David Whitley has more stamps in his passport than I’ve had hot dinners. A freelance travel journalist who works regularly for some of the most renowned publications such as National Geographic, BBC Travel and the Sydney Morning Herald, to mention just a few, Whitley never leaves home without a pen. I caught up with him whilst he was on a fact finding trip to Dubrovnik last year and over coffee he filled me in on his unique take on the city, warts and all. In 2012 he managed to visit almost thirty worldwide destinations including a road trip across the US, various jaunts to the Far East and walkabouts in his beloved Australia. He currently lives in Sheffield in the UK, I say currently for with David I get the feeling that he is happiest living from a rucksack in a foreign land. Whitely also writes an excellent travel blog, www.grumpytraveller.com, but don’t let the title fool you he is far from grumpy.
As an experienced traveller what were your impressions of Dubrovnik as a tourist destination?
Let’s divide that into two parts, shall we? The Dubrovnik region is tremendous – the islands are almost universally lovely, the mountains are a treasure that aren’t highly regarded enough and the Pelješac Peninsula has great potential as a food and wine destination. Dubrovnik the city is obviously gorgeous, but it doesn’t offer enough beyond being gorgeous. It’s in dire need of some good museums and something to do other than walking around the old town, admiring the gleaming limestone.
What would you recommend tourists to see/experience during their time in Dubrovnik?
Go to the islands – and get the ferry when possible to give yourself the time to explore at your own pace. Mljet in particular is a treasure. Go into the mountains too. Drive up to Konavle to see a totally different side to the city. Also, get the cable car up to Srđ, but take the time to walk back down – that zigzag down the mountain is rough on the feet but offers extraordinary views and tranquillity.
The British were the number one guest in Dubrovnik last year. Why do you think that the Brits love the destination?
I suspect the sheer number of relatively cheap flights helps. Pretty pictures help too – people are being sold a romantic vision that arguably doesn’t exist on the ground.
What advice would you give to British tourists coming to the city?
Save the Old City for dusk/at night once the cruise ship passengers have gone back to the ships.
We often hear that Dubrovnik has become too expensive. How did you find the price of accommodation/food/entertainment in Dubrovnik compared with other Mediterranean destinations?
The only problem is the seasonality, which makes accommodation during the summer months massively overpriced for the quality of experience provided. More competition is needed on the accommodation front to bring prices down. But because it is such a seasonal destination, it’s probably not profitable for too many hotels to open up. And you’ll only cure the seasonality issue by offering more to do than amble around the Old City, dodging cruise ship passengers and eating ice cream. Food is fairly reasonably priced and better quality than it once was.
What one memory will you take with you from your time in Dubrovnik?
Walking around the lake on Mljet, seeing a few suitable rocks and deciding: “Yes, this will be my beach for the next hour or so”.