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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jane Foster

The Dalmatian Islands feel like the Mediterranean before it was overrun by tourist masses – an unspoilt paradise of pine-scented breezes, crystal-clear waters, wild nature and centuries-old Venetian-era harbour towns.

The archipelago stretches along the Adriatic coast and includes a thousand-plus islands. Most are uninhabited and protected as national park, and the few populated ones are remarkably well preserved, with picturesque architecture and historical traces of Eastern Europe. It’s a historical region – once an important province within the Roman Empire.

For travellers who love the sea and mountains, adventure sports and medieval buildings, the Dalmatian archipelago is a great find – and still, thankfully, unspoilt.

Orientation

Backed by the rugged Dinaric Alps, the Dalmatian coastline is lapped by the deep blue Adriatic Sea and dotted with rocky, pine-scented islands that stretch out along the coast between Split and Dubrovnik.

The three big coastal hubs are Dubrovnik, in the far south, Split, roughly in the middle of the coastline, and Zadar, rurther north.

Dubrovnik’s the departure point for the quiet Elaphiti islands, while Split has links to all of the most popular islands including Hvar, Korcula, Brac, Krk and Vis.

Hvar is by far the most stylish of all Croatia’s islands, with chic hotels and a moneyed yachting crowd that sail over from Split.

Brac has the country’s best beach; along with Krk it’s an excellent choice for families, while Korcula – with its lovely old town – and the far distant Vis are ideal for couples.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Sail the Dalmatian Islands

Dalmatia, Croatia

With sheltered waters, a steady breeze, and too-many-to-count uninhabited islands with hidden coves, the Dalmatian islands are made for sailing.

Best for ages: 13+ | £600 | 3-7 days

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Peljesac Wine Region

Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, Croatia

Sample some of Croatia’s finest red wines at the vineyards on this mountainous peninsula. A one-hour drive up the coast from Dubrovnik.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 4

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Blue Cave

Vis, Dalmatia, Croatia

A magical sea cave, illuminated with an amazing shade of luminescent blue at midday when the sun’s rays enter via by a partial submarine hole in the cave entrance.

Best for ages: 8+ | £25

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Moreska Sword Dance

Korcula, Dalmatia, Croatia

Dalmatian tradition at its best – a spectacular Mediterranean sword dance between two bands of men, dating back to the 16th century.

Best for ages: 6+ | £13 | 30 minutes

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Stone building set alone on cliffs near Bol in Dalmatian Islands
Experience

Blaca Hermitage

Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia

Perched on a remote mountain cleft on Brac island, the Hermitage dates back to the 15th century, when Ottoman Turks took shelter in a cave. They stayed, built outwards and by the 18th century it was a Hermitage serving three local villages.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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White Party at Carpe Diem during Yacht week.
Experience

Carpe Diem Beach & Club

Hvar, Dalmatia, Croatia

A beautiful pebble beach with a super-trendy beach club, boasting a lounge bar, DJ and restaurant in a magical setting among the pines. The club opens daily from June to September.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Hike or cycle Vidova Gora

Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia

A superb 2-hour hike up the Dalmatian islands’ highest peak for spectacular views over the archipelago, and delicious spit-roast lamb at the summit.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 4-5 hours

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Palmizana

Sveti Klement, Dalmatia, Croatia

Boho-chic escape – lush gardens with bungalows, villas, two restaurants and a beach, on a car-free islet near Hvar.

Official star rating:

Little Green Bay Hotel

Hvar, Dalmatia, Croatia

Secluded waterside hideaway with its own bistro, beach and spa, where chic design meets unspoilt nature on Hvar island.

Official star rating:

Puteus Palace Heritage Hotel

Brac, Dalmatia, Croatia

In a sleepy village on Brac, this 15-room heritage hotel has a glorious garden restaurant, a wine bar and mini-spa.

Official star rating:

The Fabris

Korcula, Dalmatia, Croatia

A five-minute walk from Korcula’s bustling port, just outside the picturesque Old Town, this informal inn has a  lovely sea-view terrace and does an excellent breakfast.

Official star rating:

When to go

June and September are the best times to go, offering great weather and warm water for swimming, without the hordes. If you’re sailing, there are fewer boats – more chance of privacy in those secret coves and beaches – and better winds.

High season (July and August) is perfect for visitors who want to mingle with the crowds and enjoy a buzzing nightlife.

Many hotels, restaurants and activities are closed between November and April, and the water is too cold for swimming.

Getting there and away

Visitors to the islands land in either Split or Dubrovnik international airports, then take a taxi to the harbours.

There you’ll pick up your private charter, or catch a local Jadrolinija ferry or catamaran to the island of your choice. There are regular departures; see the ferry website for schedules.

Getting around

The best way to explore the Dalmatian Islands (and the mainland coast) is by private yacht. Most charter companies are based in Split and offer one-week rentals (skipper optional) – enough time to complete a circuit that takes in Brač, Hvar, Korcula and Vis.

Public transport on the islands is cheap and efficient: the islands are served by regular ferries and catamarans, and most towns and even villages are connected by buses. Taxis are scarce.

Hiring a car, while not strictly necessary, will nevertheless give you more freedom to explore the islands. If you plan to take a vehicle on a ferry during peak season (July to August), you should book well in advance on the ferry website. Foot passengers don’t need to make reservations.

Where to stay

A fine choice for a first visit to Dalmatia, Hvar Town on the island of Hvar is home to the region’s most modern and luxurious hotels. There are also plenty of beaches, and the car-free historic centre offers sophisticated seafood eateries and glamorous nightlife.

Bol, on the island of Brac, is more geared towards package tours and has several vast modern hotels – its main draw is Zlatni Rat beach, with excellent watersports facilities.

Korcula Town on Korcula offers plenty of historic interest, but many of its hotels are rather dated.

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