Dalmatia - Split
The Jewel of an Empire
In AD 305, the world’s most powerful man, Emperor Diocletian, was faced with the decision on where to spend the rest of his days. Of all of the known world, he chose to build his home in the heart of the region of Dalmatia, setting the first stones in place for the future city of Split.
Follow in his footsteps by exploring Diocletian’s Palace and a region home to islands, stunning natural landscapes such as Biokovo Mountain and Zlatni Rat beach on the island of Brač, and a wealth of culture that will defy your expectations.
Where to go
Routes of Ancient Cultures
Follow the scent of cypress trees and rosemary down the road built by the Romans to theancient Tragurion, where its symphony in stone – every portal, church, palace and balcony – is sure to stir the imagination and tell a legend or two, a story of love or hope. Discover why Roman emperors chose Salona as the capital of their province and why one of them, Diocletian, chose the charming Split as the location of his palace. Feel the spirit of the Alkars of Sinj and the defiance and longing of Dalmatian songs sung in Omiš. Take a break on the beaches of Makarska beneath the towering rugged rocks of Biokovo and then set sail down the blue routes of the ancient Greek mariners to the sunny isles offering a wealth of wonders, the crystal blue sea, sun-bleached white stone, lavender and grape vines which were given the gift of life by hard working hands that literally wrested land from stone, and then transformed the sumptuous warmth of the south into delectable wines.
The old town centre is surrounded by walls and features a well-preserved castle, tower and numerous other buildings and palaces dating from the Roman, Gothic and Baroque periods.
The Imotski lakes are a natural attraction - Crveno jezero (the Red Lake), is the deepest Karst lake in Europe, and Modro jezero (the Blue Lake), a favourite bathing spot for the Imotski people, owes its name to its unique blue colour.
One of the most beautiful pebbly beaches in the world is located in a protected area, a cape covered by a pine tree forest. In July 2004 the American magazine Forbes listed it amongst the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.
The sancturary is the most significant Marian shrine in Dalmatia and houses the gold-crowned painting of Our Miraculous Lady of Sinj, which was brought there in 1687 by Franciscans fleeing Rama from the Turks.
It is famous for its indented coastline, clean beaches and plenty of sunshine, untouched nature, smell of lavender, olives and wine. It is precisely the island of Hvar that has the most hours of sunshine in Europe – 2700 of them a year.
The Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) is unique in the world. Like a tongue it stretches almost half a kilometre perpendicularly out into the sea. The tip of this famous beach is constantly changing under the influence of the waves and the sea’s currents.
When, in the year 305, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled the entire world at that time, decided to build his leisure time abode - in which he intended to spend the rest of his life - he had no doubt as to exactly where to build it.
In the very heart of Dalmatia, in the bay of Aspalathos (Split), well protected from the sea by the islands of the Split archipelago, and defended on its landward side by high mountains, Diocletian created a special point on the map of the Adriatic: the future city of Split.
A mere 6 km from cosmopolitan Salona, then the centre of the province of Dalmatia which boasted up to 60,000 inhabitants, Split was protected by strong walls and numerous fortresses, with many temples, palaces and thermal spas, which today make up the greatest complex of monuments in Croatia dating from Antiquity. The residence Diocletian built for himself was beyond comparison in his time. Although the Palace has lost many of its original features over the past 17 centuries, it has been enriched by subsequent architectural and artistic interventions. Among them, somewhat ironically, a Catholic cathedral, or rather that part of it which rose out of the magnificent mausoleum of the last pagan Roman emperor. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Domnius, a Christian martyred by the very same Diocletian. The most striking feature of the cathedral is its famous walnut door frame constructed in 1214, and carved by Master Carver Andrija Buvina. Successfully withstanding time’s thievish progress, deeply embedded into the texture of the city at its densely populated historical heart, full of enchanting stone palaces, Diocletian’s residence today is a place of cellars that ring with song.
A wash in the warm charm of the Mediterranean, Split is a city with rich history, not only within the walls of its museums, palaces and churches, but in the city itself. Its heritage speaks loudest and has done so since the times of Antiquity, on the Peristyle and from its stone houses, while the true Mediterranean spirit lives in the vibrant cellars, in the murmur at street corners, in the squares and alleyways and in the beauty of the waterfront. If you follow the weave of these white, stone-paved streets to the edge of the sea which gently rocks the moored boats, you will discover a city in which the famous Roman emperor left the imperial mark of his presence on every corner, together with the saint he decided to execute. Another special aspect of this city are the songs, and the successes achieved by its athletes - including a Wimbledon winner - numerous Olympic champions and NBA stars and, they say, the most beautiful women in the world. If you harbour any doubts as to the latter, just take a stroll along the Split waterfront some time…
It is not without reason that it is called a museum-city, bearing in mind the sites it holds: the famous portal of Trogir cathedral, a work by Master Radovan dating from 1240; the Renaissance city loggia; the 1000-year-old monastery of St. Nicholas that houses a relief of Kairos - ancient god of the lucky moment, dating from the 4th century BC. Trogir is a veritable treasure trove of art, as well as being a stage for young tenors from all over the world who come here every year to engage in competition.
The largest of the islands of the Split archipelago is Brač, known worldwide as the island of stone and wind. Island of stone, because the finest quality stone has been quarried here for centuries by the highly skilled and hard working local stone masons. It has been used to build not only the local cathedrals and other grand edifices, but also a number of other prestigious buildings. Brač is also known as the island of wind. Nowhere else in the Adriatic, surfers tell us, does such a magnificent landward breeze blow as in the channel between Brač and Hvar, particularly at the beach known as Zlatni rat, whose shape actually changes depending on the direction of the wind and waves. Having been recently placed on the list of the ten most beautiful islands, sunny Hvar is, without competition, numbered among the most seductive of Dalmatian islands.