Central Dalmatia’s wild beauty is often characterized as harsh, hot, and edgy because of its scorching summers, rocky coastal beaches, steep mountains, and rugged inland. Those same words could also be used to describe the collective personality of the people that come from this region. It is precisely that combination of wild raw beauty that makes central Dalmatia stand out from its northern and inland neighbors and what attracts outsiders. The capital city of Dalmatia, Split, is an historic city that was once an industrial and trade center that has transformed dramatically since the war for independence.
Split has blossomed in the past 10 years into a bustling coastal destination. The layers of history contained within the walls of the Diocletian palace beg to be uncovered with more than just a few snapshots and a stroll through the labyrinth-like side streets, which contrast sharply with the modern life of the citizens that currently live in and around the old walls and make Split the most eclectic of all Croatian cities.
From Split you can take an overnight ferry to Ancona, Italy or hop on one of the regular ferries or catamarans to one of the outlying islands. Split is also Central Dalmatia's main base for yacht-charter companies. A 90-minute drive up the coast, northwest of Split, lies Šibenik, home to a Gothic-Renaissance cathedral. Once an important industrial center, Šibenik has fallen into economic decline, but it still makes a good base for visiting the cascading waterfalls of Krka National Park, and the peaceful riverside town of Skradin. Moving back from Šibenik toward Split is Trogir. The historic city of Trogir is a remarkable conglomeration of Roman, Greek, and Venetian ancient stone architecture contained on a tiny island that residents call their living museum. A 30-minute drive down the coast from Split brings one to Omiš and the mouth of the River Cetina. This river forms a steep-sided valley renowned for adventure sports like rafting and rock climbing (called free climbing in Croatia). However, for many people, what makes Central Dalmatia so special are the islands. The nearest, Brač, most often recognized for its famous Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) beach is an island of exceptional beauty that will leave you with a lasting impression because of the traditions, culture, and history that remain undiscovered yet pervade every aspect of the food, work, and life on this island. West of Brač lays the island of Šolta. Although there is little of cultural interest here, those lucky enough to be sailing along the south side of the island will find several idyllic bays that are accessible only by sea. South of Brač rises the island of Hvar, home to Central Dalmatia's most exclusive party destination, Hvar Town. Sixteenth-century Venetian buildings ring three sides of the Hvar Town harbor with its magnificent main square that is overlooked by a baroque cathedral, and a proud hilltop castle that beckons visitors to take in the view from higher ground. Farther out to sea still lies wild, windswept Vis, Croatia's most distant inhabited island. There are only two real settlements here: Vis Town and Komiža, the latter making the best starting point for a day trip to Modra Spilja (Blue Cave) on the island of Biševo. Back on the mainland, a two-hour drive down the coast south of Split brings you to Makarska, a popular seaside area built around a bay filled with fishing boats and backed by the rugged silhouette of the Biokovo Mountains. Biokovo’s peak, Sveti Jure (5,780 feet) is the third highest of Croatia’s mountains and offers stunning views over the entire region.
Lastovo, Croatia's second–most distant inhabited island (after Vis), remains firmly off the beaten track. Although it is part of Southern Dalmatia, it is not connected to the region by boat. The islanders there opted instead to remain connected to Split via ferry and catamaran services.