September 2008 Croatia & Montenegro by Marissa Mackle

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Those who wish to see heaven on earth should come to Dubrovnik,’ wrote George Bernard Shaw in 1929.

And when you visit this spectacular town steeped in fascinating history with majestic views over The Adriatic Sea you’ll know exactly what he meant. The ancient town which is also often referred to as the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’, is a treasure trove of architectural and cultural masterpieces and is home to an impressive Franciscan Monastery.

I found myself wandering leisurely around the small town past delightful bars and cafes where people sat outside in the sun sipping coffee or Croatian wine while watching the world go slowly by.

Hotels in Dubrovnik cater for every sort of traveller. I can particularly recommend the Hotel Kompass where we stayed. It’s a well kept three star hotel, popular with Irish people and boasting unparalleled views of the bay. There are steps or a lift that bring you right down to the sea where the water is sky blue, calm and crystal clear.

The rooms are basic enough but the hotel staff are more than welcoming and the buffet breakfast and dinner has something for everyone. The hotel has an outdoor and an indoor pool as well as a gym, jacuzzi , and sauna. Internet facilities are also available for those who cannot function without checking up on ‘the office’ back home.

 

Croatia has so much to offer and its scenery is hard to beat so while you’re there the best thing to do is hire a car, take the coastal roads and don’t forget to bring your camera! I’d also recommend a boat trip to visit some of the stunning secluded islands dotted along the sea.

You can go on the Island Cruise & Fish Picnic day tour which departs from Dubrovnik and takes in the three largest as well as the only inhabited island of the Elaphite islands with gardens full of oranges, lemons and beautiful flowers.

A lunch of grilled fish and local wine is included during the sail. Make sure to bring along your swimwear as the islands offer fabulous opportunities for sunbathing and swimming.

Croatia enjoys an enviable climate with hot dry summers and gentle winters. Blessed with an annual average of 2774 hours of sunshine, the country is probably one of the sunniest in Europe.

The annual daily average is seven hours and July is the warmest month.

 

Montenegro is an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik. Here we stayed in the newly refurbished Queen of Montenegro Hotel which is an immaculately clean, large hotel with fabulous facilities and its own spa.

I would definitely recommend treating yourself to a couple of treatments as the prices here are much lower than at home. The town of Budva is about a 30 minute leisurely walk from the hotel or a short taxi ride away.

The Budva Riviera stretches along 25km and the picturesque Budva Marina anchors luxurious yachts from all over the world during the summer months.

Also during the summer season the town of Budva offers various cultural and artistic programmes and the Old Town is transformed into a stage under the open sky, welcoming local and international theatre groups who perform here.

And for those who love shopping, you’ll be in your element with shops selling designers from Armani to Versace!

 

If you have time a trip to the beautiful town of Kotor is worthwhile. Situated in the south-eastern part of the Boka Kotorska Bay, it is a place of rich cultural tradition and in 1979 it was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites.

The old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. Extending over four kilometres, the city walls that have protected Kotor for centuries lead up to the fortress of Saint Ivan.

For centuries Kotor has also been one of the more significant maritime and trade centres.  Also worth seeing is its Cathedral of St Tripun, monument of Roman Architecture, and built in 1166 on the foundations of an older pre-Romanic church from 10th century.

We took a bus tour to the peak of the snow capped mountains where we sat outside in the sunshine inhaling the gloriously fresh mountainous air and sipping traditional honey wine in a delightful little café.

 

 

We spent our last two days in Orebic, a 90 minutes coastal drive from Dubrovnik which offers some spectacular views. You wind around what seems like an endless road – rocks and mountains to one side and cliffs and the clear blue Adriatic to the other until finally you see Orebic and the island of Korcula spread out majestically before you.

Orebic is a quaint little village and harbour set among palm trees, olive groves and peach trees. Originally developed as a shipping centre, it was then named after a family of distinguished seafarers.

We stayed in the recently refurbished Grand Hotel, close to a gorgeous sandy beach. It is the perfect location for those just wishing to escape for a few days relaxation and is also idea for families.

You could alternatively stay in the nearby island of Korcula with its unspoiled coves and extensive vineyards. Here you will find the delightful Hotel Marco Polo, also featured in the Concorde Travel brochure.

The countries of Croatia and Montenegro are absolutely beautiful and are the perfect destinations for getting away from it all. In fact this was my third visit to Croatia and I fully intend to return again time after time.

 

  • Mljet, a small island off Dubrovnik can be reached on a morning boat service from Dubrovnik’s ferry terminal.  The trip on the Nona Ana  takes about 90 minutes. Two salt water lakes are the main attraction on the island, get off at the second stop Polace where you can buy admission to the park for 90 Kuna (30 for children).  Admission to the park includes a van ride from Polace to the interior two lakes and a boat to take you to a monastery on a small island on the lake.
  • The city walls of Dubrovnik is a must-do but travellers with fear of heights should avoid some sections. Early morning is best to see the sunlight play upon the water and tile roofs.
  • Take the the bus to Lapad, a newer area of Dubrovnik, which has a beautiful walkway of greenery, sea views, shopping, and restaurants.
  • Transportation from Dubrovnik to Orebic and Montenegro on local buses is very cheap.
  • On the drive from Dubrovnik to Orebic take some time to stop off in one of the wineries in Potomje and pick up some of the excellent local wine.
  • St Tryphon Cathedral in Kotor has recently been cleaned up and now stands gleamingly white in the center of Kotor’s old town. Be sure to see the collection of relics upstairs.
  • The excellent Maritime Museum in Kotor has guides in English.
  • info@concorde.ie or tel: 01-8727822 www.concordetravel.ie n www.croatia.hr (Croatian National Tourist Board official website) n www.queenofmontenegro.com www.hotel-kompas.hr www.grandhotelorebic.com
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