The last island that we visited from Dubrovnik was Mljet for its national park! (This was going to be the first out of the three national parks we planned to visit in Croatia!) By that morning, we had the whole routine down: walk down from our apartment to Old Town, take the bus from Old Town to Gruz Harbor, eat breakfast at a nearby cafe, and hop on a ferry. This time, we took the G&V Line ferry to Polace, Mljet.
Once we arrived, Clay and I purchased our NP tickets and rented a couple of bikes to get to Veliko Jezero, the bigger of the two saltwater lakes in Mljet. (Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to check out Malo Jezero, the smaller lake, that day.) We ended up biking to the gift shop located at the edge of Veliko Jezero, where we parked our bikes and took a small boat to St. Mary (an island within the island!). On St. Mary, we visited a 12th century Benedictine Monastery and then spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in Veliko Jezero. We probably swam about 1/4 of the way around St. Mary. After our swim, we ate lunch at Restaurant Melita before we took the 5-minute boat ride back across the lake. The bike ride back involved some uphill and took us about 30 minutes. Back at Polace Harbor, we had some extra time to bike and walk around before our 4pm ferry back to Gruz Harbor.
I thought that Mljet National Park was definitely worth a day trip to visit! Clay and I actually realized that maybe we should have moved from Dubrovnik that morning and stayed a night on the island, which was very beautiful and green. The nature was breathtaking since most of it has been left untouched. Note for those thinking of visiting, the entry ticket for the NP comes with a bus ride that will get you close to the lake. Biking can be challenging with some up and down hill, especially on a hot day, but it's fun! As for the water around St. Mary, it is very clear, calm, and great for swimming -- just be mindful of the rocks along the edge.
Day four in Croatia was our trip to Sipan, the largest of the Elaphiti islands. Clay and I again took the bus from Old Town to Gruz Harbor, where we took the 9am Jadrolinija Ferry to Sudurad, a small sleepy village stretched across Sipan's main harbor. From Sudurad, we took a bus to Sipanska Luka, a larger town and active fishing village on the other side of the island. It also had a quiet, sleepy village vibe.
In Sipanska Luka, we had a peaceful lunch at Konoba Tauris, where we had fresh lemonade, salad, pasta, and sea bream. It was nice because we were the only people there! After lunch, we walked down the waterfront to Prijezba Beach, a small pebbly beach that was tucked away around the corner. Unfortunately, we only had time to sit briefly at the beach bar before we had to walk back to the bus stop and catch our ride back to Sudurad. I would've loved to spend an afternoon at Prijezba with Clay! When we returned to Sudurad, we had just enough time to squeeze in a wine and olive oil tasting at Family Danicic, a small family-owned vineyard where a nice Croatian grandma welcomed us to her yard for a quick tasting. Once again, we were the only visitors there!
Though it isn't a major tourist spot, Sipan was definitely still a gem to visit. I loved that there were very few people on the island -- a refreshing break from the tourist crowds everywhere else. The island was so quiet and peaceful, allowing us to just slow down and enjoy the surroundings with each other. Sipan and its two sleepy fishing villages were very lovely and charming in its own way!
Our third day in Croatia was spent visiting the island of Lopud and enjoying the ultimate beach day! Our morning started out with a bus ride to Gruz Habor, where we ate breakfast before taking the Jadrolinjia Ferry to Lopud. After the 1 hour ferry ride, we took a stroll down Lopud's lovely waterfront, and began a short 30-minute walk to Sunj Beach. According to our server at breakfast, a lot of people in Croatia go to Lopud for holiday specifically for Sunj Beach. Since most of the beaches in Croatia are either rocky or pebbly, Sunj Beach with its soft white sand is quite a treat!
Once we arrived at Sunj Beach, Clay and I rented an umbrella and a couple of beach chairs for the day. There were portable changing stations set up, which made things convenient. There were also a couple of outdoor beach bar/ restaurant establishments for when we got hungry (note: do not order hamburgers). We definitely just enjoyed relaxing and lounging on our beach chairs for a whole day. It was so nice to just rest, watch boats come in and out of the harbor, and nap for however long we wanted. We also saw a couple of dads playing picigin (a traditional Croatian ball game) with their sons in the water. As for the actual beach, it was shallow and calm -- great for a relaxing dip in the water.
On our second day in Croatia, Clay and I began our island hopping adventures starting with Lokrum island. After enjoying a nice English breakfast in Dubrovnik Old Town, we took a 10am ferry to this beautiful nature reserve that was just a 15-minute boat ride away. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by peacocks, the island's only inhabitants!
Right away, we explored the island by trail and found our way to the Dead Sea, a small semi-caved pond that was connected to the sea. We also found some fluffy wild bunnies hopping around nearby. Then we walked to one edge of the island and found lots of ladders built on rocky edges that went straight into the sea (definitely not a swim for the faint of heart). We continued our walk through the Gardens of Maximilian, sat on the Iron Throne at Game of Thrones Center, and checked out Lokrum's botanical garden (where GoT city of Qarth was filmed). Overall, the island wasn't too big, and we were able to see everything that we wanted, including the Path of Paradise, which lead up to Fort Royal.
The highlight of our trip out to Lokrum was the remainder of our afternoon, which we spent swimming in the beautiful Adriatic Sea at the Bay of Portoc, located right next to the island's main dock (bottom right photo). There were lots of people jumping in the water and sunbathing on the rocks that afternoon. After our swim, we got a bite to eat at Lacroma Snack Bar and then took the 2:30pm ferry back to Old Town Harbor, which left us with plenty more of the day to spend in Dubrovnik.
In celebration of finishing grad school, our two year wedding anniversary, and the 2018 summer season, Clay and I planned a 2 week trip to Croatia at the beginning of September! Croatia has been on my travel bucket list since the end of college, so I was beyond excited that this dream of mine to visit the country was actually coming true! And that I was able to experience it with my best friend & adventure buddy. ;)
For our first week in Croatia, we stayed in the medieval city of Dubrovnik (aka the Pearl of the Adriatic), where we became very well acquainted with its Old Town and City Walls. Dubrovnik became our home base as we ventured out on different day trips to some nearby islands, including Lokrum, Lopud, Sipan, and Mljet. (I'll share more about each island in their own separate blogpost.) Clay and I would usually try to return to Old Town at the end of each day trip for a sit-down dinner since there was so much ambience and character to be found in its many streets and alleyways.
On our first afternoon in Dubrovnik, we entered Old Town through Pile Gate and spent about 1.5 hours walking around the City Walls. This is definitely the #1 must-do for the city since it offers magnificent views of Old Town and the surrounding Adriatic Sea. It also allows visitors stunning views of Minceta Fortress, Fort Lovrijenac, and St. John's Fortress. (Most of the photos above were actually taken from our walk around the City Walls.) Inside Old Town, we walked up and down Stradun (the main street) countless times, visited the Pharmacy Museum, Rector's Palace, and spent some time at the Old Harbor and Porporela Lighthouse. We also had fun spotting locations where specific Game of Throne scenes were filmed, including Cersei's walk of shame. For outside of Old Town, we got to ride the Dubrovnik Cable Car up to a scenic point to see a panoramic top-down view of Old Town and the City Walls. We also visited Banje Beach and Sveti Jakov Beach (both of which were very pebbly).
Honestly, I think 2 full days in Dubrovnik would have been more than enough, but I'm glad we were able to spend so much time getting to know the city and soaking in all its sights and sounds. On our last morning, I definitely found myself feeling very attached to the city and very bittersweet when it was time for us to leave for our next destination. Hopefully, one day Clay and I will be able to return and take another walk down Stradun or share another meal inside the City Walls.
Just capturing as I go.