In 2013, the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, also known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” received record breaking tourism numbers. Just how many people visited this old fortified town in 2013?
I have to admit. Those are some pretty impressive tourism numbers right there. I don’t know what the numbers looked like when we first visited here back in 2008, but they were likely nowhere near what they are today.
While the city of Dubrovnik is busy thriving with increasing tourism numbers year after year, it’s the exact opposite for the little old village of Kupari, a long forgotten resort area located less than 5 miles south of Dubrovnik.
With the increasing numbers of tourists visiting Dubrovnik these days, it’s hard to understand why a fellow beachfront resort located just a few miles down the road hasn’t hosted a single guest in over 22 years.
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The Story Behind Kupari, Croatia
The tiny seaside village of Kupari was once home to a posh military resort which served as a vacation hot spot for the Yugoslav military elite and their families.
This beautiful seaside resort was built in the 1960’s and consisted of five separate hotels known as the Goričine, the Goričine II, the Pelegrin, the Grand Hotel and coincidentally enough, the Kupari. Although Kupari really started to form a resort area in the 60’s, the area was home to one hotel dating back to the 1920’s.
Fun Fact: Kupari was also home to a beach front auto-camp ground which could accommodate up to 4,500 guests.
Each of the hotels were blessed with views that you could only imagine in your wildest dreams.
Kupari had it all.
That is, until 1991 when the Yugoslav Army blew the place to smithereens during the initial stages of the Croatian War of Independence, or what Croatians refer to as the Domovinski rat (Homeland War).
Fast forward to 2014 and the military resort of Kupari still remains. In pieces, that is.
Over the course of the last twenty years, the hotels have been completely torn to shreds and looted for everything of value from the ground up. When I say everything has been looted, I mean everything. From copper pipes, to toilets, sinks, marble flooring, furniture, and more.
What was once a highly sought after summer holiday destination, Kupari, is now lifeless having lost its character and charm to war and thievery.
Hitchhiking from Cavtat to Kupari
In late September of 2013, we made our second visit to Dubrovnik and the surrounding area. The only difference between our first and our second visit to the city was that instead of staying in Dubrovnik this time around we decided to change things up a bit and shack up in a cozy one bedroom apartment in a sleepy little village known as Cavtat, just 16 miles south of town.
The fact that we were located in Cavtat and didn’t have a car or motorbike really didn’t matter too much thanks to the public bus system that runs up and down the D8 highway from Dubrovnik to Cavtat and beyond.
After spending a couple days wandering the alleyways of Old Town Dubrovnik and cliff jumping at Buza, I was on a mission to do something different.
I searched for things to do in Cavtat but nothing came up. It was only when I started to search for lesser known things to do in the area that I stumbled upon a few photos of an abandoned resort in a small village called Kupari.
That was all I needed to see. Before I knew it, the little old abandoned village was high on my list of things to see. While Liz wasn’t as interested in the adventure as I was, I thought that it would be a great little solo adventure for myself. You know, something to do. Something that will get me out of the house for a few hours.
The following morning I woke up early and headed out to the local bus stop across the road in hopes that I would be able to catch the next bus heading north. After 25 minutes of standing in the sun as well as a slight build up of anticipation, I said screw it and threw out my thumb in hopes that someone headed north would be kind enough to let me hitch a ride with them.
I can remember it as clear as day. It was one of those spontaneous, half-assed decisions that you make without thinking of the potential consequences.
I’m in a foreign country. I don’t know the language, and I’ve never really hitchhiked before.
There’s no way that anybody will pick me up.
Sure, I was dressed nicely, cleanly shaved and fresh out of the shower, but still. Who picks up strangers these days?
Sure enough, the second my thumb started to raise into the air was the same time that a small red car decided to jack on its brakes and throw it into reverse.
I was borderline speechless.
Especially considering I hadn’t fully committed to the whole idea of thumbing just yet. Do I tell this person that I was just simply giving the thumbs up to motorists as they passed by? I couldn’t lie.
An older male likely to be in his late 50’s rolled down his window and asked me where I was headed in severely broken English. I reply “Kupari” as he confirms with a nod of his head and his hand swiping through the air as if he was saying, “C’mon, get in!”
I hop in the car, my knees squished up against the dashboard with my backpack nestled tightly between my legs. I begin to ask him if he speaks English and he struggles to tell me that he used to know English but he hadn’t spoken it in years.
We start to approach some traffic up ahead and as we begin to slow I feel the first two fingers of his right hand grazing along the side of my left knee down by where the shifter of the car is located. Initially I think he’s mistakenly grazing the side of my knee as he’s down shifting to slow down for the construction up ahead.
I turn my head to see what he thinks he’s up to and he immediately asks “You ride bicycles?”.
Me: Well, ah. Um. Yeah, I like to ride bicycles. Why?
Him: “You are wearing shorts for bicycle” as he points to my boxers showing above my knee.
Note: To clarify, I generally wear long boxer briefs, six to nine inches long to be exact. They’re the Under Armour style, long, quick-dry boxer briefs and they sometimes show under my shorts if I’m sitting down and my shorts are riding up my legs.
Me: Oh, ahh. No. No, these are just my quick dry boxers that I like to wear under my shorts. Nothing to do with cycling.
Our conversation immediately changes due to the language barrier. He doesn’t know what I’m talking about and I don’t even want to begin to try to figure out where he’s trying to go with this.
Him: “You go to Kupari? For what?”
Me: I want to take photos.
Him: I go to nude beach. You want to come?
Him: Best nude beach. Private.
I pause as if I’m trying to come up a good reason as to why I can’t join him on his nudist adventures.
Me: Umm. No, I’m going to Kupari. Thanks, though.
Him: Okay, no problem.
A few minutes of awkward silence later and he makes a left into a hotel. Although, instead of turning into the parking lot, he starts to drive down a dirt road that is heading straight into what appears to be a wooded area along the coastline.
Me: Ah. I’m going to Kupari.
Him: Yes, I will drop you off down here and you can walk from here. It’s about 2 km walking distance along the beach.
As we make our way down the bumpy dirt road he begins to stop the car. I look around but I can’t see the place where he’s planning on letting me out.
Him: Here. You get out here. Nice to meet you.
Me: Ah, same. Thank you. Thanks for the ride. Thanks!
It was all a big miscommunication
As I step out of the car and he slowly starts to drive further into the woods towards the private beach, all I can think of is that my first ever hitchhiking experience was simply a huge miscommunication.
Why, you might ask?
Well, in the moment, the grazing of my knee was quite odd and after looking back on it I think the language barrier made him feel the need to point things out versus struggling to find the words he wanted to use. I know I personally use the pointing and hand gestures that come along with not knowing a language, all of the time.
When it comes to the issue of him heading to the nude beach, it really wasn’t that weird after all. While I do understand that it would seem a bit odd from an American’s perspective, stripping down on the beach isn’t uncommon for most Europeans.
Combine all these seemingly odd situations and add the language barrier and just about anybody would feel the same way as I did, in the moment. Fortunately, after all was said and done I realized that it was highly unlikely that I was in as dangerous of a situation as I had thought.
My first ever hitchhiking experience — A success!
Exploring the Abandoned Hotels
By the time I made the trek out to the first abandoned hotel, I had sweat dripping down my face and down the back of my neck. It was a beautiful, partly cloudy day yet the sun managed to lock its rays on me throughout the entire walk.
As I approached the south wing of the first hotel I started to have second thoughts. Is it safe? Would I get robbed? Have junkies taken up residence here over the course of the last few years?
I entered the side door of the south side of the building and this is what I saw.
Initially, my mission was to be as quiet as possible so that I could hear if someone was going to pop out on me. You know those times that you think you’re going to outwit the would be robber. I had one of those moments. At the same time, I was trying my best not to step on any nails because that’s the last thing I’d need.
After navigating my way around some of the debris, I hung an immediate left and entered a room that had a beautiful sea view in the distance but the views were quickly overshadowed the fact that it looked like it had been hit by a tornado.
After I had explored a good chunk of the top floor, I decided to head down to the main entrance.
After moving on to the hotel next door, I stumbled upon some pretty interesting photo opportunities.
Right after I snapped the shot shown above a black cat leaped straight through one of the broken windowpanes on the right hand side of the photo and scared the living crap out of me.
The switchboard shown above made for such a cool shot. Don’t you think?
After climbing a seriously unstable set of stairs, I arrived at an area of the abandoned hotel which looked as if it had been host to a few parties over the course of the last twenty-something years.
I walked straight ahead through the yellow doorway area shown above and took my first right to find this shower room area where it seems someone tried to start a little bit of a bonfire.
I spent about forty minutes wandering around the more easily accessed parts of the hotel. There were harder to reach places that would have required me to take some serious risks but I knew it wasn’t worth it. Especially since I was exploring the place on my own.
I decided to move on to the last and final hotel. The same square shaped one that you can see perched up on the cliff on the right hand side of the photo at the top of this post.
One last hotel.
After climbing a rather large set of steps, I reached the entrance of the hotel. Just about every window in the place had been shattered by rocks, chunks of wood and whatever else you could imagine picking up and hurling through a pane of glass.
I carefully tiptoed my way around the shards of glass, window frames covered in rusty nails and sharp metal edges sticking out from every which angle until I reached what was once likely a grand staircase leading to the second floor.
I made one final ascent up the staircase littered with bits and pieces of who knows what and upon arriving at the second floor I quickly realized that this hotel that was once home to some of the best views in Kupari.
The mountains, trees, white sand beaches and beautiful little villages seen far in the distance reminded me of what this place must have been like back in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s — A true slice of paradise in Croatia.
If you’re into photographing or simply exploring abandoned buildings, you will absolutely love this place. This was my first time ever wandering into an abandoned property before and I have to admit that while it can be a thrilling experience, it can also be quite dangerous.
Oh, and did I mention the creepiness factor? Exploring these types of places on your own can be a real test for your nerves. Nobody knows what lurks around the next dark corner. Will someone pop up behind you? Will the floor give out from under you? You just never know. That being said, if you do decide to visit Kupari, do yourself a favor and take a friend along with you.
Well, do you think you have the guts to visit Kupari? Leave a comment below.
- For a more historical spin on a visit to Kupari with more cool photos, click here.
- If abandoned buildings aren’t your cup of tea, you might like my wildly popular list of things to do in Dubrovnik.
How to Get to Kupari
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, hop on the public bus heading south and mention to the driver that you’d like to exit at the bus stop in Kupari. Once you hop off the bus, you’ll be on the right hand side of the road facing south. Make a u-turn and walk north until you see the first little road on your left. The first portion of the road is paved and then it turns to dirt. Follow it until you reach the sea and you’ll find yourself right in the middle of all the action.
Note: All photographs (except for the first image) featured in this post were taken by me. The first photo featured in this post can be found over here.