If you know nothing about Dubrovnik, the highway into the Croatian town begins to tell its story.
The winding coastal road from Čilipi Airport to the town center offers tantalizing glimpses of what the city has to offer. Between clusters of cypress trees, you catch quick views of a sparkling cobalt sea. Further along the highway is an unobstructed view unveiling the meticulously preserved Old Town, a canopy of saffron-tiled rooftops surrounded by stone walls. A few miles more, and the highway is lined with modern cosmopolitan hotels and restaurants that sit along rocky cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
This is a place where different time periods coexist, where medieval meets modern, and a war has given way to a renaissance. It’s difficult to imagine that this was a town that was once under siege during the Serbia-Croatia War. Severe damage to historical buildings and throughout the area threatened the future of tourism in the affluent town, whose population at last count in 2011 was 42,615. But, with the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, fans began to flock.
Admittedly, I came as a fan of the show. But I left as a bigger fan of the town itself—its history, people, food and breathtaking landscape make Dubrovnik a place I never realized I always wanted to go. The following are a few must-do’s if you make the trip to what is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic—all of which can be booked through concierge service before arrival or during your stay at the any of the hotels listed below.
Day Yacht Tour
It hardly seems right to simply enjoy the views of the sea. If you’re in Dubrovnik, you have to go on the sea. Ask your concierge to help book a day yacht tour with Dubrovnik Boats (dubrovnikboats.com) around the Elafiti Islands, an archipelago of 13 islands, known to locals as the guardians of the sea. You can discover hidden bays, fishing villages and caves, and get the opportunity to dive into the waters. On this trip, we stopped at Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan islands, where lunch awaited us at Bowa (bowa-dubrovnik.com), a series of private cabanas encircling a cove where you can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine featuring fresh local seafood—and take a refreshing plunge afterward.
This property is one of several operated by Adriatic Luxury Hotels (adriaticluxuryhotels.com). Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer guests a panoramic view of the Adriatic and the property’s private beach. The interior minimalist decor and neutral palette allow its surrounding landscape to shine—and rightly so, there really is no competing with Dubrovnik’s natural beauty. There are seven types of rooms and a presidential suite—all of which offer sea views (rates from approximately $160 to $2,300 per night). Be sure to take advantage of the hotel spa, which includes an indoor freshwater heated pool, steam room and a variety of spa treatments. Located just behind the hotel is a secluded cove where you can also dine at the hotel’s beach-terrace restaurant, Nevera. On-property food and beverage options also include Vapor Restaurant for fine dining, Spice Lounge for cocktails, and The Wine Bar for an expansive selection of wines and Champagnes from around the world. Other Adriatic Luxury Hotels properties worth staying, dining or visiting: Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, Hotel Excelsior and Villa Orsula.
If you visit the neighboring village of Mali Ston, you can take a wooden boat to the Mali Ston oyster farm (malistonoysters.com), where you can participate in an oyster tasting and learn about local oyster production. The family-owned farm has become a popular destination point in a village whose bay has the largest oyster cultivation facilities in the Adriatic.
If you want to explore all the nooks and crannies of this UNESCO World Heritage site, carve out at least four hours. Yes, this is what GOT fans would recognize as Westeros and the site of the famous walk of shame for the disgraced Cersei Lannister. There are numerous walking tours available, or you can explore on your own. If you have comfortable shoes on, walk along the city walls that surround Old Town, which were originally built in the 10th century to protect the buildings from attack. For a truly unique and Insta-worthy experience, Buza Bar is built along the side of a cliff—a literal hole in the wall—and is hidden under the ancient city walls. Duck into an unassuming archway and find yourself in a bar unlike any I’ve ever seen, with patrons seated along the grooves of the cliff overlooking the water. There are no obvious signs, but ask for Buza Bar, and someone will be sure to point you in the right direction. After a day in Old Town, you can walk to nearby Restaurant Posat (posat-dubrovnik.com) for an elegant dining experience featuring a variety of authentic Dubrovnik Mediterranean dishes.
While you’re in Mali Ston, stop by Milos winery (milos.hr/en), which focuses on 100% organically grown Plavac Mali grapes. This is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the region, located on the Pelješac Peninsula. Take a tour of its old-style cellar; learn about the wine-making process; and enjoy the wines in the tasting room. The property also produces olive oil and herbal tea, which are available for purchase.
Photography by: Resort photos courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels; courtesy of PATI NAVALTA POBLETE; Spencer Davis on Unsplash