Discover the Dubrovnik Riviera: from beautiful beaches to food, wine and culture, this is your must-visit guide

As summer approaches, Croatia comes calling, and for many, there’s only one place to head for. Set right on the sparkling Adriatic Sea, the UNESCO city of Dubrovnik has attracted visitors for centuries.

In its time, it’s been ruled by the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Republic of Venice, the French and Austrian Empires, and the Republic of Ragusa, and what you’ll find here today is a mix of majestic architecture from all these eras, from its mediaeval walls to its Baroque cathedrals and churches. There’s nothing quite like taking a stroll down the Stradun, the city’s spectacular main street, paved with polished limestone slabs. Here you can marvel at landmarks such as the Pile and Ploce Gates at each end, the large and small Onofrio Fountains, and the striking bell towers which loom over the landscape.

But the city is only part of the story; the region beyond it, known as the Dubrovnik Riviera, should definitely be on your itinerary, thanks to its nature, beaches, cultural heritage, gastronomy and wine. It all falls under the domain of Dubrovnik-Neretva, Croatia’s southernmost county, and with only 127,000 residents scattered across an area of nearly 700 square miles, what you’ll get most is a blissful feeling of space, and a sense of utter relaxation. Here you’ll find small, charming coastal towns, stunning islands, well-preserved national parks, historic sites, and, of course, delicious food and drink.

Idyllic islands

From it’s pretty old town to its unspoiled beaches, Korčula makes for a memorable trip (Visit Dubrovnik)

So, where to begin? Start with a spot of island life on Korčula, a striking strip of land you can reach by catamaran from Dubrovnik, or ferry from Orebić in Pelješac and Split. Carpeted in dense forests of pine and oak, it offers plenty of shaded walking trails which wind through olive groves, vineyards, and villages. Its fortified mediaeval old town offers picturesque cobbled streets and crenellated walls, with some beautiful sights such as the 15th century St Mark’s Cathedral, which houses works by Tintoretto. Head to the top of its belltower for magnificent views out to sea.

Nearby are unspoiled beaches and shaded coves; make a beeline for Lumbarda, a small fisherman’s village with the best sandy beaches on the island. Pržina has year-round warm seas, while neighbouring Bilin Žal is popular with families thanks to its shallow water, ideal for paddling.

Another pretty island is Mljet, which boasts Mediterranean vegetation, crystal-clear seas, and soft, sandy shorelines. At its western end you’ll find 13,000 acres of tranquil National Park, criss-crossed with sheltered walking and cycling tracks, a ruggedly beautiful coastline, ancient ruins and saltwater lakes. Look out for the sprawling remains of a vast, 5th century Roman palace on the waterfront of nearby Polače village.

Then there’s Lastovo, a tiny paradise which is Croatia’s most remote inhabited island. With a population of less than a thousand people, this is where to head when you want absolute quiet and seclusion. Here you’ll find thick forests, craggy coastline, and peaceful walking trails, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves rolling in, and occasional birdsong. It’s also one of the best spots in Europe for stargazing as there is very little light pollution.

Valleys and vineyards

Immerse yourself in local history with a trip to Ston on the Pelsejac peninsula (Visit Dubrovnik)

Back on the mainland, you’ll find the Pelsejac peninsula. Around an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik, it boasts jagged mountains, pine and cypress groves, sweeping valleys and idyllic coves. Two historic towns, Ston – where you can still walk around some of the remaining 14th century defence walls – and Orebić, bookend the peninsula. Plan the perfect trip travelling between the two, stopping off for wine tastings along the way, and don’t miss the chance to sample fresh oysters around Ston.

Watersports fans should make for Viganj, Croatia’s windsurfing capital, and for some of the best wine in the region, head to vineyards along the coastal slopes of the Peljesac peninsula, Dingač and Postup to sample the famed Plavac Mali, a deep, robust red.

Another recommendation is the Neretva Valley, one of the most picturesque parts of the country. Here you’ll find charming towns such as Ploče, which features beautiful churches and monuments, and Komin, with its wide, golden stretch of sand. If you fancy something adventurous, try kite-surfing on the river delta.

The valley’s crowning gem, however, is the Baćina Lakes – a set of seven interconnected bodies of turquoise water, which are actually lower than sea level. Take a boat trip or paddle along them by kayak, soaking up the majesty of your surroundings. To the south of Dubrovnik is Konavle, a striking, natural region with ancient architecture and lovely landscapes. It offers many activities to get you out into the picturesque surroundings and fabulous fresh air, including cycling and horse riding.

From surf to turf, delicious cheeses, sweets and wine, you can enjoy an incredible foodventure (Visit Dubrovnik)

And finally, you can’t forget the food. The Dubrovnik Riviera offers everything from incredible fish and meat dishes to sweet, tasty desserts. You’ll find more unusual dishes in the Neretva Valley, including eel and frog stew and a dish of wild duck. Around the Pelsejac peninsula, as well as oysters, look out for mussels and grilled sardines. You’ll find goat’s cheese and game on Mljet, and juicy kopun, or rooster, on Korčula. So go ahead and take a big bite out of this incredible region this summer; you won’t be disappointed.

For more Dubrovnik travel inspiration and information, head to Visit Dubrovnik

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