Dalmatia for Families

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Dalmatia for Families
With a heady mix of history and adventure, city sights and national parks, colorful legends and enthralling festivals, the Dalmatian Coast is the perfect setting for a remarkable family vacation.

Additional copy by Anja Mutic.
By Neha Puntambekar , AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Kevin O´Hara/age fotostock
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    Explore Stradun, Dubrovnik
    Stradun is the main thoroughfare in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, and one of the most iconic streets on the Dalmatian Coast. Lined with shops and restaurants, this pedestrian-only strip is also the gateway to a number of important museums and exhibits. Discover the 15th-century Onofrio Fountain, and the Rector’s Palace (which includes Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque styling). Inside the 16th-century Sponza Palace, you'll find the State Archives and the Memorial Room of the Defenders of Dubrovnik, a collection of portraits of those who died in the Croatian War of Independence, fought from 1991 to 1995.
    Photo by Kevin O´Hara/age fotostock
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    Stroll Through the Markets
    Bottles of fresh apple juice, jars of homemade oil, truffles, olives, pots of honey, stacks of lavender pouches, and embroidered fabrics—all these, as well as fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables, and eggs, are available in the region's open-air markets. Small stalls under red umbrellas are often staffed by a baka (grandmother), ready to socialize while she makes a sale. Open every day, the market on Dubrovnik's Gundulić Square is a good place to find souvenirs. In Split, the open-air market sets up close to the historic Diocletian’s Palace; there’s also an adjoining fish market.
    Photo by Alvaro Leiva/age fotostock
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    Walk the Ancient Walls
    The Old Town in Dubrovnik is surrounded by tall defensive walls with turrets looking outward to the water and inward to the city. The walls are open to the public daily, and visitors can climb the stairs and circle the district. The walk is a little over a mile long, and even from this great height it will orient visitors to the town and provide them with a little perspective on society and culture here. Nearby, Korčula has a similar walled quarter, and the ancient fort Ston is connected to Mali Ston ("Little Ston") by a fortified wall. Not only do these walks give a sense of what life in ancient Dalmatia might have been like, they supply unobstructed views of the rooftops, the countryside, and the sea.
    Photo by Alexander Pöschel/age fotostock
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    The Great Outdoors
    There is ample green space on the Dalmatian Coast. In the south, you can visit Trsteno's gorgeous arboretum, which opened in the late 15th century, making it the oldest in this part of the world. The national parks in Krka and Mljet have a focus on water—there's a river in Krka and Mljet Island has a couple of lakes—and their spectacular landscapes are endowed with a wide variety of flora and fauna. At the edge of the region, the Nature Park Biokovo near the Makarska Riviera is a mountainous area, a combination of rocky climbs, deep caves, and dense forests.
    Photo by Julie K.
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    Myths and Legends
    There are many sites relating to myths and legends on the Dalmatian Coast worthy of a visit. On Mljet Island, you can find Odysseus’ Cave, the spot that locals believe Homer's protagonist used for shelter after his shipwreck. The residents of Korčula claim Venetian traveler Marco Polo as a native son, and have erected a museum in the home where they say he grew up. Tiny, uninhabited Lokrum Island—just off Dubrovnik—is a popular half-day trip. It's home to an 11th-century Benedictine monastery. When the final monks abandoned their refuge there in the early 19th century, legend has it that they put a curse on the island and anyone who tried to claim it. A series of bizarre deaths, bankruptcies, and other misfortunes have, of course, followed.
    Photo by Günter Flegar/age fotostock
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    Dalmatian Panoramas
    If the Dalmatian Coast is striking from ground level—and it is—then it's even more spectacular from above. Luckily, there is no shortage of vantage points from which to glimpse a panorama. In Dubrovnik, presumably you've already walked the walls, so the next stop is the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj. On the island of Hvar, climb up to the Tvrđava Španjola (Spanish Fort), a 16th-century structure that offers tourists unobstructed views of the sea and the Pakleni archipelago. In Trogir, visit Kamerlengo Castle, a 15th-century fortress overlooking the marina.
    Photo by Ingolf Pompe/age fotostock
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    Cultural Festivals
    The high-profile Dubrovnik Summer Festival begins in mid-July and runs for roughly six weeks, during which time Dubrovnik's squares, churches, and palaces transform into art venues. Fort Lovrijenac, located just outside the city's western wall, stages Shakespearean plays, and classical concerts are held at the Rector’s Palace. For live music in the summer, head to St. Donat’s Cathedral in Zadar during July and August, and to the Franciscan monastery in Hvar Town from June to September. On Korčula, look out for performances of the traditional moreška sword dance, in which knights dressed in costumes revive an almost forgotten martial dance, accompanied by folk songs.
    Photo by Matthew Williams-Elli/age fotostock
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    Cross-Border Day Trips
    Dalmatia, particularly Dubrovnik, is a good base for cross-border travel. Known for its blend of Ottoman influences and European style, Bosnia and Herzegovina lies directly to the northeast; Mostar and Sarajevo are the most popular destinations there. To the south, Montenegro has ample natural beauty and is a great choice for day-trippers looking to hike or bike (Mount Lovćen has several trails) or to raft (float trips are available on the Tara River, a UNESCO World Heritage site). Montenegro's 3,500-year-old coastal resort town of Budva is also a favorite with tourists.
    Photo by Mandy