We are on a Game of Thrones tour of Old Town Dubrovnik, and we’re standing at the top of the ivory-coloured stone steps where the seminal ‘walk of shame’ scene was filmed. I won’t spoil it for you if you’re several episodes behind, but apparently the scene is frequently recreated late at night by tourists drunk enough to strip naked. Like some 8.9 million other people, I’ve been hungrily devouring episode after episode of the HBO series – which returns for its final season this summer – parts of which were filmed in Croatia.
We traipse around winding alleys, conquer never-ending steps and stare up at the swarms of twittering swallows veering from turret to turret. It’s easy to see why Old Town Dubrovnik is a gold mine for film location scouts. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, the moon-white UNESCO Heritage site has the fortress-like presence for a historic drama – blending Medieval, Baroque and Gothic architecture – and an exotic, other-worldly quality that could set the scene for science fiction. In fact, it has, as part of the next instalment of Star Wars was filmed here last May.
We stop by a temporary exhibit, roughly translated as “Quiet please, Dubrovnik and Film Love Each Other” and learn about all the flicks filmed in the city over the past century including The Secret Invasion (1964), Captain America (1990) and Casanova (2005). Keep an eye out for Robin Hood: Origins, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx, filming will commence in Dubrovnik next month.
Later that day, we catch a ten minute ferry ride over to the inhabited island of Lokrum. Shortly after we’ve docked, whilst hiking over mossy woodland paths, we’re joined by curious rabbits and greedy families of peacocks – they sidle up to us as pigeons would back home, hoping for some food. The island’s scent of the pine trees warming in the humidity is reminiscent of a sauna. Having exerted ourselves traversing the island’s rugged cliffs and running round the maze of the abandoned Benedictine monastery, we’re grateful when we stumble upon the island’s “dead lake”. Linked by the Adriatic Sea, it’s salty emerald water makes it an inviting place for a quick dip to cool down – as we do, the peacocks circle our belongings that we’ve left on the rocky bank, still in hope of a snack.
After three days in Dubrovnik, we’re itching for some beach time and to see more of the famous Dalmation Coast. A one hour ferry journey – or 30 minute speedboat ride, as we learn on the return journey – brings us to the sleepy island of Lopud. Comprising little more than cyan-streaked waters, humble sandstone cottages, and a smattering of tavernas blooming with peach-petaled hydrangeas, the pedestrian-only island is an oasis of calm.
We hop off the ferry, and it’s not long before we’re basking on the pebbly beach, clasping frosty bottles of Ozujsko beer. Those desperate for a sandy beach after Dubrovnik’s largely rocky coastline will find it on Lopud island – the golden stretch known as Sunj beach lies on the opposite side of the island from the main strip (a 25-minute walk away).
At dusk, Lopud is perhaps at its most captivating. Feeling sun-drunk, we head for a romantic dinner at the French-inspired Dalmar restaurant at Lafodia Resort, currently the only hotel on Lopud other than a few guesthouses. The waitress offers to add “something extra” to my order of scallops, and they arrive served in shells, marinated in white wine, black pepper and garlic and covered in satisfying coating of melted cheese – the latter was her addition and, being a huge cheese fan, I’m delighted.
We clink wine glasses and tuck in as the sky explodes with rich pink light that tinges everything it touches. By the time the pink has faded to black, our plates are empty, our bellies are full and our minds are more than content.
To Do List
- Private Game of Thrones walking tour of Old Town Dubrovnik: visit dubrovnik-tourist-guides.com and ask for Ivan Vuko. He’s one of the original GoT tour operators, with excellent historical knowledge and a collection of his own photography from during the filming of the HBO series. Reserve a tour with him well in advance.
- Sushi fans should dine on the terrace of Takenoko, which offers views of Old Town Dubrovnik and excellent sashimi takenoko.hr
- Elafiti Islands cruise: Hop on and off boats to picnic on the peaceful shorelines of Lopud, Sipan and Kolocep.
- Mljet National Park: Go kayaking in its natural salt lakes and enjoy sublime views.
- Day trip to Montenegro: Just over an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik, it’s home to sights such as the beautiful Bay of Kotor, which features a fjord flanked by mountains
Where To Stay
Built into the cliff-edge, a ten minute drive from Old Town Dubrovnik, this sleek five-star boutique hotel has a private feel, with only 56 rooms. Its minimalist spaces and high design are impressive. The all-white contemporary Restaurant Pjerin’s menu takes you on a journey throughout Croatia.
RADISSON BLU RESORT & SPA HOTEL DUBROVNIK SUN GARDENS
Situated a 15 minute drive from Old Town, the vast resort feels like a destination in itself, and offers sweeping views of the Adriatic Sea. It boasts seven restaurants, five bars, three pools, a spa, a beach and a diving centre. Well-suited for families, there are several kids’ and teenagers’ clubs, and there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained.
Set at one end of Lopud’s main strip, Lafodia Resort adds a touch of luxury to the otherwise undeveloped island. Its rooms and suites are airy and comfortable, and its facilities include a beach with jet ski hire, two outdoor pools, a concierge for arranging excursions, three restaurants, and a stunning spa with sea views. The resort’s open air beach bar is an excellent place to relax with a cocktail, or head for a night cap after sunset.