Gems of Europe: Croatia

Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is an ideal spot for sun, sand and sea

By: By Marissa Tinloy

Ideal Itineraries

Split & Hvar: With Dubrovnik Travel’s Split & Hvar package, clients will enjoy the sights of the two namesake cities, as well as daytrip ventures to Zadar, Makarska and Trogir. In Split, clients have an opportunity to visit the Salona, one of the country’s great archaeological treasures as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trogir. In Hvar, clients will indulge in the region’s renowned wines, arts and local delicacies. For small and large groups alike, Dubrovnik Travel also specializes in creative programs, such as a wine and olive tasting tour and a river-rafting package. 

Cultural Colors of Croatia: Gutsy Women Travel’s eight-day Cultural Colors of Croatia tour starts with cultural tours in Dubrovnik, oyster tasting in Ston, a boatride to Cavtat and strolling in Trsteno’s arboretum. The tour ends in Zagreb and the hilly countryside of the Croatian uplands.

Southern Cruise: Katarina Line’s seven-day Southern Cruise departs from Split and sails between eight Croatian destinations, including the secluded island of Mljet,
Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar and Bol on Brac. 

Calendar of Events

November: International Music Festival. During this annual event, musicians from around the world flock to Pula, found on the coast of the Istria peninsula, for this celebration of sound and spirit. Concerts, parties and performances abound.

Nov. 11: Martinje Wine Festival. Throughout the country’s winemaking regions, Croatians dedicate St. Martin’s Day — and the days preceding it — to the enjoyment of the season’s young wines and festivities of feasts and dancing. Dugo Selo, near Zagreb, presents a particularly spectacular celebration.

Dec. 28-31: International New Year’s Regatta. With its picturesque location and sunny climate, the island of Hvar is the perfect place for a winter regatta. The international event, in conjunction with the International Yacht Racing Union, attracts serious sailors and lounging observers alike.

Jan. 23-Feb. 25, 2009: Rijeka Carnival. The Croatian rendition of the Carnival tradition transforms the city of Rijeka into a bustling epicenter of parades, artistic activities and sports attractions for the 25th year. The Queen’s Pageant, Children’s Parade and dancing ball for dignitaries are a few favorites. 

Mid-April 2009: Sonnet Day of Hanibal Lucic. Hvar celebrates the life and works of the world-famous, Hvar-born poet, Hanibal Lucic, with an afternoon of poetry readings by both Croatian and international writers.

July 1-Aug. 31, 2009: KRK Summer Festival. The largest of the Adriatic islands welcomes visitors to enjoy the work of Croatia’s talented young artists and performers with musical, literary and dance-based events.

July 10-Aug. 31, 2009: Dubrovnik Summer Festival. The oldest international festival in Croatia comes complete with music, theater, folklore, ballet and performers from around the world.

July 27, 2009: Moreska Sword Dance. Set on the city’s 13th-century stone walls, Korcula’s traditional Moreska sword dance commemorates the island’s ancient battle to free a kidnapped young girl and glorify its patron, St. Theodore. The performance is repeated on Thursdays throughout the summer.

New & Noteworthy

A Must-See
For 2008, the travel edition of The New York Times named the Croatian island of Hvar as one of its top 12 must-see destinations. Calling Hvar "the St. Tropez of Croatia," the article lauded the island’s yachting, nightlife and narrow stone alleyways. 

Tourism Numbers on the Rise
The Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ) said the country experienced its best tourism season in 2007, and it projects even greater success for 2008 and the coming years. HTZ director Niko Bulic said the revenue of approximately $9.8 billion was a 7.5 percent increase in quantity of tourist arrivals and a 5.6 percent increase in number of night stays, and exceeded expectations for 2007. In preparation for continuing growth, the HTZ recently elected 10 new members as well. 

Local Favorites

Drink Specialites
Croatia offers a number of distinctive drinks to please client’s palates. Grk wine from the village of Lumbarda on
Korcula is a liquor-like vino, made from vineyards grown along the island’s sandy shores.

Bottles of homemade eau-de-vie showcase colorful blends of fruit, herbs and Croatian alcohol. The drink is a popular evening beverage throughout the country. Local favorites include blends of plum, grape and cherry.

Culinary Feats
The country also boasts a number of foods unique to each region. Menestra, Croatia’s colorful and filling variation on minestrone, is a thick soup that mixes smoked meat, dark beans, handmade pasta and fresh vegetables. Even with Croatia’s warm summer weather, this hot treat remains a savory favorite year-round.

Considering Croatia’s seaside location, it’s no surprise that skampi buzara is a tasty must. Bought directly from the towns’ bustling fish markets, the fresh scampi are simmered whole and served in a wine, tomato, garlic and herb sauce. Locals serve the warm dish with breadcrumbs.

Spit-roasted lamb, known as janjetina, is a specialty of the island of Klis. Though locals often prepare the dish at home, it is also a popular favorite in the village’s restaurants.

Palacinka, a warm Croatian dessert, is the local cure for a sweet tooth. The crepe-like pancakes are first spread with local jam and then filled with chocolate and walnuts.

Hotel Packages

Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, found on Marijana Blazica, offers a central location and comfortable, modern accommodations for exploring the Old Town district. With Hilton’s Taste of Dubrovnik package, guests can enjoy a special cuisine package, designed to reduce stress and introduce the flavors of the Adriatic. The offer, which is available through March, includes accommodations and starts at $240 per night, based on double occupancy. 

Hotel Amfora, Hvar
Luxurious boutique resort Hotel Amfora is nestled in a tranquil bay on Hvar, with its own private beach and pool. Through June, guests who stay two or more nights will receive a complimentary third night and a relaxing half-hour massage at the Bonj Les Baines on Hvar’s shore. Room rates begin at $495 per night, based on double occupancy. 

Hotel Solaris Jakov, Dalmatia
Hotel Solaris Jakov, found in the city of Sibenik in central Dalmatia, also organizes fun and convenient daytrips for guests. For clients who book online or through the resort concierge, the Solaris offers a range of outings, including boat excursions to the Kornati National Park, the famous Zlarin coral island and the Sibenik archipelago. Prices range depending on the season and availability and children ages 2-11 receive a 50 percent discount. Other Solaris resorts can also be found in the area around Sibenik. 

Destination Resources

Bol on Brac 
City of Dubrovnik 
City of Hvar Tourist Board 
Jadrolinija-Ancona Ferry Information 
Sali Tourist Community 
Split City Museum 
Split Tourist Board 
Tourist Board of Ugljan 
Zadar County Tourist Office 

Gems of Europe

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With its wild islands, pristine waters and stunning Adriatic beaches, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast — more than 350 miles of it — is a young, bustling destination in European tourism. In 2007,according to the Croatia National Tourist Board, Croatia’s tourism rose by nearly 8 percent and this positive trend is only expected to increase.

Known as "the Mediterranean as it once was," Croatia and its beautiful coastline, monuments, characteristic charm and geographic phenomena remain unspoiled. In recent years, with the substantial innovations of hotels, tour operators and Croatia’s tourism board, the Dalmatian Coast has transformed into a destination that is not only naturally and culturally exciting but, at the same time, affordable, accessible and thriving with travel opportunities.

Dubrovnik serves as a central transportation hub for visiting the Croatian islands. // (c) Jimmy Harris
Dubrovnik serves as a central transportation hub for visiting the Croatian islands.

In the region’s north, the city of Zadar is a terrific point to begin a coastal tour of Croatia. With its nearby archipelago of more than 300 pristine islands and a variety of cultural sights on the mainland, Zadar embodies the diverse spirit of Dalmatia. Situated on a narrow peninsula, the waterfront city holds many historic monuments, such as the Archaeological Museum near the Roman Forum and the Byzantine Church of St. Donatus. The colorful and circular-shaped building, which has been
inactive as a church since the mid-20th century, now serves as a concert hall where its fabulous acoustics are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Zadar serves as a main hub for both sea and air travel.

Linked to the city by daily ferries, Zadar’s archipelago consists of many untamed islands, as well as a few main retreats with comfortable accommodations and interesting sights. In the time of the Romans, the area was a popular holiday escape for nobles and the remains of their villas can still be seen. Dugi Otok, Ugljan and Pasman — three of the archipelago’s main islands — also exhibit Gothic-style architecture, thriving marine reserves and world-renowned yachting and fishing. Ferries regularly run to Preko on Ugljan and Veli Rat on Dugi Otok. A bridge connects Pasman with Ugljan.

In central Dalmatia, farther south, the bustling city of Split maintains its seaside charm and historic ambience while serving as one of the country’s major ports for domestic and international travel. From the entrance of the monumental Golden Gate of Diocletian’s
Palace to exploring the medieval castles just beyond the city’s walls, clients will find that Split’s rich history is deeply engrained in its modern character.

The Split City Museum, housed in 15th- and 16th-century buildings, showcases the region’s distinctive paintings, books and furniture. From Split, regular ferries run to all of the major Dalmatian Islands, as well as ports throughout the mainland and Italy.

Just a short ferry ride from this central city, the island of Brac provides an outdoor retreat from everyday life. Most famous for its Golden Triangle at Bol, Brac experiences seasonal tides that form a distinctive sand point. This point, when looked upon, appears to draw the long beach toward the depths of the sea.

For travelers interested in adventure activities, Brac’s clear waters offer opportunities for windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, sailing and fishing. Inland, hikers can climb two hours to the peak of Mount St. Vitus, the highest point on all of the Dalmatian Islands. Ferries run regularly between Split and Brac’s main cities at Supetar and Sumartin.

The peaceful island of Hvar, located slightly south of Brac, beckons visitors with its lavender-covered hills and easy-to-reach beaches. As home to one of Europe’s first theaters, Hvar’s architecture, art collections and live performances make it an ideal destination for cultural entertainment. The main square and seaward-facing Cathedral of St. Stephen in Hvar Town, as well as the fortified Castle Tvrdalj residence in Stari Grad, are not to be missed. Ferries run regularly from both Split and Dubrovnik to the island cities of Hvar Town, Stari Grad and Sucuraj.

Korcula, located a short ride south of Hvar, is one of the largest islands in the Adriatic and uniquely combines the coast’s sandy beaches with thick forests of pine, cypress and oak. An impressive 13th-century wall protects the winding streets and the crisp, white Dalmatian-stone buildings of Korcula Town. The small vineyard town of Lumbarda, with its tranquil beaches and Grk liquor-wine, and the main port of Vela Luka also provide sightseeing and swimming opportunities. Ferries run regularly between Split and the island city of Vela Luka.

Found at the south end of Dalmatia, the city of Dubrovnik is an ideal point for embarking, or disembarking, on a coastal tour of Croatia. Visitors will enjoy historical sights such as the Big Fountain of Onofrio, built by the designer of the city’s water system in 1438; the Sponza Palace, now housing the state’s archives; and the Museum of Dubrovnik. The city’s lively social spaces, such as the Stradun, a wide street that extends from one end of the city to the other, thrive with both locals and visitors enjoying bars, restaurants and street performances. Dubrovnik also serves as a main ferry and airport for both domestic and international travel.

With so many different islands to explore and easy accessibility throughout the country, it’s easy to see why Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is fast becoming a major tourist destination.