Rugged coastal scenery and rich cultural heritage are just the beginning of what Croatia and Montenegro have to offer. Here, Go Ahead Senior Copywriter Courtney shares why the captivating region is best explored during the fall.
Setting out to explore the western edge of the Balkan Peninsula last November on our Croatia & Slovenia: The Old World Adriatic tour, I was filled with anticipation of what I’d find. Photos of the striking turquoise sea and tales of the ancient fortified cities had given me a glimpse of the region, but an even more colorful experience than I could have hoped for was in store.
It all began in Dubrovnik, a picturesque port city at the southern tip of Croatia. Passing through the stone gate, we walked along the limestone Stradun, the main pedestrian street that bisects the Old City. Around us were winding lanes, houses with distinctive red-tiled roofs and impressive ancient walls. We took advantage of the warm weather—and lack of crowds, since fewer travelers visit in the fall months—by strolling around and soaking up the welcoming Mediterranean vibe.
A day trip south took us across the border to Montenegro, a tiny country with a famously relaxed culture and diverse geography. We passed by towering mountains, lush greenery and azure waters. Feeling the warmth of the sun as we took in views of the Bay of Kotor and quiet surrounding towns, it became clear why locals have such national pride for their home country. When this kind of natural beauty is all around you, it’s impossible to feel anything but awe and appreciation.
While traveling up the coast of this region, called Dalmatia, it’s tough to look anywhere but out the windows. Peer in one direction and you’ll see rugged limestone cliffs. Turn to the other and you’ll spot verdant islands parallel to the shore, a beautiful contrast to the sparkling blue sea. Shorter autumn days meant we were spoiled by views of the sunset during our drives, as the sky took on brilliant orange, purple, pink and blue hues.
As we continued north, the shared moments with my fellow travelers against these multicolored backdrops are what I remember most: Watching a spectacular sunset along the Riva, the seaside promenade where locals gather in Split. Listening to the soothing sounds of the Sea Organ in Zadar and looking across the Adriatic Sea toward Italy in the distance as waves lapped against the marble steps. Traveling inland to walk the winding chestnut paths in Plitvice Lakes National Park. Without summer crowds, we had plenty of opportunities to stop and capture the yellow and orange shades of foliage mixed with emerald-hued waterfalls, at their most powerful after early autumn rainfall.
The region, which has been under the rule of many empires over the years, has an undoubtedly complex history. Like all of the other curious travelers in my group, I was determined to piece it together. With every new day on tour, the people, places and things I encountered continued to shape my perspective. Each personal story told by a local expert unlocked another fascinating piece of the culture.
It’s not surprising that, just like Montenegrins, Croats are incredibly proud of their country, which they call Hrvatska. Filled with unparalleled seasonal beauty and history, these destinations invite travelers to enjoy a shared sense of wonder. After my experience, I carry with me this feeling of connection, not only to the land and its people, but also to those who explored with me.
How have you been moved by the culture and colors of a particular destination while traveling? Share your story below.