My backpack jostled in my lap as the car sped along the cliffs. With tired eyes and still gripping my passport, the yellow lights of Old Town slowly came into view. Draped in midnight darkness, the city glowed and the sea silently lapped against the white cliffs down below.
“Would you like to stop to take a picture?”
“Oh, that’s okay!” I answered our driver as we zipped down the winding coastal road at what felt like 80 miles per hour.
“No, no, I’ll stop and you take a picture. It’s beautiful. Just look.”
The car already pulled over on the road’s edge and the lights below beckoning, my friends and I hopped out to dart across the street and take the first pictures of our destination: Dubrovnik, Croatia.
“The Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik sits elegantly on the Sea with its bright red roofs and ancient streets holding centuries of history. Our first full day in Dubrovnik we chose to ride the ferry out to the nearby Island of Lokrum. The Island boasts Croatia’s natural beauty, from wandering royal peacocks to hidden blue lagoons. Lined with olive trees, the picturesque “Path of Paradise” up to Fort Royal gives travelers a 360-degree view from the highest point of the island. Lokrum itself is steeped in ancient legend, including tales of King Richard the Lion-Heart washing up shipwrecked on the Island’s shores. Legend also holds that the Island is cursed after sundown, so be sure to make the last ferry leaving at five in the evening!
Our second day we ventured back to Old Town Dubrovnik to wander the city’s back streets and small shops. Each alley in Old Town has its own character and leads you through the maze of the city. In the afternoon, we set off on the City Wall walk. Completed in the 16th century, the City Wall stretches around the entirety of Old Town and delivers breathtaking views of Dubrovnik’s iconic red roofs and the glittering Adriatic. From the walk, travelers also come face to face with the recent history of Dubrovnik. The bright red tiles that stand out on the fading roofs mark the parts of Old Town that were bombed during the Bosnian war in 1991. The tiles serve as an eternal reminder of the medieval city’s endurance and ever-evolving history.
For lodging we chose to stay at an Airbnb house in the local village of Brescine, about 40 minutes by bus outside of Old Town. While the hike up the small mountain to our house wore my sandals thinner each day, each step was worth it for a taste of daily Croatian life and the serenity of the quiet hillside village. We were fortunate to have friends staying in Old Town able to visit us in Brescine on our last day, and enjoyed a peaceful, sunny afternoon together exchanging endless stories and laughs. The sun melting behind the Adriatic and a warm breeze whistling by, Dubrovnik had stolen our hearts in just a few days time.
Throughout our trip, we witnessed the city bring people together. Our reunion with friends passing through. Speaking with our hostess about raising her family in Brescine. Seeing family homes restored under bright red roofs, war wounds mended tile by tile. Each instance revealed Dubrovnik to be more than an ancient city frozen in time, but a city bursting with energy and growth. For this and its captivating beauty, Dubrovnik still stands apart from all of my travels. If you’re looking for outdoor adventures or calm moments by the sea, legends of old or a history still unfolding before your very eyes — Dubrovnik is the destination for you!