Dubrovnik is living proof that a city can live up to its fabled nickname. Dubbed the “Pearl of the Adriatic” by the poet Lord Byron in the 19th century, Dubrovnik survived heavy shelling during the civil war in the 1990s to emerge as Europe’s “it” spot of the moment. A secret hideaway for the international jet set for decades, this fairytale city now attracts an increasingly large number of tourists from the U.S. In fact, award-winning tour operators like Travel Impressions have recently announced portfolio expansions to include Croatia. Travel Impressions’ specially priced, five-night vacation packages include Dubrovnik, Adriatic resort areas such as Hvar and the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

This tourism renaissance is entirely understandable: Dalmatia’s Mediterranean sunshine, brilliant blue sea, rich history and inspired cuisine will quickly make it a favorite of your clients. The nightlife on the island of Hvar lures night owls, and the idyllic scenery on the islands of Korcula and Mljet—think lavender fields and dramatic rocky beaches—beckons like Odysseus’ sirens.

Forewarn your clients that rocky ledges pass for beaches in the local lexicon; sand is not to be found in Dalmatia. But the glittering jewel of the Croatian coast will always be the walled city of Dubrovnik jutting into the Adriatic, the famous red-tiled roofs standing in sharp relief with the surrounding azure sea. These impressive 82-foot high ramparts have protected the city for centuries, so it’s little wonder that Dubrovnik was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

Despite the summer cruise ship passengers—the main pedestrian promenade of polished marble, called Stradun, can become awfully crowded in July and August—summer remains the best time to visit Dubrovnik. The celebrated Summer Festival is a huge draw and attracts world-renowned artists, musicians and actors (July 10-August 25). The Communist-era hotels have been replaced with newer, more chic accommodations, though Dubrovnik’s best and most affordable accommodations are the private apartments. Many are situated in the pedestrian-only city center and can be found on websites such as www.dubrovnik-amoret.com, www.dubrovnik-apartments-bb.com and www.dubrovnik-online.com/english/private_accommodation.php. For your clients on a budget, sobes (private rooms in the houses of Croats) present an affordable option.

Old Town
Hotels are rare in the picturesque Old Town itself, and the aptly named Stari Grad, meaning “Old Town,” is a lovely choice just steps from the vibrant café life on Stradun. The former house of the aristocratic Draškovic family dating from the 16th century, the three-star Hotel Stari Grad has only eight rooms with all the contemporary conveniences like air conditioning, minibars, satellite TV and private bathrooms with hydro-massage showers. (There are four single rooms and four doubles with king-size beds.) The small size assures privacy for your clients, and attention to detail by the staff. Book room #402 for views of the Adriatic from a side window. At breakfast, your clients will swoon over the rooftop terrace overlooking the terra-cotta roofs of Dubrovnik. Note: There is no elevator.

Agent Advice

Jay Ternavan, founder of Pelham, NY-based JayWay Travel, has developed his expertise on Central and Eastern Europe through extensive travel in the region. Hailing from New York, Ternavan lived in Dubrovnik for six months in 2007. Jayway Travel specializes in personalized travel experiences with insider knowledge, exclusive access and handpicked accommodations in each destination. This travel savvy leads him to recommend apartments in Dubrovnik over many of the hotels that sometimes need remodeling and are overpriced.

“Apartments provide the best value for money in Croatia,” Ternavan says. “My clients get more space, more privacy and a more authentic experience. An added plus is the location inside Old Town or within easy walking distance to Old Town. Many hotels require a bus or taxi ride to the city center, an expense that needs to be factored into their overall accommodation cost.”

Sometimes clients may seem wary about booking an apartment instead of a hotel (and potentially sacrificing the amenities and services they’re used to), but find themselves ecstatic after their stay. “Apartments are just as nice if not nicer than most of the hotels in Dubrovnik,” Ternavan says.

The seafood is magnificent in Dubrovnik, and Ternavan recommends Lokanda Peskarija, a seaside restaurant overlooking the old port that’s popular among locals, for specialties like the grilled small squids. But keep in mind that unbeatable prices mean a long wait time for a table. Ternavan also likes Kamenice, and recommends the octopus salad.

“Don’t miss an excursion to nearby Lokrum Island,” the agent also advises. Only 10 minutes away by boat, the island is a world away from the tourist crowds and offers fantastic swimming and beautiful botanical gardens.

The only other hotel in Old Town is the luxurious Pucic Palace, smack dab in Gundulic Square. This former nobleman’s home was restored into a classy boutique hotel in the five-star category. Behind the honey-colored facade, 19 sumptuous guest rooms have played host to countless distinguished personalities. Named after famous Croatian artists, these rooms are marked by wood-beamed ceilings and dark oak floors, and appointed with antique furnishings, handwoven rugs and museum-quality artwork. The soundproofed windows afford dazzling views of the city. Your clients will love the Bulgari toiletries and copper tubs in the mosaic-walled bathrooms.

The room to book is the Junior Suite (named for Dubrovnik’s famous Baroque poet Ivan Gundulic) because of its balcony overlooking the buzzing main square. Another fabulous suite is the Senior Suite, considered the best room in the house, on the top floor with separate living area and bedroom. The hotel’s Executive category—including rooms named for Marin Drzic (#2), Benedikt Stay (#6), Toma Restic (#7), Rugjer Boskovic (#11) and Sebastian Slade (#12)—is also heavily requested because of the views. The only difference between the two Double Room categories (Deluxe and Executive) is the location within the hotel—Executive Rooms are on higher floors and thus have better views over Gundulic Square. For families traveling together, note that there are only two interconnecting rooms: Ignjat Gjurgjevic (#4) and Mavro Vetranic (#5). Large families usually book the entire property.

General Manager Erol A. Olcan ([email protected], 011-385-20-324-828) is happy to assist with your VIP requests. Room Sales Manager Sanja Brigovic ([email protected]) is also available for VIP room bookings and arrangements. The attentive front desk staff—Alen, Gorazd, Sanja and Amira ([email protected])—will take good care of your clients. The Pucic Palace can organize helicopter tours of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, sunset sails aboard a medieval ship replica with a romantic dinner, private car service (Mercedes S and E Class) and motorboat excursions to neighboring islands with gourmet picnic baskets.

Your clients can dine on the square (seasonally) at the hotel’s Café Royal or on the open-air terrace at Defne, the highly popular upscale restaurant serving the very best Croatian specialties along with Mediterranean dishes from beyond the country’s borders. Suggest the signature dish, the fillet of turbot served with vegetables, rice and shrimp.

Guests of the Pucic Palace are welcome at the trendy EastWest Beach Club, and beach towels and chaise lounges are provided free of charge.

Most Dubrovnik hotels are concentrated on the resort strip of Lapad, about four kilometers from Old Town. The 70-year-old Maestral Hotel chain, owned by the Republic of Croatia, operates five hotels with a total of 483 rooms, open seasonally from Easter to November. The 59-room Hotel Splendid was first built in 1935, but recent renovations make it a pleasant three-star option with striking bay views. From the small beach, your clients can kayak or sail out to sea. They can also hit the clay tennis courts.

Back in 2003, a dated and bland hotel morphed into the Hotel Uvala, which became the Maestral Hotel chain’s finest property. A local architect from Split, Dinko Kovacic, transformed the structure into a four-star property with a wellness center, two pools, two conference halls and the Mantala restaurant, featuring Dalmatian specialties along with a special macrobiotic menu. Hotel Uvala offers 51 rooms with sea-facing balconies and all the amenities like air conditioning, Internet access and satellite TV.

Recommend a happy-hour cocktail at the Sunset Lounge at the newly renovated Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, overlooking the azure Adriatic and the Elafiti archipelago in Lapad. The building itself may seem soulless, but after a $50 million renovation, this place has some great amenities including flat-screen TVs and state-of-the-art technology in every room, endless sea views and direct boat service to the city center. Operated by Adriatic Luxury Hotels (ALH), the Croatian hotel group behind the area’s top luxury hotels, Hotel Dubrovnik Palace is joined by sister hotels Hotel Bellevue and the recently reopened Hotel Excelsior.

See more of Dubrovnik in the video below: