Lokrum island is one of the most popular getaway spots for tourists visiting Dubrovnik in high season. Only a short ferry ride from the Old Town, the island offers an easy escape from the city crowds, as well as several historic treasures and many natural wonders to explore, including a salt water lake known as the Dead Sea, and the Purple Cave, named for the purple seaweed that covers the rocks.
Lokrum is a great place to go for a swim, take long walks across the island’s rustic footpaths and green landscapes, or simply to have a quiet, relaxing break from the bustle of the Old Town. Inhabited since prehistoric times, yet virtually untouched for centuries, Lokrum is now a Nature Reserve and a Special Forest Vegetation Reserve associated with many legends from different eras of its rich history.
In 1192, the island offered shelter to King Richard the Lionheart, who was shipwrecked there after returning home from the Third Crusade. Out of gratitude, the king made a significant contribution to build the old Dubrovnik cathedral, a beautiful Romanesque building that was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1667 and eventually replaced by the present-day Assumption Cathedral, built on the same site.
Lokrum’s central fort, Fort Royal, was built by one of Napoleon’s generals after the French took Dubrovnik in 1806. It was later renamed into the Tower of Maximilian after Maximilian I of Habsburg bought the island a few decades later.
Founded in the 11th century and abandoned in 1798, the old Benedictine monastery now sits in ruins on the part of the island facing the open sea. The ruins include the remains of a Romanesque-Gothic basilica, the most ancient part of the complex, dating back to the 12th and 13th century, and a monastery built in the Gothic-Renaissance style in the 15th and 16th century. The north and west wings of the new monastery were destroyed in the 1667 earthquake.
The Benedictine monastery was known for its gardens and superbly landscaped estates, and the arrival of Maximilian I in 1859 marked the beginning of a new era for Lokrum’s landscape architecture, as the whole island was gradually transformed into a park.
The monastery’s garden is the only remaining preserved cloister garden in the region. Along with Lokrum’s botanical gardens, the monastery served as one of the locations for HBO’s Game of Thrones, standing in for Qarth, the “queen of cities,” and several other fictional settings. Maximilian I also built a summer villa in the monastery complex and brought peacocks from the Canary Islands. The birds can still be seen happily roaming the island.
Legend of the Lokrum curse
Benedictine monks first arrived to Lokrum around 915 A.D. and stayed on the island until the end of the 18th century when, after years of decline following the great earthquake, they became a growing burden to the Dubrovnik Republic. The people of Dubrovnik sold the island to private buyers and, as legend has it, the night before the monks left Lokrum, they cursed the island’s future owners.
While this may not have actually happened, several deaths and accidents that happened to the owners were attributed to the curse. These, however, would likely have been forgotten if not for the tragedies that struck Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and Maximilian I’s older brother. The emperor’s wife Elisabeth was killed at Lake Geneva, his son Rudolph committed suicide in Mayerling, and Maximilian himself was executed in Mexico, which gave the old tales new life.
Dubrovnik to Lokrum
Lokrum is open to visitors from April to November. The boat ride from the Dubrovnik Old Port takes only 15 minutes, with boats departing every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in peak season. Visitors can also take kayak tours to explore Lokrum’s cliffs and beaches from the sea.
Dubrovnik Riviera accommodation
Visitors looking for luxury accommodation on the Dubrovnik Riviera will find single and double bed suites at Apartments Srebreno. Located in a residential centre in Srebreno near Dubrovnik, the apartments offer extraordinary quality of service and accommodation in picturesque surroundings by the sea. Apartments Srebreno are part of the Dubrovnik Riviera Hotels complex in Srebreno and situated opposite the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel. Guests at the apartments have the hotel’s amenities at their disposal and can go on organized day trips and tours of the regional highlights, which include Cavtat, Lokrum, and the Elaphiti Islands.
Images: Flickr Commons/Bartlomiej Mostek (Island of Lokrum), Wikimedia Commons/Jerrye and Roy Klotz (Lokrum monastery), August Dominus (Gardens of Maximilian), Bizutage (Benedictine monastery ruins), Pudelek (Fort Royal)