Dubrovnik - the pearl of the Adriatic! Known best for its incredible medieval walls, the city is a treasure trove of traveler's delights. From fabulous historic buildings and picturesque islands, to boat cruises and wine tours, Dubrovnik is a superb holiday destination. With all this to whet your traveler’s palette, it might be easy to overlook some of Dubrovnik’s local natural beauty.
In this article we’ll introduce three places where you can enjoy local nature without straying too far from the city. We have several guides who are waiting to help you discover the natural beauty of Dubrovnik!
Velika and Mala Petka Forest Park
At the northwestern tip of Dubrovnik’s city center, you’ll find a very different environment at the Velika and Mala Petka Forest Park. This 43 hectare park may be small, but it offers a secluded getaway from the tourist traffic with walking routes in the shade of Aleppo pines. Follow the paths to the tops of the Velika Petka and Mala Petka Hills to enjoy vistas of Lapad Bay, the southern cliffs, and the Grebeni Rocks. Hold that special someone close at the Romantic Seaview Point as you gaze over the Adriatic Sea.
The park is suitable for walking, jogging, and trail running with both paved and gravel paths, though vehicular traffic is not permitted. Various species of birds reside in the park and several species more use it as a stopover on their migratory routes.
Velika and Mala Petka Forest Park is a great place to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere beneath a canopy of pines as you marvel at views of the sea. The best part is that it’s right on the edge of town, and there are several hotels within a few minutes' walking distance.
Hiking on Mt. Srd
Rising up 412 meters (1,352 feet) behind Dubrovnik, Mt. Srd serves as the city’s iconic backdrop. The top of the mountain can be easily reached by cable car, which is the means most tourists prefer to take. There is, however, a switchback hiking course to the top of the mountain. The course takes about an hour at a very leisurely pace, and with hardly any trees on the slope, you are guaranteed a clear view back over the city and the sea nearly every time you turn your head. You can rest your legs at the occasional stone bench located near the 12 ‘Stations of the Cross’ at the switchback corners on the route. Keep in mind that although the hike is not long, the Adriatic sun will be glaring down upon you as you ascend. Be sure to wear a hat and carry something to drink. The path is in good shape but not paved, so hikers are advised to bring proper footwear and leave the beach sandals back at the hotel. At the top of the mountain, take in the sweeping panorama of the city, the sea, and the nearby islands. The view is pretty much what you saw on the way up, but there’s that feeling that you earned it!
Time for a rest and some refreshments? Why not stop in at the Panorama Restaurant & Bar whose menu covers everything from coffee and cake to a full-course Croatian dinner? History lovers can also visit the Homeland War Museum. Mt. Srd was one of the battlegrounds in the Croatian war for independence from 1991-1994, and the museum commemorates this period. Also, Game of Thrones fans take note: one part of the road at the top of Mt. Srd was used as a filming location for the Kingsroad.
For the route back, the intrepid hiker and curious traveler may want to take a lesser-traveled route. First, follow the paved road to the nearby village of Bosanka. New homes were built here after the war, but the remains of the war-blasted abodes still stand amidst the vegetation. Bosanka has a restaurant called the Konoba Dubrava. Meals here take a little longer to cook, but they do take orders by phone, and the prices are more gentle on the pocketbook than at the Panorama. The final leg of your hike is where having a knowledgeable guide really comes in handy. From Bosanka there is a path of stone steps leading back down to the port. The Old Town will be ahead of you all the way down as wildflowers wave in the breeze. The descent by this route is breathtaking and takes less than half an hour. Seek it out and you will not be disappointed.
The hike on Mt. Srd is considered a must for visitors to Dubrovnik, though if hiking is not your style, there is always the cable car, a taxi, or even a ride up with a private guide.
Lokrum Island is indeed a special place of natural interest. The forest-covered island right across the water from Dubrovnik’s classic walls was established as a special natural preserve due to the presence of over 400 species of plants that represent every developmental stage of vegetation in the European Mediterranean area. It’s a ten-minute boat ride to the island, and there’s a legend that Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked here when returning from the Crusades.
Because of its special status, the rules on Lokrum Island are very strict. Smoking and littering are prohibited, and overnight camping and dogs are not permitted. There are a few man-made structures on the island, including Fort Royal, the Church of Annunciation, and an old quarantine hospital which was built in the 16th century but never completed. There is also a monastery from the 15th century that includes the remains of a basilica from the 12th and 13th centuries. Check out the botanical garden that houses over 800 species of exotic plants as well as some lovely gardens.
The diminutive island has a total surface area of just 0.7 square kilometers of which most is covered in vegetation. Apart from all the indigenous species, over time humans have planted and raised various species of fruit and garden plants. Visitors can walk the Discovery Path beneath holm oak and manna ash, and stroll through the Aleppo pine forest, said to be the most beautiful on the island. Head down to the shore and search for marine and tidepool life at the Bay of Portoc, and explore the natural limestone and dolomite rock benches, pools, and caves. The island has many caves due to the erosive nature of the bedrock. One of the more interesting places is at Mrtvo More (the Dead Sea), where an underwater tunnel connects this pool to the Adriatic.
Lokrum is also the home of the Balkan green lizard and Hermann’s tortoise. Mammals include the southern white-breasted hedgehog and the fat dormouse. Around 156 bird species have been accounted for, either residing on the island or stopping over during their migrations. If you’re a bird watcher, you won’t want to forget your binoculars. Day trips to Lokrum Island are scheduled in the Old Town of Dubrovnik.
Once you look into the places of natural beauty, you’ll quickly understand why many locals consider that there are two sides to Dubrovnik. While relishing your time discovering Dubrovnik’s natural side, it would be invaluable to have a private guide to enlighten you about both the natural and human history. So, get in touch with one of our professional guides and get your walking shoes packed!