If you’re on the hunt for the best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik, hunt no further than this list. It scours the southerly portion of this Balkan nation to offer up seven top tips on where to go once you’ve tired of the 12th-century castles and the city walls of Game of Thrones fame.
We think we’ve unearthed a pretty eclectic mix of options that should suit all manner of travelers. It all begins with a long, winding inlet that squiggles past yachting towns and mountainsides. Then, we’ll hit the local islands to seek out fish-sizzling tavernas by secret bays. Then, we’ll traipse the mainland shores to find alternative resort towns with more easy-going vibes than the city.
It’s worth saying that virtually all the best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik on this list are going to be easier to access in the peak of the summer months. That’s because many of them are reached by public ferry services that increase in frequency from May onwards and wind up again around October time.
The ria of the Rijeka Dubrovačka wiggles its way from the open Adriatic Sea into the foothills of the Dinaric Alps just north of Dubrovnik city. It’s now a dedicated nature reserve from end to end, though you’ll spot oodles of yacht-filled marinas and coastal apartment blocks running its length. In fact, it’s a bustling and lived-in area with some quiet apartment rentals and prime access to the water.
The two main towns that sit in the inlet are right at its eastern end. They come in the form of Komolac and Rožat. Each has its own boat-bobbing port and straddles the spot where the gushing Ombla River meets the sea as it courses down from the heights of the mountains. Mountains, mind you, that are right on the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, a mere 500 meters to the east!
A day here could be spent wandering the charming promenades and hopping the traditional konoba (old-school Balkan eateries). There are plenty of protected swimming spots, like the pebble strand at Rijeka Beach on the north side of the inlet, and pretty lookout points like Vidikovac Lozica, where you can see the Franjo Tuđman Bridge crossing rugged coast.
The largest and longest of the Elafiti chain that spreads north from the city, Šipan was recently listed among the best lesser-known islands in all of Europe by Guardian Travel. We can see why. It’s a charming, loveable spot that promises to slow down the pace of any holiday.
The biggest town here is only a bijou harbor. It comes in the form of two-street Šipanska Luka on the northern coast. Hop out there and you’ll be greeted by a couple of olive oil shops (they say Šipan has more olive trees per capita than any isle on the continent) and bars where the locals slap dominoes onto the tables.
Beyond the port, you can explore an island rich in backcountry draws and beaches. We love wandering the hidden forest trails on the eastern side in search of mystical chapels. Then, return to the pebbles of Priježba Beach for an evening dip, an aperitivo, and a chilled sunset viewing session. You won’t need a car to access Šipan. An hour-long boat from Dubrovnik should do it.
Probably the most accessible of all the best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik that we’ve got on this list, the Lapad Peninsula is a bulge of land that extends out from the western side of the city itself. It’s so close, in fact, that you can even walk here after doing your sightseeing and shopping down the Stradun strip – it takes around 45 minutes to stroll in from the main old town.
What you get is a whole headland clad in gnarled stone pines and olive groves. It’s perfect for breathing some fresh sea airs after navigating the tight-knit streets and monuments. The piece de resistance has to be the beaches and snorkel spots, though. The most popular is family friendly Uvala Lapad Beach, but there are all manner of hidden coves and rocky inlets along the south shoreline to get stuck into.
Move over Dalmatia. Take a hike Hvar. This long, thin, bending peninsula that pokes from the Croatian coast is fast becoming a fine alternative option for those looking to dodge the crowds of the iconic riviera towns and the Croatian islands. It can be accessed from both Split and Dubrovnik, from where it’s around 50 minutes’ drive to the main gateway to the headland at Ston.
There are a couple of things that put the Pelješac Peninsula on the map. First among them is wine. The grape here is known for its uniquely deep and full-bodied flavor and there’s even a hangover from the Napoleonic era that means the region creates some of the best sparkling in the country. Pair that with the local oysters and you won’t be disappointed!
But back to the peninsula itself. Generally speaking, the further along you go, the more laid-back it gets. Lovely Orebić town is a yachting haven with a mountain that hosts a centuries-old monastery keeping watch. Even deeper in is Lovište, a pint-sized village with red-tiled roofs that guards a bay of pebble coves only really known to boaters.
Okay, so Cavtat is just about as close to Dubrovnik as it is to the international border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it’s considered the most southerly resort in the country. That has a couple of bonuses, most notably the weather and the fact that it’s right on the side of Dubrovnik Airport – you can touch down and be soaking up the rays on the beaches here in a jiffy.
Aside from the fact this is one downright beautiful town, Cavtat is also something of a cultural center. It’s home to the onetime residence of arguably Croatia’s most famous painter: Vlaho Bukovac. It’s also topped by the 500-year-old Monastery of Our Lady of the Snows and has a series of glowing marble mausoleums.
The center is small, relaxed, and eminently walkable. You’ll be able to hop from the coast bars to the beaches in no time. And when you’re ready to hit Dubrovnik, simply jump on the daily water taxi or public bus and get ready for that Game of Thrones sightseeing!
You simply cannot ignore Miljet when looking for the best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik. This is arguably the most stunning island in the country, let alone this sun-kissed southerly region. And it’s close – a ferry of about 1.5 hours can transport you from the port in the city to the small harbor of Sobra, though most people go via another port on the Pelješac Peninsula (see above).
Miljet is famed for being one of the lushest and greenest of all the marks on the Adriatic map. The western end is entirely encompassed by a national park, where sweeping forests of birch trees and Aleppo pines halo two saltwater lakes, one of which is topped by a handsome Benedictine monastery that dates back all the way to the 1100s.
Exploring Miljet is best done on foot or by bike. There are a number of dedicated walking paths that ring the national park area, and quiet roads that reach out eastwards to connect with the ports. If you’re keen to stay a night or 10, the salt-breezy village of Pomena is the place to look to.
Gaze out from the 12th-century city walls of Dubrovnik and you’ll see Lokrum Island rising in the middle of the sea. It’s the closest of all the islands to the town, which makes it super-easy to get to in the summer months. Something like 12 daily ferries link it to the mainland, taking no more than 30 minutes. Plus, you can even get there yourself by renting a sea kayak.
What awaits is a leafy land of rugged capes and coves. The center of it all is the Benedictine Monastery of St. Mary, which is attached to a series of gorgeous botanical gardens and medieval cloisters. You can also hike up the winding roads to the bulky Fort Royal citadel that crowns the north side of the rock.
For getting in the sea, head to the east coast for the rugged jump-off points of Plaže Lokrum. It’s replete with urchin-spotted tide pools and swimming locations. Those with a kayak in tow simply have to track south to Golub spilja, a deep sea cave where the light glimmers a cobalt blue within.
The best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik – our conclusion
There are plenty of destinations that could lay claim to a spot on this list of the best places to visit in Croatia near Dubrovnik. We’ve sifted through the lot to offer hints on just seven of them. Our selection includes famous islands covered in pine woods and dotted with medieval monasteries, but also nearby resort towns that promise to crank up the R&R. On top of that, you can choose from rocks fringed with sea caves and whole peninsulas that are known across the country for their fine wines and oysters.