7 Perfect Days on the Dalmatian Coast
While Game of Thrones fans flock to Dubrovnik, just up the coast, the seaside city of Split and its neighboring islands remain blissfully low-key. These Adriatic escapes are full of tranquil fishing villages, rolling vineyards, and azure water and coves. Read on for your ultimate week along the Dalmatian Coast.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
Getting to the Dalmatian Islands
Foreign visitors should fly into Split—the nearest main airport. From here, you can take public ferries, but they’re likely to be mobbed by tourists. The best way to see the islands on your own time (and get access to the locals’ secret spots) is by booking a boat with Sunsail on its Agana Food and Wine Flotilla, which includes vineyard tours and wine tastings. The outfitter allows you to opt for an onboard skipper or captain your own chartered sailboat or catamaran.
Day 1: Split
Split is the second largest city in Croatia (and the biggest in Dalmatia). Throughout history, it has acquired a melting pot of cultures, from the Romans and Byzantines to Croatian royalty—which you can see at Diocletian’s Palace, the ruins of a 4th-century Roman fortress. People spill out onto the cobblestone courtyards around the palace and the main promenade, Riva, for late-night drinks and socializing. La Bodega is a favorite place to pull up a sidewalk seat and partake in fjaka—the Dalmatian tradition of doing nothing but watching the world go by.
Day 2: Trogir and Čiovo
Half an hour west of Split, you’ll find Trogir, a medieval town on a tiny island sandwiched between the mainland and Čiovo island. The quaint enclave is decorated with renaissance, baroque, and romanesque architecture, including the 13th-century Cathedral of St. Lawrence. For a striking bird’s-eye view, climb to the top of the bell tower. From Trogir, you can sail around the island of Čiovo to the Okrug peninsula and anchor outside Konoba Duga for mussels on the deck overlooking a crystalline watering hole.
Day 3: Šolta
Cruise 90 minutes to Šolta and make port at Stomorska. This sleepy inlet has all the trappings of an Adriatic escape: stone buildings, ringing church bells, and teal blue shutters cracked open to let in the salty breeze. Stroll around the tiny harbor to Turanj restaurant, where skiffs dock for platters piled high with scampi salad, grilled zucchini, and squid ink risotto. At sunset, the hilltop Agroturizam Kaštelanac winery is the prime perch for sipping dobričić—an ancient red wine indigenous to the island of Šolta—and munching on homemade olive tapenade in the family’s fragrant backyard.
Day 4: Vis
The volcanic island of Vis was originally home to the Yugoslav army until 1989, and remnants of that past still stand. At the tip of the marina you can see Jaksa Palace, a 17th-century villa that once housed generals. Built on a former 1950s military base, Vina Lipanović converted the old war tunnels into a wine cellar. If the idyllic atoll looks like it’s straight out of a movie set, it’s because it is—much of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was filmed nearby, especially in the little fishing village of Komiza (which you can reach by vespa as long as you watch out for the sharp hairpin turns). When hunger strikes, walk along the waterfront to Konoba Jastožera, a seafood spot that specializes in whole škarpina (grouper) and grilled lobster. Or make your way to Roki’s for a communal meal under the stars. You’ll feast on peka, a traditional Dalmatian dish of octopus or lamb slow-cooked with veggies and potatoes in a bell-shaped dome over a wood-fired, outdoor oven.
Days 5-6: Hvar
Hvar has a reputation for a reason. It’s titular town is a hive of super yachts and ferries of tourists coming to explore its majestic 14th-century fortress and energetic nightlife. Although you can dance until dawn at bars like Carpe Diem, there are more peaceful places to kick back. Kids play futbol barefoot beside the church in the main square, and couples canoodle over lantern light in the labyrinthine alleys. For a truly private affair, head 10 minutes down the road to Konoba Kotin restaurant. Moor your boat in the adjacent secluded cove and the owner will pick you up in a water taxi to escort you to the family-run eatery. Share the fresh catch while gazing at shooting stars from the patio.
The next morning, sail to Jelsa, on the north side of the island. Craft artisans set up stands on the promenade to sell lavender body products, handmade jewelry, and leather accessories. After a shopping fix, grab a bike and pedal 2.5 miles on pine forest and coastal cycling paths to Vrboska, called Little Venice due to its many picturesque bridges. End the day back in Jelsa with a tasting in Vina Tomić’s wine cellar. Designed to mirror an ancient Roman dining room, it features stone archways, flickering candelabras, and a long wooden table. On the menu: Croatia’s most famous wine, plavac mali (similar to zinfandel) paired with spicy sausage; sauvignon blanc with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato; and a soft rosé with feta and oregano-infused olive oil.
Day 7: Brač
Bol is settled on the southern shores of Brač and is known for its iconic Golden Horn. The pointed rocky stretch has plenty of buzzy beach bars to keep you refreshed all afternoon. In the evening, the town transforms into a romantic atmosphere with live acoustic music wafting through the streets. Snag a seat on the terrace of Taverna Riva to tuck into pašticada braised beef stew with gnocchi or spit-roasted rack of lamb and a bottle of pošip white wine.
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