Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

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Is Albania Safe? 11 Tips to Stay Safe in Albania

Is Albania Safe? 11 Tips to Stay Safe in Albania

For many travelers unfamiliar with Albania, there’s a lot of confusion about the current state of the country that might leave them wondering is Albania safe to travel to. While we love traveling to Albania (and we’ve both traveled here solo), there are some common-sense Albania safety tips that you need to follow while here.

We share our best safety tips for Albania, plus important information about Albania travel scams and crime statistics. In the 2021 context, it’s best to travel to Albania with COVID travel insurance so you can be protected for any contingency.

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Is Albania Safe? 13 Albania Safety Tips

Is Albania Safe? 5 Things to Know about Safety & Crime in Albania

Here are five facts about the current state of crime in Albania that you should be aware of. I address how to protect yourself in the next section. So while these things exist, there are things you can do. Being aware of them is the first step.

There is a Small Risk for Domestic Terrorism

While there have been no major terrorist incidents in Albania in recent years, unlike in the UK, Spain, France, etc., there are still some issues with terrorism. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety Report:

Returned Albanian fighters from Syria and Iraq continue to pose a problem for the country. The Albanian government has policies and procedures to document the travel of Albanians to and from Iraq and Syria. In 2018, there were 25 new terrorism-related cases in the judicial system, although no prosecutions were conducted.

Violent Crime is Decreasing

Although violent crime in Albania is usually targetted to locals and not travelers, nevertheless travelers should always be smart. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety Report: 

Recent crime statistics indicate a decrease in numerous violent crime categories; this includes murder/attempted murder, robberies by force, and armed robberies. Street crime is fairly common in urban areas, predominantly at night. The most notable crimes are burglaries, theft, and domestic violence claims. If confronted by armed assailants, comply with demands.

Albania - Tirana - Aerial view of Tirana city ​​and outskirts, Albania. Tirana city seen from the Dajti Express (Dajti Ekspres). Beautiful cityscape seen from the Dajti Express cable car. - Image

Political Demonstrations Can Turn Violent

While most political protests are peaceful, there’s always a chance they can turn violent. In Albania, political demonstrations are frequent. Follow the US State Department’s advice:

Demonstrations and political protests are common in Albania. The protests are generally peaceful but have resulted in violence in the past. The demonstrations vary in size from several hundred to more than ten thousand participants and frequently disrupt traffic.

Avoid demonstrations whenever possible. Alerts and Messages can be found on the U.S. Embassy Tirana Website.

Sexual Assault is a Larger Issue in Rural Communities

Keep in mind that sexual assault is under-reported, but in aggregate sexual assault is more of an issue when in small towns and villages. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety Report: 

Sexual assault and harassment is an issue mostly in the smaller towns. The victims tend to be females walking alone.

Albania - Tirana - Skanderbeg square and Skanderbeg monument in Tirana in a beautiful summer day, Albania

Lazarat is Still a Target for Local Organized Crime

While most of the country has no heightened travel warning, Lazaret is a special case. According to the US State Department, there is an elevated risk in Lazaret:

The security situation in Lazarat remains volatile due to crime and violence associated with marijuana cultivation. Local police have limited ability to protect and assist travelers.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Lazarat as U.S government employees are prohibited from traveling there.

Of course, travel advisories change over time. Check the US Travel Advisory for Albania before your trip, just read them carefully to see what they actually reference. 

11 Albania Safety Tips

Here are our essential Albania safety tips.

Avoid political demonstrations

I know it’s tempting. It happened to me in Tunisia and Iceland. You see a large protest rally and you just have to know what’s going on. 

Well, in Albania, stay away. In 2018 a political protest resulted in injuries to thirteen police officers. You do not want to be in the middle of a political situation that you don’t understand, especially when you don’t speak the language. 

So just stay away from political demonstrations of any kind while in Albania.

Know what to do if something goes wrong

It’s a good idea to know what you would do in a country if something were to go wrong. Besides your embassy’s contact information, keep these numbers handy:

Ambulance: 127
Police: 129
Fire: 128 

Albania - Tirana - Couple in love on the street on a rainy day. Friends walking down the street looking in same direction under transparent umbrella

Enroll in your government’s safety program

If you’re an American and you are concerned about the possibility of terrorism or political unrest while in Albania, you can enroll in the State Department’s STEP Program. This lets the government know your travel plans, and they will also email you to alert you if anything happens on the ground.

To be honest, I don’t use it when I go to Albania (though I probably should) since I feel pretty safe there. I have used it while traveling in Tunisia during protests, and I appreciated the up-to-date emails with what to look out for and areas to stay away from.

There is a similar program for Canadians. If you are a citizen of another country, check with your government to see if they provide these services. 

Do not drink and drive 

We love going to Albania for the wine and raki, but you cannot mix this with a night drive. Even a tiny bit of alcohol in your blood is illegal and will get you arrested (not to mention other Albanian drivers can make driving difficult even without alcohol).

Albania - View from Rozafa Castle

Have your travel insurance information handy

Since you’re a smart, safety-first kind of traveler, you know it’s a good idea to get a travel insurance policy before you leave for your trip.

But what do you do with it once you have it? First, it’s a good idea to have easy access to your policy information so you can make a claim if needed. You can also give the policy info to an emergency contact who’s not traveling with you. In a worst-case scenario, they can access the benefits to help you if you’re unconscious.

Keep your money safe

Don’t every flash your cash. Use a mix of credit cards and cash in the city, and keep everything tucked away. 

I use a Pacsafe Citysafe backpack, which has a pocked inside with RFID technology. This helps to make sure my credit cards won’t get scanned from afar.

It also has interlocking zippers, which means if someone does see that I have extra cash on me, it will make it harder for them to pickpocket me.

If you don’t want to buy a new backpack with safety features, you can use a money belt instead. 

Tirana - Albania - Street Art

Have a hard copy of your card numbers, phone numbers, and passport information

If something does go wrong and your cards and passport get stolen, you need to be able to get them replaced. Have a hard copy in case your phone also gets stolen. This way you can call your banks, your embassy, and then your travel insurance company to get everything replaced without needing access to the internet.  

I like to have one copy in my backpack, one copy in my day bag, and email a copy to myself in case I literally get everything stolen. 

Never leave your stuff unattended

It’s tempting to leave your stuff unattended when you’re in a restaurant or cafe, especially if you’re traveling solo. How much easier would it be to just leave your backpack at the table while you go to the restroom?

Don’t! Never leave your stuff unattended. Don’t leave your cell phone out on the table. If you’re out in a public place that has a lot of tourists, sit with one of your chair legs through the loop of your backpack.

Be the hardest target, not the easiest. That starts with not letting your stuff be easily snatchable! 

Albania - Berat - View from the Castle

Pay attention to your surroundings

Pay attention to your surroundings. The one time I thwarted a pickpocket (in Italy, of course) was because I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He caught me looking at him, and he removed his hand from my backpack. 

If I hadn’t have been paying attention, he would have gotten my cell phone, my cash, and my passport! 

Don’t get lost on your phone in transit or in a taxi. Don’t keep your headphones on when you’re walking alone. 

Make sure you can generally see and hear what’s going on around you so that if something is about to happen you’ll be aware. 

Don’t drink the tap water in rural areas and small towns on the Albanian Riviera

While you can generally drink the tap water in places like Tirana and Saranda, it’s not safe to drink in small towns. Instead, opt for bottled water or bring your own Grayl Water Filter so that you can filter the tap water yourself. 

Albania - Berat - Ottoman House on the River

Women need to use extra caution – just like everywhere in the world 

There are very low rates of reported crime against women in Albania, and it’s not a country where catcalling is a real problem.

However, that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be just as vigilant in Albania as they would be in their home towns or big cities.

Don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t drink too much if you’re traveling alone, be wary of any men who try to get your attention, etc.

Another thing to consider is that while there are low levels of sexual assault reported in Tirana, you should be just as wary of other travelers you meet as any locals. 

So, How Safe is Albania?

Overall, Albania is a great place to travel, and I haven’t had any issues there as a solo female traveler. However, you want to use the same caution against pickpockets, sexual assault, etc. as you would anywhere in the world.

In addition, if political protests flare-up or there is a terrorist incident, it’s better to know ahead of time what you will do. Hopefully, you will have a safe, fantastic trip, but it’s better to be prepared just in case. 

5 Things to Pack to Stay Safe in Albania

Bulgaria - Burgas - Stephanie at Burgas Train Station with Luggage

We have a complete packing list for Albania, but make sure you bring these five items with you!

Lonely Planet Western Balkans is a great guidebook for your visit to Albania, and it’s great if you’re also visiting any combination of the following countries: North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. It can be really hard (sometimes impossible) to buy a physical guidebook in English once you’re in Albania, so if you like having your guidebook in your hands you will need to bring it with you from home.

Unlocked Cell Phone: Allison and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (I use a Samsung and she uses and iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! 

If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use an Albanian sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Allison and I use (and they also make men’s versions). It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag. 

A Sturdy MoneybeltIf you don’t want to get a new bag with anti-theft features as I use, you can use a money belt instead. I prefer to have these features built into my bag instead, but I know for a lot of people a money belt is a less expensive investment than a new bag. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water is safe to drink in the country’s larger cities, you need to avoid it in the small towns and villages inland and on the coast. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. 

Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

Read next: Essential Albania Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Albania

Where to Stay in Albania

Albania - Berat - Ottoman Houses

We are working on hotel guides for Albania’s major cities. When traveling to Albania, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. The country is gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, so some of the best spots do sell-out early (especially in summer and on the coast)!

More Albania Travel Resources

Albania - Berat - Berat Flowers

First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania. It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.

Next, check out our Albania packing list and our suggested one, two, and three week Albania itineraries.

If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture. We also have a post on Albanian cuisine!

If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania! If you love UNESCO sites, make sure to check out Gjirokastra, Berat, and Butrint!

We are working on all of our Tirana guides, but for now, we have posts on the best restaurants in Tirana, the best Tirana cafes, and the best Instagram spots in Tirana, plus how to visit the Tirana Christmas Market.

We add new content almost daily! We recommend you bookmark our homepage, our Albania page, or our general Balkans page to refer to when planning your trip.

Pin this Albania Travel Safety Guide for Your Trip

Is Albania Safe? 13 Albania Safety Tips
Is Albania Safe? 13 Albania Safety Tips
The Perfect One Day in Zagreb Itinerary to Maximize Your Trip

The Perfect One Day in Zagreb Itinerary to Maximize Your Trip

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, situated in the continental part of the country. It is the largest city in Croatia and provides many options for people of varied interests.

Whether you are interested in art, cafe culture, old architecture, or the outdoors – Zagreb has a treat for you! Well, it’s tough to indulge in all shades of Zagreb in 1 day, so we have prepared an optimal Zagreb itinerary for you to fully maximize your time! 

Without further ado, let’s kick it off with some valuable information about visiting Zagreb!

Is One Day in Zagreb Enough?

Art Pavilion Building in Zagreb Croatia, orange flowers at the base of a brilliant yellow Art Nouveau building.

Zagreb is not a huge city, but it is absolutely packed with things to do! If you enjoy exploring museums, Zagreb will be a true delight for you.

It is packed with museums, from numerous art museums to unique treats like the Museum of Broken Relationships, for example. If you want to visit most of them, you certainly won’t be able to make it in one day.

Nevertheless, if you are planning to experience Zagreb in just one day, you can see and experience interesting things in the city’s historic old part. Also, this part is accessible on foot if you are starting from the city center!

Still, Zagreb is a city of different flavors, with many other experiences, such as numerous outdoor activities. If find yourself wishing you had a bit more time for Zagreb, make sure to also check out our 2 days in Zagreb itinerary and see if you can switch up your Croatia itinerary to have more time for this lovely European capital.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Zagreb?

Croatia - Zagreb - festive decorated park in Zagreb. Croatia
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As Zagreb is the busiest city of Croatia and happens to be a continental city, it doesn’t depend so much on the high season, like the coastal cities. That means that you can visit it all year-round. Still, Zagreb takes on a different cloak during each season.

In late spring, the temperatures start being pleasant (around 20 degrees Celsius), and the numerous parks in Zagreb start blossoming, which is a spectacular sight! Zagreb in spring has a unique, laid-back vibe, with lots of outdoor activities available. Of course, don’t forget to sip a coffee in one of the many lively cafes in Zagreb. 

During the summer months, the potential for more outdoor activities opens up, albeit the heat from Zagreb’s concrete will be much more pronounced. Still, it is an ideal time to check out those numerous museums or enjoy the lush green parks in their full glory!

September is a great time to visit Zagreb if you are up for a walking tour. Zagreb gets a brand-new romantic vibe, which is further pronounced with leaves changing their colors.

Of course, make sure to not miss Zagreb on your radar during Christmas time! At that time, a Christmas market is in its full bloom, with Zagreb taking on a totally different vibe. Actually, this Christmas market is regularly named as one of the best Advent markets in Europe!

TIP: Planning a winter visit? We have a guide to Zagreb in winter as well as a Zagreb Advent (Christmas Market) guide.

How to Get to and Around Zagreb?

A blue tram going through Zagreb's historic city center with traditional architecture

As Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, it is understandable that there will be quite a few ways to get to it. Getting around Zagreb is relatively easy due to its bus and tram network. If you are staying for just one day, walking it off is a great idea too!

Daytime bus lines in Zagreb are available online, as well as the ticket prices for trams.

If you are coming to Zagreb, you can get there by plane, bus, train, or car.

Airport Transfer to Zagreb

If you get to Zagreb by plane, you will arrive at Franjo Tudman Airport, located 15 km away from the city center. You can reach the city center with a taxi, Uber or bus service. The bus ride costs between 30 and 35 HRK (about 5 to 6 USD), goes from the airport and arrives at Zagreb bus station in 45 minutes. 

Here is the timetable for airport transfers to Zagreb!

If you want to take an Uber or taxi, it will cost you more, but the transfer will take you at least 25 minutes.

Getting To Zagreb By Bus

This is a popular option for overland travelers, as the Zagreb bus station is located just 2 km away from the city center. It’s practically within walking distance, but you can also take a quick taxi or Uber ride. 

Getting To Zagreb By Train

It’s yet another popular option to get to Zagreb, as the central train station is located at the beginning of the ‘Lenucci Horseshoe’, just distanced 1 km south of the city center. We highly advise you to take a stroll from here to the center. 

Getting To Zagreb By Car

Croatian highways are in excellent condition and connect most of the country. One thing to note is that they have no vignette system like most of Central Europe. Instead, Croatia utilizes an old-school toll system. Basically, you will get charged based on the number of kilometers you have driven.

You can pay highway tolls with euro, Croatian kunas, and your credit card. Keep in mind that the highways get very crowded during summer, and the toll is more expensive.

Here is Our 1 Day in Zagreb Itinerary!

If you want to experience the most of Zagreb’s magic, we recommend that you start your 1-day adventure from King Tomislav Square. From there, you will slowly work your way towards the historic old town district, that is full of lovely surprises. You certainly don’t want to spend one day in Zagreb in a grey suburban neighborhood, don’t you?

Let’s begin with a morning stroll!

Pass Through King Tomislav Square

A man on a horse statue in front of the same yellow Art Pavilion building from earlier in the post

Just as you get out of the intricately designed central train station, you will see the statue of King Tomislav, with tons of people, little stalls, and trams passing around. Yes, you are thrown right in the middle of the daily buzz of Zagreb!

Here is a lovely square with a fountain and the beautiful yellow Art Pavilion (a top Zagreb Instagram spot) where lots of people love to chill around! Inside the Art Pavilion, you can see gallery showcases of many Croatian artists. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can still marvel at the intricate architecture of the pavilion itself!

Note: Sadly, the Art Pavilion is closed due to the 2020 earthquake damage. The opening time is still not known as of now.

During the Advent period, this square takes on a new coat and becomes a skating rink. It’s certainly a nice experience to try if you are here during the winter. Whether you know ice skating or not, it’s an absolutely fun experience.

Chill a While in Zrinjevac

A green park, with a gazebo, fountain, brick building, and white flowers.

As you pass along the Strossmayer Park, you will come along the amazingly tranquil Park Zrinjevac. It is another part of the green Lenucci Horseshoe and one of the local favorites, as it’s a green retreat from the daily buzz of city life.

It’s dominated by the music pavilion in the middle that comes alive in spectacular, classic fashion in the Advent period. Also, there are three fountains around here, each with its own exciting story. You can also find a meteorological column that shows the current temperature and air humidity in Zagreb.

After you chill a bit in Zrinjevac, the main square is just a minute away!

Embrace the Daily Buzz at Ban Jelacic Square

A close up of a statue with a man on a horse wearing a red ribbon, with pink and yellow painted buildings behind.

You have made it to the Ban Jelacic Square, which is Zagreb’s main square dedicated to the national legend whose statue you can see in the middle of the daily buzz. It’s certainly a striking spot, with colorful buildings and a tram line with an occasional tram buzzing through, making it quite a lively place.

Many people gather around the imposing Josip Jelacic statue and the Mandusevac fountain near it. During the Advent period, the square turns into a Christman fairytale!

Well, all main roads in Zagreb lead to this square, so it is a great jump-off point for other locations in our 1 day in Zagreb itinerary!

Check the Panoramic View at Zagreb 360 Viewpoint

An aerial view over Zagreb's busy town square with pastel architecture and the Zagreb Cathedral, a must on your one day in Zagreb itinerary

Just on the edge of Ban Jelacic Square, you can find a seemingly ordinary office building. Well, you can come to its top floor, which is located 182 meters above sea level. There, you can find a 360-degree bar with an amazing panoramic view over Zagreb! It’s certainly a dashing location that can show you the sheer scope of this lovely city.

You can buy the day ticket for 60 HRK (or 9 USD), which allows you to come here both during the daytime and evening. Make sure to visit this spot during the evening for a stunning night view over Zagreb!

Gasp in Awe at the Gothic Zagreb Cathedral

A tall Gothic cathedral with two spires, surrounded by a statue and some small towers

This Neo-Gothic style church that was built in the 12th century is located in the historic Kaptol district. Right from the get-go, you will notice its lovely exterior, with its spires making this the tallest building in Croatia.

The interior is no less dashing, with lots of statues and intricate columns for your eyes to feast on. Surprisingly, this church has withstood wars and devastating earthquakes (the most recent one was in March 2020) but still stands tall.

The square around the cathedral is quite lively, with local vendors and traditional folk dance shows around. Embrace the vibes here before moving on to the Upper Town!

Pass Through the Stone Gate to the Upper Town

Historic Zagreb street and Stone gate with a statue of a man on a horse in the middle of the path

This gate was built in the 14th century, along with three other gates that served as fortifications of the medieval Zagreb. Today, this gate is the only one standing, serving as one of the gateways between Lower and Upper Town.

As you come inside, you will notice that this place is a shrine to the Virgin Mary, as there is a small chapel with lots of candles inside and Madonna paintings. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary due to a supposed miracle. The story behind goes that in 1773, there was a fire that destroyed every wooden part of the Gate, with only the painting of Madonna with Child surviving the incident.

Well, after a brief stop, head on further to the heart of the Upper Town, the St. Mark’s Square.

Check Out St. Mark’s Church

Now that you are in the heart of the Upper Town, you can see the St. Mark’s Church dominating the square. Before, this was a market square, but now, it is a political and religious hub, with the Parliament building close.

The church itself is a hallmark of medieval architecture and was built in the 13th century. Its unique attraction is the patterned roof that contains two coats of arms – of Zagreb and old Croatian kingdoms.

If you manage to get inside the church during the daytime mass, you will notice lots of surreal and sometimes erotic sculpture work of renowned Croat sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. It’s kinda surprising that this piece of art is inside an actual church!

Explore Heartbreak at The Museum of Broken Relationships

Just a minute walk away from St. Mark’s Square is a quirky and original Museum of Broken Relationships.

The museum is composed of donated items that represent broken relationships, with love, family, and friendship being the main themes. Each item is accompanied by a story that varies from silly and heartfelt to uncomfortable and tearjerking. You certainly won’t be bored during your exploration of the museum.

There are items such as clothing and jewelry pieces to silly items like pizza boxes. But, once you learn about the context of these items, the hour that you spend over here will blaze swiftly! 

The entrance fee to this museum is 40 HRK (or 6,25 USD), and it is absolutely worth it!

Take an Evening Walk Along the Strossmayer Promenade

An antique lamppost on a popular promenade in Zagreb with lots of trees and greenery.

As the evening slowly drops by, so does our 1 day in Zagreb itinerary slowly crawl to its end. To return to the Lower Town, take a walk along the lovely and peaceful Strossmayer Promenade that bursts with romantic vibes. Along the walk, you will pass along local stalls and gaze at the skyline of Zagreb that takes on a different coat during the evening.

During the Advent period, this promenade gets even more lovely! When you are ready, descend through Zakmardi Steps that will take you to Radic Street. 

Enjoy the Night Vibes in Tkalciceva Street

Just a short walk from Radic Street is Tkalciceva, one of the most famous streets in Zagreb. During the evening, it gets even more lively. The street is lined with numerous bars, restaurants, cafes, and nightlife options.

There is a lot of diversity here, from tapas bars, Asian restaurants, bakeries, Mexican restaurants, and local restaurants. If you want to try the different spices of Zagreb, this is the right place.

Well, as you are staying in Zagreb just for one day, why wouldn’t you try out some of the local delicacies? 

First in the line would be a local bakery called La Štruk. There, you can try the local especially, the Štrukli – a local cake that’s absolutely delicious. Anyone who went to elementary school in Croatia will remember the old Medimurje song “Babice su štrukle pekli” – an ode to this local delicacy.

Once you are done with Štrukli, visit the Mali Medo brewery, where you can sample some excellent local beer and local food to keep your belly full for the day ahead!

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Well, that would be all for our 1 day in Zagreb itinerary! We sincerely hope that you will enjoy your stay in Zagreb and that this one day you spend here will be filled with at least one memorable experience. Make sure to visit more of Croatia, as it is full of hidden gems if you just stray off the beaten path!

Pin This Guide to One Day in Zagreb: Itinerary & Tips!

Your Ultimate 3 Days in Dubrovnik Itinerary

Your Ultimate 3 Days in Dubrovnik Itinerary

Dubrovnik, popularly dubbed ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, is a small coastal town with a big heart. You can see the highlights of this fantastic city on a long weekend. The city is not large, it has just over 40,000 inhabitants. But I spent 3 awesome days in Dubrovnik exploring its beauties and stunning views. 

Dubrovnik has a reputation as one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. It became a world travel hotspot after it was seen in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones as the backdrop for King’s Landing. After such promotion, Dubrovnik is visited by millions of tourists every year.

It is now synonymous with over-tourism. Up to 15,000 cruise tourists walk through the compact Old Town on a summer day. It is not good for the economy as well, because those who only spend one day in Dubrovnik really do not help the local economy — so staying 3 days in Dubrovnik is a much more sustainable way to enjoy the city and help the locals.

Some say that Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful Croatian cities to explore. You can explore its historic Old Town, or perhaps relax by the beach. One is certain, there are a plethora of things to do on your Dubrovnik itinerary that you have to experience during your visit! 

A Brief History Lesson of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has a long and impressive yet also turbulent history. Initially, it was known as Ragusa. Its story begins with the attack of the Slavs in the 7th century. They annihilated the Roman city of Epidaurus, which is the site of the present-day Cavtat. During this period, the land south of Stradun (the main street of Dubrovnik’s Old Town) actually was an island that served as protection. The famous walls also began its construction to provide security for the citizens of Ragusa. 

Four centuries later, Ragusa significantly increased its coastal influence and prosperity thanks to the trade with other cities in the region. Venice managed to maintain control over it from 1205 to 1358, after which Ragusa got its independence again. By the 15th century, the Republic of Ragusa was a force to be reckoned with, as it was the only major rival of Venice when it came to the control of the Adriatic Sea. They kept their independence thanks to highly effective diplomacy and occasional bribes that would result in stronger political and cultural influence over the region.

In 1667, a devastating earthquake hit Dubrovnik, destroying the cathedral and many monasteries and killing over 5,000 people. Interestingly, only the Sponza Palace and the Rector’s Palace survived this catastrophe. Actually, most of today’s city is the direct result of rebuilding after this earthquake.

After this earthquake, Dubrovnik never shone as it had before. Its influence slowly but steadily faded. In 1806, the authorities made a huge mistake of giving free passage to the Napolean forces. This resulted in the abolishment of the Republic by the French.

During the 20th century, Dubrovnik changed its rulers, starting with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ending with the Republic of Croatia. Nowadays, Dubrovnik is a shining example of Croatian culture and enormous heritage.

Day 1 of Your Dubrovnik Itinerary: Get To Know Dubrovnik

You should certainly start the first of your 3 days in Dubrovnik by exploring it on foot. Mainly, the Old Town – a beautiful, UNESCO-protected historical site that harkens back to the days of old glory. I will detail some things to do in Dubrovnik that you absolutely shouldn’t miss on the first day of your stay!

Walk the City Walls and Wander Through the Old Town

The Old Town of Dubrovnik is surrounded by walls, and regardless of how much time you spend in Dubrovnik, this is the highlight of this city and that you shouldn’t miss. My recommendation is to get up early because, by 10AM, walls are already taken over by tour groups and hot sun. You can also consider going in the afternoon. 

Tickets cost 200 HRK (31,24 USD) from July 1st and include the entrance to Lovrijenac Fortress. There are only three entrance points: Inner Pile Gate, St. Lucas Fortress, and St. John’s Fortress. The walk lasts around two hours, and it is a “one-way” street (imagine how messy it would get with people walking in opposite directions). 

If you thought walls were impressive from the outside, wait to see the outstanding view from above. 

After the walk, spend some time exploring the Old Town! Start off by heading to Stradun, the main street of Dubrovnik. You will instantly notice numerous restaurants and cafes along this street. Embrace the flow, and lose yourself in the countless picturesque narrow streets. Personally, I enjoyed exploring Stradun and getting a feel of how the locals live. 

It just takes one look, and you will understand why Dubrovnik’s people are so proud of their city and its heritage.

Pro Tip: Dubrovnik Old Town has multiple fresh drinking water fountains, so you do not need to purchase expensive water bottles in shops! Just make sure to bring a refillable water bottle.

Experience a Small Piece Of Heaven at Mount Srđ

Probably all famous photos of Dubrovnik were made from this place. It’s an ultimate view of Dubrovnik, which you can get by taking the Dubrovnik Cable Car, by bus/taxi, or if you are into hiking, there is a hiking trail. Srđ rises to a height of 1,352 feet (412 meters), and it looks directly over Dubrovnik, providing a perfect view down onto the city’s Old Town.  

The Cable Car takes around 5 minutes each way, and an adult ticket costs 100 HRK (15,62 USD). Once you get to the top, there’s the Panorama Restaurant & Bar. It’s quite exclusive, but Dubrovnik is kinda exclusive by itself. Also, the Museum of Contemporary History located there will give you all the information about the Croatian War of Independence (also known as the Homeland War). 

Don’t Miss the Game Of Thrones Tour

Winter is coming! I am sure that all of you (even if you didn’t watch the show) know that Dubrovnik was the backdrop for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms – the King’s Landing. If you are a fan of the GoT TV series, I recommend taking a walking tour.

Most of the tours last around 2.5 hours and cost 150 HRK (23,44 USD). You cannot miss the chance to see all the filming locations. It’s interesting to see how much props they used and how many locals participated in the filming. You will see some of the GoT locations such as Cersei’s Walk of Atonement, Palace of Qarth, The Red Keep, Palace Gardens, and many more! 

Here is an amazing Game Of Thrones tour for you to enjoy!

Hit Up Banje Beach, a Perfect Place to Relax

After a day of historical sightseeing, it’s time to relax! Banje Beach is one of the best Dubrovnik beaches. It’s a small beach, but it certainly leaves an impression. It’s a mix of sand and stones with amazingly clear water enclosed by a net. The scenery all around is just incredible! Lokrum Island, the City Walls, Mount Srđ, and transparent navy blue water. What can be better than that? 

If you choose not to jump right into that water, there is a lovely beach & lounge bar with great cocktails and a restaurant with fresh and tasty seafood.

Up for a Party?

I decided to have 3 awesome days in Dubrovnik, and what is the word awesome without the party?

Dubrovnik sleeps peacefully through the cold winters, but as summers embark upon, it wakes up with a vengeance. I visited the club Revelin, which is located in the 500 years old Revelin fort. Rumors say it’s the most significant place in Croatia where people can enjoy electronic music.

I want to mention a couple of names that performed there: Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, R3HAB, LMFAO, and many, many others. I can only recommend this place. I had great fun!

Day 2 of your Dubrovnik Itinerary: Relax And Have Some Fun

Temperatures in Dubrovnik during July can be unbearable, and walking around the city can become stressful. That is why we chose the second day for relaxation and fun. Trust me, after the first day, you will need to charge batteries for the third day.

Charge Your Batteries on the Island of Lokrum

Lokrum sits just off the coast from Dubrovnik. I recommend you catch a 15-minute ferry from the Old Port early in the morning and spend the morning on the island. No need to buy tickets in advance. Simply purchase them on the dock. The price for the ferry and the entry is around 150 HRK (23,44 USD) per person.

Lokrum accommodates lots of bunnies and peacocks, beaches, and forests, as it is a nature reserve. The island is uninhabited, perfect for a day of exploring and swimming. Rustic paths will lead you to:

  • Deserted Benedictine monastery
  • Olive gardens
  • Botanical garden
  • Fort Royal – which was made by Napoleon, from there you can enjoy views back across the water to the Dubrovnik Old Town
  • Dead Sea – no, you can’t float effortlessly, but it’s a nice and safe place for cliff jumping

As there are no vehicles on the island, it’s safe for kids and eco-friendly.  

For GoT fans, you can find the Iron Throne there! It’s not clear if the throne is from the actual show since different stories are being thrown around. Locals claim that it was donated to the island as a gift from the show and others claim it’s a replica. Regardless if it’s real or not, it’s the best GoT prop I’ve ever seen. It’s free to take photos of it!

There is a nice restaurant, Lacroma, but prices are pretty spicy since it’s the only one on the island. So, you might better bring your own food and drinks.

Do a Kayak Tour

Dubrovnik - Croatia - Kayakers exploring blue water and caves

You’ll be delighted to find out that Dubrovnik offers some of the best sea kayaking experiences in the Mediterranean. Head on down to Dubrovnik West Harbour and arrange a tour. It’s not only a fun way to get out on the water and get some exercise, but it also gives you a chance to see the city from a different point of view. Sea kayaking guides are highly professional and will ensure your safety while sharing some of the interesting tidbits of the history of Dubrovnik.

The tour is around 200 HRK (31,26 USD) per person and includes a sandwich during the tour and wine once it is over. It lasts for about 3 hours. If you are not into kayaking, I still recommend spending the afternoon on the water. There are private speed boats and sailboats that you can rent or just join one of the many boating tours they offer!  

Bask In Pasjaca, the Most Beautiful European Beach of 2019

This is an alternative if you think you should skip kayaking. Pasjaca beach was actually the best European beach in 2019 (courtesy of European Best Destinations). It is situated in the Konavle municipality, below the village of Popovici, about 30 km south of Dubrovnik.

There are no facilities at Pasjaca beach, making it ideal for those looking for relaxation around the wonderful nature and crystal-clear sea. Getting to and from this beach is a hiking adventure, as there are 200m of cliffs blocking the passage to the beach. The descent and the climb are quite stiff, so prepare accordingly! Don’t go flopping about in the flip-flops!

Day 3 of your Dubrovnik Itinerary: Pick a Great Day Trip From Dubrovnik

After two days of experiencing the very best of Dubrovnik, it’s time to experience some of the great places near Dubrovnik. There are many day trips from Dubrovnik that you can choose from, but the following are some of the most popular. Visiting the nearby areas is ideal to finish up your 3 days in Dubrovnik adventure!

Visit Korcula – Croatia’s Wine Island

Korcula is often considered to be something of a mini-Dubrovnik, with its similar, well-preserved Old Town and a number of sights. If you are up for sightseeing, you can see the most in the Korcula Old Town. 

Korcula is the supposed birthplace of explorer Marco Polo. So, of course, there is The Marco Polo Museum. The Museum is open from 9AM – 11PM with an entry fee of 60HRK (9,36USD). It takes you through a series of rooms with displays of Marco Polo’s life that will give you lots of background into this historic traveler. Each room has a stamp that serves as a mark of your journey, connecting to the fact that Marco Polo was a true world traveler and an explorer full of heart. 

Just strolling about in the numerous side streets of Korcula Town is a fantastic experience in itself. After a while, you will find yourself at St.Mark’s Square, which is the center of the town. Here, you can explore more of the history at the Town Museum or check out the architecture of the St. Mark’s Cathedral.

You’ll notice signs saying, “Welcome to Croatia’s wine island” all over Korcula. Croatia has an incredible wine industry, and one of the finest places to sample this distinct wine is on this island. You can book different wine tours or just simply sit in any restaurant and enjoy the taste. I am a wine lover, so I rented a bike and cycled to Lumbarda, the island’s main winemaking village. There you’ll find famous wines from Korcula such as grk, rukatac, posip (white wine) and plavac (red wine). Any of these are just perfect complements with the Korcula cuisine. 

Visit the Beautiful Elaphiti Islands

In the Old Town Harbour, you will see lots of stalls trying to sell you excursions and boat trips to the islands off the coast of Dubrovnik. The 3-island tour is a popular one. There are actually six islands in the archipelago, but the three main ones you’ll visit are Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan. 

If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the Croatian islands during the season, you will be delighted to know that Kolocep and Lopud are totally car-free!

You can go for a swim in a crystal-clear sea, wander around in the shade of Mediterranean vegetation, explore attractive small villages or simply take a journey through the local cuisine! 

The highlight of this day trip is the jaw-dropping beach Sunj on the Lopud island! It is a sandy beach opening into the amazingly clear part of the sea.  

If you value a non-touristy place with no entrance fee, look no further than this island tour. That’s why this tour is one of the most amazing things to do while in Dubrovnik for 3 days! 

Where To Eat In Dubrovnik?

With 3 awesome days in Dubrovnik, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine with lots of seafood in the selection! Dubrovnik offers various restaurants fit for any style or budget. You will find fine dining restaurants and simple taverns, fast food places, street food stands, and pizza huts. 

Recommending a specific restaurant is very challenging as everyone has their own taste. Still, these restaurants prove to be the finest in all of Dubrovnik. If you are spending 3 days in Dubrovnik, you should at least visit one of these!

Panorama Restaurant is for sure on the top of my list. It serves Mediterranean cuisine, featuring fresh seafood and steak. The food and service are fantastic. It provides a great dining experience. 

Taj Mahal serves authentic Bosnian food. You can find some of the best Bosnian food in Dubrovnik over here. If you don’t know what to order, try Cevapi! You certainly won’t regret them! 

It is not a restaurant, but it deserves a mention. When you are walking down the Stradun on a hot, sunny day, why not pop into Gossip Ice CreamShop for the best ice cream in the city?

Restaurant Obala is located on island Lopud (one of the Elaphiti islands). Usually, the catch of the day is delicious, but you shouldn’t miss out on the prawn and truffle risotto, a local specialty. If you’re looking for the highest food quality in Dubrovnik, this is the place to go.

Congo Bar is a great place to start out your day with a cup of coffee or to spice up your afternoon with a cocktail. You can find it in Old Town, just in the middle of the bustling Stradun. 

Where Should I Stay In Dubrovnik?

Personally, I enjoyed the Old Town, as it is the best place to stay in Dubrovnik if you want to be close to everything. Also, you can get a feel of Dubrovnik there. However, accommodation is much more expensive in that part of the city, so it definitely isn’t fit for every budget! 

You can find numerous rentals outside the Old Town that will provide breathtaking vistas on Dubrovnik and the surrounding sea. If you want to get there on foot, you will climb a lot of steep stairs. Not up for cardio? Order an Uber or go with public transportation then!

Getting Around Dubrovnik 

If you’re flying into Dubrovnik, you will arrive at Dubrovnik airport. The easiest option to get to the Old Town is to take the airport bus shuttle operated through Atlas. You can buy your bus ticket in advance or purchase on arrival (if traveling during the off-season). This is the most affordable option.

Concluding Thoughts on a Dubrovnik Itinerary

Even though it can certainly be intense, Dubrovnik in 3 days is a totally doable trip that features a great balance of nature, beaches, history lessons, and fantastic food!

Of course, there is so much more to see in Dubrovnik. And yes, I shouldn’t forget to mention the Croatian people. I have only words of praise for the hospitality they will offer you.

I hope 3 awesome days in Dubrovnik will become your next travel experience!

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A Splendid 2 Days In Zagreb Itinerary

A Splendid 2 Days In Zagreb Itinerary

Did you know that Croatia is more than the vibrant coastline that often is crowded with tourists from all over the world? That’s right, there is beauty in the continental part too, and thankfully, more people are discovering that.

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a wonderful example of a Central European city that you absolutely shouldn’t miss.

Well, for you, we have prepared an itinerary that will take you around the absolute best of any Zagreb itinerary in only 2 days!

Day 1 of your Zagreb Itinerary – Walking Around The Heart Of Zagreb

For the first day of our 2 days in Zagreb itinerary, we will lead you through the heart of Zagreb. This is the historical center of Zagreb, which is full of life and exciting sights. It is undoubtedly a terrific starting point to meet Zagreb head-on!

Begin Your Day on Jelačić Square, the Heart of Zagreb

Many would argue that the central square is the heart of Zagreb, and they wouldn’t be far from wrong.

You will spot tons of people at every part of the day at this bustling square. It is basically the kick-off point for everything in Zagreb, from public transportation to social life. Also, it is situated between Kaptol and Upper Town, the two historical districts of Zagreb. 

The square is famous for the huge sculpture of its namesake, Count Josip Jelačić. He is hailed as a Croatian national hero thanks to abolishing serfdom and convening the first elections for the Croatian Parliament. His statue stands high on this spot since 1866.

This square takes on a wholly different coat during Advent, where it transforms into a large Christmas market. Visiting it during winter is certainly magical, but it has got the bustling charm throughout the whole year too.

There are lots of cafes over here, so if you want to embrace one of the busiest parts of Zagreb, why not do it with a warm cup of coffee?

Taste the Local Produce at Dolac Market

This market is a block away from Jelačić Square, so you won’t have any difficulties getting there, that’s for sure! Dolac, as locals call it, was established in 1930, when the crumbled parts of the Old Town were restructured for an open market space locals love today!

Once you arrive at Dolac, you will instantly feel the hustle and bustle from the Jelačić Square follow you with each step. At the Dolac Market, you can find a wide range of local produce and vendors from all over Croatia. That includes tons of fruits and vegetables, cheese, and all kinds of fresh meat. 

Dolac Market is the busiest during the morning. It would be a great idea to find some local produce over here for a self-made dinner in the evening! Also, it’s good to know that it’s completely free to visit this lively place that is open every day.

Visit the Gothic Zagreb Cathedral

You could already see its 108-meter tall spires from the Jelačić Square, and just around the corner from the Dolac Market, you will see the marvelous Gothic architectural piece in the form of the Zagreb Cathedral.

It was built in the 11th century but was severely damaged few times, most notably in the 1880 and 2020 earthquakes. Nevertheless, it still stands as tall as one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in this part of Europe.

The interior is just as impressive, with an amazing ceiling that is dreamlike in appearance. You can come inside and listen to the daily mass or enjoy the intricate interior.

Fun Fact: The huge chandeliers inside the Zagreb Cathedral are apparently gifts of patrons from Las Vegas!

Visit the Lotršćak Tower

Take a short stroll to the Upper Town entrance, the historical counterpart of the Kaptol part of Zagreb. Make sure to do so before noon! There, you will notice Lotrščak Tower, a fortified tower built in the 13th century as a defense mechanism against the Ottomans.

Why visit it at noon? Well, it’s a site of Grič Cannon, which was fired since 1st January of 1877 to mark the noon. The sound is quite deafening, but when you combine this tower and the sounds of cannons, you can truly get transported to that time, if only for a moment.

If you want to enter the tower, the entrance fee is 20 HRK (around 3 USD). There, you can get some souvenirs and check out the historical pieces inside a small gallery. On top of the tower, there is a viewpoint where you can see a fantastic panorama of Zagreb.

Wonder at the Unique Paintings in the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art

By Suradnik13 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, (Source)

Just across the street, you can find the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. Zagreb is home to numerous museums, and this is the opportunity to get acquainted with the unique Croatian naïve art. Basically, this is an art museum that showcases work from self-taught Croatian artists. These works include oil paintings, drawings, oil paintings on glass, sculptures, prints, and more. 

The museum is quite small, but with tons of different paintings that will keep you staring in awe for quite a while. You know how it is said, size doesn’t matter!

The entrance fee to this marvelous art museum is 25 HRK (about 4 USD).

Explore Failed Love at The Museum of Broken Relationships

By Robert Nyman – https://www.flickr.com/photos/robertnyman/7459817176/, CC BY 2.0, (source)

As you enter the Upper Town from Lotršćak, you will instantly see the entrance to this unique museum. It is a bit of a sentimental museum, especially if you find yourself a romantic person!

As you enter the museum, you will see countless personal objects, with love stories connected to each of them. The founders of the museum actually collected these items around the world so that they could share the love stories tied to them. 

This museum will most certainly get some emotions out of you and show you how much memories and feelings we can tie to some items. 

The entrance fee to the Museum of Unique Relationships is 40 HRK (6 USD).

Marvel at the Gothic St. Mark’s Church

To top off your visit to the Upper Town, make sure to visit the fabulous St. Mark’s Church. You will instantly recognize it thanks to its colorful tiled roof, with medieval coats of arms and the emblem of Zagreb on it.

You can also get inside and check out some amazing sculptures by the world-renowned Ivan Mestrovic.

Relax with a Cup Of Coffee in Tkalčićeva

Pass through Kamenita Vrata, and soon you’ll stroll in one of the most vibey streets in Zagreb, popularly called Tkalča. This is a car-free street, so you can enjoy walking about and sitting in one of the numerous cafes for a sip of coffee! 

Also, you will see incredible architecture here and lots of people walking around. It’s a good place to meet some locals and have a chat!

Pay a Visit to the Mind-blowing Museum of Illusions!

Ever wanted to become a giant in a manner of seconds? Or maybe get lost in a maze of illusions? Well, these are some things you can do in the unusual Museum of Illusions.

This is a small museum packed with many thrilling visual and tactile exhibits. The unique part of it is that the visitor itself becomes the exhibit. And so, you have exhibits like the anti-gravity room and the maze of mirrors, as well as 70 more displays.

This is also quite an educational museum, as the staff wants to teach you about how the human brain perceives certain things. It’s quite interesting, to be honest.

The entrance fee to the Museum of Illusions is 50 HRK (around 8 USD). If you are coming in as a family, the entrance fee is 120 HRK (about 18 USD).

Sample Amazing Craft Beer in Pivnica Medvedgrad

To finish up your walking tour of Zagreb’s Kaptol and Upper Town district, why not sample some of the best local beer? The best place to do it, while being relatively in the heart of Zagreb, is definitely the Pivnica Medvedgrad in Ilica – the longest street in Zagreb.

You will probably notice the wonderful outdoor terrace that is shrouded in the greenery in the middle of Zagreb. There is a wide range of beers here, from pilsner (Zlatni Medvjed) to dark beer (Grička Vještica) to pale ale (Fakin Ipa). If you are a beer lover, you will love this place! Also, there is lots of food to order here, but don’t you have some dinner materials from the Dolac Market?

Day 2 of Your Zagreb Itinerary – Bicycle Tour Around the Green Parts of Zagreb

The second day of our 2 days in Zagreb itinerary will be reserved for a cruise around the nature of Zagreb. Yes, it is the largest city in Croatia, but it is not 100% urban. You can find a natural retreat quite easily over here, and the second day is wholly reserved just for that!

Rent a Bicycle for an Amazing Cycle Tour Around Zagreb

While Zagreb certainly doesn’t have the finest infrastructure for bicycles, a cycle tour of Zagreb is still highly recommended. After all, you have walked around the small part of the city on the first day of our itinerary. It should be perfectly splendid if you saw the city from another perspective.

As our 2 days in Zagreb itinerary will take you on a partial ascent to the Medvednica Nature Park, we recommend you rent a high-quality bicycle fit for an uphill route. 

An excellent bicycle rental place in Zagreb is called bike.com.hr. They have a wide selection of bikes for rental, from road bikes to hybrids to mountain bikes. Also, they offer free helmets when you rent their better bicycles! 

The shop is located near the Museum of Illusions, in Kačićeva Street. It is located just at the beginning of our cycling route for today!

We recommend you rent a mountain bike, as they are the best for the uphill routes and off-road routes. You will experience both of these today. For daily rentals of higher-quality bicycles, expect to invest from 100 HRK to 150 HRK. If you want to see their other rental options and prices, check out this page

Before you set out on this cycling adventure, make sure to stock up on some provisions. We recommend taking some water with you, bananas, and some protein sources to keep your energy levels at suitable levels for the uphill sections.

Now, you are ready to hit the road to our first station, Medvedgrad Fortress!

Cycle Through the Elite Part of Zagreb to Medvednica

Now that you have rented your desirable bicycle prepare for a lovely daily tour of Zagreb!

The first part of our tour will take you through Pantovčak, a 4 km long street that will be the site of your first steep uphill section as well as some rewarding downhills. This part of Zagreb feels like Beverly Hills!

As you are slowly ascending to Medvednica, you will see numerous elite houses that share a lot with American visual style. Also, when you decide to stop and take a short break in this section, turn around and gaze at Zagreb beneath you. 

Fun Fact: Pantovčak is home to the President of Croatia!

At the end of Pantovčak, you will come to a roundabout where you will turn left. You will see signs that point to Medvedgrad, so you can just follow them. Also, Google Maps calculates the ultimate route to Medvedgrad, so you can also use it if in doubt!

There will be fewer houses on the higher slopes of Medvednica. Once you reach the Medvednica sign, prepare for an exhausting uphill! Here, the ambiance will transfer to the dense, quiet forest, with sounds of fast streams, wind hitting against the trees, and birds chirping in the trees towering above you.

It is an incredibly relaxing route. Even if you need to push your bike over here, the tranquil vibes will quickly overcome your spirit.

Soon, you will gaze at the walls and spires of Medvedgrad, located on the hill above you, closer than ever. After an exhausting uphill, there will be a few downhill sections to let you relax a bit. You will finally be at the foot of Medvedgrad.

Discover the Medieval Fort Medvedgrad with an Amazing Viewpoint

Before getting to this fortress itself, you will have to walk a cobblestone path that leads up to its gates. It feels like you are transported hundreds of years ago when this fortress was inhabited by pillagers, who set out to pillage the villages nearby.

Once you come to the gates, you will discover the majesty of this burg. Actually, this is the best representative piece of burg architecture in all of Croatia. It features double walls with a small palace, a chapel, and a few towers. Medvedgrad started with the renovation process in the 1970s, and the renovators have done a fantastic job in reconstructing this 800-year old burg.

The burg was built in the 13th century by the bishop Philip as a defense mechanism against the Tartar invasion. It has changed over 100 owners during this time, with the last owners being the counts Kulmer. They moved out of the fort after a devastating earthquake that hit these parts in 1590. During this period, Medvedgrad was regarded as a haunted burg, with a famous legend of the Black Queen – who was thought to be a witch and an alchemist interested in the occult. Even some vampire variations of the legend are tied to this enigmatic Black Queen.

The entrance through the gates of Medvedgrad is now regulated by tour operators, with ticket prices being 15 HRK (2,34 USD) for an individual. 

Note: Medvedgrad’s gates, as of this writing, are closed because of some renovations taking place. Still, there are some alternate entrances above the walls, if you feel adventurous and acrobatic enough!

Inside the walls of Medvedgrad are superbly renovated remnants of a 13th-century burg that feels like a time machine. Under the southern ramparts, you can find the Altar of the Homeland – a monument for the victims of the bloody Homeland War.

Also, this is a site of a fantastic viewpoint that overlooks the slightly smoggy Zagreb. You can see Zagreb’s skyline, the Sava river splitting the New Zagreb from the rest of the city, and the busy city life on the palm of your hands. There are also lots of tables and benches over here, which makes for a nice picnic spot.

Visit the Queen’s Well and the Viewpoint Above it

Now, it is time to retrace the cobblestone path you took up to the Medvedgrad gates and continue ahead on the road to the Queen’s Well (the road is really named like this!). After a short uphill, you will get to the Queen’s Well, another location tied to the Black Queen’s legend.

This part of the legend talks of a devastating drought that forced the people of Zagreb to climb up to Medvedgrad and demand water from the Queen. She didn’t listen to their demands, which prompted the people to curse the city and throw the Queen in the woods, where many bears lurked about. This spot is hence named the Queen’s Well because of this legend.

It is a lovely little spot with a pond dominating the forested area. Here was a restaurant before, but now it is closed, slowly getting reclaimed back by nature.

If you want to eat, visit the Lugareva kućica along the road to the Queen’s Well Viewpoint. There is a big selection of local meals, including the local specialty – porcini mushrooms with eggs. 

Once you are full, cycle a bit further uphill to the viewpoint. This viewpoint is even more jaw-dropping than the one from Medvedgrad. Now, you can see Medvedgrad overlooking Zagreb from the lone hill. It is truly a pastoral sight that you should definitely take in before the descent back to the streets of Zagreb!

Descend Back to Zagreb and Pay a Visit to Mirogoj

Entrance to Mirogoj cemetery with Church of King Christ, Zagreb

Make sure to aim your descent via the road to Queen’s Well. It is entirely concrete, and it will serve as a fast descent back to Zagreb. Also, you will ride across the route that is seemingly cut into the rocks of Medvednica themselves, with numerous ravines that can only hint at what is down there with sounds of fast streams dominating the ambiance.

Once you have completed your descent, it is a 20-minute cycling route to Mirogoj, the most beautiful cemetery in Zagreb, and even in the whole of Europe. It’s more like a museum than a cemetery, as it hints with its long, massive walls, topped with green domes. Enter the graveyard itself, and you will feel more tranquil than morbid, with beautiful arches, overgrown passages, and numerous beautifully designed mausoleums waiting for you to discover.

Mirogoj is often dubbed as the Croatian Pantheon as it is a burial site of many important Croatian figures – including the first president, Franjo Tuđman. The cemetery itself flows with tranquil vibes, as it can also be regarded as a large park with outdoor museum features included.

There is no entrance fee to Mirogoj. Take a stroll along with this intricately designed marvel, and prepare for a beautiful afternoon in the largest park in Zagreb next!

Visit Park Maksimir, One of the Most Beautiful Parks in Europe

If you want a relaxing afternoon in Zagreb, few spots in Zagreb come to the vibes that Park Maksimir offers. It’s a short descent from Mirogoj, where you will enter one of the oldest European public parks (it was established in 1794 by Maksimilijan Vrhovac).

When you come to one of its entrances, you will immediately feel the extent of this place. It is a vast park, being 316 hectares big, with extensive oak woods and five lakes that further contribute to the tranquil atmosphere. 

First of all, you might be interested in the Maksimir Zoo, which is one of the three zoos in Croatia. You can see a wide range of animals here up close, from snow leopards and red pandas to various monkey and snake species. If you want the numbers, you can find over 275 species, with 2,225 animals living here in the zoo.

The Maksimir Zoo works every day from 9 AM to 5 PM. You can buy the Maksimir Zoo tickets over here!

After you check out the zoo, make sure to cruise around the park itself. It has numerous trekking and cycling routes that will take you around all the lakes. The Third Lake even has small boats for rent if you want to see it from another perspective. 

Also, the park is full of animals, with 104 bird species leading the pack. You can also see turtles chilling out at the lakes! 

We certainly recommend you embrace the meditative vibes of the Park Maksimir and reflect on the lovely 2 days you spent in Zagreb.

Conclusion of Your Zagreb Itinerary

Zagreb is the largest city in Croatia and is absolutely packed with things to do and experience for everyone.

While 2 days in Zagreb may not be the most enough to experience all the intricacies of it, you can spice it up with a bit of nature and history to leave quite a few sweet memories embalmed in your mind. 

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Planning a Trip to Turkey: An 11-Step Checklist

Planning a Trip to Turkey: An 11-Step Checklist

Turkey is one of our favorite countries in the Balkans! Besides Bulgaria, it’s our most-visited country, as between Stephanie and I we have made eight trips to this stunning country over the past decade… starting in 2011 and returning nearly yearly. We can’t help it: the delicious breakfasts, the beautiful mosques, and the friendly locals (both human and feline) keep us coming back time and again.

From epic landscapes to delicious food to incredible history and fantastic urban culture, planning a trip to Turkey can be a bit complicated at times due to visa requirements and certain websites being inaccessible within Turkey… but a headache is entirely avoidable when you use our guide! And trust us, figuring it out is worth it.

Step 1:  Check to See if You Need a Visa

Passport Pixabay Stock Image
Turkey has complicated visa rules, but don’t let that stop you from coming!

Turkey is neither part of the EU nor the Schengen zone, so if you have a multi-entry Schengen visa it won’t help you out here.

There are 78 visa-exempt countries and territories who can enter Turkey without a visa, as well as 42 countries and territories whose citizens are eligible to apply for an e-Visa online.

Keep in mind, though, that many people with traditionally “strong” passports are not visa-exempt, and actually do have to apply for an e-Visa online. It is not a different visa to get at all, but given that people with strong passport privilege like myself often forget to double-check visa requirements, especially in a country as European and West-facing as Turkey. I had an Irish friend have a bit of a panic when they learned they needed a Turkish visa at the last minute!

Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, Australians are all frequent visitors to Turkey who require an e-visa before flying to Turkey, among many other nationalities, aside from the below-listed countries. If you’re not sure if you require a visa to go to Turkey, check this list of nationalities who require a visa on the Byevisa website (they can also help you out with the application process if you’re overwhelmed).

Countries who DO NOT need a visa

The countries on the list below are allowed to enter Turkey without a visa, using a passport (or ID if marked with an *), for tourism and business purposes (with the exception of the countries listed at the end, which require a visa for business purposes but not tourism). They are allowed to enter up to 90 days per 180-day period, with a maximum of 90 days in a single visit.

Note that as always, your passport must have over 6 months of validity to enter Turkey!

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France*, Georgia*, Germany*, Greece*, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy*, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein*, Lithuania, Luxembourg*, Malaysia, Moldova*, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland*, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine*, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela

Note: Of this list, people from Albania, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia are permitted to enter visa-free for tourism only; citizens from these countries require a business visa if entering Turkey for business purposes

Second note: Those marked above with an asterisk (*) can enter with either a national ID card and/or passport.

Russians are allowed to enter visa-free with just their passport for 60 days per visit and up to 90 days per 180-day period. So theoretically, a Russian could spend 60 days on one visit, leave, and return for another 30 days spread out over that 180-day period.

Finally, there’s one more group of people who can travel visa-free, but only for up to 30 days per visit and up to 90 days per 180-day period. So theoretically, they could plan three 30-day trips within a 180 day period, or divide that into any other period and still be covered under this law.

Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Costa Rica, Latvia, Macao, Mongolia (tourism only), Thailand, and Turkmenistan

There are a few exceptions due to the current geopolitical situations worldwide. They are as follows:

People from Cyprus who reside in Northern Cyprus (Turkish occupied) can enter for 90 days out of 180 visa-free, granted that they arrive from Ercan Airport or seaports in Northern Cyprus.

Libyans who are 12 or under, or 65 or older, may enter for 90 days within 180 days. Anyone between the ages of 13-64 would need a visa.

Palestinians who hold a VIP passport (not sure what that is, to be honest) are also allowed a 90 day stay per every 180 days.

That sums up the nationalities who are allowed to enter Turkey without a visa. Note that many traditionally “strong” passports are not on the above list: the UK, Canada, Ireland, US, and Australia are all missing, because these countries (and others) require an e-visa.

Countries who require an E-Visa

Americans, don’t expect to get into Turkey visa-free! In fact, we’re lucky we can go at all, after a diplomatic spat led to non-issuance of Turkish visas for 3months in 2017.

Getting a Turkish e-visa is quite simple, so don’t get intimidated. As an American, it took me about 15 minutes to fill out the form and I heard back almost immediately. It cost me $20 USD for a multi-entry visa that gave me 90 days out of the following 180. Some are free, some cost up to $65 (sorry Canadians!) and others more – your fee will depend on your countries’ agreements.

Here is a list of countries who require an e-visa. Note that those with asterisks can enter with a national ID card and do not necessarily require a passport. Anyone without an asterisk requires a passport. The list below is for 90 days within a 180-day period, but there are exceptions to that below.

Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium*, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Fiji, Grenada, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Maldives, Malta*, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands*, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal*, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain*, Suriname, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

People with passports for the following countries can only get a single-entry visa good for 30 days: Armenia, China, Cyprus, East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Mauritius, Mexico, Suriname, and Taiwan.

Conditional E-Visas

As if it wasn’t complicated enough, there are also many countries which are eligible for conditional e-visas: either single entry e-Visa received online in advance, or a e-visa on arrival. This would give them a 30 day stay, single entry. These are the conditions:

  1. Must hold a valid visa or residence permit from one of the following countries: Schengen visa, Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States. Electronic visas or e-residence permits are not accepted. This does not apply for Egyptian citizens under 20 or over 45, who do not need a visa or permit. Similarly, Algerian citizens must be aged below 18 or over 35 years old to be eligible for e-Visa (otherwise they need a sticker from an embassy).
  2. Must hold a hotel reservation and adequate financial means (US$50 per day).
  3. All citizens except for the citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Philippines must travel with one of the airlines that has protocols with Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The following airlines meet the criteria: AtlasGlobal, Onur Air, Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines. Citizens of Egypt may also travel on flights operated by EgyptAir.
  4. Afghanistan, Iraq, Zambia and Philippines citizens are not eligible for e-visa on arrival at Istanbul airports

And these are the countries eligible, given they’ve fulfilled the above requirements:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

If your country is not listed on this, or if you don’t meet the above requirements, you will need to apply for a visa in a physical embassy (sticker visa).

Step 2. Book Your Tickets

Turkey doesn’t always have the best cheap flight details because Turkish Airlines has a pretty strong hold on the market here. For example, living in Bulgaria, it’s quite expensive for me to fly to Turkey (despite being right next door!) as there are no low-budget airlines operating flights between the two countries. However, Turkey often has fantastic deals from far-away destinations – I once flew direct from San Francisco to Istanbul for under $500 USD roundtrip!

However, that’s not to say you can’t find cheap flights into Turkey. To find the best value for your flights, we suggest Skyscanner and Google Flights. Use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” feature to check all of the various airports in Istanbul, since there are multiple ones. Google Flights has a nicer interface and updates with the correct prices faster, so there are no disappointments when you click through, unlike Skyscanner.

That said, you can also get to Turkey overland. Stephanie and I have both taken the night train from Sofia to Istanbul (also works Plovdiv to Istanbul) and my boyfriend has taken the bus from Sofia to Istanbul as well. This may be a good option for getting to Turkey, but book at least a day or two in advance as Stephanie once had tickets sell out on her sleeper train! Theoretically you can also get a bus from Athens to Istanbul or Thessaloniki to Istanbul, but I’ve never tried this route.

Step 3. Plan Your Turkey Itinerary

Turkey - Canva - Cappadocia - Best Places to Visit in Turkey

Many people who visit Turkey explore a combination of Istanbul and the mainland. However, there are so many places to visit in Turkey that it would be impossible to give one sample itinerary that would cover all the best options. Here are some things you need to ask yourself when it comes time to plan your trip to Turkey.

  1. Am I interested in exploring Turkey’s history and seeing ancient sites like the Hierapolis and Ephesus?
  2. Do I want to spend time in Cappadocia and Pamukkale in the interior?
  3. Do I want to spend time exploring multiple islands or beaches?
  4. Do I want to explore one city in-depth?

The answer to these questions will help you figure out how best to divide your time. Stephanie and I have each spent months in Turkey, and we’ve both barely scratched the surface! Don’t feel bad if you can’t see everything you want to on your first trip here. You can always come back!

Here are some good guidelines to keep in mind when planning a Turkey vacation.

If you have four days or less to travel in Turkey, stick to one place. This would be a great amount of time for an initial trip to Istanbul. If you wanted to do a day trip to Bursa or the Princes’ Islands, that would be possible, but a bit rushed.

If you have a week, you can explore two or possibly three places in Turkey. In this case, we’d recommend a trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could go on from Cappadocia to Pamukkale by night bus (it’s safe – I did it solo!) and then fly or bus back to Istanbul from Denizli.

Domestic flights within Turkey can be absurdly cheap – cheaper even then the bus, at times! I flew from Istanbul to Kayseri (near Cappadocia) for $20. So don’t discount flights on Turkish Airlines or Pegasus when it comes time to getting around Turkey. Turkey also has some of the best buses I’ve ever taken in my travels, and they are quite a viable way of getting around.

Finally, don’t discount the coast if you are visiting Turkey in the summer! Fethiye, Bodrum, Antalya, and many offbeat coastal cities and islands are all wonderful places to soak up the sun.

If you are trying to decide where to go in Turkey, we’ve created a guide to help you get ideas: 17 of the Best Places to Visit in Turkey.

If you are combining a trip to Turkey with visits to additional Balkan countries, you’ll want to check out these Balkan travel resources. We think Bulgaria or Greece is the best country to combine with Turkey, personally, though we tend towards Bulgaria as we’re a bit biased!

  1. These are the 12 Balkan Countries Plus the Top Reason to Visit Each One
  2. The 10 Balkan Itinerary Commandments
  3. 41 Balkan Travel Tips
  4. Balkan Bus Trips: 10 Things You Must Know Before Your Ride

Step 4. Plan Your Activities

After you decide where you’re going to go, you’ll want to decide which activities to enjoy. In Istanbul, the city is so large that we actually advise against picking day trips unless you really want to get out and see the Princes’ Islands or something else you can get to by boat, like Bursa, since getting out of Istanbul by car or bus is such an ordeal! We’d recommend booking things like Bosphorus cruises, food tours, walking tours, and cultural events. Here are our top 3 tour/activity recommendations for Istanbul.

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Turkey - Istanbul - Turkish Spices - Pixabay

Easily the most delicious thing you’ll do in Istanbul all weekend, we highly recommend a food tour as a way of getting to know Istanbul better. Turkish food is one of the best cuisines out there, and this tour will give you a tasty introduction to it.

This food tour covers several neighborhoods and two continents over the course of five hours, so wear your best walking shoes (and stretchiest pants)! You’ll sample lots of different small tastes, travel by tram and ferry, and enjoy a full meal consisting of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. To cap that all off, you’ll enjoy four drinks over the course of the evening, plus a nargile (aka shisha) to cap off the night.

People love this tour! Check out prices, availability, and reviews of this 5 star rated tour here!

Bosphorus Cruise

A Bosphorus cruise is an essential way to explore the best of Istanbul. One of the world’s most important rivers, the Bosphorus connects the Marmara Sea with the Black Sea and provided the foundation for centuries of empires.

A sightseeing cruise up the Bosphorus is extremely relaxing and a great way to rest your feet while you still take in the beauty of Istanbul and its history, learning about the gorgeous palaces, bridges, fortresses, towers, and buildings which flank the river banks. This ultra-affordable 90-minute tour is a can’t-miss addition to your Istanbul city break itinerary.

»» Book your Bosphorus river cruise today! ««

Landmark Highlights Day Tour

Turkey - Istanbul - Hagia Sofia

If you prefer to have a little guidance during your trip to Istanbul, we recommend spending one day doing a guided tour which will explain the history of Sultanahmet’s most important sites: Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, and the Grand Bazaar.

While you can certainly visit all these sights independently, visiting with a tour will give you essential historical context, allow you to skip the lines, and hop around from site to site in an organized, logical fashion that doesn’t waste any time.

»» Book your Bosphorus river cruise today! ««

If you’re going to be on the coast or islands, you will want to look into boating activities, water sports, and walking tours.

We generally use and recommend GetYourGuide for booking tours in Turkey and the Balkans.  We like that they have a best price guarantee and that they tell you the name of the tour companies they partner with (unlike Viator), so you can research it and be sure it’s worth your money!

If you are traveling between April and September, you will want to make sure your tours and activities are booked in advance since Turkey is a hot tourist destination. I have traveled to Turkey in the shoulder season (early April and October), and I still found that my tours were full or almost-full. However, if you visit Istanbul in winter, you likely won’t have to worry about that.

Step 5. Budget Your Trip

Once you know where you want to go and how long you have, you can put together your trip budget.

Thanks to a depressed Turkish lira, Turkey is a great budget-friendly destination compared to much of Europe. However, if you’re traveling through the rest of the Balkans first, especially places like Albania and Macedonia, prices will seem a bit higher. Personally, I find it on par with places like Greece and Montenegro, but not as expensive as Croatia or Slovenia.

Even in cities like Istanbul and touristy destinations like Cappadocia, there are budget options available. We personally choose to stay in private rooms in hostels or AirBnB apartments over hostel dorms, but there are dorm beds available basically everywhere to help you save money.

You can travel through Turkey on $30-40 USD per day by staying in dorms, eating cheap streets foods, minimizing alcohol (which is pricy in Turkey), and paring down your activities and travel between places.

When I travel through Turkey, I typically spend closer to $50-60 USD per day and enjoy that Turkey offers some true bargains in this price range, especially when it comes to accommodations.

For someone wanting the best of everything, like fancy hotels, fine dining, and the best activities, you’ll find that this will cost much less than a similarly luxurious trip in Spain, France, or Italy. So if you want to have a seriously bougie time somewhere, Turkey is a great value.

Good ways to cut down costs without sacrificing quality is to travel with someone so that you can split costs, enjoy your nicer meals at lunch when there are specials, and to weigh the cost of flying vs. buses as sometimes flying can be cheaper (pro tip: it helps to use incognito mode and search in the local currency, the lira!)

Step 6. Book Your Accommodations

Turkey - Istanbul - Hammamhane
The lovely Hammamhane – my top pick for where to stay on an Istanbul city break

Once you’ve decided out what you want to spend per night on accommodations, it’s time to get booking! Please, read this carefully as you can run into problems with your trip!

We use Booking.com because we like that they have free cancellation if you end up changing your plans. HOWEVER, Booking.com does not work once you’re inside Turkey unless you are using a VPN (Wikipedia doesn’t either, so say goodbye to fun facts on the go!). You can definitely pre-book your trips on Booking and access your information about your trip while you’re there, but if you search, the inventory will look to be 0. This freaked me out a lot when I was making a last minute plan to stay in Pamukkale after Cappadocia and there was no inventory available! I was able to work around it by using Hostelworld instead.

Still, we recommend Booking.com: it has the widest selection of types of accommodations, from guest houses to hostels to luxury hotels to apartments (without the Airbnb service and cleaning fees that can add up). One great way to keep accommodation costs down is to stay somewhere nice at one destination, and then pick a budget hotel at your next destination.

We have guides on where to stay in Istanbul as well as the best cave hotels in Cappadocia, so if you want to book, you have our recommendations at your fingertips (literally)! Just be sure to book before arriving in Turkey.

Step 7. Research Any Vaccinations You May Need

Crete - Rethymnon - Cat with Green Eyes

Turkey has a lot of stray animals, particularly cats. I mean, there is even a whole documentary about Istanbul street kitties! They are generally very friendly and well-behaved, taken care of by local business owners and families. Since we can’t help ourselves, visiting Turkey is basically like visiting one giant petting zoo of friendly kitties.

Be cautious and only touch kitties who approach you first. Or don’t at all, but I think that may be actually biologically impossible. I actually got bit by a cat in Ukraine and had to undergo five rabies shots – it’s not something I recommend, but it also hasn’t stopped my cat-head-scratching habit yet. I’m unstoppable, what can I say?

If you do get bitten by an animal in Turkey, go to the doctor immediately (within 48 hours, the sooner the better!) so they can assess the risk. Rabies does exist in Turkey, but I don’t recommend getting pre-exposure shots as they are 1) expensive, 2) often unnecessary, and 3) don’t even mean you won’t have to get post-exposure shots since you’ll still need to do more shots after a bite.

Here’s what the CDC recommends regarding vaccinations:

Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

They also recommend most travelers get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, as there is some risk of contamination. And if you’re in Turkey for a medical procedure or plan to get a tattoo (or indulge in any risky sexual or drug-related behaviors), you should also consider getting a Hepatitis B vaccine.

Step 8: Learn a Few Common Turkish Words and Brush Up on the Turkish Alphabet Pronunciation

Turkey - Istanbul - Local Wine Turkish Food

One thing that a lot of travelers from North America and Western Europe overlook is that Turkey uses a slightly different alphabet that looks like Latin but has a few unique letters. This means that pronunciation can be a bit difficult.

Check out this guide to Turkish pronunciation, which you should find quite helpful.

Most tourism professionals and people in the service industry speak amazing English, and it’s getting better every year. My first visit to Turkey in the winter of 2012 was a challenge; every year since, it’s gotten far easier to communicate with locals and tourism professionals.

Still, it’s kind to learn some Turkish (and it will definitely win you some fans and perhaps some free rakı). Here are the Turkish phrases we recommend you have handy for your trip to Turkey:

Hello = Merhaba

Good morning = Günaydın

Good afternoon = Tünaydın

How are you? = Nasılsın?

Goodbye = Güle güle

Please = Lütfen

Thank You = Teşekkür ederim

Excuse Me = İzninizle / Pardon

Cheers = Şerefe!

Yes = Evet

No = Hayır

I Don’t Understand = Anlamadım

Do You Speak English? = İngilizce biliyor musunuz?

Remember that some of these words have tricky letters, like ı which sounds more like “uh!” (i.e. it’s rak-uh, not rak-ee!) We always recommend a good translator app, like Google Translate, just in case!

Step 9. Pack Your Bags

Bulgaria - Sofia - Packing
We recommend packing beforehand to avoid last-minute stress!

We are in the process of creating packing lists to help you know what to pack for Turkey, but until then, here are some items you don’t want to leave home without:

  1. A Lonely Planet guidebook, to help you plan when on the ground
  2. An unlocked smartphone, so you can buy a cheap SIM card and use apps like Uber and Google Maps
  3. An extra swimsuit so you can enjoy Turkey’s hammams and beaches without having to put a wet one back on.
  4. Motion sickness pills for windy roads, Istanbul traffic, ferries, hot air balloon sides, etc.
  5. Sunscreen (if you’re bringing checked luggage). Sunscreen and other cosmetics can be expensive in Turkey compared to back home.

Step 10. Prepare For Your Arrival

Turkey - Istanbul - Bus from Train Station to Istanbul

Since there’s no universal way to arrive to Istanbul, you’ll want to do some prep work beforehand to make sure you know how you’ll get from the airport, ferry station, or bus station to your hotel.

Flying into Istanbul

This is the most common way for visitors to arrive in Istanbul. There are two: Sabiha Gokcen International Airport and Istanbul New Airport (which is so new I’ve never taken it, as it just started running flights in April 2019!) Flights to Ataturk are no longer running. Anything with the airport code IST is going to the new airport.

We recommend using Uber to get an affordable taxi into the city rather than relying on cab drivers as it can be a crapshoot as to whether you’ll get an honest one. A taxi would cost about 105-135 lira, not counting traffic (about $18-23), and I’d imagine an Uber would be a bit less.

You can take Havaist, a shuttle service operating between the new Istanbul airport and central Istanbul. A ride costs 18 lira, about $3 USD. These will go to Taksim, Beşiktaş, and Sultanahmet as well as other destinations. The ride takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours (Istanbul traffic is relentless), but there’s WiFi, chargers, and movies on board to keep you entertained.

We have a complete guide to getting into Istanbul overland from Sofia here, so read this guide if you plan to take the bus or train.

If you fly into Sabiha Gokcen, I recommend the Havabus shuttle to Taksim, which costs 18 lira ($3 USD) and takes about 90 minutes. You can then take a taxi to your final destination if it’s not within walking distance of Taksim. Alternately, you can Uber or pay for a cab.

Flying into Other Airports

I’ve also flown into Kayseri and took a shared shuttle organized by my Cappadocia cave hotel. It was inexpensive and easy!

I’ve also flown out of Bodrum, but I flew too early in the morning to take public transportation and had to take a pricy cab that cost more than the airplane ticket itself! Though, to be fair, I only paid like $20 USD for the plane ticket.

Keep in mind that with early and late departures, you may be forced into taking an expensive cab, and that can add onto your final transportation bill!

Before You Leave the Airport

You’ll want to have some Turkish lira on you for your taxi or to get on a bus. You can take them out at the ATMs in the airports for the best exchange rates. Just make sure you don’t have big ATM withdrawal fees from your bank (Americans, we recommend Schwab!). Some banks require a travel notice, and others will still put fraud blocks on cards making purchases outside of their home country.

Tell your bank when and where you’ll be traveling to avoid this. They may still put a block on your card at some point (mine frequently does). To rectify this, you’ll need to call them or respond to an email if they send one. This is one reason its good to always travel with multiple cards attached to different accounts. I always travel with two credit cards and two debit cards if possible.

Note that many places in Turkey take Visa and Mastercard (AmEx and Discover, so much). You’ll still need some cash to be able to travel through Turkey smoothly, especially if you want to shop!

Step 11: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

We put this last so it’s fresh on your mind: travel insurance is essential for Turkey and for travel in general! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last two years.

We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. While we think Turkey is just about as safe to travel as anywhere else in Europe, it has a slightly higher risk of political unrest or terrorism. While it shouldn’t dissuade you from going to Turkey (I mean… we’ve never let it stop us, and we never will!) it is better safe than sorry.

While Turkey is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always risk inherent in everyday travel, from theft to accidents to trip cancellations, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” and we believe it’s true!

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

One Day In Athens Itinerary: The Ultimate Athens Guide In 24 Hours

One Day In Athens Itinerary: The Ultimate Athens Guide In 24 Hours

Looking for the perfect one day in Athens itinerary?

For many first-time visitors to Greece, a quick stop over in Athens whilst on route to exploring the gorgeous Greek isles is usually their first and only introduction to this incredible city.

With so much history, culture and charm, you really should be spending at least two to three days at minimum in order to really get to grips with the city.

Regardless, if you are pressed for time, you can certainly still see many of the major sights and attractions to get a feel for ancient Athens! In this guide I’ll provide a rundown of all the key essential information you may need to plan for a perfect day in Athens!

How To Get Around Athens In A Day

Greece - Athens - Ancient agora athens greece

Getting around the capital city is easy.

If staying centrally, the city is easily walkable, especially for this one-day Athens itinerary.

Additionally, there are plenty of transit options provided. Take a look at some of the popular modes of transportation around the city to enjoy the top things to do in Athens.

Metro and Bus

The metro is considered one of the best ways to get around the city. It’s a cheap and reliable service and takes you within walking distance to some of the top attractions.

To save money, you should buy a day pass for €4.50, or you can purchase a 90-minute ticket for €1.20 – excluding airport transfer. Another inexpensive option to get around the city is the bus system.

Tram

Alternatively, you can take the tram. There are three tram lines that run between downtown Athens and some coastal destinations like Moschato, Glyfada and Palaio Faliro.

Taxi/Uber

A taxi is the most reliable and safe way to get around the city. Keep in mind most taxis are metered, and you won’t know what your trip will cost in advance.

Athens used to have Uber, but now it’s been replaced by Taxibeat. We recommend downloading the app before going to avoid any taxi issues.

Hop-Off Hop-On Bus

Finally, if you want to get a combination of sites to see with a group, book a hop-on hop-off bus ticket and explore the city of Athens.

Where To Stay For 1-Day in Athens

With only 24 hours in Athens, you’ll want to stay somewhere that isn’t too far from the main attractions and has easy access to the public transportation system. Plaka is one of the best places to stay in Athens for sightseeing.

Where To Eat In Athens

Greece - Athens - Traditional greek dishes in a tavern in the old town of Athens (Plaka), Greece

What better way to immerse yourself in the unique culinary heritage of the famous Mediterranean menu, than indulging in different Greek cuisines?

Apart from strolling the streets with an abundance of superb eateries, take a look at some of these exquisite restaurants to satisfy your tastebuds – for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast – Yiasemi

Start your day the right way and enjoy homemade tarts and delicious pies at this quaint traditional cafe-bistro, before venturing out for the day.

Lunch – 2Mazi

This restaurant captures the essence of classical Greek cuisine. Enjoy fresh salads, perfectly cooked fish and amazing tarts. 

Dinner – Art Lounge

The Art Lounge is situated in Syntagma Square and provides delicious cuisine. A must-try is the Kritharoto, a delicious type of risotto, with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and slow-cooked pork, yum!

What To See In Athens In One Day

Set your alarm clocks for a bright and early day to explore the ancient wonders around the spectacular city. You’ll want to squeeze as much into your one day as possible, before heading off to a magical island adventure, like the popular route from Athens to Mykonos.

Let’s dive straight into the ultimate city guide to Athens in a day.

Ancient Acropolis

Greece - Athens - The Erechtheum, an ancient Greek temple on the Acropolis near the Parthenon in Greece. Shot on winter day with bright blue sky with some cloud. The Caryatid statues and sacred olive tree are visible.

When visiting Athens, the first stop on your one-day itinerary should be to Greece’s crown jewel, the Acropolis. An ancient complex that was built in the 5th-century and is made up of several structures.

Try and aim to leave your hotel by 7:30 am, so that you can get to the Acropolis as soon as it opens at 8 am. This way, you can avoid the crowds, and have time to absorb the historic sites.

Start exploring the Acropolis from the south slope. As you enter, you’ll first find the Theatre of Dionysos and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Climb the marble steps to the top of the hill. There, you’ll find ruins of the grand Parthenon, and a spectacular view of Athens below.

Your walk around the spectacular grandeur structures should take about 2-hours. You can book your tickets in advance, or join a small group tour . You can buy multi-site tickets for €30 (recommended), or you can purchase a single ticket to the Acropolis for €20.

As you leave the Acropolis, stop at the Areopagus Hill. Here you can get a sight of the Ancient Agora, where Socrates developed his philosophy.

Plaka Neighborhood

Once you’re finished exploring the magnificent Acropolis, make your way to the city’s oldest and most colourful neighbourhood, Plaka. It’s one of the best places to visit in Athens. 

It’s a pedestrian-friendly area lined with charming restaurants, cafes and fascinating architecture. Stroll along the shopping streets of Kydathineon and Adrianou. Interrupt your stroll and spend some time in an authentic Greek cafe. Along your way, keep a lookout for antiquated Athens sites such as the Byzantine churches, museums and 19th-century homes. 

The Temple Of Olympian Zeus

From Plaka, it’s a quick 10-minute walk to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a large temple that was built to honor the gods. It was completed in 131 AD, and today it houses 15 remaining Corinthian columns. Also on-site, you’ll find the remains of ancient Roman bathhouses and Hadrian’s Arch.

Learn about the fascinating history of the Temple of Olympian Zeus with a self-guided audio tour. Alternatively, if you’re interested in Greek mythology and legends, take a small-group walking tour  to learn more about the Plaka neighborhood, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.

Although this is one of the largest ancient temples of the Greek-Roman Empire, you don’t really need to spend much time here – maximum 15-minutes. A single ticket entrance fee is €6, or you can use the combination ticket.

The National Garden

Your next stop on the itinerary is the National Gardens, neighbouring the Temple of Olympian Zeus. On-site you’ll find the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, which was built in the 1880s for the first Olympic Games. The hall plays a significant role in Greek history and is certainly worth taking a look inside.

To get from the National Garden’s to your next stops, you can use the closest metro station to the Monastiraki Metro Station.

The Library of Hadrian

Located in the heart of the city, next to the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library was created by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, in 132 – 134 AD. With its grandeur facades and large surrounding walls, it was clearly built to impress.

The building was used to store important legal and literary works. It also included lecture halls and served as a place for schools of learning and philosophy debates.

Combination tickets for the Acropolis are included here, otherwise, a single entry costs €6. Like most archaeological sites, opening times are from 8 am-8 pm, daily.

Ancient Agora

A 3-minute walk from Hadrian’s Library is the Ancient Agora. It was once the political and business hub of the Greek capital, and on the north side, it houses the 5th-century Temple of Hephaestus and Athena.

A single ticket entry fee to the Ancient Agora is €12 unless you have a combination ticket.

Roman Agora

Your next stop will be a quick 5-minute walk from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora. These ruins date back to the 1st-century, during the reign of Julius Caesar and Augustus.  It was once used as a commercial market place and is well worth the visit.

Another fascinating part of this site is the octagonal Tower of Winds, a Pentelic marble clocktower.

A single entry ticket to the Roman Agora is €6; otherwise, you can use your combination ticket to enter.

Monastiraki Square

As your one day in Athens comes to an end, head to the Monastiraki Square.

It’s around 3-minutes walking distance from the Roman Agora and is a great place to shop around for souvenirs and enjoy the hustle and bustle of street musicians and street vendors.

About the Author

Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 3 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way.

Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.

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