Dubrovnik at sunset from south of the city.
Dubrovnik at sunset from south of the city.

Photography in Dubrovnik, Croatia Part 1 : The City and South

I decided to spend a month in Croatia. There were a few reasons: I had heard good things about it, I’d seen pictures of Dubrovnik’s old town. Mostly, though, I was curious. When I was a teenager, I spent a year in Austria, and at the time, the war between the Croatians, Bosnians, Serbs and Montenegrans was still raging, and some of the refugees had ended up in my German For Foreigners class in Austria.

The train from Budapest arrived in Zagreb late in the evening, so although I had a chance to watch the sun set over the north Croatian landscape, I didn’t have a chance to photograph it. I spent almost no time in Zagreb… less than 24 hours, but it has a warm place in my heart because there were books everywhere: there were tables of books for sale in the train station, there were book sellers on the streets, and there was an unusual abundance of bookshops.

I took a bus to Split Croatia, down on the coast, and immediately liked it. It was a typical, beautiful (if not very affluent) Mediteranean city. The poeple were friendly and had that laid back attitude that is so common in Spain and parts of Italy. The weather was warm and comfortable, and everything was cheap.

A corner fruit stand in Split, Croatia. Local fruits were very cheap: about $1 for two pounds of mandarin oranges, for example.
A corner fruit stand in Split, Croatia. Local fruits were very cheap: about $1 for two pounds of mandarin oranges, $1.50 for 1kg (2.2lbs) of grapes.

Finally, I headed down the coast to Dubrovnik and took up residence in an apartment just outside the old city walls. My apartment was just steps away from a large tower (Minčeta Tower) that was the set for the Game of Thrones scenes involving the House of the Undying in Qarth.

View between Dubrovnik's Ploce Gate and the City Wall
Between the Ploce Gate and the city wall the old harbor and the island of Lokrum are visible in the background.

The morning after my arrival, I walked down the coast to catch the sunrise over the old walled city. The rocky coast was full of interesting details: caves, stone walls, an arched stone bridge, and attractive gazebos. This became one of my favorite locations to view the city; it was relatively unknown so I always had it to myself, and it provided an unobstructed view of the old town and harbor.

Dubrovnik at Sunrise
Dubrovnik at sunrise, from south of the city.
Stormy weather in Dubrovnik, from south of the city
Stormy weather in Dubrovnik, from south of the city

Over the following weeks, I took very few photos in the city itself. Even in late October, it was full of tourists for most of the day, and after the first few days, most of the architecture started to just seem normal to me anyway.

Dubrovnik back streets.
Dubrovnik back streets.

Even stormy weather didn’t drive the tourists inside, which was lucky; they were good subjects when large waves surprised them at the edge of the harbor.

Waves on the edge of the old harbor in Dubrovnik
Waves on the edge of the old harbor in Dubrovnik

Instead, I preferred to hike around the surrounding area. I walked up the coast and up into the mountains. In fact, one day, I decided to walk across the country and into Bosnia and Herzegovina. From the hills around the city, it was much easier to get an idea of Dubrovnik’s layout.

Dubrovnik from the mountains.
Dubrovnik from the mountains.
Storm clouds over Bosnia, near Dubrovnik
The country of Croatia is so small around Dubrovnik that these hills are in Bosnia, although the photo was taken about a mile from the coast.

Dubrovnik was under siege by the Serbian/Montenegran army for years during the early 1990s, and many of the nearby towns, such as Bosanka, were completely destroyed. Most of the area has been rebuilt, but it’s still not hard to find the remains of burned or bombed buildings in the area, and if you cross the border into Bosnia, the damage is even more visible.

Dubrovnik seen from the hills above the city. A cable car runs to the top of the mountain, but it's a nicer walk.
Dubrovnik seen from the hills above the city. A cable car runs to the top of the mountain, but it’s a nicer walk.

On a couple of occasions, I decided to explore the roads south of town and just kept walking, though the villages of Čibača and Kupari, along a dirt road that tops the coastal cliffs. On a calm day, the view of the turquoise water below was stunning, and the view back towards the city was gorgeous at sunset. In one little cove, I peered over the cliffs and saw a little white and blue boat anchored off shore, but nobody was around… not on shore, not swimming, there were no houses nearby. I don’t know what it was doing there, but it was very picturesque.

boat and turquoise water near Dubrovnik
The coastal waters of the Adriatic are crystal clear and a beautiful turquoise color.

The sun set during my walk home, the colors reflecting in the water behind the city. A “pirate” ship (a replica galleon) chugged into the old harbor, giving me a great silhouette and extra detail.

Dubrovnik at sunset. With pirates!
Dubrovnik at sunset. With pirates!

Traveling to Dubrovnik?

Let me know. I might be able to give you some tips. If nothing else, remember this: there is no real camera shop in Dubrovnik, but there is a tiny place in the old town that sells some basics. You won’t be able to buy a new lens or even a real tripod or battery, so make sure you have what you need when you arrive. I was able to buy a polarizer filter, though. Leave questions or comments in the “comments” section below!

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2 Comments

  • Beautiful shots of a beautiful location! I saw a random post of Plitvice Lakes and the walls of Dubrovnik on Reddit a few years ago and promised my wife I’d take her there. She’d hardly even heard of Croatia. In fact, most people we talked to hadn’t even realized that it was any kind of travel destination. But two years ago we went for just over a week and it was quite possibly our best trip ever.

    The beautiful coastal cities with their orange roofs sit nestled between the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic and the mountains to the east. The people are incredibly friendly, the food amazing. Everywhere we went we felt extremely safe. And everything was so affordable!

    We were able to see Dubrovnik, the Peljesac Peninsula on our way to Korcula, Omis, Split, Trogir, Zadar, the Peljesac Lakes region and Krka National Park. But that was only the tip of the ice burg – I’m already planning a return visit so we can see more of the islands, head further north to Pula and inland to see Zagreb and some of the mountain towns.

    Can’t wait to see the rest of your series!

    • Croatia is a wonderful place. I spent most of my time in Dubrovnik so that I felt like I was actually living there and getting completely familiar with it, not just a tourist passing through, but it means that I’ll need to go back to Croatia to see what the rest of the country, too. I’m also looking forward to spending some time in Montenegro.

      Of all the places that I visited in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Dubrovnik was the most expensive… and it wasn’t that bad. Places like Split, though, were much much cheaper… I could easily see myself going back there for a few months just to relax.

      If you have any photos to share, I’d love to see them. You should be able to post them here in the forum.

      – Matthew

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