Dubrovnik and Southern Dalmatia Feature
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The region's most magnificent historic monument has to be Dubrovnik's Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Northwest along the coast, tiny Ston is noteworthy for its 14th-century walls, which formed a unique defense system, controlling land access onto Peljesac Peninsula. Korcula Town, a compact settlement of medieval stone buildings on a small peninsula, owes its ingenious "herring-bone" urban plan and elegant Gothic and Renaissance architecture to Dubrovnik's archrival, Venice. Fortunately, each of these historic centers has been protected from the threat of development.
The region's islands offer the perfect opportunity to escape modern-day life. The tiny, car-free Elafiti Islands, which can be visited as a day trip from Dubrovnik, make a fine introduction to Dalmatia as it once was. Farther out to sea, Mljet remains wild and relatively free of commercial development. One-third of Mljet has been declared a national park to protect its indigenous pinewoods and two saltwater lakes.
Southern Dalmatia produces some excellent wines, notably the reds from the Peljesac Peninsula and the whites from the island of Korcula. On Peljesac, just one grape variety, Plavac Mali (closely related to California zinfandel) produces three sorts of red—Dingac, Postup, and Plavac—depending on the soil and topography of the vineyards it grows in. Here several wine cellars offer tastings, the best known being Grgic in Trstenik, Bartulovic in Prizdrina, and Matusko in Potomje. On Korcula the grape variety Posip produces a crisp dry white wine, the best coming from the interior villages of Cara and Smokvica. The golden-colored Grk is highly esteemed and said to date back to the ancient Greeks. The Dubrovnik-based travel agency Atlas runs wine-tasting trips to both Peljesac and Korcula.
The best beaches and the cleanest water for swimming are on the islands. Sand is rare in Croatia, but in Southern Dalmatia you'll find blissful, back-to-nature, sandy beaches at Lumbarda (on Korcula), Saplunara (on Mljet), and Sunj (on Lopud). Trstenica in Orebic is a 1-km-long (½-mi-long) stretch of mixed sand and pebble. Nudism is popular, and official nudist beaches are marked FKK (from the German Freikörperkultur, meaning "free body culture"). Eastwest in Dubrovnik is a fully equipped, see-and-be-seen beach club just outside the city walls, where you'll spot international celebrities and would-bes in designer swimwear.
Southern Dalmatia is a paradise for yachting enthusiasts, thanks to its myriad islands and well-equipped marinas. Dubrovnik ACI marina is the region's main charter base, with around a dozen companies there. Other marinas include the Korcula ACI marina on Korcula, and the Hotel Odisej marina on Mljet. Each year the ANA Sailing School, based in Cavtat near Dubrovnik, offers one-week sailing courses at various levels through summer. If you take a typical one-week charter departing from Dubrovnik, you can expect to visit the Elafitis, Mljet, and Korcula.
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