Travelling to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina was already on our list for quite some time. As Valerie will be studying in Zagreb for the coming months, now was the perfect time to explore the beautiful Balkans on a romantic road trip.
Where to go
On our 10-day road trip we had to make a few tough choices on what to visit as these countries are full of cultural and natural must sees. We picked the following itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival at Zagreb and sleeping near Plitvice Lakes
Day 2: Plitvice Lakes and Sibenik
Day 3: Split
Day 4: Dubrovnik
Day 5: Dubrovnik and Neum
Day 6: Mostar, Kravica Falls and Blagaj
Day 7: Tito’s Bunker and Sarajevo
Day 8: Sarajevo
Day 9: Jajce, Visoko ‘pyramid’ and Banja Luka
Day 10: Zagreb
A rental car is by far your best option over public transport. Not only does it give you the sense of freedom and flexibility, it is also much more convenient to get more out of your holiday if you want to see several places. Plus, you can sing along your favorite duets or stop over to go a coffee at a local town. Try that while you’re on a bus 🙂
For this trip we were happy to try out the concept of Sunny Cars. After several blame-on-you rental check-ins (“Are you SURE you don’t need this additional insurance?”) we decided to go for some peace of mind. No hidden fees, no bait-and-hook charges at the check-in and a very transparent pricing for a car with optimal insurance (fully comprehensive insurance and theft protection with refund of excess; damage to glass, roof, tires and underbody covered with refund of excess). Thank God we took this package deal, as we have encountered a scratch in our front door and a crack in our windshield, but it couldn’t ruin our good moods.
Sunny Cars collaborate with locals partners in over 120 countries and have made customer-oriented services their mission. Checking in was never so relaxed! We took the package with winter tyres included, which has also proven to be a great choice on the mountain roads.
Where to eat & drink
Out of a long list of delicious dishes and delightful places we selected a few worth remembering:
Pantarul – fine dining
Dubrovnik might be a city of history and culture, but Pantarul adds a modern touch of gastronomy to the city. This restaurant is actually owned by two experienced restaurateurs, Đuro Šiljug and Milan Vasić and Ana-Marija Bujić, a locally acclaimed food blogster who shares our passion for tasteful dishes so you can imagine that everything on the menu is tested and esteemed 🙂 She even wrote a cookbook last year with her own recipes and photography, accompanied by short stories to show the world the way people eat and live in Dubrovnik nowadays. Grandmother approved! We can’t wait to try some of her recipes ourselves!
You’ll find the best local wines with seasonal dishes presented in a modern way served by waiters who know their craft and serve with a smile.
(Ulica kralja Tomislava 1, Dubrovnik)
Konoba Lučac – traditional cuisine
You’ll find a lot of ‘konoba’ in Croatia as it is the traditional word for ‘tavern’. If you want to experience the culinary traditions of Croatia, this is your stop. The restaurant is decorated with jars containing cheese and veggies on oil. We started out with a plate full of delicious tapas to try out some local cheese and sausages. As a main dish we ordered fresh caught first class (more like ‘wold class’) tuna and deer stew. Link your dishes with some secret herbal brandy and finish with a semifreddo and a coffee. Yes please!
(Ulica Sv. Petra starog 2, Split)
Tima Irma – Cevapčići and meat galore
When in Mostar, do me a favor and team up to take the challenge of eating a 2-person menu at Irma’s. A giant pile of meat awaits, combined with grilled vegetables and flat bread. The place has no toilet (like most places in the old city) so plan ahead 😉
Zlatna Ribica – Bar of curiosities
Zlatna Ribica is a one-of-a-kind bar in the region, and maybe even worldwide. Impossible the photograph the atmosphere of a bar filled to the gills with curiosities and souvenirs from around the globe. Try out the honey brandy and feast your eyes in awe.
(Kaptol 5, Sarajevo)
Where to sleep
Boy, if you’re a fan of snowy mountains, turquoise rivers and easy living in small towns, this will be your kind of trip. Near the Istrian coast there are plenty of campings and modern hotels but in the mainland you’ll have to search harder to find some cosy and wonderful accommodation. This is our list of 7 places we’d really recommend:
Farm Yurt Glamping (Plaski)
A traditional Mongolian tent right next to a goat farm? This is it! Wake up in the middle of nature and try some local farm produce. The yurt is still a bit basic as glamping goes and the owners are still experimenting with the concept, but definitely give it a try when nearby. This is a great location if you’re travelling from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes and need an overnight stay.
Otok Misjak – Glamping dome (Sibenik)
In a lush pine forest, a geodesic dome offers 40 incredibly comfortable square meters of living space, ideal to host up to four people. The luxuriously furnished KingDome consists of a fully equipped kitchen, a modern bathroom with a shower, a bedroom with a king-size bed, and an upper level with two additional beds. Enjoy on your private terraces with natural vegetation the magical view of the sea and the Kornati islands.
Ow yeah, did I mention this is actually on an inhabited island? Check out their amazing video:
Obonjan Island tents (Sibenik)
Near Sibenik you’ll find another uncommon camping concept. The Obonjan Island is an adults only party and wellness island and offers comfortable forest lodges and bell tents. Great place if you’re in the mood to immerse yourself in the island’s life.
Cadmos treehouse (Dubrovnik)
This treehouse is probably one my favorite accommodations I’ve ever been, located about 30 minutes south of Dubrovnik. What started out as a wild dream of Zoran and Goran ended up in what might be the biggest treehouse in Europe. With an amazing eye for detail they built this 7-meter high wooden cocoon for up to 6 people all by themselves. The whole system is eco-powered with solar and wind energy and heated with a pellet stove. Eat and sleep between the treetops and deeply connect with mother nature.
In summer the location turns into an Adventure Park with ziplines, a giant 12m-high swing, archery, paintball and even a restaurant. These guys have won all the local touristic awards and seem unstoppable in thinking up new concepts on their hidden valley grounds. They are getting bigger and better every year so don’t miss your chance to check it all out!
Matusko Agroturismo (Neum)
If you’re looking for an overnight stop in between Split and Dubrovnik, this might be the perfect option. The coastal Neum hasn’t much to offer in terms of accommodations with a jolly vibe, so we recommend staying at Davor’s farm in Mosevici, 10km outside of Neum. The rooms are quite basic, but outside you’ll find a splendid pool, some farm animals for the kids and rental bikes to explore the surroundings. Be prepared to get stuffed by Davor’s culinary skills and taste his homemade liquor, wine, sausages and ham. The most friendly house dog will accompany you wherever you’ll go.
Pino Hotel (Sarajevo)
Apart from Sarajevo being my favorite city of this road trip, Pino Hotel knows how to treat their Sarajevan visitors. This luxurious nature hotel on the top of the pine-covered hill is no doubt the best you’ll find in the area. Each room has been decorated so creatively that you’ll find yourself in the middle of the woods, even when you’re inside. If you have the money to spend, their suites are even more jaw-dropping and are perfect honeymoon material.
The hotel has spa facilities and a pool plus you can get a very relaxing massage (speaking out of experience). The hotel is a great starting point for (short) day hikes but there is 1 surreal sight you should explore when staying at the Pino Hotel. On a 10 minutes walk you’ll find the Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track built for the 1984 Winter Olympics. The track was damaged as a result of Siege of Sarajevo. Today, the tracks still remain mostly intact with war wounds of defensive fighting holes, drilled into one of the last turns of the course. The tracks today are mainly used for graffiti and bicycling. Although cheerful it might seem, this place is a sound reminder of how war can tip the scales so easily.
Hotel Ideja (Banja Luka)
Hotel Ideja is situated in the center of Banja Luka, in the old part of town. This, once artisanal part of the city, still preserves the spirit of the past. It’s located next to a beautiful mosque and is only 5 minutes walk from the city’s epicentre. The interior decoration and spacious room set-up feels like a true boutique hotel, beautiful and luxurious, yet simple and elegant. You can park right in front of the hotel while they take care of the parking ticket. This customer-friendly staff knows exactly how to make you feel at home. Banja Luka is the second biggest city of Bosnia & Herzegovina and is worth a day of citytripping.