Sprinkled across the Adriatic coast, Croatia’s 1,185 islands are beauties to behold, stretching from Zadar in the northwest to Dubrovnik in the southeast. The Italians crowned the Croatian coast their new Amalfi and the English discovered that the Adriatic coast is as beautiful as the South of France. The waters might hypnotise you, but don’t doze off for too long, you have lots to do!
I have included information on Dubrovnik and Split (seaside cities) as well as Vis, Hvar, Brac and Korcula islands which are most of the Dalmatian coast. The islands are tiny and 1-3 days are more than enough (one day trips are also feasible). Renting a boat and going around the islands is also quite popular and recommended. I included only the top 1-3 the best hotels in each place due to limited space, out of which some might be pricey. There is of course more economical options, just book early!
One of Europe’s most outstanding cities, Dubrovnik is an integrated walled city with immense visual appeal. Post-war restoration has put the old city back on the map and Dubrovnik is once again a chic destination and a celebrity magnet.
Villa Dubrovnik: 10 minutes walk from the old city, this contemporary beachside boutique hotel with cool white-and-wood interior and a large, indoor facility spa is truly relaxing. Vlaha Bukovca 6, tel: +38 520500300, from 155€
Eat and Drink
Lokanda Peskarija: a harbourside fish restaurant with a terrace. Despite the massive queues it is truly worth it. Must-try are the seafood risottos and grilled squid. Good for lunch. Tel +38 520324750
Proto: tacked to some ancient masonry in the old town there is this classy, fish-focused restaurant. Best grilled squid in the area! Siroka 1, Stari Grad, tel +38 520323234
Restaurant Nautika: perfectly cooked Croatian dishes with two gorgeous terraces overlooking 12th century forts. It might be very expensive but the view and the food compensate for it. Brsalje 3, tel +38 520442526
Gil’s Cuisine and Pop Lounge: the hippest haunt in town with a multi level French fusion cuisine. Tel +38 520322221
Café Bar Buza: this is a relatively new casual bar facing the sea, where fashionable Euro-youngsters sunbathe and sip Campari and orange while watching the sunset. Tel +38 598361934
Eastwest Beach Club: great for for late pounding. Tel +38 520412220
– Stroll in the polished artery that runs through the heart of Dubrovnik with sights to the left and right and a sprinkling of pleasant pavement cafes
– Lokrum island (Southeast of Dubrovnik) is just a breath away, like a guardian angel with its beauty unshaded by the magnificent city
Some of the finest oysters you will ever taste are from the Ston peninsula just 55km near Dubrovnik
Korcula Town is one of the most attractive settlements on the coastline, jutting out from the mountains on its own peninsula.
Lesic Dimitri: A former palace divided by its British owners into six contemporary apartments, each with living spaces and private kitchens. From 350€
LD Terrace in the Lesic Dimitri Palace: the seafood platter is worth trying
Konoba More: one can find excellent fish and seafood at this waterside restaurant. Tel +38 520712068
Trattoria Mate: fantastic for lunch. Try their bread which is home baked and prsut ham, which is carried from their smokehouse to your table. Their hand-rolled and sun-dried pasta is also worth trying.
– Explore Korcula town
– Take a boat to Lumbarda for lunch (it has one of the island’s few sundy beaches) or go swimming in Vrnik, an islet with clear, blue waters and very popular for locals
It can be visited on a lengthy day trip from Dubrovnik, but it is recommended to spend a few days on the island
Tranquility is fine, but when you need action, Hvar island (one-hour ferry from Korcula) has electrifying nightlife. Its harbour is the mooring of choice off the glitziest yachts, as well as the place to sip pre-party cocktails.
Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel: it is by far the best hotel on the island with contemporary décor and the best sea views in town. Guests can use the Bonj “les bains” beach club with steps straight into the sea and waitress service. Tel +38 521750200, from 159€
Eat and Drink
Zori: on the islet of Palmizana, (you have to rent a boat to get there) offers perfectly cooked and memorable dishes such as delicate octopus salad and tuna tartare. Tel +38 521718231,
Passarola: it may look basic and simple but the food is more than sophisticated. Tel +38 521717374
Macondo: situated in a charming cobbled street, serving fresh just-caught fish. Tel +38 521742850
Riva in Hotel Riva: sitting at the point on Hvar’s natural harbour where the most eye-popping boats congregate, this bar is a cool Ibiza-esque blend of Cubist wicker seats
Carpe Diem Bar and Lounge: a longstanding outdoor-indoor spot whose afternoon après-beach scene often spirals into an all night dance party. Tel +38 521742369
-Wander around the food market of the island’s oldest shop, (Deliciae Mediterraneae), where one can find wine, a selection of cheese and charcuterie
– You can get to Stari Grad, Hvar’s least touristy town, stopping on the way back at Milna or Zarace for a swim or get on a taxi boat and visit Palmizana beach
– Hula Hula Bar for a chilled out drink
Discover all the hidden small beaches with crystal clear waters and take a dip
Hotel San Giorgio: it is a charming, small and family-run hotel in the historical centre of the city of Vis. P.Hektorovica 2, from 100€
Konoba Bako: one can enjoy fantastic fish in this old house by the beach, most of which is cooked the ‘Croatian way’. Must-try is the casserole lobster. Komiza, tel: +38 521713742
Jastoreza: fantastic for fresh fish and lobster. Komiza, tel +38 521713859
Go around the island in a car or a boat and stop at all the distant and deserted bays for a swim. Don’t miss ‘Stiniva’ beach. Make the last stop to be Komiza where you can walk around the picturesque port and enjoy fantastic fresh fish.
Dalmatia’s largest city. It was founded by the Roman emperor Diocletian in AD295, and it was here that the Dalmatian-born ruler built his retirement palace between the mountains and Adriatic. The remarkably intact complex of Diocletian’s Palace, an Unesco World Heritage Site, still forms the core of the city.
Hotel Vestibul Palace: within the palace this boutique hotel built on the site of the former vestibule, hence its name, has only seven rooms, all with contemporary décor. Its restaurant offering Mediterranean cuisine is very good. Tel +38 521329329, from 200€
Nostromo: The chef sure can cook his fish in a perfect balance of spices and sauces. Tel: +38 5914056666
– The ancient Diocletian palace whose largest part has been destroyed. One can visit it mostly to dine, drink and shop as there are a number of cafes, bistrots and boutiques inside it.
– A visit to Trogir is a must, a city that looks more like a museum or a well-preserved medival oasis (Unesco protected). Together with that visit Krka national park can and on your return stop at Primosten resort for a swim and fresh fish
– Only half an hour from Spit is Brac island, where one can take a day trip with a catamaran. Once you are there visit the impressive Zlatni Rat beach and Bol, the old city with a fantastic beach for windsurfing.
Dalmatian coast in general
From Cyprus, fly to Dubrovnik or Split through Vienna, or direct flights from UK with Ryanair, Easyjet or Croatia Airlines
Best months to visit are May to September
– Don’t hesitate to try Croatian wines which are in fact excellent
– If one wants to do an island hoping holiday in style then you can rent a private yacht. SAT Yacht in Split could be an option. If not, use Jadrolinija, the local ferry company that offers daily trips across all the islands