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Croatia & Montenegro: An Active Adriatic Adventure

Paddle & Hike the Sun-Soaked Dalmatian Coast & Wild High Country of Durmitor National Park
Day 1: Dubrovnik, Croatia 
Upon arrival in Dubrovnik, you are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. We meet our Expedition Leader early this evening and set off 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 delicious welcome dinner at a seaside restaurant in nearby Zaton Bay, we return to Dubrovnik to spend the night.  

Day 2: Dubrovnik / Zaton Bay
The morning begins with a drive eastward, stopping at the panoramic viewpoint above the Old City for photos. Our journey continues through the bucolic countryside of Dubrovnik parish as we pass through the picturesque villages of Kupari, Srebreno, Mlini and Plat. Our destination is Cavtat, the southernmost town in Croatia. Located on a bay encircled by two peninsulas, Cavtat's safe harbor is frequented by numerous sailors and yachting enthusiasts. There's time to stroll along the palm-lined sea promenade before driving on through more glorious scenery into the verdant Konavle region, dotted with more charming villages. We stop at a famous restaurant in Konavle to relax and enjoy a glass of wine served with dried figs, smoked ham and homemade cheese and bread.

After exploring the countryside, we return to our hotel to relax and freshen up before heading back to Old Town. The afternoon is at leisure to wander, shop and sample Dubrovnik’s 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. Enjoy an early dinner on your own before boarding our catamaran early this evening. Our sleek sailing craft is the perfect vehicle for exploring Croatia's coast, peppered with small islands and hidden turquoise coves, with plenty of outdoor space for lounging in the Adriatic sunshine.

Day 3: Sea Kayaking Zaton / Kolocep / Lopud / Sipan
This morning we get familiar with our kayaks in the calm waters of Zaton Bay. Then 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: Sea Kayaking Mljet
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 Mljet’s saltwater lakes, stopping 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 Pomena.

Day 5: Korcula / Trstenik / Sea Kayaking Zuljana Bay
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 morning tour, there’s free time to explore Korcula on your own. This afternoon we sail to Trstenik where we’ll visit the Grgic family winery for a tasting—a name that may be more familiar as one of Napa’s legendary wineries, whose grapes originated from this very stock. Zuljana Bay beckons, and we spend an idyllic afternoon paddling along the Peljesac Peninsula, one of Croatia’s most famous wine regions—a bucolic hideaway of vineyards, salt and oyster farms, sleepy towns, narrow streets and hidden beaches. The evening we enjoy dinner at one of Trstenik’s appealing local restaurants before retiring to our catamaran to spend the night.

Day 6: Sea Kayaking Ston / 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 farming and fishing 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 for the 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: Kotor—Sea Kayaking / Dubrovnik 
An early-morning drive back to the coast takes us to Kotor, one of the most beautiful towns in the Adriatic. Here, we continue our exploration into Montenegro's history and culture, learning more about the tiny principality's intriguing past. In Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we visit the old port first documented in 168 BC. The city is surrounded by an impressive Venetian wall, and the influence of medieval Venice remains dominant among its many architectural treasures. After lunch on your own, we'll embark on a final kayaking excursion into the glorious Bay of Kotor. Once called Europe's southernmost fjord, the bay is in fact the partially submerged mouth of the ancient Bokelj River, which used to run to the sea from the high mountain plateaus of Mount Orjen. Shadowed by high mountains rising on either side, we'll paddle around the picturesque Benedictine monastery that sits on a small island opposite the town of Perast. Perast offers plenty of visual riches, with 16 baroque palaces, 19 Catholic and Orthodox churches, and nine defensive towers built by the Venetian Republic ringing the old city. Late this afternoon we return to Dubrovnik. This evening we say farewell to Dalmatia over a festive dinner in Dubrovnik's Old Town.

Day 10: Depart
After breakfast, a transfer to the airport is included for departing flights.

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