Many suggested Croatia travel itineraries cover the length of the country – from north to south – hitting pretty well most of the top places to visit in Croatia.
They have you starting inland in the capital of Zagreb, take you to the famous Plitvice Lakes, maybe to Rovinj, then down to Split and the Dalmatian islands – and have you ending up in Dubrovnik.
Epic? Yes. Relaxing? Not so much.
Our 14-day Croatia itinerary takes you to the major cities and most beautiful islands in the country’s southern region, the Dalmatian Coast.
We’re big on slow travel. And for us, that means focusing on one area and really delving into Croatia’s beaches, wineries and old medieval towns in Dalmatia.
We’ve crafted the best Croatia itinerary for you if you’re looking to make the most of your time in this diverse region. So, let’s get going!
About our 14-day Croatia itinerary
If this is your first time to Croatia, trust us, you’ll want to return! (We’ve toured the country on three extended visits now.)
Spending just one or two nights in a place and constantly packing and unpacking is tiring.
If you zero in on a smaller region, you can discover it in a more leisurely fashion (knowing you can visit other parts of Croatia on another trip).
This trip, we wanted lots of time to swim, stroll about centuries-old towns, go wine tasting, ride a bicycle, hike, eat the freshest of seafood, read books on the beach and sip Aperol Spritzes at sunset while people-watching.
Dalmatia is famous for this.
The 200-mile-long Dalmatian Coast is known for its crystal ink-blue waters, charming medieval towns, picturesque pebble beaches and sunny Mediterranean climate.
This 2-week Croatia itinerary is therefore ideal for the slow traveler who wants to experience the best of Croatia – without trying to see the whole country in one go.
It’s especially apt for travelers who want know how to plan a Dalmatian Coast trip.
The route starts in Dubrovnik and ends in Split (though you can do this in reverse). Along the way, you visit three of the best islands in Croatia – Korcula, Hvar and Brac.
Best way to travel in Croatia
For independent travelers, island hopping by ferry is by far the best way to see the Dalmatian Coast!
We didn’t rent a car. We took ferries from island to island, staying in the old towns reached by ferry.
The old town hotels in this Dalmatian Coast itinerary will send a staff member to meet you at the ferry dock and help carry your luggage to the hotel. (Text or email them in advance of your ferry arrival time.)
Often there are lots of stairs to climb in Croatia’s old towns, so you’ll appreciate this service!
It helped that we traveled light, with one rollaboard and laptop backpack each. (And, yes, traveling carry-on was a challenge for Janice, but she did it!)
Within the old towns, we walked everywhere and to nearby beaches and attractions. And we booked tours as day trips to explore the island we were on or to visit other smaller islands.
Getting around Croatia by ferry
Several ferry lines service Croatia and Dalmatia.
Most are passenger-only, high-speed catamarans.
The cost is the equivalent of about $15 to $20 USD p.p. per ferry ride, depending on the distance.
The ferries run more frequently in the summer months between June to September (the tourist season). In fact, they don’t really gear up for island hopping in Croatia until about mid-June.
It’s therefore easier to plan a Croatian islands itinerary if you visit during this time.
During high season (July and August), be sure to reserve your ferry tickets in advance, as they can sell out.
Jadrolinija is the main ferry provider in Croatia.
Their schedules are usually reliable, especially in July and August. But they still canceled one of our trips. (We traveled in June.)
Take-away: Be prepared to tweak your Croatia Dalmatian coast itinerary, according to the ferry schedule.
The sailings on Jadrolinija ferries take longer, but you can sit or walk outside on the deck. This is not possible on the comfortable high-speed catamarans.
Dubrovnik – Days 1 to 2
Let’s start by saying that we’ve never yet spent enough time in Dubrovnik. It’s simply one of the best places to visit in Croatia!
Its Old Town may be small, but it’s packed with things to do and explore, and we can’t wait to go back.
Dubrovnik is a historical gem, and it’s worth the hype. Besides the rich history and mind-blowing architecture, the waters lapping the Adriatic beaches are beyond the blues of your dreams.
Dubrovnik is a must on your Dalmatian coast trip. It’s one of the most beautiful ancient fortress cities in Europe.
And the secret is out. You, along with thousands of others, visit the city daily.
So, if you can’t deal with crowds, go in the shoulder season (but that will make Dalmatia island hopping harder to organize).
Or plan day trips so you’re away from the Old Town from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, when the crowds are the worst.
Plus, it’s cooler and more pleasant in high season to visit the Old Town in the early mornings and late afternoons/evenings.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Explore the Old Town:
As you walk through the gleaming Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979), the ancient buildings and rich history transport you to a bygone era.
It’s compact enough to explore in half a day or less.
But you could easily spend more time wandering down the narrow alleys that shoot off Stradun, the main street. Each alley is lined with adorable cafés and tourist shops.
While there, check out sites like:
- Pile Gate
- Ploce Gate
- Church of Saint Blaise
- Orlando’s Column
- Dominican Monastery
- Jesuit Staircase
- Gunduliceva Poljana Market
For Dubrovnik in a nutshell, here’s a 1½-hour guided Old Town walking tour which takes you to the most important historical landmarks.
If you wander through the Old Town as day turns into night, you’ll hear the twittering of hundreds of tiny swifts on their evening flight.
Pro tip: Every day in the summer months, cruises float into Dubrovnik. After all, it’s one of the best places in Croatia! So, time your visit when there are fewer cruise ships in the port. Check here for the schedule. You’ll thank us later.
Walk the city walls:
The city walls form the perimeter of the Old Town and are Dubrovnik’s main attraction. And they don’t disappoint.
The stone walls were built between the 12th and 17th centuries to protect the city. As you meander on top of them, enjoy the bird’s eye views.
The terra cotta-colored roof tiles are a sharp contrast to the azure sea – and it’s breathtaking.
Take your time soaking up the scenes of the Gothic and Renaissance churches, Venetian palaces and stone houses from above.
You’ll feel like a fly on the wall watching the daily lives of the families living within these historic walls.
Tickets to walk on the city walls are now 250 Croatian Kunas (about $36.50 USD) per adult.
We’ve walked these walls three times and learned a thing or two. For more details and pro tips (including how to avoid the crowds), check out our guide on walking the Dubrovnik city walls.
Do a Game of Thrones tour:
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last decade, you probably know and love Game of Thrones. And you also probably know it’s filmed in and around Dubrovnik.
So, take a guided small group tour to learn all about the filming locations and behind-the-scenes secrets. Not to mention all the hot gossip that only the locals who lead this tour know.
Swim at Banje Beach:
You can’t go to Dubrovnik and not swim at iconic Banje Beach.
Yes, it’s the city’s main public beach. But where else can you float in the multi-hued blue Adriatic while looking at the Old Town and Lokrum Island? (More on that in a second…)
It’s one of our favorite beaches in Dubrovnik. And the perfect Croatia itinerary has a balance of cities and beaches – Dubrovnik and Banje is an ideal combo.
You can spread your towel on the smooth pebbles for free.
Or you can rent beach beds from Banje Beach Club, the hottest day club, restaurant and lounge in the area. Get a massage while listening to the DJ and sipping champagne!
Since it’s only about an 8-minute’ walk from the Old Town, Banje Beach is a perfect reprieve from the mid-day sun.
Pro tip: Buy a pair of water shoes and wear them like your life depends on it. There are sea urchins and anemones in the waters around Croatia. Nothing ruins a vacation like an urchin spine in your foot.
Take a water taxi to Lokrum:
If Banje Beach doesn’t cut it for a day at the beach, hop on an adorable wooden water taxi to Lokrum Island, the “Island of Love.”
We’re not exactly sure why it’s called the Island of Love, especially since the curses surrounding the island are far from loveable.
Legend has it that Benedictine monks cursed the island when the French booted them off. After that, there were shipwrecks, deaths, suicides and murders galore, and a great fire that burned everything to the ground.
Fortunately, today it’s a nature and forest reserve, chock full of history and only open for day trips.
After exploring the historic monastery, the lovely outdoor cafés and the botanical garden – and snapping pics of the wild peacocks – find a rocky slab to sit on and dive into the turquoise sea.
Spend a full day on Lokrum if you can.
Or you can book a 3-hour kayaking tour from Dubrovnik.
You first get to see the city walls from the sea. Then you paddle over to Lokrum and along part of its shoreline, where you have the chance to swim.
Ride the cable car to Mount Srd:
For a panoramic view over Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands, ride the cable car up Mount Srd.
At the top, explore the Dubrovnik Imperial Fortress (built by Napoleon) and the Croatia Homeland War Museum.
If you have time, stay for the sunset and watch the fuchsia haze settle over the water and the Elafiti Islands in the distance. It’s a thing of magic.
Another option is to take a combo tour and combine an Old Town walking tour with a cable car ride up Mount Srd.
Visit the Elafiti Islands on a day trip:
There are three main islands to visit in this archipelago: Lopud, Kolocep and Sipan.
You may visit the Elafiti Islands (also called the Elaphite Islands) for the postcard-worthy beaches. But you’ll fall in love with the little villages and churches surrounded by olive and citrus groves.
Lopud and Kolocep are car-free, so you’ll have to hike or kayak around them to discover all the hidden coves and coastal caves.
The best way to see the islands is with a tour. Here are some different options:
- A 3-island Elafiti boat cruise with lunch and wine
- An Elafiti Islands day cruise on a replica of a 16th-century wooden merchant ship (with snorkeling included)
- A 4-island speedboat tour with a visit to two different sea caves (Blue Cave and Odysseus Cave)
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
There are three main neighborhoods to stay in in Dubrovnik.
The first is the Old Town, and while it may be ideal for some, it’s definitely not for others.
It’s a car-free zone. If you come with a heavy suitcase, you’ll have to roll it up and down cobbled streets and staircases to get to your hotel room. Not exactly a luxurious way to start your vacation, trust us.
Also, there aren’t a lot of accommodation choices, and it’s one of the most expensive areas in Dubrovnik.
However, you’re in the thick of it all, and once you drop your suitcase, you have everything at your fingertips.
Ploce, just east of the Old Town, is where we like to stay.
It’s within walking distance (or a very short bus ride) to all the tourist sites within the city walls. Additionally, there are more accommodation options here, including luxury hotels on the waterfront.
Lapad, a peninsula west of the Old Town, is the third neighborhood and a 10-minute public transportation ride to the center.
It has a wide tree-lined pedestrian-only street with affordable hotels and restaurants. Because it’s a peninsula, there are some lovely beaches to relax on.
It’s the perfect place for a family vacation in Dubrovnik.
Old Town – Boutique Hotel Stari Grad:
Boutique Hotel Stari Grad is the best place to stay in the Old Town.
The fully renovated 16th-century historic palace has eight spacious rooms. Breakfast on the rooftop terrace with views of Old Town, the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding islands is included.
Ploce – Excelsior Hotel:
We love the 5-star Hotel Excelsior.
What’s not to love? It’s a historic villa with sea view rooms. We swam right off the terrace below, and the hotel is only a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town.
There’s also a grand indoor swimming pool if the sea isn’t your style.
A drool-worthy champagne breakfast buffet (with George’s fave – plum dumplings) is included in the room rates.
Not only are you treated like royalty, you may run into a royal while you’re here.
Queen Elizabeth II, Morgan Freeman and Elizabeth Taylor, among others, have all stayed at this luxury Dubrovnik hotel.
Lapad – Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik:
Set one minute from the beach on a striking cliff, the 5-star Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik offers sea views from every newly rehabbed room.
Take a private elevator down to the secluded pebble beach and spend the day lounging on your secret hideaway. Or head to The Wine Bar with over 180 wines and champagnes just waiting to be sipped.
Where to eat in Dubrovnik
Go Peruvian at the Victoria Restaurant, one of the most elegant restaurants in Dubrovnik.
The setting is very romantic, especially if you sit outside on the stone terrace. The tables here (draped with white tablecloths) have terrific views of the Old Town.
To start with, complimentary wafer-thin fried plantain chips with eggplant-and-goat cheese dip are offered. They go well with the bubbly rosé.
We then dined on beef tartare, grilled octopus and sea bass with cauliflower foam. And it was all excellent, as was the service.
Proto Fish Restaurant:
Recommended by the Michelin Guide, Proto Fish Restaurant is known for its fresh fish and seafood.
Its roof terrace is lovely (or you can sit streetside).
The fresh catch of the day is always a hit. Or try the truffle pasta with shrimp or grilled scallops with apple lentil mash.
For fresh good Italian food at reasonable prices, Trattoria Carmen is the place to go.
It’s located on a secluded street in the Old Town.
The menu, which changes daily, is written up on a chalkboard. The pasta is super fresh. And the octopus entrée is a fave.
Korcula – Days 3 to 5
Heading northwest from Dubrovnik, Korcula Island is the next destination on our Croatia trip itinerary.
Korcula is simply one of the best Croatia islands!
It’s known for its sandy beaches, medieval towns and thriving wine industry. It’s the perfect laid-back antithesis to Dubrovnik’s beautiful chaos.
Korcula’s cobblestoned Old Town is pedestrian-only, like Dubrovnik’s Old Town. The narrow lanes are charming and peppered with opulent architecture and cute cafés.
Keep an eye out for these sights:
- Town Gate
- Marco Polo’s house (he’s said to be from Korcula)
- St. Mark’s Cathedral
You can see and learn about the major sights on a guided 2-hour art and history walking tour of Korcula Old Town.
Pro tip: There are traditional moreska (sword dance) performances every Monday and Thursday, so be sure to check that out for a taste of Korcula’s culture.
Getting from Dubrovnik to Korcula
Ferries run frequently from Dubrovnik to Korcula in the tourist season (June to September). The sailing time is about 2 hours.
We took the TP Line to Korcula Town. From there, it was a mere 5 minutes’ walk (no stairs) to our hotel.
Things to do in Korcula
Hike up to St. Antun Church:
Take a 30-minute hike from town along a coastal sidewalk, and you’ll find yourself at the base of St. Anthony’s Hill. Then climb up 102 steps through a cypress forest to St. Antun’s Church.
Bring a picnic and a bottle of local wine and enjoy the quiet and peaceful hilltop.
Take the hop-on/hop-off water taxi:
Go on an excursion for the day via a hop-on, hop-off water taxi. For tickets, head to the boat dock (by the ferry dock) and look for a stall with a sign that reads “Korcula Water Taxi.”
Then hop on and head to:
An adorable uninhabited island, Badija is known for its 14th-century Franciscan Monastery, tame deer that love to be hand-fed and secluded pebble beaches.
The beaches are so well-hidden, they beg you to go skinny dipping. Not that we’d do that. Okay, we totally did that!
Vrnik is a favorite Sunday destination for locals from Korcula.
It’s famous for its deep stone quarries, 29 to be exact, that date back to Roman times. In addition, there are loads of secluded swimming spots tucked where the sea is an astounding shade of cobalt.
There’s a small restaurant under the shade of pine trees (Vrnik Arts Club), where you can plop down on a bean bag, have a drink and cool off in the clear sea.
Unlike the other two stops, Lumbarda isn’t an island. Rather, it’s a small seaside village of fishermen and farmers on the southeast coast of Korcula Island.
It’s well worth a visit – if not for the (rare) sandy beach of Vela Przina, but also for its famous Grk wine.
If you don’t have time to make it to Vela Przina, there’s a pebble beach (Prvi Zal Beach) with a pretty restaurant and sunbeds/umbrellas right by the Lumbarda wharf – Café Prvi Zal.
Check out Lumbarda Village:
You can take a direct water taxi (or the hop-on/hop-off one above) to Lumbarda Village. Or you can rent a bike in Korcula Town and bicycle there. It’s only 3½ miles south and an easy ride.
If you’re going to Vela Przina, the nicest beach in Lumbarda, then get there early to nab a sunbed. Unfortunately, those spots get snatched up quickly. However, there are three other sandy beaches nearby if that’s what you’re after.
Not far from Vela Przina are the vineyards.
Lumbarda is the only area in the world where Grk grapes thrive, so you’d better get your fill of this delicious white wine – we did! Most Grk wines are dry, some are citrusy and others have a fruity note.
You’ll need to try them all to find your favorite. Our orders!
Pro tip: If you take a direct water taxi to Lumbarda, rent a bicycle and ride between the vineyards, tasting to your heart’s content. Must taste wineries – Lovric Winery, Popic Winery and Winery Gryk.
Or better yet, take a tour…
Taste wines in Lumbarda on a bicycling tour:
We took the Korcula Bike and Wine Tour to Lumbarda with Korcula Explorer and had the best time.
On this small group tour in the late afternoon, you’ll cycle about 6 miles in total – which is just about right, as you’ll be wine tasting too!
You’ll ride at a leisurely pace along some quiet narrow roads and stone paths in the countryside, past beautiful vineyards and olive groves.
It includes a few hills (walking your bike up is allowed). But the good news is you take a van back to Korcula at the end – no tipsy biking is involved.
You visit two family-run wineries to taste their unique wines and nibbles. Both have lovely views over the vineyards to the sea.
The wine tasting runs the gamut from rosé to white, red and dessert wines (like cherry and lemon liqueurs).
And we thoroughly enjoyed meeting like-minded guests on this tour – along with the bicycling, drinking wine, laughing and learning all about Korcula and Croatia’s wine industry from our English owner/guide, who lives on Korcula with his young family.
Walk a few minutes out of Korcula Old Town to where the boats are anchored, and you’ll find a concrete wharf.
Throw down your towel, put on your water shoes and climb down the ladder into the waiting sapphire Adriatic.
Still yearning for a beach? Walk one minute more, and you’ll find tiny pebble beaches, where the waves slowly ripple ashore.
But wait… there’s more.
Spend the day at Pupnatska Luca Beach:
About a 20-minute drive from Korcula Town (you can take a taxi), Pupnatska Luca Beach is touted as the most beautiful beach on the island.
It’s protected from the winds in a stunning cove, where you can sit on a gently sloping pebble beach and float in the clear turquoise water.
There isn’t much shade on this narrow stretch of beach, so rent a sunbed or come prepared. There are beach bars and restaurants for libations and munchies.
Where to stay on Korcula
The Fabris Luxury Inn:
We found The Fabris Luxury Inn on the edge of the Old Town absolutely delightful. Plus, it’s only a few minutes away from a pebble beach and the ferry dock.
We booked a luxury courtyard room with a king bed in the Annex building.
It was a large, newly renovated room with fresh white stone walls, polished wooden floors and vaulted ceilings. The website photos don’t do it justice.
Have your breakfast (it’s included) on the hotel’s lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the yachts moored nearby.
Lesic Dimitri Palace:
Just down the street from Marco Polo’s home and the old cathedral in the Old Town is Lesic Dimitri Palace and its Michelin star restaurant.
Housed in an 18th-century palace, each of the six residences is uniquely designed with comfortable elegance in mind. Choose from 1 to 3 bedroom apartments, some with a sea view, all with kitchens.
Also, it’s just steps away from Zakrjan Beach (or Zakerjan Beach), a pebbly swimming spot on the eastern edge of the Old Town.
Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel:
Another Old Town gem of a hotel is the 4-star Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel.
Built as a hotel in 1912, it’s the oldest hotel in this small town. Together with its chic café, it’s retained the ambience of that olden era.
The 20 boutique rooms come with a fabulous breakfast that you take under flowering trees with a view of the sea. But not all the rooms have a sea view, so check those details when you book.
Where to eat in Korcula
Konoba Adio Mare:
This is one of the most popular restaurants in Korcula Old Town.
Konoba Adio Mare at first turned us down because we were 17 minutes late for our reservation. Our table had already been snapped up.
We returned the next night – on time! – and our dinner here was one of the best we had in Croatia.
Think an elegant white tablecloth setting on a rooftop patio. A complimentary starter of tuna paté and charcoal-grilled toast. Grilled catch of the day with a juicy tomato salad – and French fries, of course!
All complemented by perfectly chilled white Grk wine.
Konoba Adio Mare is expensive but worth it.
The service is also perfect, a match of any high-end restaurant’s service.
Konoba Aterina is a pretty alfresco eatery with colorful plastic tablecloths decorating the tables.
The menu is small but the prices are reasonable.
We started with an appetizer platter of anchovies, tuna paté, chick pea hummus, olives, goat cheese, tomatoes and a basket of home-baked bread.
For an entrée, home-made pasta with pesto or tomato sauce is their specialty. Choose your protein to go with it – shrimp or meat.
Lole Wine Bar:
We couldn’t snag a table at this side-street gem (it’s very popular). But Lole Wine Bar looked like the perfect place to sample some of Korcula’s amazing wines and nibble on tapas.
Check out the reviews and you’ll see that everyone who goes there raves about the place.
Hvar – Days 6 to 9
Every Croatia island hopping itinerary must include sophisticated Hvar Island. It’s an idyllic blend of old towns, historic villages, incredible beaches and booming nightlife.
Hvar Town and Stari Grad are the two main towns to visit on the island. And they couldn’t be more divergent.
Hvar Town buzzes with billionaire yachts and boats ready to carry revelers after dark to the clubs on the Pakleni Islands to party until sunrise. Loads of fashionably-dressed young people trundle off every new ferry arrival with their rollaway suitcases.
Stari Grad is the opposite, with a quieter and more authentic vibe.
We stayed in Hvar Town rather than Stari Grad because there are more attractions here and it’s more of a hub for visitors.
Getting from Korcula to Hvar
Ferries run to Hvar Town from Korcula several times a day.
We took the Krilo (Kapetan-Luka) ferry from Korcula Old Town to Hvar Town – a ferry ride of about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Things to do in Hvar
Hike up to the City Fortress (Spanish Fortress):
From the harbor, follow the signs through the Old Town streets and up the stairs to the city’s old citadel.
The Venetians built the imposing fort, completed around the middle of the 16th century. But Spanish engineers worked on it, so it’s called the Spanish Fortress (Tvrdava Spanjola).
You’ll walk up through winding backstreets, floral botanical gardens and a Mediterranean herb garden scented with pines, cypress, sage, mint and lavender.
Every slightly sweaty step is worth it once you get to the top.
The views of Hvar and the Pakleni Islands are extraordinary.
Chill at Mlini Beach:
A short 30-minute boat ride from Hvar, you’ll find the protected Pakleni Islands, known for their dazzling emerald waters. Three of them make popular day trips from Hvar (they’re the only ones with any buildings or facilities).
Mlini Beach, on the islet of Marinkovac, is one of our favorite beaches near Hvar. It’s the quietest in the area, with plenty of natural shade from pine trees and a few restaurants.
A sign on the islet says this is a “quiet beach” and that if you want to party, go elsewhere.
To make your visit even more idyllic, rent an oversized daybed with gauzy curtains floating in the salty air. It’s paradise found.
Pro tip: Take a public water taxi boat from Hvar Town. They leave at 10:00 am, 11:00 am and 12 noon, then return hourly between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
If you have a group of four, this all-day private speedboat excursion includes stops at the Pakleni Islands.
Have a fancy seafood lunch at Palmizana Beach:
On Sveti Klement (another Pakleni Island), Palmizana Beach beckons with high-end seafood lunches and a champagne vibe.
Get here early, though, if you want a daybed. They’re a hot commodity.
The deep narrow cove has a sandy bottom, so swimming in the warm green water is a treat.
Palmizana Beach is really more of a place for a fancy lunch and a swim. If you don’t snag a beach chair and umbrella, there’s no natural shade, with few comfortable spots for lazing about.
If you want to chill on a calm beach (with lots of beach chair rentals and plenty of natural shade), Mlini is a much better option.
Swim at Pokonji Dol Beach:
Hvar has no shortage of beachy options.
Walk south from the Old Town for 30 minutes, and you’ll end up at Pokonji Dol Beach. It’s a lovely pine-shaded coastal walk, past grand white villas.
Pokonji Dol has a couple of beach bars and restaurants where you can rent sunbeds to melt into while listening to the waves.
(Another beach, Bonj Beach, is closer to Hvar Town – to the west – but we preferred Pokonji Dol.)
Walk to Robinson Beach:
If you want to get away from it all, keep walking along the coast past Pokonji Dol to Robinson Beach. And as the name suggests, you’ll get that Robinson Crusoe vibe.
Robinson Trail is one of the best hikes in Hvar – it’s really a flat coastal walk that you can do in hiking sandals. From Hvar Town, it takes about an hour.
Don’t feel like walking? Catch a water taxi.
We jumped on one that the Robinson restaurant has going from Hvar Town’s harbor a couple of times in the morning. (We walked back on the pretty trail, but the little water taxi returns to Hvar Town late in the afternoon.)
No matter how you get to Robinson Beach, rent a sunbed for 60 kunas (about $8 USD), a bargain compared to most rentals elsewhere at 100 kunas ($13). And order lunch at the restaurant.
Yes, the lunch is spendy, but while you’re waiting for your freshly caught seafood to be grilled, you can swim in the bath-like waters of the sea.
Go wine tasting:
While Korcula is known for its white Grk grapes, neighboring Hvar is known for its reds. In particular, Hvar is a good place to try wines made from the Plavac Mali grape variety, derived from Zinfandel.
At the winery, we sat on the terrace and tried six wines. They included two orange wines, which are somewhat similar to rosé wine.
They were paired with tasty tomato bruschetta, cheese, sausage and some of the winery owner’s grandmother’s home-made jam.
Before being driven back to Hvar Town, we explored two local villages, Velo Grablje and Malo Grablje.
Wander the ghost town of Malo Grablje:
Until the 1990s, Hvar’s economy was all about lavender production.
But then, great fires wiped out almost all the lavender fields. This left the locals with no work. They had no choice but to leave, turning Malo Grablje into a ghost town.
Today, it’s fascinating to wander around the stone village for a few hours. Try your hand at pulling up buckets of water from the village cistern, once used for collecting rain water.
Then eat dinner at the rustic and very romantic Konoba Stori Konim. It’s a traditional candle-lit restaurant in Malo Grablje, where everything is organic and locally grown.
See the Blue and Green Caves:
The Blue Cave is a natural sea cave where everything is illuminated in an astonishing shade of aquamarine.
Its brilliance makes you wonder whether someone is adding dye behind the scenes. It’s that blue.
However, it really is a natural phenomenon created by how the light is reflected through an underwater entrance in the cave.
No matter, the Blue Cave is something to see.
The nearby Green Cave got its name from light shining through a fissure in the top of the cave. As the beam of light hits the water, it’s reflected off the algae-covered bottom, which creates a bright green glow in the water.
Unlike the Blue Cave, you can swim and snorkel here.
Check out this tour which combines the Blue and Green Caves with the Pakleni Islands.
Have sunset cocktails at Hula-Hula Beach Bar:
After all your beach hopping and cave exploring, it’s time for a party. And Hula-Hula is where the party is at!
The island of Hvar has a reputation to uphold, and this place knows what it’s doing.
From its DJs and cocktail list to the food menu, you won’t have to leave once you plant yourself on the sunbed. Dance under the Croatian sun until the moon rises high in the sky.
Or just go for sunset cocktails. Hula-Hula occupies prime sunset-viewing real estate.
Visit the small village of Milna:
A 10-minute drive from Hvar Town takes you to Milna, a little gem of a village. It has a protected cove with two sandy beaches, separated by a pine forest.
There isn’t much to do, which is precisely why you go there. So, rent a sunbed, try all the scrumptious seafood restaurants, and chill.
Explore the island and Stari Grad:
Last but certainly not least, rent a car to discover the island’s hidden coves. Also wander through Stari Grad.
Stari Grad is the biggest town on the island after Hvar Town, yet its laid-back ambience is made for exploring. It’s very different from Hvar Town, which is about a 30-minute drive away.
Stroll down the Riva (the waterfront promenade), get lost in the Old Town’s maze of narrow stone streets and check out the Petra Hektorovic Tvrdalj Castle.
Where to stay in Hvar Town
The 5-star Palace Elisabeth is a heritage hotel and historic landmark in the center of Hvar Town.
It captures the essence of days gone by, yet it offers the modern luxury we’ve come to expect today. Every room has a view of the Pjaca, the largest square in Dalmatia, or of Hvar Bay.
Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar:
This family-run heritage hotel is all about hospitality. It may have small rooms, but it’s big on charm.
Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar is run by three brothers who are passionate about Hvar and keen on sharing it with their guests. They welcomed us with drinks and enthusiastically explained what to do and where to eat. They also went above and beyond helping us with a small medical issue.
The hotel is steps away from everything in the Old Town, yet there’s no noise at night.
It doesn’t hurt that the hotel’s breakfast includes freshly made warm crepes.
Villa Nora Hvar:
Experience royal treatment when you stay at Villa Nora Hvar, a hotel built within a 14th-century palace once owned by royalty. Today it’s run by a local family.
Located in Hvar Old Town, it’s a small boutique hotel with a big heart in the middle of it all. Breakfast is included.
Where to eat in Hvar
This family-owned fish restaurant in a residential location (about a 10-minute walk from the center of town) serves good food at reasonable prices.
We sat outside on the pleasant terrace, munching on fresh-baked bread with tuna paté and sipping their home-made wine while perusing the menu.
We ended up pointing to the fish we wanted that was on ice in a display case. Perfectly cooked on a grill, it was moist and tender, and served just the way we like it, with big fat French fries and a side of grilled veggies.
Warm crepes, sprinkled with icing sugar and topped with cherry jam, finished off our very pleasant meal at Lungomare.
This very casual place, with tables strung along a narrow cobbled alley, is so good we ate dinner here twice!
You have to go for the flatbread, with dollops of goat cheese and figs and sprinkled with arugula.
Their pulled pork chili bowl and bacon-and-blue cheese salad also hit the spot – especially if you’re looking for a change from the traditional fish restaurants.
Be prepared for a wait, however. Reservations aren’t accepted, and Fig is very popular.
Serving traditional Croatian food, Konoba Luviji is a lovely rooftop restaurant, with views of the red roofs of Hvar town and the Spanish Fortress lit up at night.
When it started to rain unexpectedly, staff rolled out the awning. But it was still blustery, so they offered that we could leave without paying – even though we’d already eaten and drunk a fair bit. How many restaurants would do this!
Heavens, no, we said. We were happy to stay and eat the lamb chops we were waiting for on a covered little terrace, where the cook usually sits and takes his break. And it was a fine meal too.
Brac – Days 10 to 12
Brac (pronounced “Bratch”) is the largest island in Dalmatia, yet far less glitzy and touristy than the others on this itinerary.
An ideal spot to see an authentic side of Croatia, it’s known for its white stone buildings and its olive oil, which is unique to the island.
Bol, the small resort town where we stayed, is known for Zlatni Rat, a white pebble beach said to be among the best in the country.
Getting from Hvar to Brac
The ferry connection from Hvar Town to Bol was a bit more difficult for us than our other ferry connections.
Jadrolinija canceled our direct sailing at the last minute.
So the only alternative was to take two ferries. First, we went from Hvar to Split with Krilo and then after a couple of hours hanging around at the Split port (no hardship), we took Adriatic Fast Ferries from Split to Bol.
(We could have gone on Jadrolinija from the town of Jelsa on Hvar directly to Bol – a ferry ride of about 20 minutes. But the taxi cost from Hvar Town to Jelsa would have been prohibitive and the scheduled ferry departure at 7:00 am was a little too early for us.)
Things to do on Brac
We stayed on Brac Island for a week and had a jam-packed time there.
Here are some highlights.
Hike to Blaca Hermitage:
Back in the day, when the Turks were invading the Dalmatian Coast, two monks fled to Brac and hid in a cave in the hills. They spent 20 years creating a monastic community before they were given permission by the bishop to build a proper monastery.
And for 400 years, it thrived. Those monks lived the good life.
Their land produced 15,850 gallons of wine and 574 gallons of honey annually, which they traded for some of their most prized artifacts. Things like an 880-pound piano from Vienna that took a team of men eight hours to carry up the trail to the top of the hermitage.
You’ll hike up the same path the monks used for centuries. But your trek will only take 45 minutes to reach the monastery.
Blaca Hermitage is a masterpiece frozen in time and not to be missed.
We booked our excursion with Frane, taking a 30-minute boat trip from Bol to the cove where we started our hike up to the monastery.
Chill at Zlatni Rat Beach:
This iconic V-shaped beach is surrounded by so many blues it’s hard to believe it exists in nature.
Imagine aquamarine water flowing into a deep midnight blue, where you can float the day away as if in a dream.
Rent a lounger and umbrella or get a core workout while stand-up paddleboarding, but either way, take your time here. It’s paradise.
Jeep tour of the island
We had a blast on our all-day tour with Explore Brac.
Part of the fun was our tour guide. He entertained us with stories about the island, all while expertly navigating the sometimes tricky terrain.
We started driving through the unique countryside of rolling hills and pines dotted with cast-aside slabs of white stone.
Our first stop was the historic Olive Oil Museum. Next, we stopped at an iconic stone church with a tree growing through the roof, and finally, it was on to the highest point on the island, Vidova Gora.
However, the highlight of the day unfolded over the following few hours.
We were driven to what felt like the middle of nowhere, except for an old stone cottage on the water.
There, we swam in the pristine sapphire waters. In the meantime, Andrea, the owner of the company, and her cousin Martin prepared a long lazy lunch of home-made yumminess.
Tastings of local walnut and cherry liquors were followed by freshly baked flatbread with home-made sheep cheese, grilled fish and lamb.
All sourced from the land we were lazing on. It was divine.
So, if you only have a short time, this is a great way to experience Brac.
If you can only spend half a day, see this half-day off-road tour with Brac Off-Road Adventure.
Where to stay in Brac
We stayed in the medieval village of Bol, and so should you. It’s walkable, beautiful and has historical sites to wander through.
What more could you need? A great hotel!
Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered. Stay at the lovely Villa Giardino Bol boutique hotel. The rooms are plush, and having breakfast on the flower-filled terrace made it difficult to leave each day.
As a bonus, it’s only a 5-minute walk to the waterfront and the Stina Winery.
Where to eat in Brac
Our favorite restaurant in Brac is Ribarska Kucica. (We had dinner here twice.)
It’s very romantic, with a seaside location and traditional European service, white tablecloths and all. Truffle cheese appetizer, fish, grilled lamb chops – it’s all good.
(Mind you, like many restaurants in Croatia, the creamy pasta dishes were too salty for Janice’s tastes, so choose dishes that don’t come with sauces if you don’t like too much salt.)
Mali Raj is set in a picturesque garden about a 30-minute walk from Bol Old Town, near Zlatni Rat Beach.
It’s highly reviewed. But while we found the food good, it’s not outstanding. Plus it’s quite expensive.
So we’d say go here more for the lovely setting than for an exceptional meal.
Split – Days 13 to 14
Split is the largest city in Dalmatia and the northernmost city in our itinerary. It’s very touristy, so if you can get here in the shoulder season, you’ll be grateful.
Even though it’s coastal, it’s not known for its beaches.
History buffs love Split for Diocletian’s Palace, Klis Fortress and the Salona ruins. We love it for at least 21 reasons…
Things to do in Split
We adore this gem of a town. So much so that we’ve gone three times and have written a detailed post of our 21 fave things to do in Split.
Spoiler alert: We’d return for a fourth visit in a heartbeat.
Anyway, these are a few of the fascinating city’s highlights:
Explore Diocletian’s Palace
In 305 AD, the Roman emperor Diocletian commanded an army of slaves to build him a summer villa.
He only wanted the best for his palace. So he used white stone from Brac and marble from Italy, and 12 looted sphinxes were shipped over from Egypt to add a little zhuzh.
Today, about 3,000 people live and work within the palace walls.
It’s filled with trendy cafés, modern boutiques and apartments, as well as historical sites – and it feels more like part of the city (which it is) than a separate independent palace.
Browse the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery
Housed in Ivan Mestrovic’s 1930s neoclassic mansion – a work of art itself – the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery displays some of his best sculptures and drawings.
And seeing as how he was Croatia’s version of Michelangelo, it’s something to be seen.
Before you walk through the museum, watch the film detailing his tumultuous life. The wars and years in exile clearly influenced his art, and you can see it throughout the exhibitions.
Climb up Marjan Hill:
If the crowds in Split have you feeling frazzled, escape to the 584-foot-high oasis of Marjan Hill. There are walking trails through the pine forest that will make you forget you’re in a crowded city.
Walk up the stone steps for a 360 degree view of the world below. Then, go to the café here for a nibble and a sip with views of the cruise ships and harbor below.
Take a day trip to Krka National Park:
When going to Split, don’t miss the famous waterfalls in Krka. There are seven different falls within this park, and it’s only an hour away from town.
Skradinski Buk Falls is a must, with its collection of 17 cascades and a 148-foot drop into a pool the color of a turquoise crayon.
Roski Slap, locally known as the “necklace” falls, is just as dreamy.
Go in the morning, and you’ll have a little more solitude than when the throngs arrive in the afternoon.
Take a guided tour and taste some olive oil, cheese and wine along the way, or go independently and at your own pace.
Where to stay in Split
Judita Palace Heritage Hotel:
Our favorite boutique hotel in Split is a restored 16th-century gem right in the center of the Old Town.
Judita Palace has 19 luxurious guest rooms with elegant furnishings, marble bathrooms and sparkling chandeliers. And nothing was too much trouble for the highly attentive staff.
A stone’s throw from Old Town, Hotel Park oozes historic magnificence with all the modern luxury you might desire.
Radisson Blu Resort & Spa:
If you’ve come to Croatia to marvel at the Adriatic, stay at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa. Its seaside location is about 1½ miles from the hustle of the Old Town and it’s the ideal respite after a day of sightseeing.
Where to eat in Split
Zinfandel is a cool little wine bar in Split Old Town. Its wine menu of 10 pages offers more than 60 wines by the glass, and live music is played every night.
Order the warm chocolate cake for dessert – it’s sinfully delicious.
Serving tasty local delicacies, Makarun is hidden in a secret passage between Renaissance palaces. Go for the hand-rolled pasta with truffles. The beef carpaccio is also excellent.
Hidden between ancient buildings, footsteps from the Cathedral, Portofino is pricey but worth it. The octopus salad, sea bass and crab-and-shrimp risotto are all recommended. Service is excellent too.
Best time to island-hop Croatia
June is a great time to visit Croatia. So is September.
They’re not as crowded as the high summer months of July and August. But the sea is warm enough for swimming – perfect, in fact!
It’s possible to visit the Dalmatian Coast and islands all year round.
But ferry services aren’t as frequent in the off-season. (Some routes shut down completely at the end of September and don’t restart until late June.)
And restaurants, bars, clubs and many tours are only open during the tourist season.
And forget about swimming in the colder months. The sea will be just too chilly!
More (or less) than 14 days in Croatia?
How many days in Croatia (Dalmatia) should you spend?
Let’s just say you won’t get bored vacationing for two weeks in Croatia!
This trip, we spent three weeks in Croatia – all on the Dalmatian Coast – and there were still islands and places we didn’t have time to visit.
We think our 14-day Croatia travel itinerary is ideal.
But if you have less time, it can easily be adapted for 10 days in Croatia, or even 7 days in Croatia.
For a 10-day Croatia itinerary, you could eliminate Brac.
With a week in Croatia, we recommend basing yourself in just two places – maybe Dubrovnik and Hvar – and taking day trips from there (to limit the time spent switching locations).
If you have lots of time, then you could head to the romantic city of Rovinj on the Istrian Peninsula, visit Plitvice Lakes National Park and explore the capital of Zagreb. We have this book-marked for our next Croatia trip.
Croatia island hopping yacht cruises
While hiking to the Blaca Hermitage on Brac, we met a hiking guide from Sail Croatia. Then in Split, we toured the elegant Queen Jelena, one of Sail Croatia’s small cruise yachts.
From what we saw and learned, we’d have no hesitation recommending these yacht cruises as a great way to explore the Dalmatian Coast if you’d rather go on an organized group trip.
These are small yacht cruises, accommodating between 32 and 40 guests (depending on the ship) – with outdoor-focused itineraries.
Sail Croatia offers several types of 7-night cruise experiences, including roundtrip hiking-themed itineraries from Split and upscale (“Elegance”) cruises between Split and Dubrovnik.
The Elegance yachts feature spacious ensuite cabins, lovely dining saloons, swimming platforms, lots of lounging space on deck and a splash pool or large outdoor hot tub.
What’s especially appealing is that unlike regular cruise ships (where all meals are included), with Sail Croatia, you go ashore in the evenings for dinner on your own – so you can dine alfresco at different local restaurants.
The advantage to booking one of these cruises is that you’d get to visit several islands without having to plan your Croatia vacation itinerary yourself.
That wraps up our itinerary for Croatia!
There are so many incredible things to do in Croatia. We could have stayed another month without seeing all of this beautiful country!
We hope this itinerary nudges you to start on your Croatia travel plans. Our advice: Get packing and go!
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Photo credits: 4, 7 to 16, 19 to 21, 24 to 30, 32, 34 to 36, 38 to 47, 49, 51 to 54, 56 to 58, 60, 65 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase