Hell. Yes. George Bernard Shaw was spot on when he described Dubrovnik as heaven on Earth. What a truly, truly stunning place.
When I was flying to Dubrovnik, in between sleeping as I’d barely slept in my overnight traipse from Bristol to London Gatwick via public transport, I wondered if Dubrovnik would live up to my expectations. In planning my trip I’d spent an age reading blogs, looking at Pinterest boards, lusting over my Lonely Planet guide. I had this beautiful vision of what Dubrovnik would look like in my head, could the real thing live up to the idyllic coastal town I was envisioning?
Thankfully Dubrovnik not only met, but exceeded my expectations in so many ways. The blue sea water around the old city was electrifying when viewed from the ancient city walls above. The ice-cream was positively Italian in it’s creaminess. The quaint walkways, the seriously steep stairs, the imposing buildings, the slippy stone floors, the bobbing boats, the magical harbours, the ecclectic cave bars, the stunning sunsets, the floaty, salty sea; everything. Everything about Dubrovnik stole a little piece of my heart and left me longing to have spent more time there!
Here’s some of my tips and highlights of my time in Dubrovnik:
- I stayed in Hostel Angelina in the old town. It was centrally located and affordable given that Dubrovnik is perhaps the most expensive place in Croatia. I had booked a room in a dorm, but when I arrived the upgraded me to a bed in a triple room which was much more spacious. A really lovely surprise, although the private rooms are in a separate building a 5 minute walk away from the shared facilities in the main building. The hostel has a lovely roof terrace to enjoy in the evening and make new friends, and the staff were very helpful
- Lokrum Island. This was one of my absolute highlights of the trip. Lokrum is an island just off of the Dubrovnik coast. It can be reached in 15 minutes by a regular, cheap ferry service. You then step off of the boat onto a small, uninhabited island that is populated with hundreds of wild, but inquisitive, rabbits and a muster of peacocks. I recommend arriving early and hiking up to the fort on the hill before it gets too hot. Take plenty of water and enjoy deviating from the beaten paths and finding your own space to enjoy a swim as part of a day of relaxation. Just watch out for the sea urchins! I survived without sea shoes, but I did rely on my goggles so I could see where to put my feet. My goggles also meant I was able to see the fish I was swimming with which was a really magical bit of free diving. You can also go into some of the old buildings to learn about the history of the island, and sit on the iron throne from Game of Thrones!
- The city walls are worth every penny. Again I recommend getting up there early before the heat of the sun truly hits, but also to avoid the troves of guests arriving on day tours from the cruise ships. Some of the walkways are very narrow so can get a bit uncomfortable in big crowds. The views from the walls are simply stunning, make sure your camera has a full battery! A sea of terracotta roofs as far as you can see, before the burnt orange clashes with the aquamarine sea beyond the walls. A bonus is that the city walls ticket gets you access to Fort Lovrijenac, which is just outside of the old city walls. Fewer people seemed to venture here, but you are rewarded with that postcard view of Dubrovnik that you wanted to see. Plus there’s a tiny beach in a cove next to the fort which has some good low-level cliff jumping options to get you ready for the higher jumps elsewhere!
- Buza cliff bars are a must visit. There are two of them to be found through tiny doors in the city walls. You end up perched on the rocky coastline, being served drinks and watching the sunset. I saved money by buying alcohol in the supermarket and then sitting on the rocks near the bars, but closer to the water. Not only do you save money, but you’re nearer the rolling waves of the sea and have more privacy whilst enjoying the majesty of the location. Buza bars are also the best spot to go cliff jumping. Lots of people do it, and there’s a little ladder to help you get out. Don’t be scared, just take the plunge; it really is exhilarating!
- The cable car takes you up to the peak of Srd hill just outside of the city. The ticket is reasonably price, but if you’re looking to save money you could always walk up the path. From the top of the hill you are able to truly appreciate the vistas of this part of the Dalmatian coast. The old town is nestled among the twinkling marinas, the newer part of the city to the right on a peninsula pointing at a group of small islands. I went up for sunset, hoping to capture a burning red sunset, but unfortunately it was a bit of a hazy day. I didn’t get that perfect sunset picture, but I do still think it’s worth going up the hill for the views in general
- Dubrovnik is a great base for some daytrips. I took two, one to Kotor in Montenegro and one to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both are only a few hours away by bus and are wonderful ways to get out of the city. You could also take trips to some of the nearby islands like Korcula or Mljet, but I sadly did not have time to island hop on this trip!
Dubrovnik was an excellent introduction to Croatia and the perfect start to my holiday. I was so sad to leave, but it was time to head off to my next destination: Hvar.