The island of Lokrum is visible from the city walls of Dubrovnik — and makes a lovely day trip out of the city. Boats ply the waters connecting the two places daily, and hoards of tourists and day-trippers make their way to the island to enjoy some sun, sea, and a little bit of Croatian history. From monasteries, forts and natural wonders; there is a little something for everyone on this island — and the opportunity to find your own little quiet spot to enjoy the beauty that Lokrum has to offer.
The Island of Lokrum
Lokrum Island is located on the Adriatic Sea, about 600 meters away from the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The first written existence of the island was in 1023, when the Benedictine Monastery and Abbey were founded. The Benedictines monks were evicted from the island some 800 years later.
Most of the landscaping of the island today was done during the mid 19th century during the time of Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg. The monastery, botanical gardens, network of trails and the Fort Royal Castle are some of the sights and attractions that can be found around Lokrum. The island was also used as a filming location for the popular television series, Game of Thrones.
I wanted to get to Lokrum as early as I could to beat the crowds. I really didn’t need to do that really, because I later realized that the island was big enough that I could easily find my own little spot away from the crowds. The boat leaves from the Old Port at Dubrovnik Old Town from 9am to 7pm daily, with a half-hour interval between each trip. It costs HRK120 (US$18) for the return trip plus entrance to the island.
During my visit, I missed the 9am boat by a mere few minutes (breakfast took longer than expected), and the next boat was only leaving at 10am (only the first and second boats of the day have a one hour interval). So I spent the hour walking around the old town for a bit, and sitting by the old port for a little morning sun. By the time 10am rolled around, the ticket counter was crowded with people waiting to buy a ticket. Thankfully, I was one of the first few onto the boat, so I managed to secure a good seat facing the side — and had lovely views on my 10-minute boat ride towards Lokrum.
The Path of Paradise
Upon arriving at Lokrum, I decided to first make my way to the highest point of the island — where the Fort Royal Castle is located. Most of the people from the boat immediately made their way towards the sea, so the crowds eventually dispersed and in the end, there was hardly anyone during my ascend towards the top of the island.
I followed the clearly marked trail with signboards leading towards the fort, passing some of the island’s lovely green landscape of lush trees and plants. The last league to the fort passes through the Path of Paradise, a long uphill path flanked by preserved cypress trees on both sides. The path is really pretty when seen from the top and below — it really does look like a long straight path leading towards paradise. It was quite a walk up though, especially under the hot summer sun.
Fort Royal Castle
The Fort Royal Castle stands at the island’s highest point at 96 meters above sea level, and was erected by the French army when they took over Dubrovnik in the early 19th century. The Austrians later added the circular tower (the only portion of the fort that is left standing) in the mid 19th century. It served as a lookout point then, and now, it still offers beautiful views of Lokrum, the sea, and the city of Dubrovnik.
There is not much to see in the inner portion of the circular tower — just dark dungeons left in disrepair. However, it is still possible to climb the stairs to the top of the tower. It offers 360 degree views — and if you want, you can also attempt a climb up to a smaller circular platform on top of the tower. Someone even placed a deck chair on it — probably to soak in some sun while sitting back and enjoying the views!
Walking back from Fort Royal Castle, I passed by the island’s Botanical Gardens. It was founded in the 19th century during the time of Archduke Maximilian, who was the person responsible for transforming the landscape of Lokrum into a park.
Lokrum’s Botanical Gardens is filled with almost 800 unique and exotic plant species (like eucalyptuses and cacti), brought from all around the world and allowed to grow freely on the island — some since the 19th century. It was nice walking along the paths in the garden, admiring the surrounding greenery and the fresh air.
The Monastery Complex
After visiting the Botanical Gardens, I headed on to the Benedictine Monastery Complex. The complex that stands on Lokrum today is made out of different buildings in a couple of different eras. It was first mentioned in 1023, and consists of the remnants of the original basilica from the 12th/13th century, the monastery and garden from the 15th century, and the mansion of the Archduke Maximilian in the mid 19th century.
There is not much to see in the complex itself — just remnants and broken down walls of once beautiful buildings. But during my visit, I was delighted to be in the company of the local residents — peacocks and peahens were roaming the grounds, trying to impress one another. It was such a fun sight to see them shaking their feathers!
Exhibition: Game of Thrones and the History of Lokrum
In one of the buildings in the Monastery Complex, I came across a ‘Game of Thrones’ exhibition and a small museum about the history of Lokrum. It was interesting browsing through all the information and fun facts — and there was even the Iron Throne to sit on!
There are many local legends surrounding the island of Lokrum — one says that Richard the Lion-Heart got cast ashore on the island in 1192. He vowed to build a church on the island — and he sort of did; he built it in the city of Dubrovnik instead due to the request of the people. The other legend is more sinister — it is the curse of the Benedictine monks who were forced to leave Lokrum in 1808, who put it on the island and those who caused them to leave their home.
Lunch at the Monastery Restaurant
After spending the morning exploring a few parts of the island, it was time for lunch! I stopped by a lovely restaurant in the Monastery Complex that faces the gorgeous landscaped gardens in the area. The peacocks and peahens were also roaming the place, walking around the tables and chairs in the restaurant, and delighting the patrons.
I ordered a huge burger, and a glass of Coca-cola. Yes… coke on a hot, scorching day like it was that summer’s day was absolutely refreshing.
The Dead Sea
After lunch, it was time to dip in the waters of Lokrum! One of the most popular spots to swim on the island is at the Dead Sea — a small salt-filled lake linked to the open sea by a small opening through the rocks. The lake is located on the southern part of the island, enclosed by a mountain of rocks. It is about 10 meters deep and perfect for a dip.
I had lots of fun in the Dead Sea — swimming towards the hole in the rock, and then back again to the calm lake where it felt safer. The small lake was pretty packed with people in the waters, and more that were sun bathing on its banks. Later on, I walked up to the top of the rock that separates the lake and the sea for an elevated view of Lokrum’s Dead Sea.
Ocean Cliffs and Rocks
Most of the coast of Lokrum is surrounded by rocks — and some of them so high that they offer beautiful views of the wide open sea. Looking down from atop these cliffs, I could see the waves crashing onto the rocks that were so beautiful to look at, yet gave me wobbly legs.
The flatter parts of the rocky coast are popular areas for visitors to sunbathe and enjoy the sea views. One of the most crowded spots is at The Rocks, on the southern part of the island, close to the Dead Sea.
Swimming in the Ocean
I spent most of the afternoon by The Rocks, enjoying the summer sun and swimming in the ocean. The sea around the area was pretty calm during my visit, and there were some places where I could dive (or more accurately, jump) off the rocks into the sea. It was pretty crowded, so everyone had to take turns diving in. Ladders were available on the rocks to make it easier for people to get in and out of the waters.
The uneven rocks and cliffs around the sea can be a little uncomfortable to lie on — and I only brought a piece of cloth so I had to look for a flat piece of rock. Apparently there are sponge mats available at the entrance of the island, so if you plan to sunbathe on the rocks, getting one is a good idea.
My Day Out in Lokrum
Towards the evening, I made my way back to the jetty on the island to catch the boat back to Dubrovnik. I had a wonderful day exploring the island’s tree-lined paths, learning about its interesting history, and swimming in the waters on and around Lokrum.
The island makes a good day-trip out of the city — and if you do not have an entire day to spend on Lokrum; even half a day is worth the trip. The island is filled with so much natural beauty; and if I ever return to this part of the world again, I will make sure I dive, explore and discover its underwater treasures too!