Arrive in Split. Our hotel is about 30 minutes drive from the airport.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting. Following this, there is the opportunity for some cheese and wine tasting, a perfect way to break the ice. Nestled amongst the old stone buildings of Split's Old Town, we visit a local bar which provides Croatia's take on a tapas-style experience, offering up the chance to try several cheeses, bread and oils. Locally grown olives and freshly baked baguettes are paired with red and white wines, that have all been produced along the Dalmatian Coast.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Split Airport (SPU). Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. Stay: Mondo Hotel (Comfortable)
We wake this morning amongst the terracotta roofs and historic buildings of the port of Split. This charming city has a rich history; originally founded by the Greeks in the 2nd century, the city has seen many empires pass through its walls, having been occupied by the Romans, the Byzantines, and for a large period of history the Venetians. We set off this morning to discover Split on a walking tour starting at the sprawling Diocletian's Palace. Built to honour the Roman Emperor Diocletian, this huge residence makes up around half of the old city and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is widely regarded as the world's most complete and well-preserved Roman Palace, and we will explore much of it this morning. We will also take in the famed Peristyle, the ornate Golden and Silver Gates and the Temple of Jupiter.
There will be some free time for further exploration before we make our way to the harbour and board the catamaran ferry out to Hvar - the first of our Dalmatian Islands. The journey takes us across the azure waters of the Adriatic and we will reach the lively and cosmopolitan town of Hvar in around one and a half hours. After checking in and freshening up, our Tour Leader will take us for sundowners at a bar overlooking the yacht-lined harbour, well-known for its picturesque sunsets. Stay: Pharos Bayview Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
Nowhere in Croatia is there more of an air of Venetian Renaissance than on the island of Hvar. The island served as an important naval base for the Venetians in the 16th century, and Renaissance-style facades, churches and far-reaching olive groves pepper the landscape.
This morning we drive up into Hvar's rugged interior and to the village of Velo Grabije. This traditional village lies at the heart of the island's cottage industries and lining the streets are stalls selling locally produced honey, rosemary, oils and of course, lavender. We start our walk from here heading out on foot past the beautiful expansive lavender fields that colour the landscape a deep purple over the late spring and summer months. Hvar was once the historic centre of lavender production, and it's easy to sense why with the calming aromas of lavender accompanying us as we walk. We stop at Malo Grabije village for a refreshment, before continuing our walk past olive groves and undulating farmland down to the coastal town of Milna where we break for lunch. We plan to have some free time here to wander around the town and perhaps take advantage of Milna's beaches before returning by local bus to Hvar. The total walk is approximately six kilometres and will last around two and a half hours, with the majority of the walk being gently downhill to the coast.
This afternoon has been left free to relax or to further explore trendy Hvar town. There is also the option to take a boat trip out to Paklinski Islands. Lying a few kilometres off the coast of Hvar, this chain of islands offers beautiful sandy beaches to relax upon and hidden coves to explore. There will be plenty of opportunity for swimming and snorkelling before the boat returns at sunset. Stay: Pharos Bayview Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
Boarding the catamaran again this morning, we sail down the Dalmatian coast to the island of Korcula, lying in the centre of the archipelago. Korcula is known for its interior of dense pine forests, which once supplied the Venetians with timber for their vast fleets. It's also known for its vineyards, producing some excellent white wines from their indigenous Grk variety of grape. Our base for the next two nights is in the palm-lined streets of Korcula Town, a medieval settlement that enjoys a low-key rustic charm.
This afternoon we travel by bus to the village of Lumbarda, located on the very eastern tip of the island. After some time to get comfortable with your bike, making any necessary adjustments, we begin pedalling out into the countryside on smooth quiet roads through pine forests and past the vineyards this region is famous for. There are also pockets of olive groves along the route, and we plan to make a stop on two sandy beaches, before cycling back into the vineyards and ending our cycling at a local winery. Here we learn about some of the fresh produce made in the area and have the chance to try a selection of prosciutto, local cheeses, as well as figs and olives. We will learn about the three varieties of grape grown on the island; the Grk grape which produces a very balanced flavour, where as the native Posip grape gives a much fuller-bodied flavour with tones of apricots and almonds, and is a golden yellow in colour. The Plavac Mali is a dark red producing a warm, fruity and somewhat soft taste. We sample a variety of wines produced from these grapes, before returning by bus to Korcula Town in the late afternoon, where the rest of the day is free.
The cycling is around five kilometres in length, mostly flat and taken at a gentle pace, taking around two hours to complete the whole excursion. The route we cycle is on quiet roads, mainly surfaced with very little motorised traffic. Bicycles and helmets are provided, as well as a specialist cycle guide alongside the Explore Tour Leader. Stay: Marko Polo Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we take a 40-minute catamaran out to the lush and beautiful Mljet Island. Awarded National Park status in 1962, the island is the greenest in Croatia and home to just one hotel. It's otherwise made up of verdant green forests, sheltered coves lapped by crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches.
The Tour Leader will provide a short orientation walk to get your bearings and will run through your options for today, before leaving the rest of the day free to explore at our leisure. Basing ourselves in Pomena, there are a variety of ways to explore the island's lush interior either by foot or bicycle on well-signposted trails, or perhaps explore the coastline by kayak. There are plenty of beaches to choose to relax on, and a choice of restaurants serving up locally produced food and wine.
The catamaran is due to return at 17.20 this evening back to Korcula. Stay: Marko Polo Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
We set off by catamaran ferry once more for the scenic cruise through the shimmering blue Adriatic Sea. We travel alongside Dalmatia's rugged and mountainous coastline towards the jewel in its crown, the spectacular walled city of Dubrovnik. Like many Croatian cities, Dubrovnik has seen its share of conquerors and settlers, each adding their own contributions to the city we see today. Extensive renovations during the 1990's and into 2000's has meant that the city is excellently preserved, its old walls housing tiled roofs and white-washed buildings in all their splendour that give the illusion of stepping back in time.
Our hotel is in the lively Lapad Bay area, close to many restaurants and a public beach. Dubrovnik Old Town is easily reached by a twenty minute public bus ride and after settling into our hotel we make this journey and start to explore this incredible city on foot. Starting from Pile Square on the eastern side of Dubrovnik, we snake our way through the maze of narrow streets and lively piazzas to take in the Sponza Palace, housing the city's archives, and the intricately carved baroque church of St Blaise. Continuing through the main thoroughfare of Stradun we walk down the Jesuit Staircase, perhaps better known as the 'Steps of the Great Sept of Bailor' used for the 'Walk of Shame' scene in Game of Thrones. Finally we end at the magnificent Rector's Palace, another GOT filming location but an incredible example of Gothic architecture in its own right.
Later in the afternoon there is the option for sea kayaking around the city walls. We climb into our kayaks in Kolorina bay, just outside the Old Town, and after a short safety briefing we begin paddling our way along the coastline, gazing up at the dramatic city walls as they plunge down into the rocks and then the sea. This experience offers an entirely different perspective of the city, especially as the sun starts to dip into the Adriatic and the city lights start to twinkle and glow.
The kayaking lasts for approximately two hours and is dependant on local sea conditions at the time. No previous experience is required and a full safety briefing is given. Stay: Hotel Aquarius (Comfortable) (B)
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Dubrovnik at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) which is a 25 kilometre and 40 minute drive from Dubrovnik.
We recommend adding an additional night if you wish to further explore the ancient city of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as there is so much to see and do in this wonderfully charming city. Particular other highlights include the cable car to Mount Srd, a walk out in Konavle Valley or there are specialist tours based around Game of Thrones if that is of interest. (B)