No one forgets their first sight of sun-dappled Dubrovnik, Lord Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. Its mighty, encircling city wall looms over the sparkling Adriatic, protecting a city dotted with church spires, cobbled streets and remarkable gastronomy. Rising up as a backdrop to the city is a line of limestone hills that make it easy to see why Game of Thrones made Dubrovnik its King’s Landing.
The good news is that, once you’ve taken in the historic sights, there have never been more ways to explore the city and the surrounding Dubrovnik-Neretva County. Head out beyond the Old Town’s ancient walls and you can hurl yourself into the thick of it on an active adventure.
Just beyond the walls of the city, with a Napoleonic fort built in 1810 at its peak, sits Mount Srđ. Part of the soaring Dinaric Alps, the reward for tackling its winding paths is an epic view of the city from this 1,352ft-high mountain. At the summit, take in the museum and enjoy a drink in the café, then ease back down by cable-car.
A 30-minute drive south of Dubrovnik, the unspoilt Konavle region is alive with hiking trails. Cavtat–Močići takes you on a five-mile journey along historic coast, dotted with stone crosses and churches, while the 2.5-mile-long Konavle Cliffs Educational Trail opens up the region’s remarkable flora. See several important endemic species along the way including the fritillary, Dalmatian hyancinth and the Dubrovnik centuary. The islands here tempt, too, with Korčula, Mljet and Lastovo offering superb hikes. The waymarked Mljet Hiking Trail is a real odyssey — reserve three to four days to tackle its 27-mile length.
Cycling trips beyond the city walls are rewarding whether you’re on a road bike, a mountain bike or a trail bike. North of Dubrovnik, on the vineyard-sprinkled Pelješac Peninsula, a four-mile cycling trail leads from Camp Vrilo to Veliko Propratno. Heading through the ancient olive groves, you’ll find information boards that bring the views to life and viewpoints that will take your breath away.
Situated west of Dubrovnik, much of the emerald isle of Mljet is protected as a national park. There are myriad ways to enjoy this real-life Garden of Eden: the quiet roads are ideal for families, while off-road mountain bike routes offer a wilder experience. Alternatively, out on the remote island of Lastovo, cycling is the ideal low-impact way to get around traffic-free roads, forest trails and hillside tracks.
3. Sea kayaking
Paddling through the aquarium-clear waters in a sea kayak beneath Dubrovnik’s towering stone walls is an experience like no other. Expect envious looks from those above as you begin paddling out to nearby Lokrum, an island offering stunning views of the city and where nature reigns supreme.
Birdlife-blessed islands, home to the Eurarasian eagle-owl among others, await those taking a sea kayak trip from Cavtat, just south of Dubrovnik. The pristine scenery of Mljet, with its two saltwater lakes, also tempts. Explore tiny coves and discover sandy beaches and lashings of greenery, as the modern world drifts further and further away.
In Dubrovnik-Neretva County, time often feels like a malleable concept as you weave between the centuries; between empires and civilisations that rose and fell. As horses were once the quickest way of getting around these parts, taking a horse-riding tour is a great way to connect with this history.
Nervous first-timers in the Konavle region, south of Dubrovnik, can relax as they get into the saddle, safe in the knowledge there’s an expert guide with them who’ll show them the ropes. It’s a thrilling feeling making your way through the countryside, discovering winding forests paths, a rugged coastline alive with Venetian and Ottoman ghosts and well-preserved historic villages like Popovići.
5. Buggy safari
Quite what the historic Rector of Ragusa (Dubrovnik’s former name) would’ve made of a buggy safari is anyone’s guess, but this new arrival is a brilliantly fun way to venture beyond the old city walls. Once you’ve got the basics and you are equipped with your helmet and goggles, it’s time to make your way across the Konavle region.
Mountains rise to the north, the Adriatic beckons to the south and the pastures in the foreground are alive with livestock curious about the buggies. The open plains offer the views, the muddy swamps the serious buggy action. In addition to the the joys of exploring the natural world using a unique mode of transport, the safari’s stop in the picturesque village of Čilipi – with its church, country house, and bar – is a real highlight.
Dubrovnik’s airport lies south of the city and is around a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London, with several regional routes too from all four UK nations. Buses and taxis quickly zip new arrivals into the city. For more information, go to visitdubrovnik.hr