Heavenly hotels, history and high-drama scenery in Dubrovnik, Croatia's Adriatic jewel
Dubrovnik has long been one of Europe's most beautiful cities. There it sits on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, the fabled orange tiles of its slanted rooftops chiming gloriously with the sparkling blue of the water, its famous walls still rearing sturdily above the waves so very redolent of the era when the city was the great medieval trading power of Ragusa.
It is a splendid destination for a weekend escape, or a longer stay alive with bars, cafes, restaurants and museums that will fill both your head and camera with happy memories.
And if you wish to ease into the gentle pace of life that defines Dubrovnik, then there are two hotels which provide the ideal setting for a day or five on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast.
The Valamar Dubrovnik President Hotel is Dubrovnik's most revered accommodation option. A fabulous five-star, newly refurbished, it perches prettily at the tip of the Babin Kuk peninsula, lying on its own Blue Flag beach but still a short distance from the Old city.
Here is a hotel where you can while away the hours, gazing at the swirling motion of the Adriatic, so near at hand. Each room at the Valamar Dubrovnik President has a sea-facing balcony ideal for quiet evenings watching the sunset, maybe with a glass of wine in hand.
Of course, if you want to be closer to the water, you can swim out from the smooth pebble beach. Or you can go deeper via the hotel's PADI dive centre, which offers a wide range of courses, and the chance to drop down in search of the wrecks a lost war ship, a sunken merchant vessel which decorate the seabed nearby. Alternatively, take a dip in the hotel's new outdoor pool or heated indoor pool. Or, perhaps, unwind at the spa, where soothing treatments galore as well as saunas, relaxation areas and Turkish baths await.
Once you have calmed the soul, you can deal with the stomach. The Valamar Dubrovnik President revels in fine food. Its new beach restaurant is an enticing place to eat, whether you want a light lunch or something more sophisticated from the a la carte evening menu.
Close by also pitched amid the striking surroundings of the Babin Kuk peninsula the Valamar Argosy Hotel is another inviting possibility for those who want to combine the history and culture of Dubrovnik with the charms of the Dalmatian Coast. Set in its own gardens, looking out to Daksa island in the sea beyond, this lovely four-star, also freshly renovated, is a holiday haven. A two-minute walk from the beach, here is another enclave that offers opportunities for lazy afternoons of swimming, snorkelling and scuba-diving.
You can also take to the tranquility of the hotel's warm indoor pool and dramatic outdoor infinity pool, say farewell to any worries in the well-being centre, with its sauna rooms or work up an appetite on the tennis court or the nearby hiking trails that trace the shore.
And once you are hungry, dinner is served perhaps on the hotel terrace as you absorb the view. Themed gastronomy evenings and traditional Croatian dishes will tempt your palate while you can begin each day with plenty of nutrition from the breakfast buffet.
Both hotels are wonderful bases for a holiday spent exploring Dubrovnik, letting you slip into the city to peek at the gilded grandeur of the 17th century Church of St Ignatius or the fascinating artefacts of the Maritime Museum. They are also perfectly positioned if you wish to take a boat and visit some of the islands that linger so idyllically off the mainland Daksa and Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. It is all here, ready to be explored and enjoyed.
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