Dubrovacko-Neretvanska Zupanija, or Dubrovnik-Neretva County, is one of the twenty Croatian counties. Dubrovnik-Neretva territory is located in the southernmost part of the country, neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro. The landscape is formed by a coastal strip at the Adriatic Sea, with numerous islands contributing to the territory. Those coastal areas consist of sheltered coves with sandy beaches and steep cliffs exposed to the open sea. The County's capital city, Dubrovnik, found in the southern part of the area, represents one of the destinations within the Dubrovacko-Neretvanska Zupanija, as the city is known for its preserved historical heritage. One of the predominant historical sights in the town is Lovrijenac Fort, towering atop a 37-meter high sea cliff. Another point of interest is Trsteno Gardens, a historical arboretum situated within 20 minutes by bus from the capital. Concerning the natural land, two protected areas can be found in Dubrovnik-Neretva County. One of them is Mljet National Park, while the other is the Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park, stretching across several islands. The local climate is of Mediterranean character, which is occasionally influenced by the continental climate from the north. The warmest month, on average, tends to be August, while January is the coolest.
The capital city of Dubrovacko-Neretvanska Zupanija is Dubrovnik, found in the southern part of the county. Dubrovnik Old Town is a preserved medieval city along the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by rugged limestone mountains. With its stone walls built between the 11th and 17th centuries, the town rivaled Venice as a significant trading port. Today, the walls still encompass the historic center, offering panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding green islands. The town showcases a blend of Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces, and Renaissance architecture, set amidst marble-paved squares, cobbled streets, and ancient houses. Extensive reconstruction efforts following the 1667 earthquake and subsequent renovations after the 1990s civil war have contributed to its preservation. Thus, the city of Dubrovnik is presently under UNESCO protection as a World Heritage Site. Apart from the historical city walls surrounding the old town, visitors tend to seek out Palace Knezev Dvor, Palace Sponza, Dominican Monastery, and Dubrovnik Cathedral, to name a few.
Beyond historical heritage, due to its sea access, Dubrovnik-Neretva County tends to serve as a summer holiday destination among people seeking water and beach recreation. One off-shore destination is the Kolocep island, covered by dense forest interspersed with vineyards, olive groves, and citruses. However, the island is known for its underwater caves. Visitors to the island are encouraged to swim or kayak to the Blue Cave, which is accessible from the southern part of the island.
Another outdoor attraction can be found in Trsteno, known for its ancient natural landmarks. Notably, the oriental plane trees have stood there for over 500 years. The highlight of the area is the Trsteno Arboretum. Visitors can access Trsteno via bus, as several bus routes connect with the Dubrovnik coastland. From Dubrovnik to Trsteno, the travel time lasts approximately 20 minutes. The Renaissance summer residence of the Gučetić-Gozze family, dating back to the 15th century, is a prominent attraction in Trsteno. The residence features a cultivated garden that has been maintained since the 15th century. This garden—along with the summer residence, aqueduct, mill, fountain with Neptune and nymphs, and a sea-facing belvedere pavilion—exemplifies the architecture of Dubrovnik's historical summer residence gardens.
The territory of Dubrovnik-Neretva comprises two main distinct areas: a relatively narrow coastal strip that runs longitudinally and includes several offshore islands and nearby islands such as Korcula, Mljet, Lastovo, and the Elaphite island group. Additionally, it encompasses the Pelješac peninsula and the Lower Neretva region, which gravitates towards the coastal part.
Until 2022, the County's land connection with the rest of the country was interrupted due to the state border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, the completion of the Pelješko Bridge has now enabled the integration of the County with the rest of the country.
The coastal area of the County exhibits a highly varied coastline, ranging from sheltered coves with sandy beaches to steep cliffs exposed to the open sea.
One of the national parks located within the Dubrovnik-Neretva County borders is Mljet National Park, located on Mljet Island in the Adriatic Sea. The underwater ecosystem of Mljet National Park is home to various life forms, including endemic species. Some notable species include Jacob's scallop, noble periwinkle, and fingerlings. Additionally, the lakes of Mljet house the endemic Aurelia Relicta jellyfish, while Veliko Jezera boasts the world's largest peat-stony coral reef, featuring Cladocora Caespitosa. Another protected area in the County is the Lastovo Archipelago Nature Park, declared a nature park by the Croatian Parliament due to its diverse landscapes, including forests, fields with puddles, steep coastal cliffs, and abundant land and underwater caves. The park encompasses 46 islands, islets, rocks, and reefs, with Lastovo and Sušac being the largest among them. The total land area covers 53 km², while the sea surface spans 143 km², and the Sušac, Tajan, Glavat, and Struga lighthouses border it.
The Dubrovnik-Neretva County's climate reflects typical Mediterranean characteristics, influenced by the presence of a high mountain barrier adjacent to the coast, the presence of numerous islands, and occasional influences from the continental climate. Regarding the annual weather in Dubrovnik, the County's capital, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 28°C. Typically, January is the coldest month, as temperatures rest around 6°C on average. August tends to be the driest month in Dubrovnik because it generally receives 54 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during November, as it receives an average of about 147 mm.
The Illyrians were the territory's original settlers of Dubrovnik-Neretva County approximately three to four thousand years ago. Over time, the Romans and ancient Greeks arrived in the region. The area was once part of the Republic of Dubrovnik until its abolition in 1808. It then became part of the union of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia, followed by Austria-Hungary until 1918. After World War I, it joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1939, Dubrovnik-Neretva territory became part of the Banovina of Croatia and, consequently, in 1941, the Independent State of Croatia. After the Second World War, the environment was integrated into the Socialist Republic of Croatia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1991, the region was attacked during the Homeland War, resulting in considerable destruction.
The capital city, Dubrovnik, bears a historical heritage dating back to the 7th century. The city earned a place on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 due to its medieval architecture and preserved fortified old town, which are two particular reasons tourists tend to visit the area. One of the oldest historical sights is the Lovrijenac Fort, rising on the 37-meter high sea cliff outside the city walls. The fortress was constructed to guard the city's western sea entrance, particularly from the Venetian fleet. The building process began in 1018 and concluded in the 16th century. The walls facing the sea range from 4 to 12 meters in thickness. Within the fort, there is a chapel dedicated to St. Lawrence and its courtyard, which contains a cistern and nowadays serves as a venue for theatrical performances. Numerous plays have been staged there as part of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Lovrijenac Fort has gained international recognition as an ideal and famous setting for Shakespeare's play Hamlet, often likened to Elsinore.
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