In June 2016 we took a trip island hopping along the Dalmatian coast. We fell in love with the hospitality of the Croatian locals, the individuality of the islands and the endless blue sea. We travelled independently, mostly booking apartments through Airbnb. It’s easy to create your own route, pre-booking ferries for about £7 per person for each journey between islands.
Our trip started in Split and we flew home from Dubrovnik. We spent 10 days island hopping from one destination to the next. Whilst it was hard to choose, we’ve picked our favourite spots to share with you.
Our Dalmatian Coast itinerary. First stop Split.
Split is a popular arrival city for many to Croatia with a healthy menu of airlines to choose from including budget options. We recommend that you don’t make the common mistake of splitting too quickly from Split.
A harbour city nestled on the azure waters of the Dalmatian Coast Split sits majestically in the shadows of the mighty Mount Mosor. A city packed with history it is Diocletian’s Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century, that steals the show. Its white-washed walls mark the hub of the old town and demand exploration. You can easily spend hours here discovering its many charms.
As the heat of the day subsides one of life’s simple pleasures is a sunset stroll along the expansive harbour-side promenade. Join other locals and travellers alike gazing transfixed as the sun kisses the water. Yes Split is certainly a keeper. Try and stay as close as you can to the foreshore and Old Town for the best experience.
It’s time now to hit the islands on our Dalmatian Coast itinerary.
If you go island hopping in Croatia, it would be a crime to miss beautiful Korcula Old Town, often dubbed ‘Little Dubrovnik’ due to its medieval architecture and orange tiled roofs. The town is surrounded by stone walls from the 13th century.
At night the narrow cobbled streets and winding pathways are gently lit, really giving a feel of the history of the small town. Our favourite evening of the trip was spent in a cocktail bar just outside of the walls facing the sea. We sipped cosmos in an intimate outdoor bar listening to a local band. The candlelight, dark moody sea and smoky voice of the lead singer made for the most romantic night of 2016. Recommended to all.
We stayed a five-minute walk from the old town, in a stunning apartment owned by the manager of one of the local tour companies. On his suggestion, we took a snorkelling and swimming day trip. The day was run by a hospitable Croatian captain and bubbly American expat. Along with a couple of Danes and a few Australians, we explored the best snorkelling spots in between endless glasses of chilled local white wine.
We were led to a tiny bar known only by locals, essentially a couple of benches outside of a house, in the middle of a tiny island with a population of only 35 people. Finally, we dived for the local delicacy of sea urchins, otherwise known as Croatian caviar. A day we’ll never forget.
Come summer holiday time, the Dalmatian coast can get busy. During our trip in early June we got used to crowds of people and busy streets. Mljet was an oasis of calm in the middle of this trip. It’s not often visited by the packaged touring holidays so you’ll find very few tourists in this area. The population stands at just over 1000 people. Heaven!
We arrived by Ferry on the northern tip of the island and caught a local minibus to the only car hire company on the island. We hired a cute Fiat Punto Cabriolet, took the roof down and got on the only main road on the entire island. The drive was stunning, starting in the national park forests of the Northern tip and working our way along the coast towards our destination.
At the Eastern tip of the island lies the tiny settlement of Saplunara, made up of approximately 50 properties. It’s a tiny bay protected from the ocean winds, but open to the south-west giving it the warmest waters we swam in on our trip. It’s very close to the only sandy beach we encountered on our entire trip, providing a much-needed beach day in an incredibly isolated spot. The only other people we encountered were (wonderfully friendly) locals taking an afternoon dip.
Our hotel was owned by a full family unit from grandmother down to grandson. They’ve built eight guest bedrooms with en suite, a restaurant and the most incredible infinity pool overlooking a completely unspoiled view of the ocean beyond. My absolute favourite relaxation spot was floating in the natural salt water infinity pool, with a cold beer in hand.
Snorkelling off the private ‘beach’ (beaches in Croatia are often rocky entrances to the sea, normally with ladders to help you get back out of the water) was also a stand out moment. For three hours we swam through the clear blue sea without seeing another human being, apart from the odd boat floating past.
Our final Dalmatian Coast itinerary stop, Dubrovnik was everything we had hoped it would be.
Click an image to enlarge.
Recently made famous for its on-screen identity as Kings Landing, it is just as medieval as it appears on-screen. Picture endless stone staircases and winding streets that look every bit as old as they are, combined with a cosmopolitan population displaying their style and fashion at every corner.
Be prepared to pay in Dubrovnik. It is a luxury destination, and the price of a coffee can be a shock after the relatively cheap Korcula and the rock bottom prices of Mljet.
However, it is worth a few days of expense. Each evening hundreds of swallow like birds take to the skies, while down below tourists dress to impress and visit the beautiful restaurants and bars across the city. Expect excellent Mediterranean food and strong cocktails, with a different group of live musicians around every corner.
It’s worth getting up early at least once during your stay. You can explore Dubrovnik from up on the city walls throughout each day.
In June, and even more so later in the summer, the temperatures in Dubrovnik can reach the mid to late 30’s (C). I’d heavily recommend visiting early in the morning when the gates first open to make the most of the walk around the city walls. There is an amazing café halfway along the route, with amazing views across Dubrovnik. This is without doubt the best place for a spot of breakfast before the day heats up.
A visit to the island of Lokrum is a great day trip from Dubrovnik. Every day boats run back and forth between Dubrovnik and Lokrum continuously. With a protected status as a nature reserve, nobody inhabits the island overnight. Guests are permitted to visit each day, but must leave the island at nightfall. For Game of Thrones geeks, Lokrum is the location for Quarth in the series.
In person, the island is just as magical. A peacock population has roamed freely for 150 years, with many taking shelter from the sun amongst the 19th century botanical gardens. The abandoned ruins of the Benedictine Monastery provide the perfect spot to enjoy a quiet moment away from the bustling city of Dubrovnik.
We fell in love with so many spots across the Dalmatian coast. We’d recommend it to everyone, and don’t feel you have to pre-book an organised trip. It’s really simple booking accommodation and ferry trips yourself.
Other great spots to visit if you have time:
- Zadar. Stunning harbour town. Full of history and stunning coastal views. Much quieter than Split and Dubrovnik.
- Šibenik. Don’t be put off by industrial surrounds. The old town is a jewel of zig-zagging laneways awaiting exploration. Good base for the beautiful Krka National Park.
All photography copyright Thirty Summers (Unless otherwise credited). All rights reserved.
Chloe (a psyedonym) is blogging anonymously while planning to quit her job, get married and travel the world in 2018. Together with her wife-to-be Amy, a fine artist and photographer, they are blogging on the planning, packing and money-making to fund it all. You can read all about their awfully big adventure on the To Neverland blog or follow them on Twitter or Pinterest.