The Ultimate Guide to the Dalmatian Islands
Hvar, Korcula, Mljet and more… chances are you’ve heard of the little slices of paradise that are dotted throughout central Croatia, but with so many islands to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by where to go, what to do and what are the must-see spots. This ultimate guide to the Dalmatian Islands will dive into the very best islands to visit, when and how to get there, and of course, the most popular island hopping itineraries!
No trip to Croatia is complete without heading to the Dalmatian Islands - think ancient cobbled alleyways, fresh seafood, turquoise water, and some pretty impressive architecture to boot. Combine this with some of the hottest beach bars, nightclubs and cocktail venues in Europe and you’ve got a summer holiday to remember.
Already packing your bags? Alright, let’s go!
What's in this guide to hopping the Dalmatian islands?
- Where is Dalmatia?
- When to visit the Dalmatian Islands?
- A guide to the top Dalmatian islands
- Popular island-hopping routes around Dalmatia
- How to get around Dalmatia
Where are the Dalmatian islands, exactly?
The Dalmatian Islands stretch from the island of Rab in the north of Croatia, to just below Dubrovnik in the south. This stretch of islands are made up of 79 individual islands and islets, each with their own unique charm and aesthetic. The cities of Split, Dubrovnik and Zadar are the gateways to the islands, with travellers flocking to these portside destinations before jumping on a ferry, joining an island hopping tour or renting a yacht and exploring independently.
When to visit the Dalmatian Islands?
The Dalmatian Islands offer something for everyone year round, with the summer months reserved for hot days and balmy nights, spring and autumn offering pleasant and mild temperatures and winter bringing with it cold, wet weather! Depending on your travel style and the activities you plan on doing, there is a season for every traveller!
Dalmatian Islands in Winter
Like most of coastal Croatia, the Dalmatian Islands are heavily dependent on tourism, which means that in the winter months, you’re likely to find not much more than a local konoba (restaurant) open! Most businesses, including cafes, hotels and even some ferry lines shut up shop for the winter period. If you’re looking to head to Dalmatia in winter, opt for the larger islands where locals live year-round, such as Hvar and Korcula. During the winter months you can expect crisp cold days, some rain and bursts of icy cold wind, thanks to the Bura. The coldest winter month on the islands is January, where temperatures average between 5 and 10 degrees!
Best Dalmatian Islands to visit in winter: Hvar, Korcula
Dalmatian Islands in spring
Spring starts in April in the Dalmatian Islands, and sees picturesque coastal towns awaken from their winter slumber to welcome the start of the tourist season. Temperatures can rise to a pleasant 17 degrees during the day which makes it the perfect weather for exploring on foot, or checking out monuments and tourist attractions. Spring is an optimal time to visit Dalmatia, with less crowds and mild temperatures.
Best Dalmatian Islands to visit in winter: Solta, Brac
Dalmatian Islands in summer
Summer is where the Dalmatian Islands truly come alive! Put the raincoat away and get the sunscreen ready! Daily average temperatures reach a lovely 30 degrees, and only go as low as 22 degrees, making it the perfect time for swimming, relaxing and exploring! Sea temperatures also rise to around 25 degrees in the Dalmatian Islands during the summer, making it the perfect temperature to dive right into the turquoise sea! The summer months also coincide with the peak tourist season, seeing beach bars heave with revellers and nightclubs featuring the hottest DJ’s in Europe! Summer is where it’s at in Dalmatia!
Best Dalmatian Islands to visit in summer: Hvar, Korcula, Vis
Dalmatian Islands in autumn
Autumn is by far our favourite time to explore the scattered Dalmatian Islands! Local favourites such as Solta, Mljet and Lastovo come alive with evenings starting to cool down and days still reaching a pleasant 18 - 25 degrees. Despite being a shoulder season for travellers, we find this is when the crowds disperse and you can truly get an authentic insight into the Croatian way of life on the islands!
Best Dalmatian Islands to visit in autumn: Mljet, Lastovo
The Top Dalmatian Islands
There are 79 islands located within Dalmatia, each with their own unique appeal and charm. Whilst we could go on about them all for days, we’ve narrowed it down to our absolute favourite Dalmatian Islands, and the destinations that simply have to be on your must-see list!
If there was ever a Dalmatian Island with celebrity status, Hvar is it! Famous for its sunny disposition, unique nightlife, incredible beaches and Croatian food with flair, Hvar is one island that needs to be on your radar this summer. Don’t miss St. Stephens square, the largest town square in Dalmatia, the towering Spanjola fortress that looks over the town of Hvar, or the epic sunset cocktail spot; Hula Hula Beach Bar!
Vis is as mysterious as it is alluring! This picturesque island is the most outlying island in the Dalmatian Islands, but don’t let it’s location put you off, it’s well worth a visit! Think undulating hills, secluded bays, and a seriously interesting military history complete with intact bunkers, tunnels and RAF airstrips! Due to its military past, Vis has only recently opened to tourism, ensuring it offers travellers a unique, authentic and quintessentially Croatian experience!
Brac is well known for its incredible pebbled beach (Zlatni Rat) that juts out from the town of Bol. This Croatian paradise is one of our top Dalmatian islands thanks to its proximity to Split and multitude of interesting and varied towns. Visit Pucisca and learn the ancient craft of stonemasonry, head to Bol for cocktails and beach club vibes, and put Milna on your list for your tastebuds to be completely transformed! Brac has it all!
The island of Korcula is well known for its town by the same name, Korcula Town. Korcula Town boasts a fortified Old Town that is structured in the shape of a fishbone, impressive bell towers, turrets, and it is also the rumoured birthplace of Marco Polo! Korcula is your one stop shop for wining and dining, secluded bays, Croatian gastronomy and wine tasting!
Mljet is one of the greenest islands in Dalmatia and is home to a National Park brimming with pine forests and native fauna. Mljet National Park is a nature lover's playground, complete with two salt lakes that are perfect for swimming or kayaking, walking and cycling paths to explore, and even a Benedictine Monastery complete with donkeys and peacocks! What more could you really want?!
Popular island-hopping routes around Dalmatia
Most major islands in Dalmatia (and even a lot of the smaller islands) are connected via a relatively cheap and easy to use ferry system. If you’re looking for the easiest and most cost effective (and fun!) way to get around the Dalmatian Islands, we’d recommend booking an island hopping tour. If you’re looking to get far and wide off the beaten track, there are plenty of private water taxis and charter boats that can take you there!
The bucket list route - Split Return South
Starting and ending in Split this route takes you through all of the party hotspots and some of the smaller, more eclectic islands. Start your island hopping adventure at the gateway to the islands, Split, and head south to Hvar and Korcula, before arriving at the medieval city of Dubrovnik. Leave Dubrovnik behind and make your way back up north visiting Mljet and Makarska along the way before returning to Split! If you want to pack as much as possible into a week-long trip, this is the route for you!
The architecture route - Split Return North
Whilst this route also starts and ends in Split, it travels north through some of the architectural wonders of Dalmatia! Departing from Split, head north along the coast to the UNESCO protected city of Trogir, before visiting Vodice. Continue north to the seaside town of Zadar, which was originally the capital city of Dalmatia, before heading to Sibenik and taking in the Krka Waterfalls. The route continues south to visit the mysterious island of Vis and the party capital of Hvar before returning to Split.
Southern Dalmatia route - Dubrovnik- Split
Get started in the awe inspiring city of Dubrovnik and take in its impressive fortified walls protecting the city, turbulent history and stunning beaches. Leave Dubrovnik behind and head to one of the greenest islands in Dalmatia, Mljet, before visiting Korcula and Vis. This route also takes in the party capital of Hvar, before experiencing the traditional way of life in Brac and returning to Split.
How to get around the Dalmatian Islands
If you’re heading to the Dalmatian Islands, you’re going to need transport to get around them! Once you’ve flown into one of the major coastal towns (Split, Dubrovnik or Zadar), the Dalmatian islands are easy to get to. Whether you decide to jump on a tour, book your own ferries or hire your very own yacht, you’re bound to be impressed with this Croatian paradise!
Ferries in Dalmatia
The ferry system in Dalmatia deserves praise! There are regular, inexpensive ferries that connect most major islands, and even some of the smaller islands to one another. Ferry timetables run frequently throughout the summer months, with a reduced timetable operating outside of this season. Choose to take a ferry and enjoy the journey, or opt for a slightly more expensive, albeit significantly faster, ‘fast catamaran’.
Island Hopping Tours
Island Hopping Tours are our pick of the most efficient, cost effective and fun way to explore Croatia! Think small group experiences, destinations and secluded bays only accessible via boat, and some of the best spots in Dalmatia…not to mention the fact that your accommodation, transport, planning and some meals are all sorted for you! All that’s left to do is party, relax, socialise and take it all in!
Private Yacht rental around the Dalmatian Islands
Dalmatia boasts the biggest variety of yacht charter vessels in all of Europe! Whether you’re a qualified skipper looking to set sail, or are looking for a relaxing skippered sailing holiday, Dalmatia has you covered! Having the freedom to explore on your very own yacht allows you to experience the ‘off the beaten track’ version of these incredible islands!
We hope this guide has inspired you to hop the Dalmatian Islands this summer! Croatia is calling!