Throughout it all, the rugged 1500m-high Dinaric Range provides a dramatic background. Hot spots include the buzzing Mediterranean-flavoured city of Split and gorgeous little Hvar Town, where the cashed meet the trashed on the Adriatic’s most glamorous party island. But if it’s relaxation you’re after, there are seductive sandy beaches and pebbly coves scattered about islands near and far. Best of all, Dalmatia is usually warmer than Istria or the Kvarner Gulf. You can plunge into the crystalline Adriatic from the middle of May right up until the end of September.
Yachties can sail between unpopulated islands without a shred of development, lost in dreams of the Mediterranean of old, while hikers can wander lonely trails where bears and wolves still dwell, and explore three of Croatia’s most impressive national parks, which shelter in the hinterland.
By contrast, Zadar is a cultured city rich in museums, Roman ruins, restaurants and hip bars. Summertime clubbers gravitate to Zrće Beach and Tisno, which together form the nucleus of Croatia’s premier clubbing scene.
Yet one location understandably eclipses any discussion of Southern Dalmatia: the remarkable old town of Dubrovnik. Ringed by mighty defensive walls that dip their feet in the cerulean sea, the city encapsulates the very essence of a medieval Mediterranean fantasy. Dubrovnik is simply unique; its beauty is bewitching, its setting sublime. Thousands of visitors walk along its marble streets every day, gazing, gasping and happily snapping away.
When Dubrovnik’s tourist scrum threatens to overwhelm, a reinvigorating balm is but a quick boat or bus ride away. Refresh yourself on the shady paths of Trsteno Arboretum or, if that doesn’t do the trick, the divine wine and oysters of the sparsely populated Pelješac Peninsula surely will.