Photographer Matt Conant recently spent two weeks road tripping through Croatia with his wife, documenting their journey from Istria to Split, over to the island of Vis, and down to Dubrovnik. Hitting the road in a tiny stickshift hatchback with their gear, they slowly made their way down the Adriatic coast, taking in the otherworldly scenery and staying in AirBnBs along the way. During their trip, they tasted wines on the island of Vis; ate fish from the Adriatic sea; toured salt fields in Ston; and visited the many honey producers in Istria. “The whole country smelled like honey. Even the islands,” Conant says.
Seeing Croatia from the road turned out to be the ideal way to experience it, according to Conant: “Driving let us keep a pretty loose plan so we could come and go as we pleased and check out small towns whenever we felt like it,” he says, “or stop at a roadside stand and buy honey or whatever they were selling.” Everywhere they went, they were welcomed into homes and cafés. They showed up at one restaurant on the island of Vis only to find it closed, but instead of being turned away, the owner insisted on opening up shop and cooking them a meal himself. And this wasn’t atypical: “The people we met were shockingly nice,” he says. “Wonderful and very hospitable.”
They left with a newfound obsession with the country, its food, and its people—and an SD card full of stunning photos. Check out some of the highlights from their trip above.
The old mill of Kotle, located in the the heart of Istria. Matt Conant “Istria, a peninsula on the Adriatic coast shared by Croatia, Italy, and Slovenia, is a top spot for truffles; you’ll find them shaved onto everything, like this beef carpaccio blanketed in black truffle slices that we ate in Buzet, ‘city of truffles.'” —MC Matt Conant “In Istria you’ll find lots of honey as well as truffles. Jurica, a honey producer in Livade, was kind enough to take us to see his bees and show us a bit of the process at his farm, Medea.” —MC Matt Conant Medea’s apiaries. Matt Conant “At roadside shops in Medea there are lots of old beekeeping relics for sale. This antique smoker was used to calm bees while the beekeepers were working.” —MC Matt Conant Fried sardines from the Ljubljana farmers’ market. Matt Conant Motovun, in central Istria. Matt Conant “We stayed in AirBnBs throughout most of our trip; this is the view from one of two terraces we had in our apartment in Motovun, Istria.” —MC Matt Conant “Boats docked in the coastal town of Senj, where we stopped for a much-needed coffee and beer after a long drive.” —MC Matt Conant Scenery like this is commonplace in Plitvice Lakes, Croatia’s largest national park. Matt Conant An oyster farmer harvesting some fresh Adriatic oysters in Ston. Matt Conant “The salt fields in Ston are some of the oldest in the Mediterranean; they have been harvesting salt there the same way for over 700 years. The walls in the distance are the Walls of Ston, a series of fortified walls that are some of the largest in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China.”* —MC* Matt Conant “AirBnb did not disappoint when finding places to stay in Croatia; this view, in Dubrovnik, was one of the best of anywhere we stayed. You can see Old Town Dubrovnik in the distance—a major filming location for Game of Thrones.” —MC Matt Conant Boats docked outside the walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Matt Conant “By far one of the best dishes we had in Croatia was this one in Vis: chickpeas and sea bass in olive oil, garlic, parsley, and butter. Mind-blowing.” —MC Matt Conant Two fishermen getting ready to go out for the day in Komiža, on the island of Vis. Matt Conant Pizza topped with fresh mussels and squid in Komiža. Matt Conant “Years ago Vis was hit with a plant disease that wiped out nearly all the vineyards on the island. But in the last several years the wine industry has gotten back on track. Most of the wine produced here is white, dry, earthy—and delicious. Pošip, a white grape that’s grown heavily along the Adriatic coast, was my favorite.” —MC Matt Conant A sheep farm on the island of Vis. Matt Conant “When we stopped by Konoba Jastožera, a restaurant in Vis, it wasn’t technically open yet; they were doing construction on the patio. But the owner opened up shop for us anyway, grilling some fresh fish straight from the Adriatic and serving it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic.” —MC Matt Conant A fisherman coming in for the day in Komiža. Matt Conant A small cove beach in Komiža.