Jaw-dropping natural beauty, ancient walled towns and the endless blue of the Adriatic: Croatia is a wonderful choice for a short-haul honeymoon or a romantic minibreak. Here are our top tips for making the most of a visit with someone special…
Get lost in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s old town is one of the best-preserved walled medieval cities in Europe and has provided the backdrop for numerous films and TV series (Game of Thrones and Borgia among them). Set aside a few hours to lose yourself in its UNESCO-listed warren of cobbled streets, stumbling across atmospheric piazzas and Baroque mansions, before emerging onto the pedestrianised thoroughfare of the Stradun, whose stone façades glint in the sunshine. It’s particularly beautiful after dusk, once the day trippers have left; you can stay right in its heart at St Joseph’s, The Pucic Palace and Fresh* Sheets.
Take a Bond-style speedboat ride
Stay at Villa Dubrovnik, a sleek white-and-glass affair perched on a rocky promontory, and you’ll be whisked into the old town on vaporetto speedboat transfers. They run throughout the day and evening, providing amazing views and making dining out a doddle. The hotel is super-romantic, too, with a world-class spa, a rooftop bar, swish rooms and suites (some with Jacuzzis), and an alfresco restaurant where you can dine above the moonlit sea.
Picnic on Lokrum
Pack up a picnic (if you’re staying at Fresh* Sheets, manager Alex can prepare a hamper for you) and head over to the tiny island of Lokrum, 600m off Dubrovnik’s shore. It’s coated in forest and surrounded by mesmerising turquoise water, with botanical gardens, a Benedictine monastery and natural pools to explore. Paddle your way across on a half-day sea-kayaking trip with Adventure Dalmatia, or take one of the regular ferries.
Sip sundowners by the sea
Watch the sun sink into the Adriatic over cocktails at Buža, a romantic bar built into Dubrovnik’s cliffs. It’s accessed via a hidden doorway in the seaward-facing city walls.
Discover secret coves on a private yacht
The 48 islets which make up the Korcula Archipelago hide unspoilt beaches, forest-backed bays and rocky outcrops where you can dive straight into the sparkling water. Base yourself at luxurious Lesic Dimitri Palace, set in the 18th-century Bishop’s Palace in Korcula Old Town, and splash out on a private skippered trip aboard one of the hotel’s vessels: a slick modern motorboat or an elegant vintage sailing boat.
Feast on gourmet food at Hotel Boskinac
For a memorable meal, book a night or two at family-run Hotel Boskinac. It’s set on a working winery on the rugged island of Pag, which is known for its salty sheep’s cheese, plump olives and delicious lamb. The hotel’s sophisticated restaurant serves innovative twists on local cuisine – think sea bass carpaccio, jakovska kapica (a gratinée of scallops and shrimps) and monkfish in a creamy tomato sauce – and its poolside terrace is a magical place to dine.
Live like a local in Split
The enchanting neighbourhood of Veli Varoš, close to Split’s harbour and Unesco-listed centre, is a jumble of peaceful squares, winding lines and flower-fringed stone cottages. It’s also home to Divota Apartment Hotel, a cluster of stylish self-catering rooms and studios where you can get an authentic taste of everyday Croatian life. Browse the nearby vegetable, fruit and fish markets for super-fresh ingredients, then return to your private home-from-home for a lazy meal on your plant-filled balcony.
Taste fine wines by lapping waves
Croatia’s wines have a growing international reputation, and you can sample some of the best at Hotel Podstine, a romantic seafront hideaway just outside buzzing Hvar Town. There are weekly wine-tasting nights under the stars on the lantern-lit terrace, accompanied by live jazz and fresh Dalmatian seafood. Private tables for 2 can be set up at the water’s edge, too.
Soak up the views and the solitude on Mljet
Day trip to Mljet, a densely wooded island reached via a 90-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik. It’s been named by the World Wide Fund for Nature as one of the last paradises in the Mediterranean, and at its northern end is a protected national park where fragrant pines cascade down to the sea. You can pick up maps from the park office at Pristaniste, and outside high season you’ll barely see another soul as you follow winding paths up to stunning viewpoints.
Venture into Montenegro
Extend your trip with a few days in neighbouring Montenegro, whose border lies a short drive from Dubrovnik. Much of this bitesize country remains relatively wild, and its jagged coastline is backed by soaring peaks that hide historic villages and mirror-still lakes. One of the most romantic spots is the Bay of Kotor, a vast aquamarine inlet ringed by forested slopes; you can stay right by the water at beautiful Palazzo Radomiri, a few km outside the former Venetian stronghold of Kotor Town.