Sail, Paddle & Hike the Dalmatian Coast & Wild High Country of Durmitor National Park
Day 1: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Arrive in Dubrovnik, where you are met at the airport and transferred to our boutique hotel. We set off early this evening for a guided tour of the city called “The Pearl of the Adriatic,” whose stunning historic quarter has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This fortress town founded in the 7th century once rivaled Venice in beauty and power during the Middle Ages. Stroll the Stradun, the marble thoroughfare of Old Town, where locals gather at sidewalk cafes. Architectural treasures are everywhere, from monumental fortresses that once protected this important shipping port to the exquisite carved-stone
façade of the Duke’s Palace. After a welcome dinner at a seaside restaurant in nearby Zaton Bay, return to Dubrovnik to spend the night.
Day 2: Zaton Bay—Sea Kayaking / Dubrovnik
Our day begins with an introduction to sea kayaking by our Expedition Leader. We'll get fitted to our boats and learn some basic paddling skills before setting off into the calm waters of Zaton Bay, sparkling turquoise in the sunshine. Midway through our paddling, we'll go ashore in Trsteno to visit one of the oldest arboretums in this part of the Mediterranean, founded by a local noble family in the late 15th century who asked ship captains to bring back seeds and plants from their travels. An aqueduct constructed in 1492 is still in use to water the environs. Among its celebrated specimens are two Oriental Plane trees, unique in Europe, that are over 500 years old and more than 150 feet tall. The arboretum has gained contemporary fame as one of the main filming locations for the TV series Game of Thrones.
We'll also enjoy lunch at a casual seaside restaurant nearby.
After an exhilarating day, we return to our hotel by late afternoon, with the evening at leisure for relaxing or further exploring Dubrovnik's Old Town with its many museums, galleries, churches and monasteries. A walk along the stone wall that surrounds the city is a must, with views over the red-tile rooftops to the islands beyond. Dinner is on your own this evening, for a chance to sample your choice of Dubrovnik's excellent restaurants.
Day 3: Kolocep & Lopud—Sea Kayaking / Sipan
Our sleek sailing craft is the perfect vehicle for discovering Croatia's coast, peppered with small islands and hidden coves, with plenty of outdoor space for lounging in the Adriatic sunshine. After breakfast at the hotel, we transfer to our boat in Zaton Bay where we'll have a safety briefing and orientation presented by our captain and Expedition Leader. Afterward, we begin exploring the enchanting Elaphiti Islands, just offshore from Dubrovnik, by kayak. We paddle first to Lopud via the island of Kolocep, stopping for a fresh seafood lunch en route. Some of the islands are delightfully free of cars, and each is like an open-air museum of history, art
and folklore. The sunny climate nurtures gardens and subtropical vegetation, including cypress, lemon, orange, olive, magnolia and pine trees that create a verdant backdrop for many beautiful beaches. Kolocep is known for its many dramatic cliffs and caves and is pure paradise for sea kayaking.
After paddling to Lopud this afternoon, we sail to Sipan, the largest island in the Elaphiti
archipelago, where waves have sculpted the rocks and cliffs along the shoreline into impressive forms. The island’s interior is a hilly green quilt of vineyards and olive orchards, dotted with more than 30 chapels, 15th-century monasteries
and numerous centuries-old villas. Life
in Sipan’s two villages, Sudjuradj and Luka Sipanska, a charming fishing hamlet, feels little changed by time. Hospitable residents enjoy sharing the organically grown food and wine produced on their fertile island, and we’re happy to indulge during dinner at a local restaurant on Sipan Harbor, acclaimed one of the top three restaurants in Dalmatia.
Day 4: Mljet—Sea Kayaking
Cruise to the island of Mljet this morning, much of which is covered in original Mediterranean forest and protected as a national park. We kayak the clear waters of Soline
Bay, then check out the many caves on the exposed, wave-battered outer coast. At lunch in the fishing village of Soline, we savor the fresh catch of the day and other fine local dishes. Since the Middle Ages, Mljet has been known for its exceptional goat cheese, wine
and namesake honey. This afternoon we head inland to paddle the two saltwater lakes in Mljet National Park, which encompasses the entire northwest part of the island. We'll stop to visit the 12th-century Benedictine monastery of St. Mary that sits on a tiny islet in the middle of the largest lake. We overnight aboard our catamaran near the tiny village of Pomena
, whose residents make their living from fishing, farming
and small-scale tourism.
Day 5: Korcula / Lumbarda—Sea Kayaking / Mljet
Sail this morning for hilly, forest-covered Korcula, one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic. Korcula Town,
sometimes called a “mini Dubrovnik,” is a typical medieval-walled
Dalmatian city, with its defensive towers and red-roofed houses constructed in the shape of fish-bone to mitigate the effects of wind and sun on citizens. Korcula abounds in art, with multiple museums, galleries and festivals. After a guided morning tour, there’s free time to explore Korcula on your own. After a picnic lunch back on board on our catamaran, we'll take a 30-minute walk to Lumbarda, a small hilltop village on the easternmost cape of the island, surrounded by vineyards. On a visit to Bire Winery
we'll have a chance to taste several local varietals from native grapes that have been cultivated here for centuries. As always, the water beckons, and we spend an idyllic late afternoon paddling around the Lumbarda Islands. Returning to our catamaran, we set sail once more for Mljet, where we'll savor dinner at a local restaurant before retiring for the night.
Day 6: Ston—Sea Kayaking / Slano
Sailing on toward Ston, we stop mid-morning to paddle from Olip
Island to Ston Town on the Peljesac Peninsula. Ston boasts the oldest salt works in the Mediterranean and the world's second-longest defensive wall (after the Great Wall of China), more than three miles of which remain standing. The bay hosts a vital mussel and oyster industry, and we may be able to sample them along with other fresh seafood at lunch. There’s free time to explore town this afternoon before sailing for Slano
, a charming fishing and farming village. We anchor in Slano's
small protected cove before heading off for a memorable dinner at the historic Farmhouse Laptalo, overlooking the blue Adriatic. Our hosts, the Laptalo family, are the sixth generation to live in this hand-carved stone house among fragrant gardens filled with lavender and rosemary, producing wine and olive oil from the surrounding vineyards and orchards.
Days 7 & 8: Montenegro—Durmitor National Park
We bid farewell to our catamaran and crew early this morning and set off on a 3-hour drive to Durmitor National Park in northwest Montenegro. En route we visit 17th-century Ostrog Monastery. The most important Orthodox pilgrimage site in the Balkans, the monastery is an architectural marvel, built into a cave in near-vertical rock walls. Climbing inland, we reach Durmitor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A rugged region of glacier-scoured plateaus, dense pine forests and clear lakes traversed by wild rivers and underground streams, the park boasts unique native plants and the deepest gorges in Europe. We'll spend two days absorbing Durmitor's stunning natural beauty, walking among the lakes, exploring caves, stopping for picnic lunches and marveling at Tara River Canyon, the world's second deepest gorge after the Grand Canyon.
Late in the afternoon of Day 7 we arrive in the town of Zabljak, just outside the park boundary, and check in to our hotel. We spend two nights here, drinking in the clear air in one of the highest towns in the Balkans at nearly 5,000 feet. This evening we enjoy a traditional Montenegran dinner at a local family house with beautiful views of the mountains.
Day 9: Durmitor Hiking / Dubrovnik
The day begins with a last hike in Durmitor National Park. A short walk takes us to our destination, Black Lake, a placid turquoise jewel ringed by rugged peaks and the rounded mass of Medjed Mountain—"The Bear"—rising more than 7,500 feet. The trail takes us through an area where European eagles nest and chamois range, and a multitude of different wildflowers abound in season. Our hike concludes with lunch at a mountain restaurant offering superb vistas of the dramatic landscape around us. This afternoon we drive back to Dubrovnik via Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we'll say farewell to Dalmatia over a festive dinner in Dubrovnik's Old Town.
Day 10: Dubrovnik / Depart
After breakfast, a transfer to the airport is included for departing flights.
Please Note: Our paddling opportunities are completely weather dependent during this adventure. Should we experience inclement weather that prohibits us from kayaking for safety reasons, we will provide alternate activities whenever possible.