From hundreds of islands that dot the pristine waters of the Adriatic to ancient fortified cities serving up traditional seafood cuisine, Dalmatia is a one-stop destination for a wonderful holiday.
This narrow coastal region stretches from Rab island in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south and is divided into Northern, Central and Southern Dalmatia.
While history buffs admire the ancient ruins of Dubrovnik or Salona, foodies delight in traveling the wine roads of the Korcula and Peljesac islands, stopping in at Ston the oyster capital of Croatia.
Those seeking an active break will find plentiful swimming, windsurfing and diving spots.
The hinterland known as Dalmatian Zagora ranges in width from about 50 kilometres in the north to just a few kilometres in the south. This interior is mostly covered by the rugged Dinaric Mountains offering walks for the day tripper. Mountaineers will love the worthy climbs including the breathtaking Biokovo Mountain.
Croatia’s neighbour, Bosnia and Hercegovina, intersects into the Croatian border at Dalmatia. When traveling to and from Dubrovnik by road into Central Dalmatia you will need to go through Passport Control.
Zadar has done what no other city on the Adriatic has managed to do: blend ancient history with crowd-drawing technological innovations like the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. The city is easily walkable in a day and offers swimming spots without the crowds that flock to Split and Dubrovnik.
As Croatia’s largest coastal city, Split is home to one of Croatia’s most impressive Roman ruins — the retirement palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian.
The city has worked hard recently to throw off the title of ‘gateway to the islands’. Once one of the most important outposts of the Roman Empire, it was not befitting to be seen simply as the starting point for visiting other more exciting islands.
Making the transition from frumpy bridesmaid to stunning bride has given Split a new energy. Today, the city has a thriving and ever-changing entertainment and gastronomic scene.
The drawcard is still Diocletian’s Palace, the world-heritage listed and UNESCO protected complex of ancient buildings and marble streets. Start at Perstil and peek into the Temple of Jupiter and the Basement Halls. And climb the Saint Dominus or Duje bell tower for magnificent panoramic views of the city.
Festivals abound with more than 130,000 visitors descending on the city for the Ultra Music Festival in mid July. The Split Festival and Split Blues Festival in early July and the Split Beach Festival in early August are also worthy. Split Summer features an entertainment program on the waterfront and the daily changing of the guard at Peristil.
While Central Dalmatia is action packed, Lower Dalmatia boasts the Pearl of the Adriatic: the preserved ancient Old Town of Dubrovnik. Not to mention the food and wine lovers delight of Korcula and Peljesac islands.
Lord Byron named the medieval city of Dubrovnik ‘The Pearl of Adriatic’ and George Bernard Shaw remarked, “Those that seek paradise on earth should seek it in Dubrovnik.” It’s one of Croatia’s top highlights. Surrounded by ramparts and fortresses, the ancient town is a treasure trove of cultural masterpieces with examples of Roman, Venetian, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
A mix of Christian monasteries and churches, mosques, palaces, synagogues and market squares are interwoven through the labyrinth of narrow marble streets. You’ll feel you are in a fairy tale, or better yet, like you stepped off the set of Game of Thrones.
Start your summertime days early since Dubrovnik’s city walls trap the heat. Take walking tours early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid searing temperatures. Then stop into a cafe on Stradun and people-watch, or head to nearby Lokrum or one of the plentiful city beaches.
Croatia’s Zadar: An Old Town Walking Tour … The intersection of innovation and ancient history
Dalmatia Winery Touring … Wine lovers delight on the islands of Peljesac and Korcula
Dalmatian Odyssey: Island Hopping between Dubrovnik and Split … The jewels of the central and southern Dalmatian coast
Dubrovnik for First-Timers … Or how to take the real-life `Game of Thrones’ tour
Must-See Stops in Dalmatia’s National Parks … Tour the Adriatic’s natural beauty
Split in 48 Hours … Trendy city offering more than a gateway to Croatia’s islands
The best time to visit Dalmatia is of course when the weather is best, which is between April and September.
The high season typically starts between mid-June to the end of August. Keep in mind that high season means accommodation prices are at their peak. This is really interesting because stay to say the 19th of June and you’ll pay a quarter to half off the high-season price. A day later and you’re paying top dollar.
While the temperatures start warming up in late April and early May, most Croatians still find it too cold for swimming.
Hence, if you like warm weather and cold water, this is a great time to visit.
In September and probably most of October, the weather is still warm but without the heat and humidity of July and August.
These shoulder season months are a great time to visit.
While accommodation prices fluctuate, costs for transportation generally remains stable despite the tourist crowds, although whenever possible do book ahead because you don’t want to get stuck on an island because there are no more seats available on the last ferry departure. Prior planning is important.
The great thing about visiting in April through to the end of June and from September to October is that off-season accommodation prices are available even if the weather is warm.
The main city hubs can be visited during winter, but many of the apartments shut down and accommodation options on the islands are scarce. Keep in mind that traveling to the islands in winter is also difficult with ferry services sporadic.
Stick to the warmer months.
You could easily spend two weeks in Dalmatia.
I’ve spent months.
Make a list of the things you want to see and do and activities you want to take part in and then see what your budget can handle.
Spend as much time as you can in Dalmatia, you won’t be disappointed.
According to most, High Season starts from about the 20th of June to the end of August.
This is the time when prices are sky high and restaurants, beaches, ferry services and coach services are extremely crowded.
In the Shoulder Season from about April to October you can find the same warm weather, without the searing heat and humidity of summer and without the tourist hoards. Prices for accommodation also substantially drop.
This is my favourite time, you can have a great holiday with warm weather and without the cues.
Low Season stretches through the winter months and not much remains open. Of course the main cities like Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik continue as normal, but many of the accommodation options are shut.
There are also minimal ferry services to the islands and here you’ll be hard pressed to find any where to stay.
Stick to the warmer months.
January 1st: New Year’s Day
January 6th: Feast of the Epiphany
May 1st: Labour Day
June 4th: Feast of Corpus Christi
June 22nd: Anti-Fascist Resistance Day
June 25: Statehood Day
August 5th: Victory & Homeland Thanksgiving Day
August 15th: Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
October 8th: Independence Day
November 1st: All Saints’ Day
December 25th: Christmas Day
December 26th: St. Stephen’s Day
Croatia is located in the CET – Central European Time Zone.
To check the local time in Croatia click here.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) happens in the Spring (last Sunday in March at 1AM) when clocks are advanced one hour.
In the Autumn (last Sunday in October at 1AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time to give more daylight in the morning.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
Getting around Dalmatia seems to be getting easier and easier, especially if you’re traveling within the high and shoulder seasons.
All the major cities have an airport, the main one being Split and a close second, Dubrovnik. During the high season there are numerous carriers but your best bet will always be Croatia Airlines for getting you in, out and around the country.
There are coach services available from all the airports taking you to the city, and usually there is no need to wait as coaches are timed with the arrival of aircraft.
My favourite way to see Croatia is by coach.
Gone are the days of rust buckets, today you’ll find numerous coach companies chauffeuring you in air-conditioned luxury with free wi-fi facilities up and down the coastline.
Remember to book ahead and get time value for your trip. That means, if you’re traveling from Dubrovnik to Split get the fast service that will make one or two pit-stops along the way, rather than an all stops service.
Fast services sell out much faster than all stop services, so book ahead.
Apart from the ticket, you will need to pay for stowing your luggage in the hold. Usually the cost is about 2USD per piece.
If you’ll be traveling back in the same direction, buy a return ticket as the price is usually only slightly higher than a one way ticket.
While most towns in Dalmatia are easily walk-able, you might need to take a local bus to get to some of the outlying beaches, or in Dubrovnik’s case, to get to the main bus terminal which is a 15 minute drive from the Old Town.
You can buy bus tickets anywhere you see a kiosk or at a bus station booth.
If you don’t know where to get off, ask the driver. Most speak English, or you can try your best Croatian.
A one way ticket will set you back about 3USD.
Croatia’s largest ferry service company is Jadrolinja.
Buy tickets at Jadrolinja offices, as you can not purchase a ticket on board.
Jadrolinija run ferries, car ferries and faster catamaran services to all the islands. All ferries come complete with sun decks, so not a minute of sun shine is wasted.
Another option is Kapetan Luka, that runs the very popular, Split – Milna (Brac island) – Hvar – Korcula – Mljet – Dubrovnik route with a high speed catamaran.
In high season, the cues at these offices can be extremely long. Even if you book your ticket online, you still need to pick it up at the office, so leave plenty of time.
Remember that you won’t find many ferries going from island to island, rather they travel from mainland to island.
Pick up a timetable at a tourist office.
There are numerous boat rentals available from every city harbour. You can be chauffeured by a captain (for a fee) usually dressed in stripey shirt.
In winter, ferry services are minimal.
Car rentals are available at all major Dalmatian cities, however be warned that renting a car within Croatia can be expensive.
With overpriced road tolls and expensive petrol and gas, it can work out to be quite costly and during the high season, traffic can be a nightmare with minimal parking spaces.
The major transportation hub for Dalmatia is Split.
Here you’ll find an airport, bus station with connections to all parts of Croatia and Europe and ferry services heading out to the islands.
Other smaller hubs include Dubrovnik and Zadar, both with airports.