Review: Find a good guide to lead you through the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia
PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 April 2015
Years ago it became one of the most popular tourist destinations. But the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991 that so horrified the world, for a while, changed all of that, writes Andrea Powell.
A picturesque walled city in a sublime location overlooking the calm waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is once again rising in terms of popularity. Though not necessarily renowned for its beaches, it is still possible to swim and sunbathe almost everywhere along the coast. And the azure seas, so clear and refreshing – are a true delight. Then there are the informal eateries that still serve up top-notch seafood, the chic but also traditional hotels and the adventure sports facilities.
But alongside all of that, now a Unesco world heritage site and arguably Croatia’s most up-market destination, the main draw of Dubrovnik is the charming pedestrian-only old town, packed with aristocratic palazzi and Baroque churches and contained with sturdy medieval fortifications.
It was always somewhere I had wanted to go. Not a traditional beach holiday as such, but with much history and culture to explore in pleasant sunny surroundings. And the harbour, stunning of course.
One of the first trips we did was the walk on the Old City Walls themselves. High above the sea, we had a fabulous view.
Then it was back down to sea level for the tour of the Old City itself, oozing with character and charm. I was thoroughly engrossed in the tales and stories of our knowledgeable guide. So much so that to begin with I had not noticed Hubby had, well, disappeared. But then that was also not really unusual. He often wandered off on such tours, down a side street for that ‘unusual camera view’ and quirky picture.
I always find that places come alive when you have a good guide pointing out all the pertinent points. Far better than aimlessly wandering the streets trying to make sense of it all yourself.
After about ten minutes, one of our group popped into a delightful shop for some souvenirs. It was only then that I turned around and realised Hubby was nowhere to be seen. Retracing my steps back along the narrow path, glancing down each side street, there was a sinking feeling that I was not about to find Hubby. Great. Making a mental note to either put a bell around his neck next time (after I had throttled him with it) or buy some baby reins so he could not detach himself from the group too far, I broke the news to our guide.
“Where did you last see him?” a perfectly reasonable but equally annoying question. If I knew that, then I would have told him that my husband was back up the street at X. Instead I had not the faintest idea which side street the fool was wandering about in now. Furthermore, mobile phones are a great modern convention, but not in these tiny old streets where getting a signal was downright impossible.
Thankfully our group seemed to be perfectly content in the little shops browsing all the souvenirs so our guide, leaving me with firm instructions to stay put, sped off into the maze to try to locate Hubby. I would have had no idea where to start. All the streets, whilst not exactly looking the same, were confusing nonetheless. But within minutes he had returned, and sure enough, Hubby was in tow.
“Wow, how? Where was he?” I had total admiration.
“I noticed he was lagging behind at the crossroads so decided to start my search there,” came the reply.
And that, my friends, is what makes a good guide. Not only intensely knowledgeable, with entertaining anecdotes and stories, but an eagle eye for those idiots who insist on taking their own detours.
As for Hubby, for the rest of that tour his camera was confiscated and I insisted he stayed firmly in front of me – where I could see him.
With regards to our trip to Dubrovnik, we had a wonderful time. Glorious weather, fantastic food and fabulous sights. I am sure we will be back, just this time I shall remember those baby reins for Hubby!
When to go
The best months to come here are May to June or September to October. With sunny days and the sea warm enough to swim, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions are all open, but without the crowds.
The peak season of July to August can become over-run by tourists.
Low season from November to April, can also be lovely although many facilities will be closed and the weather can be less reliable.
How to get there
British Airways, Croatia airlines, Easyjet, Norwegian airlines and Monarch all fly daily from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik.
There is also a summer service from London Stansted with Easyjet.
Prices start from £160 per person return in June.
The flight time is about two and a half hours.
In addition, Dubrovnik is now a firm favourite on cruise itineraries and in fact welcomed more than one million cruise passengers to its shores last year.
Where to stay
It need not cost a fortune to experience the delights of this beautiful place.
Seven nights at such as the Villa Lia, close to the Old Town, cost from £420 per person departing June.
Alternatively, the personalised service and comfortable Lero hotel has prices from £638 per person, also in June for seven nights on a Bed & Breakfast basis.
Or to splash out, why not try the luxurious Hilton Imperial.
Situated only meters from the Pile Gate, this hotel is ideally located for exploring the Old Town.
Prices start at £1025 for seven nights in a King Room on a Bed & Breakfast basis in June.
All options above include international flights from London Gatwick and include HOLD luggage and transfers.
Stansted flights are available at a small supplement.
What to do in Dubrovnik
The definitive ‘must’ on any visit to Dubrovnik, the medieval city walls are best explored with a full-circuit, two-kilometre walk along the battlements.
Housed in St John’s Fortress, this museum explores the maritime history of this old town.
Opened in July 2010, the cable car has two light and airy carriages, each carrying up to 30 people, which make regular three-minute runs to the top of Mount Srdj 405 metres above sea level.
From up here you get fantastic views down onto the old town, the sea and islands, plus amazing sunsets.
Medieval Fortresses of Ston and Korcula
Organised bus excursions offer full day excursions up the coast to Ston.
Actually two villages, Mali Son and Veli Ston, they are both protected and connected by 5km of defensive walls, built during the 14th and 15th centuries, to prevent the Ottoman Turks from expanding their territory onto the Peljesac peninsular.
Sea Kayaking to Lokrum
For those feeling a bit more energetic, a great way to explore the Adriatic coast is by sea kayak. Accompanied by instructors, half-day tours will take you from the foot of Lovrijenac Fortress, round Dubrovnik’s medieval walls then out to the tiny island of Lokrum, where you stop on Betina beach and have time for snorkeling and exploring the botanical garden.
Visit ‘the Hole in the Wall’
In the old Dubrovnik dialect, buža means “hole”. Buza bar is one of the most beautiful bars in Dubrovnik. Perched on the cliffs right above the sea, it has an amazing panorama of the open Adriatic.
To reach the bar you have to go through a hole-in-the-wall to tables at which you may linger over a cold drink whilst enjoying marvellous sunsets, the view at the historic island of Lokrum or the stark hills of Southern Dalmatia.
All these options and many more are available through Idelo Travel, in Ipswich. Please contact owner and managing director Andrea Powell on 01473 231181.