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The glorious Lokrum island is just a short ferry hop from Dubrovnik, and you could be relaxing under the pines in just 20 minutes from the Old Town. A cornucopia of tropical vegetation, craggy beaches and wild peacocks, Lokrum doesn’t feature on cruise ship itineraries, but as the closest of the Elaphite Islands, it’s far from deserted. On Lokrum, crowds tend to gather around the ‘Dead Sea’, a miniature salt lake, but there are plenty of hidden bays on the island, so there’s adequate room to perfect your Robinson Crusoe impression.
For travellers with more time on their hands, the Dubrovnik-Neretva valley is an awesome day trip you scarcely read about in the brochures. Just an hour and a half’s drive from Dubrovnik, the Neretva Delta is a jaw-dropping expanse, a huge green valley with a preponderance of lush vegetation. A far cry from the dusty, bone-dry landscape of the Dalmatian coast, you can traverse these verdant flatlands on a boat safari, and enjoy the passing scenery of exotic wildlife (it’s popular with birdwatchers) and citrus groves. Complete the day’s outing with a Brojet stew: made with eels and frogs, its a Neretva delicacy.
There are only a handful of places in the world where you can circumnavigate a UNESCO-world heritage site while paddling on the waves, and guess what? Dubrovnik is one of them. An easy and adventurous way to beat the crowds is to rent a kayak and splash around Dubrovnik’s world-famous parameters. The trail usually starts at Fort Lovrijenac which stars as the Red Keep in HBO’s Game of Thrones series.
Down one of the cobbled alleyways jutting off Stradun, D’vino is a lovely wine bar stocking 60 varieties of domestic and international wine, sold by the glass and bottle. The staff here really know their stuff, so don’t hesitate to ask for guidance. Wine pilgrims should look out for the world-beating red from Frano Miloš winery, alongside the superlative Grgić Plavac Mali and Zlatan Plavac. Antipasti platters are made to complement your choice of wine, and tasting sessions are available, just contact ahead to book. Nab one of the outdoor tables to enjoy a balmy Meditteranean evening on the terrace.
The craze for open-air cinemas is gathering steam in Croatia, and Dubrovnik now boasts two: Kino Jadran and Kino Slavica, with a dedicated programme of international and subtitled Croatian films in the summer months. There’s nothing like watching a film under a canopy of stars, with a cooling salt-breeze floating in from the Adriatic.
Every morning, thousands of holidaymakers pour out of the cruise ships and into the tiny Old Town. With a little forward planning, you can sidestep the stream of pedestrians and explore the historic city and its medieval fortifications off-peak. It means setting your alarm clock early or staying up late, as the City Walls are open from 8am – 3am. As well as skipping the crowds, a brisk morning walk or a late-night stroll is a far more comfortable experience, as the route offers little shelter from the scorching midday sun.