"When you're climbing up the walls of Dubrovnik and you look out over the town, it's all orange roofs and tall churches – just like in Game of Thrones. On the outside, there's a tower and that pure, clear European water in the distance."
It seems Pauly Vella's day job as an air-conditioner repairman is slowly falling by the wayside, thanks to the 'Insta-success' he has found snapping and sharing his dreamy photos.
Working tirelessly in search of good light, Pauly's social cred and Instagram following continues to grow; his talent behind the lens opening new doors around the world.
Recently, Pauly set sail with On The Go Tours, embarking on an eight night cruise from Split. We caught up with Pauly to chat about cruising Croatia and exploring the real 'King's Landing'.
"Each day we went to one or two different destinations," Pauly explains. "We'd call a destination home for the night, docking somewhere and sleeping on the boat."
Life on board a three-level premium yacht is pretty much as you'd imagine. "You wake up in the morning – I was waking up to catch the sunrise – and have breakfast on the back of the boat while our guides gave us a run through of the day.
"We'd stop off for a swim along the way, anchoring in the bay to sunbathe or jump in the water until lunch was served.
"The water is incredible – the beautiful clear water. You'd just jump straight off the boat, diving right in."
Falling for Makarska
While yachting around on a luxury vessel and having a dip in the Adriatic Sea on a whim sounds hard to top, Pauly says it was Makarska on day two of the cruise that left a lasting impression.
"I fell in love with Makarska right away – a little fishing village with lots of shops and restaurants. It's just a really beautiful little town, and I was really keen to capture the sunset directly on the water," Pauly says.
Makarska is regarded as something of a local hot spot, protected by a natural harbour and trimmed by a two-kilometre stretch of golden sand.
There are luxury hotels and restaurants aplenty; the cobbled streets filled with cashed-up tourists as opposed to the pirates and merchants who once came ashore.
Dubrovnik: Fit for a King
The photo opportunities only got better as Pauly's cruise sailed on to Dubrovnik – the backdrop for much of the smash hit TV series, Game of Thrones.
"Dubrovnik is incredible," Pauly enthuses. "The walls of Dubrovnik were absolutely awesome. It's a very intact medieval city."
Dubrovnik has always held a certain appeal, but the exposure gained from Game of Thrones has sent the city's tourism into overdrive. You can even download a Game of Thrones plan to map out your holiday, or take one of many guided Game of Thrones tours.
The Baroque-style architecture and ancient buildings lining the marble streets really do make you feel like you're stepping into a fictitious world.
For serious GOT fans, you can visit Gradac Park (the scene of Margaery and Joffrey's wedding), St. Dominika Street (where many of the market scenes are filmed), and the island of Lokrum (the setting of the city of Qarth, visited by the Mother of Dragons herself), among many other places of interest.
There were 28 people onboard Pauly's Croatia cruise, oh which he says 25 were fellow Aussies. "On boarding day (Saturday) when every cruise leaves the port in Split, it's a bit like the first day of school. There's so much going on – I was amazed to hear so many Aussie accents in the crowd."
As for Pauly's advice for anyone planning on setting sail for Croatia? "Try the food; try the wine. Get out and explore the cities – especially coming from Australia where we have such a young history."
Oh, and one more thing: "People do skinny dip so, if you snorkel from the boat to land, don't be surprised if you pop up and there's a group right in front of you!"
About Pauly Vella
Hailing from Sydney’s Hawkesbury region, Pauly Vella is a tradie turned full-time photographer and social media influencer. Pauly’s dreamy landscape and oceanscape snaps have seen him become one of Australia’s most popular Instagrammers.