Roadtrippin’ in the Balkans with NOVA Rent a CarKollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1

We celebrated our honeymoon on a few Greek islands and with a road trip through Croatia. Finding a reliable car rental company in the Balkans was not an easy feat. We have no problems with big names in North America but we came across many, many negative reviews of the same companies in Europe. After scouring the net, we decided to go with a well-established local company for our Croatia road trip: NOVA Rent a Car. Fast-forward two years- we’re back with the same car rental in Montenegro!

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Our best travel companion in the Balkans – NOVA Rent a Car

car rental in Montenegro and Croatia

Read more: The magical Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Car rental in Croatia

We booked online 6 months before our trip and immediately received an email confirming the details including the total price. Wary about our first time driving in Europe, I emailed back with a few questions. Rino, the manager, quickly responded and eased our concerns.

The amount quoted in the email was exactly what we paid in cash upon picking up our vehicle at Zagreb Airport (ZAG). The NOVA staff showed us to our automatic Opel Corsa, which was very clean and in mint condition, and we were soon on our way.

From ZAG, we made our way to Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Zadar, and Split over the next 5 days. We crossed the border to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina before ending our journey in Dubrovnik. On our last day, we said goodbye to our car at Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) before hopping on our flight to Crete. No questions asked, no additional fees charged, and no time wasted!

Read more: Don’t forget – Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Car rental in Montenegro

Pleased with our initial experience, we were excited to be on the road with NOVA again. We arrived at the same office in DBV, went through the same painless procedures, and embarked on our Montenegro journey with our best travel companion. Just like the good old times.

This time around we were given a brand spanking new BMW 116d. My chauffeur husband was very happy with its power, steering, and traction. The comfy bucket seats gave him serious Initial D feels as he drove along many winding roads and tight hairpins. We were surprised at how fuel efficient this little diesel-run beast is compared to our bimmer back home- we saved so much on gas!

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Crossing the Croatia/Montenegro border was just as simple as the Croatia/Bosnia border with the Green Card NOVA left in the glove compartment. Our red friend took us north to Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, as far east as Biogradska Gora National Park, south to Skadar Lake, west to Lovćen and Kotor, and finally back across the border to DBV.

Note: There are NO border crossing fees! Stay away from rental companies who tell you otherwise. All you need is the green cross-border document and your passports.

Other Tips and Info

  • THERE ARE NO HIDDEN FEES! The cost breakdown is clearly displayed on their booking portal and you’ll never be surprised by random charges
  • You pay when you collect the vehicle
  • The price includes basic insurance needed should there be an accident (Legal Liability, Third Party, and Public Liability), as well as Theft Protection and Damage Waiver (ranges from €500-€1300 depending on the vehicle class)
  • There are no cancellation fees!
  • For more information and rates about NOVA Rent a Car, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1Kollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1Disclaimer: NOVA Rent a Car provided us with a vehicle for our Montenegro road trip. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Overnight layovers in London – Sleep easy at YOTELAIRKollecting Koordinates - overnight layover in London 1

This was our third time with an overnight layover in London; making it our third sleep at YOTELAIR. We usually avoid lengthy layovers like a plague but we don’t mind them in London thanks to this innovative airport hotel! With two locations, one inside Terminal 4 at Heathrow and another inside the South terminal at Gatwick, YOTELAIR has become our new best friend in London.

Read more: Walking guide – How to see London in 24 hrs

Overnight layover in London at YOTELAIR

Just imagine rolling out of bed, pressing the UP button on the elevator, and scanning your boarding pass for security clearance for an early morning flight within minutes. Or getting off the plane after an exhausting flight, and being able to hop into a comfy bed right away.

Similar to the capsule hotels in Japan, YOTELAIR is where innovation meets comfort. The space is smartly designed so that you’ll find everything you need in a cabin that’s no larger than 110sqft. Every inch of space is used for something, like luggage storage underneath beds.

Our Premium Cabin came with complimentary WiFi, a foldout desk, flat screen TV, and en-suite bathroom with monsoon shower. With a touch of a button, the convertible SmartBed glides to any position to work, lounge, or sleep.

Note: Standard cabins are also available for solo travelers.

YOTELAIR is not only convenient for those with an overnight layover in London, but also travelers with connection times of awkward lengths. Booking is available by the hour, with a minimum stay of 4 hours.

Read more: Viewing London from 800ft above the ground

Having stayed at both locations, we prefer Gatwick just a tad more simply because of the gentlemen at the Mission Control (YOTEL talk for reception desk). This is where you can order complimentary hot drinks and bottled water 24/7. What’s impressive is that we found their service to be on par with hotels that are 4-star or higher- perhaps even better than some!

Other Tips and Info

  • Rates start at £49.00+ for a minimum stay of 4 hours, and £95.00+ for stays longer than 12 hours.
  • Bottled water, espresso coffee, tea and hot chocolate are free all day!
  • Food can be ordered at Mission Control- staff will bring your meal to your cabin when it’s ready.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Disclaimer: We were invited guests at YOTELAIR Gatwick. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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The best home base to explore Northern Montenegro: Hotel SOA

Ever since we visited Croatia we’ve been itching for more Balkan countries. Jaw-dropping national parks, canyons, and lakes were waiting to be checked off our Montenegro list. We were wondering where to stay in Montenegro on our road trip- where to make our home base to explore the northern region of perhaps the most picturesque country we’ve ever been. The answer was simple- Hotel SOA in Zabljak! We’re big fans of boutique hotels and family-run properties for their intimacy, and this one was no exception.

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Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where to stay in Montenegro – Hotel SOA in Zabljak

Location, Space, and Staff

In the heart of Durmitor National Park lies Zabljak, a small town that turns into a ski resort in the winter. Hotel SOA is conveniently situated in the center of Zabljak, only steps away from the famous Black Lake, restaurants, and local markets. It’s minutes to the entrance to Durmitor National Park, 30 minutes away from the Tara Bridge, 1.5hr from the Piva Canyon, and 1.5hr from Biogradska Gora National Park.

Note: If you’re ending (or starting) your Montenegro journey in Kotor like we did, it’s just under 3 hours on a very scenic drive.

The property was originally planned as a family home but the owners turned it into an 18-unit hotel, inviting guests from all over the world to explore their beautiful country. Some are double suites, others are apartments large enough to accommodate groups of up to 5 guests. A contemporary approach is used in the hotel design along with elements of Mount Durmitor’s traditional architecture.

Because it is a small boutique hotel, you’ll come to know everyone who works there. Matija, the owner, works day shifts at the reception and always has a huge smile on his face. We did have an unpleasant encounter with the other front desk staff but that was quickly resolved by Matija. Count on the dining room manager, Novica, to ensure your culinary experience is nothing short of the best. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the family’s big friendly dog!

We were pleased with our clean and spacious Junior Suite, which came with a separate sitting area along with a modern bathroom. If you did a quick search for hotels in Montenegro you’ll find that these traits aren’t easy to come by!

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Amenities, Facilities, and Dining

Guests can enjoy the wellness center (all to themselves!) for up to 1hr every day. The wellness center includes a Turkish bath and sauna, available for private use by reservation.

Tip: Reserve your time slot as soon as you check in! The hotel was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to use the wellness center.

All units have a mini bar, satellite TV, and complimentary WiFi. There’s a restaurant (undoubtedly the best you’ll find in the area) on the first floor, where guests can enjoy meals with a view of the majestic Durmitor massif.

Our favourite part of the stay is the complimentary breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread at Hotel SOA is no joke- its vast selection left us stuffed every morning. All the ingredients are fresh, featuring local dairy products and cured meats.

Tip: Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and pear pie!

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Other tips and info

  • Rates range from 75CAD+ for single rooms, to 140CAD+ for junior suites, to 220CAD+ for luxury apartments.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • Parking is plentiful and free.
  • The hotel restaurant is the only non-smoking restaurant in the area.
  • For more information and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Hotel SOA. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Viewing London from 800ft above the groundKollecting Koordinates - Best view of London 11

With fewer than 24 hours to spare, we were on the hunt for the best view of London. We saw a few of London’s famous sites from the ground level the last time we were there. This time we kicked it up a notch and saw London from the 72nd floor!

The Best View of London: The View from the Shard

At 800ft above the ground, The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. It’s the only place where you’ll be able to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of London, all at once. These views stretch for a whopping 40 miles! The View from the Shard is London’s twist on ‘Where’s Waldo’, where visitors find and spot London’s most iconic sites including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, London Eye, and Buckingham Palace.

There are two bars, allowing you to enjoy London’s stunning skyline over a drink or two. A glass of Champagne Lanson is included in your entrance fee when you purchase the Champagne Experience. Whether you’re visiting from abroad or a local looking for a fancy night out, there’s no better place to see the best view of London. The Shard even offers a private proposal service!

Our visit to The Shard was graced with clear skies and amazing visibility for great photo ops. It felt like the platform was swaying at times but it was probably my mind playing tricks on me since I’m terrified of heights. Anything for the ‘gram, though, right?

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changing elevators at level 33

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bar on the open-air skydeck

free audio & visual guides available in different languages on level 69

Tips on getting the best view of London

  • Use a polarizing filter to help suppress glare and reflections.
  • Take advantage of the free audio and visual guides; you can find these on the 69th floor.
  • It can get chilly on the open-air sky deck. Layer up if you’re not visiting in the summer time.
  • The ‘Day & Night Experience’ dual entry lets visitors experience London’s skyline both during the day and at night.
  • Book in advance to save money!
  • Don’t miss the washroom on the 68th floor- toilet views don’t get any better than this!

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Other tips and info

  • Tickets are £15.95+ per adult and £9.95+ for children if booked in advance, or £20.95+ per adult and £14.95+ for children if booked on the day
  • The nearest tube station is London Bridge
  • Summer hours of operations are from 10AM – 10PM all week. Winter hours are from 10AM-7PM (Sunday to Wednesday), and 10AM-10PM (Thursday to Saturday).
  • For more information and upcoming special events, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I received complimentary media passes for our visit. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - Best view of London

A Quick Guide to SantoriniKollecting Koordinates - Santorini

How can you miss Santorini when you’re in Greece?

Long have I dreamed about visiting this picture-perfect island in the Cyclades. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to walk along the caldera to see the whitewashed houses, to swim in the crystal clear blue waters of the Agean Sea, and to catch one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. My wishes finally came true when we spent three nights here on our honeymoon last year. Here’s a quick guide to visiting this timeless destination- Santorini!

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1. Travel in low/shoulder seasons

Do NOT go during the summer months. If you hate crowds like us you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Heck, we were there in early September and it was still extremely busy. We used the public bus to get around Fira-Imerovigli-Oia and passengers were packed like sardines every time. Unless you get on at the very first stop, chances are you’re gonna be standing in the aisle holding on for your dear life.

We went in early September and it was still very, very hot. Swimming in the ocean was heavenly but there was no shortage of sweat on land. Go either in early/mid June or mid/late September not only to avoid the crowds, but also for a more comfortable temperature.

2. Stay in Imerovigli

Because of its elevation and central location on the caldera, Imerovigli has my vote for having the best view in Santorini. Yes, we’d say it’s even better than the famous town of Oia.

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Our three nights at Vallais Villa was, without a doubt, one of our most memorable hotel stays. It was like waking up to paradise every morning! With a view of the Skaros Rock and caldera, a breakfast spread that is equally beautiful as delicious, and an outdoor Jacuzzi on our private balcony, this place is hard to fault.

 

3. Indulge in delicious food

Maybe it’s the lack of rice and noodles, maybe it’s the amazing seafood. Whatever it is, I LOVE Greek Food. Tzatziki, gyros, baked feta, hummus, calamari, moussaka, fresh octopus, … the list goes on! If you’re on a budget you can survive on gyros and souvlakis. Our go-to’s for cheap eats are Pitogyros in Oia and Lucky’s in Fira.

Our favourite is a little place that serves tapas and meze (Traditional Greek cuisine). We dined here multiple times and loved every dish we tried. Their portions are very generous and prices fairer than most restaurants in Oia. And of course, don’t forget to stop by Taverna Katina in Amoudi Bay for some fresh catch of the day!

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4. Get lost in the towns

This is an obvious one, but an absolute must! You can hike from Fira to Oia, or you can bus between towns to save time. Make sure your camera is fully charged because you’ll be greeted with a postcard moment every corner you turn.

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There are also many, many cats on the island… like this little guy who was very friendly! Most of them are pets of restaurant and shop owners but many are feral.

 

5. Go on a sunset cruise

We signed up with Santorini Sailing for an afternoon of sailing and swimming in the Agean Sea, visited the hot springs, and stopped by the Red and White Beaches. Oh and did I mention we were served unlimited drinks and food? Hell yeah!

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6. Catch the world famous sunset

There are a couple of places to watch the sun dip into the horizon and they all offer different perspectives of this beauty. We had a pretty good view from our balcony in Imerovigli with a long stretch of the caldera in the foreground, and we also had an unobstructed view from our boat. Another place is Santo Winery in Pyrgos. What better way to to enjoy the sunset than pairing it with some wine?

Then there’s Oia Castle, the obvious choice. You’ll have to camp out for a good spot but there’s a reason why everyone gathers here for the sun to go down. It was truly magical. 

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What took my breath away, though, is seeing the town light up against the multicoloured sky. I mean, just look at this! We couldn’t have asked for anything more romantic.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Santorini

3 days in an underrated paradise- West CreteKollecting Koordinates - Crete

Greece is not just about Santorini or Mykonos. The largest island is one that is underrated and often overlooked- Crete! On the hunt for beautiful beaches in Greece, we almost booked our flight to Zakynthos until we discovered Elafonissi Beach and Balos Lagoon. We ended up spending 3 days in Crete!

It’s been a year since we left the island and my tan lines are still slightly visible! No amount of sunscreen was going to protect us from the blazing sun; most definitely not in August and not in Crete. We were sweaty, sticky, smelly, and covered in sand or dirt the entire time. It was definitely not your typical honeymoon itinerary but did we regret it? Hell no! The adventurous aspect made it that much more fun!

How to spend 3 days in Crete

With only 3 days in Crete, there was no way we could’ve explored the entire island. We made our home base in Chania (pronounced HAN-NYA) and limited ourselves to 3 main points in West Crete: Elafonissi Beach, Samaria Gorge, and Balos Lagoon.

Our friend advised us against driving in Crete because of the rough terrains leading to these places. Boy, were we glad we listened. The only thing separating vehicles from falling off huge drops and cliffs were rails at about 3-4 feet high (srs, no joke!). Traffic isn’t bad within town but if you’re going to these 3 places, leave it to the pros! I don’t know how they do it but the Cretan bus drivers are able to navigate gigantic tour buses like nobody’s business. The ones on the Balos route especially deserve an award. It was a total shitshow squeezing a massive bus through parked cars on both sides on a cliff.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Elafonisi

3 Days in Crete – Day 1: Elafonissi Beach

We walked to the bus station from our Airbnb in Chania Old Town for the 9am bus (€10.90 per person). KTEL (Cretan bus service) uses tour buses as their public transport, so the 2.5hr ride was actually quite comfortable. We grabbed an umbrella and 2 chairs (I think it was about €7 for the whole day), slathered on sunscreen, and explored this famous pink-sand beach.

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Elafonissi is actually a small island, with a long strip of sand connecting it to the mainland with shallow waters on each side. The sand itself isn’t really pink- the hue comes from dead corals and red microscopic organisms. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I mean, just look at it!

Of our 3 days in Crete, this was our favourite stop. 6 hours passed quickly splashing around in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea. Before we knew it, we were 6 shades darker and on the bus ride back to Chania.

tips

  • Public bus services to Elafonissi and Balos are only available in tourist season, so check their most up-to-date timetables before you go. If you can’t see them on this site, it means they’re not operating these routes at this time.
  • There’s only ONE bus coming back from Elafonissi. Make sure you get on the 5pm bus!
  • Snacks, water, and sunscreen are a MUST. There are stands at the beach but prices are steep.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 2: Samaria Gorge

This is a 16km hiking trail in one of Crete’s National Parks- the longest in Europe. You can drive here on your own but I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll have to leave your car at the entrance of the park and somehow pick it up at the end of the day after your downhill journey ends in Agia Roumeli. Plus, you’ll want to save your energy for the hike.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Samaria Gorge

We joined an excursion for €18 each, and were picked up from Chania at 6am for a stunning 1hr comfy ride to Xyloskalo. We began our downhill journey from an altitude of 1250m, passing by floral and fauna (and tons of goat poop!) during our descend. You might come across “Kri-kri” goat on your hike, but we weren’t so lucky.

It was nice and cool for the first hour or so, but by the time we got to the 10km mark there was no more shade! We were baking in the August Cretan sun. It took us around 4-5 hours to reach Agia Roumeli– the hike really isn’t as bad as some make it sound unless you have knee problems, because it’s pretty much all downhill with some rocky parts. We also didn’t have an issue with overcrowding, even in peak season, because the gorge is massive. In fact, we were actually all alone 2-3hrs into the hike.

To be honest, we felt a little underwhelmed by Samaria Gorge, probably because we have some of the most beautiful hiking trails back home in BC Canada. However, that’s not to say Samaria Gorge isn’t amazing! The landscape, crystal clear creeks, and rock formations (especially the Iron Gates) are truly magnificent. This is something you’ll have to experience at least once in your lifetime. Definitely squeeze this in your itinerary of 3 days in Crete.

tips

  • The entrance fee to enter the gorge is €5; ferry ticket to Sougia is €10.
  • There are washrooms and water fountains throughout the trail. You’ll be fine with just a small water bottle.
  • Bring a roll of toilet paper with you- my husband thanked me for this.
  • Bring flip flops (and a swimsuit) so you can soak in the sea after you get to Agia Roumeli. So refreshing!
  • You can pay €2 for a shuttle ride for the last 2km of the trail.
  • Bring a hat and lots of sunscreen. Your skin will thank you, especially after you pass the 10km mark.
  • Make sure you keep your entrance ticket because you will need to show it when you exit. There is no overnight camping at the gorge. This is also how the rangers keep track of lost hikers.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 3: Balos Lagoon

“Balos by bus or by boat?!” We took the 11am bus (7.80 per person) to Balos Lagoon via Kissamos from Chania. After 100min of being amazed by our bus driver (30min of which was us close to shitting our pants because of how close we were from falling off the cliffs, we arrived at another one of the most stunning beaches in Europe. 2 stunning beaches within only 3 days in Crete? Score!

Upon arrival, you have to walk for about 20-30min down a rocky hill. This is easy peasy as long as you watch out for goat poop. It is also here where you get the best view of the lagoons!

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The first part of our day was fantastic. It started going downhill when more people and more people started to arrive, and then some. As the day went on, the temperature rose higher and higher. I started getting really dizzy and nauseous from the extreme heat. Hiking (or shall I say crawling) back up the rocky hill was an absolute nightmare, especially when there is no shade!

We liked Elafonissi a lot better than Balos because the sand here wasn’t as soft and clean. Once in the water it’s a different story, but there is a noticeable difference on the beach itself. Another thing to point out is the washroom at Balos, or lack of. I really needed to pee when we were waiting for the bus, but the closest thing was literally a hole in the ground in a little shack. No doors. No flushing mechanism. It was FILTHY in there with other people’s shit and piss everywhere, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!

tips

  • If you’re planning on driving, keep in mind that the last 30min is on a rocky, steep, and winding dirt road.
  • Or just take the bus! You’ll be able to rest up on the way back. There are multiple services to and from Balos every day during peak season.
  • Bring a pair of sneakers for the rocky descend/ascend.
  • I have yet to figure out where the legit washroom is at Balos. Do people just pee in the water? What if they have to take a dump?

 

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece

9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, CroatiaKollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Coined the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has easily topped the list as one of our favourite cities. The walls in the Old City are in such pristine condition that it’s hard to believe this place is real. After a long week of driving down Croatia from Zagreb through BiH, we were ready for some down time in King’s Landing. If you’re thinking of stopping by Dubrovnik on a cruise, don’t. This beautiful city deserves more than just a few hours’ stop!

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1. get lost in the Old City

Explore each corner, each alley, and each gate within the stone walls. Stop by Onofrio’s Fountains to refill your water bottle when you get thirsty. It’s clean- you can drink it right from the tap! Did I mention it’s also leg day everyday in Dubrovnik? Seriously, it was like we were constantly using the StairMaster. (which was great, because we didn’t need to work out!)

2. stay outside the city walls

It may be tempting to to stay in the centre of the action, but you’re actually much better off finding accommodation outside the gates. Not only are there more options, but you’ll also wake up with a beautiful view of the Old City from your bedroom window. We stayed at an Airbnb just a 5min walk from the Ploce Gate, Konzum (supermarket), and Banje Beach.

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Waking up to this every morning was such a blessing; we didn’t want to leave!

3. go on a Game of Thrones tour

GoT has brought in millions of dollars to Croatia’s tourism revenue. If you’re a not a fan of this HBO series, this half day of nerdgasm may not be for you. But if you’re a fan like us, don’t miss out! Having been one of the extras in GoT, our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept the whole tour upbeat and fun. It was awesome seeing where all the different scenes were filmed!

4. walk the City Walls

This is a must do. The entrance fee is 100kn, but you get a discount if you keep your ticket stub from Fort Lovrijenac (we were there on our GoT tour). The view of the orange rooftops against the deep blue sea will take your breath away! Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll be roasted. Make sure you stay hydrated and load up on sunscreen because there’s no shade up there. Allow at least 1-2hrs to complete the whole circuit; wear comfortable shoes!

Beautiful sights, yes, but I thought I was going to pass out from the heat and humidity! Prepare yourself if you’re doing this in the summer.

5. wine tasting at D’vino Wine Bar

For a great night out, check out D’vino Wine Bar. It’s a cozy little bar right in the heart of the Old City. They offer an impressive selection of wines, both domestic and imported, at a surprisingly affordable price! The place is quite small and it can get really busy. It’d be wise to make reservations in advance. We each ordered a wine tasting flight – one red and one white with 3 wines each – and shared a cheese platter. The couple who sat next to our table ordered 4 flights each! I gotta say, their charcuterie board looked pretty damn amazing.

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6. take the cable car

For 120kn (70kn one way), you can go on a 5min ride that will take you to the top of Mount Srdj for an extraordinary view of the coast. You can also hike up and down the plateau if you’re up for the challenge! There’s a lovely restaurant and cafe at the top where you can enjoy a drink or two.

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7. sunset dinner at Restaurant Panorama

Don’t just ride the cable car for the view- stay for dinner! We chose to splurge a little on our last night in Dubrovnik. To ensure we’d be seated at the best table in the house, I made reservations weeks in advance. The open-air concept offers a magnificent sight as the sun sets over the Adriatic Sea as you enjoy your meal. The prices are quite fair, too- it’s actually not any more expensive than the restaurants within the walls. If you’re looking for a romantic night out in Dubrovnik, this is it!

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8. Island of Lokrum

To escape from the crowds and blistering sun, take a short 15min ferry ride over to the Island of Lokrum. We didn’t have enough time for this but our GoT guide said it’s worth your while. The paths are shaded with clear signs showing you the different points of interests. Bring a swimsuit to swim in the sea- you might even see some peacocks! This is also where the iron throne replica is if you’re a fan.

9. Fort Lovrijenac

Just a few minutes from Pile Gate on foot, this is the ‘Red Keep’ from Game of Thrones- tons of scenes were filmed here. Hike up the lush green landscape to get a good view of the Old City. There isn’t that too much to see within the fort, but the view from the top is phenomenal! Make sure you experience this both in the day and at night.

It’s truly amazing how well-preserved this Medieval Town is. Have you been? What do you like most about Dubrovnik?

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Don’t forget – MostarKollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We’ve never visited Eastern Europe before- Bosnia & Herzegovina was our first. I’ve fallen in love with it ever since- there’s something about the scenery, atmosphere, and architecture in Eastern Europe that tugs at my heart strings.

After swimming at Kravice Falls, we continued our drive to Mostar. Or Mo-crap (Мостар)- we’d giggle every time we passed by a sign. In all seriousness, the drive leading to Mostar was actually quite depressing. There was such a drastic change in scenery driving from Croatia to Bosnia & Herzegovina- you could still see the shell and bullet damage on building walls and roofs from the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

Mostar came under siege twice in those years. Thousands of people were killed, and more lost their homes. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) connecting the two banks of Neretva River was destroyed in 1993. Today, there are stones all over the the town reminding its people and visitors of its sad history. Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Another thing that made me very upset was the number of stray dogs in this country. On the drive to Mostar we saw an adult dog (mom?) limping in the bushes along the side of the road while two little pups followed at her heels. Leaving Mostar, we actually witnessed one getting hit by a car on the road! It was slowly making its way across the road when the car behind us hit it. I could hear its yelp from inside the car. AS said the driver pulled over but I wasn’t sure if he did or not… It was heartbreaking. We have a 4yr-old maltipoo who is pretty much our child. It’s extremely painful seeing other dogs get hurt.

DSC00463

We checked in at our hotel and made our way towards the stony old town. After paying a small entrance fee for the mosque we climbed up 89 steps. The stairwell is extremely narrow and only one person can go up/down at time (or 2 really skinny, small people); not a good time if you’re claustrophobic. Once we reached the top of the minaret, we were rewarded with this gorgeous view of Stari Most sitting over Neretva River.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

If you aren’t able to make the climb, the view from the courtyard is equally beautiful. This bridge was once the widest man-arch in the world that stood for more than 400 years! The Stari Most we see today is a reconstruction.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

You can jump/dive off Stari Most into Neretva River if you’re brave enough! Red Bull hosted its Cliff Diving World series here a few weeks before our arrival.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant and called it a night before heading back to our hotel. It was a long day- we began our drive at 5am. I’m forever grateful for AS driving us from Zadar, to Split, to Kravice Falls, and finally to Mostar, all in one day.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Its sad history aside, Mostar is actually very romantic. We saw very few people when we were there (late August) and the town had a lovely charm to it with its cobblestone streets and walls. Because Mostar is fairly small, you only really need one day- but do stay the night. Just make sure you start your drive early the next day if you’re planning on crossing the Croatian/Bosnian border on the way to Dubrovnik. We left our hotel at around 9 or 10am, and we had to wait close to 2 hours at the border in the blistering sun! 

One last GoPro shot of Stari Most and Neretva River from on top of the minaret!

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

tips

  • stay the night; we stayed at Villa Eden for around 70€ a night. The hotel is brand spankin’ new and the breakfast is delicious with a huge variety. It even has a pool for you to cool off (much needed in the summer)
  • The entrance fee is around 8 marks (Aug 2015 price) for both the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha’s Mosque and courtyard; you can also visit one of the two for half the price.
  • Be careful when you’re driving! Watch out for the strays 🙁
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good grip- the uneven stone paved pathways can be quite slippery.
  • Come in the spring or fall. The summer months can be too hot and humid. The humidity level was so high last August that it was slightly hard to breathe.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

 

Chasing waterfalls at Kravice FallsKravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

I’m a sucker for waterfalls. When I saw Kravice Falls in pictures I knew I had to go, but that was of course, easier said than done. Planning this road trip down Croatia was no easy feat. Well, it was, until I added Bosnia & Herzegovina to our itinerary.

Driving in Croatia - Kollecting Koordinates

Driving in Croatia was a piece of cake because 1) I wasn’t the driver (hehe) and 2) we bought a data sim and relied on good ol’ Google maps to take us everywhere. We lost data once we crossed the border, which was fine because Google maps are useless in Bosnia anyway. So we’ll just follow the signs, right?

Wrong. There aren’t many signs to Kravice Falls.

I had printed out a map in advance but that was useless because it didn”t show the smaller roads. Half an hour into the drive we were on a winding road on a hill that seemed to be a residential area in the middle of nowhere; it didn’t look like a place for waterfalls.

We were lost.

There were no street names to refer to and no other cars in sight. Panic mode was on full blast when we came to a few crossings where we had to decide which paths to take. There was a lot of ‘which way?!’, ‘this map is a piece of s***’, ‘WTF is going on’, ‘omg where the f*** are we going’, ‘why aren’t there f***ing street names or signs’, ‘*where the f*** are we?!’.

AS doesn’t have the best sense of direction but thankfully, I inherited my mom’s awesome spidey senses. I answered each of one of our outbursts with ‘I don’t know but let’s go this way’ and ‘I don’t know but I think it’s that way’. A few  ‘ I don’t know’s later, we miraculously emerged on a small road next to a highway. 5 minutes after driving down this flat road, we saw a sign that read ‘Kravica’. A few minutes later, we were at the parking lot. I don’t know how we managed to navigate there in the end, but we were ecstatic!

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

It was a hot, humid day and Mother Nature graced me with her monthly gift to make things even more unbearable. Luckily, I had popped a Midol before we began the drive. While my cramps weren’t monstrous like they usually are, the flow was matching the waterfalls theme. Excuse me for the TMI. Because of this, I couldn’t go into the water with AS.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

AS had a blast swimming and exploring all the hidden passages. I chilled in the shade and watched our belongings, along with all the other moms who were waiting for their kids.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Freaking gorgeous! Plitvice Lakes were unreal, but Kravica was magical in a different way. AS said this was, by far, his favourite destination on our Balkans trip. It was ridiculously frustrating to get to, but was it worth it? Hell yea! 

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

tips

  • If you plan on driving, make sure you get an International Driving Permit (if you’re not European) before leaving your country. The officers at the Croatian/Bosnian border asked for ours; good thing we had one.
  • If you don’t plan on driving, you can hire a car to take you down to Kravice Falls from Mostar. The rate ranges from 50-70€.
  • Bring some snacks and lots of water with you to save money. Even if you don’t, there are 2-3 food stands on site if you get hungry or thirsty.
  • Bring a change of clothes, flip flops/sandals, and a towel with you. The restroom is surprisingly clean!
  • The entrance fee is around 2€ (price as of Aug 2015)- you can also pay in Kuna or Mark if you have the currency on hand.
  • Hang onto the rail (or grab someone’s arm) on the way down; some parts on the path down can be quite slippery!

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Kravice Falls

 

Why Split isn’t for meKollecting Koordinates - Split

Last week I wrote about unexpectedly falling in love with Zadar. This week I’m writing about the exact opposite experience. All the blogs and articles I’ve read spoke very highly of Split. We went into Split with high expectations; however, this other Croatian town along the Adriatic coast just isn’t for me.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

1. first impression matters

We arrived early in the morning after a 1hr30min drive from Zadar. As we pulled into a parking spot, a cyclist rode by screaming at us with flailing arms before shaking his head and leaving. We couldn’t hear what he was saying from inside the car but judging from his actions, we thought we had done something wrong. This dude was clearly pissed. Panicking, we got out of the car to check. Did we hit something? No. Did we park too close to the other cars or the curb? No, there was plenty of space. Did we violate a parking regulation? No, not according to the sign. So WTF, bro? Please calm your titties, ideally until they’re supple.

Split, Croatia

2. the people

The cyclist wasn’t the only person we were unimpressed with. We had an early lunch at Konoba Korta, a cute little restaurant tucked away in a hidden alley right inside Diocletian’s Palace. The food was great but the service was lacking. I have a thing with people working in service-oriented jobs- it’s your goddamn job to serve and make customers happy (or at least try, as long as they’re not rude), that’s why you get paid for what you do. This goes for all professions that deal with people first-hand; why be a dick ? Anyway, our server was very cold. It wasn’t until after we finished our meal that he warmed up to us. I’m fairly certain it was for tips or for a good review because he handed us a business card and asked us to leave a comment on Tripadvisor. Everyone else we passed by (people working in the market, bakeries, shops) gave off the same unfriendly vibe. We only came across one person who was nice. ONE. Shout out to the friendly old lady working at the ghetto-looking bakery in the market.

Split, Croatia

3. the pastries

This pastry addict was not impressed with the pastries in Split. I was so stoked when I saw the number of bakeries and selection of pastries here. AS, being the good husband that he is, bought a BUNCH for me so we could munch on them throughout the day. We needed fuel for the long drive ahead to Mostar. But what a big disappointment that was… They were soggy and the flavours tasted artificial; we ended up throwing some of it out because it was so meh.

Split, Croatia

4. the crowd

Granted, it was our fault for going in late August when it was still peak season. Split was still quiet when we first arrived but by mid day it was ridiculous. Trying to get from point A to point B in Diocletian’s Palace was like trying to get to the water station from the front of Kinetic Field at EDC. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get the idea. Ships make a stop at Split so the town is filled with cruise passengers by noon. On that day, it was jam packed in an uncomfortable, claustrophobic way.

5. pms much

Maybe I didn’t like Split because I was a downer that day. Even though I didn’t get my usual nasty cramps, my bad mood was still very present. I was tired, grumpy, and reluctant to explore. The douchey cyclist, the heat, the bad service, the massive crowd, and the disappointing pastries simply fueled the flames. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out and continue our drive to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

Don’t get me wrong. Split is beautiful! I just had such high expectations after an awesome time in Zadar that I ruined my own experience in Split. I’d like to give it another chance one day but it’s not a city that I’m dying to return, similar to how I feel about Paris. Some people love it, but it’s not for me.

What about you, did you fall in love with Split? Are there places that people rave about but you found it just isn’t for you?

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Kollecting Koordinates - Split