The Adriatic Coast stretching through the Western Balkans is considered to be among the most scenic drives in the entire world. With miles of clear blue waters on one side and towering mountains on the other, my weeklong trip spent driving up the coast of Croatia was one of my most memorable travel experiences so far.
Croatia is currently one of Europe’s trendiest countries. Recent international attention garnered through shows like Game of Thrones or pictures of Croatia’s biggest party, Yacht Week, has brought new throngs of backpackers and cruise-goers alike to Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast. Furthermore, travel bloggers and photographers can hardly resist the opportunity to visit the stunning national parks just a few hours from Croatia’s major cities.
So, inspired by the stories of my fellow travel bloggers and a Pinterest board full of unbelievable photos, we began our road trip along the Adriatic Coast in the world-renowned city of Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is famous for its City Walls, surrounding a beautiful Old Town in the center, which offer stunning views of both the town and the teal waters of the shore. Hiking the walls costs 120 Kuna, or you may opt to purchase a Dubrovnik Card which includes a pass to the city walls, access to public transportation, and several other museums.
Dubrovnik’s City Walls are easily among Croatia’s most-visited destinations, and when I walked the walls for myself, I could quickly see why—the view is indescribable! Surrounded by towers and cathedrals, at the intersection of the mountains and the sea, you truly feel transported back in time to the Middle Ages when the walls were first built.
Game of Thrones fans who visit Dubrovnik might even be in for a bonus treat: seeing their favorite celebrities filming on location! For the past several seasons, the hit HBO series has used the ancient city as the site of their fictional King’s Landing, as well as other filming locations throughout Croatia.
The next stop on our Croatian Roadtrip was the stunning coastal town of Split, just a four hour drive to the north. Split is Croatia’s second largest city and a relative newcomer to the flourishing tourism scene. This city seamlessly blends its ancient history with a modern, hip twist. History buffs will love walking around narrow cobblestone streets with flowers blooming overhead, and in the evenings, popular restaurants and bars provide a great nightlife scene.
Split’s major attraction is Diocletian’s Palace, with its ancient Roman architecture, towering cathedral, and the famous belltower with unbeatable views at the top. It’s a long way up but it’s definitely worth the climb!
Split’s historic center is one of the oldest in the world, and UNESCO World Heritage site as well. Because Split is also centrally located as a port city, you also have several options for day trips to little towns on neighboring islands, such as charming Hvar.
Less than two hours away, our final stop on our Adriatic Roadtrip was the city of Zadar. Compared to Croatia’s booming southern cities, Zadar has remained relatively undiscovered. It shares similar cultural features such as ancient ruins, cathedrals, and a historic old town, but it remains distinctly unique for it’s modern art built into the city’s harbor: the famous sea organ along the promenade. This pubic installation plays a haunting melody as the tide swells and recedes through its pipes. The same artist credited for the Zadar sea organ also created the nearby feature called “Monument to the Sun,” a large circle of colored light cells, like a disco-ball that kids can dance on. This stretch of Zadar’s shoreline remains a trendy hotspot for the younger crowds to enjoy the sunset by the seaside during their evening social hour.
This trip was truly one of my favorite, most memorable adventures in the Balkan region. If you’re planning a similar trip, I recommend visiting in the off seasons (Spring or Autumn) so you can enjoy the wide variety of sights with fewer crowds. Croatia maintains fabulous highways that make it easy to travel between cities, but don’t forget to pack extra Kuna for the tolls. I also recommend continuing the journey south in Montenegro’s famous Bay of Kotor, or extending your journey in Croatia to include its hundreds of small islands off the coast. No matter the itinerary, this is truly an unforgettable trip of a lifetime.