Balkan Living: A Four-Day Road Trip Across Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia

One of the best parts about living in the Balkans is how close I am to a wide variety of cultures with incredibly diverse/beautiful scenery and deep histories. When a friend told me she wanted to do a four-day road trip through Croatia and Bosnia, I jumped at the chance to join her.

Day 1: Pristina -> Kotor -> Dubrovnik

On our first day, we aimed to make it from Pristina to Dubrovnik (about 7.5 hours by car) so we chose the less scenic route via Albania to Podgorica, Montenegro to shorten the first half of the trip. From Podgorica, we took the mountain pass down to the beautiful Bay of Kotor for lunch at Galion, an excellent recommendation from TripAdvisor.

The view:

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The food:

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Since we enjoyed ourselves a bit to much at Galion it was getting dark as we began the final leg to Dubrovnik, so we decided to take the ferry across the narrowest point (4.50€) rather than drive the entire distance around the bay. Having not firmed up accommodation for the trip, we called a few places in Dubrovnik on the way and settled on Apartments Old Town Selection, who offered us a double room in their newly-renovated location just off main street in the Old City of Dubrovnik for the off-season price of 45€. The owner was incredibly helpful in directing us to the location and gave us the code to let ourselves into the building and collect our key. We didn’t even pay him until the next morning. Incredible given how beautiful the space was:

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We had a beautiful dinner that evening and the first of many Croatian wines, then went out for a quick night tour of the Old City before crashing.

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Day 2: Dubrovnik & Cavtat

The next morning we had a lazy breakfast in the harbor before we set out to walk the fortress walls surrounding the Old City. We were thrilled to be there in the low season so that the walls weren’t completely clogged with tourists… because this is an absolute must-do for any visitor to Dubrovnik. Particularly for those of us Game of Thrones fans 🙂

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While we’d hope to make it out to one of the thousands of islands that dot Croatia’s coast that afternoon, we were woefully short on time so decided instead to take a boat down the coast to the sleepy harbor town of Cavtat for some incredible views and food, including a sampling of locally-produced olive oil.

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The boat ride back at sunset was an incredible bonus… as was the seafood feast that we stumbled upon back in Dubrovnik at Konoba Jezuite, in the shadow of a magnificent church.

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Day 3: Dubrovnik -> Trsteno -> Ston -> Medjugorje -> Mostar

The next morning, we left Dubrovnik for a drive up the coast to visit the arboretum in nearby Trsteno. The arboretum featured a spooky renaissance-era fountain and an incredible old estate with out houses featuring vintage olive presses.

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The day took us up the glorious coast further where we happened upon a precariously-placed chapel with stunning views. After planning our hypothetical weddings there, we continued on to Ston, home of Croatia’s best wine, oysters, and the world’s second-longest wall after the Great Wall of China. The food and views at Kapetanova Kuca, in nearby Mali Ston, did not disappoint.

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Having spent a little too much time (again) on eating and buying bottles of wine, we hurried to try to make it to Medjugorje, Bosnia before the sun went down. This meant crossing the border from Croatia into Neum, Bosnia (the only city in Bosnia with a sea border) and crossing the border back into Croatia only to return to the Bosnian border within the span of approximately 30 km.

Medjugorje is an attraction for thousands of Catholic tourists each year as it is the site where six young Bosnians claim to have seen the apparition of the Virgin Mary back in 1981. The young Bosnians, or “visionaries” as the town calls them, are said to continually see Mary and receive secrets from her. The town has erected a massive church for daily services and confession for the pilgrims. The site of the original sighting, Apparition Hill, is a steep climb to a beautiful statue of Mary and view of the town. Though I am not particularly religious, I found the whole experience fascinating. People of all ages from all over the world had been bused in to make the climb up the rocky hill.

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When we finally made it to Mostar that evening, we were exhausted and happy to find a friendly staff and comfortable room awaiting us at Pansion Cardak, in the heart of the old city. After a long day and a good Bosnian meal, we got to sleep early to get a head start on our final day of the trip.

We woke up early the next morning to walk around Mostar’s old town before hitting the road. The town is breathtaking in the morning sun. It’s hard to imagine the atrocities that took place in this country merely twenty years ago. The only reference to the war was a simple sign reading “Don’t Forget” near the city’s main attraction: Stari Most, the Old Bridge, connecting the city’s Catholic and Muslim areas.

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Day 4: Mostar -> Pristina

We left Mostar at about 9:30 that morning hoping to make it back to Pristina for dinner. The drive across southeastern Bosnia into western Montenegro was absolutely gorgeous: dotted with strikingly blue lakes and covered in trees making their autumn transformation.

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We decided against the southern route through Podgorica we’d taken a few days earlier so that we could instead make our way through the northern passage along the mountains of Montenegro. We stopped in the lovely ski town of Kolasin for a late lunch at Konoba kod Rada Vlahovica, a quaint tavern in the town square which feels like a step back in time.

We knew that the northern passage was a bit longer, but we managed to add an additional two hours on to the 8.5 hour drive that day because we didn’t know that the southern border near Peja had been closed for months. In spite of having to backtrack in the dark to reach the northern border from Montenegro to Kosovo, we were still in high spirits from an excellent trip.

I’d recommend our path for anyone living in or visiting the Balkans. You can even borrow our map!

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  • Domingo Dest
    August 31, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Keep functioning ,remarkable job!

  • Karl Ilacqua
    August 31, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Keep working ,remarkable job!