Purple Hearts… Croatia Travel Guide the Croat d’Azur, if you will
The Dalmatian Riviera stretches along the Croatian coastline between Split and Dubrovnik, intersected by a small outcrop of Bosnia with some notable bad architecture and not much else. Boasting more islands than any other Mediterranean country except Greece, Croatia is not only naturally beautiful, but also extremely private, having all in all, around 125,000 inhabitants scattered across 48 islands – some 670 remain deserted. This, combined with some of the best sailing in the world, endless beaches, hidden coves, dramatic withstanding Roman ruins and a cuisine that packs a punch to their Italian neighbours, Croatia is a brightening star in the Mediterranean. Yet, ironically, most of Dalmatia is comprised of a throwback to simpler, non-commercialized roots and its chic beaches are just the tip of the iceberg for what the Riviera has to offer. With this Dalmatian Riviera travel guide, you can find out that little bit more about why so many people are in love with this beautiful holiday destination. Discover more in our Croatia Travel Guide.
Image via @ Sean MacEntee
Croatian cuisine is certainly one its big attractions. Renowned for a superb selection of fish and seafood, as well as a distinctive Italian influence – rizot is risotto, prsut is prosciutto, for example – it’s not just the scenery that beckons tourists back each year. The secret is in its simple preparation and easy digestibility, with essential ingredients including sheep´s cheese, salty sardines, roasted lamb, beef cooked in tomato sauce (salsa), and sautéed greens with potatoes.
Drink: Do not forget the wine, Croatia’s most famous export. Known for its special taste of the south, a taste that has been perfected over centuries, the secret recipes for winemaking are passed down from generation to generation in middle Dalmatia, produced in the families´ wine cellars. A wine connoisseur’s dream destination.
You should read… Purple Hearts Dubrovnik
Places to go:
Brač’s grey, mountainous centre provides a rugged, unfinished contrast to the alluring abundance of greenery, red-tiled roofs and clear blue water of the Adriatic Sea. Although first known for its quarries, which provided the stone for the White House, the island of Brač is now most celebrated for its beaches. Zlatni Rat (the Golden Cape) is hyped as the best beach in Dalmatia, perhaps because, aside from a few bearded gelato sellers, it remains almost completely uncommercialised. The nearby wind-surfing haven, harbour town of Bol, however, is a tourist hub. Skrip, home to the Brač Museum, is well worth a visit, as is the community winery, Poljoprivredna Zadruga, which produces some of the best wines on the island.
Over on the mainland lies Split, home to the 416,000 square-foot Roman Emperor Diocletian’s villa, circa 305 AD. About 3,000 people live in the 220 buildings within the old palace walls, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Summer is the best time to visit, when a month-long festival of performing arts fills theatres, squares, and galleries all over the town. Marrying the past with the present, the local children play alongside monuments like the Cathedral of Sveti Duje (Saint Domnius) and the Baptistery of St. John (Jupiter’s Temple).
The epicentre of Dalmatia’s ‘fabulous’ scene. Here you will find huge yachts cruising by, complete with bikini-clad women sunbathing topside, shortly followed by pods of playful dolphins. You’ll sip on a Chai latte or some other new-fangled mocha-choca-ino, stirring the blueberries into your morning soya granola with the rest of the seaside glitterati.
Just a short ferry ride away from Brač, Vis is the antithesis to Hvar’s hipster scene. But with a rich history, stretching back to Greek and Roman times, Vis is brimming with natural beauty, including over 500 varieties of flourishing herbs thrive, which make exploring the island very much a sensual experience.
The eponymous town within the island of Korčula is its biggest selling point. Expect a hopelessly quaint town that reflects a distinctly Venetian charm.
Activities: Diving is available all over the Riviera, allowing visitors to explore 1,000 years of maritime history, reflected in the sunken ships found in waters off Vis. There’s even a B-17 bomber that went down in 1944. Windsurfing and sailing are also a must. Or why not explore the hilltop ‘ghost town’ of Humac on Hvar with its spectacular views of the Adriatic, then hike down to the Grapceva Spilja Ice Cave. The Festival of Sword Dance, which runs throughout July and August, is Korčula’s recreation of a battle between two 16th-century armies, featuring soldiers dressed in flowing red and black uniforms, who each duel with genuine metal sabres in a tightly-choreographed frenzy, all to the accompaniment of a big brass band. Vanka Regule is a game in which participants free-dive, windsurf, long-distance kayak and jump bikes into the sea. It takes place in July in Sutivan on Brač.