A slice of splendid Croatia that no-one has heard of: Discovering Sibenik, a Dubrovnik without the tourist crowds
- Dubrovnik and Split are famous cities on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast
- Smaller Sibenik occupies the same shoreline - but is less known to tourists
- Attractions include the nearby Krka National Park, with its waterfalls
You'll need your swimsuit when you visit Croatia's Krka national park, named after the river running through it and down to the Adriatic.
For years, local youths have impressed girls by jumping down the largest of its waterfalls, the spectacular 17-step Skradinski Buk, into the foaming waters below — a tradition that continues despite the odd fatality.
'I did it myself,' says our guide, with a trace of pride. They're a hardy bunch here on the Dalmatian Coast.
Just as good, even if you don't jump in: Krka National Park is a splash-filled wonder
Happily, visitors are encouraged to confine their splashing to the calm pools at the bottom of the falls.
If you'd prefer to stay land-bound, wandering the seemingly endless wooden trails built over the boggy ground around the waterfalls, spying green pools full of fish is just as enjoyable.
The peasant workshops and mills, which were powered by the flowing water well into the 20th century, are brought to life by guides in local costume.
You can visit the park from Sibenik, the Croatian coastal city on the mouth of the Krka, about eight miles downriver and it's worth making part of the journey back by boat through the quiet valleys.
A less-seen side of Croatia: Sibenik is an option for the more intrepid visitor to Croatia
Once industrial, Sibenik is now recasting itself as a tourist destination, eyeing the success of Dubrovnik and Split further down the coast. Climb its narrow streets, admire the 15th-century St James cathedral and break for drinks in a hidden garden cafe.
The area isn't touristy yet. When we ask what kind of wine is on the menu at Roca, a traditional tavern a short drive into the countryside, the waiter barks: 'Red. Or white.' It's clearly not the moment to request rose.
Here we sit by a cellar, separated by a sheet of glass from dozens of pig legs ageing into prosciutto. Our food's a hearty stew of pork and chicken pieces, which we ladle onto our plates and eat with tart local salads.
Simply splendid: Sibenik does not have the crowds you find in Dubrovnik and Split
But things are changing. Pelegrini, a restaurant in Sibenik, keeps being named the best in Croatia — serving dishes such as spaghetti with sea urchin, alongside delicious local wines. D-Resort Sibenik, where I am staying, is the first luxury hotel in the area.
The coastline offers countless pebbled coves to explore, but I suspect the older European crowd staying here are drawn by the cool, modern interiors and adjoining marina, aimed at super yachts.
Go now before everyone else does.
Classic Collection Holidays (classiccollection.co.uk, 0800 294 9315) offers seven nights at D-Resort Sibenik from £876pp B&B, based on two adults sharing a superior sea view room in September. Includes return flights from Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) and private transfers. Half-board supplement is £25pp per night.
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