Konavle is a small but diverse area covering 209 km2. It boasts three distinct regions: the rocky coast (Donja Banda), the fertile central field (Polje), and the mountainous north (Gornja Banda). The northern region shares borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and is characterized by the towering Sniježnica mountain and Bjelotina. The central field is the heart of Konavle, stretching over 35 km and merging the Ljuta, Konavočica, and Kopačica rivers. The coast is dominated by the steep Konavle rocks, with the Prevlaka peninsula to the south and the beautiful Bay of Župa to the west.
Forests cover almost one third of Konavle, with low forests of macchias, pines, and cypresses along the rocky coast, and oak and hornbeam forests in the north. Konavle enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters, warm and rainy autumns, dry and hot summers, and winds like jugo, bora, and mistral. The region’s characteristic climate and soil make it perfect for cultivating vineyards and olive groves, as well as other fruits and veggies. The area is also suitable for free range farming.
Brief history of Konvale
The region was once home to the Illyrian tribes of Plereians and Ardians, who were later conquered by the Romans in the second century BCE. In the 7th century, Avarian and Slavic tribes invaded and founded Epidaurum, present-day Cavtat, and displaced the former inhabitants. The Croats eventually instigated the Slavs and drove out the Avarians, taking control of the region.
Konavle was briefly independent in the 9th century but was later governed by the Dubrovnik Republic, which controlled it for centuries. The region was important for its agriculture, stock farming, and strategic value. With the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic, Konavle came under French administration and later, the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy until 1918. After World War II, Konavle became a part of socialist Yugoslavia and is now a part of the Republic of Croatia. Despite enduring aggression in the Homeland War from 1991 to 1995, Konavle now enjoys the benefits of Croatian independence.
Konavle Traditional Costumes
From ancient times to the present day, Konavle has been shaped by its unique traditions, cultural heritage, and lifestyle that are deeply rooted in its rural lifestyle. Its rich history and culture are best expressed through Konavle’s traditional costumes.
The women’s costumes are a breathtaking representation of the local population’s centuries-old way of life. Made of natural materials and adorned with Konavle embroidery, these costumes give the women of Konavle a unique elegance throughout their lives. Although all costumes share basic elements like breast and sleeve ornaments, an accentuated waist, ankle-deep length, and a headdress, the details show the wealth and social status of the wearer. From girls to wives to widows, the costumes tell a story of the woman’s life.
The Konavle embroidery is a decorative element that is embroidered onto the breast and sleeves of the costumes. Originally made with silk, carefully produced and dyed in most Konavle houses, the embroidery features symmetrical and geometrical motifs in red, black, and dark-green with a golden-yellow border. The beauty and versatility of the Konavle embroidery have made it a popular choice for many objects of utility, such as tablecloths, purses, pillowslips, and spectacle cases. This not only keeps the tradition of handcraft alive but also promotes Konavle worldwide.
Konavle traditional costume for women wouldn’t be complete without another significant Konavle heritage symbol, traditional Kovale earrings. These earrings are made using a technique that has been handed down for generations. The intricate and beautiful designs are inspired by nature and are a testament to Konavle’s rich cultural heritage.
Konavle’s lifestyle is cantered around agriculture and tourism, with more and more families opening their homes to visitor to present the traditional way of living, which in all honesty is pretty fascinating. The region is known for its delicious food, mostly based on meat and vegetables. Here are several dishes you must try when visiting Konavle.
Konavle zelena (green) menestra is the oldest recorded dish of the Republic of Dubrovnik. This winter specialty has been prepared for centuries in the Dubrovnik area and is mentioned in historical documents as far back as 1480. This soup-like dish is made from homemade prosciutto, bacon, dried pork head, sausages, and dried lamb, three types of cabbage and potatoes.
Peka is one of the most popular dishes in Konavle. Iti s meat and potatoes slow baked under an iron bell in an open fire with various herbs growing in the area. The result is a tender and flavourful meal that is a must-try for any foodie.
Cheese in oil
Konavle cheese in oil is a spicy delight made from cow, sheep, and goat’s milk. It is made by preserving dried cheese in olive oil. The older it gets, the fierier it becomes. This old recipe may not be commercialized, but it is an essential Konavle delicacy. You can try it at local agrotourism’s for special occasions and guests.
Lešada is a must-try simple and healthy dish from Konavle. Made with high-quality meat from domestic breeds, it’s cooked in water with minimal use of spices, making it perfect for hot summer days. Onions, potatoes, tomatoes and carrots are added during cooking, and the meat is cooked for a long time to achieve maximum tenderness. The result is a delicious soup served before the meat and side dishes.
Mantala is a unique sweet treat found only in the Konavle region. A black delicacy adorned with orange leaves originates from ancient times. Traditionally made with grapes harvested in autumn, it can last for months without special storage. The process involves selecting the best grapes, making syrup, and adding homemade wheat flour, nuts, and spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The mixture is then cooled and dried. Seven kilos of grapes make only one litre of precious syrup. Mantala is best served with a homemade liqueur.
Konavle has a long tradition of wine production. The region’s warm climate and fertile soil make it an ideal location for growing grapes. Along with the well-known varieties, one type holds a special place in the hearts of Dubrovnik people, and that is Dubrovnik Malvasia, a wonderfully unique white wine. Sadly, this grape variety nearly vanished, which has made its preservation and restoration a top priority with numerous winegrowers in Konavle going back to producing this authentic and high-quality wine that pairs perfectly with the region’s culinary delights. For more information on wine tasting in Konavle check out the Crvik Winery.
Things to Do in Konavle
Konavle is a region that offers a wide range of activities for tourists, from exploring the rich history and culture to enjoying the stunning landscapes and nature. Here are some of the best things to do in Konavle.
Visit the town of Cavtat
Cavtat, a small coastal town is also know as a gateway to Konavle region. The town offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Its history dates back to the ancient Roman period, and it has been home to many civilizations over the centuries. The town’s rich history is evident in its architecture, which is a beautiful mix of Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic styles.
One of the most impressive attractions in Cavtat is the Račić mausoleum. It is a magnificent structure that was built in the early 20th century for this wealthy family by a renowned sculptor Ivan Meštrović.
Cavtat is also home to a house of one of the most famous Croatian painters Vlaho Bukovac, who was born in the town in 1855. Bukovac’s work can be found in many museums and galleries around the world, but the Vlaho Bukovac House Museum in Cavtat is a must-visit attraction for art lovers. The museum features a collection of Bukovac’s paintings and personal belongings that offer insight into his life and work.
Apart from its rich history and cultural heritage, Cavtat is also known for its stunning beaches. The town’s beaches are pristine and offer crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The town’s restaurant offer will not disappoint, and the promenade features the most stunning view of the sunset over Adriatic.
See the Čilipi Folklore Dance performance
Experience the vibrant cultural heritage of Konavle in Čilipi’s centre! The amphitheatre area, bordered by the church and Konavle County Museum, hosts folklore performances every Sunday from Easter to October’s end. For over 40 years, a folklore group performs original Konavle dances and songs, accompanied by tamburitza ensembles or traditional lyricists, immersing visitors in wedding customs. The Sunday program begins at 9 am, with traditional souvenirs, museum exhibitions, and local liqueur tastings while listening to Dalmatian songs by klapa vocal groups. The program’s beats and dancers in folk costumes entice visitors to dance, while folk dancers invite everyone to join and take photos.
Learn about the production of silk
Experience the wonder of silk production and create your own unique souvenir! For centuries, the stunning Konavle embroidery, a key part of women’s traditional dress, has been crafted from locally produced silk. While only a few families now grow mulberry silk in Konavle, the process of raising caterpillars and transforming their cocoons into luxurious threads remains fascinating. Learn from skilled embroiderers and create your own Konavle embroidery pattern, reflecting the artistry and status of women in the region. To find out more visit the Konavle county museum website.
Visit the Sokol Grad Fortress
Sokol Grad Fortress is one of the most important historical sites in Konavle. It was built in the 14th century to protect the region from the Ottoman Empire. Today, the fortress is open to the public, and tourists can explore the impressive architecture and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Explore the Konavle Valley
The Konavle Valley is a beautiful rural area located in the heart of Konavle. It is known for its rich agricultural heritage, and tourists can explore the vineyards, olive groves, and fruit orchards. The valley is also home to several traditional villages, where tourists can experience the local way of life and enjoy the traditional cuisine. You can either walk, bike or drive.
Visit the Franciscan Monastery in Pridvorje
The Franciscan Monastery in Pridvorje is a historical site that dates to the 15th century. It is known for its beautiful architecture, stunning gardens, and rich history. The monastery is open to the public, and tourists can explore the exhibitions and learn about the history of the region.
Visit the Rector’s Palace in Pridvorje
Step back in time at the newly renovated Rector’s Palace in Pridvorje, a rare public building from the powerful Dubrovnik Republic. The palace housed a prince elected by the Republic to rule Konavle for one year, controlling taxes and enforcing laws from its courtroom, archive, and prison. Burned down during wars with Napoleon, this historical center offers a glimpse of Konavle’s coexistence with the Republic. Climb the watchtower for panoramic views of the region.
Enjoy the Beaches
Konavle is home to several stunning beaches, where tourists can enjoy the crystal-clear waters and sandy shores. Some of the best beaches in Konavle include Pasjača Beach, Popovići Beach, and Cavtat Beaches.
Take a stroll by the River Ljuta
Ljuta, a natural wonderland, boasts a spring and restored old mills that were once the economic backbone of Konavle. The mills, used for making flour, oil, and cloth, were vital to the Republic of Dubrovnik. Today, Ljuta is a picturesque site for rural tourism. Take a stroll along the river, enjoy the refreshing cold spring water, and witness the mills in action. The unspoiled beauty, cool shade, and crystal-clear water of Ljuta make it a must-visit destination in Konavle.
Hike one of Konavle’s many trails
If you’re searching for an unforgettable hiking experience, Konavle’s scenic trails wil not dissapoint you. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and feel your senses come alive as you explore the lush forests and cultural landmarks along the way. Discover the region’s rich history and enjoy a sip of local wine at one of the many charming taverns and wineries. This adventure promises to nourish your body and soul, leaving you feeling refreshed.
Climb up the Snježnica, highest peak in Konavle
Sniježnica, the highest peak in Konavle, stands tall at 1234 meters and boasts a chapel at its peak. Numerous hikers and nature enthusiasts embark on the old Austro-Hungarian trail from Kuna Konavoska or take the longer footpath from Mihanići for a thrilling climb to the top. In avarage it takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours to clibm. The breath-taking panoramic view from Snježnica towards the Konavle valley and the open sea is an unforgettable sight.
Getting to Konavle
Konavle is located 30 kilometres south of Dubrovnik and can be easily reached by car, bus, or taxi. If you are coming from Dubrovnik, it will take you approximately 20 minutes to reach the heart of Konavle.
Konavle is a region that is rich in history, culture, and tradition. From its ancient past to its present-day rural lifestyle, the region has much to offer visitors looking to experience a unique and fascinating destination. Whether you’re interested in exploring the region’s cultural heritage, trying its delicious gastronomy, or experiencing its outdoor activities, a day tour to Konavle is something you will never forget.