Nestled along the azure Adriatic Sea, the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia is a slice of Mediterranean paradise that attracts travelers with its breathtaking beauty and rich history. From the ancient walls of Dubrovnik to the sunny islands and charming seaside towns, it offers a blend of natural wonders and cultural treasures. Join me on a journey of discovering the Dalmatian Coast, as I share my tips and experiences in this ultimate travel guide!
What is the Dalmatian Coast?
As one of the four regions of Croatia, Dalmatia is a stunning and historically significant region located along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.
The stunning stretch of coastline called the Dalmatian Coast is by far the most popular tourist area in the country.
As a country with a high-quality sea and 1244 islands, islets, cliffs, and reefs, Croatia has the second largest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea!
From the island Rab on the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south, this coastal wonderland attracts visitors to explore its diverse landscapes, ancient cities, and hidden treasures, promising an unforgettable journey.
When is the Best Time to visit the Dalmatian Coast?
Is there really a right answer to this question? Depending on your preferences, whether you want to avoid the crowds and high temperatures or you want to enjoy the lively peak of the season, I can give you some suggestions to keep in mind.
The high season on the Dalmatian Coast is considered to be the period between late May to late September.
The weather is perfect for beach activities and spending the day outside.
If you prefer a lively atmosphere and don’t mind the crowds in the city center, it is a great time to visit.
Also, not only do the temperatures reach their highest point, but the same is true with prices. As a result of people arriving from all over the world, accommodation costs tend to skyrocket.
If you want to keep your travel budget in check, consider either booking flights and accommodation extra early or going in the low season.
The low season is great for those who want a more unique experience enjoying the coast of Dalmatia.
The biggest advantages of the low season are affordability, more personalized services, and fewer crowds. While the weather may not be scorching hot as in the high season, it’s still pleasant enough to enjoy outdoor activities.
Things to do on the Dalmatian Coast?
1. Go to the beach
Some of the most beautiful beaches are located right in Dalmatia. From sandy coastlines to pebbly shores, the options are endless!
Some of the most beautiful beaches of Dalmatia are Zlatni Rat on Brač island, Dubovica in Hvar, Punta Rata in Brela, Pasjača near Dubrovnik, Kašuni in Split, and the amazing Stiniva Cove in Vis, where Mamma Mia 2 was filmed.
Most of them are easily accessible and implemented in a way that fits all your needs.
In addition, there are many beach bars that provide refreshing drinks, where you can often enjoy finger food, pizzas, or sandwiches.
Even if you don’t want to go for a swim in the most crowded places, you could surely find a peaceful getaway with fewer people. I have a favorite, but if I tell you, it won’t be that peaceful anymore! I can drop you a hint – it’s on the Marjan hill in Split.
2. Explore the islands
Dalmatian Coast is known worldwide for its beautiful and mesmerizing islands. Whether you’re looking for a place to explore the beaches or live out all of your nightlife fantasies, you can find an island that fits all your needs. The most visited islands of the Dalmatian coast are Hvar, Brač, Mljet, Vis, Korčula, Pag, and Šolta.
It is possible to reach them by taking a ferry or catamaran. They operate all year round, but they are far more frequent in the high season. In my opinion, one day is not enough to fully explore any of the places on the islands, so I suggest booking a stay for at least one night if you’re planning to visit.
Also, if you rent a car or a scooter in your port of departure, you can get on board with it, or you can rent a vehicle when you arrive at your destination. It is way easier to get around than to rely on taxi services which tend to be too expensive in the summer months.
However, if you think public transport is a better choice for you, booking the tickets in advance is a move that will save you time and keep you from unnecessary stress.
3. Enjoy great food and wine
The Dalmatian Coast offers a gastronomic journey that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Indulge in fresh seafood, try the traditional peka dishes, or locally grown vegetables. Some of the most popular dishes in this area are black risotto, grilled octopus, brudet (fish stew), fritule, homemade cheeses, local greens, and Dalmatian pršut (smoked ham).
Moreover, another great way to explore the culinary side of Dalmatia is to visit the green markets of the cities you visit. The biggest green markets are usually located in the city center, showcasing the freshest fruits and vegetables, flowers, souvenirs, and works of art.
Aside from the amazing dishes, the Dalmatian Coast is renowned for its wine.
Explore local vineyards and sip on world-class wines, such as Plavac Mali or Pošip wines.
There is also a possibility of taking a wine-tasting tour in most of the tourist hubs of the Dalmatian coast. They usually last for two or three hours and are a different experience from the usual tours. You get to sample amazing wines along with traditional appetizers and expert presentations.
4. Marvel at the historic beauty
The cities and islands are not just great places to soak up the sun and sip cocktails. In fact, they are filled with stories of their rich history and cultural significance. Dalmatian coast was influenced by Venetian, Roman, Byzantine, and Austro-Hungarian cultures.
There are many layers of history to uncover here, that carry centuries-old stories about the region’s history. The history of Dalmatian towns takes pride in rich and well-preserved heritage, attracting history buffs from all over the world.
The best way to learn about the history of a place is to do a guided tour with a licensed guide.
Many agencies provide group tours that start at fixed hours of the day and usually last up to an hour and a half.
My recommendation is to go early in the morning when the streets are somewhat calmer and not yet packed with tourists. It is easier to immerse yourself in the importance of the bygone times and local beliefs that enrich the city’s history.
If you want a tour focused on more than just the historical segment, it is possible to find providers offering a more unique experience.
Split and Dubrovnik are famous for their Game of Thrones tour of the city, which introduces you to all the places where this incredible series was filmed.
If you don’t feel like walking, Tuk-Tuk tours are available in most towns. The best one is in Makarska, where you get to enjoy the panoramic views on your way to Biokovo Nature Park and feel the thrill on Skywalk, an exceptional attraction of this area.
Best way to travel the Dalmatian Coast?
There are endless possibilities to explore the splendid coast of Dalmatia, but the most convenient would be going by car. The coastal highway is not hard to navigate, and it also offers scenic views of the coast.
The islands are easily accessible by car ferries or catamarans. Although the boats run all year round, the high season shows a significant increase in the number of available trips.
What period of the year are you planning to travel? If it’s the high season, keep in mind that the traffic jams in the ferry port tend to be horrible, and the tickets for the most popular routes (such as Split-Bol) are often sold out on the date of departure.
To avoid the hassle at the ferry port, the easiest option is to book tickets online in advance. That way you save yourself some time and are one hundred percent sure you will get on board with no complications.
Best places to visit on the Dalmatian coast
A trip to Dalmatia is not complete without visiting the biggest city on the coast. As the historical and cultural hub of Dalmatia and one of the most important cities in Croatia, Split is a place visitors keep coming back to.
From bustling nightlife and fantastic restaurants to significant monuments and imposing buildings, my hometown is the city that has it all.
Being one of the oldest towns in Dalmatia (founded as a Greek colony around the 3rd or 2nd century BC), UNESCO recognized its importance as a valuable historical center. In 1979 the Diocletian’s palace and the entire old core of Split were included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
History admirers will appreciate well-preserved historical sites, such as the Diocletian’s palace with its basements, the Cathedral of St. Domnius, the Old Town, and the main squares.
Those not afraid of heights – unlike me; can climb to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower and see the city in its full glory.
Take a stroll down the Riva promenade and enjoy the vibrant nights in the city center. A lot of great restaurants and bars are located right in the Old Town.
If you want to feel like a local, explore quieter bars in the narrow streets of the town or go for a walk in the nature of Marjan Hill. On sunny days, you can tan on some of the most popular beaches in Split, such as Žnjan, Bačvice, Kašuni, or Bene.
Also, while you’re in Split – visit the statue of Grgur Ninski and kiss or touch its thumb. Us locals believe it brings good luck.
If Dubrovnik is famous for one thing, it’s definitely the walls that surround the city.
They were primarily used as a defensive structure throughout history, especially in the times when the Republic of Venice served as a great threat to the city, attacking it from the sea.
The walls are considered a trademark of the city. It would be a shame to say you’ve been to Dubrovnik and never climbed up! For the price of 35€ per adult, it is possible to get on top and walk their full length of 2 kilometers.
But rather than getting tickets on the spot, get a daily Dubrovnik pass for the same price. It allows you to see not only the walls, but all the city’s museums, Minčeta tower, fort Bokar, fort St. Lawrence, all of the archaeological sites, Western Bulwark, and a daily public transport pass!
The fact that some of these attractions date back to the 13th century explains why the producers of Game of Thrones chose Dubrovnik as one of the filming locations.
Also, while you’re there, stroll down the main street of the city, Stradun, and grab a coffee or get lost in the narrow streets. If the weather is nice, you can try out kayaking near the city’s walls or visit the Elaphiti Islands.
Dubrovnik is known as one of the most expensive destinations on the Dalmatian coast, so don’t expect to stay within your budget.
Moreover, many visitors who do a tour of the Dalmatian coast go from Split to Dubrovnik as their final destination. The “Pearl of Adriatic” is accessible by car or bus, or you can get a ferry ticket to avoid the traffic jams and experience a different kind of traveling.
3. Makarska Riviera
This part of the Dalmatian coast elongates for around 60 kilometers. With its main town being Makarska, the area is often enjoyed not only by tourists but also locals. Pebbly beaches and crystal clear waters are just a few of the reasons why people visit this area.
Some of the most valuable sights of Makarska Riviera are: st. George as the highest peak of Biokovo mountain, Kotišina Fort, Biokovo Skywalk – a glass-floored attraction on the heights of the mountain, walking trails in Old Brela village, Love locks on the peninsula of St. Peter…
Some of the most beautiful beaches on the Dalmatian coast are located on the Makarska Riviera. If you took your time to Google some of the beaches, you’re probably familiar with Punta Rata beach in Brela. It has a signature look – a huge rock covered in pine trees, surrounded by almost see-through waters.
Other great beaches worth a visit are Tučepi, Sutikla, Nugal, Vela Duba, and so on.
Adrenaline junkies are welcome to try out ziplining above Tučepi Canyon or parasailing and jet skiing in Makarska.
This is a great place for families with kids, taking into consideration the number of accommodations and facilities adapted for the smallest ones.
Being close to some of the most popular destinations on the coast, Zadar has been overlooked for years as a destination. That is a wrong approach to one of the most unique getaways in this region.
As the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia, it is rich with historical and cultural sites ready for exploration.
The Roman and Venetian ruins preserved for centuries give the city a dash of elegance, adding to its rich historical significance. Some historical sites worth a visit include the church of St. Donat, the cathedral of St. Anastasia with the bell tower, City Lodge, Five Wells, and the People’s Square.
Moreover, Zadar is famous for its art installations that have completely transformed the aesthetic of the city.
Have you ever heard of the Greeting to the Sun? This amazing art installation is not like anything you have ever seen!
It is a combination of glass plates and solar panels within the stone paving. The panels charge during the sunlight so they can produce an amazing light show when the sun goes down.
They are formed in circle shapes, representing the Solar System. The biggest circle represents the Sun, while the smaller ones are the planets.
If you stroll along the seafront not far from this monument, you might hear some unusual sounds. They are coming from the Sea Organ, another work of art made by the same artist, Nikola Bašić.
The installation is hidden in large steps that lead to the sea. The waves hitting the 35 tubes under the water create harmonic vibrations.
A tip, if you don’t mind – come to these attractions half an hour before the sunset. As the sun goes down they become packed with tourists, so think about securing a good spot on time.
This amazing city is the third-largest city on the Dalmatian coast. Unlike the cities that I stated so far, it’s a city founded solely by Croats.
It is famous for its narrow streets completely made out of stone, perfect for getting lost in them and exploring the city’s hidden gems.
Aside from the Old Town and the main square, Poljana, there are more attractions worthwhile.
The Cathedral of St. James is one of the most famous attractions in Šibenik. In 2000 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making this amazing masterpiece a must-see when visiting Šibenik.
There are also some fortresses worth a visit, such as Barone Fortress (also known as Šubićevac), St. Michael’s Fortress, St. Nicholas Fortress, and St. John’s Fortress. Today they are very well preserved and point to a time when they had a major defensive purpose.
The city is rich in cultural and entertainment happenings. During the summer months, the city is overflowing with events, so you won’t have to worry about things to do.
You can attend modern concerts on one of the fortresses, or have dinner in the old town with the sounds of traditional Dalmatian choirs, klape.
Less than 20 kilometers from Šibenik is a small town called Skradin. It is a getaway to one of the most beautiful national parks in Dalmatia – Krka Waterfalls.
The last time I was there, it was possible to swim by the waterfalls inside the marked area.
The administration’s main purpose is to keep nature taken care of, as well as the visitors safe, so before you go check the rules and regulations on the official website.
This small historical town is located 27 kilometers west of Split. Its rich history and architectural beauty have earned it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As home to some of the most preserved medieval structures in Central Europe, it is an ideal place to visit if you want to explore a town that is not that big in size, but rich in history.
Some of the most valued attractions are the church of St. Sebastian, St. Peter’s church, the fortress Kamerlengo, the Cathedral of St. Lawrence with the amazing Portal of Master Radovan, the Cipiko palaces, and the old historic city core.
The heart of Trogir is the Old Town, a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and historic buildings.
The main square is the central attraction of the Old Town, filled with great bars and restaurants. Some places are truly ideal for catching a break from all the sightseeing.
If you feel like trying seafood, my personal favorite is the seafood pot in the restaurant Franka.
If you don’t have booked accommodation in Trogir, it is possible to do a day trip from Split.
You can rent a car and go there yourself, or book a tour with a travel agency.
That way you get to see the magic of the Old Town, as well as the crystal clear sea of the nearby Blue Lagoon, situated between the two islands of Krknjaši.
This is one of the most popular half-day tours from Split. Choose between a departure in the morning or the one in the afternoon and enjoy the amazing atmosphere of Trogir.
Ston is a small town on the gates of the Pelješac peninsula. Its strategic position and centuries of rich history made it an important cultural and political center.
As a tourist destination, it is often overlooked because it is a small town with not that many things to do.
Nevertheless, it is a great option for those longing for a peaceful getaway rather than visiting more crowded places.
As for attractions and events, they are a bit different than what you’re usually used to.
Ston Salt Works takes pride in the production of salt, using huge evaporation pools for the extraction of salt and further processes. The accumulation of salt is done in a traditional way.
If you arrive in the months of July or August, you get to see the way the salt is produced. Even better, you can join the harvesting process as a volunteer!
In case you plan to visit Ston in the preseason, make sure to attend the Festival of Oysters. It takes place around March 19th every year, so you get to enjoy the wine and local foods.
It would be quite unfair not to mention the town walls, which reach an impressive length of 5 kilometers. Being longer than the walls of Dubrovnik, their significance is no less – they also functioned as an effective defense system.
The town is about an hour from Dubrovnik by car, which is great if you’re short on time and want to explore just a tiny segment of this beautiful coast.
What is the most beautiful part of the Dalmatian Coast?
I’d say that the most beautiful aspect of the Dalmatian Coast lies in its islands. With their diverse landscapes, crystal clear waters, and charming coastal towns, they make a captivating blend waiting to be discovered. From Hvar’s vibrant atmosphere to the tranquil environment of Vis, each island has its own unique character. They serve not only as a great place to relax but also as an opportunity to explore rich historical sites and learn the local way of life.
What is the Dalmatian Coast known for?
Other than the natural beauty and crystal clear sea, the Dalmatian Coast is known as being home to renowned cities like Dubrovnik with its ancient city walls, Split boasting the historic Diocletian Palace, and Zadar with its captivating seafront promenade. While you’re there, indulge in local seafood delights and spend a day on the beach. If you’re a nightlife lover, however, visit some of the most renowned clubs, such as Carpe Diem in Hvar or 585 Club in Bol.
Why do people value the Dalmatian Coast?
Dalmatian Coast is a perfect blend of beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, rich history, and ancient sites, all ready for exploration. My advice is to take as many boat trips as you can – the islands are what makes Dalmatia an exceptional destination. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or want to enjoy a night out to the fullest, you’ll find a place that fits your needs.
Which Dalmatian island to stay on?
Brač and Hvar rank among the top Dalmatian islands to visit in Croatia. During the summer months, most tourists gravitate towards Bol on Brač for the famous Zlatni Rat beach and the vibrant nightlife. If you’re looking for an island a bit more quieter than typical tourist spots, my personal favorite is Korčula. It has unspoiled nature and a slower pace of life. Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preferences, be it adventure, relaxation, or entertainment.