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melbrows Jan 24th, 2017 11:57 AM

Which cities are a must in Croatia, Bosnia&Herzegovina and Montenegro?
We will have approx 17 days to make it through those three countries. Which cities are a must and how many days do you think we should stay in them for, knowing we are on a time crunch? The time of year we will be there is the end of September and beginning of October.

yorkshire Jan 24th, 2017 12:35 PM

What is your definition of must see? Any guidebook will describe the cultural and natural highlights.
My answer would be that none of the cities in Croatia are must-see, and that the natural beauty is the draw.
Could you share your arrival and departure points and preferred form of transportation?

Andrew Jan 24th, 2017 12:42 PM

I agree that "must see" is in the eye of the beholder - but I would say that Dubrovnik, even though it is mobbed with cruise tourists in the daytime and can have an unpleasant Disneyland-like feel, is one of the most unique cities I've ever visited.

Many would say Sarajevo is a "must" for the history alone. I didn't fall in love with Sarajevo myself, but it was a "must see" for me because I'm a history buff.

melbrows Jan 24th, 2017 02:11 PM

Neither of us have been to this part of Europe so we are pretty open to hearing about why people loved different cities. We are not partiers but we do love to drink, wine and beer mostly. Cities that are accessible by walking are ideal, we love being near the water and do enjoy museums.

Andrew Jan 24th, 2017 04:26 PM

You can read my two trip reports for Croatia (2015 and 2009) by clicking on my name. Before each of my trips to the region, I consulted guidebooks and did a lot of online research.

kja Jan 24th, 2017 06:55 PM

Another “eye-of-beholder” from me!

I didn’t file a trip report on my time in the area, but can tell you what I did:

- Overnight flight to Sarajevo; 2 nights (not nearly enough)
- Train to Mostar; 1 night
- Bus to Dubrovnik; 3 nights (parts of days in Trsteno and Lokrum; car rental for 1 day to visit Perast & Kotor -- I believe you can get to Kotor by bus or group tour from Dubrovnik; the times just didn't work for me)
- Bus to Korčula; 1 night
- Ferry to Split; 1 night (not enough)
- Ferry to Stari Grad; 2 nights (part of a day in Hvar Town)
- Ferry & bus to Trogir; 1 night
- Bus to Šibenik; 2 nights (day trip to the Krka National Park & Skradin)
- Bus to Zadar; 1 night
- Picked up a rental car; stop in Nin en route to Rab Town; 1 night
- Stop in Senj en route to Lovran; 1 night; brief stop in Opatija while walking the Lungomare
- Stop in Bale en route to Rovinj; 1 night
- Stops at the Limski Kanal, Porec, Tar, Motovun, and Beram en route to Gračišće; 1 night
- Plitvice Lakes National Park; 1 night
- Čigoč and the Lonjsko Polje; 1 night
- Stop at Veliki Tabor en route to Varaždin ; 2 nights (part of a day in Čakovec)
- Returned car in Zagreb; 3 nights
- Train to Ljubljana; 2 nights
- Picked up rental car; stops at the Škocjan Caves, Predjama, and Lake Bohinj en route to Bled; 2 nights (part of a day at the Vintgar Gorge)
- Flight home

Keep in mind that this is NOT an itinerary that I recommend to anyone else, because it was tailored very specifically to MY interests and MY travel style (which is HARD -- on the go from breakfast until nothing else can possibly be done that day, and sometimes even then a bit of a walk). Worse, I found my time in some places (Sarajevo and Split, in particular) inadequate. But maybe it will give you some ideas….

historytraveler Jan 24th, 2017 07:21 PM

I loved Dubrovnik and Montenegro.

KTtravel Jan 24th, 2017 10:50 PM

I think you really do need to get a guidebook of the area and read about the different cities that are possible. Some will likely sound like "musts" to you and others won't hold such an attraction.

We went to Split, Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Mostar and Sarajevo on our last trip. We would have like to have included more but had limited time. We may try to return to this part of the world to see other places another time. I loved our trip and the variety of locations.

In Split, we enjoyed wandering the town, learning about its history and palace, and visiting the museum/home of Ivan Mestrovic.

My great-grandfather was from Dubrovnik so that city has a special place in my heart. If you visit, try to see it in the early morning or late evening hours when it is not mobbed by tourists as it is really lovely then. Walking the walls, sampling the nice restaurants and exploring this lovely town is very enjoyable.

Plitvice Lakes is well worth a day of your time - the waterfalls, lakes and hiking are terrific.

We only spent a short time in Mostar so likely did not do it justice. We basically visited the famous bridge there.

Sarajevo really fascinated us. The history is so compelling but it is a difficult place to visit as the scars of the war are still fresh. I was very glad we went as we learned so much from the people we met and the sites we visited.

kja Jan 24th, 2017 11:17 PM

I so agree with KTtravel about the value of a good guidebook or two!

Of the half-dozen or so I used for the area, I found the <i>Rough Guide</i> the best, <b>by far</b>! And while I know that at least one Fodorite recommends the Rick Steves guide, honestly, it is the one guidebook that I have used -- ever, anywhere -- that I have found unworthy of the cost. For context, it is the only one of over 100 guidebooks that I have purchased for more than 18 international trips that I thought a waste of money. JMO.

nanael Jan 28th, 2017 02:01 PM

kja, I have Rough Guide for Croatia - any suggestion for good guide of Bosnia?

Andrew Jan 28th, 2017 02:22 PM

You don't have a lot of choices for Bosnia. I think the Bradt may be your only choice, actually: it gives a good overview of a variety of places, but it's not helpful for logistics planning. I could have lived without it in the internet era, but it was nice to have to browse at a coffee shop or something just to read about some of the places I might visit.

The Rick Steves Croatia/Slovenia book covers some of Bosnia but only Mostar, Sarajevo, and a few stops in between, but I found his book essential for my two trips to Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia, actually. I like his pragmatic approach to travel, but he intentionally leaves out a lot of destinations, focusing on only a few highlights and likely stops for tourists. I'm glad I took his recommended drive from Kotor to Cetinje through the mountains - breathtaking scenery, though the twisty drive might scare some people. Some of his other tips saved me time. (E.g. skipping a popular border crossing between Croatia and Montenegro used by tour buses in favor of a lesser-used crossing buses can't use.)

I also highly recommend a book - not a guidebook - called "The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War" by Tim Butcher. The author - a Brit who covered the Bosnian war - returned a few years ago to try to trace the origins of assassin Gavrilo Princip, who killed the Archduke in 1914 in Sarajevo to trigger World War II. How did this unknown guy Princip come to do this? Butcher went back to Princip's home village and literally hiked (as much as possible) long distances from place to place as Princip would have, trying to understand him better. He also gives commentary on modern Bosnia which he knows pretty well. Of course, he covers the logistics of the assassination itself. I was able to stand by the famous spot near the Latin Bridge and imagine exactly how it unfolded, from the motorcade and the abrupt turn and change of direction and then the fortuitous encounter and the shots, after reading Butcher's account.

kja Jan 28th, 2017 02:40 PM

I agree that there are few guidebooks that cover Bosnia i Herzegovina. I used the Bradt guide, heavily supplemented with information I obtained through online resources. There may be something more recent than when I went....

northie Jan 28th, 2017 04:23 PM

We used Lonely Planet for BiH and Croatia .

kja Jan 28th, 2017 04:45 PM

@ northie: Is that the <i>Lonely Planets Western Balkans</i> guide? I couldn't find a first edition when I planned my trip, which was before publication of the 2nd edition. Since I usually find the Lonely Planets books extremely helpful, I've often wondered about this one....

FlyDriveHike Jan 29th, 2017 10:35 PM

I would say Sarajevo and Mostar are the must sees in Bosnia, but of course it depends. We are not really into bigger cities, and were going to visit Sarajevo as a day trip. I'm glad we didn't. We stayed 2 nights in the most charming guesthouse (Pansion River) with the most stunning view from the room. The old town is very charming and the modern part has a lot of modern stores in case you are more into that. We did a war tour, which was very memorable (certainly recommended).

Mostar needs 1 night imo, unless you are exploring nearby towns and natural sights. It is more crowded with day trippers from Croatia during the day. It's different at night, or when it poors.

I am going to suggest two more off the beaten track towns, up to you to determine whether it is something you like. Not must-sees obviously. First, Jajce. Just google it. A colleague of mine is from the region and showed a couple of pictures and we just had to see it. So pretty. Pliva lake nearby is also beautiful. I don't think Jajce needs more than 1 night though, and it's quite the detour.

The other recommendation is Trebinje. A very charming town pretty close to both Montenegro and Dubrovnik. Since you're into wine, how about tasting local wines at local wineries and a small guided cellar tour... There are several wineries in Trebinje, most notably Vukoje Winery. It has a restaurant overlooking the town, where you can taste all of their wines by the glass. Tvrdos Monastery is another nice spot for a stop and to taste their red wine. I believe there are also guided tours from Dubrovnik to the wineries in this region. There are probably more places in this area with wineries, like Citluk/Medjugorje.

Croatia4me Jan 30th, 2017 07:00 AM

I have only been to Croatia but heard that Sarajevo is very nice to visit. In Croatia Dubrovnik is a beautiful place to visit and has many churches and several museums. South of Dubrovnik is a small town called Cavtat which is nice and there is a restaurant in the interior there called Konavoski dvori which is located alongside a river and here you can eat very good authentic Croatian food (it is easiest to go by car).

If you travel by car go from Dubrovnik northwards to the peninsula Peljesac, and the island Korcula, these areas are known for their red wine. Maybe it is an acquired taste but the red wine Dingac and Postup are the best known in Croatia and are made of the grape variety plavac, they grow along the coast on steep cliffs, not even visible from the main road. When visiting Peljesac you can stop by the small towns of mali Ston and Ston where is an ancient sea-salt harvesting place and an old wall that is build around the hill on the island pretty remarkable, you can walk on it too. Furthermore it is known for the seafood, especially oysters.

In Split there is plenty to see, many museums and Trogir is very nice to visit but relatively small. In the interior you can visit the town Sinj where they have a museum displaying the tradition of the Sinjska alka. Just 5km from Split you can visit the Roman ruins of Salona, but last time I was there (late spring) the grass was so high it was difficult to see much. But as you go at the end of September, probably the grass is low.

And if you like to eat authentic Croatian food, ask locals where they eat or where you can try real Croatian dishes and wine. In the touristy coastal places many restaurants cater standard tourist menu's.

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