Looking to avoid the tourist crowds in Dubrovnik's busy Old Town and find some non-touristy things to do? Get off the beaten path! Sure, Dubrovnik's ancient walls are breathtaking and its beaches are stunning. Monuments such as the Franciscan Monastery, Rector's Palace and St Blaise Church must be seen but sometimes the crush of Dubrovnik's international admirers can become too much.
When you need a breather, do as the locals do: retire to one of Dubrovnik's lesser known spots and chill. Here are the best places:
Catch a band at Park Orsula
It's just far enough out of town to make it an attractive alternative to Dubrovnik's more agitated nightspots in town. At sundown, live bands entertain a local crowd as the sky behind them darkens and the moon rises over the Adriatic. A free shuttle bus will transport you the 3km to the entrance for the more popular concerts. Otherwise, take the number 10 bus. See the website for programming details.
Hike Petka Hill
The bustling residential Lapad peninsula is marked by the 192m-high Veliki Petka hill and its smaller sister, Mala Petka. Carpeted with dense brush, maqui, garrigue and Aleppo pine, locals call it Dubrovnik's Amazon. Take an easy 20-minute walk to the top with the only sounds coming from birdsong and enjoy the view over Lapad bay.
Stroll Gradac Park
Just west of Pile, Dubrovnik's main entrance, is tranquil Gradac Park where children play and lovers stroll. Laid out in the 19th-century when Dubrovnik was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it's sometimes called the "Austrian park". Look out and Lapad peninsula stretches across the sea; look down and contemplate the Church of St Mary at Dance.
Bike Sipan Island
Of the three inhabited Elaphiti islands, Sipan is the furthest and yet it's only about an hour by ferry. Locals prefer it to the more touristed islands of Lopud and Kolocep. Look for the beach on Vrbova bay near Sudurad and the aptly-named restaurant, Best of What's Around. It's easy to rent a bike and pedal from one end of this relatively flat island to the other.
The Lapad peninsula is known for Uvala, its beach and bay. Leave the busy beach and head north on the coastal promenade that leads north around Babin Kuk peninsula. Along the way are rocky platforms and ladders leading into the sea while up ahead on the northern tip of the peninsula gravel paths weave through a manicured park. The coastal path picks up again on the northern side of the peninsula and winds along the sea with views of Gruz.
Dubrovnik's former aristocrats needed to get out of town as well which is why they built luxurious villas an easy horseback ride away. Most cannot be visited but the exterior grounds of the Sorkocevic villa is open to the public. Currently this 17th-century villa serves as headquarters for the ACI Marina on the banks of the Ombla river, the shortest river in the world, in the Rijeka Dubrovacka neighborhood. A walk north to Mosica reveals the ruins of other Renaissance villas.
[For something truly different, try a Ghosts and Mystery tour]
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