Seven days in Dubrovnik
These flagship fortifications are the reason behind Dubrovnik’s status as a buckletlist destination, and a walk around the Old Town is an essential introduction to the city. It allows the first-time visitor to get their bearings and provides them with an appreciation of the scale of this intricate jewel, the skill of those who designed and constructed it – and the breathtakingly blue Adriatic below. The main entrance and ticket office is by the Pile Gate; most choose to walk round sea-facing side first.
An uninhabited isle on Dubrovnik's doorstep, Lokrum is an unspoilt isle lush with pines, palms and cypress trees. Its verdant coastline beckons from the hotel windows of Ploče. Dotted with diverse ruins and remnants - medieval, ecclesiastical, Napoleonic, Habsburg - it has long been given over to nature. Although taxi boats disgorge tourists from Dubrovnik every half-hour - you can be drinking a beer in Dubrovnik's main square and be here in 20 minutes. After a leisurely stroll, you can take a dip in the warm, saltwater lake and drink a beer or cocktail at the Lacroma bar, that conveniently overlooks the jetty.
Mjet is the perfect place to perfect your Robinson Crusoe impression. Sparsely populated, astonishingly beautiful, it’s the closest you’ll ever get to having on your own island. A short catamaran or ferry ride from Dubrovnik, take advantage of the cooler weather and hike its national park – verdant swathes of pine forests beckon. Within the National Park are two saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero, with the Church of St Mary and a 12th-century monastery on an islet in the middle.
Experience a spectacular array of autumn colours in Trsteno, a short hop from Dubrovnik. One of the locations used in the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ – the Arboretum doubling up as the palace gardens of the Red Keep – this historical attraction dates back to 1492 at least. Set around the villa that once belonged to the Gozze family, the graceful arboretum is the product of the Renaissance era, when sea captains would bring back rare and exotic seeds and plants from their travels during the Age of Discoveries. The grounds run down to the sea, encompassing a grotto and a Baroque fountain.
If you order wine Dubrovnik, there’s a good chance it’ll come from Pelješac, but the best way to get properly acquainted with the wine here is by visiting its sun-dappled vineyards. These cover large tracts of the Pelješac peninsula, starting in Ston and stretching all the way northwest to the outskirts of Orebić. Vineyards slot into the bowls of fertile soil that sit between Pelješac’s interlocking system of mountain ridges, or spread down the steep slopes of the peninsula’s southern coast. Although the white Rukatac grape is cultivated on Pelješac with moderately successful results, it’s the velvety red wine produced by the indigenous Plavac mali vine for which the peninsula is famous. Wine tourism is increasingly big business in Pelješac and it’s an ideal place to cruise the wineries, sample and buy.
The relaxed island of Korčula is particularly lovely in the later months. Known for its well-preserved medieval centre, its link to the legend of medieval explorer Marco Polo, and tasty local wines, it’s generating a buzz as a smaller, less discovered alternative to Dubrovnik. In autumn, you’re likely to find warm sunshine and few crowds, but on cooler days, the Defora beaches are great for a late-season ramble, with stunning views over the surrounding islands of Lastovo, Mljet and Pelješac. The olive groves will be ripening, so take the opportunity to sample some here, alongside a large glass of the local red.
Dubrovnik has a wealth of chic beachside clubs to unwind in while you drink up the delicious scenery. Coral Beach Club on the pebble enclave of Cava has fantastic views of Daska island with an extensive bar/restaurant and VIP lounge. The Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel has its own Blue Flag beach, Beach Bistro restaurant, bar and watersports centre nearby. From Valamar Lacroma and Valamar Argosy, you can take in autumn sunsets over the Elaphiti Islands. When the air grows cooler, all three hotels offer wellness centres with superlative facilities to relax in.
Seasonal stays in Dubrovnik
This leading lodging of the Valamar group has its own attractive selection of beach while the balconies attached to each of its 181 rooms provide gorgeous views of the Adriatic and Elafiti islands beyond. Extensive modernisation saw the hotel gain five-star status in 2014. There are now pools indoor and out, a spa centre, an award-winning restaurant, a full programme of children’s entertainment and access to nearby tennis courts. Fringed by the verdant surroundings of Babin Kuk, the Valamar Dubrovnik President is also set within easy reach of the Old Town.
Recipient of the prestigious World Travel Award as Croatia’s Leading Hotel in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and Croatia’s Leading Business Hotel in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the four-star Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik caters equally to those visiting for work or pleasure. Surrounded by the pine-tree forests of Babin Kuk and white-pebble beaches, the Valamar Lacroma allows you to relax in picturesque tranquillity as well as organise your conference, meeting or exhibition without having to move from the site. With the most extensive MICE facilities in the area, the Valamar Lacroma also features the gourmet restaurant Langusto, a wine bar with a panoramic terrace and top-quality treatments at the in-house Ragusa Spa, a 1000 square meter health complex where you’ll find saunas, pools indoor and out, a private spa, lady-spa Afrodita and cardio-fitness.
Striking the perfect balance by providing contemporary relaxation with attentive service, the Valamar Argosy Hotel best suits a romantic getaway à deux. A newly refurbished and upgraded four-star, the Valamar Argosy now features an infinity pool, impressive landscaped gardens, stylish guestrooms and a complete spa complex. With its quiet location on the Babin Kuk headland overlooking the Adriatic, the Valamar Argosy also allows you to take advantage of Cava Beach less than 200 metres away. In the distance beckon the Elafiti islands that you also see on the horizon as you gaze out from the restaurant terrace and outdoor pool with sunbathing loungers.
The only hotel in Dubrovnik created specifically for families, the Valamar Club is geared towards fun, relaxation and safety. Operating from April to November, this four-star offers all kinds of sports and communal activities all summer long. Multilingual children’s entertainers lead the activities at the Maro Club, with its ice-cream parties, mini discos and play areas designed for three different age groups. Teenagers can play futsal, volleyball and video games, with free cycle hire for all. Trained, professional staff provide child care by day before live music and shows are provided for all the family in the evening. Adults can go in for parasailing, diving and water skiing and take advantage of the spa, sauna and gym facilities at the nearby Valamar Dubrovnik President and Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotels.
Providing great value for money amid the tranquil environs of the Babin Kuk peninsula, the Tirena Hotel is a place to relax and be entertained. As its centrepiece, the three-star Tirena has an expansive, freshwater outdoor pool with swim-up bar for you to sip at your cocktail without having to leave the water. There’s also a shallow children’s pool for visiting families. A couple of hundred metres away, Cava Beach is equipped with sun loungers, showers and changing cubicles. Traditional Dalmatian dishes are prepared right in front of you at the buffet restaurant. Guests can also make use of the superior spa facilities at the nearby Valamar Dubrovnik President and Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotels.