Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline combines rugged mountainous terrain with pristine beaches and the glittering warm water of the Adriatic Sea. Shadowy pine groves carpeted with wild flowers make for beautiful hiking. Picturesque villages are embedded like jewels throughout this entrancing natural world. Best of all is Dubrovnik and its exquisite Old Town, an eventful history still writ large across its beautiful stone buildings. There is a great deal to discover within a couple of hours drive, making this small stretch of Croatian coastline an ideal location for a week’s leisurely exploration.
Photo by by magnusvk/Flickr.
One of Europe’s most beautiful towns, Dubrovnik is a historic city situated on Croatia’s rugged Adriatic coast. It thrived on the maritime trade of the 15th and 16th centuries, evolving into a wealthy independent republic with a vibrant Croatian-language cultural scene of poets, playwrights and painters. This affluence has left scattered marks across the city now steeped in intricate architecture and evocative sites. Its Old Town is a white-hued weave of narrow alleys and staircases, opening out into squares containing ornate fountains, grand churches and imposing monasteries . All this is enclosed by fortified City Walls, which visitors can follow for stunning views over the city, ocean and surrounding countryside. Terrific food awaits at special corners of the city – Taverna Otto is a good bet, with an outdoor patio overlooking the harbour and a small menu of excellent meat and fish dishes. The Hilton has a flagship Victorian-era hotel in town, a great place to stay if your budget can stretch to it.
Pelješac, a long, largely rural peninsula jutting out from Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline, is a gorgeous two-hour drive from Dubrovnik. Lined by sand and pebble beaches, its interior rises to form the foothills of the Dolomites, cloaked in pine and cypress trees and carpeted with wild flowers. Quaint villages and hamlets speckle these slopes, which make great strolling territory – walk from one village to another through groves of lemon and fig trees, then settle down in a cafe to enjoy the darkling evening. Those seeking a tougher hiking challenge can tackle Sveti Ilija mountain, which rises to 960 meters above the pretty town of Orebic. Orebic is also the home of one of Croatia’s best wineries, Korta Katarina, which offers wine tastings and tours around the estate. Croatia’s windsurfing capital, Viganj, is just close by, too. Finally, savoring the peninsula’s superb seafood is a must, and Bota Šore, with its cool old-stone interior, is a great place to do so.
From Oberic jump on a ferry over to the island of Korčula, which combines some of Croatia’s most picturesque beaches with the pretty and historic town of Korčula itself. The island is well set-up for cyclists, and hiring a bike is a great way to explore its shadowy flower-filled pine forests and seek out its many hidden coves and beaches. Once you reach the shoreline, swap your bike for a kayak or snorkelling gear and head out into the warm waters of the Adriatic. While in the town of Korčula, be sure to catch the unique spectacle of the Moreška Sword Dance. This traditional dance, dating from the 17th century, enacts a battle between a Moro (Arab) and an Osman (Turkish) King over a young woman who’s captured both their hearts. The Lešić Dimitri Palace provides exquisite accommodation in Korčula’s Old Town, its five suites designed on the theme of Marco Polo’s travels along the Silk Road – Croatia claims that the great traveller was born in the city.