Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast: A One-Week Itinerary

April 8, 2014 Croatia

Planning a trip to Croatia? Now is a great time to pack your bags and head to this marvelous country of “red-roofed towns,” historical palaces, gorgeous beaches, lively clubs, and taste-bud tingling restaurants. Contributing writer Michelle Finkelstein says May – September provide sunny days, tepid, swim-friendly waters, and smaller crowds — perfect conditions for an unforgettable vacation. Michelle had a lovely time traveling the Dalmatian Coast and has provided a comprehensive one-week itinerary to help travelers decide where to go and what to do. Other RealTravel members also offer wonderful suggestions, which you can find below under Croatia Itineraries by RealTravelers.
Dalmatian Coast – A One-Week Itinerary:
With only 1 week in Croatia, especially if it is your first visit (but hopefully not last!), I recommend focusing on the Dalmatian Coast. Featuring pristine stone and red-roofed towns dating back to the Middle Ages, an island blanketed in lavender (Hvar), marvelous Roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace (Split), a horn-shaped beach whose tip undulates with the tides (Bol on Brac) and a breathtaking shoreline speckled with beaches and mountains, this spectacular region of Croatia is sure to delight.
Days 1 & 2: Dubrovnik
Start your trip in Dubrovnik, Croatia’s southernmost city, which is also called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. While the dramatic beaches are a huge draw, Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the real gem.

Getting to Dubrovnik
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from the US to Croatia yet, but you can connect through a European hub such as London, Frankfurt, Vienna, Dublin or Budapest, and fly into Dubrovnik. European low-cost carries such as SkyEurope Airlines and Thomson fly from regional airports in London to Dubrovnik. (Click here for further alternatives.)
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
If you want a resort feel and don’t mind being a shuttle or cab ride away from Old Town, The Dubrovnik Palace is superlative. While the boxy rooms feel more like a nondescript business hotel than seaside resort, each has a balcony overlooking the sea and the hotel’s fabulous location right on the Adriatic will make you feel like you’re truly on vacation.
The Dubrovnik Palace offers an adult and family pool, a fitness center, tennis courts, a dive center, 3 restaurants and 4 bars. A sundowner at the Sunset Lounge is a must whether staying at the hotel or not, and their extensive breakfast buffet with outdoor seating high above the Adriatic is a wonderful way to start your day.
The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik is situated right outside the city walls and Pile Gate. The location is ideal for sightseeing and nightlife as you’re a 2-10 minute walk to the action, but not within the city walls where it can get congested and overwhelming, especially in mid-July during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and August when hordes of Italians and day-tripping cruise-goers swarm the streets. Be sure to request a room with soaring ceilings and huge windows. (See more accommodations here…)
To Do in Dubrovnik
– An afternoon walk along the city walls is essential for unparalleled vistas and photo ops. Gaze across the clusters of traditional red rooftops and church spires, watching the women hanging wash high above narrow cobblestone alleys with children playing down below.
– Within the city walls, visit Onofrio’s Fountains, one at each of the main gates, Pile and Ploce, erected in 1438 so people entering could wash to prevent bringing the Plague into this noble city.
– Meander down Stradun, the main wide street, stopping for a gelato or souvenir shopping.
– If you can find it, catch the sunset at Buza Bar, a delightful spot with tables and umbrellas clinging to the side of the old wall. Kick back with an Ozujsko beer or Caprioska, a delicious beverage made with vodka, brown sugar, mint and crushed ice, and watch the locals gracefully dive into the icy blue water. You’ll probably also spy some not-so-graceful tourists belly-flopping from a towering crag into the sea after a few cocktails.
– For nightlife, patrons of numerous bars and pubs in alleyways off Stradun and Gundulic Square spill out into the streets.
– For clubs, the beachfront Eastwest Club offers a great location, DJs and exotic cocktails…just ignore the go-go dancers behind the banquettes.
– The Latino Club Fuego across from the Hilton outside Pile Gate is a multi-level dance club, which doesn’t feature anything Latin, but is an entertaining spot nonetheless for fine music and drinks.
Days 3 & 4: Drive to Split and Ferry to Hvar
Getting to Split
Being an Art History major and enamored with all things Roman, I couldn’t forgo a stop at Split to see the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Split is also the main ferry hub for the islands off the Dalmatian Coast. We rented a car and drove up the Makarska Coast, stopping along the way to sunbathe and frolic in the sea. We used Avis with offices in all major locations and helpful employees. Please note that you do cross Bosnia and will need your passports. While only in Bosnia for about 20 minutes, you notice the difference in road quality, and sundries such as batteries and water are half the cost as in Croatia so load up!

There are also frequent busses that run between the cities, a viable option if you don’t feel comfortable driving. Without stops the drive is approx. 3 1/2 hours. Give yourself time to return the car at the local agency, which, if you use Avis, is about a 20 min drive from the dock. The rep should drive you back to the port.
To Do in Split
Split is a busy port town and not worth an overnight stay, but the remains of the Palace of Diocletian are well worth a visit. Emperor Diocletian ruled from 284 AD until 304 AD. In 305 he retired to this palace where he lived until his death in 313 AD, when the palace became government offices and the governor’s residence. Today you can view the notable Iron Gate and Clock Tower as well as scamper around the catacombs below the main building. Note the white, excellent-quality Dalmatian stone used throughout much of the Palace – it was quarried from Brac Island and used for many of the palaces and churches of Venice.
Getting to Hvar
Hvar may be on the radar for being an increasingly hip island, with multimillion-dollar yachts moored up to Miami-style hotels and raucous nightclubs, but this lavender-covered isle also boasts two lovely towns, glittering bays, serene monasteries and scenic vineyards.
Jadrolinija is the primary line ferrying passengers (and at times cars) from Split and other mainland destinations to the various islands. The ferries either dock at Stari Grad or Hvar Town. Be aware that if you are sailing into the destination you’re not staying at, it’s about a $40 cab ride. The ferries are definitely not luxurious, and the car ferries are especially dirty. The ride is approx. 2 hours. Pack light, as you will be hauling your suitcase up and down multiple sets of narrow stairwells with herds of other passengers ebbing you forward.
Suncani Hotels, the main chain on Hvar, run twice-daily hour-long catamaran transfers. They usually have an 8.30 PM boat, giving enough time to drive up the coast, enjoy Split and get to Hvar in time to grab a late dinner.
There are ferries from Dubrovnik to Hvar on certain days of the week if you prefer not to drive. You can also break up this trip by stopping and even overnighting on Korcula.
Where to Stay on Hvar
Long a destination for the wealthy jet set, Hvar has had a striking lack of good hotels. This is due to the fact that the mega-rich cruise up in their private yachts, dock for a night of dining and carousing, never actually staying on the island.
Suncani Hotels has 8 hotels on the island and the Riva Hotel in Hvar Town is the newest, located along the dock next to the semi-famous nightclub Carpe Diem. Copying its high design ethos from South Beach, the hotel’s best feature is the patio, with cozy sofas and low-lit tables to sip some bubbly while people-watching.
Hvar Town is definitely a party town, although there are quieter nooks. If you are an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type you definitely won’t enjoy the Hotel Riva. In this case, a hotel in Stari Grad, the other main town, or a more tranquil section of Hvar Town will do.

To Do on Hvar
There are two towns, Hvar Town and Stari Grad and both are marvelous.
–Built by the Venetian Doges in the 13th century, Hvar Town is a maze of cobblestone streets and sun-filled squares. The main buildings of importance, Cathedral of St Stephen, Clock Tower and the Arsenal all flank the main piazza, edged with al fresco cafes and restaurants.
–Stari Grad, literally ‘Old Town’ was originally called Pharos and founded by the Syracusans in the 4th century BC. Wander the labyrinthine streets, checking out the art studios and tiny bakeries. Life seems to have slowed to a leisurely pace. Amble up to the Dominican Monastery where there is a decent library and painting collection. The surrounding vineyards and views into the narrow streets are superb.
– Exploring the island is a must and I recommend renting a scooter only if you have ridden before. The locals drive like maniacs and with hairpin curves and plenty of gravely roads (not to mention sometimes shoddy bikes) your vacation could end up bandage-wrapped.
–You can also rent a car or hire a taxi to take you around this lovely island, where you’ll turn a corner to witness the most gorgeous view over the vast Adriatic, or pass a lush lavender field.
–Water taxis and private boats can be arranged to take you to secluded coves and uninhabited beaches. Arrange for a return pickup time so you don’t get stranded!
–I found the food in Dalmatia to be sub-par, save for an adorable restaurant in Hvar Town called Yaksa. The seafood and salads were perfect and here we sampled the best Caprioskas in the entire country. The affable owners, architects from Germany and their Weimaraner (who, incidentally, has his own sunglasses for the trip in the convertible Porsche from Munich to the ferry at Split) went out of their way to ensure we had the best of everything on Hvar.

by: Corry Seibert

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