Probably no longer anyone’s best kept secret, the walled city of Dubrovnik, where a mountain meets the Adriatic sea, is Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. Lying all the way in the South and enclosed by Bosnia and Montenegro, the beautiful but narrow strip of land isn’t connected with the rest of the country.
The white limestone streets invite you to get lost between. The baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the surrounding water beg you to take a refreshing dip. These ancient walls have been protecting the city for centuries and were UNESCO listed in 1979. We got to spend a little over a week in this little piece of paradise. Here are our top tips of what to do if you ever get a chance to visit Dubrovnik yourself.
A no-brainer to begin with 😉 The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century. Severely damaged twice (by an earthquake in 1667 and war in the 1990s) it is a small miracle that so much of the old Dubrovnik is preserved. This most interesting and characteristic part of the city is surrounded by medieval ramparts with several gates and forts, all of which offer amazing views over the red rooftops.
Starring in the popular HBO series game Of Thrones made even bigger crowds come looking for the historical vibe. Although a couple of days are plenty to explore the old town, it’s hard to pull away. Most of all, just wandering around and getting lost is our favorite way to explore these types of labyrinths.
This mountain stands over Dubrovnik in the North, is 412m high and has 4 ways to get to the summit. Quickest and easiest is taking the cable car up (100 kuna, every 30mins from 9-24hr) from Petra Kresimira street. If you’re by car, you can drive up via Bosanka. It’s also possible to take the #8 bus from Pile but it will probably take forever. Finally you can hike up, taking about 60mins over a rocky, serpentine footpath that starts from Jadranska Cesta.
No matter how you get up, the views from the top are staggering as a result! On a clear day you can see as far as 60km out, taking in Lokrum, the Elefati islands and ofcourse the city from above. The Fort Imperial (built by Napoleon in 1812) houses the interesting Museum of the Homeland War.
A little natural reserve lying just 600m off the coast and easily accessible by ferry (35 kuna, every 30mins 9-19hr). Just exploring this quiet escape , taking a swim in the lagoon and checking out the ruins make for another nice day-trip opportunity. It seems like the little monastery is the main sight, combining Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance for a perfect peek into history. On the Southern part of this tiny island you can find a salty lake to float on as if it’s the Dead Sea. So don’t be surprised to run into a bunch of curious peacocks, as quite a few of these exotic birds call this place home.
Learning to dive
Our main reason to come here: an introduction to the beautiful underwater world and getting PADI-certified. We did our diving course with the fantastic team of Aquarius Diving in Mlini (just South of Dubrovnik). Hrvoje, Marijanna and Jack made sure our first breaths underwater were safe and fun! While we had been wanting to start scuba diving and getting to know the world beneath the waves, the time finally came, and it was good!
After an extensive theory class and explanation of the equipment and procedures, we started out in the bay right next to the diving center. A couple of little freak-out moments later, we were ready to take the boat out and dive until 16m. We went into a little canyon, saw lion-fish and also had to take our masks off for practice. Forever thankful for an amazing experience and our first steps into a hopefully long and interesting diving future!
One-day roadtrip Montenegro
The little country of Montenegro has a lot to offer and in no way do we want to pretend that one day is enough to explore it! But a friend took us on a roadtrip and the scenic driving route was a wonderful experience. Following route 8 over the border and onwards (E65) past Hcerceg Novi and along the stunning bay of Kotor. Heading up the mountain (P1) into Lovcen National Park and taking the 461 steps up to the entry of the mausoleum, where two granite giantesses guard the tomb of Montenegro’s hero Petar II Petrovic Njegos. Make sure to check out the old town of Budva on the way down on the other side!
Kupari resort in ruins
Just off the busy road between the airport and city, the seaside village of Kupari was once a posh resort. The Yugoslav army elite and their families spent their holidays here in style. In 1991, during the first stages of the Homeland War, that same army bombed and burned it to bits. Over the course of the years after, the hotels have been completely emptied of anything even remotely valuable. You can find bullet-holes in the walls. Some of the beautiful marble floor-tiles are still there but covered in grit. There are trees starting to grow in the corners of suites. And the views from the roof are fantastic! But visit fast, the place has recently been privatized and a shining new five-star Marriot resort will soon be built on this spot.
In conclusion, it’s not difficult to see why this city and it’s surroundings are so popular. Even outside the breathtaking center, the suburbs feel Mediterranean with bougainvillea and lemon trees. While this city can get overcrowded with loads of tourists in the height of summer, there is enough for everybody! The vibe is great, the people friendly, the food incredible and finally, the views will stay with you forever!