Top Tourist Attractions and Things to do in South Dalmatia (Croatia)
First of all… what the hack is Dalmatia…? What are some things I could do in (south) Dalmatia…? What’s there to see…? It’s totally fine if you’re not yet sure about what are the best things to do in South Dalmatia, I assure you with this little introduction you won’t stop dreaming about visiting Croatia.
Probably the first thing that crosses your mind when someone mentions Dalmatia, are dogs and a lot of spots. Well, to be honest, looking at a map of Dalmatia, the southernmost region of Croatia, there are a lot of spots. And dots. Or freckles. Small and large ones. In a blue, crystal sea. In fact, 926 freckles in a turquoise sea. I’m talking about islands, of course, that are parallel to the Dalmatian coastline, stretched out in a northwest-southeast direction, creating numerous straits and areas for shelter or anchorages.
The region of Dalmatia is a coastal belt 400 km long and 70 km wide at its northern and the most extensive part. It comprises four littoral counties with Zadar, Šibenik, Split and Dubrovnik as the biggest cities. With a surface of 12.260 km2, in the area live about 860.000 Dalmatians (in this particular case, the name Dalmatians refers to the people, not dogs, obviously).
The name derives from Delmatae, the Illyrian tribe that inhabited the territory before Romans conquered it. The whole region enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and mild and rainy winters. The thin belt of the hinterland has the submediterranean climate, and the land is surrounded by mountains that naturally divide Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
So we’re heading to the south, where as mentioned above, the width of Dalmatia narrows down when eventually you’ll be welcomed by customs officers because you’re leaving Croatia to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina. You see, that Bosnian piece of the territory that comes out to the Adriatic sea is less than 25 km long and physically splits the county of Dubrovnik-Neretva in two. That said, it’s apparent that you can only reach Dubrovnik and its surroundings by passing the Bosnian border.
Why is that, you ask… It’s a consequence of one of the strategic decisions that Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) made in the 15th c. When Dalmatia was sold to Venetians in 1409, these two vicious rivals whose wealth based both on commerce and navigation, became neighbors. To avoid any unnecessary trouble with Venetians, nobles of Dubrovnik then decided to sell a small part of its territory to Ottomans, who held most of today’s Bosnian country. And even when the Ottomans withdrew in the 18th c., a population that mostly considered themselves as Herzegovinians remained.
The cultural heritage of south Dalmatia was strongly influenced by Republic of Ragusa: its politics and management, economics and culture. The territory of the former Republic almost coincides with today’s borders of South Dalmatia to which the part around the city of Ploce has been added.
Today, Dalmatia is designated as a top destination in several magazines with numerous must-see places in Croatia. If you ever wondered what to do in Croatia, or more precisely in South Dalmatia, I’m here to help you. Next, you’ll see top 10 things to do in South Dalmatia.
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and top things to do in South Dalmatia
Experiences and top things to do in South Dalmatia
Spend as much time as you can in Dubrovnik
The Old Town, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, is nested inside almost 2 km of great City walls and, as G. B. Shaw commented, is „a pearl of Adriatic.“ Independent from the 13th to the beginning of the19th c., the Republic of Dubrovnik faced hard but also glorious times – namely the 15th and the 16th c. was a golden age when immense wealth poured in thanks to commerce and navigation.
Exquisitely high level of preserved original architecture – houses, palaces, and churches – survived a terrible earthquake in 1667 so today Croatia can brag with one of the world’s top destinations. As you make your way through one of the three entrances in the city, you feel like entering some medieval movie set. I’m telling you – these few rows are not enough to describe it all, but believe me when I say: Dubrovnik is an absolute must-see place in Croatia!
Visit Mljet National Park
The island of Mljet rich in forest, vineyards and olive groves offers outstanding beauties, both natural and cultural. To cite a few among those: Saplunara sandy beach on the southern part of the island is undoubtedly worth spending a day on it. Don’t miss to check out Ulysses’ cave (that’s right, the legend says…). Mljet National Park comprises the northwestern side of the island with two saltwater lakes and Benedictine monastery built on a small island of St. Mary (island within an island!).
Get to see Korčula
The island of Korčula is full of wonders. The Old city is placed on a small peninsula on the northern side of the island and captivates with its ancient pavement, Renaissance architecture, and design that reminds of a fishbone. In the Old town, you can visit the house of world-famous adventurer Marco Polo, and the Cathedral of St. Marcus is a masterpiece made by local artists. I strongly recommend to explore the island and finally check out fabulous beach of Vela Przina, near a village called Lumbarda.
Eat oysters in the city of Ston and explore the city walls
Situated on the peninsula of Peljesac, the town of Ston can be recognized from miles away even though you’ve never been there earlier. And I’ll tell you the way. Traveling from the direction of Neretva (on the mainland) you’ll spot a long line that climbs upon the hill. Those are city walls, approximately 5,5 km long – said to be the second longest in Europe. The long tradition of oyster rearing found its way eventually in the touristic offer, being one of the most popular delicacies of South Dalmatia – one of the essential things to do in Croatia!
The oldest arboretum in the world was built in 1498 on a property of a noble family Gucetic – Gozze. Over time, the family collected a great variety of plants so that today you can enjoy in exuberant vegetation. Charming Baroque fountain from the 18th c. representing Neptune and nymphs recalls the time of the ancient Greeks.
Sailing toward Lopud, one of the three (still) inhabited islands of this lovely group, you can admire Dubrovnik area from another angle: cliffs and rocks that precipitate into the sea, the greenness of pines and underbrush… Elaphiti islands stand out with the authentic tradition, Rennaisance buildings, and a peaceful atmosphere. If you’re ready to turn off your phone and enjoy the music of waves, forget about the rest of the world – that’s the right place for you to visit in Croatia.
Explore Neretva delta
The Neretva river, 230 km long, flows into the Adriatic sea creating stunning delta with plenty of courses, lagoons, and lakes on the surface of merely 12,000 hectares. This fertile land is a synonym of production of fruit and vegetables. Depending on the time of the year that you travel to this part of Croatia, you’ll very quickly find some fresh watermelons or oranges being sold by the road at a reasonable price.
Visit Peljesac wineries
The second largest peninsula in Croatia is called Peljesac, well known as land/zone dedicated to the production of one of the finest wines in Croatia. Glorious names as Dingac, Postup or Plavac Mali, that have won various prizes over decades, grow on a rocky land of Peljesac.
Talking about gastronomy… Honestly, while being in Dubrovnik, you’re inevitably going to be offered with rozata – sweet dessert with a long tradition (I mean really long– original recipe dates from the beginning of the 14th c.). It was named after a specific ingredient – rosalin – liqueur of rose petals. Today, it is probably the most popular dessert in Croatia.
Don’t miss Lindjo
The dance of lindjo is a traditional folklore dance of Dubrovnik region, inscribed on the list of the non-material heritage of UNESCO. On the performance you’ll see one man sitting in the middle with an instrument called lirica, he’s the one who’s in charge – playing, dictating the rhythm and commanding to the dancers, very often humorously and ambiguously.
I bet that after reading this, you’ll going to try to find the lowest prices to get to Croatia. With these top 10 things to do in South Dalmatia, there’s absolutely no way to get bored or miss out something authentic from the region.
And one more thing… Remember the Dalmatians from the beginning of the post? I mean the dogs now…? The dog breed was named after the region of Dalmatia, cause in the 16th c. these were very helpful in defending and standing guard at the Dalmatian border, watching out for attacks from Ottomans. Not that they could fight against the enemy, but they would warn Dalmatian soldiers if the intruder were approaching. Clever animals. No doubt.