If the Croatian Adriatic has a reputation for mixing Mediterranean tradition with modern chic, then it’s arguably on the southern Dalmatian islands that most people expect to find it. A few resort settlements apart, local tourism has avoided megalomaniac corporate development, and a contemporary boutique approach to hotels, restaurants and yachting marinas goes hand in hand with a much older holiday culture of private accommodation and local food and wine. The sense of insular uniqueness is enhanced by the fact that the vast majority of travellers have to cross at least part of the Adriatic Sea in order to get here – first impressions of arriving in ancient ports fringed by palms and overlooked by arid hills are not likely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Easiest to reach from the mainland is the island of Brač, boasting some good beaches at Supetar and a truly wonderful one at Bol, while lying off the northern coast of Brač is relatively unsung Šolta, with its quiet country lanes and yacht-sprinkled inlets. Further south is the long thin ridge of Hvar, whose capital, Hvar Town, rivals Dubrovnik in terms of stone-built architectural beauty. It’s also a fashionable hangout for urbane travellers: chic bars rub shoulders with Gothic palaces and chapels, and water taxis convey bathers to idyllic offshore islets. Hvar Town’s hedonistic buzz contrasts with the rest of the island, where small-town destinations like Stari Grad and Jelsa offer a much more laid-back take on the Dalmatian island experience. Much the same can be said of the island of Korčula, south of Hvar, whose fascinating medieval capital, Korčula Town, offers a mixture of urban tourism and lazy beachcombing. Farther out, but still only a few hours by boat from Split, the island of Vis was only opened up to foreign tourists in 1989, after previously serving as a naval base. Wilder and less visited than Brač or Hvar, it’s an obligatory destination for travellers who want a piece of the Adriatic to themselves. Far-flung Lastovo is another favourite destination for the independent-minded, with a supremely relaxing main village ringed by unspoiled bays. You can rejoin the mainland from Korčula by a short ferry-ride to the Pelješac peninsula – virtually an island itself – which is joined to the coast by a slim neck of land at Ston, whose magnificent town walls were built to defend the northernmost frontiers of the Dubrovnik Republic.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Croatia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The 10 best beaches in Croatia

The 10 best beaches in Croatia

When it comes to beaches in Croatia, the best advice is to head south: it’s on the Dalmatian coast where the most seductive sandy shores, pebbly coves and sun…

25 Aug 2017 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Coastlines don’t come much more idyllic than Croatia’s 2000km of ruggedly beautiful Adriatic shore. Along this magnificent stretch are ancient Roman remains…

03 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook