Beautiful Croatia is rapidly becoming recognized as a premier photography tour destination, offering an outstanding combination of timeless unspoiled nature coupled with centuries-old medieval villages and a lively contemporary cultural and gastronomic scene. With its photogenically diverse mainland, dreamy offshore Adriatic archipelago, outstanding national parks and picturesque historic terra cotta-roofed villages, it is no wonder that this tiny country is drawing more and more photographers.
Roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia, the terrain of Croatia is wonderfully varied with fertile plains, extensive lakes, inspiring waterfalls, densely wooded mountains and pristine beaches. In fact, the Croatian coastline is one of the most indented in the world with more than 1200 islands and islets studding its Adriatic shore. The country extends from the furthest eastern edges of the Alps in its northwest to the banks of the Danube in the east while tracing an arc around much of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As today’s fastest growing Mediterranean travel destination, Croatia’s gaining popularity is due, in part, to its rich canvas of filming possibilities—probably none more prominent than its featured role in HBO’s Game of Thrones series where the medieval city walls and fort in Dubrovnik became King’s Landing. Other Dubrovnik filming locations include its arboretum used as the Red Keep’s gardens, the Fortress of Klis used for exterior shots of the slave city of Meereen and the Church and Monastery of St. Dominic in Trogir, which appears as the walled city of Qarth.
On this productive Croatia photo tour we have wonderful opportunities to shoot the best of Dubrovnik as we explore its narrow streets, image-beckoning architecture, Old Town street performers, and impressive medieval walls. The island of Hvar—the “longest and sunniest island in Croatia”—provides a pleasant Mediterranean climate in which to stroll along fishing village streets packed with photogenic Renaissance architecture and bustling markets and waterfront. Another outstanding feature of this photography trip is the superlative panoramic waterfalls of Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Parks.
Though tiny Croatia—and its many former Roman, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian incarnations—has been part of a long and turbulent history, it can be said that “everything old is new again.” The Republic of Croatia obtained its recent independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 following several years of intense conflict. Croatia became a member of NATO in April 2009, and joined the European Union in July 2013. Now its prospects seem very bright and travel to “the Mediterranean as it once was” has never been easier.
Depart from home
Day 2 (Apr 29)
Arrive in Dubrovnik and transfer to our Old City hotel. We meet this evening for dinner and an introduction to the days ahead. (D)
We walk the shimmering marble streets in the historic UNESCO-listed Old City section of Dubrovnik, known for its grand baroque churches and magnificent 16th
-century Sponza Palace. Our photography itinerary takes us to spectacularly photogenic medieval bastions, guarded by the imposing fortress of Lovrijenac rising vertically from the sea. Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” luminaries from George Bernard Shaw (who declared it “paradise on Earth”), Bill Gates, the King of Jordan, and numerous Hollywood A-listers have been beguiled by the city’s cobbled streets and Old World charm. We shoot the iconic panorama of Dubrovnik’s city/seascape and its quilt of terra cotta rooftops juxtaposed with Old City white stone walls and the blue Adriatic. (BLD)
We capture sunrise over the Adriatic from a prominent vantage point before we depart for the island of Hvar. Driving the scenic coastal route we make several exciting stops for photography along the way. A short ferry ride delivers us to Hvar—at about 68 kilometers it is the longest island in the Adriatic. In the afternoon and evening we explore the ancient port town of Hvar, the largest town on the island. In ancient times Hvar was an important naval base for the Venetian Empire. (BLD)
Our morning begins with another panoramic sunrise shoot over the Adriatic before we head out with our bus to explore western Hvar Island. We photograph some of the most scenic traditional villages as we pass through a rich agricultural landscape of vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards. On hillside slopes, graphically interesting terraced plots of lavender are harvested for the production of essential oil for the perfume industry. Also in quantity are rosemary and other aromatic plants that give Hvar honey its distinctive flavor. (BLD)
After an early shoot in Hvar town we board our ferry to Split, another recently designated World Heritage site. Following a short lunch stop we shoot Diocletian's Palace—another Game of Thrones
filming location—built at the turn of the 4th century by the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
We arrive to Krka National Park later this afternoon and have two days to explore and photograph the area, known for a truly photogenic series of seven waterfalls. These falls are a great place to use a tripod and a slow shutter speed to accentuate the beautiful cascades. In the south, Skradinski Buk waterfall is flanked by traditional watermills. To the north, a nature trail passes another striking cascade, Roški Slap, and the Krka Monastery, built above ancient Roman catacombs. Visovac Island is home to the 15th-century Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, stunningly sited amidst a ring of cypress trees. (BLD)
Like virtually all the mornings on this trip we try to be out early to catch morning light and then have breakfast before we depart. We reach one of Croatia’s most beautiful locations—Plitvice Lakes National Park—where we spend these two days photographing the lakes, waterfalls and caves in this incredible natural treasure. The park, the largest in Croatia, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and within the first few moments of our arrival it is easy to understand why. This forested park is dotted with 16 improbable turquoise-blue lakes, waterfalls, limestone canyons, and caves carved over thousands of years. The distinctive colors of these lakes range from azure blue to green depending on mineral content and light conditions. The park’s paths are actually wooden walkways suspended right over the lakes, curving along the clear water, winding around rocky outcroppings, and past the park’s many waterfalls. We plan to be on site in the late afternoon to make the most of the play of golden light and reflections on the water. (BLD)
Following a session with morning light at the lakes of Plitvice and breakfast, our journey continues to the coast of the Istrian Peninsula, dangling like a heart-shaped jewel into the Adriatic from Croatia’s north coast. During our drive we stop at several photogenic locations before we arrive at Rovinj—one of the last true Mediterranean fishing ports. We arrive in time for a sunset shoot in the Old Town. (BLD)
Having made the most of early morning light in Rovinj, we drive to some of the many charming Istrian hilltop towns to capture stunning village panoramas and bucolic landscapes from prominent vantage points. Following our day afield we return to Rovinj for an evening shoot as we soak up the atmosphere of its bustling harbor, lively squares and its maze of narrow streets that wind amidst attractive medieval buildings. (BLD)
We are in the field for early photography as Rovinj awakens for the new day. Later this morning we depart for the city of Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. We arrive in time for an early evening to shoot its vibrant street scenes and city architecture. (BLD)
Day 13 (May 10)
We depart for home this morning from Zagreb. The city is the most important transport hub in Croatia and its brand-new airport terminal makes it a nexus for travel in Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean region. (B)