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Croatia & Montenegro: Kayak & Hike the Best of the Balkans

Paddle the Sun-Soaked Adriatic & Explore the 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 near Old Town. The rest of the day is at your leisure, with meals on your own.

Day 2: Dubrovnik / Zaton Bay
We meet our Expedition Leader this morning 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. There’s free time for lunch and to 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. This evening we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner at a 500-year-old restaurant in nearby Zaton Bay, where our catamaran—home for the next five nights—is moored. This 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 another paddling excursion this afternoon we sail to Sipan, the largest island in the Elaphiti archipelago. Sipan’s 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 Sipan / Ston
Spend the morning paddling the shoreline of Sipan, where waves have sculpted rocks and cliffs 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 village, feel little changed by time. After lunch on board our catamaran, we paddle to the town of Ston 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 you can sample them along with other fresh seafood as you dine on your own while exploring the town this evening.

Day 5: Sea Kayaking Zuljana / Trstenik / Korcula
We set sail early this morning to reach the village of Zuljana. From here we'll paddle along 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. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach, then visit the Grgich family winery—a name that may be more familiar as one of Napa’s legendary wineries, whose grapes originated from this very stock. Sailing from Trstenik, we head to 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. This afternoon and evening are free for you to explore Korcula on your own before retiring to our catamaran to spend the night.

Day 6: Sea Kayaking Mljet Island / Slano
Cruise to Mljet early 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. Inland, we paddle to the 12th-century Benedictine monastery of St. Mary that sits on a tiny islet in the middle of the largest of Mljet’s saltwater lakes. 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. A relaxing afternoon aboard the catamaran is in store as we sail to Slano, a charming farming and fishing village, stopping en route for swimming and snorkeling. We'll anchor in Slano's small protected cove before heading off for another memorable dinner in town.

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, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northwestern Montenegro. 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 the stunning natural beauty of the park, 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 into the Polar Star Hotel, where we'll enjoy a buffet dinner of local dishes in the traditional mountain hotel's restaurant. We spend two nights here, drinking in the mountain air in one of the highest towns in the Balkans at nearly 5,000 feet.

Day 9: Kotor / 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: Dubrovnik / Home
After breakfast, a transfer to the airport is included for departing flights.

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