Most people have heard of Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic, but the beautiful harbour town of Cavtat, only 18km down the coast, has managed to remain relatively unknown compared to its cosmopolitan neighbour. Cavtat is like a precious secret. It is hard to say what delights the visitor most: the luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation that envelops the peninsula like a thick, green blanket; its picturesque bays, still and clear, deep and blue; the colourful old town, with its cobbled streets and traditional red-roofed houses, where life goes on in much the same way it always has.
Originally the ancient Greek settlement of Epidaurus, the rich history of this charming coastal destination has shaped the town, its monuments and its wares. Today, chic shops, restaurants and cafes line the harbour front, beyond which is a delightful promenade, arching all the way around the bay.
Stroll through town and a wealth of mainly Renaissance-period treasures are waiting to be discovered: the 16th-century Rector's Palace, beside which is the Church of St Nicholas; ancient city walls and the Falcon Fortress; the 15th-century Church of Our Lady of Snow, part of a Franciscan monastery complex.
Cavtat is also the birthplace of Vlaho Bukovac, Croatia’s most prominent artist and forefather of modern Croatian painting. His childhood home has been painstakingly restored and converted into an exhibition space and museum, The House of Vlaho Bukovac.
No visit is complete without a trip to the Mausoleum. Built on the site of the 15-century St Rock’s church and cemetery by the prominent ship-owning family Račić in 1921, it’s carved entirely from white Brač stone and is a beautiful monument perched on a hill overlooking the town.
In Cavtat, you have the best of both worlds. Only 10 minutes by bus or taxi from the airport and with regular buses and boats running between Cavtat and Dubrovnik daily, the historic city, which glitters in the distance, is just a short journey away.
In the last century, the bay of Cavtat was an exclusive retreat for wealthy Croatians. When you’re sat with a cooling drink, watching the sun go down over the bay, it’s easy to see why. With more than seven kilometres of crystal-clear coastline, dotted with sunbathing terraces and hidden coves, it’s an idyllic haven.