Dalmatia, with its dramatic coastline, has evolved into a very popular holiday destination. Summer crowds flock to the beaches and islands. Hot spots include the historic walled city of Dubrovnik, the bustling city of Split, and the glamorous island of Hvar. Geographically, Dalmatia extends from the city of Zadar in the north to the border with Montenegro in the south, and includes the scatter of islands and islets spread out over the eastern Adriatic. The farthest inhabited island is Vis. The Dalmatian Coast is characterized by its good weather, beaches, regional seafood, and homegrown wine.
With miles and miles of coastline, there are many beaches to explore along the Dalmatian Coast. Most are pebbled—such as Banje, outside Dubrovnik’s city walls—but you can find sandy spots if you ask around—try Stončica, on Vis. All beaches are free to use, but you may have to rent accessories like sun beds, which are typically available from shacks near the water. In addition to the big beaches, there are any number of less crowded coves and bays where you can jump into the Adriatic. Watch out for beaches marked "FKK" (Freie Kunst und Kulture)—these are nudist beaches.
The pace on the Dalmatian Coast is leisurely, with ample time set aside for socializing over coffee and meals. Food is often spread out over a large table, eaten in groups, and accompanied by homemade wine or rakija—the local spirit, made from fermented fruit; sometimes you'll hear klapa, traditional Dalmatian folk songs. The majority of Dalmatians are Christian, and a visit to church on Sundays is an important aspect of local culture. As in many parts of Europe, soccer is the other religion; you'll make easy friends if you cheer for the home team while watching a match.
There are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the Dalmatian Coast. Perhaps the most famous of these is Dubrovnik’s historic walled old town. Originally erected to protect the city from invaders, now the walls provide a picturesque vantage point from which to view the city and its environs. Diocletian’s Palace, located near the busy harbor in Split, was built in the 4th century for the Roman emperor, and retains its historic importance because it's the most complete Roman palace in the world. Located not far from Split, the historic town of Trogir earned its UNESCO designation based largely on its architecture.
Local Dalmatian dishes rely heavily on ingredients from the sea: Fish, shellfish, and octopus are common. Due to the historic annexation by Italy, Croatian food also includes pasta and risotto; black risotto, which gets its color from squid ink, is a specialty. Other familiar Mediterranean ingredients, such as olive oil, garlic, and lemons, are used widely, and meats like lamb and pork are often spit-roasted. Meals tend to be paired with a glass of wine; Dingač is one local producer, but homemade wine is also frequently on offer. Add sparkling water for the Croatian version of a spritzer, called gemišt.
Peak tourist season along the Dalmatian Coast is July and August, when it can get hot, crowded, and expensive. Try the shoulder seasons for a bit of breathing room. There are seven international airports; Split, Zadar, and Dubrovnik are popular ports of entry. Croatia is part of the European Union, so E.U. visa regulations apply. The official language is Croatian, but English and German are commonly understood. The local currency is the kuna; euros are accepted in hotels and tourist apartments. ATMs are available in bigger destinations, but may not be as common on smaller islands. Transportation is by bus or ferry service; alternatively, rent scooters or a car. Standard tipping is 10 percent. Electricity is 220 volts.