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For me, this year’s summer holiday had ‘Croatia’ written all over it. This spectacular place has been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for such a long time. I had it down as the perfect mix of culture and comfort and it didn’t prove me wrong. I was simply lured in by its picturesque architecture, sunny climate, and captivating sightseeing spots, thus making it my go-to destination for summer 2019.
I chose to enjoy my adventure in Croatia with a one-week stay at Tirena Sunny Hotel by Valamar in the peaceful area of Babin Kuk with my best friend. Only a ten-minute drive out of beautiful Dubrovnik, this complex has an ideal setting to relax, yet Croatia’s top attractions are only a stone’s throw away if you’d like to discover your inner explorer. Flying from Newcastle, in roughly 3 hours and 10 minutes we hit the ground in sunny Croatia and were ready to start our week of bliss – and my birthday celebrations! Flights and transfers were smooth and simple and we arrived at our hotel early afternoon, just in time for a spot of lunch and a dip in the water.
There were many things that attracted me to this hotel… The large outdoor pool with swim-up pool bar, value for money, and seemingly modern and well-equipped guest accommodation. Our stay was faultless; our room was spacious and had everything we needed for a great stay. We had an electronic safe to keep all of our valuables, comfy twin beds, minibar, modern bathroom, and our own private balcony. If there was one area for improvement I would say the view from the balcony, as we were backed onto trees and a walkway which wasn’t exactly a dream scenario. The staff at Tirena Sunny Hotel were extremely helpful, friendly, and approachable and were great at answering any questions we had during our time. On days when we chose to stay at the hotel, we could be found perched on a stool by the pool bar working our way through the impressive drinks menu. I enjoyed fizzy local beer, pina coladas, Aperol Spritz, fruity wine, and delicious iced coffees. There was also a tempting food menu on offer and we actually found ourselves eating here for lunch most days as prices were reasonable and the food was top-notch. We tucked into packed burgers, fresh seafood, salads, sandwiches, and oven-baked pizzas.
We spent our time in Croatia half-and-half I’d say. There was a mix of chilled-out pool days and also days out to uncover the sheer beauty of this wonderful place. We started with a trip to Montenegro, which felt a bit odd crossing the border to a different country when we were already in one. Despite this, we had the opportunity and we took it. I’ll start with this… hot, hot, hot! We experienced a temperature that day of 38°C – how I didn’t drop a stone in sweat is still a mystery.
We had an excellent tour guide showing us Montenegro’s most famous visits, including Kotor Cathedral and Our Lady of the Rocks; a small artificial island with a church. We took a very short boat trip out to reach this charming islet and looked inside the man-made church to discover a stunning interior with paintings and a ceiling with an intricate design. From the island, mesmerising views could be seen all around and I made sure to take plenty of photos to capture these. Although, seeing them from the naked eye is far different and way prettier. Later in the day we had free time to roam Montenegro as we liked, so we took a stroll around the cobbled lanes, browsed the shops, had an ice cream, and I savoured a lunch of mussels in a garlic dressing. Delish!
As the week went on a tour of Dubrovnik was next on the cards, followed by a Karaka sunset and dinner cruise. We had the same guide as for Montenegro on this day, which meant that our time exploring was thoroughly explained and really fun - he was great! The Walls of Dubrovnik, Stradun, Rector’s Palace, Tvrdava Minceta, Stradun, Onofrio’s Fountain, and Sponz Palace were just some of the characterful visits we encountered. I found that my favourite was definitely Onofrio’s Fountain, as I just loved the communal feel of being free to refill your water bottle free of charge.
There were three other things that completely stood out to me on my visit here: the friendly locals, great beer, and unique architecture. Famously, many scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here and despite not being an avid fan of the show I could still appreciate the iconic TV show locations. I also noticed that every quaint cobbled lane had an inviting bar or restaurant at every turn, which meant that exploring seemed so much more fun because I love trying new food and drink when I travel.
As the evening approached, we made our way to the city’s port to embark our Karaka cruise ship. We were greeted on board and given a complimentary glass of fizz as well as an additional drinks token to use at the bar for anything we wanted. Therefore, red wine it was! There was a mouth-watering spread of fish, grilled chicken, salad, cheese, potatoes, and so much more on about half an hour into the cruise, which was incredible. Complete with atmospheric music in the background, we admired the sunset and neon-lit city walls looking ever-so-stunning as we sailed a loop around Dubrovnik for roughly two hours.
As far as food goes, I definitely had a favourite restaurant. Just a short walk from the hotel, we stumbled across Restaurant Komin which had the perfect ambience combined with a taste bud-tingling menu of food and good wine. We dined here on the first night and returned again on the last night – ordering the same thing. I tucked into a delectable medium-rare steak served with gnocchi, prawns, and potatoes washed down with half a bottle of fruity red wine. A few of my other favourite restaurants include Levanat on the seafront and Fontana, which served a lovely seafood risotto.
For my birthday celebrations we took a stroll down to Coral Beach Club, somewhere I’d found and eyed up for months sitting at my desk awaiting my summer holiday! Nestled directly next to the water, this VIP-feel venue was the perfect place to sunbathe in style, take a dip in the sea, and sip ice-cold drinks with a view. We hired sunbeds for the day at a reasonable price, listened to calming music, and worked our way through three bottles of wine in celebration of turning the big 24 – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. On the evening, we had yet another sumptuous meal and headed back into Dubrovnik via taxi to Club Revelin, which was recommended to us earlier in the day and is set in the grounds of a castle. Bouncing with amazing music and serving great drinks, we spent a few hours here before making our way back to the hotel to see midnight in before my next year of life made its approach.
If you’re looking for a holiday destination that boasts plenty to do and see, warm weather, and world-renowned gastronomy, then Croatia is definitely for you. I’m keen to make a return very soon!