Dalmatia (Croatia) Driving Tour
By: yoel (Voyajo Team)
Why should you go?
With its balmy climate, sweeping mountains, herb infused forests and rugged Adriatic coastline the region of Dalmatia on Croatia’s southern flank is easily one of the most scenic corners of Europe. Mix in intoxicating layers of Venetian, Roman and Greek history, as well first rate seafood, laidback locals and a string of tempting towns and cities, and it is easy to see why this impressively unspoiled oasis, the much trumpeted ‘Mediterranean as it Once Was’, is one of Europe’s hottest destinations.
How Long Should You Spend?
Dalmatia occupies a sinewy sweep of coastline with myriad things to keep visitors occupied. One week will cover the most alluring highlights for those with their own car traveling mainly along the highly scenic D8, also known as the ‘Adriatic Highway’, which offers much better views than the inland motorway with the Adriatic to one side and massive mountains to the other.
Start/end destination and Distance
Start in Zadar, finish Dubrovnik. Both cities have international airports. Distance: 375km
Dalmatia benefits from a mild Mediterranean climate and can be visited all year round. The main tourist season, though, is from May to September with many hotels and restaurants closing out of season. July and August can very hot and humid, not to mention busy with accommodation hard to come by, and savvy visitors now opt to come in May, June or September. Always try to book accommodation in advance.
Day 1: Zadar – Kornati - Sibenik
After exploring Zadar’s old Roman heart around the Roman Forum, St. Donat’s Church and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, take the D8 south turning right on to Route 121 into Murter. Just enjoy the coastal drive or stop off for a Boat Cruise from Murter to the nearby Kornati Islands National Park. Return back to the D8 and drive south to Sibenik coming off down Ivana Mestrovica into the city.
Day 2: Sibenik - Skradin/Krka National Park -Trogir
Begin with a walking tour of Sibenik that takes in the Cathedral and Sibenik Fortress. Then head north up Route 33 and then 56 towards the town of Skradin, gateway to the Krka National Park. Follow signs back down the same two roads to the D8 and follow the coast south taking a turn to the right off on to Route 6132, then a further right on to Route 6133, which takes you to the historic island town of Trogir, home to a remarkable Old Town and Cathedral.
Day 3: Trogir – Salona - Split
Return to the D8 by taking Route 315 east to join with it, following signs for Split. The ancient Roman city of Salona is signposted just to the left on the approach to the city of Split – you can walk around the romantic ruins enjoying the Adriatic breezes. Afterwards take the D8 into Split where the historic Roman core awaits with Diocletian’s Palace, the glitzy waterfront Riva and the Mestrovic Gallery.
Day 4: Split – Omis - Makarska
Follow the D8 south of Split to Omis, which lies dramatically where the Omis Gorge meets the Adriatic, where you can explore the Old Town and the Mirabella and Fortica lookouts. The D8 pushes on towards the holiday resorts of the popular Makarska Riviera. Head for the Mediterranean’s cleanest waters at the pine fringed beaches of Makarska, just right off the D8. Savor a stroll around town and visit the Town Museum.
Day 5: Makarska – Neretva Delta – Mali Ston
Rejoin the D8 heading south, which sweeps around the verdant Neretva Delta, awash with wildlife and best explored on boat tours. The coastal road now slips into Bosnia for a brief stretch before becoming the D8 again on the approach to the Peljesac Peninsula, home to the seafood oasis of Mali Ston. Take Route 414, signposted for Ston, into the Mali Ston village where world-class seafood awaits at Kapetanova Kuca.
Day 6: Mali Ston – Ston - Dubrovnik
Drive over to Ston proper on Route 414 to check out the massive Old Walls that used to mark the northern extremity of Dubrovnik’s power, before returning to the D8 via Route 414. The final drive south hugs the coastline into the hills above Dubrovnik, where a tour of the Old City Walls or a Boat Cruise awaits as a dramatic introduction.
Day 7: Dubrovnik
Your last day is a ‘drive free’ one to enjoy one of Europe’s best-preserved baroque Old Towns and the historic gems of this one time city-state. Soak up the atmosphere on the Stradun, visit the Franciscan Monastery and the ornate Cathedral, on a walking tour that also takes in the Rector’s Palace and the Sponza Palace.
By Robin McKelvie www.robinmckelvie.com