The hub around which everything in Southern Dalmatia revolves is Split, Croatia's second city and the most vibrant centre on the coast. It grew out of the Roman palace of Dalmatian-born Emperor Diocletian, and successive layers of ancient, medieval and modern architecture have given the centre a unique - albeit chaotic - urban character. Inland from the city, the ruins of the Roman city of Salons, and the medieval Croatian stronghold of Klis, are the main draws.
The coast south of Split is probably mainland Dalmatia's most enchanting stretch, with the mountains glowering over a string of long pebble beaches, although a sequence of modern tourist resorts is beginning to put the squeeze on the fishing villages. If you want to join the crowds, the resorts of the Makarska Riviera are justifiably popular family holiday centres, but it's the southern islands which are the real highlight of any trip to Dalmatia. Easiest to reach from Split is Brač, boasting some nice beaches at Supetar and a truly wonderful one at Bol, while lying off the southern coast of Brač is the long thin island of Hvar, whose capital, Hvar Town, rivals Dubrovnik and Trogir in the number of venerable stone buildings lining its ancient alleys. It's also a fashionable hangout for urbane Croats: chic bars rub shoulders with Gothic palaces and chapels, and water taxis convey bathers to idyllic offshore islets. 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.
Further out, but only a few hours by boat from Split, the islands of Vis and Lastovo were only opened up to foreign tourists in 1989, after previously serving as naval bases. Wilder and less visited, both are obligatory destinations for travellers who want a piece of the Adriatic to themselves.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.
As in northern Dalmatia, most public transport in the region is provided by the frequent intercity buses which plough along the coastal highway, the Magistrala. In addition, Split has good bus links with all the large towns of inland Croatia, and is also the main ferry port for all the islands in this section. Hopping from one island to the next is feasible up to a point: Hvar is a good base for onward travel to Korčula and Lastovo; moving on from Brač and Vis usually involves heading back to Split first.
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