Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Croatia is simply one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, with a recent past unique in European history. Within just five years it experienced the fall of communism, a war and then full independence. Today however, with the scars very much healed, this matchless blend of history, Mediterranean ambience and truly stunning natural beauty is, and rightly so, on the discerning traveller’s map once again. Ruled for 2,000 years by some of the greatest powers of their time: the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and the Hapsburgs amongst others, have all left their mark both architecturally and culturally. There are Roman palaces, amphitheatres, baroque churches, imposing civic buildings and even mosques. Dubrovnik in particular is a delight, almost a living museum, medieval in character with a heavy influence of the baroque period in the numerous churches and where life spills spontaneously onto its pedestrianised marble streets. Once the centre of a thriving commercial empire, Lord Byron christened it ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, whilst George Bernard Shaw thought it simply ‘Paradise on Earth’. In our view - it is simply idyllic! The Dalmatian coastline is legendary: one of the most dramatic in Europe, extending for hundreds of miles, where steep limestone cliffs plunge into sapphire-blue waters. Just offshore the mirror-like Adriatic is studded with countless islands, some tiny, some large, some inhabited, some not, but giving scenery almost reminiscent of a series of huge intertwining lakes. The hillsides are clad in a green carpet of lush pine-forests giving that instantly recognisable Mediterranean aroma to the air. Clinging to the coast or nestling in picturesque coves are medieval fishing villages, with tiny shops, refreshingly free from tasteless development, where the alleyways are simply pebbles set into the earth and overhead shutters precariously sway and squeak in the warm, gentle breezes. Life continues much as it has for centuries with the elderly still clad in black; so typical of southern Europe. Whilst this is a unique country, the Croatians appear very much Mediterranean in character: effervescent, friendly and open. The cuisine really is superb too! Heavily influenced by nearby Greece and Italy, everywhere you find exquisite fish like sea bass, tuna and bream fresh from the sea and cooked in a variety of ways, but best simply grilled. Excellent meats abound too and fresh colourful Mediterranean vegetables such as peppers, aubergines and courgettes, combined with olive oil, create tasty, healthy menus. Then we visit Montenegro, one of the world’s newest countries and if you can imagine what the Mediterranean was like thirty years ago then this is probably it! A stunning coastline with centuries old fishing villages, full of tiny streets where the eaves almost touch, interspaced by market squares with stalls creaking from the weight of colourful local produce and dotted with intricately decorated Byzantine churches. Everywhere we visit on this tour is still so wonderfully undiscovered. It cries out to be explored and offers the privileged visitor a remarkable blend of wonderful scenery and fascinating places to visit: it truly is a journey back in time.
- Return flights from London Heathrow, Manchester, London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Bristol or Belfast International
- Seven nights three and four-star, half-board hotel accommodation
- Tour of Dubrovnik, with its medieval and baroque centre almost untouched by the 21st century - ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’
- Visit to Krka National Park and its series of stunning waterfalls and lakes
- Tour the Dalmatian coastlines one of Europe’s most dramatic, studded with Venetian influenced, perfectly preserved villages
- Visit to Mostar, setting of an iconic bridge, once Europe’s border with the Ottoman Empire
- Tour of Montenegro one of the most beautiful and unspoilt Mediterranean countries, including visits to the unspoilt towns of Perast and Kotor both UNESCO World Heritage sights
- Visit to Split and tour Emperor Diocletian’s monumental palace, one of the greatest of ancient Roman structures, home to 3,000 people
- Visit to medieval Trogir, one of Dalmatia’s most seductive old ports
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
- The price of this holiday is based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement per person. The price includes seven nights half board in three and four-star accommodation as mentioned, return flights, all airport taxes, all touring as mentioned, guided visits of Dubrovnik and Split, all transfers and the services of a Riviera tour manager. Please note UK passport holders do not require visas for this holiday. However, please be aware that holders of other passports may require visas for entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia. We advise you check with the relevant embassy prior to booking.Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open summer months, weather permitting.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Dubrovnik or Split. On arrival, you will be taken to one of our carefully chosen four-star hotels for three nights with dinner, which will vary according to the date and flight you select. The Hotel Park is situated in Makarska, a small town nestled around two coves, with lovely stretches of beach on one of the most beautiful coastlines in Dalmatia with its glittering blue sea. The hotel is approximately ten minutes walk from the old centre with its main square and Franciscan monastery. Set directly on a shingle beach, the hotel boasts a wellness centre with an outdoor swimming pool and terrace overlooking the sea, fitness room and saunas. The good quality restaurant serves a choice of international, and typical Dalmatian cuisine. The rooms themselves are extremely tastefully appointed in a very fresh, modern style, all with private facilities, air-conditioning, safe and mini-bar. The Hotel Plaza in located in Omis, a lovely little village, dominated by two medieval fortresses with remnants of the old city walls still intact. The hotel is shaded by aromatic pine forests and is set in a cove on a stretch of beautiful coastline. The sea is invitingly crystal-clear and there is a welcome lack of development. The hotel is approximately a ten-minute stroll from the centre, is extremely comfortable and has direct access to the beach. It has a wellness centre, restaurant and bar with a delightful terrace overlooking the beach. The modern rooms are well appointed all with private facilities, air-conditioning, mini-bar, safe and hairdryer. North of Split, on the Sibenik Riviera in the resort of Vodice is the Hotel Olympia. This traditional coastal village is surrounded by the sea, islands and rivers. The Olympia is situated a short walk from the harbour, and has indoor and outdoor bars, restaurant, wellness centre and outdoor pool. It offers access to a pebble beach. All rooms are air-conditioned with balcony, mini-bar, safe, private facilities and hairdryer. All hotels provide a perfect base for our programme of visits over the next few days. Swimming pools are open summer months, weather permitting.
After breakfast we take the drive inland to the Krka Valley where the river Krka flows through a series of gorges, lakes and rapids before meeting the sea. The whole valley has been awarded national park status and today we will visit part of this stunning area. It is home to an eye-catching series of lakes where water cascades from one to the next in an extensive series of interlocking, dramatic waterfalls and cataracts. Due to minerals dissolved in the water, the colours change from turquoise to azure-blue and vibrant green to steel-like greys. With reflections of the surrounding majestic peaks and luxuriant forests dancing on the mirror-like lakes, it is impossible not to be awe-struck. We take a boat trip up to one of the most dramatic stretches of the river where several tiers of waterfall tumble magnificently into a broad, shallow pool where you may swim should you wish. We will spend some time taking in the beautiful surroundings before returning to our hotel during the afternoon.
Today we drive north along the stunning coastline before arriving at Split, principally famous for a single building, in fact one of the greatest structures of the Roman Empire – the huge palace of the Emperor Diocletian. No expense was spared in its construction, marble came from Italy and columns and sphinxes came from Egypt. What makes the palace so special is that during medieval times it was fully integrated into the fabric of the town with a jumble of buildings grafted onto it. This meant for example the temple of Jupiter became a baptistry. All the more fascinating is that today 3,000 people still live within its walls. You will find surprises at every turn: there are tall medieval buildings lining the streets but buttressed by unmistakable roman columns! This morning we will have a guided walking tour of this fascinating complex. This afternoon we visit the nearby medieval citadel of Trogir, one of the most charming little ports in Dalmatia. The old-town is actually an island and a wealth of Renaissance and Romanesque buildings line a veritable maze of delightfully chaotic lanes, nestling behind its seemingly impregnable ramparts. At the centre is the exquisitely decorated 13th century cathedral, but the real monument is the town itself. Just to wander where your feet take you, cast an eye over one of the antique shops or just enjoy a coffee in a pavement café is a real pleasure before returning to our hotel in time for dinner.
This morning we head south, our journey hugging the beautiful coastline. We then traverse the river Neretva delta, a veritable haven for birdlife before arriving at the ancient town of Mostar perched on lofty cliffs overlooking the turbulent river below. Once a provincial capital of the Ottoman Empire then annexed by the Austro- Hungarians, Mostar has changed little over the years and its appearance reflects this multitude of influences. There are 16th century mosques, Turkish houses and the fine 19th century town hall which could have been transplanted from central Europe! You can still see and hear skilled artisans making all sorts of metal goods in their tiny workshops as they must have done for hundreds of years. Mostar’s principal claim to fame is its amazing bridge linking the two halves of the old town. Constructed of stone centuries ago, it was damaged during the 1990s but has been totally reconstructed as a symbol of reconciliation. We then continue to Dubrovnik staying for four nights half-board. Our hotel is the three-star superior rated Hotel Argosy or its sister Hotel Tirena, superb contemporary hotels and exceptionally well managed. Neighbouring each other they are situated on a rocky promontory into the Adriatic and enjoy beautiful sea-views on three sides. All rooms have private facilities, air-conditioning, mini-bar, safe and hairdryer. Both hotels provide us with an excellent relaxing base for continuing our tour.
Dubrovnik, an independent city-state for much of its history, has evolved differently to the rest of Croatia. The city threw off its Venetian masters in medieval times and founded a commercial empire trading with the eastern Mediterranean, France, Spain and later the Ottoman Empire. As so often happens, the city started to reflect its resultant wealth. Today this wonderfully beautiful baroque city nestles behind its huge imposing ramparts in a situation of outstanding natural beauty. The main avenue, lined by unspoilt intimate cafes, is completely paved with marble, which dazzlingly reflects the midday sun, giving credence to its description ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. Throughout the city you will find a wonderful array of monasteries, beautifully decorated churches and civic buildings dating from the 14th century, reflecting Dubrovnik’s outstanding artistic heritage. This morning we have a guided walking tour seeing all this and more, and during the afternoon you are free to explore at your leisure.
Today we take the short drive south to one of Europe’s newest countries, the outstandingly beautiful Montenegro. We cross the border, still following the sapphire-blue coastline and prepare to be truly amazed by the views we take in en route! Our journey takes us aroundt he Bay of Kotor, a huge inland sea, which resembles a lake with the topography rather reminiscent of Switzerland. Reflections of the surrounding mountains dance on the water whilst sleepy, picturesque and beautifully timeless fishing villages line the shoreline. Our first stop is the picturesque small town of Perast which overlooks the famous jewel in the Bay of Kotor, the island Church of “Our Lady of The Rocks”. Our second stop is the medieval town of Kotor, nestling below a mountainside, in probably Montenegro’s most dramatic setting. Walled, with a labyrinth of cobbled streets surrounding its Orthodox Cathedral that radiate to quiet intimate squares, it really is a delight to explore. Its bustling market really is from yesteryear, with individual stalls selling local homemade cheese, cured hams, honey and Mediterranean vegetables of every colour, shape and size in a refreshingly eclectic manner! You can try some of the local wine too, which, despite its lack of international exposure, really is rather good – and exceptional value. Afterwards we cross the inland see by Ferry returning to Dubrovnik at the end of the afternoon.
Today you have a free day, so what is it to be? Enjoy a coffee on the main square, watching the world go by, take a relaxing cruise around the picturesque harbour crammed with luxurious looking yachts, take a stroll around the city walls, soak up the sunshine, enjoy a leisurely lunch or perhaps simply catch up on some reading. The choice is yours.
Today a coach will return us to the airport at the appropriate time.