Rovinj is located in the Istria region of Croatia known for it's wine and truffles which are found nearby. It is not as well known as Dubrovnik, which gave it a smaller more local feel. It had everything we look for in a perfect Mediterranean coastal town. If we would have known how amazing this place was we would have booked a week here.
We love the colorful buildings you can find all over Europe.
Located on a peninsula Rovinj's rocky cliff-side is the perfect place to grab a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the ocean while your feet are in the water.
In Europe more than the United States, groceries are not bought at a store but at a local market. This daily market found here in Rovinj was full of fresh local produce, and is also where they sell some of the rich Istrian truffles!
These cobblestoned streets were beautiful but slightly dangerous, especially in slippery shoes.
An artist sketches the city scape of beautiful Rovinj
A big thanks to Ang's mom, Rhonda; for planning such a wonderful trip. She picked some great places to stay like the gorgeous apartments we stayed at in Rovinj. (Pictured below)
Our last couple hours in Croatia while waiting for our bus to Slovenia. Time spent with some local wine in a cozy corner.
This National park in the mountains of Croatia is a hidden gem. It is a pretty unique area that has countless cascading waterfalls that seem to flow out of the earth through various vegetation and bamboo.
To explore the park you simply walk along the wooden pathways that weave through the forest along the lakes and waterfalls.
Around every corner more waterfalls flowed into emerald pools.
These wooden paths are narrow. It was a fairly overcast day, also being in late September; the crowds were not bad. We did encounter two large tour groups that were going the opposite direction as us. As one group of about 50 people passed we heard a loud scream and a splash! Turning our heads we saw somebody getting pulled out of the water.
You could easily spend a couple days in this giant park. It was such a beautiful place and so different than the ocean where we spent the last week.
We picked up our sailboat "Nelly" in this beautiful harbor in Split. We spent the evening walking along the promenade and eating mussels.
Our first stop was the quaint village of Stari Grad on Hvar Island. Stari Grad means old town. Right when we got off the boat we went for a walk around. We covered the whole town and every alleyway within an hour or so and made a reservation at a funky little restaurant. Stari Grad was extremely peaceful, there were a few sailors like ourselves but mostly just locals and the occasional farmer.
We docked our boat for the night along the promenade. Docking the boat can be stressful in Europe. It requires backing up the boat into a small slip between other sailboats (Just like backing up your car into a narrow parking spot, but rather than your car, a 50 foot boat). Jeff and Rhonda (Ang's parents) are pros at sailing and make docking the boat easy, but once the boat is all tied up we always celebrate with a cold local beer.
We enjoyed the vivid sunset from the boat and went out for dinner.
We went to dinner at this restaurant/bar "Antika." This place is pretty fun, the kitchen is on one side of the alleyway in one building, and the bar and seating is across the ally in another building. Seating is upstairs, downstairs, on the alley, or a short walk away in the square. We started off with a little Pastis (French classic aperitif) and had a very fun dinner. If you come here, make sure you feed some snacks to the owners dog "Romeo" the fat little beagle who will be watching you eat!
This was pretty unique. As we were wandering through this small town we ended up in this small residential square when we smelled something unusual. We looked around and didn't notice anything, as we proceed onward we saw these giant plastic bags with fermenting grapes. They where making home made grape brandy. Nothing like a little "home cooking?"
Stari Grad was perfect, as you can see from how many pictures we took here, we really liked this little spot on Hvar Island.
The best sail we had was on our way to Vis! We caught some wind and hauled some ass.
After we successfully docked the boat along the quay, and drank our ceremonial beers we hoped onto some scooters and took off across the island. It only took us about 30 minutes to traverse the entire island to the other harbor town called Komiza! We ate some gelato and headed back to Vis for the night. Sometimes the best way to see a place is on the back of a moped.
After some cappuccinos in Vis we took off for Vinogradisce bay on a little island en route to Hvar. We dropped anchor and spent the afternoon swimming off the boat, reading, and enjoying some boat snacks along with some local wine from Vis. This is what the sailing trips are all about, reading in the sun, then taking a dip and a dive.
When we pulled into Hvar town looking for a spot to dock the boat for the night we saw it was packed! We circled around the harbor looking for a place to pull in or a mooring ball to tie onto for the night, but to no avail. Finally a friendly couple let us raft up next to them on their mooring ball for the night. Phew! Time to uncork some wine.
Hvar town is known for it's nightlife and restaurants but we especially loved the castle up on the hill overlooking the harbor.
Our last stop on our bareboating adventure around the Croatian islands was in Vrboska, or "Little Venice." You can see why it got it's nickname.
During an especially rainy afternoon we went on a wine tour of the island. We visited two local wineries, had some great wines, made some friends, and tasted some delicious food.
Some of the boats here are so tiny!
Like a moth to a flame, Ang scopes the gelato scene.
The Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea is where Dubrovnik sits. This walled fortress is nicknamed "The Pearl of the Adriatic." It is like going inside of a fairly tale city that has remained intact from its 13th century maritime trading.
The cliffs surrounding Dubrovnik offer small intimate multi-level hangout bars. Grab an Ozujsko (local beer) and dive off the rocks.
Wandering these marble streets is one of the best parts of Dubrovnik. Once you start getting off of the Stradun (main street) you will find deserted alleyways that you can enjoy at your own pace.
Dubrovnik has received much attention due to the filming of Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik was selected as the main location for "Kings Landing." You will see advertisements for Game of Thrones tours, but with a little internet searching you can create your own tour.
Tip: Their are 2 Iron Thrones here! One is in a small shop right off the main street, and the other is located on Lokrum Island, only a short 10 minute boat ride away.
One of the touristy, but must-do things in Dubrovnik is walking around the old wall. We decided to do this right when it opened at 8:00 AM to avoid the heat and the crowds. The views from the wall give you a great birds eye view of the fortress.
To cool off after you conquer the wall, head outside the wall to a local swimming hole. We hit this spot two days in a row because it was absolutely beautiful, and had a great local vibe.
Tip: The tour buses and the tourist groups never leave the interior of the city, this swimming hole was a two minute walk away from the hoards of travelers. You will certainty be the only person walking away from the wall, just trust us on this; you are going the right way! This little spot is exactly the kind of thing we are always searching for. That little bar with the bamboo roof in the picture below served up some ice cold radlers, a mix of beer and lemonade.
Tip: Rent a kayak outside of the wall instead of doing a kayak tour. This allows you to go at your own speed. The tours are 3 hours long and the first 30 minutes is a "how to paddle" demo. It only took us 30 minutes to kayak around the wall, and we paid a fraction of the price.
Dubrovnik is full of great places that are just outside of the main tourist path, this hidden sunset spot has a little sign that just says "cold drinks." Enter a small path and you end up here.
We stayed here at the Prijeko Palace, this place is amazing. If possible try to find a place inside the wall. The crowds die off as the night goes on and its a completely different scene than during the hectic day.
If we have one piece of advice that we think is crucial is that Dubrovnik is not a place you want to visit in the middle of summer. We heard horror stories of days when the city is 100 degrees and 7 cruise ships pull into dock. The city can only hold so many people and even the most amazing places can be ruined by crowds. We picked September because we knew we would still get that summer experience and warm water but without the crowds. Dubrovnik has an amazing energy and environment that will awaken your child like fantasies, storm the castle and visit this place!