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Lokrum Island: A Haven of History and Nature Near Dubrovnik

Lokrum Island monastery ruins overlooking the Adriatic Sea

Nestled in the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, a mere 600 meters off the coast of Dubrovnik, lies the enchanting Lokrum Island. This small, uninhabited isle is a treasure trove of history, legends, and natural beauty that beckons visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in its captivating atmosphere. From its ancient Benedictine monastery to its lush botanical gardens and pristine beaches, Lokrum Island offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

A Monastery, a Lionheart, and a Curse

Lokrum Island first appears in historical records in 1023 when Benedictine monks established a monastery there. According to legend, the island played a fateful role in the life of Richard the Lionheart, the famed English king. In 1192, while returning from the Third Crusade, Richard‘s ship was caught in a storm and wrecked near Lokrum. The monks provided shelter to the king, and he supposedly vowed to build a cathedral in Dubrovnik out of gratitude for their kindness. The Dubrovnik cathedral, completed in 1142, is said to have been built with limestone from Lokrum.

However, the peaceful existence of the Benedictines on Lokrum was not to last. In the 15th century, the Dubrovnik Republic decided to purchase the island from the monks. Displeased with this turn of events, the monks placed a curse on the island, proclaiming that anyone who sought to possess it for their own pleasure would meet an untimely death. This curse has become part of the island‘s lore, with some claiming that Lokrum is haunted by the ghosts of the departed monks.

From Royalty to Botanical Paradise

Despite the alleged curse, Lokrum Island became a prized possession of the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian in 1859. Maximilian, who would later become the ill-fated Emperor of Mexico, was enchanted by the island‘s beauty and decided to make it his personal residence. He set about transforming Lokrum into a botanical paradise, importing exotic plants and trees from around the world.

Today, visitors can still marvel at the results of Maximilian‘s passion in the island‘s botanical garden, which boasts over 500 plant species from far-flung corners of the globe. The garden‘s centerpiece is a magnificent avenue lined with towering palms and fragrant eucalyptus trees.

Maximilian also introduced peacocks to the island, and their descendants still roam freely, adding a touch of regal charm to the lush landscape. Sadly, Maximilian‘s reign was short-lived, and he was executed in Mexico in 1867. His nephew, Archduke Rudolf, visited Lokrum in 1887, just two years before his tragic suicide at Mayerling.

Nature‘s Sanctuary

Beyond its intriguing history, Lokrum Island is a haven for nature lovers. The island is home to a stunning holm oak forest, considered one of the best-preserved in the Mediterranean. Hiking trails wind through the dense foliage, offering glimpses of the shimmering sea through the trees.

At the southern tip of the island lies a unique natural wonder – a small salt lake known as the "Dead Sea." With a salinity level rivaling that of its namesake, the lake‘s high salt content allows swimmers to float effortlessly on its surface.

Lokrum‘s rocky shoreline is lapped by some of the clearest turquoise waters in the Adriatic. The island‘s beaches, including a designated nudist beach established in the 1960s, are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Beneath the waves, a vibrant underwater world awaits, with octopuses, lobsters, and colorful fish darting among the crevices.

Echoes of Westeros

In recent years, Lokrum Island has gained new fame as a filming location for the hit TV series Game of Thrones. The island‘s ancient stone quarry and the ruins of the Benedictine monastery were transformed into the exotic city of Qarth, where Daenerys Targaryen sought refuge in the show‘s second season.

Fans of the series can walk in the footsteps of their favorite characters and imagine themselves in the realm of Westeros as they explore the island‘s atmospheric ruins.

Visiting Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island is easily accessible from Dubrovnik‘s old port, with ferries running up to 10 times a day during the peak summer season. The ferry ride takes a mere 10-15 minutes, making it a perfect half-day or full-day excursion.

Visitors to the island can explore at their own pace, wandering through the botanical gardens, hiking the forest trails, or simply relaxing on the beaches. The island‘s visitor center offers exhibits on Lokrum‘s history and wildlife, providing a deeper understanding of this fascinating destination.

In 2023, the ticket price for Lokrum Island is 200 kuna (approximately €27) per adult, which includes the round-trip ferry ride. Despite its small size, the island‘s popularity has grown steadily over the years, with over 112,000 visitors recorded in 2013 alone.

A Timeless Treasure

Lokrum Island is a testament to the enduring allure of the Adriatic coast, where history, legend, and natural beauty intertwine. From its ancient monastery to its royal residents and its role in modern pop culture, the island has a story to tell at every turn.

As you step off the ferry and onto the island‘s rocky shores, you‘ll feel as though you‘ve been transported to another world – a world of tranquility, mystery, and breathtaking beauty. Whether you come to explore its lush gardens, uncover its historical secrets, or simply bask in its crystal-clear waters, Lokrum Island promises an unforgettable experience that will linger long after you‘ve left its enchanted shores.

Peacock on Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island Key Information:
| Category | Details |
| Location | 600m off the coast of Dubrovnik |
| Size | 0.7 square kilometers (0.27 sq mi) |
| Highest Point | 96 meters (315 ft) above sea level |
| Getting There | 10-15 minute ferry from Dubrovnik |
| Ferry Frequency | Up to 10 times per day (peak season)|
| Ticket Price (2023)| 200 kuna (approx. €27) per adult |
| Notable Features | Benedictine monastery ruins, botanical garden, salt lake, beaches, Game of Thrones filming location |
| Visitor Numbers | Over 112,000 in 2013 |