer season.
Tips: Wake up early and explore the old town before all the day visitors arrive. Eat breakfast on a street café together with the locals, and spend the rest of your day on Banje Beach with views to the city wall. When it gets dark it is time to go out for dinner, drinks and shopping.
2. MOSTAR, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
Why: The picturesque old town, the insanly interesting history from medieval times until today. The bridge, which has been so important for the city’s history and culture throughout the times.
How: Bus from Dubrovnik, Split or Sarajevo.
Tips: Get up and about early and enjoy walking the bridge on your own, chat with the vendors as they open their stalls and have a tasty Bosnian coffee while you wait for the museums to open. Visit the two central mosques and admire the view from the minarets.
3. KOTOR, MONTENEGRO
Why: Well, I guess the pictures tells you everything you need to know. A medieval walled city by a fjord (sort of) surrounded by steep mountains, why would you not go?
How: Bus from Budva, bus or boat from Herceg Novi.
Tips: Hike the 1350 stairs up the fortress wall to San Djovani by dawn (yes, I am all for early mornings when on holiday). Going before 8:00 means you do not have to pay the €3 entrance fee, you are almost alone, can enjoy the sunrise and not worry about the scorching mid-day heat.
In the afternoon, rent a kayak and paddle along the fjord to Dobrota.
4. KORCULA, CROATIA
Why: Another fortified city, Korcula is like a mini-Dubrovnik only more chilled out.
How: By bus or ferry from Dubrovnik or Split (via Hvar). Going by bus you need to take a short car ferry from Orebic on the mainland.
Tips: Go there om September or May/June, when there are less tourists and a quiet athmosphere. Rest on the small beaches, rent a kayak or SUP and paddle around the old town during the day and cycle to the Zrnovi mountain villages in the morning og afternoon. In the evening do olive oil tasting and eat at LD restaurant. Continue to Bokar wine bar, where you have to try one of the owner’s suggestions of local wine. Or maybe his grandmother’s homemade grappa?
5. HERCEG NOVI, MONTENEGRO
Why: Herceg Novi is a beautiful city near the Croatian boarder, with spectacular views to the bay, old fortresses and lots of possibilities for daytrips by boat. And there is no reason to get up early to explore (if you do not really want that), as it doesn’t get crowded. However, this city mainly got under my skin because of its people. Helpful, smiling and welcome.
How: Get there by bus from Budva, Kotor or Dubrovnik, boat from Kotor. Dubrovnik Airport is approx 45 min drive away.
Tips: Go here the first week of August for the Herceg Novi International Film Festival. There are only a few things that beats sitting on top of an old fortress watching great movies under the stars. Spend a day on one of the concrete beaches and venture off sightseeing when you get bored, or take a day trip by boat to some of the nearby beaches. The Blue Grotto, on the other hand, is not worth spending time on…
In the evening, eat dinner at Gradska Kafana before heading to Forte Mare for outdoor cinema.