Lokrum, the Tiny Treasure You Shouldn't Miss
For such a small island, Lokrum holds an abundance of history, charm, nature and mystery all wrapped up in one neat little bundle.
When sailing in central Dalmatia, no doubt your journey begins or ends in Dubrovnik; whichever way it is, be sure to make time to visit Lokrum. Standing on the old city walls of Dubrovnik, looking out over Lokrum, you would be forgiven for believing it is not worth visiting – for what can such a tiny island hold worthy of interest? Well, looks can be deceiving, what is that quote about ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – this is something similar.
While the rich vegetation is apparent from afar, the story and history is not. More than 90% of Lokrum is covered with thick vegetation, in 1964 it was declared a Natural Reserve and in 1976 it gained protection under UNESCO. But this isn’t just any old vegetation, Lokrum is a living, breathing botanical garden with hundreds of exotic species, diverse flora and fauna, birds (more than 150 different species) and the piece de résistance – peacocks. There are beautiful peacocks proudly strutting around the island which were brought over by Maximillian Habsburg from the Canary Islands 150 years ago.
But the story goes back even further than that; the earliest written records mentioning Lokrum are from 1023 when the Benedictine Monastery and Abbey was founded – this is where the story of the botanical garden begins. It is said that the Benedictines planted an array of plants and Lokrum derives its name from the latin word ‘acrumen’ meaning citrus fruit – pertaining to all of the fruit trees. Legend says that any ships which sailed into the harbour from abroad, would bring a plant to Lokrum, thus cultivating the garden with exotic plants.
It is also rumoured that Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked and cast ashore on Lokrum in 1192 and was so enchanted by the island or maybe that it was his saving grace, that he vowed to build a church on the island, but was convinced to build it on the mainland instead. The upcoming rendition of Robin Hood that was recently filmed in Dubrovnik may shed more light on this.
Besides nature, birds, trees and romantic notions, what is there to do on Lokrum?
You can easily lose a day, or at least half a day, wandering around the winding paths, just being in nature, allowing your breath to find a natural rhythm…
Swim, Tan, Nap…
There are a number of beaches – which, truth be told, are often where the locals of Dubrovnik escape to. As the island is so tiny, there is no chance of getting lost, so you can wander at will or follow any of the many signs directing the way. If you want to lose some tan lines and really feel free, there is also a nudist beach – if this sort of thing tickles your fancy. On the southern end of the island, there is a ‘Dead Sea’ – a tiny salt-water lake, approximately 10 metres deep, which is connected to the open sea. Just like the dead sea, its attraction lies in the fact you can just lie back and float, letting the salty-buoyant water do all the work, or it just makes a great swimming hole! Then… fjaka. Or siesta, after all of your travelling or walking the city walls in the intense summer sun, you deserve a little kip.
You can visit the Benedictine Monastery and Abbey – ‘considered to be one of the most significant medieval monuments in the wider Dubrovnik area’ (read more about the restored Monastery and Abbey here). The Basilica represents Romanesque-Gothic architecture from the 13th Century, while the Monastery is representative of 15th Century Gothic-Renaissance styles. If all of this history makes you hungry, you can eat at the restaurant in the complex or pack a picnic, so you can get back to enjoying the beaches.
If sailing, venture around the island to view the many caves, nooks and crannies of Lokrum; or renting a kayak is a great way to explore the island from another angle. By foot, explore the island thoroughly, there are many small caves waiting to be discovered – some of which, even the locals do not know about, there are even small ladders dotted around the island to help you get to the water from more difficult positions. Note: a pair of water shoes is a good idea.
Sometimes when we are travelling, we are in a rush to simply ‘tick’ a destination off the list. A 7-day sailing itinerary will give you the perfect taste of the Adriatic and Croatia, but make sure you take time in each destination to stop and simply be.
Read the words below by Dubrovnik born author Luko Paljetak and see if you can understand some of the beauty, romance and mystery of the island even more.
“Only the imagination of a skilled writer could have placed an island like Lokrum by a city like this one. When you set foot on Lokrum, you encroach upon a mystery. You can hear the murmur of the whispers of all the lovers who have gazed at the stars from this very spot, hear the rustling of silks and the beating of wings, the sound of poems and the muttering of Latin prayers, as if you were hearing them now in the cloister of the Benedictine monastery. Lokrum is under a spell, a spell that you cannot hope to undo.”
You can either anchor near Lokrum and tender to Dubrovnik, or if you are in the harbour, there are water-taxis which leave from the town harbour every half hour between 9am and 7pm.
Have you been? We would love to hear your thoughts on this true tiny treasure. Drop us a note on Facebook.