Planning a holiday can be almost as good as going, and it’s never too early to start dreaming of next year. Why not visit Croatia, “Pearl of the Adriatic”, with its stunning coastline, islands, beaches and romantic walled city of Dubrovnik. Jet2.com flights start in late April 2012 on Thursdays and Sundays from Manchester and on Sundays from Leeds Bradford, Belfast and Edinburgh.
The ancient walled city of Dubrovnik in Southern Dalmatia lies to the far south of the country’s extended, 1,778 km Adriatic coastline, before the border with Montenegro. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world.
Historically a trading port at one time rivalling Venice in importance, and until 1918 called Ragusa, today Dubrovnik is a favoured destination for cruise ships and a lively summer resort, its blue skies and sparkling sea drawing sun-seeking and cultural tourists from all over Europe – the latter for over 700 years! In high summer, July and August, the city buzzes with the famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival’s rich and varied programme of classical music, opera, dance, theatre and film. The festival was launched in 1949 and draws performers from all over the country and abroad.
Dubrovnik’s massive walls with their fortresses and towers loom up to 25 metres high, in places being 12 m wide! You can walk along the ramparts for two kilometres, enjoying panoramic views over the city’s terracotta-tiled roofs and out to the deep blue of the Adriatic. It’s difficult to believe that the city was badly damaged in the siege of 1991/2, with most of the houses in the Old Town affected by the shelling. Dubrovnik remains a delight with its marble-tiled streets and squares and many beautiful churches, monasteries, museums and palaces... and countless lively cafés, bars (bife or roštilj – grill-bar) and restaurants. When the heat becomes overwhelming, cool off with a swim from the rocks in the swimming area at the old port or from the beach outside Ploče Gate – the water is fabulous!
A Sailing Paradise
Dubrovnik is also the perfect base for embarking on more adventurous activities, from cycling and sailing to kayaking. More than a thousand islands, most uninhabited and many nominated as national parks, make for a sailing, yachting or motorcruising paradise.
Join a flotilla or bareboat around the islands offshore of Dubrovnik towards Split, stopping at will in picturesque ports or still secluded bays unspoiled by mass tourism. Stop for lunch at a typical konoba or restoran. Try some of the local fish dishes, particularly shellfish. If you see a Slastičarnice, a local cake-shop, choose some typical pastries. If stopping for the night, you could also sample the locally made grappa or a prune brandy (šljìvovica). Check with the tourist board (www.tzdubrovnik.hr) for information on islands, boats for hire or ferry timetables.
Due west of Dubrovnik beyond Lokrum, the city’s own island with its lovely beaches (legend has it that Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked and saved when he managed to reach this island), the closest island of any size is Mljet, beautifully green and a national park. It has two enticing saltwater lakes and a monastery and is inhabited by Europe’s only wild mongooses, close relatives of the meerkat (and no connection with geese!). Popular island-hopping routes will also take in Korčula where Marco Polo was born. Explore the enchanting old town before finding a secluded beach to relax on. The island produces olive oil and white wine and in summer you might be lucky enough to see a performance of the island’s traditional sword dance, the Moreška. South of Korčula you’ll find Lastovo, a small island that is also a nature park. This is a good place to relax, swim, and have a meal in a simple restaurant.
North of Korcula there’s Hvar, a beautiful island that is very popular with young people, and the international jet set, some of whom have villas on the island. Its 16thcentury capital of the same name is elegant with Venetian-style architecture. The island has some attractive beaches and is renowned for its lavender.
North again, and lying just south of Split you’ll find Brač, the third biggest island in the Adriatic, with its rugged interior, Dragon’s Cave and carvings, and Blaca Monastery. The island is also known for its white marble.
The coastal village of Milna on the west coast is very popular with smart yacht owners and from there you can sail southwards around the island to Bol, at the end of the famous Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape), a 500 m-long sandy spit that features on so much tourist literature.
Bol itself is a pretty old fishing harbour.
You can swim, snorkel or scuba dive off your boat, combine sailing with cyling, or try some sea kayaking, getting up close to some of the islands’ stunning coastlines and exploring interesting caves and hidden coves. “Pearl of the Adriatic” says it all.