There are over 1,200 islands along the insanely indented Dalmatian coast, some of them uninhabited lumps of limestone, others boasting French-Riviera-style resorts and tall, forested mountains. Each island has its own character - Hvar is glitzy and upmarket, Vis is remote and tranquil, Brac is great for watersports (and very accessible from Split), Korcula is verdant and beachy, Lopud is tiny and sleepy. At the southern tip of the Dalmatian Coast, not far from the Montenegrin border, is the gorgeous medieval town of Dubrovnik, a must for first-time visitors.
Halfway up the coast is the bustling and exuberant city of Split - the other major hub and entry point - and worth a few days in its own right. Up in the north, bordering the Kvarner Gulf, is Pag island, with its moonlike landscapes and beach party scene. And don't rule out the mainland, parts of which - the long fang of the Peljesac peninsula, for example - are so surrounded by water that they feel like islands anyway. But perhaps the most archetypal Croatian image is the pine-green amoeba shapes of the Pakleni islets off Hvar, one of which boasts a boho-chic retreat - one of our favourite spots of all.
1. On Brac Island, Zlatni Rat (the famous ‘Golden Horn’ spit) is the perfect spot for kite-surfing, windsurfing and stand-up paddle boarding (pictured). In the nearby pine forest, you’ll find a buffet restaurant and hip beach-side Auro Lounge Bar (it has great cocktails and sometimes hosts live jazz).
2. Tiny Palmizana Island has a small sandy beach (a rarity, so it can get crowded) plus the wonderful Zori restaurant, which serves the best scampi buzara.
3. Hvar's Pebbly Robinson beach (aka Mekicevica) has a café and sandy seabed; it’s about 40-minutes’ walk to Milna along the coastal path. En route you’ll pass Pokojnyi Dol beach (good for children) and about 0.5km before Milna, a path leads to a spectacular secluded beach below a cliff.
4. If you’re in Korcula Old Town, the nearest beach is Lumbarda, a short drive through olive groves and vineyards. Guests at Tara’s Lodge can use their private beach to try stand-up paddle boarding and take boat trips for snorkelling and fishing.
Malo Grablje and Milna, on Brac Island - Take the bus along the old road to Starigrad past Brusje and get dropped off above Velo Grablje village. Walk through Velo Grablje and down the valley track to Malo Grablje. The walk is lovely, with steep cliffs either side and, at the end, the stunning village of Malo Grablje, which is surrounded by olive groves and mostly abandoned. A few families have moved back, including the Tudors who have a fantastic restaurant.
Then continue down the track and across the main road to Milna. From Milna, there is a beautiful coastal path back to Hvar, with some lovely small bays for swimming. Total time about 3-4 hrs walking.
1. Our favourite Hvar restaurant is Leprini, they serve fantastic fish and seafood dishes and are nestled on a lovely Venetian street. Dishes include octopus salad, black risotto made with calamari in its ink and wine, and seafood spaghetti.
2. Also highly recommended in Hvar is Terramarique, tucked away in a herb-scented olive grove next to the Franciscan monastery. Besides offering superb fresh fish, homemade pasta and organic local wines, it also hosts culinary seminars and cookery courses.
3. Maksimilijan Garden in Korcula’s Old Town is known for its spectacular views across to the Oberic peninsula, best enjoyed with a glass of local rosé. Shaded beneath a canopy of leaves and perched right on the rocks, it is the best place in town to watch the sunset after a delicious fresh.
It has been rumoured that Korcula Old Town was the birthplace of famous world traveller Marco Polo. You can visit his house and the small tower he is believed to have been born in, but perhaps the museum's most impressive attraction is the panoramic Oberic peninsula vista across the bay.
Krka National Park (pictured) is a green oasis of dense forest and chains of waterfalls cascading down into pools of ice-cold water. Smaller and lesser-known than its northern counterpart Plitvice Lakes, a tour can be easily organised at one of Split’s central tourist offices; you’ll spend the day climbing up through the verdant valleys and floating along the rushing currents from the pounding waterfalls. Photo credit: Lily Plume