The Dubrovnik/Neretva County consists of both continental areas and islands. North of Dubrovnik, you can enjoy the natural beauty and peace of ‘Trsteno’ which is home to the oldest arboretum in the world, dating back to 1498.
The Pelješac peninsula, the second largest peninsula in Croatia, is famous for many reasons especially for those associated with the sense of taste and smell. Therefore, when in the area, make sure you don’t miss out on the infamous Pelješac oysters and wines amidst the intense beauty of the peninsula.
South of Dubrovnik and following the coastal road you will find yourself in Župa Dubrovačka, where there are a handful of bays that have a promenade which passes through small romantic places such as Srebreno and Mlini.
If you continue further south, you will find yourself in a vortex of history. The small town of Cavtat will enchant you with its architecture, nature and charm. Historically known as Epidaurum, it used to be a key part of Dubrovnik’s history and development of the city, which the citizens of Cavtat built respectively.
From Cavtat to the border with Montenegro stretches the Konavle municipality which was named after the Latin word 'canalis', referring to water channels that used to bring water from water-wells across Konavle Fields to the ancient city of Epidaurum (present-day Cavtat).
The Elaphite archipelago consists of 13 islands and islets, of which only three are inhabited. Robinson Crusoe will get a run for his money here as the nature and culture on the islands are next to perfection; the peace and tranquillity, invaluable.
The island sitting high north of the Dubrovnik/Neretva County is Korčula which is filled with its rich culture, historical remains and natural surroundings. The town of Korčula is also known as 'Little Dubrovnik' because of the walls that surround it.
The island of Lastovo is the second most forested island in the Adriatic earning it the title of a Nature Park.
With a National Park on the western front to a reserve of natural assets on the eastern front, the island of Mljet is full of flora and fauna, fascinating history and wild adventure offers.
The islands in general have a completely different atmosphere from mainland towns making their way of life all the more special.
TrstenoIf you’re on the edge of your nerves and even a stay in Dubrovnik brings no respite to your soul, it’s time to go green, get back to nature and indulge in a spot of tree hugging at Trsteno. It’s not only the terminally overworked who will be delighted by this historic arboretum – of course, for gardeners and plant lovers it’s unmissable. The centerpiece is a summer villa first built by Dubrovnik nobleman Ivan Marinov Gučetić in 1494. Rather than investing his wealth into a sprawling and luxurious home, he built a more modest abode and surrounded it with gardens in which his spirit could soar. More than one hundred years later, his descendant Nikola Vitov Gučetić composed humanist philosophical texts here.
Trsteno was thus created by a man with a vision and aided by local sea captains who came home from their travels bearing gifts of exotic specimens. Over the centuries, many people have invested their energy and soul into these gardens. A sense of gratitude to nature and water permeates – don’t miss the baroque fountain at the foot of the stone aqueduct.
East of the villa lie a grape and olive press, once shared by the local community. A little path leads from the villa to the sea where a pavilion overlooking the water offers a view encapsulating the true meaning of this place – botanical splendour on the lush, island-strewn Adriatic. In this part of the garden, you can also see the oldest tree in the arboretum – a palm almost 500 years old looking remarkably healthy.
The arboretum includes the original 15th century garden laid out in renaissance style, with a geometric pattern of paths, a chapel, the fountain and aqueduct. There is also a newer garden (early 20th century) featuring formal and modern sections, with features typical of the southern Adriatic, plus a historic olive grove and natural woodland. Trsteno suffered quite badly both from shelling and from a forest fire which broke out in 2000, but Mother Nature has taken over and it’s clearly business as usual. A walk amid the beautiful, tall trees offers welcome dappled shade and the chance to enjoy the harmony of man and nature.
The village of Trsteno is a modest little settlement with a fine church, St Vitus, and two huge 500 year old Asiatic plane trees. By the waterside just east of the gardens is a remarkable but dilapidated fort, and a tiny harbour where a stream cascades down rocks into the sea. Magical.
SlanoSlano, a small town located between Trsteno and the Pelješac peninsula, is among the most beautiful jewels in the crown of the Dubrovnik Riviera. Set back 2 kilometres from the open blue waters of the Adriatic in a bay of the same name, Slano offers protection from the elements for wayward sailors, while the numerous tree-lined pristine beaches are ideal for landlubbers.
The strategic importance of Slano is firmly entrenched in history, as the site has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times. Ancient Greek and Roman ruins dot the heavily forested hills and centuries-old olive groves of the picturesque bay. The Dubrovnik Republic annexed Slano in the 14th century and shortly thereafter it became the seat of the Republic’s Rector and a summer retreat for the wealthy and influential citizens of the powerful city-state. The Franciscan church of St. Jerome, overlooking the bay, is one of the finest examples of 15th century ecclesiastical architecture in Dalmatia.
If we take our cues from the great civilizations which have called the bay home since ancient times, Slano enjoys not only some of the most breathtaking sites in Dalmatia, but is also a perfect place for a sightseeing getaway. Along with its unmistakable charms and proximity to Dubrovnik, the vineyards and seafood of Pelješac, and the Elaphiti Islands, Slano is a must-see.
Pelješac PeninsulaThe Pelješac peninsula is so tenuously connected with the mainland that it has the unique character of an island. The first delight that awaits you is the gastronomic haven of Mali Ston. The narrow lagoon dividing Pelješac from the mainland is rich in premium quality oysters, and the village restaurants offer some of the best cuisine in the country.
Nearby, the town of Ston is encircled by 14th century stone walls, 5.5km long and once including forty towers, which with the backdrop of the mountainous countryside look scarily like the Great Wall of China. These walls were built by the Republic of Dubrovnik due to valuable salt pans and the town’s strategic position, and Ston is often called “little Dubrovnik” as the streets have the same layout and the same names. The historic salt pans still produce salt for industrial purposes. If you’d like to have an active holiday with a difference, you can join in salt harvesting, board and victuals provided. Check out www.solanaston.hr.