A Place to Stay in Croatia Jack Montgomery | Posted: 06 September 2013
The landscape is a patchwork of blues and greens, as you'll discover on a walking holiday in Croatia
Jack Montgomery

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Jack Montgomery

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Explore historic Dubrovnik on a self-guided walking holiday in Croatia

In An Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington opined that it’s better to “live in a cave with a view of a palace, than live in a palace with a view of a cave”. Visit Dalmatia and you’ll begin to understand what he’s getting at.

I had done my research so I was expecting to see beauty: turquoise seas whose clarity is legendary, Aleppo forests of the richest green, pristine white pebble shores. I just wasn't expecting to see quite so much of it.

From cities whose narrow streets are paved in shining marble and lined by elegant façades of wrought iron balconies, and karst canyons carved by crystal torrents that settle in lakes of ever-shifting shades of green; to forested islands floating in infinite blue before a backdrop of Tolkien-esque peaks. Every new journey to the next destination brought another view to unhinge the jaw and surrender it to the laws of gravity.

With such riches of natural beauty, finding somewhere to stay that capitalised on them brought Karl Pilkington's philosophy on location sharply into view. Although I have to admit that my days of being happy to sleep in a cave are behind me (well, they never actually arrived, to be honest), I get where he's coming from.

Arriving in the car park and switching off the ignition, relief at getting so easily to my Dubrovnik hotel began to be replaced with a creeping doubt. Where exactly am I? And more importantly, where is the iconic walled city of Dubrovnik?

The Hotel Lapad is something of a palace in its own right. Standing proud on the waterfront of Gruž port, the elegant Victorian façade has looked out over the water for over 100 years. My room was on the 7th floor with a small balcony whose side view of the port may have been a tad Basil Fawlty but was no less spectacular for that.

The next day, stepping out onto the balcony in the stark sunshine of early morning, the horizon had been stolen by a cruise liner of immense proportions that dwarfed everything else in the port into Hobbit size.

After breakfast I strolled along the port side and jumped on a local bus which whisked me into Dubrovnik's Old Town. Unfortunately, the 10,000 cruise passengers who had disembarked from my view stealer got there before me. After a full day traversing the city walls, climbing to Lovrijenac Fortress and exploring the magnificent architecture and endless fascination of its marbled streets, I was very glad I wasn't staying in the Old Town and retreated mercifully to my tranquil port view at Hotel Lapad.

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My first taste of the film star looks of Hvar was not so much from a cave, as through a stone tunnel hewn into the cliff face. Formerly a private residence, access to the Hotel Podstine wasn't a priority; seclusion was, and still is.

There was little from the outside to betray what lay beyond the front door of the hotel and so it wasn't until I entered the light and airy lobby that the full realisation of my location strode up and introduced itself to me.

Perched on the cliff side of the sublime Podstine Bay, a 15-minute sandal stroll along the coastline from Hvar Town, the views that spread before me were mesmerising. A canvas of gently swaying palm fronds and pine branches led down to the water's edge where the elegant masts of yachts swayed drunkenly. Beyond the azure coves the densely forested hills of the Pakleni Otoci islands framed the Adriatic to complete the picture.

On Korçula island the Korkyra Hotel in Vela Luka also enjoyed a grandstand position overlooking the picturesque harbour where orderly rows of fishing and pleasure boats bobbed idly until roused into rocking by a passing vessel. Along the opposite side of the harbour, a row of palm trees fringed the water like a chorus line, their frond headdresses swaying in perfect unison. But the Korkyra was no cave. The chic and luxurious design of my room was as pleasing to the eye as the view from the window was and I felt I was living in a palace looking at a palace.

The place where Karl's words most rang true for me were in Mljet. The only hotel located on the island, the Odisej, is within Mljet National Park right on the waterfront in the tranquil bay of Pomena. State owned, it has all the design features of a sixties holiday camp and the personality of Rosa Klebb, but it's clean, comfortable, friendly and possesses what must be one of the finest views in a country inundated by divine vistas.

Stepping out onto my balcony, the sheer, unsullied and sublime essence of Mljet spread its beauty before me, fronted by a small table and two chairs from which to uncork a bottle of wine and drink in its splendour. In the bay immediately below, a luxury yacht was moored, its sleek lines and trendy deck furniture glinting in the late afternoon sun. But I felt no envy for those people in their expensive cabins because I had what they didn't – a view of their yacht moored in a bay in Paradise.

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