Europe: Island hopping along Croatia's Dalmatian Coast
Made up of more than 1,000 islands and home to multiple national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Croatia's Dalmatian Coast has a myriad of natural and cultural wonders to explore. Dubbed "the next Riviera" by GQ, the coastal and island gems of the Adriatic are finally being rediscovered by many travelers 10 years after the end of the Balkan war.
"All along the coast you can see villages with white houses and red-tiled roofs perched on the side of cliffs above the blue, blue water of the sea," says Harvard grad student Anna Rudberg, who recently returned from a year abroad in Eastern Europe. "The water changes color depending on the weather and light, but sometimes it's the most spectacular turquoise."
On the mainland, you can visit the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, a place called "paradise on earth" by George Bernard Shaw; and Split, an ancient Roman city with ruins dating to the third century A.D. You can travel by ferry to some of the bigger islands like Mlejt, the island where Ulysses stayed for seven years in the Odyssey; and Hvar, which has one of the best preserved towns in the region. However, the best (and sometimes only) way to explore the smaller islands, such as those of Kornati Islands National Park, is by sailboat or other small craft.
On Wilderness Travel's 10-day "Sailing the Dalmatian Coast," guests experience the best of the mainland and the islands by cruising port-to-port aboard the Nostalgija, an 82-foot sailing yacht. Trip highlights include tours of Dubrovnik and Split; stops on the islands of Mljet, Korcula, and Hvar; and visits to Krka and Kornati Islands national parks. Between stops, guest can hike, swim, and snorkel. Rates for 2006 departures start at $3,895 per person, excluding airfare and some meals.
Frugal travelers can opt for Intrepid Travel's seven-day trip that takes in Dubrovnik, Split, and Krka National Park. Guests also travel by ferry to Mljet. Trips cost $825 per person, plus local payment of 100 euros. Airfare, meals, and museum admissions are additional.
Getting there: There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Croatia, but you can easily connect to Dubrovnik or Split from major European gateways such as London or Frankfurt. Flights from New York in June 2006 start around $1,300 round-trip, plus taxes.
When to go: Take advantage of warm, sunny weather and lighter crowds by visiting in May, June, or September.