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Pearls of the Adriatic: Dalmatian Treasures between Zadar and Split

It has become a cliché to describe Croatia as unspoiled by tourism, not least in tourist brochures. This may be less the case now than it was a decade ago, but the sense of this nation as an undiscovered paradise remains, certainly compared to its neighbour across the Adriatic Sea. It is not hard to see why: few countries can boast such a winning combination of ancient ruins, a Mediterranean climate, mediaeval hill villages and a truly spectacular coastline, with verdant sun-kissed islands strung out like pearls along the Dalmatian coast. Dubrovnik, thanks to cruise liners, budget airlines and Game of Thrones, has unjustly overshadowed the rest of Dalmatia. Our Art Pursuits Abroad Study Tour begins in the walled city of Zadar — indeed, the hotel is built into the walls themselves. Roman ruins sit alongside Venetian palaces and mediaeval churches, including the monumental 9th-century rotunda of St Donatus. A little way down the coast, Šibenik contains the great cathedral of St James, a unesco-listed masterpiece straddling Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. The Roman Emperor Diocletian retired to Dalmatia after abdicating the imperial throne in 305 AD, and the remains of his magnificent palace, surely the finest retirement home in history, form the historic centre of Split. Parts of the original structure are still occupied by homes and businesses today. In a miniature echo of Rome’s eclipse by Christianity, Diocletian’s imposing mausoleum became, in the 7th century, a cathedral dedicated to St Domnius, who had been martyred on the Emperor’s orders. The cathedral boasts splendid Romanesque works in wood, mural and mosaic. Split is also the base to explore the loveliest of the Dalmatian islands, Hvar, and Trogir, a tiny, labyrinthine gem of the Venetian Renaissance — one of Dalmatia’s secrets that remains well-kept.

Your Tour Includes

  • Return economy flights from London to Split
  • 3 nights at the Hotel Bastion in Zadar
  • 4 nights at the Hotel Cornaro in Split
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • 4 dinners and 1 lunch
  • Services of your expert lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Detailed programme and study notes
Experts
Leo Nikolić

Leo Nikolić

Leo graduated in Art History in Split and has lived in the city for many years. He studied ancient urban planning and architecture on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea and ancient architecture remains his main area of interest. Leo teaches a Cultural Heritage course for local tourism at the Spira University and is a tour guide himself taking small private groups around the area, passing on his knowledge and experience.

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Itinerary

Please choose your preferred 8 day itinerary

Afternoon flight from London Gatwick to Split. Coach transfer to Zadar, the historical capital of Dalmatia. Arrival at your four-star hotel, built into the remnants of a 13th-century Venetian fortress, and some time to rest. In the late afternoon, introductory stroll around this elegant walled harbour, where Venetian fortifications sit atop earlier Roman ones. First of three nights in Zadar.

Includes Dinner

Spend the day exploring Zadar, once the largest fortified town in the Venetian Republic. See the ruins of the Roman forum, and inspect two exquisite museum collections, one of antique glassware, and one of gold and silver religious artefacts dating from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Visit some of the finest churches in Croatia, including the cavernous 9th-century rotunda of St Donatus, and the graceful late Romanesque St Anastasia.

Includes Breakfast

Half-day excursion to Nin, once the seat of Croatian kings. An important source of salt in Roman times, Nin boasts an impressive museum of antiquities and two outstanding pre Romanesque churches, one of which, the Holy Cross, is considered the smallest cathedral in the world. After lunch, return to Zadar to see its exceptional archaeological museum and for some free time to explore independently.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

By coach to Šibenik, first town founded by Croatian tribes, to see the imposing medieval fortress of St Michael, which offers glorious views over the bay, and the breathtaking early Renaissance cathedral of St James, the most beautiful building in Dalmatia. In the afternoon, continue to Trogir, a compact architectural jewel overlaid with stunning buildings from the Romanesque to the Baroque, including Dalmatia’s earliest Gothic cathedral. There will also be a visit to the Kairos museum in the Benedictine convent before continuing to Split, our base for the rest of the tour.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Morning excursion to the ruins of Salona, capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Public baths, a forum, and an amphitheatre, all well-preserved, attest to its prosperity. Nearby is the fortress of Klis, which was successively occupied or sieged by Romans, Avars, medieval Croats, Mongols, Templars, Ottomans and Venetians. Lunch at Etno village Stella Croatica with a visit to the Botanical Gardens and olive oil museum. After lunch, return to Split to visit the museum of Ivan Meštrović, the leading Croatian sculptor of the 20th century. A cycle of wood reliefs, some of Meštrović’s finest work, is displayed nearby in a 16th-century villa. Nearby is the gallery Kaštelet-Crikvine, a restored chapel that houses a set of wooden wall panels carved by Meštrović.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

An early start for a full-day excursion by ferry to Hvar, Dalmatia’s loveliest island. Hvar Town, overlooked by a 16th-century Venetian fortress, features a slender, architecturally harmonious cathedral, and a tranquil Franciscan monastery, boasting works by Jacopo Palma il Giovane. After lunch, explore Hvar’s oldest settlement, Stari Grad, originally a Greek colony. The plain outside Stari Grad retains its ancient agricultural layout, parcelled out by dry stone walls. Inside, visit Tvrdalj, a striking and heavily fortified renaissance villa, and the Dominican monastery, which contains Tintoretto’s Lamentation of Christ. Ferry back to Split.

Includes Breakfast

A walking tour of Diocletian’s Palace, out of which the city of Split emerged. Churches, shops, and private homes today occupy this vast and splendid 4th-century complex. Visit St Domnius, built by Diocletian to be his mausoleum, the baptistery, once the Temple of Jupiter, and the miniscule church of St Martin, originally a passageway for palace watchmen. See too the archaeological museum, where many of the most important finds from classical Dalmatia are preserved.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Coach to the fortified Franciscan monastery in Poljud, which contains a fine canvas by Lorenzo Lotto. Continue to Split airport for an early evening flight to London Gatwick.

Includes Breakfast

Please note that it is necessary to have a good level of fitness as there will be at times extensive walking and inevitably some long periods of standing.

Accommodation

You will stay for 3 nights at the 4-star Relais & Chateaux Hotel Bastion, Zadar, and 4 nights at the 5-star Hotel Cornaro, Split.