Take the apple of your eye to this natural wonder just off the main highway between Zagreb and Split, within easy distance of Split. It is home to more than 1,000 species of plants, 140 types of birds and 40 mammals: lynx, wild cats, deer and brown bears among them. Most of all, though, people flock here for the series of 16 continually changing, cascading, crystal-clear lakes. Boardwalks follow the contours of and criss-cross over the beautiful turquoise water. Stunning.
The drive from Split to Krka National Park takes just an hour and a half, and visitors are quickly awed by this spectacular spread of nature. This forested area comes complete with seven waterfalls, islets, lakes and rapids, water mills and a couple of ancient monasteries. Unlike the mega-popular Plitvice, this lusciously verdant National Park permits swimming in the crystal-clear waters around the large cascading waterfall. The Split to Krka National Park tour takes you on a whizz around this gorgeous national park, followed by a picturesque boat ride from Skradinski Buk to Skradin, a relaxed fishing village near Šibenik, known for its medieval fortresses and famous slow-cooked risotto that takes a princely twelve hours to prepare. The tour concludes with a tasting session set in a gorgeous traditional Dalmatian winery.
Set on the east coast of Vis, the Blue Cave (Modra šplija) is accessible by sea from Komiža. With the sun gaining height, it shines through the waters of a submerged side entrance and the cave is bathed in a fabulous blue light. At this point, many dive in, although the high volume can make this tricky in July or August.
The tour takes you on a floating jaunt to the Blue Cave, followed by a trip to the Monk seal cave - named after the species of marine mammal native to the Mediterranean. Monk seals (morski covik) were known to luxuriate on the pebble-beach at the far-end of the cave, causing local fishermen grief, who resented the greedy pups for eating up fish stocks and destroying their equipment. These days, a sighting of a Monk seal is unlikely, but not impossible: keep an eye out while you paddle.
Next up is Palmizana, part of the Pakleni islands: a string of rugged, verdant islands surrounded by water as clear as glass. There's time to laze around, explore it by foot or tuck into zingingly fresh seafood or a cocktail at the beachside bar.
Hvar is the final outing of the day. The jewel of southern Dalmatia's travel industry, Hvar is a pretty Venetian town with a reputation for five-star luxury. With an attractive waterfront lined with swish restaurants, cafés and yachts, Hvar is the trendiest of nearby siblings Vis and Brač, appealing to an upmarket crowd of celebs and wealthy party-goers. That doesn't detract from the relaxed Mediterranean vibe of this island: furnished with lavender fields and a vibrant canopy of evergreens, secluded beach coves are always a short walk away.