When you hear the word “Dalmatian” most people would likely think of cuddly white dogs with black spots. The Dalmatian Coast in Croatia is anything but black and white. It is one of four historical regions that include Croatia proper, Slavonia and Istria. Dubrovnik is its most famous city but the islands off the coastline each have a personality of their own.
We sailed from Dubrovnik on the Karizma with a very congenial crew to various islands. Our starting point was directly under the spectacular cable-stayed Franjo Tudman Bridge. It was a preview of the “eye candy” that was to follow.
The first stop was Mljet, the home of the Mljet National Park. It is the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean Sea and was founded in 1960. It also is a recreationalists’ dream with plenty of hiking and biking trails and protected waters for kayaking.
Often called “The Green Island”, Mljet is covered with a dense forest of holm oak and Aleppo pines. The Malo and Veliko jezero (Great and Small lakes are deep sea water bays filled with sea life and the largest coral reef in the Mediterranean Sea. They are connected by a canal well used by kayakers.
The 12 century Benedictine Monastery of St Mary offers a tranquil respite from the outside world and is the perfect spot for a relaxing lunch. While Mljet itself is relatively small, it offers its share of relaxing spots overlooking the sea.
Our next stop was Korcula best known for its wines, vineyards and olive groves draped across the countryside. Croatians also claim it is the birthplace of Marco Polo, a supposed revelation dismissed by Italians since most historians have concluded that he was from Venice. One of the homes is designated as the “Marco Polo Home” (large photo below) and there is a small “museum” to the explorer in the main town.
The town itself is called “Little Dubrovnik” thanks to its medieval squares, churches, palaces and houses. Indeed, the wall-encased “old city” is reminiscent of its more famous and larger counterpart. Highlights include strolling through the town’s intriguing narrow cobblestone streets that are dotted with enticing shops. A visit to the Gothic-Baroque Cathedral of St Mark reveals some surprises. The 15th century Gothic-Renaissance church is notable for its masonry work and for the fact that it house two Tintaretto paintings.
Korcula is the sixth largest Adriatic Island and it is home to about 15,500 inhabitants. Only a little over 5,000 live in the town of Korcula. It is a more low key and smaller destination than Dubrovnik but still offers a variety of restaurants, historic sights, recreational activities and water sports.
More to come on Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands with previews of Omis, Split, Bol and Hvar.