It is impossible to miss the vision of Lokrum Island from Dubrovnik’s Old Town. From above, Lokrum seems like an oasis of forest floating in the Adriatic. And it did seem like a fresh and welcoming place to be on the hottest day of the week I was staying in Dubrovnik. That is what I read in touristic guides – go to Lokrum to get some fresh air. Well, I can tell you straight away that was not the case. I’m pretty sure litters of sweat came out of me while exploring Lokrum, and I did panic a little when I realised I was without any water at some point of one of the worst climbs I have done in my entire life.
Let’s start with a nice and juicy introduction to Lokrum. I do adore a good story especially when it involves witchcraft and curses. Croatians believe Lokrum is cursed… and yet, with a short ferry ride of 15 minutes from the Old Port of Dubrovnik, the curse was not going to stop me from visiting. Yet, you’re not allowed to stay overnight, so don’t get too excited – not because of the curse, but because this is a Natural Reserve.
The first reference of the island comes from 1023 when a Benedict Abbey and Monastery were built there. Well, the Benedict monks were forced to leave the island in 1808 and, well, they were not happy about it. They were given a deadline to leave and, on that night, it is said the monks walked through the island dripping a trail of candle wax and placed a curse for anyone who tried to seek it for their own in the future.
In truth, many things happened that did not have a happy ending. Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg ignored the curse completely and built a mansion on the island in 1859 with a beautiful garden, bringing in exotic peacocks (still inhabitants of the island to this day). He and his wife, Charlotte, kept the island when becoming Emperor and Empress of Mexico… but the Emperor was executed and the island was surrender to the Habsburg Family. Charlotte had gone insane. Coincidence?…but, over the course of the most recent Croatian War of Independence, the island suffered 50 direct hits by the Serbians, destroying a huge part of the botanical gardens, with its historical library, and its records, burning down to ashes.
There are many points of interest in Lokrum, so be ready to do a great deal of walking. Of course, you can also relax by the ocean, but with no sandy beaches around, you wouldn’t have much shade to protect you from the sun. While I still had my swimsuit on, I ended up not going swimming. Even when I found this magnificent clear pool called “Dead Sea”. The reason? I almost stepped on a snake in the stones, and I really didn’t want to be swimming alongside them.
I’m not afraid of snakes (I have a real phobia of spiders though) but the thought of swimming amongst these sleeky creatures… not pleasant! So I sat here for a little bit, in the shade, washed my hands and my face to freshen up and made my way back out of this “hole”.
If you are a fan of the show Game of Thrones (guilty here…) you can take a pic in the infamous Iron Throne located within the Monastery. And of course… allow me this little pleasure, please.
But let’s leave fiction behind. The sea…the sea is really what you can look forward to. Because from the island you have the most brilliant views to the deep blue of the Adriatic.
No words. With such views, you can understand why the Benedicts didn’t want to leave the island. They had been preserving its natural beauty in peace for about 800 years, potentially finding part of their own peace in the blue waters of the Adriatic.
When it comes to beaches though… these are rocky as you can see.
You can lie down in there… but when it’s 30 degrees Celsius and you have the skin of a vampire…would you? I’d like to avoid skin cancer.
I was pretty sweaty at this point and pretty sure I was not going to be able to actually do much more. Yet, sometimes I can be stubborn and I was. There was a point of interest in the island that seemed to be worth the visit – the Fort Royal. According to a quick search on the internet, from there I could have beautiful views of the city of Dubrovnik, and the walk was named “The Path of Paradise”. Well how bad can it be then… yes, I was tired. Physically tired. Yes, my water supply wasn’t great and I probably needed to eat some calories.
Plus, if it’s called the Path of Paradise, I thought, naive, it’s probably going to be nice…oh. How wrong was I… It was HELL. I’ve climbed a lot of hills. This was by far the worst climb I’ve done in my entire life. Perhaps it was the heat and the sun, the lack of shadow throughout it. All I know is that when I finally got to the top, I was drenched in sweat, my legs were trembling, my feet hurting when stepping on the uneven stoned paths.
At least, when I did reach the Fort, inside it was nice and cold, so I almost dropped dead in there.
Well, the views? I was so exhausted it was even hard for me to enjoy them. But yes. They were nice as you can see below. I could hear my heart thumping though. My energy levels were low, and I was cursing myself (the irony of being on a cursed island) for being so stupid, afraid I would actually pass out.
What gave me some peace of mind was knowing that there wouldn’t be any more climbs. I had reached the highest point of the island. I was starving and thirsty, and I had just drunk the last droplets of warm water in my bottle. Thankfully, there are a couple of places where you can eat on the island and that was my motivation to keep going. My energy came back to me with the thought of food.
Looking back at these photos and my memory of the island I wonder… it doesn’t feel cursed. It feels more like a place that should be kept to Nature. A little oasis where all different kinds of birds, trees, reptiles and other vegetation can grow without any humane impediment. Where the waters of the Adriatic will be forever blue and translucid.
Lokrum is definitely a must-do in Dubrovnik. I did wish it wasn’t as hot as it ended up being! Just don’t be silly like I was and make sure you don’t drink all of your water when you just started to explore the island. And perhaps take some energy bars with you!