The name Konavle derives from the word from the Latin “canale”, referring to the aqueduct you can still see which carried water from Vodovađe in the mountains to Cavtat, known during Roman times as Epidaurum. The region was settled far before the Greeks and Romans arrived, and evidence of the culture of the Celts and Illyrians who inhabited the region before them is still visible. In the village of Mikulići you can see Illyrian cairns (burial mounds made of stones), while at Močići there is an underground temple to the pagan god Mithras.
In Konavle you can also see stećci, decorative mediaeval tombstones unique to this part of southeast Europe, notably at Brotnice and the Church of St Barbara in Dubravka. Also dating back to the Middle Ages is the imposing fortress Sokol Grad, built on the foundations of Illyrian and Roman fortifications.
Moving forward in time, in Konavle you can also see the traces of the wealth of the days when Dubrovnik was a city state. On the torrents of the River Ljuta you can see the mills which supplied the growing city with wheat and olive oil. You can get a sense of the genteel days of the 19th and 20th century when fine stone villas were built and culture flourished in Cavtat, for example at the mausoleum of the Račić family designed by renowned sculptor Ivan Meštrović, or at the family home and gallery of artist Vlaho Bukovac.
Cavtat, with its picturesque setting on a peninsula, is also a popular tourist resort in its own right, with excellent hotels and pleasant beaches, galleries and lovely architecture. Interestingly there are no other coastal settlements in the Konavle region except for the fishing village of Molunat right down in the south which is perfect for a tranquil stay away from the crowds.
Today a happy circumstance is the growth of agricultural tourism in Konavle, meaning the region offers an alternative to the busy coastal resorts where you can enjoy food just as people have made at home for generations, plucked fresh from the kitchen garden that morning. And of course, to accompany your meal there is no shortage of wines including local varieties such as malvasija dubrovačka, plavac mali, kadarun and dalmatinka which are enjoying something of a revival.
With such a diverse terrain there is no shortage of recreational activities on offer, including walking and cycle routes, hiking to the highest peak Snježnica (1234 m) and horse riding. On the coast you can enjoy the beaches at Cavtat, Molunat and Prevlaka or scramble to find a hidden piece of your very own undisturbed paradise. There are organized diving trips, and there are two adventure parks and off road buggy driving. Rather more gentle is a ride on the tourist train through the Konavle vineyards.
At Čilipi, the village just by Dubrovnik airport, don’t miss the Sunday folklore performances running from just before Easter til the end of October. Turn up at St Nicholas Church just after mass (i.e. at 11:15) and you’ll be treated to a spectacle of song, dance and vibrant folk costume. Be sure also to call into the Ethnographic Museum at Čilipi where the ethnic heritage of Konavle is preserved and beautifully displayed, and where you can buy an authentic souvenir.
To sum up, Konavle offers it all. Dubrovnik is at your fingertips, but you have the great food, wine, relaxation and wonderful villages of the Croatian countryside to enjoy, along with a super-sized portion of culture, all at a pebble’s throw from the shoreline.
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