Hikes, Energy Clinics and Baths of Milk and Honey: A Wellness Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Get in touch with your inner calm in Dubrovnik
Get in touch with your inner calm in Dubrovnik | © Taja Planinc / Getty Images
Natalia Lusinski

Aside from its stunning bright blue Adriatic Sea, picture-perfect beaches and famous Game of Thrones locations, Dubrovnik has a burgeoning wellness scene just waiting to be discovered. Whether you want to hike to a lookout point or fancy visiting an Energy Clinic, there are many ways to find pockets of relaxation when you want to take a break from the bustling city.

It’s often said in Croatia that the Adriatic Sea has healing properties: whatever your ailment – from feeling sick to having a bad day at work – just go to the sea and you’ll feel better in no time at all. Aside from the sea, you can also find myriad activities centred around self-care and wellness in Dubrovnik. From spending time hiking and getting a massage to soaking in a bath of milk and honey, there are plenty of ways to stay healthy while visiting this culture-rich city.

Unwind with a Thai massage

Unwind and relax with a calming massage

If you want to decompress after a day of sightseeing, a visit to Touch of Thai Massage & Spa may be just what you need. It’s a favourite for local resident Ana Matušić, creator of the Hello Dubrovnik patented hand fan, which doubles as a travel guide. “Traditional Thai therapeutic massage is based on the principles of acupressure and works on energy lines that run throughout the body,” she says. “This helps release existing blockages to allow for a free flow of energy.” She says you can choose from many types of massages, from a traditional Thai stretching massage to a deep tissue one.

Rehydrate with a restorative herbal tea

Following each treatment, guests are served a complimentary cup of lemongrass tea. And if you want to follow up your massage with a healthy treat, she suggests stopping at Smart bar Matej – Freshshop Dubrovnik, less than a 5-minute walk away. “It’s situated in a green environment and offers things like freshly squeezed natural juices, smoothies and sandwiches,” she says. “I love the Killer Smoothie – yogurt, bananas, strawberries, honey and ice – and you can have protein added to it too.”

Stop by a local farmers’ market for fresh produce

Sample local produce to connect with your surroundings

There are a number of farmers’ markets in Dubrovnik, including one in the Old Town, in Gundulić Square. Here you can find everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and dried figs to homemade cheese, honey, rakija (fruit-flavored brandy) and lavender products – an essential Croatian souvenir. If you’re there at noon, you’ll see a time-honoured ritual: countless pigeons swarming the square near the statue of Ivan Gundulić as people feed them. Afterwards, head to a nearby café for lunch.

If you’re close to the bus station and main port and want an authentic local experience, make a beeline for the Gruž Market, where you’ll find plenty of produce, freshly caught fish, goat’s cheese, eggs and homemade Ragusa orange cake. Bring cash and, if you want seafood, arrive when the market opens at 7am or even a bit earlier.

Lapad also has a local farmers’ market, which is perfect if you’re headed to a neighbouring beach and want to bring along a picnic complete with fresh fruit and vegetables. There’s also a bakery nearby where you can pick up some bread and sweet treats.

Visit an Energy Clinic

Energy Clinics offer a serene atmosphere

When you visit a Dubrovnik Energy Clinic – a spa-like setting offered at a number of hotels and villas – expect an immediate sense of wellness and relaxation. You can find these centres at Villa Orsula, Villa Sheherezade, Hotel Kompas, Villa Agave, Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, Hotel Excelsior, Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik and Grand Villa Argentina. “Many tourists don’t know that even if you are not a guest of the hotels, you can still book an experience at them,” says Matušić. “Energy Clinics are spa destinations that cater to people who want stress relief and relaxation in a serene atmosphere, which is ideal while on vacation.”

Grand Villa Argentina is among the many locations offering the chance to unwind.

She says that whether you want to focus on your own stress relief and self-renewal or connect with your partner and go together, the clinics are an ideal place to relax. Services range from facials and body scrubs to massages and relaxing in a jacuzzi – and you can also purchase their line of organic cosmetics to bring a touch of serenity back home with you. Matušić points out that at Grand Villa Argentina, you can have your massage on their outdoor terrace “with a most enchanting view of the Old Town”.

Soak in a milk and honey bath

Try a milk bath with flowers to wash your cares away

Another spa that will give you “restorative bliss” is the spa at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel, says Matušić. “From the moment you enter, the serene ambience will relax you.” When you book a massage, you can also use amenities such as the pool, steam bath, sauna, Finnish sauna, sauna lounge and relaxation room, which has water beds in it. Whether you’re seeking a temperature of 45C (113F) or up to 100C (212F) to help you unwind, you’ll find it here. You can also sit back and relax with a cup of tea or the healthy snacks on hand.

“My boyfriend and I recommend getting the classic full-body massage, followed by a bath in milk and honey for two,” says Matušić. Or you can go to the pool and lie down with a good book in the spa’s “healthy corner”. Once you leave the spa – hard as it may be to leave – Matušić suggests exploring the Babin Kuk area: you can take a walk in the park, have something to eat or make your way to Copacabana Beach or Sunset Beach Dubrovnik. The Lapad Bay Pedestrian Zone is also nearby – a lovely area to stroll.

Take a hike to one of many of Dubrovnik’s lookout points

Croatia offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors

There’s nothing like a hike to help you feel at one with nature – and yourself. Since it’s hugged by the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has many lovely lookout points that offer stunning sea vistas. One of the most famous hiking trails leads from Old Town Dubrovnik to Mount Srđ. “Mount Srđ seems a world away from the lush subtropical world of the coastal strip, with bare stone and scrubs stretching as far as the eye can see,” says Željka Janjanin, co-founder and mountain guide at Hiking Dubrovnik. “As you climb to the top of Mount Srđ, stunning views of the walled town below open up to you with a panorama of the whole coast stretching as far as the Pelješac Peninsula to the northwest.” In just about 45 minutes, you’ll have a whole different perspective on the city.

Janjanin’s favorite hiking trail is above the Konavle Valley – also known as “The Golden Valley” – which is about a 35-minute drive from the city of Dubrovnik. “The hiking trail uses the original steam railway which was built in 1903 during Austro-Hungarian times and closed in 1976 – it’s known locally as ‘Ćiro,’” she explains. “Along the route, you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the valley and pass through the tunnel pierced into the rocks. The old railway trail is rarely used by people, so it is a uniquely peaceful place with a lot of historical stories to share, and the path through the forest is known only to local people and mountaineers.”

Connect with nature on Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

If you want a quaint, peaceful island to explore nature – with plenty of swimming options too – Lokrum Island is the place. Just a 10-minute boat ride from Old Town Dubrovnik, the location makes it perfect for enjoying for a few hours between sightseeing, says Iva Čehić, sales manager of Buggy Safari Dubrovnik. “What I love most about going to Lokrum Island is the peace and quiet you can enjoy there,” she says. “There are no cars or loud bars and restaurant music, and each person can find their own little spot to relax in the sun and swim in the gorgeous sea.” Whether you walk up to Fort Royal or take a leisurely walk through the botanical garden, you’re guaranteed to feel at ease on the island. Plus, it’s common to see peacocks and rabbits crossing your path.

Explore one of Dubrovnik’s many beaches

Dive into Croatia’s inviting waters

While it may be difficult to choose which Dubrovnik beach(es) to go to, it’s a good problem to have. Ivan Vuković Vuka, a tour guide who was born and bred in Dubrovnik, has been giving tours there since 2006 and has some ideas. “Definitely visit Titova Vila Beach – you have everything there, from sand and pebble to limestone terraces and sunbathing,” he says. “And in the small, sandy area of the beach, you can join locals who play picigin – a famous Croatian game that’s played in shallow water wherein players have to keep a small ball from touching the water.”

If you want to sit back and relax at a beach near the city walls, Mirna Vučković of Karaka Travel recommends Banje Beach. “It’s one of the most popular beaches, mainly because of its proximity to the walls of the Old Town of Dubrovnik and its beauty – you can see the small island of Lokrum in front of it and amazing sunsets with the city walls as the background.”

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