HomeTravelCroatia's pretty Dalmatian Coast draws the crowds. Here's how to avoid them

Croatia’s pretty Dalmatian Coast draws the crowds. Here’s how to avoid them

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(CNN) — Like Venice, Barcelona and Prague, Dubrovnik is a sufferer of its personal success.

In 2019, greater than three million vacationers poured into the fabled walled city alongside Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and native authorities anticipate the quantity to attain that time once more over the subsequent few years as international tourism recovers from Covid-19.

Such have been the pre-pandemic crowds and their influence on the historic metropolis that UNESCO at one level threatened to revoke Dubrovnik’s World Heritage standing.

The rise in visitation was largely fueled by the launch of a brand new cruise ship terminal that might deal with 5 ships directly and disembark as many as 10,000 passengers per day and an expanded worldwide airport that might funnel these passengers to and from their boats.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, alongside got here a world hit tv present that lured an entire new breed of vacationer.

“Before ‘Game of Thrones,’ most of the people I guided were interested in art and architecture, that sort of thing,” says veteran Dubrovnik information Ivan Vukovic. “But then more and more people just wanted selfies at places where they made the show — like Pile Gate and Fort Lovrijenac.

“And we had a giant, huge downside with bare Instagramers doing their very own ‘stroll of disgrace’ on the Jesuit Stairs.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit Dubrovnik — it remains one of the coolest urban spaces on planet Earth. But for those who like their history, art and architecture with far fewer people, these seven alternative Croatian coastal towns deliver a similar vibe with far fewer people.

Ston

Just an hour’s drive up the coast from Dubrovnik, Ston is one of Dalmatia’s best-kept secrets. Founded by the ancient Illyrians, the laidback seaside village is renowned for its stone walls and incredible seafood.

Like a Croatian version of the Great Wall of China, the 14th-century battlements crawl up and over a mountain behind the village. It takes a few hours to trek Europe’s longest fortified structure (3.5-miles/5.5-km), even less to run the ramparts during the annual Ston Walls Marathon.

A vehicle-free pedestrian street in Ston’s old town is filled with outdoor cafes like Konoba Bakus that serve seafood specialties like Adriatic oysters, black cuttlefish risotto and mussels buzara. Feel free to linger all afternoon; the locals do.

Trogir

The town of Trogir feels more like Venice than any other Dalmatian Coast location.

dreamer4787/Adobe Stock

Half an hour up the coast from Split, this tiny island city is like a miniature Dubrovnik, shaped by nearly four centuries of Venetian rule and thoroughly unspoiled. Surrounded by water, Trogir feels more like Venice than any other outpost along the Dalmatian Coast.

When Trogir was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the citation described the city as “a wonderful instance of a medieval city… that has conserved its city material to an distinctive diploma and with the minimal of recent interventions … in each facet of the townscape.”

Even if you’re not into quaint cobblestone streets and palm-lined waterfront promenades, the Cathedral of St. Lawrence — with its iconic Venetian-style belltower and extravagant Radovan’s Portal — should put Trogir on your Dalmatian bucket list.

Primošten

Renowned for its summertime folk festival and donkey races, Primošten is almost another ancient island town. During the Renaissance, residents constructed a narrow causeway that connects their insular home to the mainland.

The town’s narrow lanes harbor handicraft shops, one-off clothing boutiques and traditional konoba restaurants. Rising high above their red-tiled roofs, St. George’s Church dominates a hilltop with awesome Adriatic views.

Across the causeway are sandy Mala Raduča and other beaches and a hinterland filled with vineyards that produce some of Croatia’s finest wines.

Biograd na Moru

Sprawling across a small peninsula, Biograd boasts yet another medieval old town heavily influenced by centuries of Venetian rule. But its real strength is Adriatic access.

As one of the nautical hubs of the Dalmatian coast, Biograd offers numerous ways to get out on the water. Scuba and snorkel day trips depart daily for Kornati National Park and its myriad unspoiled islands.

Back in town, Marina Šangulin is homebase to several yacht charter firms offering a variety of motor- and canvas-powered vessels. You can also rent paddleboards and flit between the scenic coves south of the old town.

Zadar

Zadar is positioned simply a few hours from the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Zadar is located just a couple of hours from the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Leonid Tit/Adobe Stock

Lodged between a photogenic yacht-filled harbor and the island-spangled Adriatic, Zadar’s old town offers a setting every bit as magical as Dubrovnik.

From a ruined Roman forum and Romanesque churches to its sturdy Venetian walls and an occasional communist-era structure that almost looks vintage, the old town’s architecture is a mashup of the various people who have ruled Zadar over the years.

Alfred Hitchcock once remarked that Zadar had the most beautiful sunset he’d ever seen. And there is something special about the city at dusk as lights twinkle around the harbor, the waterfront sea organ plays a wave-generated tune, and the old town’s cafes and bars spring to life.

Beyond its own attractions, Zadar is a great base for visiting medieval Nin (Croatia’s first royal capital), bungee jumping off towering Maslenički Bridge, or hiking and rock climbing in Paklenica Gorge. And it’s just a two-hour drive from the turquoise pools and copious waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Split

Encircled by factories and sprawling suburbs, Split isn’t the most attractive Dalmatian destination. Yet Croatia’s second largest city offers plenty to ponder.

The city’s pride and joy is Diocletian’s Palace, erected in the 4th century AD by a paranoid Roman emperor who was certain he would be assassinated if he didn’t relocate from the imperial capital and surrounded himself by impregnable walls.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site all on its own, the palace is like a small city. Even today, more than 3,000 people live inside its massive outer walls. Don’t miss the massive cellars, especially the gritty interface with portions that have yet to be excavated — a cross section of residential trash deposited over 1,700 years.

Split’s waterfront bustles with ferries bound for popular Adriatic islands like Brač, Hvar and outlandishly handsome Vis, where “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was filmed on location (rather than real-life Greece).

Located in a park-like setting on the city’s outskirts, the ancient Roman city of Salona preserves a large amphitheater, baths, basilica and many other structures. Looming on a nearby mountaintop is Klis Fortress, an imposing medieval castle once occupied by the Knights Templar and the mythical city of Meereen in Game of Thrones.

Pula

The Roman Arena in Pula.

The Roman Arena in Pula.

Viliam/Adobe Stock

One of the northernmost cities of the Croatian coast, Pula lies alongside the western fringe of the Istrian Peninsula not removed from Venice. A star-shaped Renaissance fortress crowns the previous city. But Pula’s declare to fame is Roman relics.

Nearly 2,000 years after it was constructed, Pula Arena stays one in every of the world’s best-preserved Roman constructions. Nowadays the colossal stadium gives a venue for performs, live shows and the annual out of doors Pula Film Festival.

Fast forwarding to the communist period, the intriguing Memo Museum Pula presents a stroll down reminiscence lane to on a regular basis life in Tito’s Yugoslavia, of which Croatia was as soon as an element. Pula can be the gateway to the islands of Brijuni National Park with its seashores, mountain climbing trails, golf course and safari park.

Dubrovnik

If you possibly can’t resist the lure of Dubrovnik, a couple of issues could make your go to simpler.

While staying at a short-term rental or small resort inside the metropolis partitions could appear to be the final in romance (and it’s), this usually entails schlepping your luggage up lots of of stone stairs. Meanwhile, these with rental automobiles will uncover that the most handy parking runs to round US$100 per day.

The various is staying simply exterior the partitions at a rental or resort (like the Hilton Imperial) that gives free parking. Or simply do not have a car; native bus companies are quick, frequent and environment friendly, as are taxis and journey shares. At lower than US$1 per kilometer, Uber charges to the previous city run round US$8 from the cruise port and US$27 from the worldwide airport.

Given the gentle Mediterranean local weather of the Dalmatian coast, you do not want many garments. So preserve your baggage to a minimal, particularly if you happen to’re staying inside the partitions.

Avoid the heaviest crowds by exploring the previous city earlier than and after the every day excessive tide of cruise ship passengers. Walking the polished limestone streets is very nice at daybreak or late night.

Hire a information for a strolling tour. Not only for native historical past and structure, but in addition for the lowdown on how Dubrovnik weathered the civil warfare that adopted the breakup of Yugoslavia in the Nineteen Nineties and what life is like right this moment for these whereas nonetheless stay inside the partitions.

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