The Croatian sky is a brilliant blue, its reflection an infinite mirror stretching along the southern stretches of the Dalmatian Coast.
At its core is Dubrovnik, an ancient land of winding stone streets, labyrinthine staircases, and red-tiled roofs so precious it’s called the “pearl of the Adriatic.” But Dubrovnik’s radiance is not limited to the space between its ancient walls. From tiny, picture-perfect neighbors like Cavtat to the Elaphiti Islands just a few miles from shore, Dubrovnik is not so much a single gem as a diadem full of them.
Unlike the famous city, relatively few tourists have discovered the oyster haven of Ston, the gardens of Lokrum Island, and the rest of the region’s endless seaside enticements. Bask in their beauty on a private or small-group yacht tour where you’ll paddle lazily along sandy beaches and wander through several medieval villages in a trip, or hitch a ride on a water taxi from Dubrovnik’s Old Town port for day tripping at your own pace.
Start your trip exploring beautiful Dubrovnik before checking out the other pearls of the Adriatic. We recommend spending a full day each on two of the larger Elaphiti Islands (or hitting both of them on a private or small group yacht experience) and a half day each at Cavtat, Lokrum, and Ston. In five days, you can visit them all---it takes less than an hour to reach each by ferry or taxi from Old Town—and still have plenty of time for squeezing every last drop out of Dubrovnik.
The Best of Dubrovnik
The Hotel Bellevue is walking distance from Old Town Dubrovnik but feels a million miles away.
(Courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels)
For over a thousand years, the maze of tightly packed palaces and cathedrals that is Dubrovnik’s Old Town has called to traders, artists, and visitors from far-off lands. So quintessentially medieval, so fantastically moody, the city was even chosen as one of the backdrops for the wildly popular series Game of Thrones. While that publicity has left the Old Town covered in flocks of tourists by day, things quiet down significantly in the evenings when the cruise ship patrons have returned to their decks. It’s one of the best times to walk the ancient walls, where views over city and sea will take your breath away. The Dubrovnik Pass will get you access to them, along with more than a dozen other historical and cultural sites in town including the Rector’s Palace, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Archaeology Museum for less than $40.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
With the Elaphiti Islands and the region's other picturesque villages so close to Dubrovnik, keep things simple by staying at one hotel throughout your visit. The concierge can help you to set up a once-in-a-lifetime private yacht experience to cruise the Adriatic in style.
Just a five minute walk from Old Town’s eastern Ploče Gate, the luxurious Hotel Excelsior is a favorite of royals and Hollywood legends. With views of the city’s harbor, a seaside deck for lounging and swimming, a full service spa with Turkish and Roman baths, and two excellent restaurants, this sleek and stylish hotel brings the glamour. // The Hotel Bellevue on Dubrovnik’s west side is the only hotel in town with its own sandy beach. Staying here, although you have easy walking access to the Old Town, you also have the kind of seclusion that feels like you’re a million miles away. And with a contemporary vibe and luxe amenities like a Michelin-recommended restaurant and a spa with clifftop views, you'll feel like a million bucks.
The Best Restaurants in Dubrovnik
For the last several years, the fine dining Restaurant Dubrovnik has dominated the best of Old Town’s culinary scene with its romantic rooftop vibe, delicate traditionally inspired dishes (turbot filet with cuttlefish and pumpkin), and an impeccable Croatian and European wine list. // Nested beside the Dubrovnik Cathedral, Bura Bistro & Bar has a globally inspired menu with local, fresh-as-can-be fish and produce and a live jazz soundtrack. // For a quick bite that doesn’t sacrifice flavor, Barba’s creative cuisine (think octopus and mascarpone sandwiches and mussels au gratin) is street food par excellence. // Of the many many gelato spots in Old Town, only Peppino’s earns its claim as the best, with 34 rich and creamy flavors like Rafaello and apricot crostata served at two different locations.
Full-Day Trips from Dubrovnik: The Elaphiti Islands
The Franciscan Monastery on Lopud Island.
(Courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels)
This archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik is composed of several islands including Lopud, a dreamscape of sandy beaches and lavish stone estates and monasteries. There are no cars but you can grab a buggy taxi or walk across its center on atmospheric trails that stretch from the harbor to Sunj beach and the historic church, Our Lady of Sunj. Don’t skip the imposing Franciscan Monastery, where you can even stay overnight if you have some cash to throw around. Day or night, stop by La Villa on the water’s edge for top notch local cuisine and wine.
Distance from Dubrovnik: 55 minutes by ferry or yacht
The smallest of just three inhabited islands in the Elaphiti archipelago, Koločep is the site of Blue Cave, a sea grotto that glows turquoise with the magic of a witch’s cauldron. The isle also boasts two tiny villages, each with its own collection of 15th century churches, and Donje Čelo Beach, one of the most idyllic spots around for swimming and sunning. Hiking and biking trails crisscross the island’s olive groves and pine forests and its inlets are ideal for kayaking and snorkeling.
Distance from Dubrovnik: 30 minutes by ferry or yacht
Half-Day Trips from Dubrovnik: Cavtat, Lokrum + Ston
Dubrovnik's laid back cousin, Cavtat.
(Courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels)
This beautiful little town 10 miles south of Dubrovnik was settled by Greek explorers in the 6th century BCE, destroyed in warfare in the 7th century CE, then built anew in the Middle Ages, a bite-sized version of Old Town Dubrovnik. Cavtat’s stone-cobbled streets bring a quiet charm far more relaxing than Dubrovnik’s bustle. St. Nicholas Church, the Monastery of Our Lady of the Snow, and quite possibly the most beautiful cemetery in the Adriatic (especially at sunset) are second only to the town’s lively promenade. For an exquisite meal, the local Mediterranean fare at the historic villa-turned-boutique-stay Hotel Supetar is served with unbeatable, alfresco views.
Distance from Dubrovnik: 25 minutes by taxi/car or 45 minutes by ferry
Just a short hop from Dubrovnik, this lovely little island village is all blooming flowers and lush forests. Wander through gardens, from the modern Botanical Gardens to the medieval Benedictine Monastery Complex’s cloister garden, then hurl yourself into the sea from Lokrum’s dramatically rocky coastline or take a float in its ultra-salty “Dead Sea.” The pizza is well worth a stop at Konoba Rajski Vrt.
Distance from Dubrovnik: 15 minutes by ferry
Like Dubrovnik, Ston’s walls, the longest and most intact defensive walls in Europe, have protected the town for centuries. Walk along them for endless views of the Adriatic or stay closer to the water and Ston’s famous oyster beds. Tour the Mali Ston Oyster Farm to taste the mollusks straight from the source but be sure to leave some room; the nearby Kapetanova Kuća is a southern Croatian institution for ridiculously delicious seafood.
Distance from Dubrovnik: 1 hour by taxi/car