Travel: SPOTTING DALMATIA; Lisa Howard Is Seduced by the Croat Coast

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Howard

DON'T bother packing your preconceptions on a trip to Croatia. They won't last past baggage control.

Nowhere is this more true than in Dalmatia, the region which runs from just north of the city of Split to the extreme south. The resorts running along the Adriatic coast are collectively known as the Makarska Riviera.

All the small towns have features unique to this region - pristine white pebble beaches and the clearest sea I've ever seen, against the dramatic backdrop of the majestic limestone Biokovo mountains.

But the first surprise is Split itself. The only thing I knew about it was that it's the home of gorgeous Goran Ivanisevic. Sadly, I didn't spot the man with the sexiest legs in tennis but did discover that Croatia's second largest city still has a lot to offer a girl.

The centrepiece is the stunning palace built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 305AD. It's not just an archaeological site. Today it contains 220 buildings with 3,000 people living and working within its walls - a city within a city. Nestling among the original buildings you'll find shops, restaurants and bars.

Although the palace is the most impressive landmark, Split has plenty more. To the west of the Old Town, the medieval part of the city is fascinating to wander around.

Split also has the biggest market along the coast (open every day except Sunday) plus the area's only sandy beaches.

Heading south, you'll find the pretty resort of Baska Voda, where there's a wide selection of accommodation and loads of bars and restaurants along the seafront. There are also a couple of small museums that are worth a look, including one of the many shell museums.

Baska Voda is a perfect base for taking boat trips to some of the many islands dotted along the coast or for visiting Biokovo National Park (50 kunas entry). The Biokovo mountain is 1,762m high and at its peak is St George, the highest church in Croatia. …