Cruise Ship Excursions on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast
Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is now a popular stop on many Mediterranean cruises and is filled with fascinating sights and divine culinary treasures.
Although certainly worthy of a longer stay, many tourists only have one day to explore Dubrovnik since they are arriving on a cruise ship. With only a day to explore, there are some awe-inspiring sights and incredible food and wine that should not be missed.
Docking in Dubrovnik, cruise goers are instantly greeted with spectacular views of the Franjo Tudjman Bridge, one of Europe’s most amazing stay cable suspension bridges. Designed to withstand brutal winter storms, this bridge was built in 2002 and named after Croatia’s first President who was elected in 1990.
Visitors can travel (there is a a good travel guide) away from the bridge towards Dubrovnik’s thriving old town or cross the bridge and explore the beautiful countryside.
Old City of Dubrovnik – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
One of the best ways to spend the day in Dubrovnik is to wander through the Old Town, an ancient fort walled city, displaying a wealth of historical beauty. In 1979, Dubrovnik was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites based on its universal value and meeting three selection criteria for exemplary world heritage.
Dubrovnik has seen its share of turmoil over the centuries. It was severely damaged by a large earthquake in 1667 but managed to preserve its churches which have elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque influences. Another severe earthquake rocked the area in 1979.
Dubrovnik was also damaged again in the early 1990’s during the war. In 2007, the highly publicized wildfires hit Croatia but fortunately Old Dubrovnik was spared from any damage.
The Old City of Dubrovnik is noted for the signature red tile roofs and the fortress walls that dot the coastline. The main street is the Stradun, a polished limestone pedestrian only thoroughfare.
The area is well preserved as the city enforces strict rules about upkeep of homes and the signage to shops is limited to a discreet name on the lantern above the door. The only evidence of the recent war is the few mismatched tiles as tourism is thriving.
Lokrum – Popular Island Hangout Near Dubrovnik
Only a 10 minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, this island is a popular excursion destination for locals and tourists alike. Lokrum has a botanical garden, a lake called the Dead Sea, and a fortress that looks back into Dubrovnik.
Also of note to some, Lokrum has a world famous nudist beach on the island. Since the island is such a short ferry ride across, many people combine a quick visit with some sightseeing in Old Town to fill their day in Dubrovnik.
Ston and Mali Ston – Largest Defensive Walls in Europe
For visitors wanting to explore the countryside, travel across the bridge and away from the Old Town for some more breathtaking scenery. Located less than an hour from the cruise ship port, this area has some interesting historical sights worth checking out.
Ston has historical beginnings as a center for salt mining, which continues today. Visitors can walk around the old salt mines right across the street from the village center. Mali Ston is located just across the street from Ston along the bay, which is home to numerous mussel and oyster farms.
Some of the best seafood found throughout Europe is imported from Croatia, many of the oysters and mussels from Mali Ston. Stop by one of the restaurants on the bay and be treated to some of the freshest seafood imaginable, along with tasting some locally produced red wines.
Besides the fresh seafood, one of the best reasons to visit Ston and Mali Ston is to see the largest fortified wall in Europe, also one of the largest in the world. The fortress walls connect the Ston and Mali Ston areas. When Mali Ston was founded in 1335 as part of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), its purpose was a defensive town and shares some similarities to Dubrovnik.
Trsteno – World Famous Arboretum and Renaissance Park
For those choosing to visit Ston and Mali Ston, be sure to also stop by Trsteno which is also along the way. Originally home to many sea captains and seamen, Trsteno is now home to a world famous Arboretum and Renaissance park dating back to the 15th century.
Filled with beautiful flowers and plants, the historic area provides breathtaking views of the Adriatic and neighboring islands.
For those wishing to travel beyond the Dubrovnik area, many private tours are available that take visitors deeper into Croatia’s countryside, with options to tour private farms and try local specialities like olives, and wine.
No matter which excursions visitors choose, Croatia is sure to delight. As a UNESCO site, Dubrovnik has endured significant turmoil through the years, both natural and manmade, yet it still shines as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”.