As the December gloom descends, I have particularly fond memories of my late-summer adventures on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Here are a dozen of my favorite photos from that trip, prefect for chasing away the winter blues. If you’d like to do more than just look at pretty pictures, plan your own journey with my Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia guidebook (currently on sale for the holidays), or book a seat on our Best of the Adriatic in 14 Days Tour — that itinerary is already filling fast for 2018.
Split, Dalmatia’s transit hub and de facto capital, is finally coming into its own as a tourist destination. Visitors fill its main square (and onetime Roman Emperor’s drawing room), the Peristyle.
The island of Hvar, with the most inviting sun-drenched main square in Dalmatia, is more popular than ever…for better or for worse.
As the sun sinks low in the sky, visitors climb to the top of the deserted fortress that looms over Hvar. It’s the best vantage point in Dalmatia for enjoying the sunset.
Of the many Dalmatian islands, I’ve always had a soft spot for Korčula, with its “mini-Dubrovnik” peninsular Old Town and its persistent backwater charm.
The majority of Dalmatian beaches are not broad or sandy — most are merely a patch of rock just flat enough to spread out a towel. But the views are spectacular, and the water is breathtakingly clear.
Every town in Dalmatia has a “restaurant row” lined with pricey, memorably scenic eateries. Korčula’s lines up along its eastern seawall. While a few places along here are desperately trying to go high-end, my top choice is the affordable, counter-service place called Silk — a nod to the Silk Road ramblings of local boy Marco Polo — which serves Asian fusion street food at outdoor tables.
The national park on the mostly uninhabited island of Mljet is a delightful place to spend a day (on the way between Korčula and Dubrovnik, or as a side-trip from either one). The island has many hiking and biking trails, and pair of seawater-fed lakes. The narrow channel that connects the two lakes creates a fun current, making this spot the island’s favorite swimmin’ hole.
Even after so many visits, Dubrovnik remains my favorite Dalmatian destination. And hiking the scenic hour-and-a-half around the top of the intact City Walls is my favorite guidebook-research “chore” — with a sea of red rooftops on one side, and the actual sea on the other.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town can be unpleasantly jammed with cruise passengers in the middle of the day. Check the cruise schedule online, and if a particularly busy day is expected, get out of town — for example, walk just 10 minutes to the idyllic Banje Beach.
Another way to escape Dubrovnik’s crowded Old Town is to head for Cold Drinks Buža, a cocktail bar that clings like a barnacle to the outside of the City Walls. Its name means “hole in the wall,” and that’s exactly what you’ll climb through to reach this peaceful oasis, with unobstructed Adriatic views.
The cable car up Mount Srđ over Dubrovnik is jammed at sunset. Hardy mountain goats scramble down onto the rocks just below the cable car station, with unobstructed views of the setting sun and Dubrovnik’s rooftops below their dangling feet. One tip I learned the hard way: The line for the cable car back down stacks up immediately after the sun sets. Don’t dillydally getting back to the cable car…or be prepared to wait around a bit.
I love using Dubrovnik as a multi-night home base for even more Dalmatian day-trips: the charming small town of Cavtat, the vineyard-draped Pelješac Peninsula, Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor, Bosnia’s Mostar, and many more are all within easy side-tripping distance. Best of all, there are few places as delightful to come home to at the end of a busy day of sightseeing as Dubrovnik’s floodlit marble.