Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Week of Sun and Sea in Dubrovnik

Having never been to the Balkans and looking for some sun before the long winter hibernation, Keenan and I booked a late summer getaway to Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea. Also looking to escape hot and smoggy Hong Kong, my sister and brother-in-law also joined us on this trip for a week of sea, sun, and relaxation in beautiful Croatia. In a recent issue of Conde Nast Traveler, the author mentioned that September was the perfect month to visit Dubrovnik as the temperature is at a perfect 75F degree with a gentle sea breeze and less crowded. CN Traveler was right -- the weather was great (except one evening of stormy weather) and the gorgeous crystal clear water was amazing; however, to our surprise, Dubrovnik was still flooded with day-trippers from major cruise ships, all elderly retired people squeezed into the old city walls of Dubrovnik. Tip: research cruise schedule and avoid Old Town like the Bubonic Plague on cruise ship days. 

Dubrovnik Old Town isn’t very big, but it is extremely picturesque and absolutely beautiful with all of its ornate churches and plaza, atmospheric harbour side restaurants, cute narrow alleyways and steep stairs.  You should allow at least a day to explore Old Town and walk the perimeter of the old city walls, and then reward yourself with an ice-cold Croatian pivo.

Around Old Town Dubrovnik:

The main drag, Stradun, as well as the parallel street, Prijeko, are extremely touristy and I would avoid eating here at all cost. Instead, seek out restaurants on little side streets such as Mea Culpa on Za Rokum for woodfire pizza, or Lokanda Peskarija on Na Ponti for specialty seafood, including black risotto, octopus salad, grilled squid, mussels, and oysters. Also note that whole fish (sold by the kilo) is insanely expensive, and there isn’t a lot of variety in terms of cuisine except for Italian and Croatian.

Croatian seafood:

Rather than staying in Old Town, we booked a two-bedroom/two-bath villa situated on a clifftop overlooking Miramare Bay with a small semi-private beach below – it was our little oasis for the week. Mornings were spent lounging on terrace sipping coffee, afternoons being lazy on the beach, and evenings dining alfresco in Dubrovnik Old Town, or a sundowner at Buza Bar, an outdoor bar perched on rocks outside the old city walls with perfect views of Lokrum Island. Ah, the good life. 

The Villa and Beach:

Our private Buza and sundowner:

Drinks at Buza Bar, Old Town Dubrovnik:

Aside from sun and relaxation, our main objective on this trip was also to explore the region’s complex history as well as its natural beauty. We took two excursions to neighbouring countries: Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina (B-H) and Kotor/Budva in Montenegro, which we will write about separately as it deserves its own post. We also visited the nearby island of Mjlet, which is only 90 minutes away by the fast passenger ship, for an afternoon of biking, kayaking, swimming, and hiking around the forest-clad island. According to Homer’s epic tale, Odysseus was held on Mjlet Island by nymph Calypso for nearly seven years.On the island, there are two “lakes” (think lagoons): Malo Jerezo (small lake) and Veliko Jerezo (large lake), both perfect for sunbathing as the clear blue-green water is swallow and warm. We also went kayaking around the lake, spotting loads of jellyfish and schools of fish. If you have time for one island excursion, make it Mjlet and enjoy the beauty of this island.
Mjlet Island:

Croatia is definitely a hot destination at the moment. Go to Split and Hvar Island if you are looking for nightlife and partying, but if you are looking to get away for some peace and quiet, head to Dubrovnik, and be sure to take an excursion to its neighboring countries.

More to come from Bosnia & Herzegovina  and Montenegro...

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