Once you feel like you have thoroughly explored the Old Town of Dubrovnik from wall to wall (literally) it might seem like there is not much else to see. Luckily there are several islands off the coast of Dubrovnik, a short(ish) boat ride away. Or if you are interested in the Dubrovnik portion of the trip, see my first Croatia post.
There is Lokrum, only 10 minutes away by boat, a mostly deserted island with a long abandoned monastery that was used to portray the gardens of Qarth in Game of Thrones and a salt water lake. There are also Lopud and Koločep, part of the Elafiti Islands. We took an all day boat tour of the islands and can’t recommend it enough. Ferries go to some of them as well but with a private boat tour you can visit the Green Cave and the Blue Cave, and do it all on (mostly) your own time and unlimited beverages*. Although it was a bit pricy – $90 USD a person for 4 of us, this was one of the highlights of the trip.
*Once we opened our cooler of unlimited alcohol it was a bottle of wine and 6 Karlovacko beers but its ok, luckily none of us are big drinkers so this was ‘unlimited’ enough.
And this is true of traveling always, but especially somewhere like Croatia in the high season, its incredibly worth it to start the day early. Less crowds, less noise, and the prettiest light (see below).
Waking up early is also quite conducive to finding a spot at Banje beach (above). Banje is right outside the city walls and is also commonly referred to as East-West Club, the club that dominates most of the beach. Its quite scenic but it gets crazy crowded, to the point where its hard to find a place to lay your towel down if you get there in the middle of the day. And like most of the beaches in Croatia, its a rocky beach, which is no fun for your poor feet. I really tried to resist buying the ungainly rubber Aqua shoes favored by all the septuagenerian European tourist types but if I went again I would carefully put away my pride and proudly put on a pair of those babies. Grip and foot protection, what more could you want? (Except not wanting to look like a dork).
Before hitting Banje we stopped by a market to pick up some yogurt, local pastries and the juiciest peaches to take down to the beach for some breakfast. We ate and tanned and swam and swatted away bees from our peaches and swam more and walked all funny because of the poke-y rocks. It was funny to lay out between the tannest sleeping Italian grandmothers (they are always the tannest) and the fairest Korean high schoolers, complete with parasol and constant re-applications of SPF 100 in between selfie stick shots. As a group of Toronto/London/San Diego residents we were our own little gradient of least to most tan.
After Banje beach we went to one of the many shops just outside the city walls that advertise boat tours. Although we tried to bargain, you don’t have much bargaining power when nearly everyone wants to do the boat tours. Unfortunately it was a bit too late to go to the Green Cave but our first stop was the Blue Cave in the island of Koločep. To enter the Blue Cave you have to swim into a low low entrance that opens into an expansive tall cave. As it was a bit late (too much tanning at Banje) our skipper was afraid that the tide was too high for us to safely enter the cave without the waves smashing our heads onto the rocks (ok that sounds dramatic, maybe ‘bumping’ instead of ‘smashing’ is more appropriate). You have to duck/dive a little to avoid the rocks overhead as you swim in. Luckily we just made it, and after swimming thru the low, dark entrance we crossed into a tall cave, lit neon blue throughout from the water reflecting in. The sea beneath us and the walls of the cave were glowing. The water was so clear that it looked like the floor was just under our toes. We kept trying to dive and touch the floor until another gentleman that swam in lent us his snorkel to prove that the floor was far, kind of scarily, deeper than it appeared. No pictures- except for that one dark, slightly ominous shot of the entrance – I should have stolen the bf’s GoPro…
Next, we went to the island of Lopud. Lopud is a small island but it is (sparsely) inhabited. Its a lovely, quiet place as its only accessible by boat. It has one of the few sandy beaches around and the restaurants along the beach all serve fresh seafood with a fantastic view. We walked around the island for a bit, but mostly contented ourself sitting at the restaurant drinking cold beer and taking in the view. We chose Obala as our place to eat. Although it was not cheap I quite liked the food. We had Garlic Shrimp and really good Mussels. I had a Seafood Medley that was a mixture of crudo, a cured salted fish that was outstanding, marinated anchovies and butter-y mussels.
There is also a 15th century Franciscan monastery at the island, but unlike the one in Lokrum, this one is active. Although it seems like people can visit from Trip Advisor someone informed us we were not allowed to go in. It looked quite shady and peaceful inside, with courtyard gardens and a church. Maybe it was the fact that we were dressed a bit too beach friendly to be allowed into a spiritual place?
We got back to Dubrovnik just in time to see the sunset. I don’t know why swimming and being in the sun makes you quite so sleepy-eyed and tired but at the same time absurdly content. Salty skinned and slightly sunburned, at this point all I wanted was cold water and pistachio gelato. And that’s exactly what we did, two large scoops of gelato and some large bottles of ice cold water to ease the walk back to our airBnB. We ended the day with some more of that less than stellar cheapo wine while enjoying our more than stellar view of the Adriatic, followed by impromptu naps. Ready for our last day in Dubrovnik and the last day for me to mentally harness the courage to cliff dive off Buza Bar (spoiler alert I don’t :P ).