Things to Do in Dalmatia
A cluster of 14 islands along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the Elafiti Islands (Elaphites) are one of the country’s most popular destinations and a popular day trip from nearby Dubrovnik. The archipelago’s largest three islets—Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan—are the focal point of island-hopping tours.
Located at the southern tip of Croatia, perched above the rocky coastline of the Adriatic Sea, the enchanting city of Dubrovnik attracts visitors with its medieval architecture and labyrinth of limestone-paved streets. Its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remains surrounded by 14th-century fortified stone walls.
Go island hopping during a trip to Dubrovnik with an excursion along the Dalmatian Coast to the Elaphite Islands (also known as the Elafiti Islands. The archipelago consists of 14 islands–including the three most popular destinations of Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan–and is a popular destination for swimming and sunbathing.
With its startling blue light and luminescent waters, it's easy to see how the Bisevo Blue Cave (Modra Spilja) earned its name. The natural wonder is hidden in the sea cliffs along the coast of Bisevo Island and is made even more enticing by its remote, difficult-to-reach location. The effort is rewarded with stunning scenery and endless photo opportunities.
Mostly uninhabited and untouched, pristine Budikovac Island (Veliki Budikovac) is an ideal place to experience Croatia’s natural beauty. The island, off the coast of Split, is a great destination for getting out of the city and relaxing, thanks largely in part to its quiet bay, clear turquoise water, and pebbly beaches.
Built in the fourth century as a retirement complex for the Roman Emperor Diocletian, this vast, fortress-like compound still dominates Split Old Town. After the palace was abandoned in the sixth century, locals flooded into it. Now, the 220 Roman-era buildings within the palace boundaries house homes, shops, bars, and other businesses.
With their imposing watchtowers looming over the medieval city and dramatic fortifications edging the sea cliffs, Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls are an impressive sight and deserving of their star-attraction status. Dating back to the 10th century, the remarkably preserved walls—among the finest in the world—mark out the perimeter of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and offer magnificent views over all corners of the city.
Just minutes offshore from fashionable Hvar Island along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast lies the Pakleni archipelago (Pakleni Otoci). It’s the perfect destination for an island-hopping tour with 17 beautiful islands fringed by pebble beaches and lush pine forests.
Dubrovnik’s distinctive orange cable cars speed 2,500 feet (778 meters) in about three minutes, from the lower station just north of the city walls to the top of Mount Srđ. During the ride, you can enjoy peerless views of Dubrovnik’s terracotta rooftops, the coastline of Dalmatia, and archipelagos sprinkled across the Adriatic Sea.
Just 600 meters (1 kilometer) from Dubrovnik, the car-free island of Lokrum makes a peaceful escape from the city. At its center is a medieval Benedictine monastery complex that’s surrounded by botanical gardens planted with exotic trees, flowers, and bushes. Picturesque swimming spots abound on the island’s rocky shoreline.
More Things to Do in Dalmatia
Visitors to the Croatian city of Zadar are inevitably drawn to the melodious sounds emanating from the city’s most popular sight: the Sea Organ (Morske Orgulje). This massive underwater instrument, designed by architect Nikola Bašić, plays musical notes generated by the sea. The constantly shifting waves never play the same tune twice.
Once a powerful fortress in the Venetian Republic, Zadar’s old town remains encircled by remnants of its defensive walls, some of which date back to ancient Roman times. Six different city gates provide entry into the walled section, each with a distinct architectural style and motif.
Overlooking the Adriatic Sea from a cliff-top perch, the St. Lawrence Fortress (Fort Lovrijenac) is a Dubrovnik icon. Thought to be around 1,000 years old, the 121-foot (37-meter) fortress was used to defend the city for centuries. Today, the fort is better-known for its theatrical shows, coastal views, and starring role in HBO’sGame of Thrones.
Constructed in 1537, this sturdy gate on the west wall of Dubrovnik’s Old Town was once locked nightly—and the wooden drawbridge leading to it was raised—to prevent intruders from gaining access to the city. More recently, the gate served as a filming location for Game of Thrones, as the site where King Joffrey was unceremoniously pelted with cow dung.
Flanked by two Corinthian colonnades, Peristyle Square (Peristil) is the central plaza of the town of Split and part of Diocletian's Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An 187-feet (57-meter) eye-catching belfry towers above the square; climb to the top for a stellar view of the sea.
Located inside the gates of Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of St. Domnius ((Katedrala Svetog Duje) is a massive octagonal cathedral built in Roman times as the Mausoleum of Diocletian. The structure was converted to a church in the 7th century and mass is still held here today, making it one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the world still in use in its original structure.
Dotted with pine trees and Mediterranean shrubs, Marjan is a hilly peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic Sea. A beautiful nature reserve in Croatia, some of Split's best beaches are here, along with important museums, such as Mestrovic Gallery and Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments.
Built into the limestone bluffs outside of Split, the imposing Klis Fortress(Tvrdava Klis) was once an important defensive stronghold between the Mediterranean and the Balkans. It housed the seat of many Croatian kings, though nowadays it’s better known as the film location for the fictional city of Meereen in the seriesGame of Thrones.
As you glide into Hvar’s port, you cannot miss the imposing Spanish Fortress that crowns the island’s main settlement. Today’s facades date back to the 16th century, though the defensive site itself reaches back much further. From the top, visitors can enjoy views far across the Adriatic, making it one of Hvar’s most treasured landmarks.
Built into the eastern flank of Dubrovnik’s fortified walls adjacent to Fort Revelin, the 14th-century Dominican Monastery is designed in a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture that is seen in several of the city’s palaces and churches.
The monastery’s church was rebuilt several times over the centuries and was used as an army depot during Napoleon’s occupation of Dubrovnik in the late 18th century; today its single nave features a massive painted Gothic cross by Paolo Veneziano, dating from around 1384,St Dominic by 19th century painter Vlaho Bukovac — widely regarded as Croatia’s finest artist — and sparkling contemporary stained glass in the apse.
The elaborate 15th-century Gothic cloister of the monastery surrounds a shady garden that was used as stabling for French army horses and their troughs can still be seen between the cloister’s pillars. The well in the garden provided water for Dubrovnik’s residents when the city was under siege in 1991. An important collection of religious art hangs in the museum, including Titian’s sublime Mary Magdalene; other paintings of note are Nikola Božidarević’s altarpieces and triptych plus Lovro Dobričević’s bloodthirsty St Peter the Martyr, which portrays the saint with a hatchet in his head. The monastery can be visited when touring Dubrovnik’s defence walls and is included on several museum tours of the city.
Revered for its endless beaches, idyllic coves, scenic valleys, fine wines, and seafood, Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula juts out of the center of southern Dalmatia. Without the tourist-oriented resorts and the crowds of other coastal Dalmatian destinations, the Pelješac Peninsula is the perfect spot for a relaxing holiday.
Flowing for more than 60 miles (96 kilometers) from its source at Dinara on the Croatia–Bosnia and Herzegovina border all the way to the Adriatic Sea near Split, the Cetina River is a main player in Dalmatia’s adventure-sports scene. Its rushing rapids, waterfalls, and tunnels make it ideal for rafting and canyoning excursions.
With blue coral lagoons, dramatic limestone cliffs, and a fascinating saltwater lake, Telašćica Nature Park is one of Croatia’s most magical natural wonders. On the island of Dugi Otok in the Adriatic Sea, Telašćica offers visitors endless hiking, diving, swimming, fishing, and wildlife-viewing opportunities.
Stretching from Old Town’s western entrance at the Pile Gate to the harbor in the east, the Stradun (or Placa) was once a shallow sea channel that divided the small island on which Dubrovnik was built from the Republic of Ragusa on the mainland. In the 12th century, the Stradun was filled to create the main street in Dubrovnik’s Old Town.