Flanked by rugged peaks and a pristine Adriatic, Dubrovnik is the shining jewel in Dalmatia’s crown – and it’s not hard to see why. The former republic of Ragusa grabs the lion’s share of travellers to this region, and it tends to throb with tourists in summer. The solution? Ditch the crowds and book your break in autumn.
The crowds are fewer, the heat less intense – and you can soak up the gorgeous views of the city under the warm, slanting light of autumn. Five Valamar hotels allow you to choose the type of stay you wish to enjoy at this time of year – a spa break, a gourmet dining experience or a romantic getaway with panoramic views from the bar terrace.
Dubrovnik is an excellent bet for those hoping to catch some last-minute rays before the winter chill sets in. Temperatures in September and early October remain warm – at least, by much of Northern Europe’s standards. During the gilded season, you can appreciate Dubrovnik’s pretty historic centre when the crowds have thinned, and enjoy a cooling salt-breeze as you stroll along the ancient city walls.
For those arriving in early autumn, the sea is still warm enough for swimming. You’ll see a few beach-goers bobbing along the picturesque stretch of Babin Kuk, a short journey from the city. Cava Beach and Coral Beach Club are comfortable places to catch a late burst of sunshine – and finding space on the beach should be easy at this time of year.
Ferry prices drop considerably in autumn, so it’s the perfect opportunity to visit the three main islands of the Elafiti archipelago: Koločep, Lopud and Šipan, visible from each of the Valamar hotels on Babin Kuk. With their outstandingly beautiful, undeveloped beaches, many consider these to be the best coastlines in the region.
A preponderance of Hollywood productions shot in and around Dubrovnik’s main drag have helped the city’s cinematic beauty go wide-screen. Stradun, lined with baroque buildings – all crumbling stucco facades and polished marble – is a backdrop in the hit TV show Game of Thrones and the eighth edition of Star Wars. It can be rammed in summer, but travellers arriving in the later months will have no problem finding a table. After you’ve sipped your sundowner, you can take a selfie on Croatia’s most instagrammed street without other pedestrians getting in your way.
Still sunlit but not scorching, it’s a good time to zoom up the side of Mount Srđ in the bright orange cable car, with fantastic views of the city and the Adriatic blue as it climbs erratically above the old town.
Down below, most of the action happens around the Old Port and Gundulićeva poljana, site of the daily market in the shadow of the Cathedral. The stalls will be piled high with seasonal produce – the olive harvest is a big deal in Dalmatia, and you’ll find these in abundance – alongside deliciously fresh pomegranates, figs and tomatoes.
Dubrovnik is full of eating and drinking options, but here, fresh local fish and seafood tops the menu. Much of the wine will come from nearby Pelješac, where renowned cellars open to the public for tastings, along a vineyard trail. Guests can also enjoy rich gastronomy in all five Valamar hotels, with elaborate buffets and dishes prepared right in front of you.
The Good Food Festival in October is a pleasant way to experience proper Dalmatian cuisine. What started as a Tourism Board initiative to coax foodies to a post-season Dubrovnik has blossomed into a successful, regular event with free tasting sessions and culinary workshops run by famous Croatian chefs.
Over in Ston, Kinookus Food and Wine Festival takes place in September. A food festival with a difference, traditional local cuisines are featured over a four-day period, and sustainable, environmentally-friendly production promoted. Food documentaries are projected at various locations, and workshops for kids are also staged.
If you want to experience Dubrovnik like a proper local, the Perfect Experience Creator by Valamar offer tailor-made vacations with a range of fully immersive experiences. The categories include trips, attractions, restaurants and bars, activities, wine and olive oil, cycling, beaches, nightlife and entertainment and events.
Recreational Horseback Riding in Konavle provides horse-riding tours of the countryside around Dubrovnik and adjoining Konavle, an 11km trail through olive groves, pine forest and rocky stretches of seaside, with breaks to take in the spectacular views.
Alternatively, you can choose sea-kayaking jaunts to and around the islands, an easy, safe and healthy way to spend the day. Beginners are given a quick lesson in kayaking before setting off.
After a long day exploring the city, visitors can relax in the Mediterranean ambience in one of the five Valamar hotels in and around Dubrovnik: Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel, Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel, Valamar Argosy Hotel, Valamar Club Dubrovnik and Tirena Hotel.
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