With towering old city walls that provide the perfect vantage point to soak in views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea and a maze of enchanting laneways to get lost in, Dubrovnik is the perfect place to unwind for a few days while exploring Croatia. Better yet, once visitors get their fill of wandering around the medieval city and admiring its terracotta rooftops, there are plenty of great day trips from Dubrovnik that only require a quick boat ride or easy drive to get to. From mesmerizing waterfalls to blonde beaches and charming old towns, these are some of the most popular picks.
Lokrum Island, Croatia
One of the easiest tours from Dubrovnik is still technically in the city: Lokrum Island, which is just a 10-minute boat ride from the main harbour. This gem boasts azure waters that lap at the rocky shoreline, secluded coves, shaded groves of olive trees and plenty of spots for soaking up the sun, which makes it particularly attractive during the summer months. It’s easy to spend a whole day here as there are also outdoor cafes, restaurants, botanical gardens and a playground to keep little ones occupied that’s also frequented by the island’s resident bunnies and magnificent peacocks.
Being one of the most accessible islands near Dubrovnik, visitors can hop on the Lokrum Island ferry outside the city gates and arrive in the sparkling Bay of Portoč in just minutes (tickets are available at the pier). It’s also possible to kayak from Dubrovnik to Lokrum, which is one of the city’s most popular excursions as there’s an opportunity to paddle around the old walls and see them from a different perspective.
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A half hour drive along the glittering Dalmatian Coast is all it takes to get from Cavtat to Dubrovnik, and there’s a bus that goes between the two almost every hour as well as this half-day tour. The highlight of the pretty seaside town (pronounced tsav-tat) is the historic centre, where a palm-fringed boardwalk, bell tower and orange roofs are surrounded by vibrant cerulean water, creating a striking scene. Some vacationers even opt to stay in Cavtat instead of Dubrovnik, for a quieter pace and less crowds.
Makarska Riviera beaches, Croatia
It’s a bit of a jaunt to get from Dubrovnik to Makarska, but the nearly three-hour drive is well worth the effort for a chance to enjoy some of Croatia’s best beaches and dramatic views of the coastline. The Makarska Riviera is a 60-kilometre stretch between the towns of Gradac and Brela which are daringly built into the hillside, and framed by the towering Biokovo Mountain. Tiny Brela is a hotspot for holiday makers, boasting some of the country’s best stretches of sand with easy boat access to the dreamy islands of Hvar and Brac, which are known for things like lavender and wine.
Day-trippers should plant themselves on Punta Rata Beach, which is one of the most iconic spots in the area thanks to the picture-perfect Brela Stone just off the shoreline. Another unforgettable way to explore the Adriatic coast is to charter a boat and sail to secluded spots like Vrulja Beach which has crystal clear water and jaw-dropping views.
Mljet National Park, Croatia
Mljet National Park is one of Croatia’s most breathtakingly-beautiful areas—high praise, considering how many natural wonders this compact country has. It takes two hours to drive and take a boat from Dubrovnik to Mljet, which is one of the largest islands in south Dalmatia at 5400 hectares, and the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean. The picturesque villages of Goveđari, Polače and Pomena draw the most visitors, and those looking for a bit of adventure can kayak, cycle or swim around Mljet Island.
Sandwiched between two saltwater lakes is the Sveta Marija islet, where a former 12th century Benedictine monastery makes for the ultimate photo-op. The views of the deep blue bays surrounding it are sublime, and refreshing to jump into on a hot summer day. Best of all, Mljet National Park doesn’t see anywhere near the throngs of tourists that descend on popular spots like Plitvice Lakes National Park, making this one of the best Dubrovnik day trips.
Mostar and the Kravice waterfalls, Bosnia
Those looking to add some stamps to their passport will want to cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and enjoy the Dubrovnik to Mostar day trip that also includes an opportunity to admire a set of breathtaking waterfalls. It’s a two and a half hour drive (plus border crossing time) to get to Mostar, which is one of Bosnia’s most beautiful cities. Its crown jewel is Stari Most, a 16th century Ottoman bridge which was reconstructed after being badly damaged during the war. Influences from the far east are apparent throughout the surrounding old town, where cobblestone streets are lined with a bazaar and mosques.
Visitors will want to budget a couple of hours to explore, before driving another hour to the Kravice waterfalls (also referred to as the Kravica waterfalls). This spectacular spot on the Trebižat river sees water cascade out of a limestone deposit about 25 metres into the serene emerald lake below, and visitors can swim under the falls, kayak or take a boat ride around them.
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Kotor and Budva, Montenegro
Another way to explore the Balkans is to drive from Dubrovnik to Montenegro, a tiny country which is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It only takes two hours to get from Dubrovnik to Kotor, and the trip itself is absolutely spectacular as the route winds around the serene Bay of Kotor and past fairytale towns like Perast and Risan which are well worth a stop.
In Kotor, visitors can wander around the enchanting, compact old town, shop in the boutiques or scamper up to the sky-high fortress for jaw-dropping views of the water. Cat lovers will be particularly enthralled, as the town is famous for the many stray cats that were initially brought in to help control the mouse population, which residents now lovingly care for and treat the friendly felines like their own pets.
READ MORE: Incredible things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
Half an hour further along the road is the bustling city of Budva, another gem on the Adriatic Sea that boasts sandy beaches, a perfectly-preserved historic centre complete with winding laneways and window boxes overflowing with vibrant blooms, and centuries-old architecture that’s sure to keep any history buff occupied. Budget at least a couple of hours to explore the town, relax in a shaded cafe or lounge on the beach, before heading back to Dubrovnik.
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