Dubrovnik’s Perfect Escapes: Trsteno Arboretum

Lauren Simmonds

Continuing our look at some of the beautiful villages and townships close to the City of Dubrovnik, let’s go to the oldest arboretum in this part of the world…

Trsteno is a picturesque, old village located along the main road (D8) between the villages of Orasac and Slano with a small population and some of the most beautiful views around. The aged Dalmatian stone houses have stood timelessly over the passing centuries and the gigantic Oriental Plane trees on Trsteno’s central marketplace are over 500 years of age, they are a massive five metres in diameter and among the most admired specimens in the world, they are also entirely unique in Europe. Trsteno is home to the oldest arboretum in this part of the world, both the settlement of Trsteno and the arboretum were used in the third and fourth seasons of the wildly popular TV hit ”Game of Thrones”, taking on the role of the gardens of the ”Red Keep Palace” in Kings Landing.
The arboretum’s protected area, filled with rare and exotic plants, trees and an impressive 15th century summer house covers a massive 255000 square metre range.
On October the 2nd, 1991, the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army) commenced on a series of attacks from both sea and air, engulfing the ancient arboretum in flames. The settlement of Trsteno itself fell victim to mindless destruction and looting at the hands of the JNA and their Montenegrin counterparts during the Croatian War of Independence. When the arboretum was set ablaze, a significant part of its oldest section was completely destroyed. It was subsequently damaged during a forest fire caused by a severe drought in the year 2000, a huge 120,000 square metres of it was lost to the fire.
When passing through Trsteno, it is hard to think that this quiet and otherwise unassuming part of southern Croatia could be home to such a treasure. It can be confirmed that the arboretum was in existence in the year 1492, but its original beginnings sadly remain the subject of dispute to this day, with very few facts to be found. It was initially built following requests to local ships captains to bring back seedlings and plants from their journeys in the 15th century by the Gucetic family, who were a noble and well respected Dubrovnik family during the time of the autonomous Republic of Ragusa.
In more recent history, the arboretum was under Yugoslav state ownership up until 1945, it was declared a national rarity in 1948, before falling under the management of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts two years later in 1950. In 1962 it was registered on the list of protected natural monuments in the category of monuments of landscape architecture. The beautiful arboretum and its sea views attract visitors from all over the globe every year, from avid Game of Thrones fans to nature lovers and horticulturists, it is held in very high regard and reserves a special place among similar parks in both Croatia and in Europe as a whole.
You can reach Trsteno from Dubrovnik by car in around 25 minutes, but it is wise to allow for longer during peak season.


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