Dalmatian Spots: Cruising to Split, Croatia

Sponsored by Norwegian Cruise Line

Arguably the most beautiful island-dotted coastline to be found anywhere in the Mediterranean, let us introduce you to Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian coast.

Like a long-forgotten crown that’s been dusted down and brought back into the limelight, today’s Croatia gives off a rare luster. The former Yugoslav republic is wrapped in deep layers of culture and history, but it’s the country’s natural beauty – particularly its impossibly perfect coastline – which really wins travelers over.

There are no fewer than 1,185 islands offshore, and when combined with the food, the sunshine and a healthy splash of old-world hospitality, they help to create a truly memorable vacation setting. Its warm traditional charms have seen Croatia dubbed ‘the Mediterranean as it once was’.

For many vacationers, Dubrovnik is Croatia. The ancient walled city – its red roof tiles contrasting spectacularly with the vivid blue of the sea – might be small, but it remains by far the most famous of the country’s attractions. Romantic poet Lord Byron called it the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, and when you see first-hand its fairytale aesthetics, marble pavements and all, you’ll understand what he was talking about.

But there’s so much more to see, including Split.

The second-largest city in Croatia is second to none when it comes to beauty, history and charm. Although Dubrovnik, to the south, is perhaps better known and more frequently visited by cruise ships, and inland Zagreb, the larger city, is the capital, Split has much to recommend it. The best part is that it’s entirely possible to experience many of its attractions during a brief visit to this Adriatic port.

The ancient city on the Dalmatian coast was born because Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace on this spit of land approximately 1700 years ago. The city grew up around the sprawling palace and it is still the primary tourist attraction of the contemporary city. The historical core embodies a rich tapestry of visual delight that allows visitors to take a virtual walk through time. Visitors are invariably charmed.

Split’s old city was named to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in 1979, but the city is in no way frozen in time. With a population of approximately 200,000, this is a “real” city in every sense. Modern architecture and tech culture somehow complement the ancient heritage of Split, and the convergence of old and new adds depth and dimension, making a visit to this city surrounded by the sea even more memorable.

What to Do in Split

The historic sector is, of course, not to be missed. A walking tour will take you past a 3,500-year-old Egyptian sphinx, the cathedral of St. Dujam, Split’s patron, the Peristyle or central Imperial Square, Jupiter’s temple and the palace’s storage areas. You’ll walk ancient streets, surrounded by towering columns.

Don’t miss the ancient entrances known as the Iron Gate, the Silver Gate and the Golden Gate, once used only by the Emperor. The old city’s clock boasts 24 hours rather than the more common 12, and the Pazar, Split’s still-thriving open market is the ultimate fresh shopping experience. Continue your walking tour to the People’s Square, Pjaca, to view the impressive Gothic town hall; ahead, be enthralled by the sights and sounds of a 120-year-old fish market.

The city’s modern life revolves largely around the waterfront and the active harbor, but its personality is equally influenced by the hills that surround it.

While nearby beaches and islands are tempting in good weather, visitors can also climb to the crest of the peninsula’s impressive Marjan to gain a new perspective of the city as well as breathtaking photo opportunities. Schedule a tour, or follow natural paths and well-maintained trails to walk up “Holy Hill,” as it is known by locals. Religious and secular monuments coexist with the greenery of this peaceful parklike setting right in the midst of the city.

The city’s options are many: Cafes, restaurants and shops offer a glimpse into everyday life; they exist to serve local residents, but visitors are warmly welcomed! Your only regret may be that the visit to Split is too short!

Are you ready to go deep? Find a certified Adventure Travel Specialist to help you plan your vacation.