Tour guides love to tell the tale of how the island of Lokrum, just a 15-minute boat-ride from Dubrovnik, is cursed. The island once belonged to Benedictine monks who were forced by an order of a French army general to leave, and their monastery was closed. As the story goes, when they left, the monks laid curse on the island. And each of its owners since is said to have been met by grave misfortune – stories of bankruptcies, earthquakes, shipwrecks, even suicides and murder, circulate in local lore. But Lokrum is about a lot more than tall tales and legends, and cursed or not, it would be sin for anyone staying in Dubrovnik not to visit this little piece of paradise preserved. Bear in mind from the start, though, that you can’t spend the night –no hotels have been built on the land and the destination is for day-trippers only. If you decide to visit you will find that while the islet is small – less than one mile wide – it packs quite a punch, every inch of it being worth exploration. Although while there is plenty to see on this small island considering its size, you’ll still likely need no more than half a day there.
Lokrum is an easy day-trip from Dubrovnik. You can catch a taxi-boat in the old harbor of town to get there, and the trip takes all but 15 minutes. The taxi-boats run every half hour from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and tickets cost 35 HRK / 5 EUR. The price includes entrance to the island – it’s a nature reserve under UNESCO protection.
Visiting the monastery
There are two main sights on the forested island of Lokrum. The first is the above-mentioned Benedictine Monastery – which has been used as a set for the TV series Game of Thrones, incidentally, to give you an idea of how enchanting it is.
First mentioned in the year 1023, the monastery complex was built over the course of a number of centuries – its Romanesque-Gothic basilica dates back to the 12th or 13th century while the Gothic-Renaissance dates to the 15th. A walk around these abandoned grounds will take you on an eerily beautiful journey back in time, and the surrounding greenery hints at the serenity you’ll find in the island’s botanical garden.
Stroll through Lokrum’s greenery
In 1859 Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Hapsburg bought the island of Lokrum. When he came he brought with him the peacocks you’ll find roaming around – the island’s only inhabitants, incidentally. In addition, he started what is today its botanical garden. In under five years after purchasing the land, Maximilian planted over a hundred exotic plant species from all around the globe – Australia, South Africa, and Chile to name just a few places he brought them over from. There are over 500 kinds of trees, flowers and plants in the garden today.
Go for a swim in the sea or a lake
The island of Lokrum has its own Dead Sea, in name at least – Mrtvo more in Croatian. It’s a small salt-filled lake which is linked to the open sea and it’s a popular swim spot, found in the south of the island. Children and non-swimmers might prefer the lake to the sea. Not far from away, a little to the east, you’ll find one of the country’s many nudist beaches on the island’s rocky shore. You can enter the sea with the ladders scattered about. If yours is a shy variety of nudism, you might not want to bear it all on this beach in particular – it’s recently become a popular kayaking destination and you can expect at least a few guided groups to pass by you during the course of the day.
Other useful information
If you get hungry while on Lokrum, you can enjoy a decent meal at the restaurant in the monastery complex. If you’re having trouble adjusting to Croatia’s rock and cliff beaches, you might want to get yourself a sponge mat at the kiosk you’ll find where the boat that takes you there drops you off.
As the sun begins to set, you’ll want to leave the secluded beaches and coves of Lokrum and head back to Dubrovnik. From there you can enjoy in the island by gazing at it from across the shimmering sea.