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What is the Dalmatian Coast?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Dalmatian Coast is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe. It is a strip of coast, dotted by hundreds of islands, on the west side of Croatia (Hrvatska), bordered by the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. The Dalmatian Coast is known for its lush, forested islands, clean, sparkling water, fairy-tale towns and cities and diverse cultural influences. The largest city to the north is Split, and to the south, Dubrovnik. Other main cities in this region include Dubrov, Sibenik and Zadar, and among the largest islands are Brač, Hvar, Korčula, Mljet and Dugi Otok.

The beauty, unique geography and temperate climate have made the Dalmatian Coast a highly disputed region for centuries. Its Mediterranean-like climate, karst, or limestone, geography and coastal access is highly desirable. The name originates with the Dalmatae, an Illyrian tribe that inhabited the region during the first millennium BCE. Starting around 220 BCE, the Roman Empire slowly gained power over the region, and by the time of Christ, the region was nearly completely Romanized.

After the fall of Rome, the region was subsequently ruled by the Goths, the Byzantine Empire, the Avars, Slavs and the Ottoman Empire. Due to the numerous changes in rule, in addition to many wars and rebellions, the Dalmatian Coast became a fractured kingdom, resulting in numerous principalities and states. The Romanized Dalmatians continued to struggle to retain power, but by the 10th century, the Venetians attempted to assert power. The lasting vestiges of the Byzantine, and especially Venetian, influences are evidenced by the coast’s culture and architecture.

In modern times, the Dalmatian Coast has been controlled by the French, Hungarians, Serbians and Austrians, though its people continued to struggle for unification. After World War I, the Dalmatian Coast was fractured yet again. Most of the region was part of a unified Yugoslavia until its fall in 1991, and it became what we now know as Croatia.

Today, peace has returned to the Dalmatian Coast, and it has gained popularity with tourists due to its remote, yet easily accessible islands with charming towns and beautiful marinas. Boating, swimming and fishing are favorite pastimes for both locals and visitors. The Dalmatian Coast has much to offer the visitor in its culture, architecture and natural beauty. The Palace at Diocletian in Split is famed for its architecture, and the city of Dubrovnik is revered for its city walls and tiled roofs. In addition to the stunning man-made attractions of the Dalmatian Coast, the proximity of unique and unparalleled national parks, both on the coast and further inland draws people from around the world.

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Discussion Comments
By overreactor — On May 12, 2008

The Dalmatian coast is indeed a beautiful place to visit. The whole Adriatic coast on the Croatian side is dotted with islands, large and small, populated and non populated, lush green and barren.

The sea is clear and blue, and people friendly and welcoming. The area has a very long history. It is interspersed with many little towns that are centuries old. A very different and memorable place to vacation.

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