Dubrovnik and the Haunted Island, Croatia

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sounds a bit like the title to a Famous Five book doesn't it? Intriguing. 


Well we weren't 5 in Dubrovnik, there were 6 of us, but boy did we have a jolly old time. 

Dubrovnik is the most gorgeous little city, the kind of place where you make a sharp turning on a headland and it all comes into view, taking your breath away. 

Dubrovnik roofs

Not surprising really then that Dubrovnik is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and can trace its foundation back to the 7th Century. The old town, characterized by white washed buildings topped with terracotta roofs is encircled by a hefty set of city walls, meaning you have to enter the town through imposing medieval gates. Walking the walls (100HKN) is the one thing you must do in Dubrovnik (ice cream optional but recommended).

Dubrovnik walls

Dubrovnik walls

Dubrovnik walls

It takes around an hour to walk the walls, which snake from the front gate, past stunning sheer drops into the Adriatic and round to the beautiful busy harbour. You definitely feel like you're stepping along a piece of history. I later heard that the walls were originally constructed from stone and an egg white cement though, which is slightly off putting on a hot day...

You can probably tell from the photos we weren't too blessed with the weather in Dubrovnik, one of the perils of visiting in September. Though it was warm, the next day it was also looking like rain, so we thought we'd fight fire with fire and hit the high seas for a spot of sea kayaking. 

Dubrovnik sea kayaking

It's a pretty long kayaking session, taking nearly 3.5 hours, but with frequent breaks we just about managed it. Our route took us from Dubrovnik harbour, around Lokrum island and into a secluded cove for a spot of cliff diving and snorkeling. 

Dubrovnik sea kayaking

This is where the haunted island comes into play. As we took one of our many "rest breaks" to help our tired arms recover, our guide told us stories about Dubrovnik and the landmarks we were kayaking around. Lokrum island is just 2,000 feet from the Dubrovnik coast and is a popular spot for day trippers from the city. It has it's own Benedictine monastery, botanical gardens and is even home to hundreds of beautiful peacocks...yep, peacocks! It's also a popular spot for some nudist sun bathing, so you may want to avert your eyes respectfully as you kayak past at an awkwardly slow speed. You really can't make a quick enough getaway in a kayak.

As well as all this er...natural beauty, Lokrum is also home to a terrible curse put upon the island by angry Benedictine monks who weren't happy about having their island and monastery confiscated off them. Legend has it that late one night in the 10th century, they walked around the island's perimeter 3 times dripping candle wax and putting a curse on any future owners of the island. Ooo. Whether you believe in curses or not, a sticky end has come to all subsequent owners of the island and their family members. Everything from drowning on the way to the island, madness, suicide and even being killed by their own servants. The Croatian government takes it so seriously that though you can visit the island, you can't stay over night; if you miss the last boat back, they'll send someone out to get you. Spooky stuff!

Dubrovnik sea kayaking

We skirted the edge of the island but were happy to hit open water again and pull into a small cove for snorkeling and sandwiches (2 of my favourite activities). You've probably seen in pictures before how incredibly clear the water is in Croatia, you barely even need masks. 

Dubrovnik sea kayaking snorkeling

As we kayaked back, our guide told us stories of the Bosnian War, pointing out bullet scarred buildings and recounting how different it was in Dubrovnik as recently as 25 years ago. It inspired me to add the book Girl at War to my round the world reading challenge so I can learn more about the conflict.

Back on terra firma, the sun finally came out just in time for us to indulge in one last Dubrovnik must do...a delicious ice cream.

Dubrovnik ice cream

You basically can't walk around Dubrovnik without carrying one of these, and for £1, it's one of the cheapest ways to assimilate yourself.

Dubrovnik was beautiful, magical and exactly as you've seen on Instagram all summer. If I was disappointed by anything, it was how incredibly busy it can be and how much it is targeted at tourists. The old town is best explored after 6pm, when all the cruise ship tourists scuttle off back to the their boats for departure and you're left with...well, just the regular tourists like us. If, like me, you want to avoid laminated restaurant menus printed in 5 different languages, I would recommend doing some research beforehand on where to eat and drink! Would love to hear some recommendations below.

I've got lots more to come from Croatia, so if you're planning a trip keep checking back!

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