Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 2

In part one of my Tucan Travel, Balkans Highlights trip review, I discussed how I chose this trip.

In part two I will cover how I got to Dubrovnik, and then review my first three stops: Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar.

Stari Grad Hvar Cafe

GETTING THERE

Most tour companies offer hotels and transport for the nights mentioned as part of the trip, but don’t include extra nights, flights or airport transfers.

I arranged the pre and post tour accommodation with Tucan Travel, as well as the airport transfers, as it was my first trip and it was much easier to not have to worry about these things. I also booked hotels at Manchester Airport before and after my holiday as trains don’t run particularly early or late between Manchester airport and Yorkshire; this meant I could maximise my days on holiday.

For flights I used Skyscanner to find out what flights were available on my chosen travel days and what times they flew. I made sure to only search for direct flights as some of the options have very long travel days for such a short trip! I then booked my outward flight with Jet2 and my return with Monarch.




DAYS 0 TO 2 – DUBROVNIK

I arrived into Dubrovnik the day before the tour officially started. My airport transfer took me from the airport to Vila Micika, my first hotel. I dumped my stuff, freshened up, and found bus route number 6 to take me to the Old Town (Vila Micika is north west of the Old Town – cheaper than staying in the Old Town, with good links in).

For my first day I just wanted to get my bearings so I walked briefly through the Old Town from Pile Gate where the bus dropped me off to the Old Port.

I then walked up Lovrijenac, close to Pile Gate and just outside the Old Town walls. Walking up was much quieter than inside the Old Town and gave a lovely, different view of the city. I later learnt it gives a good view of a place called Kings Landing..!

Lovrijenac, Dubrovnik, Croatia

The view from Lovrijenac looking at the Old Town

That night I went back to my hotel and slept for about 12 hours! Clearly the excitement was too much for me!

On day two I really wanted to  walk the walls. I had read reviews that you should do it in the morning before they get too busy and the sun gets too high and hot as the walls are all uncovered.

Access to the walls is 120HRK, but for double that you can get the Dubrovnik card which also includes access to some museums and 10 rides on public transport over three days. I had bought a card the previous day to use on the bus so I showed my card and climbed up onto the walls just inside Pile Gate.

Lovrijenac

The view of Lovrijenac from the Old Town walls

Rooftops of Dubrovnik

The contrast of old and new roof tiles shows the areas that were repaired following bombings in 1991-1992 during the seige of Dubrovnik

Walking the walls took all morning and the views were spectacular. Afterwards I took the opportunity to try some Croatian gelato (highly recommended!) and walk around some of the museums to maximise my Dubrovnik Card. Dubrovnik Old Town is packed full of buildings within the walls, so I spent a while simply walking down lots of different streets exploring.

Dubrovnik is home to a lot of stray cats! If you have allergies, be warned!

I then returned to my hotel to meet my fellow travellers. Dubrovnik was the swap over hotel where some finished their Budapest to Dubrovnik trip whilst others (like me!) joined. As it was the first night we went out for a group meal at Pantarul where I had the most amazing Dalmatian steak (Dalmatia as in the region of Croatia – I didn’t turn into Cruella de Vil!) and I was able to meet the people I would be travelling with for the next 12 days.

DAYS 2 TO 3 – KORCULA

At the start of tour day two we all jumped into taxi’s down to the new port in Dubrovnik (where the cruise ships come in) to catch the ferry to Korcula. We caught the Liburnija, a Jadrolinija ferry, up the coast past the island of Mljet to Korcula Old Town.

View from the ferry to Korcula

The view from the ferry to Korcula

Korcula

First view of Korcula from the ferry (note the turret on the right for later!)

We stayed at Hotel Park, again outside of the Old Town but this time accessible by water taxi (or regular taxi the long way round). The ferry took all morning so by the time we arrived at the hotel we could check straight in before heading back on the water taxi to explore the Old Town.

Korcula Old Town is a mini version of Dubrovnik Old Town, so to visit straight after Dubrovnik was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful, but Old Towns tend to blend in to one another!

That evening one of the optional extra’s was the chance to see the Moreska Sword Dance, a traditional sword dance and drama. The show was held in an open air theatre after dark and was spectacular. It was nice to experience a part of the culture of the island during our brief stay.

Before the sword dance we had some free time, and with the hotel so far away we decided to experience a local bar. Our tour guide directed us to the turret from the previous photo, which is actually the cocktail bar Massimo. The top of the turret is only accessible by a ladder and drinks are brought up on a pulley! We were there for sunset, and as you can see in the (unedited) photo below, the views are outstanding.

Massimo Cocktail Bar in Korcula Old Town

Sunset at Massimo cocktail bar in Korcula Old Town is a must-see

DAYS 3 TO 5 – HVAR

After a late night drinking cocktails and watching sword dancing we had an early morning to catch the same ferry we had got off of the previous day, this time heading to our next destination; Hvar.

Hvar Town is the party town of Croatia where the rich like to go (think Leonardo DiCaprio), so 18 tourists with backpacks at 8am was a little bit different! We arrived so early that we had to leave our bags with the hostel organiser until our accommodation was available.

After a couple of busy days we spent the day relaxing, going for a walk round the marina and mostly people watching. We must have spent an hour watching some Irish lads loading a dingy full of food and alcohol to take back to their yacht for that nights party – how they didn’t sink the boat I will never know!

As we didn’t have to get up early the next day we decided we would make this night a good night out, so once we got into our accommodation we put our glad rags on and got ready for some partying!

Unfortunately before we went out we had a group meal. Now, at the time, I really enjoyed it, but as the night went on I discovered it didn’t enjoy me… Suffice to say, tuna fish that isn’t chilled quickly when caught can have some unpleasant side effects and lead to an early night!

(For more information click here)

Luckily I recovered pretty quickly, so for my second day on Hvar Island I caught a bus from Hvar Town to Stari Grad (literally Old Town).

Stari Grad, Hvar Island

The view from Stari Grad across the bay on Hvar Island

Stari Grad was the quietest place I visited during the whole holiday, and gave me a great opportunity to sit, read my book, and gather my thoughts. Time was flying by so fast on this trip, and I was enjoying it so much, it was nice to have a moment to myself to reflect. Stari Grad was also where I found the cheeky sandwich board at the top of this post!

I caught the bus back and bumped into some of the others from my tour. After a cheeky crêpe we hiked up Fortress Fortica Španjola. The fortress looks out over Hvar Town and the bay, and watching the sun set is a great way to end the day and your stay in Hvar.

Fortica Španjola Hvar

The stunning view from Fortress Fortica Španjola looking over Hvar Town

Next (Part 3)


Have you been to Dubrovnik, Korcula or Hvar? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

In part three my trip continues through Croatia, visiting Split, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb.

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