Urban Base Camp--Paddle the Pearl
There's a reason Dubrovnik is called the "Pearl of the Adriatic." Despite relentless bombing in the 1990s, the medieval city has remained intact over the centuries--a reliquary of museums, churches, caf?-ringed piazzas and polished limestone pedestrian streets. From atop its mile-long, 80-foot-high perimeter walls, terra-cotta roofs yield to a blue sea bookended by islands and salmon-colored cliffs. Get a better perspective on a guided paddle with Adriatic Kayak Tours. This half-day trip floats beneath the ramparts, heads out to nearby Lorkrum Island for snorkeling among quiet coves and a picnic of local wines and cheeses, then returns to a city burnished gold by sunset. The five-star Grand Villa Argentina, with its private beach and giant city-view rooms, is a plush refuge just outside the walls.
DO: Dubrovnik wine-and-cheese paddle ($70; adriatickayaktours.com)
SLEEP: Grand Villa Argentina ($260; gva.hr)
Wreck Diving--Ford a Fjord
Two hours south of Dubrovnik is the white-marble-walled port town of Kotor--a medieval maze with parapet panoramas of Europe's southernmost fjord. The striking, monolithic cliffs of the bay can be explored on a sea kayaking expedition, but Pro Dive Hydrotech goes below the surface for wreck dives that include a hundred-year-old steamboat submerged at more than 130 feet. Decompress at Palazzo Radomiri, a waterfront palace turned boutique hotel, where the stately rooms are all bay views, satin sheets and exposed hewn-stone walls.
DO: Kayaking the Bay of Kotor ($30 a day); Pro Dive Hydrotech ($44 for a wreck dive, including gear rental; prodive-cg.com)
SLEEP: Palazzo Radomiri ($151; palazzoradomiri.com)
River Tripping--Ride a Wild Canyon
Biogradska Gora and Durmitor National Parks, Montenegro
Montenegro is roughly the size of Connecticut, but its two northern national parks are worlds unto themselves. Strap in for a tandem paragliding soar over Biogradska Gora National Park and snag a bird's-eye view of one of Europe's last remaining primeval forests. Then bunk down in a wooden hut in a katun (a high-altitude settlement where shepherds graze their flocks in summer) and feast on rich mountain cheeses, fresh-baked breads and hearty kettle stews cooked over open fires. Come dawn, trek out past glacial lakes and into groves of ancient fir, oak, maple and giant beech. A two-day whitewater rafting trip through the Tara Canyon, behind only the Grand in depth and length, is the choice endeavor in nearby Durmitor National Park. Its sheer limestone walls loom 4,250 feet above the turquoise Tara River, which is so clean it's drinkable. And there will be ample opportunity to taste it--by springtime the rapids are a boat-bashing Class III and IV.
DO: Paragliding and hiking in Biogradska Gora National Park ($74 per flight; $74 for guided overnight hike; montenegroadventures.com); Tara Rafting Tour ($265 for two days, including meals and overnight stay; tara-tour.com)
SLEEP: Eco Katun Vranjak ($22)
Croatia + Montenegro >The Checklist
Getting There: Delta Airlines stops over in Paris en route to Zagreb (delta.com). Lufthansa also flies into Zagreb and out of Dubrovnik to New York's JFK airport via Frankfurt (lufthansa.com).
Going Guided: Backroads' Dalmatian Coast Biking Tour ($3,998 for seven days from May to October, including ground transportation and all meals and activities; backroads.com).
DIY/Local Contact: For travel advice and lodging information, contact the Croatian National Tourist Office (us.croatia.hr). Montenegro Adventures can organize everything from transportation and English-speaking guides to all gear and activities (montenegroadventures.com).
Join the discussion: Have you ever been to Croatia?
Related Document: Trying to Kayak Across the Adriatic Sea