With charming port towns, verdant countryside and a sparkling coastline, the Dalmatian Coast – on the western edge of Croatia – has become a highly sought-after holiday destination. Running between the northern town of Zadar to the Bay of Kotor, it encompasses enchanting cities such as Split, Sibenik and Dubrovnik and its biggest highlights include its show-stopping islands scattered across the Adriatic Sea. From chic beach clubs to undiscovered villages, the ‘Dalmatian Riviera’ offers a fantastic blend of old and new, and our Dalmatian Coast travel guide will give you the low-down.
Best time to visit the Dalmatian Coast
The Dalmatian Coast has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and cooler winters. The hottest months are July and August and daytime summer temperatures can reach highs of around 28 degrees. To avoid the crowds, visit in May, September and October when the region is quieter, and temperatures are still pleasant. The winter months are typically wet and slightly milder than the UK, with maximum daytime temperatures reaching between 8 and 10 degrees.
How to get there
The Dalmatian Coast has international airports in Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar with connecting flights from Zagreb. British Airways, EasyJet, Croatia Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and WizzAir all fly here and the flight time is 2.5 to 3 hours.
Private transfers, taxis, car hire options and local buses are available at all three airports and various car and passenger ferries run from the mainland to the islands throughout the year – look out for the main ferry company, Jadrolinija. Smaller boat services, catamarans and inter-island ferry services run between select islands and ports.
Why visit Dalmatia?
Dalmatia is known for its dramatic coastline. The bays here are often pebble or fine shingle but they’re beautifully unspoilt, fringed by pine forest and gin-clear Adriatic waters.
Island-hopping is one of the top things to do in Dalmatia and the popular Brač, Pag and Hvar join hundreds of islands off its idyllic coast. Find everything from nature parks to hidden fishing villages that retain an old-world charm.
You can visit an abundance of national parks from the Dalmatia Coast. Hikers flock to the Paklenica National Park where an expanse of canyons and vertiginous peaks form the Velebit Mountain range.
Food and wine
Oenophiles are instantly attracted to Croatia for its long wine-making history. The food scene here is equally enticing with hidden konobas (taverns) and Michelin-starred restaurants both up for grabs.
From Roman Palaces to Gothic architecture, there are layers of history to unfold here. The region boasts long-standing festivals, with events such as the Acapella ‘Klapa’ music concert being held in Omis each summer.
One of the most remote Dalmatian islands, Lastovo is dotted with picturesque vineyards, quaint villages and its famed Lastovo chimneys or fumari. This forested archipelago is an official Nature Park and offers world-class diving, excellent seafood restaurants (try the lobster) and cultural events like the Lastovo carnival.
Plitvice Lakes and waterfalls
Not only is the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park the oldest national park in Europe, it’s also one of the most beautiful with 16 inter-connected lakes and waterfalls spread across a forested canyon. Explore the area via boardwalks, hiking trails and guided boat tours.
Komiza Town, Vis
Adored for its pretty bay and Boho vibe, Komiza Town is a great alternative to popular Vis Town. Crumbling houses perch below the scenic Hum Hill and pebbled bays offer a tranquil place to relax. Daily boat trips run to the Blue Cave on nearby Bisevo, known for its mesmerising blue ‘glow’.
Main things to do
Hit the beach
Split, in particular, has several beautiful Blue-Flag beaches close-by and family-friendly Bačvice, with its spotless shingle and art-deco pavilion is one of the best. Nin, north of Zadar, is a beautiful spot with sandbars, a shallow lagoon and arresting mountain backdrop.
Cycle through stunning landscapes
If you’d like to see the Dalmatian Coast on two wheels, pack a picnic and take a cycling trip around Mljet Island National Park, known for its saltwater lakes. A well-marked path takes you around the Great Lake, or Veliko Jezero, and delivers plenty of rugged scenery.
Visit an island National Park
Hop on a boat tour to the Kornati National Park, a cluster of islands known for their towering cliffs and sandy beaches. Alternatively, combine energetic hikes with wild swimming among the emerald-green waterfalls of Krka National Park and see the monastery that perches in the centre of Visovac Lake.
Enjoy the view from the Biokovo Mountains
Take a coach trip to the Biokovo Mountains, known for its Sveti Jure peak and staggering scenery in the Makarska Riviera. This protected park is known for its windy roads to the summit – worth it for the views.
Top places to visit
There are many reasons to visit Croatia and Dubrovnik is one of them. Dubbed ‘the Pearl of the Adriatic’ Dubrovnik is known for its 13th-century Old Town that has had Heritage status since 1979. Aside from its bustling bars and café culture, the walled city uncovers an array of treasures, from the Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury to the Sponza Palace and Dubrovnik Synagogue. Avid Game of Thrones fans can take guided tours of the city’s top filming sites.
A largely unspoilt peninsula and gateway to the island of Korcula, Peljesac is among Croatia’s most famous wine countries. Take a guided tour of this protected region to taste its most famous red wines known as Dingac and Postup. Many trips include a stop in the medieval city of Ston, known for its delicious oysters.
Split is the largest city on the Dalmatian Coast and fizzes with modern-day energy. Explore the city’s origins via its winding medieval alleyways and 3rd Century Diocletian’s Palace, a former Roman Emperor’s home. The Riva Promenade unveils a fabulous café scene and the Marjan Forest Park is a tranquil oasis.
Zadar is a trendy city with intriguing art installations, top-notch seafood restaurants and a popular festival scene on nearby Pag. Explore its Medieval churches, Roman forum and the Venetian tower and don’t miss the ‘musical’ Sea Organ steps and the Monument of the Sun, a circular ‘dancefloor’ that reflects the sunset.
Known for its Michelin-starred restaurant Pelegrini, this fort city is also packed with historical monuments and charming squares. Its 15th-Century Cathedral of St Jacob featured in Game of Thrones and the St Lawrence Monastery is known for its ornate gardens. Three of the city’s four forts (one host’s open-air cinema nights) can be explored on foot and the Krka Waterfalls National Park and Kornati Islands are easily accessed from here.