9 Top-Rated Day Trips from Dubrovnik
Blessed with a stunning location on the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is surrounded by rewarding day trip destinations. Just offshore, wooded islands punctuate the clear waters, with sleepy villages; calm, pebbly beaches; and time-worn monasteries and churches. Sailing trips are a popular way to explore these beautiful islands. Along the coast, red-roofed villas cascade down hillsides in picturesque towns such as Cavtat, and foodies will love the Peljesac Peninsula, with its patchwork of farms and succulent shellfish and oysters. Be sure to bring your passport; Dubrovnik is just a short drive away from the diminutive country of Montenegro, where you can soak up the hypnotic beauty of its tiny villages and hike amid pine-covered mountain peaks. And for history and culture vultures, Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina outshines its battle-scarred past with its welcoming locals and picturesque old town on the banks of the Neretva River.
1 The Island of Lokrum
Just 600 meters from the shores of Dubrovnik is the pretty little pine-covered island of Lokrum, a popular day trip for those visiting this beautiful part of the Dalmatian coast. Easily accessed by a short ferry ride from the port in Dubrovnik's Old Town, the island is home to an old monastery, walking trails, and gardens. Perched 96 meters atop the island's tallest peak, the French Fort Royal Castle is fun to explore and offers superb views over the Adriatic and Dubrovnik. Also worth the journey is the lovely Lokrum Botanical Garden, notable for its collection of both native and imported plants (keep an eye out for its resident peacocks). Bring your swimsuit if you want to sunbathe or take a dip in the small lake Mrtvo More, which means "Dead Sea," and remember to ask the locals about the island's legendary curse.
Only 30 minutes from Dubrovnik by car, Cavtat snuggles between a mountain range and a picturesque harbor. It tends to be less touristy than Dubrovnik - especially in the summer - and offers a more relaxed pace. A great spot to begin exploring Cavtat is the charming old town, with its narrow, cobbled streets and old stone buildings capped with red-tiled roofs. One of the town's most famous residents was the artist Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922), and you can tour his former home and see his paintings adorning the town. Other highlights in Cavtat include the Rector's Palace (Knezev Dvor) and the Racic Mausoleum, in the town's cemetery, designed by Ivan Mestrovic, a Croatian sculptor. Thanks to the town's beautiful setting, outdoor adventures are also popular and include swimming and sunbathing at the pebbly beaches, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, and biking. Cavtat is also serviced by local buses and water taxis from Dubrovnik.
Less than two hours' drive from Dubrovnik, the tiny country of Montenegro (Crna Gora) exudes a magical beauty. The country has been independent since 2006 and packs jaw-dropping scenery and charming villages into an area barely the size of Connecticut. Along the coast, mountains plunge to the Adriatic sea, sandy beaches rim sapphire seas, and red-roofed villages cling to rocky hillsides. Inland, you can explore rugged mountain peaks, canyons carved by rushing rivers, and pristine pine forests. Straddling the border between east and west, Montenegro showcases its rich history in its charming villages and towns, such as the World Heritage-listed walled city of Kotor, with St. John's Fortress, and the charming village of Perast. Other highlights include the walled medieval beach town of Budva; beautiful Kotor Bay, Europe's most southern fjord; the Tara River Canyon; Skadar Lake; and Durmitor, a national park where outdoor adventures include hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, and rafting.
Famous as the birthplace of explorer Marco Polo, Korčula is a medieval walled town on a beautiful island of the same name. It is often described as a mini Dubrovnik, thanks to its beautiful but compact old town, and is easily reached from the city on a 2.5-hour catamaran (in season). Alternatively, you can travel to the town of Orebić, less than two hours from Dubrovnik on the Peljesac Peninsula, and take a 20-minute ferry ride to the island. The narrow car-free streets of the Old City of Korčula are a delight to wander, and you can see the house where Marco Polo reputedly once lived as well as the Venetian-inspired St. Mark's Cathedral, with its distinctive bell tower. Once part of the mighty Venetian empire, the town still reflects this heritage in its graceful architecture. Other highlights of a visit to the island include the calm bays, which are a mix of pebbles and sand but are lovely for a cool dip; the sleepy little villages; and the picturesque countryside cloaked in grapevines, olive trees, and pines. Korčula is also known for the moreška sword dance, a traditional dance performed for tourists on summer evenings just outside the town walls.
Still showing some scars from its turbulent past, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Mostar, about 130 kilometers from Dubrovnik in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a cultural crossroads with a fascinating history. The picturesque Neretva River flows through this Ottoman frontier town. On the eastern bank is the atmospheric Muslim part of town, while the western bank is predominantly the domain of Catholic Croats. In the charming old town, a tangle of cobbled streets leads to the river, where the historic Old Bridge (Stari Most) is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. Other highlights include the old town's historic buildings, the Mosque of Mostar, and the Old Bazaar, where you can shop for local arts and crafts and sip Turkish coffee.
About 25 kilometers from Mostar, the town of Međugorje is a popular stop for Catholic pilgrims. Most people come here to visit Apparition Hill, the site where six local children first claimed to see a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary on June 24, 1981. Since this date, these same six people, now adults, have reported many more sightings, and others claim to have witnessed supernatural phenomena.
6 Mljet National Park
Easily reached from Dubrovnik by catamaran, the thickly wooded island of Mljet is a haven for hikers and nature lovers. The western third of the island is home to pine-covered Mljet National Park, with two interconnected turquoise saltwater lakes as its focal points: Veliko Jezero and Malo Jezero ("Big Lake" and "Small Lake"). One of the lakes even has its own tiny island - St. Mary - with an 800-year-old Benedictine monastery, which you can explore on a boat tour. Favorite activities on the island include swimming in the cool waters; kayaking, mountain biking; feasting on fresh lobster, the island's specialty; and hiking the nine-kilometer trail along the edge of the lakes or up the hills to savor panoramic island views. The catamaran trip to Polače, within Mljet National Park, only operates in summer and usually takes about one hour and 50 minutes. But you can also access the island by taking a one-hour catamaran or ferry trip to the town of Sobra.
7 The Elafiti Islands
If you're a fan of sailing and island-hopping, the beautiful Elafiti Islands beckon a short boat ride from Gruž, the port area of Dubrovnik. The archipelago consists of 13 islands, but only three are inhabited and they make a lovely day trip, with their quaint villages and peaceful beaches. A great way to explore them is on a sailing trip from Dubrovnik. Koločep is usually the first stop and perhaps the most popular of the islands, where the scent of pines from centuries-old forests mingles with lemon and orange blossoms. You can bask on the beaches, which are a mix of sand and pebbles; explore a sea cave; and admire the summer homes. Other attractions include the ruins of a basilica and the Chapel of St. Anton, with a 15th-century polyptych of Ivan Ugrinovic, one of the most famous works among all the Dubrovnik artists. Šipan is the largest island in the archipelago and is known for its tranquil bays and beaches as well as its old houses and churches. Lopud is car-free and a little more geared for tourism. Highlights here include the ruins of fortresses, summer homes, and medieval churches, and a 15th-century Franciscan monastery, with a church full of priceless art. Another popular stop is sandy Šunj beach, a 30-minute walk from Lopud's port.
8 The Peljesac Peninsula
About a 60-90-minute drive from Dubrovnik, opposite the island of Korčula, the Peljesac Peninsula is Dalmatia's largest peninsula and a fun day trip destination - especially for foodies. The sparsely populated peninsula is a patchwork of farms, grapevines, fig, almond, and lemon trees, and the little town of Ston is famous for its shellfish and oysters. Wildflowers and groves of pine and cypress surround the sleepy villages, and you'll also find some Blue Flag beaches along the peninsula, rated highly thanks to their safe swimming areas. The main settlement is Orebić, one of Croatia's warmest spots thanks to Mt. Ilija, which shelters the town from northerly winds. Popular activities here are a visit to Our Lady of the Angels, a historic monastery; the four-hour hike up Mt. Ilija; and sunbathing and swimming at the beaches. Boats often depart from Orebić to the island of Korčula, so you could combine these two destinations into one day trip.
About 230 kilometers from Dubrovnik, the vibrant city of Split is a long day trip, but it's one of the country's top tourism destinations and it's worth seeing if this is your only chance. In a gorgeous setting between the mountains and the sea, Split is Croatia's second largest city after Zagreb, and centers around the magnificent 1,700-year-old Diocletian's Palace. The palace was commissioned by its namesake Roman Emperor between the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD and recently used as a location for the popular series Game of Thrones. Today, shops, galleries, apartments, and restaurants reside within its ancient walls creating a kind of living museum, and it's interesting to see daily life revolving around this historic Roman monument. Highlights of Split's pedestrian-only UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town include the Peristyle, the Palace's central square; the Cathedral of St. Domnius; the Temple of Jupiter; and the impressive palace gates.
Other top attractions in Split include the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, one of Croatia's oldest museums, with a collection of fascinating artifacts from the 7th to the 15th centuries; the Ivan Meštrović Gallery; and the beautiful Marjan Forest Park and Marjan Stairway, with hiking trails and spectacular views of the city and sea. Strolling along the seafront promenade, the Riva, is a popular local pastime, especially in the early evenings. Split is also a launching point for trips to Dalmatian summer resorts such as the Pakleni Islands, Zlatni Rat, Brela, Solta, and Milna.