Croatia’s sunny Dalmatian Coast has to be one of Europe’s most dramatic. The blue-green waters of the Adriatic Sea are lined with jagged mountains, dense forests and sweeping white pebbly beaches. Tiny islands are scattered throughout the coastline’s crescent bays. Beautiful cities house historic UNESCO treasures amongst their terracotta roofs and towering church spires. In the coastal villages, fishing boats bob in scenic harbours and life has an unhurried and traditional atmosphere. Whether you want history or nature, watersports or shopping, nightlife or some serious tranquillity, we recommend visiting this unspoilt area before the crowds do!
Split is Croatia’s vibrant second city – a lively mix of old and new. The beautiful marble streets of the old town are nestled within the ancient city walls of the Roman Diocletian’s Palace. On the modern side of Split life, you’ve got a glossy marina, lively urban beaches with plenty of watersports and a buzzing selection of bars and clubs. For a wild night, head down to the seafront to join one of the city’s hedonistic beach parties.
The seaside town of Brela has some unrivalled natural beauty to tempt you with. The Blue Flag Punta Rata Beach boasts spectacular views of jagged rocky peaks plunging steeply down into the calm Adriatic waters. Small uninhabited islands pop up across the bay and the whole place has a beautifully relaxed atmosphere. Take a boat to Vruja Cove for an even more secluded beach with its own natural springs. Or venture into the Biokovo mountain nature park behind the town to spot eagles and wolves (hopefully not at close quarters…).
The small but funky port city of Zadar is an intriguing place. The ancient marble walls enclose a cosmopolitan cultural scene with everything from bars and restaurants to unusual art installations. Zadar is also famous for its sunsets – and our favourite pace to watch the sun dip below the horizon has to be the city’s Sea Organ. At first glance, this ingenious musical instrument looks like a set of stairs leading into the sea, but it actually harnesses the power of the wind and the waves to create some unique sounds.
Exploring the Dalmatian Coast…
Take in some art in Split
Split has some excellent museums and galleries for culture vultures. The Mestrovic Gallery houses over 200 artworks by the famous Croatian artist, Ivan Mestrovic. Make time for a stroll in the gorgeous gardens that surround the gallery. The Gallery of Fine Arts is also well worth a visit, exhibiting a huge collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures spanning the last eight centuries.
The Dalmatian Coast is scattered with tiny islands that can be easily reached by boat. Spend a blissful day island-hopping your way around some of the prettiest. We love Brac with its dazzling white-pebble beach and windsurfers. And don’t miss Hvar, with its historic port town and Renaissance cathedral. If you can drag yourself away from Hvar’s beaches, head inland to the heady scents of the lavender fields.
Hike in Paklenica National Park
Get into nature in this glorious national park, just outside of Zadar. The dramatic canyons, tumbling waterfalls and lush meadows are home to a variety of hiking routes covering over 150km – from gentle walks to challenging hikes up to the summit of Vaganski Mountain. You’ll probably see lots of daring rock climbers dangling from ropes as well!
Dalmatian Coast beaches
The Dalmatian Coast has some of the most scenic beaches around. Most are made up of small, smooth white pebbles and shingle – ideal if you’re not a fan of sand - and boast dramatic views of mountains and forests. The waters are generally on the calm side, making them popular with families. There’s usually a nice breeze for the windsurfers though!
Tucepi Beach is a highlight with its long 4km stretch, pretty promenade and lively watersports scene. Berulija Beach is made up of three secluded coves fringed by pine trees for shade. There are some great beach cafes and food stalls here. Or how about Zivogosce Beach which offers up a 6km stretch of picturesque coves lapped by clear waters? For something livelier, hit Split’s Bacvice Beach for a family-friendly party atmosphere.
Being so close to the sea has many perks – and one of the biggest is the Dalmatian Coast’s delicious fresh seafood. From romantic oysters to rustic fish stews, seafood is big. We recommend the regional speciality, black squid ink risotto. Croatian food has humble origins and a good dose of Italian influence, so expect hearty dishes like pasta, stews, soups, gnocchi and lots of cured meats and cheese. Paski Sir is one of the tastiest local cheeses. You’ll also find some indulgent sweet treats – the Italian-style gelato is especially amazing.
Dalmatian Coast restaurants
The Dalmatian Coast has some fantastic restaurants covering everything from rustic Croatian classics to inventive modern cuisine. Even when you are island-hoppping, you’ll find small waterfront eateries called ‘konobas’ on the shores of most bays. There’s a thriving Italian food scene too with plenty of crowd-pleasing pizzerias. Split is the place to go for the most cutting-edge food and is fast becoming a top foodie destination. Eating out is more affordable here than in many European countries so make the most of it!
Holidays to the Dalmatian Coast offer up some pretty awe-inspiring scenery. From the natural beauty of the mountains and the sea to the picturesque cities and villages, this little stretch of coastline is packed with delights. Whether you fancy island-hopping, beach lazing or sight-seeing, we think you’re going to love it.
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