The Dalmatian Coast enjoys a blissful Mediterranean climate, making it a feasible destination the year through. Summers are warm, dry and brilliantly sunny, with July temperatures averaging 25C in Dubrovnik (though they can rise up to 38C), while winters are mild and rainy, with January temperatures averaging 9C.
Spring - ideal for outdoor pursuits
Easter heralds the beginning of the tourist season and the first of the year’s spring produce – look out for cherries, strawberries and wild asparagus at open-air markets. This is the ideal season for outdoor pursuits such as hiking and cycling – the mountains are especially pretty, dotted with spring flowers. On the islands, hotels and restaurants are opening up for the forthcoming summer but still not overly busy, so you’ll get more personalised service. On sunny days you can comfortably eat outside at lunchtime - all the same, you should be prepared for sporadic rain showers, so pack a light waterproof jacket just in case. Hardy types will be able to swim in May, though I prefer to wait till June.
In Dubrovnik, the Libertas Film Festival (www.libertasfilmfestival.com), formerly held in summer, takes place April 11-17, 2011 – past years have seen guests such as Woody Harrelson and Gabby Sibide. Split hosts the Croatia Boat Show (www.croatiaboatshow.com) April 12-17, 2011 – the seafront promenade is lined with stands and some 125 motorboats and yachts are on display. Both are great occasions for film buffs and sailing fans respectively, but remember that hotels will be busy. May 1 (May Day) is a holiday throughout Croatia and May 7 (Sudamje) is a local holiday in Split.
Summer - everything is in full swing
Peak season runs from July through August, which is when most Europeans take their summer holidays. Everything is in full swing – hotels, restaurants, cocktail bars and dance clubs are buzzing, water sports facilities are operating daily, and you’ll find open-air concerts and cinema in the bigger resorts. On the downside, room prices shoot up (advanced bookings are recommended, see my Dalmatian Coast Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dalmatian Coast page), cultural attractions, beaches and sailing marinas are crowded, and midday temperatures rise above 30C.
From mid-July through mid-August, visitors get the bonus of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (www.dubrovnik-festival.hr) and the Split Summer Festival (www.splitsko-ljeto.hr) – both bringing after-dark cultural performances to their lovely car-free old towns. In Korcula Town you can see evening performances of the Moreška Sword Dance (read more on my Korcula nightlife page), and in Hvar Town classical music recitals are held at the Franciscan Monastery.
Autumn - a great time for foodies
Autumn sees the summer rush winding down, though September and October are still great months to visit, especially for foodies. You get the grape harvest and the wine-making period, followed by the olive harvest, and at the open-air markets you’ll find mushrooms, chestnuts and mandarins. Hotels and restaurants are still open but people working in them more relaxed now the crowds have subsided. You can still swim in September - the sea had had all summer to warm up – and many people can brave October too.
Winter - lovely for a city break
The period from November through March is considered low season and many tourist facilities close down completely for the winter, especially on the islands. However, this can be a lovely time for a city break in either Dubrovnik or Split. Hotel room prices drop substantially, the restaurants that are open are geared up to catering for locals rather than tourists, and on sunny days you can still enjoy morning coffee outside, albeit with a bracing chill in the air. Locals will have more time for you, and you are more likely to be treated like a local yourself. On Hvar, which dubs itself the “sunniest island on the Adriatic”, some hotels open for Christmas and New Year. They offer free accommodation if it snows, which is rare but has been known. Read more about accommodation on my Hvar Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Hvar page.