Lokrum Island – tranquillity and shade close to Dubrovnik
Only a 10-minute ferry ride away from the Old Harbor in Dubrovnik, Lokrum Island is a beautiful place with forests full of pines, black ash, holm oaks and olive trees.
The island has a unique history and locals believe that anyone who stays there overnight will be cursed – which is why there are no hotels or guest houses there!
This little island, just off the coast of Dubrovnik, has a long and checkered history.
The first written mention of the island is made in 1023, in texts that documented the founding of a Benedictine monastery and abbey. That monastery still exists today, and is one of the highlights of a visit there.
How Lokrum Island Got its Name ?
The island’s name Lokrum comes from acrumen, a Latin word that translates to sour fruit. The name was derived from a tradition of growing exotic and varied plants on the island. This tradition was started by the Benedictines and continues to this day.
The Curse of Lokrum Island!
The locals believe that the island is cursed. According to legend, a massive fire broke out in Dubrovnik around 1023.
The people of the town vowed to St. Benedict that they would build a monastery in his name if their city was saved. The fire died instantly and the thankful townspeople build a church and monastery on the island as they promised.
The Benedictine monastery and church were then dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Interestingly enough, history also points to these incidents.
The monastery and church were, in fact, built in 1023 – original Benedictine documents dating back to that time still exist and the construction of these buildings is recorded.
Added to that, on St. Benedict’s Day in 1023, a huge fire did break out in Dubrovnik, and most of the town was destroyed as most of the structures were made from wood.
It is commonly believed that the archbishop’s palace was also destroyed in this fire.
And this is where it gets interesting! Legend has it that a French army general ordered that the Benedictine monastery be shut down and the monk be expelled from the island. The great families of Dubrovnik, the Gozzes, Sorgos and Pozzas were selected to give this message to the monks.
The monks were aghast at these orders and did their best to stay on the island, however, they were finally forced to leave.
On their last night on the island, the monks served one last mass to God. They wore their hooded cloaks and then circumnavigated the island in a single-file procession. This is when they cursed the island. The monks held their candles upside down, so that the wax from their burning candles would fall to the ground.
As they circled the island 3 times, they chanted the curse – whoever tried to claim Lokrum Island for their personal pleasure would be damned!
After that, the monks left the island, vowing never to return again.
According to the locals, as soon as the monks left the island, the curse took effect. One of the three noblemen who had delivered the order jumped out of a window and killed himself. The second drowned while on his way to Lokrum, and the third was killed by his own servant.
The curse stayed true through the centuries and whoever bought the island met with misfortune and tragedy. The next owner of Lokrum Island was Captain Tomasevic, a very rich man who suddenly went bankrupt as soon as he bought the island. He was forced to sell the island to Maximillian, Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph’s younger brother.
Maximillian fell in love with Lokrum Island and decided to turn it into his summer home. He is the one who created the beautiful botanical gardens that tourists so enjoy today. He planted Indian fig trees and vanilla trees, created pathways through the calm forests on the island.
He also imported colonies of parrots, peacocks and canaries to the island – they still thrive there today!
His wife Charlotte also loved the island and the two were happy in their little paradise. However, the curse was felt again.
Maximillian was sent to Mexico, where he was crowned Emperor. Just three years later, he was ousted by the rebel general Juarez and shot dead on June 19, 1967.
Successive owners all saw a downturn in their fortunes as soon as they bought the island. In fact, it is believed that the downfall of the famous Hapsburg empire of Austria could be linked directly to their connection to Lokrum Island!
An Abandoned Island
The superstition surrounding Lokrum Island became so widespread that people stopped living on that island.
The island has become a popular tourist spot for day visits and people enjoy the various sites before leaving before sunset!
Places of Interest on Lokrum Island
As soon as you reach the island, you will be greeted with a large map to the island, marking the sites to visit. Such maps are scattered across the island, so you won’t have a problem finding your way.
Here is a quick list of places you must visit while you are there:
Number one on the list is obviously the ruins of the famous Benedictine monastery!
There isn’t much left of it, actually, since it was abandoned in the 18th century. Maximillian then took what was left of the monastery and converted it into his summer home.
Today, you see neo-Gothic buildings surrounded by the lush gardens that he had planted. Remember those peacocks he had brought over to the island? Well, you will see them strutting around the grounds, knowing that they own the place!
The star attraction on the island is its botanical garden. It is managed by the University of Dubrovnik and has more than 500 varieties of plants and trees.
There are explanatory signs across the garden to let you know which species have come from which part of the world. The must see at the garden is the succulent section, which has massive cacti towering over you!
Another place you must visit is the Fort Royal. The Path of Paradise, which is a tree-lined path, will take you there. This is the highest point on the island and the view from here is spectacular. It was originally built in 1806 by the French army.
A really interesting thing is that Maximillian’s summer home was the location for a number of scenes from the famous TV show Game of Thrones. In fact, Lokrum Island now has a small museum that is dedicated to the TV show!
An interactive map will tell you all the locations where the show was filmed in Croatia. There is even the Iron Throne that the show donated to Dubrovnik!
The island also has a number of rocky beaches, some of which are Naturist (read: Nude) beaches. You can identify those beaches, since they have a sign that says FKK near them.
The beaches that are open to all have toilets and showers and you can also rent lounge chairs.
You can swim, snorkel and sunbathe at these beaches, so enjoy!
There are also small pitches on the island where you can play volleyball or football!
Another popular spot is the Dead Sea or Mrtvo More. No. This is not that Dead Sea. This is an inland pond that is fed by a saltwater channel. There is a nice little café bar right next to the pond, so it’s a popular stop for most tourists.
Practicalities on Lokrum Island
While local superstition keeps people from living on the island, there is a small assortment of cafes, restaurants, bars and sandwich shops dotted around the island. Of course, everything closes at sunset and people leave the island and go back to Dubrovnik for the night!
There are no grocery stores on the island, so if you plan to have a picnic then you need to come prepared.
If you are planning to go to the beach, then it would be a good idea to carry along some plastic swim shoes. Those rocky beaches can be difficult to navigate barefoot. You can even buy these swim shoes on the island.
The botanical garden houses some really exotic species of vegetation. And along with them come exotic bugs.
So, make sure you carry insect repellant – especially for mosquitoes.
Getting to Lokrum Island
There are ferries leaving every 30 minutes from the Old Harbor at Dubrovnik, so you don’t have to worry about getting there. The cost of the boat ride is about 120KN and usually includes the entrance fee for Lokrum Island.
If, however, you decide to take a private boat (which you can), then you will be asked to pay an entrance fee of 120KN when you reach the island.
Accommodation and Travel
You can travel directly to Dubrovnik either by road or by air if you are planning to visit Lokrum Island.
You will have to stay in the city as there are not hotels on the island itself, but that is not a problem.
Dubrovnik has a wide range of accommodations for all travelers, so you can go online and choose one that fits your budget.