Agriculture of the Neretva River Delta
Our final view of the Dinaric Alps meeting the Adriatic Sea
The epic views of the Dalmatian coast continued on our seventh and final leg of the Croatian Road Trip. The Dinaric Alps kept crashing into the Adriatic, and a smattering of little islands were always to the west. A new element in this section was the introduction of agriculture to the delta of the Neretva River just after we passed through the small coastal section of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river has been damned in multipleÂ locationsÂ upstream to take advantage of its flow for hydroelectric power, and it has been distributed throughout the delta for irrigation resulting in a green and blue patchwork of farm land.
At the southern tip of the country, Dubrovnik isÂ our final destination in the Mediterranean. Every day has been sunny and mostly dry with average daytime temperatures of 80-85ËšF so we spent the first fewÂ days ducking into the shadows of the old town with frequent stops at mini markets for cold beverages and ice cream. Then we spent a couple days in the sea swimming and kayaking. Then we spent a day walking aroundÂ the newer sections, and today we have stayed put in our air conditioned apartment.
The old town is better than I expected, but the city as a whole is geared to tourism much more than I expected. This made it easy to get around and comfortable to be in, but it certainly wasn’t a glimpse into the average Croatian life.
The city within walls
Dubrovnik & Lokrum Island
Old and new terra cotta roofs
Hiding from the sun
He brings his own shade
Fishing nets wrapped and ready
I love people
The Onofrio Fountain
Walking on walls
The Stradun of Dubrovnik at night
Dubrovnik Cathedral in the distance
Inside Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence Fortress)
Kayaks for the open Sea
Before their arms ache
Cold Drinks…aka Buza Bar
The cliff side of Buza Bar
I have a feeling that this might have been the last time I will swim in a huge body of water this year.Â I’m going to miss it.
The Coastal Route
After Leg 5 of our Croatian Road Trip, we were supposed to switch to public transportation. The plan was to drive along the coast and explore Paklinica & Krka National Parks, then return the car at the Split airport beforeÂ taking a bus the rest of the way down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik. That plan changed whenÂ we saw the road wind along the base of the Dinaric Alps as they dropped into theÂ Adriatic SeaÂ whenÂ we left Krk Island.Â How could we pass upÂ the chance to drive the entire length of a coastline like that? We couldn’t.
Random fortification wall
Makes me wonder what it was like new
He’s in abandoned building heaven
The Million Dollar View
Abandoned children’s resort in the middle of a functioning campground
Trogir – TvrÄ‘ava Kamerlengo
Trogir – TvrÄ‘ava Kamerlengo
Former palace courtyard
Because we decided to keep the car all the way to Dubrovnik, the options for where to stayÂ after Å ibenik opened up and I discovered an area called “The Makarska Riviera”. It is 60 kilometer stretch of coastlineÂ in central Dalmatia around the town of Makarska. The slender region is cut off from the rest of the mainland by the Biokovo mountain range (part of the Dinaric Alps) and has only one main access road connecting a long string of small towns with populations of 300-1500 people each. Many of the former fishing villages have developed tourism economies where there are up to 4 beds to every inhabitant. The attraction to the area for tourism is obvious…beaches, dramatic landscapes, and fantastic weather. We were there for a full week at the beginning of June, and the average daily temperature was about 75ËšF. Perfect for lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea.
We chose to stay in the town ofÂ Podgora because we found an amazing seaside apartment. It was within walking distance of several different beaches and any service we needed. I expected we would try out a different beach every day, but we ended up goingÂ to the same one forÂ 3Â out of our 4 beach days. The reason is that itÂ was in a small secluded bay away from the road with a viewÂ of the dramatic coastal landscape and plenty of shade trees.
Nik in the Adriatic
The only excursion we took from Podgora was a trip to Hvar island via the car ferry from Drvenik to SuÄ‡uraj.Â Once on the island, we drove its entire 82 kilometer length to Hvar city with only a few detours along the way. We parked the car in a paid lot on the outskirts of town and walked through the main square to the port. From what I read before the outing, I expected the city to be lavish and glitzy because this is where the rich and famous came to vacation. On the Friday afternoon we were there, it was just like any other small historic coastal Croatian town with a few extra yachts in its harbor.
After lunch, we began the drive back to SuÄ‡uraj with the hope of finding a nice secluded beach along the way to spend the afternoon. Our first try near ZaraÄ‡e didn’t work out because there was no obvious beach and the road to get there was extremely steep and windy. Our second try took us on a meandering route through the towns of Vrbanj, SvirÄe, Vrisnik, and Pitve before we entered the most bazaar one-way, rough-cut car tunnel there ever was. At the end of the road, we were in the town of Zavala where we parked and walked along a coastal path to the perfect inlet with just enough level beach to spread out two towels. After relaxing in the sun a bit, we took the plunge into the cold water and enjoyed our seclusion. FiveÂ minutes later,Â a family of 5 plopped down to share our tiny beach. I couldn’t blame them. It was perfect.
After about an hour, we were getting tired and we knew the drive back up the hill and through the tunnel wouldn’t be easy, so we packed up, got in the car, and began our return trip to the ferry. Just before we got to the car, it started raining and we were amazed that we timed it perfectly. The steep uphill road was fairly empty, but we did have to play chicken with an oncoming car in the tunnel. That is not an experience I ever want to repeat.
By the time we pulled up to the SuÄ‡uraj ferry port 20 minutes before departure, the sky was dark with storm clouds. I ran up to buyÂ our tickets while Nik waited in the car in line. As I got back into the car, the rain and wind picked up and a perfect rainbow formed an arch over the truck in front of us. We sat and watched the lightning and wondered if the boats would still cross in this weather.Â The answer is yes, but the rain stopped shortly after we boarded and we were able to go up on deck and watch the storm from a distance as the sun set.
Passengers enjoying the view
Goodbye mainland…we’ll be back in a few hours
Where the Dinaric Alps meet the Adriatic
Hvar Island from the south
Farm town on Hvar Island
Abandoned children’s resort pool in Jesla
Rooms of the resort
Blue, Yellow & Red on Stone
Croatia knows how to do boardwalks
Nik chomping on Carob
The listing for ourÂ apartment
Our AirBnB Croatia Wish List
Makarska Riviera Beaches
Great Hvar Restaurant: Dalmatino
Croatia Ferries: Drvenik-SuÄuraj
Nik’s Blog:Â Abandoned Hotels and Beach Days in Podgora, Croatia
On the road
Small factory town
After a short 96 kmÂ drive from Paklenica, we stopped in Å ibenik forÂ twoÂ days/three nights to see the falls within Krka National Park and explore the small city. We started our park day pretty early and were one of the first cars to pull into the lot nearÂ Skradinski Buk. It was a warm day, so we were thankful for the shade along the steep path down the hill. Once at the water’s edge, an educational trail of wooden boardwalks criss crossed the falls and gave us the chance to watch fish,Â frogs and lizards in the clear water below. The walk would be great for kids, but Nik and I enjoyed it all the same. At the end of the trail, we had a simple lunch while watching visitors swim in the wide pool at the base of the waterfall. We originally planned to jump in ourselves, but the water was frigid and we decided to drive to a couple other falls within the park instead.
Krka National Park
Fish in crystal clear water
A beautiful and cold swimming hole
Swimmers and spectators
Swan and swanling
The city of Å ibenik was the first historic coastal town in Croatia where it seemsÂ the old town isÂ appreciated as much by the locals as it is by tourists. Perhaps this is because the old town is flanked on three sides by more modern development making it easy for locals to simply cross through town. Or maybe it is because there is not a huge tourist interest in Å ibenikÂ because Krka National ParkÂ is an easy day trip from Split or Zadar rather than a destination on its own. Regardless, it is well worth staying there for a few nights because the evenings in town are magical, the buildings are graceful, and the water’s edge is beautiful and full of life.
Sunset from our Å ibenik apartment balcony
Å ibenik Cathedral
Statue & shutters
Å ibenik street lamp
Stone laundry pole hangers
Nik in Å ibenik
Nik’s Blog: Three Days in Å ibenik and Krka National Park, Croatia