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Natural heritage

The natural characteristics of the area are dominated by the mild and warm climate of the Mediterranean south with its lush vegetation, not only Mediterranean plants but also those of the sub-tropics among which lemon and orange trees, palms and agaves are the most attractive. A relatively small coastline is very varied: from the rocky and steep shorelines of deep bays to sandy beaches, fertile plains and tall hills descending to the very sea.

The Mljet National Park at the southernmost end of Croatia is considered by many to be the Adriatic's most beautiful island as it has something truly rare – a lake in the midst of the island with another island in its midst and a castle on the island - a Benedictine monastery from the 12th century. This mythical picture is as if torn from some beautiful tale, one of which relates that it was precisely Mljet that is referred to with the island of Ogygia on which Odysseus was held in captivity by the nymph Calypso. The seabed offers a remarkable world of the most beautiful red coral.

The Elafiti are a group of islands located west of Dubrovnik. The largest of the group is Šipan with Lopud and Koločep (Kalamota) being also counted among this group. It attracts numerous tourists with its beautiful landscapes and sandy beaches. The islands are connected to Dubrovnik by daily boat lines.

Trsteno is the oldest renaissance garden in Dalmatia (1502) and today the only Arboretum on the Croatian coast. It is rich in exotic plants among which are Eucalyptus, the Camphor-tree and two giant Oriental Plane trees over 400 years old, unique specimens of this species in Europe. A Baroque period fountain with figures of Neptune and nymphs adorns the garden.

The mighty river Neretva that flows from neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina enters the sea in a fertile delta near the towns of Ploče, Opuzen and Metković, creating an exceptionally fertile farming grounds covered in forests of mandarines and fields of watermelon, while the river itself is a habitat for eels and grey mullet known far and wide as the river's sweet water here mixes with that of the sea. The backwaters of the Neretva, overgrown in reeds, should be visited on a Neretva safari on the traditional local boats called "trupice". The quiet here is broken only from time to time by the call of birds on the marsh. There is an ornithological reserve at the settlements of Vid, Prud and Orepak at which birds stay during the winter while the south-eastern part of the Neretva delta is a spawning area for many kinds of fish. A not-to-be-missed place which nature has granted to the Dubrovnik coast is the Bay of Mali ston that is, on account of the inflow of nutritive salts from the mainland, a water habitat of high biological production, known as a breeding area for shellfish among which are the renowned Oysters of Ston, served at the nearby restaurants.

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