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Croatia and Montenegro for 8 days

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My wife and I are planning to go to Croatia and Montenegro for approximately 8 days in July. Ideally we would like to cover Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar in addition to Montenegro (maybe Kotor).

Although we would like to see all these places, we don't only want to be shuttling from one place to another and just packing and unpacking.

Any suggestions on how to efficiently cover these places, while at the same time enjoying our time as well?

Thank you in advance.

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    I hate to say it, but with only 8 days, trying to see Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Kotor would mean shuttling around a lot! AND you would be missing what may be Croatia's single most spectacular site -- the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

    If you must, you can visit Kotor as a long day trip from Dubrovnik. Visit Hvar between Dubrovnik and Split -- but check the ferry schedules carefully to make sure the times work for you. Start in either Zagreb or Dubrovnik and end in the other.

    I strongly encourage you to get at least one good guidebook. FWIW, of the half-dozen guidebooks I used to plan my time in the area, I found the Rough Guide BY FAR the most helpful.

    Good luck!

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    Thanks so much for your help! I will look into getting the Rough Guide as well as the National Park

    Would you recommend skipping any of the above places (aside from Kotor)?

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    Have you booked flights yet, or looked at your options? What to skip will largely depend on that. If you can fly into Split and out of Dubrovnik that would be ideal, but they are only about 4 hours apart so a loop between them would work (island stop one way, mainland the other).

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    I'd go to Cetinje, a bit like stepping back in time, you get a real feel of a different world, just for the day you could be between the wars or maybe early 1950s. World Heritage site. Being on top of the mountain is a special feeling as well.

    Big vote for the RG here too.

    Not that excited by Dubrovnik, the big ships and their micky-mouse-eared fat people ruin it for me. I much prefer Trogir, smaller less spoilt. Split is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. I want to like the Palace, but.... I can't, I want to love the Harbour but I struggle.

    Hvar is ok I prefer Bol on Brac.

    But we all agree, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the best. Read up on the way to have the best time.

    Zagreb, meh.

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    I enjoyed Zagreb, but agree that it doesn't have quite the WOW factor of the other places you mention. And I think it would likely be easier to include in a future trip than your other designations. As yorkshire notes, if you can fly into Split and out of Dubrovnik, or vice versa, that would make some sense.

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    Why bother with Croatia at all? Why not spend eight days in Montenegro?

    Start with Kotor, then take the drive through the mountains to Cetinje the old capital of Montenegro, drive to the summit of Mount Lovcen. The drive north from there to Kalosin is spectacular if rather hair raising, and then continue north to the Durmitor National Park. Another spectacular sight is Skador Lake. There are also the coastal resorts if one drives south from Kotor.There are lots of other spectacles in Montenegro.

    You could always visit Dubrovnik to or from Kotor.

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    Montenegro is the only place I have ever been attacked -- verbally -- for being an American. Montenegro is closely allied with Serbia. Croatians told me that they like Americans because we bombed Serbia (as part of the UN force). Serbians and Montenegrans, naturally, are less enthusiastic.

    I would certainly visit Kotor and Sveti Stefano, for example, as a day trip, but I would not be likely to take a long trip and spend an extensive amount of money there.

    I am pretty well-versed in the histories of these countries back to medieval times, and it is a fairly unedifying spectacle of being beastly and murderous to each other from then to now. It is a beautiful area of the world, full of history, great food, beautiful people, and I would go back tomorrow, but I agree that a good guidebook, as kja recommends, is a necessity.

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    "Ackislander on Mar 5, 15 at 12:21pm
    Montenegro is the only place I have ever been attacked -- verbally -- for being an American".

    I have travelled in many countries from beyond the Arctic circle in the north, to South Africa and Australia in the south, Japan in the east to the USA in the west. I have only been verbally abused in one country, and I am including all the Eastern European counties I visited prior to 1989, where the officials were not always over friendly with those from the West, and that one country was the USA.

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    Yep, man can be beastly to man anywhere in the world. It's the human condition.

    It might be useful to other travelers to know why you were insulted in the US -- race, creed, national origin, self-presentation, etc.

    I take no sides in the Balkans. Every country has its issues. I simply report what happened to me.

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    If you must, it happened at one of the top hotels in New York city (I won’t say which). The reason was because I was rather a scruffy looking foreigner with a beard and an obviously rather pregnant wife.
    We had flown in from London Heathrow, and because of the 5 hour time difference were quite tired. On long flights we always travel in comfortable clothing.
    I was attending an international conference in New York, and when we tried to check in at the hotel the desk clerk said that we had no reservations, and the hotel was full. (In fact the hotel booking had been made by the congress organisers and was in order). The clerk then said that the hotel wasn’t the sort of hotel we would want to stay in and we go somewhere else. When I asked him to check the reservations again, he muttered something about ‘foreigners’, and refused. My wife is American, and her parents were with us as they had travelled up from Richmond to meet us at Kennedy. (We had had an easy passage through Immigation as Betsy’s father was at the time a senior official in the US Immigration Service and had collected us as be came off the plane).
    My father-in-law had been waching all this with the desk clerk, and eventually got cross and produced his I.S. shield and waived it at the clerk. Somehow our reservation appeared, everything was in fact in order, and a rather shamefaced desk clerk.
    On several occasions I have found hotel staff in New York City and Washington DC being less than helpful, whereas in New England and in the South and in most other parts of the USA, I have never felt less than welcome. US airline staff can also, in my opinion, be abrasive.
    On one occasion a group of my friends, mainly from Europe and Japan, ate in a restaurant in Memphis. Betsy was the only American with us. At the end of the meal the waiters got extremely abusive because they didn’t think we had tipped them enough, and demanded more. Europeans don’t usually tip, because there is a service charge, in Japan it is considered insulting to give a tip, and even in the UK, one rarely gives more than 10%. Americans seem to want 15 or preferably 20%.

    (I will write separately on my happy times in Montenegro. I won’t deal with the politics of Serbia and Montenegro, though remember the Croatians sided with Italy and Germany in the last war)

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    Two magnificent holidays in Montenegro.

    One summer, my wife and I spent a week’s holiday in Kotor. Kotor is an interesting town, and there is a lot to see there. We caught the local bus to Heceg Novi, which is of interest. We hired a 2CV for part of our holiday, one day we drove through the mountains to the old capital of Montenegro, the city of Cetinje. We particularly wanted to visit the old Royal Palace, where Bernard Shaw had visited, and is said to have got his ideas for his play ‘Arms and the Man’. Unfortunately the palace was closed, however outside was an old man, who seemed most surprised that a couple of people had travelled all the way from Scotland to see the palace. He told us to wait and rushed off. About ten minutes later he came back with a lady who had obviously been shopping as she had a shopping bag with a rather large fish in it. She proceeded to open up the palace, and we had a personal tour. Montenegrins are a proud people and proud of their heritage. After our visit to Cetinje, where we could really have spent at least a couple of days, we drove to the summit of Mount Lovcen to see the mausoleum to Peter Petrovic Njegos. Sculptured by Ivan Mestrovic. This is quite spectacular, but the site is controversial. The 2CV showed its worth on the narrow, winding and steep road to the summit. Another day we drove along the coast where there are lots of holiday resorts, but also several interesting small towns, and then inland to Lake Skadar which is fantastic. At the end of each day we watched the light fade over the Bay of Kotor from the terrace of the hotel, with a glass of wine (or two). We could have spent longer there, but had arranged to spend the second week of our holiday at Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, but that is another story.
    More recently, my wife and I spent a week in Kolasin, which is about 160 km north of Kotor. We had organized this with one of the UK tour operators. We flew into Dubrovnik (as we were spending a second week in Cavtat), and were driven to Budva, where a minibus drove us to Kolasin. via Podgorica. We stayed in the Bianca Resort which is a modern hotel in alpine style, very friendly, and very accommodating staff. One evening while we were there, there was a wedding reception, so the staff suggested we move to a quieter part of the hotel. Very thoughtful of them. We were invited to join the festivities. There are good walks around Kolasin. We caught the local bus to the Moraca Monastery with its famous frescoes (For those who are interested in frescoes there are over twenty monasteries in Montenegro). Another bus ride took us to Lake Plav and the interesting town of the same name. Also by bus to the national park, Biodradska Gora. With another visitor, from London, we arranged with the local tourist office to hire a 4 x 4 with a driver to take us to the Tara Gorge and the Durmitor National Park. Spectacular scenery. We stopped for lunch at a small farmhouse, only one item on the menu, goat’s meat stew with freshly baked bread (and wine). It was delicious, though I didn’t tell my wife what the meat was until we had finished. Another trip, which we would like to have done, was to have taken the train from Kolasin via Podgorica to Bar on the coast. Our friend did this and said it was great.
    As there was only the two of us returning to Budva, we were driven by taxi. I think the driver thought he was Fernando Alonso. The road is very narrow, and takes all the heavy traffic north to Serbia. He attempted to overtake everything in sight. The only comforting thing was that as he had driven this route many times, and was still alive, he must be either very good or very lucky.
    From Budva we were then driven to Cavtat for our second week. Cavtat is so much nicer than Dubrovnik, and one can easily get into Dubrovnik by boat or bus.
    In summary, Montenegro has much to offer, we could easily spend several more weeks there. The country, particularly in the north, is less well developed and the people poorer than those living on the Croatian coast. They are a proud and individual people, and we found them delightful to meet. I think they liked us.

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    Dubrovnik is spectacular. One of the most beautiful Adriatic cities I've ever seen. It can get touristy but July is better than August and there are always ways to avoid the biggest throngs such as getting up early and walking around the city before the huge ferries get in.... and going to restaurants off beaten path or renting an apartment and cooking one night (we got gorgeous beach view apt and really enjoyed this as restaurants were so overpriced and often not great. they were similar everywhere so not just Dubrovnik). It would be a shame to miss Dubrovnik. There's a reason they call it the Pearl of the Adriatic. We flew into Dubrovnik and started off our trip in Croatia that way and were really glad we did so. It is the perfect start (vs finish) because it's so breathtakingly beautiful you know you have arrived somewhere special. Yet, due to it being a bit more packed with tourists (because it's tiny and popular, but then you'll see Hvar is just like this too, etc etc) you are glad not to end your trip there after you're exhausted and have seen a lot of the same food, same crowds, and plenty of beach views and islands :)
    We finished our trip in Zagreb and were really glad we did so. We needed some non-Croatian food options after 12 days of eating a lto of the same stuff, and we appreciated being in a multicultural city and off the island/vacation trek. BUT I'd say If I'd only had 8 days I wouldn't have done Zagreb. I would have flown into Dubrovnik, and then done Hvar/Stari-Grad and then flown out of Split.
    We thoroughly enjoyed Split although most people seem to use it jsut as a stopping point. We found better restaurants, great outdoor markets, and were able to take boats to some cool parks for day and half day trips from there.

    Plitvice was on our itinerary however we ended up having to miss it bcause we missed the only morning bus and there was no other option until so late in day that we would have gotten there at like 1am and the ride from Split was very very long. My friend didn't want to spend that long on a bus. I would just caution that with only 8 days if you are trying to see some of these majo spots AND do something like Plitvice you really don't have time to do more than fly into one place, spend a couple days, devote 2 days to Plitvice with travel and all, and then drive somewhere else, spend a couple days before leaving. If you are trying to also do Montenegro that sucks up another day at least.

    Hvar is as touristy as everyone says and I was skeptical of my enjoying it but it was so beautiful and such a wonderful stop. THis is why everyone wants to go there! So much to do. We saw an excellent tenor group one night in the setting of an old cathedral, poked around cathedrals and abbeys and walked up and down from the castle on the top of the hill just for the views. Took boat trips to the nearby nude or other than nude beaches to sun ourselves, and took a boat ride through all of the beautiful grottos and past the cool caves and private beaches in the area.

    We solved the problem of subpar overpriced bland restaurant meals with bad wine by renting an apartment (with gorgeous ocean views) and cooking and buying our own wine (brought from Split) and then also busing over to Stari-Grad and doing the fish feasts at the more reasonable restaurants there (recommended by our local guide who told us he can't afford to ever eat out in Hvar so he goes to Stari-Grad when they want to eat fish at a restaurant). We got the added benefit of missing the oonsha oonsha music that starts after dinner in Hvar downtown and getting to enjoy the quieter nightlife in Stari-Grad (basically zero but pretty little old town)

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    oh! and from Dubrovnik if you want to get away from touristy resturants you can rent car and drive up to Ston and Mali Ston and find some great oyster and seafood restaurants and climb up all the stairs on the wall in Ston which is pretty cool and just across from a big Salt field. Also if you go further you will be passing vineyard areas

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    Ah the wiggly drives around Cetinje I have a photo somewhere taken from the top of a rock looking down on what looks like a car on a wiggly snake surrounded by more rocks, when they laid the road they didn't move a large rock, just drove around it.

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