Island – hopping in Croatia
Croatia is a great destination for the independent traveler, summer schedules extend the availability of flights from local UK airports to Dubrovnik and Split.
From these port cities Island hopping is very easy whether you just want to spend a day somewhere quiet or a night or two exploring one of the 1,200 islands along Croatia’s 2,000 kilometres of coast.
A network of catamarans, croaria ferries and car ferries which also take foot passengers travel between islands a lifeline for communities, also carrying goods and locals.
As we only took hand luggage it was simple to catch the Airport shuttle bus which makes 2 stops cost was 50 Kuna around £6.00 and takes around 30 minutes. First stop Srd cable car station just a short walk up hill out side the city walls, then Polce gate at the eastern entrance of the Old Town.
From here it was just a short walk over the wooden draw bridge and through imposing gates into the walled medieval town. First impressions are awesome as you walk beneath the battlements, along Stradun the main limestone-paved pedestrian street, before venturing up well worn steps to that led to our accommodation.
Exploring the city is easy but it does take leg work and a pair of flat shoes. Cobbled streets with resident cats reach up to houses edged with flowers and plants connected by washing lines strung above narrow passageways. Reached by countless stone steps, a patchwork of colour when viewed from above as you can walk the city walls.
An adventure in itself at 1,940 meters long the walls seen today were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries. Dubrovnik has one of the most intact and beautiful medieval fortifications in Europe with 3 round 12 rectangular and 2 corner fortresses and 15 bastions.
The walk takes around 2 hours which is better done in the early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler as there are many steps to climb.
Fortunately there are several cafe’s where you can stop for a legato (ice cream with so many flavours you will definitely eat at least once a day) or a cool drink. Another tip before you start is to fill up your water bottle at Onofrio’s Great Fountain a 15th century water feature near Pile Gate.
Dubrovnik remained almost intact for centuries until almost 30 years ago when it was badly damaged during the 8 months it was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army between 1991 and 1992 during the Croatian War of Independence (or the Homeland War).
Just inside the city walls a map shows the damage to over 11,000 buildings during the bombardment. Magnificent restoration work has been carried out and the scars of war are scarce.
Today the city is famous, for a much better reason Dubrovnik is King’s Landing, capital of Westeros in HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. Fans will not be disappointed if visiting as there are many guided walks to see the locations used in filming and plenty of merchandise for sale.
Bird’s eye view
Entry onto the walls is via steep stairways that reach an elevated platform. As you can imagine from this height the panorama of the city is breath taking especially as the red roof tops contrast against the deep blue of the surrounding sea.
A view which stretches from the old port where tenders shuttle cruise passengers back and forth, across the rooftops, bell towers, side streets with small gardens and buildings that date back to the middle ages.
Looking down into the centre where crowds gather to see the Rector’s Palace now a history museum. Also the Baroque architecture of St. Blaise Church, where at night people gather to sit on the steps and listen to musicians entertaining diners in the outdoors restaurants and bars.
After walking the walls and visiting other famous landmarks of the city such as the Cathedral. Also Orlando’s column which stands in the square you may want to relax. In walking distance just outside the walls through Ploce Gate is the city beach Banje.
It does get crowded but the waters are crystal clear so a good place to cool off. Or sit at one of the numerous bars and cafes situated around the old port. For a different perspective even more interesting are the cave bars which open out on to the craggy rock face with unobstructed views of the sparkling Adriatic.
From the old Port you can also join a boat trip and visit some of the islands close by. Alternatively take a sunset cruise, booked from the many kiosks along the waterfront. Dubrovnik is a city full of history and culture and is a great starting point to further explore the Islands of Croatia.
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