Croatia has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world since it became an independent country in the early 90’s. Its beautiful coastline and many islands drawing visitors both international and domestic. Its warm Adriatic climate is pleasant from spring though to autumn.
Dubrovnik in the far south of the country receives a good share of tourists with its walled city and beautiful surrounding islands and beaches. Its international airport and cruise liner port bringing in 1.3 million tourists a year.
The city has a population of around 40,000 people but in the summer months this can swell until the old city can suffer from serious over-tourism. In fact even in May when we visited the old city was full from 9 am to 6 pm and we chose to enter the city before and after these times for a more relaxing experience.
The authorities have had to limit the influx from cruise ships as each of these can dump 3000 tourists at a time on the city often in large tour groups. At its worst the city was receiving 13 cruise ships at a time, but now they have been staggered to lessen their impact. The new international airport also seems stretched by the amount of travelers with long queues when leaving the country.
Many of the hotels where tourists stay are situated to the north west of the old city on the Babin Kuk and Lapad peninsula and when they come into the city in bus loads the traffic can really snarl up.
Having said that, the tourists are there for a reason. The city is a really beautiful place, often referred to as the jewel of the Adriatic. If you time your visit to the old city well and spend the busy time outside the walls you can really enjoy your visit.
During the day time we visited Lokrum island, walked down the coast to Sveti Jakov beach (pictured), and walked on the top of the hill behind the city enjoying the panoramic views from the top before walking down the zig zag path back to the city.
If you have more time you can take boat trips further to the islands to the north of the city with half and full day trips running from the old port.
The walls of the old city are one of the main attractions of the old city and you can walk the circular walk in around an hour. There are kiosks to buy drinks if it is hot, and the views across the city and out to Lokrum are really good. The walls cost 200 kr when we were there but it was well worth it. There are passes for the city that might make it cheaper. We went on them 8.30 am when they opened, and at that time they weren’t too busy and you could get photos without feeling you were holding a queue of people up. Hang on to your ticket as you get asked to show it further round the walls.
Our favourite time in the city was early in the morning when the streets were empty and you could wander around the passageways and flights of steps without anyone walking into your photographs. In the evening there were many swallows flying above the city zooming down the canyons of the city walls. Sunset at the port was nice too as there weren’t too many people left by then and you could enjoy the golden colours over the boats and waters.
If you are wanting to get out on the sea, there are many boat trips and you can rent canoes to paddle around the city walls and out to Lokrum which isn’t far.
Lokrum has a regular ferry service from the old port and the island is much quieter than the city with walks around the island and to features such as a beautiful pool called the Dead Sea, a monastery with botanical gardens, and a fort at the top of the island.
Walking in the pine forests with cypress and olive trees in amongst is very relaxing and you can spend a happy few hours here and have a swim at one of the rocky beaches.
If you want to get a view of the city from up high you can go up the hill behind the city to the centuries old Fort Imperial . There is a cable car that used to run, but this was out of service when we were there, so we caught a number 17 bus to the village of Bosanka high on the hill. From here it was a short walk to the top of the hill with stunning panoramas across the bay and beautiful views inland across to the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the top is a pricy but good restaurant where you can stop for a meal before walking down the path back to the old city. Alternatively you can get a taxi or mini bus up to the top from the city.
If you want beaches, there are beaches out on the Babin Kuk peninsula if you are staying there, or closer to the city such as Banje Beach just south east of the old walls which has a good beach bar, or you can walk further to Sveti Jakov for a small beach by a ruined hotel complex.
Dubrovnik convinced me that I want to spend more time in Croatia, to hunt out some of the beautiful parts along the coast and spend more time on the islands. This is without even considering the inland parts of the country with its varied landscape and national parks.