JANUARY 30, 2024 • TRAVEL GUIDE
If Greece and Italy had a baby, it would be Croatia... and what an absolute beauty she is. I had the privilege of visiting Croatia last May (2023) and it jumped right to the top of my favorite countries list. As an added bonus, early May was the perfect time to go as I'm a big advocate of shoulder season for mild weather and fewer tourists. Between stunning coastlines, lush national parks, delicious wine and seafood, chic hotels, gruff but friendly locals (think Roy Kent. IYKYK.) this charming and alluring destination was made for island hopping! I've curated the ideal itinerary so you can #jet around the seaside towns of southern Dalmatia, beginning in Dubrovnik and ending in Zagreb - which can easily be done in reverse: Day 1
Arrive in Dubrovnik, Croatia's post popular city, known as "the Pearl of the Adriatic" and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Taxi from Dubrovnik Ruđer Bošković Airport (DBV) to hotel.
Check-in to the modern gem: Villa Dubrovnik. The Duke's Suite was fully fabulous! It has a huge terrace with extraordinary views of the sea (ah, the color of the water... chef's kiss), rocky coastline, and Old Town Dubrovnik - which you can drink in from your private terrace jacuzzi and 24/7 room-service, of course. (Ask about enriching your open-air spa with in-room wellness treatments, too!)
Free evening to shake off the jet-lag and enjoy the sun setting over the sparkling Adriatic from the rooftop Prosciutto & Wine Bar.
Views from Villa Dubrovnik
Free day to explore Dubrovnik after an al fresco breakfast, once again admiring the coastline views. Meander along the medieval walls and bustling alleyways without agenda, take the Dubrovnik Cable Car to the top of Srd Hill to enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views of Old Town, buy a linen outfit from a local shop... immerse yourself in the local culture.
Lunch and a spritz at Lady Pi-Pi... the view was 100% worth the 7,000 stairs we climbed to get there. I kept imagining a dragon* flying over all of the terracotta-tiled rooftops.
Dinner at the sophisticated & romantic Nautika. We did the 7-course tasting menu + wine pairing and it. was. sensational! The entire evening was truly a feast for the senses: pre-dinner, pine-smoked cocktails were made tableside, the meal was kicked-off with an amusing amuse-bouche, compliments of the chef, an assortment of dessert bites followed all the tasty courses, and we concluded the evening with giggles and a grappa cart! All of this was on top of the impeccable service and incredible view we had from their gorgeous patio. This, like Croatia itself, leapt to the top of my favorite [restaurants] list. (I have a lot of lists.)
*Note: You may feel the need to chat with the locals about Game of Thrones, but I would tread lightly. They feel it's slightly ridiculous it took a fantasy show for people to understand how truly special Croatia is... they have a point.
Dinner at Nautika
Early morning for a Montenegro Day-Trip!* Radulovic LTD Transfers & Tours was prompt, professional, and allowed us to tailor our private tour of Montenegro. We explored dreamy Perast, with a stop at Armonia - who had the most delightfully fragrant jasmine vines - where we sat right on the water and enjoyed a cocktail and appetizer, as well as the Bay of Kotor. Montenegro was even more magical than I had imagined.
Stop for a late lunch at Catovica Mlini, located half way between Kotor and Herceg Novi, in a quaint town called Morinj. If you do anything on this itinerary, do this. The beauty of the lush and vibrant grounds cannot be exaggerated. There are mountains in the background, fresh-water streams covered with rustic wooden bridges, tables spaced out under ivy-covered pergolas and on stone patios; truly a stunning setting... Then comes the cuisine! I half expected singing birds to come place a napkin gently in my lap. We were so enchanted with the overall vibe and atmosphere, that we told our adorable server that we just wanted him to bring us his recommendations! He seemed so elated that we were whole-heartedly embracing the culture, and let's just say he understood the assignment. Some highlights included home-made olive oil and prosciutto, a whole grilled sea bass and roasted potatoes (that were salty and crispy on the outside and impossibly fluffy and light on the inside) topped with Mediterranean spices. I am not usually a big white wine drinker... well, in both Croatia and Montenegro, my favorite wines we had were white. We couldn't decide if we wanted a dessert, and if so what, and while we were deliberating our server brought us an assortment so we could try a little bit of everything + a cordial of Limoncello to pair. I can't stress how special this experience was, and you guessed it... it made the list.
*Note: Yet another reason to visit the region during shoulder season when possible. When crossing the border, we did so without a single car in front of us. We were told this can take hours in the summer months, especially if there's an accident as it's a two lane road.
Perast and lunch at Armonia
Sleep-in, go for a swim in the lovely indoor pool, pack and get ready to depart... but not before a farewell lunch!
Last lunch in Dubrovnik at Pjerin - which is complimentary when working with JET! As is the daily a la cart breakfast.
Take the ferry from Dubrovnik ➜ Korčula. Tickets can be easily purchased for all ferries/catamarans via Bookaway.
Enjoy dinner at the Michelin Starred LD Restaurant at the hotel. We did the chef's tasting menu & wine pairing and it. was. unbelievable. I still have dreams (and wake up drooling) about the sea bass nigiri with caviar, the black truffle scallops, and the beef tenderloin with foie gras.
Strolling around Korčula
Start the day with some tranquility at the LD Spa with an early Thai massage.
Set out to explore Korčula! In particular, stroll the city walls of Old Town and roam the narrow and winding streets all lined with shops and cafes.
Book a sunset kayak small tour / or rent a kayak for a self-guided tour with the Spirit of Korkyra - and you guessed it, enjoy more wine while marveling at the vibrant sunset before heading to dinner.
Dinner at the family-owned Konoba Škafetin in Lumbarda, recommended by locals. Here, you'll bask in the warm and welcoming ambiance as you sit amongst olive trees and relish in fresh seafood that is prepared simply yet sophisticated.
Enjoy your last breakfast at the hotel before departing - which is also complimentary daily when working with JET!
Take the ferry from Korčula ➜ Hvar.
Check-in to the historic hotel: Palace Elisabeth, a member of both LHW & Virtuoso. Located right in the city center, a member of the staff will meet you at your ferry to cart your luggage in. A bottle of champagne awaits you in the a lavish and luxurious Elisabeth Suite, boasting a balcony with killer views of the Adriatic, two bathrooms with heated tile floors, marble counter-tops, one with a shower 6 adults could frolic in with room to spare (if you're into that sort of thing) and the other with a huge clawfoot tub, deep-teal velvet living room furniture and a spacious bed with silky sheets. Hard to want to leave the room! (Ideal for honeymoons and anniversaries, just sayin'.)
Dinner at Black Pepper where you'll sit at a table on the landing of steps in a charming alley, enjoy wine out of a spinning decanter (have you seen these before? I loved it so much I got my mom one for Christmas) and modern Mediterranean cuisine. As an extra win, cats visit you at your table as they run up and down the alley.
Sites of Hvar
Enjoy breakfast on the hotel veranda - also complimentary when working with JET! - and explore Hvar's rustic twists and turns.
Head to the Hora Winery (thanks to the pre-arranged transportation set-up by the hotel) essentially a rural ranch in Stari Grad. You can pre-order Traditional Peka, 100% farmed lamb and veal, freshly caught mix of fish, or octopus. This menu also comes with a starter of salami, cheese and anchovies, salad, an olive oil tasting, dessert, and of course, the paired wine tasting. Pro tip: buy some olive oil + wines to bring home as unfortunately they don't ship internationally.
Free evening to stroll the beautifully aromatic streets (seriously, this is the best smelling city I've ever been to, thanks to Japanese Cheesewood trees & climbing flower vines everywhere).
Hora Winery in Stari Grad
Free morning and final breakfast.
Take the ferry from Hvar ➜ Split, pre-arranged, brief private transfer from Split ➜ Trogir. (I know what you're thinking, skipping Split?? But, I tend to really fall in love with the smaller towns, a bit more off the obvious path.)
Early dinner at the scenic Cartina followed by exploring the winding, cobblestone alleys and bustling squares of Historic Trogir Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can find cocktail lounges, kiosks with local art and produce + delicious gelato.
Head to Primošten, thanks to pre-arranged transportation set-up by the hotel.
Lunch at the intimate Konoba Dvor, recommended by locals. Think fresh tuna and sea bass + homemade cheese, black risotto, and fresh-baked bread.
After walking off lunch, work up a thirst and head to a wine tasting at the boutique Prgin Winery, famous for full-bodied Babić red wine.
Free evening for more sunsets and strolls.
Konoba Dvor and Prgin Winery in Primošten
Early morning and final breakfast.
Check-in to hotel: the stylish and classic Esplanade Zagreb Hotel. The Deluxe Suite had an old Hollywood glamour with features like goose-down duvets, marble counters in the bathroom, and sparkling city views. Have you ever seen 1408? This hotel had the vibes of John Cusack's room at The Dolphin! (Minus the whole evil thing.) So, we hooked up our Apple TV to watch this while we were packing... I'm embarrassed to admit that later, I was scared to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This is similar to the time we watched The Strangers at a remote cabin. I'm clearly a glutton for punishment.
The hotel will gladly pre-arrange your ride to the airport, and since we needed to leave at 6am, this was appreciated as I would not have wanted to foggily deal with that in the morning. Head to the Franjo Tuđman Airport Zagreb (ZAG) to make the journey back across the pond, reflect on your wonderful trip, and plan your debrief with Jenna!
*Note: It can feel a bit jarring to end the trip in a big city after all of the quaint towns, but such is the way to migrate back to a major airport - We could've easily flown home from Split, but we wanted to venture a little further north. Had we had even more time, I would've loved to include more island hopping as well as Rovinj, a beautiful port on the west coast of the Istrian region. In any case, Zagreb was a lively contrast and exciting way to conclude the trip.