Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is divided into three regions, northern Dalmatia which includes the cities of Zadar and Šibenik, central Dalmatia – home to Split, Trogir and the islands of Brač and Hvar, and south Dalmatia encompassing the island of Korčula and historic city of Dubrovnik. The coastline is overflowing with natural beauty and verdant landscapes all framed by shimmering blue waters of the Adriatic. Enhanced by rich history and architectural jewels, this stretch of coastline is a scenic masterpiece and a charming region in which to spend your well-earned vacation. With so much to see and do in Croatia this Dalmatian Coast travel guide will help you plan the perfect vacation.
How to Visit Croatia’s Dalmatian – Adriatic Coast
The main points of entry into this region of Croatia are by air, bus, car or ferry. There are regular flights, both domestically and internationally into Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar, making it easy to access, north, central and southern cities of Dalmatia. Buses operate to the major cities along the Dalmatian coast and ferries can be taken from Split or Makarska to the glamorous islands of Hvar and Brač in the region. If you plan to hire a car and drive, the coastal highway is easy to navigate. You can travel from Dubrovnik to Split in under 3 hours and from Dubrovnik to Zadar and vice versa in around 5 hours. The main train station in Zagreb offers routes to Zadar, Rijeka, Split and Šibenik and there are also trains from Zadar to Split and cities in central Dalmatia.
How to Get Around Croatia’s Dalmatian – Adriatic Coast
There are several transportation options to get around Dalmatia, but the easiest and quickest way is by car. Route 8 along the coast is the most scenic road to travel, it also allows you the opportunity to stop off, sight-see or stay in the cities of Makarska, Split and Šibenik on route to Zadar. Buses operate daily to main coastal areas and trains run services between Zadar and Split. There are also cruises from Dubrovnik to Split if you prefer to see the sites from the water. To reach the beautiful Dalmatian islands of Hvar, Brač, Korčula, Mljet and Vis, regular boat trips, passenger and car ferries operate via Split, Makarska and various other points along the central coast.
Nestled on the northern shores of the Dalmatia region of Croatia, Zadar is all about the architecture. The city boasts the beautiful Byzantine church of St. Donatus, a Roman forum, ancient gates which protect the city and a colorful museum dedicated to ancient glass. Don’t forget to visit the art installations along the seafront, the Sea Organ which generates musical notes from the power of the waves breaking beneath and its sister, Greeting to the Sun which absorbs the sun’s energy by day and releases it in an evening display of light.
A short drive from Split, the charming medieval town of Trogir with red rooftops and UNESCO World Heritage-listed town center offers a welcome break from tourist resorts and larger cities of Dalmatia. This quaint town with harbor front dining, a bustling outdoor produce market, a plethora of religious structures and fortresses is the perfect place to glimpse Croatia as it used to be. You can stroll along the Riva, sample fresh seafood dishes, charter a boat or dive to vibrant coral reefs.
If you can only visit one place you along the Dalmatian Coast, make it Split. This city is one in which time has stood still, with Roman architecture in abundance. The Diocletian’s Palace is a highlight, still perfectly formed with many original features centuries later, it’s no wonder HBO chose to film Game of Thrones here. If you’re a fan of the show the best way to see everything GoT is on a one of a kind Game of Thrones tour.
In Split, you can simply roam the cobblestone streets, or immerse yourself in the timeless atmosphere by sipping local wine in Peristil Square as you look upon Egyptian sphinxes, ancient archways and historic bell towers. Marjan, just west of the city, offers incredible vistas of Split and the shimmering Adriatic. This 170-meter-high hill flanked by cypress and pine trees is an idyllic spot for a sunset picnic or photoshoot.
Dubrovnik is high up there with the most culturally rich cities in Croatia. You can stroll along ancient city walls overlooking a harbor which was once the heart of a trading empire. Take a cable car ride to the summit of Mount Srd, visit Lovrijenac Fortress – a picture-perfect defensive structure used as a Game of Thrones filming location, or discover the ancient manuscripts and documents of Sponza Palace.
Nightlife in Dubrovnik is buzzing. The city is abundant with traditional wine and cheese bars, clubs and lively pubs where you can kick back and mingle with locals. If you fancy partying with the hip crowd, head for Pag Island just off the shores of Zadar. This island has been crowned as the new Ibiza with international DJ’s, beach cocktail bars and waterfront festivals. The island of Hvar also attracts a plethora of partygoers throughout the summer months and Split’s Red Room hosts some of Europe’s hottest DJs during the high season. If you’re all about partying in unusual locations, head for Makarska. This charming town in Central Dalmatia is home to Deep Nightclub, hidden inside a cave, perched above the sea on Cape Osejava!
Food, Drink & Nightlife
Whether you wish to dine by the light of the silvery moon, harborside on a secluded island, in a bustling piazza in the heart of Split or feast on fresh seafood atop the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik, you can do it all on the Dalmatian coast. Each region in Croatia has its own distinct culinary influences, and in coastal towns of Croatia, be sure to sample peka – a special way to cook meat or fish, nibble on Skradin Risotto which takes 7-12 hours to cook and try pašticada – a stewed beef dish from Dalmatia, paired with local plavac mali Croatian wine.
There are abundant shopping options along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. Whether you wish to browse high streets in the main cities or local markets and craft stores on offshore islands, there traditional items and gifts from the region you shouldn’t overlook. If you seek souvenirs for friends and family, 100% Croatian lavender pouches are sold in most gift shops. They are perfect to pop in a clothing drawer to remind you of your trip every time you wear your favorite items.
Gifts made from stone are popular on Brač. Local stones are crafted into jewelry, clocks, bowls and even spice grinders which can be purchased all over the island. The Croatian Licitar Hearts make for beautiful gifts for loved ones. These 16th century gifts created by local artisans can be found throughout the region, and are traditionally made from eggs, water, honey and natural coloring.
Croatia is also famous for its truffles, so if you enjoy impressing your friends and neighbors, don’t forget to pop a jar of these into your suitcase! And of course, there’s no shortage of wine. The Pelješac Peninsula between Dubrovnik and Split produces some of Croatia’s best red wines.
If there’s one thing this Dalmatian Coast travel guide will show you it’s that culture can be found in abundance along the Dalmatian – Adriatic Coast of Croatia. In this region alone there are UNESCO World Heritage Sites galore including Diocletian’s Palace and medieval Split, the historical center of Trogir and Stari Grad Plain on Hvar island. You can visit the protected monuments of St. James Cathedral in Šibenik and explore the Old City of Dubrovnik on a full-day or half-day walking tour. With ancient hillside fortresses, castles, intriguing museums, Roman palaces and hidden island caves with historic carvings to explore, you will be spoiled for choice as to where to go first!
When it comes to accommodation, the Dalmatian and Adriatic coastline of Croatia excels. Hotels range from small and friendly bayside boutique establishments to 5-star city tourist hotels, palatial villas and historic bolt holes. You can stay in hotels within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, overlooking the Old City Walls of Dubrovnik or on a secluded bay with your own private beach, spa treatments and speedboat access in Hvar. Wherever you decide to stay, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodation to suit your Dalmatian Coast travel needs.
If you’re looking for a 5 star stay the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace can’t be beaten. The rooms, which overlook the Adriatic, have recently been redesigned. The hotel offers exquisite cuisine, a spa, tennis courts and a number of pools. For a more adventurous place to stay consider glamping at Plage Cachee on Hvar. You’ll feel at one with nature while also sitting in the lap of luxury.
Places to see near Croatia’s Dalmatian – Adriatic Coast
If you’re a film buff, you should try to visit Lokrum Island, Trsteno Arboretum, Trogir and Vis Island on the Dalmatia – Adriatic Coast. Lokrum Island, medieval Trogir and Trsteno Arboretum were all featured as filming locations in the hit TV show Game of Thrones. The idyllic landscapes of Vis Island was featured in the film adaptation of Mamma Mia 2 – Here we go again! For nature enthusiasts, Krka National Park, a short drive from Split is a must-visit during your Dalmatian Coast stay. The scenic landscapes peppered with emerald trees, jade-hued travertine lakes and waterfalls make for the ideal place to spend an afternoon swimming and birdwatching. Those who prefer the hustle and bustle of the city should venture straight to Rijeka. This European styled city boasts striking neoclassical palaces, Blue Flag beaches and a lively central market where you can shop like a local!
Saying Goodbye to the Dalmatian Coast
To end off your vacation enjoy a fresh meal at whichever restaurant has become your favorite or enjoy a cheese platter and a bottle of local wine under the stars. One thing you’ll see that stands out about the Dalmatian Coast is that its tradition is maintained so gracefully. Your next visit will be full of nostalgia and more fun times.