A deep blue sea surrounds the deeply green and forested Lokrum Island, an easy day trip from Dubrovnik lying only 680 metres offshore--a 20-minute boatride. Its proximity to Dubrovnik and several excellent beaches make Lokrum a popular relaxation spot for locals looking to beat the heat. Although small (70 hectares) there's a great deal to see and do from beaches to nature walks to cultural discovery. And, as a filming location for Game of Thrones, Lokrum is an essential stop for fans of the series.
What to See
Stroll the shady paths and admire the incredible variety of artfully arranged Mediterranean vegetation.The island has been denominated a "Special Reserve of Forest Vegetation" for the numerous species of Mediterranean plants and trees that carpet the island. There are forests of holm oak, interspersed with laurel, myrtle, Aleppo and umbrella pines.
A Botanical Garden managed by the University of Dubrovnik displays over 500 plant and tree species with explanatory signs. The most striking section is the succulents with massive cactuses sprouting thorns, barbs and prickly pears.
The main cultural highlight of Lokrum is the Benedictine Monastery. The Benedictine presence on the island dates back to the beginning of the 11th century. The monks used their island to warn the mainland of approaching dangers such as pirates or tempests. The inhabitants of Dubrovnik learned to watch for fires coming from the island's hilltop or incessant bells ringing from the monastery church.
Legend has it that Richard the Lionhearted financed the building of the first church on the island. Returning from the First Crusade at the end of the 12th century, the great king found himself beset by storms and vowed to build a church at the nearest landfall. It happened that he was able to drop anchor at Skalica cove on the northern coast in full view of Dubrovnik's residents. The hospitable city sent out a delegation to welcome him. As the king rested and recovered he was persuaded to turn his gratitude into a nice donation for the construction of the town's cathedral. In return the city statesmen agreed to build the church on Lokrum. The king was sent on his way in one of Dubrovnik's famous ships.
The monastery was deserted at the end of the 18th century and allowed to fall into disrepair. In 1859 Maximilian of Habsburg bought Lokrum and had the ruins of the monastery transformed into a summer residence in neo-Gothic style surrounded by a park of exotic greenery.
Perhaps the most endearing feature of the island are the peacocks that roam freely through the greenery, strutting and pecking.
It was Maximilian who imported the peacocks from the Canary Islands. Apparently they adapted well to their new habitat!
It is said that the friars had cursed the island before their departure. Maximilian later became emperor of Mexico and was assassinated; his wife was murdered; his son committed suicide.
The evocative arches, hallways and cloister were on display in seasons 2 and 3 of Game of Thrones when the monastery doubled for the the kingdom of Qarth. It now houses a small museum devoted to the filming of Game of Thrones in Croatia. There's an interesting interactive map showing all the filming locations in Croatia and a number of panels specify which Dubrovnik monuments were used in particular scenes. You can even make like King Joffrey and have your picture taken on the Iron Throne which (spoiler alert!) the series donated to Dubrovnik.
Lokrum's indented coast is dotted with rocky bathing areas. One favorite is the Bay of Portoc, close to the embarkation dock. Some of the coves are naturist which you can spot when you see the sign "FKK". Another popular bathing spot is Mrtvo More or 'Dead Sea' an inland pond fed by a saltwater channel. Both of the larger beaches are equipped with toilets and showers and it's possible to rent lounge chairs. Mrtvo More is bordered by a popular cafe-bar.
There are no houses or hotels on Lokrum but you will surely never go hungry with the wide assortment of restaurants, cafes, sandwich shops and bars. There are no grocery stores however which makes it wise to assemble any picnic in Dubrovnik. The visitor center at the port sells a useful booklet with a map in which all sights are explained. There's a network of paths crisscrossing the island and destinations are well-signposted. Beachgoers should either bring plastic swim shoes for navigating the island's rocky beaches or buy a pair upon arrival.
Getting to Lokrum Island
Getting to Lokrum Island is easy. Just take one of the boats leaving half-hourly in summer (less often the rest of the year) from Dubrovnik's Old Port (80Kn). Or, take the new "vaporetto" boat that goes from Mokosica to Gruz, the Old Town and out to Lokrum. More.
Get Croatia Traveller's Dalmatia: Split to Dubovnik 2018