Coastal Croatia – A Luxury Dive into Dalmatia – Fall 2023
Dalmatia: An Adventure for the Discerning Traveler
The Croatian Adriatic is one of the last remaining oases of astounding natural beauty and pristine turquoise waters.
Croatia has been governed by Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Austrians and Yugoslavians over the centuries. Its people, having lived through recent events we can barely imagine, have come out the other side with wisdom and a true appreciation for their land. This tour zeroes in on Dalmatia — the most action-packed and diverse part of Croatia, with scenic islands, tranquil ports, rugged mountains, numerous castles and an emerging culinary scene, as well as several Unesco World Heritage Sites, including Diocletian’s Palace in Split; the medieval walled town of Trogir and the ancient strip fields of the Stari Grad plain on the island of Hvar. You can visit them all!
Landing in Split, you’ll immediately leave the crowds behind in the oasis of Šibenik. The coming days will include Šolta, Hvar and Korčula. You’ll see fortresses, ports and farms. You’ll experience the no-stress local island lifestyle. Time passes slowly here; you’ll enjoy every minute. The scenery is jaw-dropping. And we haven’t even mentioned the delicious homemade specialties and wine you’ll sample. Our journey ends in Dubrovnik, the ancient sea-faring city made famous by Game of Thrones. History buffs will go nuts here! And the airport is super handy for the trip back home.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience!
This program can also be run on a custom basis for specific groups on alternative dates. Please inquire for more information.
Our 10-day tour of the Dalmatian region of the Croatian coastline starts in Šibenik, a small Mediterranean town on the mouth on the Krka River. Then hop on a speedboat and start an island-hopping adventure across the islands of Korčula and Hvar, as well as several lesser-known gems.
DAY 1 – Lazy arrival day – strolling, welcome drink and dinner in Šibenik
Arrival at Split airport and independent transfer to the Heritage Hotel Life Palace. The hotel’s 17 elegant rooms are located in the heart of the historic city of Šibenik, nestled within the walls of the 15th century Marenci Palace. Šibenik is situated on the most picturesque part of the Adriatic, on the mouth of the Krka River. You’ll explore its impressive old city core, crooked lanes and quaint squares. Šibenik Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic and Renaissance styles, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a miraculous stone roof that amazes people from all over the world.
Your welcome dinner will deliver vibrant local flavors with a modern approach. The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, one of Croatia’s most attractive gourmet hotspots, also offers a phenomenal vista of the Cathedral.
Lodging for the first three nights: Šibenik, Heritage Hotel Life Palace. Welcome drink and dinner
DAY 2 – Island hopping in the Šibenik archipelago
Of the 242 islands sprawling along this section of Dalmatia’s coastline, those visited on today’s island-hopping adventure are the richest in history and culture. The soil, vineyards and vibrant marine life here formed the backbone for fishing and farming as the only source of income in times past. Now, they continue to be cherished and preserved alongside tourism. Lovely aromatic beaches, the crackle of wood warming under the sun and colorful varieties of fruit adorn these splendid, romantic islands.
Today starts with a panoramic ride through the protected natural area of Šibenik channel on a chartered speedboat. You’ll note the prominent UNESCO-protected fortress of St. Nicholas – the proud Šibenik 16th century sea guardian. Zlarin Island, which is free of cars but rich in coral, is the first stop. An expert will teach about coral’s history, diving, farming, and the hand grinding of raw coral into unique pieces of jewelry. Enjoy some leisure time on Tijat island, before continuing to Prvić to learn more about Faust Vrančić — a man far ahead of his time who invented both the parachute and the wind turbine, and chose this place as his final home. End today’s excursion with an authentic lunch in a local konoba (casual restaurant) tucked under the pine trees, on a sea promenade.
Return to Šibenik after lunch. Choose how to spend the rest of the day immersing yourself in the beauties of these magical surroundings.
Lodging Tonight: Heritage Hotel Life Palace; Breakfast and lunch
DAY 3 – Krka National Park
Krka National Park boasts the largest travertine waterfalls in Europe. Today you’ll first visit the park’s most impressive waterfall, Skradinski buk, with its 17 travertine steps spread over nearly a kilometer of water. You will also pass the Jaruga hydropower plant – the second oldest in the world (Niagara Falls started operations two days earlier!). The morning concludes with photo ops from the gorgeous Visovac overlook.
Another countryside feast awaits at midday, hanging out with the locals and tasting authentic dishes like traditional grilled lamb. After lunch, it’s back to the town of Šibenik for a nap and free evening.
Lodging Tonight: Heritage Hotel Life Palace; Breakfast and lunch
DAY 4 – Moving south: Vino – Trogir – Šolta!
After a leisurely breakfast and checkout, a local guide will accompany you on a morning drive that includes a panoramic stop with striking views of the tiny islands scattered all around you in the surrounding Adriatic.
Time for some wine! For over a century, wine lovers have pondered the fascinating question of Zinfandel’s origins and migratory route to the U.S. At least they did until recently when a team of American and Croatian scientists found a perfect DNA match in a small vineyard in the hills above Split, where only a few plants have survived. Taste the fruit of this discovery in an interactive lunch experience at Kastel Sikuli, a “boutique and baby” vineyard — producing since only 2019 — but backed by vast experience. All while toasting enchanting views of the entire bay below.
The day continues with a guided walk through the UNESCO-protected town of Trogir, a remarkable example of urban continuity dating back to the Greeks. Enriched with fine public and private buildings and fortifications, today it features exceptional Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period. This small architectural marvel was built on an islet positioned between a larger island and the mainland, which ensured both its safety and control over the centuries. Particularly impressive is the cathedral, built over a period of 400 years on the foundations of an early Christian Basilica. Its unique and mysterious portal is the most significant achievement of Romanesque-Gothic sculpture on this side of the Adriatic.
A 30-minute private speedboat ride between the islands of Čiovo and Drvenik brings you to the enchanting Martinis Marchi Hotel, located in a historic castle on the island of Šolta. Today, after three centuries of tumultuous history, Martinis Marchi welcomes you into its chambers. A mere seven suites are spread among the 16,000 square feet of the castle. Beds, wardrobes, tables and chairs have been carefully selected from London to Zagreb and then meticulously restored, just like each detail of the castle itself. All the rooms have breathtaking views and have been named after historical figures who were connected to the castle. Dinner here will not disappoint!
Lodging for the next three nights: Maslinica, Island of Solta, Heritage Hotel Martinis Marchi Breakfast, wine tasting and lunch, dinner
DAY 5 – Šolta Relax or day trip to Split
Those who haven’t visited Split or want to spend the day there will have that opportunity today. Those who prefer to enjoy slow island life at this midpoint of the trip can certainly do so!
Maslinica is the only settlement and port on the west side of Šolta island. The south side of the bay boasts a beautiful pine forest with secluded rocky beaches. In front of it lies an archipelago of seven islets (Polebrnjak, Saskinja, Stipanska, Kamik, Balkun, Rudula and Grmej), making Maslinica one of the most wonderful spots in the Adriatic. This settlement developed around the castle built by the noble family Marchi in 1708 as a defense against frequent pirate attacks. The family engaged workers from the regions of Dalmatian Zagora and Herzegovina, and the community grew. The Marchi family also commissioned the church of St. Nicholas, located on the highest hill south of the bay. We think you will fall in love with this little marina….this is the PERFECT place to relax!
Optional day tour to Split (additional fee: $200/person):
Transfer to Rogač, where you’ll enjoy a one-hour ferry ride to the port of Split. Here your guide will lead a leisurely exploration of Croatia’s second largest city, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The center of all major historical events on the eastern Adriatic coast, it has rare natural and architectural beauty as well. Touring Split, you will see temples, sphinxes, medieval palaces, cavernous Imperial substructures, markets, and picturesque streets and squares. The city originated from a spacious Roman palace built by the charismatic Roman emperor Diocletian as his retirement residence. From a place of pagan worship housing the Emperor’s mausoleum, over the centuries the structure has evolved into a true Mediterranean city featuring one of the first Christian cathedrals in the world, dedicated to Split’s patron saint. After the tour, take time for yourself to discover various treasures. We suggest ending your exploration with a coffee on Riva – the waterfront promenade in front of Diocletian’s Palace. Return to Šolta is organized with a ferry in the afternoon.
Lodging Tonight: Heritage Hotel Martinis Marchi; Breakfast
DAY 6 – Explore Šolta island: e-biking, olives, wine, honey
Šolta is famous for its charming villages and untouched beauty, but thanks to its climate and geographical position, soil and sunny days, the island is also famous for indigenous varieties of olives and grapes. Today you will experience the typical life of an island resident: riding bikes, picking olives and having lunch in the midst of nature. Cycling on motorized bikes across the island, you visit its best producers of wine, olive oil and honey. The day will include meeting the locals and learning about their passionate approach to delicious and sustainable products. Imagine savoring the newly-pressed oil; then tasting indigenous wines right in a local family’s private courtyard; and ending with a brief lesson in honey production while looking out over the Adriatic. You will learn why Šolta’s rosemary honey is among the world’s finest!
Lodging Tonight: Heritage Hotel Martinis Marchi; Breakfast, picnic lunch, multiple tastings (for those who stay on the island)
DAY 7 – Island hopping to Hvar, then Korčula
Continuing the journey south, you will hop on a chartered speedboat and set off on a full-day trip towards Korčula, stopping about halfway for a visit of iconic, sunny Hvar. Upon arrival in Hvar, enjoy a guided walk through the charming port, and learn more about the 16th century walls that surround the ornamented Gothic palaces and marble streets. With its picturesque landscapes dotted with small villages built in stone, lavender fields and vineyards, the island of Hvar is often referred to as the most beautiful island in the world.
After visiting town, take a brief ride to the Stari Grad plain – the largest plain in the Adriatic. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has remained divided by dry stone walls into geometric parcels for 24 centuries. Right in its middle sits an organic farm, where you’ll have a local lunch that can’t be missed. Peka is a Dalmatian delicacy, a blend of vegetables (grown here of course) and meat drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome.
Walk off that peka in the town of Stari Grad. This is one of Europe’s oldest towns and perhaps the most charming on the island. Your guide will take you to a Dominican monastery, founded in the 15th century, and visit the local shops. You’ll also see the Tvrdalj Fortress – the summer residence of the Croatian poet, Petar Hektorović.
The day ends on Croatia’s sixth largest island, Korčula. The ancient Greeks dubbed this island Black Korčula (Korkyra Melaina) for its plethora of dense forests. “LD Palace” (as they like to be called) on Korčula offers an exclusive retreat hidden within the walls of the medieval old town, only a few meters from the Adriatic Sea. The fully-restored 18th-century Bishop’s palace now offers splendid 5-star boutique hotel accommodation, a gourmet restaurant, spa, and an extensive range of services creating an exceptional experience.
Lodging for the next two nights: Relais & Chateaux member Lešić Dimitri Palace; breakfast, lunch
DAY 8 –Korčula
The town of Korčula is one of the finest fortified medieval towns in existence, with a strongly Venetian feel and timeless beauty. A guided walk through Korčula offers an excellent opportunity to hear tales of Marco Polo and explore its cobbled streets. The fishbone layout was cleverly designed for the comfort and safety of inhabitants: western streets were built straight to open the city to the refreshing summer Maestral (strong, steady westerly wind), while the eastern streets were curved to minimize the force of the winter Bura (cold, north-easterly wind).
Located at the quiet eastern edge of Korčula Old Town, today’s Michelin-starred lunch stop offers great views over the channel and serves a delicious array of Dalmatian tapas using fresh, local vegetables and fish, pasta and freshly baked bread. Enjoy homemade specialties paired with excellent local wines and lavish desserts. Lunch here is always a highlight for our guests.
Remainder of the day at leisure.
Lodging for tonight: Lešić Dimitri Palace; breakfast, lunch
DAY 9 – Korčula – Mljet – Šipan – Dubrovnik
Breakfast and check-out. On the 2-hour speedboat trip to Dubrovnik, you will pass Mljet Island, which is one of Croatia’s most impressive. Approaching Dubrovnik, the stunning Elaphiti Islands come into view. Think pristine beaches, hidden bays, and pine-scented air. The final meal on this trip will be a “cabana lunch”, a completely original Mediterranean dining experience catered to those who enjoy the flavors of traditional cuisine in a secluded setting amidst humanity’s finest luxury: nature.
Afternoon arrival and check-in at the iconic Hotel Excelsior. Nestled among pine, orange and lemon trees and surrounded by gardens of bougainvillea and oleander, this exclusive 5-star haven is only steps away from the UNESCO-protected old city of Dubrovnik and offers cinematic views of the Adriatic. Take some time to settle in and relax, with dinner on your own.
Lodging for the last night: Dubrovnik, Hotel Excelsior, deluxe double room with sea view and balcony; breakfast, lunch
DAY 10 – Departure
After breakfast and hotel checkout, independent transfer to Dubrovnik airport or post-tour destination; breakfast
NOTE: We offer an additional night for those who wish to spend more time in Dubrovnik (additional fee):
Awaken savoring the view of crystal blue turquoise waters of the Adriatic and the Island of Lokrum from your balcony, followed by a leisurely breakfast. This morning, wander with your guide through the picturesque old town of Dubrovnik. The walk will begin on the city’s lifeline – Stradun promenade, which encompasses all the major sights of Dubrovnik’s historic center. Starting from the Gate of Pile and the Church of Saint Saviour, you will see Onofrio’s Fountain, Franciscan and Dominican churches, the bell tower, old city harbor, and the Cathedral – each a significant historic landmark. The crown jewel of Dubrovnik is the Knežev Dvor, or the Rector’s Palace, now the city`s historical museum.
The walk will end at lunchtime….and the list of possibilities on your own for the remainder of the day is long. Wander through the museums or one of Europe’s oldest pharmacies; walk the city’s walls or explore the local market; or have coffee or cocktails at the Buža bar, a literal hole in the wall! You can even check out the Dubrovnik city walls from the sea, paddling along the majestic towering ramparts in sea kayaks. Maybe you just want to savor the views from the amazing hotel terrace.
Dinner is on your own tonight, and we’ll have a list of fabulous choices for you. No matter your choice, you will have a whole day to immerse in the lively atmosphere of Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. Breakfast. Departure on Day 11.
- We encourage you to arrive a day early, before your trip starts…Please note that this tour assumes arrival in Split no later than mid-morning on October 7, and departure from Dubrovnik on October 16 or 17. Those who require alternative options please request and provide specific information. Additional fees may apply if your arrival or departure is different. Air travel is not included.
- Suggestions for flight times and airlines will be provided at time of registration.
- There are additional options to extend your tour, for anyone wanting to spend a few more days in nearby regions. Please inquire about “add-on” options if interested. Zadar and Plitvice Lake National Park are perfect pre-tour options. Montenegro is an ideal post-tour choice.
We also offer pre- or post-stay add-ons in Zadar, Plitvice Lakes National Park, or Montenegro. If you opt NOT to do a pre-tour stay, we strongly encourage arrival at least one day prior to the start of the tour. Please contact us for details.