The next stop on our tour of the Dalmatian coast was the beautiful fortified city of Dubrovnik. From Korcula we hopped on the short ferry back to the mainland and enjoyed a scenic drive to southeast to Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik has soared in popularity in recent years, in part due to its role as “King’s Landing” in the TV series Game of Thrones. During peak times the narrow streets are so choked with tourists that the city has considered limiting the number of people that can enter the walls at any one time. A local TV station even streams a live camera from the main square so that locals can decide whether or not they should leave home. Fortunately, by visiting in mid-October we missed the worst of the crowds and the heat, although it was still quite warm.
Walking the City Walls
A highlight of our visit was a walk around the city walls that stretch almost 2km. This is a popular activity and capacity is limited so we planned our visit for a day that had few cruise ship passengers and we got started early. The planning paid off as there were relatively few other people on the walls while we made our circuit.
We took our time as we walked, soaking in the view of the city and exploring many of the towers.
Our ticket to the city walls also included nearby Fort Lovrijenac (a.k.a. St. Lawrence Fortress) that is strategically located just outside of the walled city. The fort was constructed by locals in the 11th century to prevent the Venetians from building a fort at the same spot, which would have given them the ability to attack Dubrovnik at will.
The walls of the fort facing the sea are very thick but the walls that face the city are relatively thin. This design ensured that the fort could not be used to lay siege to the city.
The view of Dubrovnik from the fort is fantastic.
Dubrovnik Cable Car & Hike
We wanted to check out the view of Dubrovnik from atop Mount Srd (1,352ft above the sea). To get to the top we had the option of hiking along a zigzag trail or taking the cable car, or a combination of the two.
Wes advocated hiking up and taking the cable car back down but was outvoted (the kids still sometimes complain about our Father’s Day slog up a mountain in Germany). So we compromised and decided to take the cable car up and hike back down.
For the five of us, one-way tickets cost nearly $70 total, which seemed rather extortionate for a three minute ride. At least the views were great and the walk down was free!
Less than a half mile away from Dubrovnik, Lokrum is a peaceful green island oasis. To get to the island we boarded a ferry just outside of the city walls and 15 minutes later we disembarked on Lokrum.
The island has cafes and restaurants, and a swimming hole called the “Dead Sea”. This is a bit of a misnomer because it is connected to the ocean through underground caves that allow seawater circulate in and out. The girls decided to go for a swim while the boys played on the nearby playground.
The island has a large population of peacocks and rabbits. We saved some lettuce from our lunches and the kids took turns feeding the friendly bunnies.
We finished off our visit to Lokrum with a walk through the monastery and a “Game of Thrones” exhibit. There is also a botanical garden with a collection of plants from across the world.
The queen and the jester.
A 20 minute drive from Dubrovnik, the Trsteno Arboretum is a quiet seaside garden and yet another GoT filming location. We strolled through the gardens and the kids had fun searching for the tallest and oldest trees.
Meeting New World Traveling Friends
As we’ve traveled across Europe through the summer and fall, Wes has been getting up early in the mornings to train for the Athens Marathon on November 11th. One morning he ran to the top of Mount Srd and then back down and afterwards he connected with another runner (through the Strava fitness app) who had run that same route the same day. It turns out the the other runner, Wayne, was also with his family on a year-long trip around the world.
We were really excited to meet another traveling family and over the course of the next few days we had a couple of dinners together where we were able to compare notes on long-term travel, home schooling, life goals, and other topics. Their kids are a little older than ours (10 and 12) but they all got along fabulously. Our kids were elated to have some new English-speaking friends, if only for a short while.
Wayne, Christiana and their girls Amelia and Annabelle are blogging about their adventure at W.A.A.C Away Awhile – check it out!
One afternoon the W.A.A.C family invited us to join them at Bellevue Beach. The pebbly beach is in a secluded cove and has a cave that we swam into.
The kids enjoyed swimming and playing together. One disadvantage with this beach was that the sun dipped below the hillside a little after 3pm, after which it felt a bit chilly. We toughed it out for a while longer then grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant.
During our stay in Dubrovnik we returned to the old town several times to explore the little alleyways, eat gelato, and see some of the attractions covered by the Dubrovnik Card.
We found that it made sense to purchase 3 day Dubrovnik Cards for the adults; we recouped the cost after visiting the city walls and the Rector’s Palace so everything we saw after that was effectively free. Kids 7 and under are free at most of the attractions and at some places older kids got in for free as well.
The Friars Minor Franciscan Monastery is one of the included attractions. The cloister here is beautiful and it was also interesting to see the pharmacy that has been in continuous operation since 1317.
One thing that we found lacking in Croatia is good playgrounds so whenever we see one the kids are excited to go try it out. This one was just outside the west entrance of the walls. It was in a state of disrepair (the swings and several other components were broken) but the kids made the best of it.
As in most other towns we have visited, we used AirBnB for lodging. Our apartment had a rooftop terrace with a wonderful view and we enjoyed several dinners there. The only downside was that the apartment was high on the hillside. Getting to the old town took about 20 minutes with lots of steps down, and the return trip was quite a hike! Fortunately there were buses and Ubers we could take back up to the top.
Sunset from the terrace.
Dubrovnik was one of the highlights of our trip to Croatia and we’re glad we were able to spend a week there during the off-season when the crowds were bearable (I’m not sure we would have had as much fun there in the thick of the summer). The popularity is for good reason; this was the most picturesque walled city that we’ve seen on our trip.
In our next update, we depart Croatia and move on to Montenegro, country number 15 on our European road trip. 🙂