Dubrovnik in Croatia attracts vast numbers of tourists each year to marvel at its distinctive Old Town surrounded by massive walls. Now completely rebuilt after its bombardment in 1991-2, it is certainly one of the great historic sights of the region. If you time it to avoid the crowds, then it is a fascinating place to wander around soaking up the atmosphere.
I visited outside the busy summer period, but even so the Old Town was heaving in the morning with tourist groups. I saw my escape: boats in the Old Town harbour ferrying a few passengers across to the island of Lokrum.
I’d never heard of the island before, but it proved to be a true oasis of tranquillity with great views back across to the Old Town.
On returning to the Old Town in the early afternoon, the crowds had largely subsided, so its charms and history could be appreciated in reasonable calm. Finally, late in the afternoon, I took the cable car to Srd Hill, 1300 ft up above Dubrovnik; it proved the perfect way to end the day.
My Three Highlights of Dubrovnik
• The Old Town – The walls enclose many fine historic buildings in this UNESCO World Heritage site, including the Franciscan Monastery, Rector’s Palace and the Jesuit Church of St Ignatius. The Orlando Column and Onofrio’s Fountain are favourite tourist spots.
You can walk around the walls at a cost of about £15, but senior travellers need to bear in mind there are several awkward stairways along the way.
I found it most enjoyable just to get lost amid the many narrow alleyways hidden away from the tourist routes and then to relax in a small bar.
• Lokrum Island – The return ferry fare for the 10 min trip from the Old Town harbour is about £7 for adults (no senior discounts) and tickets include admission to the island itself.
The island is richly forested with oaks, pines and olive trees, which I found provided very welcome shade as I walked around the circumference of the island. It took about an hour with great views along the way back to the mainland and I hardly met another person.
A small Botanical Garden on the island has a range of palms from South Africa and South America and an impressive succulent section, containing cacti and agaves. The ruined Benedictine Monastery is being rebuilt, but provides a scenic home to the island’s peacocks who serenade customers at the nearby restaurant.
• Srd Hill – Sadly this was the site of the guns that bombarded Dubrovnik in the Yugoslav conflict. Nothing remains of that time except for the displays in the Museum of the Homeland War, housed in Fort Napoleon built by the French in 1812.
The cable car takes about 4 min to travel to the top of the hill, with great views along the way as the Old Town shrinks into the distance. The panoramic 360° views from the top are unforgettable. The cable car return fare is about £10 for an adult (no senior discounts); to avoid queuing, tickets can be purchased online from the Cable Car site.
After careful research using accommodation comparison sites, I chose an apartment in Villa Kety which overlooks an attractive marina on the outskirts of the Dubrovnik. I was well looked after by the host and hostess, including being supplied with pomegranates and a highly potent home-made fig spirit!
The Croatian currency is the Kuna, with an exchange rate of about 10 Kuna to £1 sterling. If you decide to cross the nearby border into Bosnia-Herzegovina, then the Marka is used, and if you cross into Montenegro, then the Euro is used, although unofficially. Fortunately, UK credit and debit cards are readily acceptable in all three countries. See my advice on Travel Money.
Drive – I drove to Dubrovnik, but only from my holiday home in Hungary, a mere 500 miles through some beautiful countryside. To drive the 1200 miles or so from the Channel ports would involve at least one stopover on the way.
There is also the complication that you can’t drive to Dubrovnik without passing through about 10 km of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country often not covered by UK car insurers. Having a car in Dubrovnik is a dubious privilege as the roads within the city are narrow and steep and parking is an expensive nightmare.
Fly – A few budget airlines fly from the UK to Dubrovnik, with return fares varying from £100 to well over £300 depending on when you are flying. See my article: Fly on Tuesday!
Cruise – A relaxing way to visit Dubrovnik – and avoiding using a car – is by taking a cruise. I passed a cruise liner moored in Dubrovnik main harbour as I drove to the Old Town from my apartment.
If you go on a cruise, you will have the opportunity to visit other historical Croatian cities, such as Split and Zadar, and maybe enter the spectacular Gulf of Kotor in Montenegro and sample the charms of the nearby town of Budva.
Posted 25th June 2015 by Steve Hanson