Looking for a brilliant road trip that doesn’t entail a crazy amount of driving and can cater to many different personalities? Then this road trip is 100% for you!
I have a short list of bullet points at the end of this blog if you want the TL;DR
First things first – My expensive meter is always based off the price of a local beer at a restaurant.
Croatia – €4-6
99% of places are cash only!
ATMs in Croatia love to charge more than they should with terrible exchange rates. During withdrawal, never accept the euro conversion and just accept the Kuna amount. Allow your bank to process the conversion rate. At the end of the transaction a €4-5 processing fee is also added and nothing can be done about that.
I use a revolut card when I travel and when I used the ATM, I never had to deal with any conversion issues, I only had to pay the processing fee. Saved me a lot of headaches.
With the explosion in popularity of Tv series in recent years, many countries have seen a massive increase in “Film induced tourism” – a synergistic effect of sorts. Game of Thrones may have had the biggest effect in this market with Ireland and Croatia seeing an influx of tourists from its popularity.
Post war Croatia, would have been considered a hidden gem along the Mediterranean. Crystal clear water, ancient roman cities, jaw dropping national falls and world class festivals it is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe catering to all demographics. From the young inter railers to the mega wealthy millionaires on their private yachts, you will find every sort of personality throughout the country.
With the increase in popularity, cost has definitely risen and people are looking for newer alternatives with similar experiences. Looking along the coast towards the east you will find new tourists heading to Montenegro and even Albania to enjoy a sunny sea side holiday.
In this blog I am going to bring you through my 6 day road trip that I completed with my great friend Sam. The journey brought us through Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and finishing back in Croatia.
Recommended stay 48 hours, if longer spend some time on the surrounding islands like Hvar.
I booked “Rooms Tomic” which was €80 for one night. Located on the east side of town, roughly 15 minutes’ walk from the port. A really quaint, quiet, traditional stone house which hosts a stunning court yard. The room had a double bed, wifi, great AC and was the perfect place for our one-night stay. Sam and I aren’t the smallest lads you’ll ever meet, and the the double bed held us both fine. The house is located at the beginning of a rising hill so it’s not a terror walking back from town. There is no on sight parking here.
Click here to stay at Rooms Tomic
We spent the day exploring the city and fell in love with all the ancient alley ways, and hidden architecture behind every corner. Beautiful open squares full of people enjoying meals all through the day and night, the air is full of chatter and a live band plays music that bounces off the stone walls. Split is party central for the younger demographic with a host of pub crawls and some day boat parties. For history’s buffs the city is full of amazing walking tours and beautiful restaurants.
During the summer, just walking around exploring is enough to make you break out into a full-blown sweat. One of my favourite parts of these old Roman cities is the easily accessible, fresh, cold water that can be found pouring from taps all through the city. Bring a water bottle around with you which you can fill up with ease.
We had coffee in D16 which was a fantastic café hidden in the roman walls. We ordered the “Magic” which was a delicious new find. A stronger and longer espresso with some frothed milk. A new version of a latte essentailly. Alternative recommendation is Kava cafe but that on the outskirts of the city.
There is an unlimited number of places to eat. We ate on the main strip which was no frills and did the job.
Konoba Fetivi (Book in advance) Michelin Guide MoNika's Wine bar Nostromo Zinfandel Food & Wine bar Zoi (Roof Terrace) Gentile Vidilica
We decided to rent from a local rent a car company as we found it to be a cheaper option. We rented from HAK rent a car and we booked through economybookings.
FYI – the HAK office is a 20-minute (€25) taxi ride from the city centre as it is on the outskirts. I believe there is a rental office at the airport, which may be a better option.
We paid €473.39 – from the 25th – 29th of July – 5 days of rental in total. Collected the car at 10am and dropped it back the 3pm on the 29th. Dropping back later than when you collect results in another day of rental technically.
Our car was an Opel Crossland
5 door, manual, AC, Petrol – Only had been driven 7,000km, so virtually brand new.
In order to be able to cross boarders we had to add a €50 cross boarder fee. We still aren’t sure the reason for this fee as no car documentation was checked at any boarder, but we believe it is in case we were involved in an accident abroad that we would still be covered by HAK.
In terms of drop off, we returned the car to the same facility. I am not sure what the details around different city drop off is. I believe it is possible but a fee would be associated. E.x. Collect in Split and drop off in Dubrovnik.
Car total – €523.39
It is quite a bit of money but honestly, the car allowed us so much freedom which created such a malleable schedule that our trip would not have been possible or it would not have been as enjoyable without it. Worth every penny!
Krka National Falls
The national park is 90 minutes north west of Split. The drive is along the E65 motorway which is a tolled road and the cost is based on the distance covered. Split to Šibenik was roughly €2-3. You can also do day tours out of Split with various tour companies.
Krka is a magical national park that seems out of place. The entire surrounding region is incredibly dry, mountainous and sparsely covered in dry shrub. Here you enter a magical forest, where a crystal-clear river runs through the trees and eventually spills out over a stunning waterfall.
Although it is a magical land, the details are a little rougher than expected…
Entry fee – €30
Parking – Free
Bus – Unfortunately, I am not sure of the price but whatever it is, pay it! There is a shuttle from the car park to the park entrance, we decided not to take it. Wrong decision for sure – Meant to be a 1km journey, it is along a steep, loose gravel path on the side of a hill. Not ideal by any means. Then you have to make your way back up it after!
Food prices are very expensive – We had a pint glass full of fresh fruit and a soda water for €17.
No Swimming allowed in the water – to be fair it would be absolute carnage and it would take away from experience even though it is all you want to do!
The park is laid out brilliantly and has a well-marked path that runs in a large loop through the forest. It is a really nice day out and once you get over the prices, it is very magical! We had a very lovely time.
Recommendation – the park opens at 8 and tour buses do not arrive until 9. If you can, it would be best to arrive early morning to beat the crowds as well as the heat!
Centina River spring
Next stop was 90 minutes north of Krka towards the Bosnian border. This destination was my choice and very heavy influenced by Instagram. Saying that, this is a free attraction which you can swim in!
A natural fresh water spring that is situated at the back of a church, if you blink you would miss it. The water was absolutely freezing, very similar to an ice bath with Sam and I only swimming for 1-minute bouts.
The drive from Krka to Cetina was quite interesting. We passed by a pivotal battle sight of the Serbian war and had a chance to get up close and personal with a tank.
We drove by two towns which boasted fantastic castles situated on top of the hill/mountain overlooking the towns, and if we had more time we would have had a walk around to see what the towns had to offer.
Honestly, this is a very interesting destination and I’m not sure if it is worth the drive for most people unless you were in the surrounding area. At the end of the day, it is a local swimming hole but we went for “The Gram” and really really enjoyed it. Definitely one of these places that wouldn’t have been possible without the car!!
We then traveled from here to our next destination Mostar, Bosnia. A three hour drive which was fairly manageable and as we did it in the late evening there was no queue at boarder control.
Recommended time 2 nights – Bosnia is really under developed and there are no signs for any attractions so I’m sure with some research you may find loads more to do!
Mostar, Bosnia is a two-hour drive from Split, Croatia and roughly three hours from Krka National Park.
A melting pot of culture, this city has a very similar feel to Istanbul but in a micro version. Churches and Mosques are essentially side by side with the Call to prayer being recited beautifully throughout the day. Old town is made up of cobblestone streets, stone buildings, impressive craftsmanship and gorgeous food.
The Mostar bridge is 24 meters high and home to the Mostar diving club. A club run by locals who “busk” for enough money to warrant a jump from the top of the bridge. Visitors can, if they so desire, jump from the bridge but they must pay the club, receive training and be happy to understand the dangers involved. Mostar has become more popular in recent years due to the Red bull Cliff diving hosting an event there each year.
The Old Bridge in Mostar was built in 1566 during the Ottoman Empire. During the war in 1993 the bridge was destroyed by Croatian’s fighting the Bosnian Muslims. In 2004 the new bridge was rebuilt using as much stone from the old bridge as possible and is a sign of resilience & reconciliation for post war Bosnia.
Sam booked the stay for us this time – Villa Park, which cost us €28 all together for one night. Roughly a 10-minute walk to old town.
We were given a welcome drink on arrival which could be water, juice or beer. The room had AC, two single beds and an ensuite bathroom & shower. There was Wi-Fi in the rooms but worked best in the hallway. We also had free parking on sight and for €4 more each, the land lady cooked us breakfast.
Breakfast was served outside on the terrace and over looked the river. There was also a path that led down to the river for a look, but best not to swim as the current was fast and it did not look easy to get in or out.
Very cheap and cheerful, the rooms gave a university dorm feel. Quite spacious, no thrills, Perfect for our trip. Online some rooms look more done up and have balconies overlooking the river, but for €28 we were very happy with our room.
Click here to stay at Villa Park
We arrived quite late into Mostar, around 9pm. So, once we were checked in and ready to go into town for food it was 10pm. We couldn’t believe how lively the center was. So many locals out and about having drinks, enjoying the evening. We ended up having dinner overlooking the Mostar Bridge – Restaurant Kullak.
We ordered a mix grill plater for €35 euros which if it wasn’t for two rugby players would have fed a family of 4 easily. A massive bed of chips, veg and a hefty portion of different grilled meats, the two of us rolled out of the place! The total was around €50 as we had a Caprese salad to start, two 1l bottles of water, two fresh juices and two pints. Incredible value for one of the most central eateries in Mostar.
If you are looking for good coffee you can head to Fabrika coffee which also have free wifi!
Across the bridge there is a small square of lively bars where you can try and cool off from the heat! On the way back to the room, we passed Ali Baba’s cave – a night club pumping some of the loudest music I have ever come across, so don’t be afraid to bring your dancing shoes!
Things to do
Museum of War and genocide victims – this is one tour that I missed the opportunity to try and really wish I had the time to do. Unfortunately, we only spent about 16 hours in Mostar with a sleep in the middle of it, so time wasn’t on our side.
Swim and jump into the river – Not ready to face a jump off the bridge? No problem, I wouldn’t blame you!! If you are a confident swimmer, make your way down the steps and to the river side. There you will see a diving board across the way with three platforms. 5m, 12m, 17m.
It takes a good swimmer to get to the other side but I’m sure you can pay a local to bring you across for a small fee if you aren’t feeling up to it. Now it is just up to you to choose the height to jump from!
Dervish house, Blagaj – Another reason why our car was so useful, a spontaneous visit to the Dervish house as we made our way to Montenegro. This visit was a really pleasant surprise. We thought that we were going to an unknown view point but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Driving through a tiny, sleepy village we are met with chaotic parking patrol and no Dervish house in sight. After paying €4 to park for the day we followed the road down, where we were met by a micro village with restaurants sat beside a blue river which poured out of a natural spring much like Cetina.
Viewing of the house is free and it is €5 to enter. Completely worth it in my opinion. To respect the cultures, women must wear a headscarf and men a shawl which are provided. Here you can go through the rooms and look out over the beautiful river.
Across the river is a cave boat tour. This tour is €2 and lasts about 15 minutes. We learned so much and our guide was really knowledgeable. It was a very nice experience and I would recommend.
After we tucked into another €30 mixed grill which myself and Sam barely finished. Incredible value especially at a tourist attraction!
We then continued on the road for Montenegro which was in total a 3 hour drive. The boarder control added on an extra hour as well!
For sure, Kotor was my favourite part of the road trip. Roughly 3 hours driving from Mostar or 2 hours from Dubrovnik, Kotor is a really fantastic part of the world. Keep in mind there is a boarding crossing which may take over an hour to pass through with traffic. The closest airport is Tivat which is just on the other side of the mountain.
Montenegro, although not officially a member of the EU, the country runs on euros. Most definitely and up and coming destination for euro summer travels, Kotor is starting to see a rapid increase in tourism. The old town is comprised of small winding alley ways full of the resident cats which open up into beautiful squares boasting fantastic musicians serenading the crowd who are relaxing at one of the many excellent restaurants.
Situated along the Bay of Kotor, a road runs along the coast & passes through many small towns, each with their own charm. Perast, which is situated on the corner of the bay looks out over two small islets, St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. If you so desire you can visit by boat. Perast also has a very pleasant, cozy beach with crystal clear waters but is common to become busy.
Not far from Perast is a small town named Risan. We only passed through but this seemed like a very relaxed, family orientated destination. A nice size beach for the area and a host of small restaurants and bars. The history of this town goes all the way back to the romans and is the oldest settlement in the bay.
We stayed at the back side of Kotor in the area of Skaljari in an air bnb called Panoramic Paradise. As we only booked the night before arrival, our options were limited as prices were high in the old town. This accommodation is really only accessible by car as the road leading to it winds heavily up the mountain.
The cost was €100 a night and the host’s were incredibly kind and helpful. The property looked out over the bay and had free parking. They provided us with places to swim, eat and even the best place to park for free in town. Our room was a side apartment. We had a small kitchen, fridge, wifi, AC, a double and single bed, an ensuite, a futon and a small kitchen table.
Sam and I had come off the back of different trips previous to this road trip and we were in dire need of a clothes wash. Our host was extremely kind and offered to wash them for us, life saver!
Hiking – We completed two hikes during our stay although the plan was only to do one! Our first hike was to the San Giovanni castle. We managed to complete the hike in 20 minutes as we never took a break and essentially ran up the path like mad men. Realistically it is a 45-minute hike to the top. You have to pay €8 pp to enter.
The second hike was in search of Wine and cheese!! How could you not want to do this hike. This hike is along the Old Kotor Fort trail which brings you up a long slithering donkey trail at the back of the old town. 35 minutes along the hike is a small home and lookout point. The owners of the house have set up a place for hikers to rest and relax while they look over the entire bay of Kotor. Here you can have cold drinks, beer, water, cider as well as locally sourced wine (red/white), cheese, prosciutto, tomatoes and bread! If you are feeling very adventurous, the total hike to the top is 3 hours long!!
Pro tip: I highly recommend doing the hike to the wine and cheese shop first. Here you can enjoy a lovely rest, soak in the sights etc. Across the way you will be able to see a ladder at the back of the castle. A 10-minute short hike from the shop will bring you to the ladder. Here you can access the castle at the halfway point and walk to the top from there. When you are finished you will leave through the castle exit right in the middle of old town. A beautiful fresh water tap is there to great you as well, so you can rehydrate!!
Sveti Stefan – I am not sure about public transport from Kotor to Sveti Stefan beach but I am sure it is possible. The drive took us around 35 minutes from Kotor.
This magical destination is the perfect way to relax, soak up the sun and watch the sun set. Sveti Stefan is a pink rock beach with clear water at the base of an islet.
There are a lot of families here who will bring beach umbrellas and picnics to make the most of the day. If it gets a bit crowded you can walk up to the forest covered headland and make your way to the next bay, Milocer Beach. You will have fantastic view points along the way as well.
Hands down our favourite meal all trip was from La Catederal Pasta bar. All pastas are available in gluten free and are brilliant. Main courses were €8-12 and €5 for a glass of the highest quality local wine. A must visit!
Iced cream from Moritz was sensational and no better way to cool off in the evening heat. They have both sorbet and gelato to pick from.
Flavours such as, Pear and plum, blackcurrant, Peach, Onyx.
Kotor old town also has a high street section with lots of sought-after brands and plenty of museums such as the City of Cats tour. Kotor is also popular destination with cruise ships and has a new ship most days which brings an influx of quick tourism. From what I noticed most people in the city were not from English speaking countries and seemed to be from Montenegro or the surrounding countries.
After Kotor our trip brought us back to Croatia. After a two hour drive with a one hour boarder control stop we made it to the walled city of Dubrovnik
We stayed in an air bnb – Villa Ragusa – at the very top of old town hosted by Pero. Pero is a fantastic host and is really at the top of the host game. We had a penthouse room which had views over the entirety of Dubrovnik old town, honestly it couldn’t be beat. The room was just over €100 a night, with 3 single beds, AC, ensuite, wifi and had a suitable amount of space. Very good value for the location and time of year. FYI Dubrovnik is full of steep steps and this apartment is at the top of full flight and then three more to reach our room!
Pero was on hand to meet us and gave a us a run-down of the city with a map which he marked occasionally and he also made sure we had a shot of Grappa to get into the swing of things.
Pero tried to help us find parking in the city with many recommendations. This was a massive oversee on our part and a total nightmare haha. 100% book a space somewhere beforehand if you plan to stay in the old town. Hotel Argentina is the best value and walkable.
Parking Location & Grand Villa Argentina Hotel
I found Dubrovnik to be extremely beautiful and full of history but I felt it was quite expensive and touristy. I like to imagine Kotor now is what Dubrovnik was 15 years ago. The popularity of Game of Thrones (GOT), (a show I have never watched fyi), has created a fanatic fan base which has taken over the city. I really did enjoy people watching the GOT fans as they made their way through the city exploring the locations and gasping with excitement. That is pure joy and you cannot take that away from anyone. But the addition of many GOT tourist shops and the mass of people gave me a slight Disneyland feel. I felt like I was on a movie set rather than in a historical city.
Along with the hype, prices are definitely inflated. I had a meal for one at a Mexican restaurant – chips & salsa, burrito and mojito and the final total was €35. To walk along the city walls is €30 and the 20 minute ferry to Lokrum island for a city escape is also €30. It just feels a little on the heavy side, but they sure are making the most of it!
Highlights for me were Buza bar and Bard Maka Buza – two cliff side bars which if you blink you will miss the entrance. They are on the outside of the city walls and hang off the cliff. Both offer great music, nice vibes and a place to swim and cliff jump. Also, a fantastic spot to take in the sunset.
Lokrum island – Our host Pero said this is where the locals go to get an escape. 20 minutes on the ferry and you arrive onto a very diverse island. Botanical gardens, a mini dead sea and cliff jumping, this really is a fantastic place to spend a full day exploring and soaking up the sun.
Beaches around Dubrovnik.
Banje beach Betina Cave beach Beach Šulić Plaża Danče.
Gelato at Peppinos was world class. Tucked in the corner of old town, it was so so good and worth the wait 100%.
We ate breakfast at Gradska Kavana which is quite a posh setting in the central square. A very nice place to people watch. I was recommended here for dinner as well.
Azur Above 5 (Rooftop) Lady Pi-Pi - first come first serve Konoba Dubrava - slow cooked local food ordered in advance Panorama - Sunset lookout - cable cart to the top.
Thank so much for joining along on this adventure! Hope you have as much fun as I did!
Don’t feel like reading the full article? No problem, here is the TL;DR
Stay 48 hours
Rooms Tomic – very cozy and nice location. Click here to stay at Rooms Tomic
Coffee – D16, Kava
Old town exploring
HAK rental car & Outskirt Location
Stay 48 hours
Villa Park – €28, 2 beds, AC, lovely terrace, parking, wifi. Click here to stay at Villa Park
Stay 3-4 days (My favourite)
Stay at Panoramic Paradise – must have a car. Free parking, wifi, AC.
Wine and cheese – first hike then ladder into the fort.
San Gabrielle fort
Sveti Stefan – swim
La Catedral – dinner
Moritz – Ice cream
Persast, Risan – other towns
Stay 48 hours
Expensive and touristy.
Pero Villa Ragusa – No parking lots of steps, Amazing views, 3 beds, AC, Wifi. Stay at Villa Ragusa
So many steps
Parking at Villa Argentina.
Lokrum island – worth a day visit.
One thought on “Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro”
Woha, simply mind blowing scenes Harry, I am so glad that i stumbled upon your post!
Looks like an ideal place to explore, looking at all of these stunning sceneries.
This brings back memories on an expedition I took part in the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka in South Asia.
I set out on a journey to explore the longest river of Sri Lanka; River Mahaweli with a group of kayakers paddling for 3 long days.
And trust me when I say this, it was ‘heaven on earth” from lush greeneries to all the flora and fauna simply captivated me. Read the full story here, https://sachsattic.wordpress.com/2022/07/24/exploring-the-river-mahaweli-on-a-kayak/