Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Secret Dalmatia, Croatia's Original Blog of Discovery, Embraces the Video Age

January 6, 2021 - An outstanding Croatian travel blog which has stood the test of time, Secret Dalmatia adds an enticing video component.

When I started writing about Croatian tourism over 10 years ago, the Internet was a different place, especially when it came to writing about Croatian travel. 

Whereas today an array of often banal vloggers and Instagram influencers flood social media fields with their 'discoveries' in Croatia, back then there was very little information about Croatian tourism destinations away from the coast and islands. As for quality content even about those popular destinations, it was pretty hard to find in English. It was one of the reasons that Total Hvar did so well when we launched in 2010 - we were simply filling a niche of information that many people were seeking. 

The blogging room was a lot less crowded back then. And - dare I say it - the quality was much better too. The bloggers writing about Croatia a decade ago seemed to be more interested in writing about the undiscovered experiences, rather than the Adsense clicks. 

And there was one blog back then that was certainly more interested in authenticity rather than clicks - Secret Dalmatia. 

I became a regular  reader, and it was an important part of my education about places all over Croatia away from my adopted island of Hvar. Indeed, Secret Dalmatia seemed to be averse to writing about the popular places, seeking out the road less travelled at every opportunity. 

the Secret Dalmatia blog came into my feed once more this week, more than a decade after our first acquaintance. After ten years of writing about Croatia, and having travelled all over the country during that time, my knowledge of Croatia is as good as many locals these days. 

But still not - it seems - as good as Secret Dalmatia, and I smiled to myself when the first two stories that I came across were both destinations which were new to me. 

As I have aged, so too has Secret Dalmatia, albeit perhaps a little more gracefully.  A video component has now been added to the newer blogs, allowing the complete experience - words, photos and videos of a Croatia even many locals are unaware of. Here are the introductions and videos of the two stories which caught my eye, below. For all the rest, check out parts of Croatia yet to be discovered by checking out the Secret Dalmatia blog

Ever since I first found out about Old Popovići, back in 2006. , I was curious to visit it. The village is located near Knin, in Biskupija and it is fairly easy to find. It is, basically, right behind modern day Popovići.

The village was founded in 1689. by a refugees from Turkish held Glamoč in modern day Bosnia. Turkish rule was not so easy on the Christians. All of 1600s were brutal in the territory of Croatia which culminated with liberation of most of Croatia by 1690. Of course, at that time, that was Venice and Austria. Popovići family escaped Glamoč to Venetian Knin area and founded the village. That explains fairly unusual architecture of Old Popovići village which was more characteristic for Bosnia than for the rest of Dalmatia. The village grew prosperous. The locals were well known and prominent members of Serbian/Orthodox community in Dalmatia.


Petrova Gora and the numerous monuments found there has a special place in Croatia’s collective, national memory. After all, it was the place where last of Croatian kings was killed in the battle with Hungarians back in 1097. Ok, he was not really the king but just a feudal lord with pretensions to be the king but powerful Hungarian king Coloman the Learned (or Coloman the Book Lover) stood in his way.

But, it is also a place where a famous, now abandoned, partisan hospital from WW2 is still hidden.

Read more... 

For more on travel in Croatia, follow the TCN travel section.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Responsible Travel: Secret Dalmatia Refuses All Tours for Cruise Passengers

June 10, 2019 - The relationship between tourism and the environment is fragile, and the recent media about Carnival Cruises and pollution has led Croatia's leading boutique travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, to take a symbolic stand. 

Tourism keeps on growing. Living in Croatia for many years, I can see at first hand how the environment has changed to do additional construction (and so can you via this incredible new 1984-2019 timelapse service from Google Earth), and the sheer weight of numbers of visitors in cities like Dubrovnik in summer are taking their toll. 

The poster child of this overtourism and negative effects on the environment is often the cruise ship industry. Thousands of day trip visitors arriving at the same time, transported by giant ships that pollute the pristine waters that are one of the destination's main attractions. 

The recent $20 million fine for pollution for Carnival Cruises has brought the issue sharply back in the media focus, with some truly alarming numbers. (You can read the original Financial Times article here - subscription only)

Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary just can’t seem to quit polluting the planet. As the Financial Times reports, Carnival’s pollution problem is so bad that across its fleet, the large boats pollute 10 times more than all 260 million of Europe’s cars. That tidbit comes courtesy of a study by the European think tank Transport & Environment, which looked at 203 cruise ships sailing European waters in 2017. The organization found that Carnival–and its brands–were the proud owners of seven of the 20 most polluting cruise-ship lines.

Secret Dalmatia, a boutique tourism company in Croatia known for its ethical and innovative custom-made tours around Croatia, including its lesser-known areas, has decided to make a symbolic stand to protest this cruise ship pollution. As Secret Dalmatia founder and CEO Alan Mandic explained to TCN:

Over the past years, we have witnessed a rising number of consequences from cruise ship tourism in Croatia. A few positives, perhaps, but many negatives. World heritage cities, like Dubrovnik, crumbling under the weight of thousands coming to see it all at once. Crowds which chip away at everyone’s experience, primarily their own. Local infrastructure completely backed up and locals’ everyday living suffering as a result.

The burden upon cities comes hand in hand with the threat the pollution caused by cruisers poses to our fragile seas and oceans. And the Adriatic is Croatia’s largest treasure.

As promoters, but primarily protectors of the Croatian heritage and environment, we have decided to forego all types of cruise ship business in the future. In line with good practice, we intend to honor all of our commitments to date in 2019, but will no longer be able to accept tour and traveling requests put forth by both cruise ship visitors and shore excursion operators.

We strongly believe that it is us who benefit from Croatia’s beauty must be its front line of defense from overuse. This is our small contribution in that direction and in hope that we preserve Croatia’s beauty for all the future generations of both locals and travelers.

Within hours of making the decision, Mandic said he was able to put the new policy into practice - refusing a cruise ship enquiry for a lucrative tour around Sibenik.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Secret Dalmatia Interview, Taking a Closer Look at Luxury Croatian Tourism

November 22, 2018 - Perspectives of luxury tourism in Croatia - an interview with one of the country's top boutique tourism providers,  Secret Dalmatia owner, Alan Mandic. 

While most of Croatian tourism is focused on bringing millions of tourists to the Adriatic coast each, the boutique luxury tourism industry in Croatia is also booming. Dedicated local experts, focused firmly on quality and authenticity, rather than quantity, have been showing their elite clientele a more luxurious side of Croatia for more than a decade, and not always just on the coast. 

Among the market leaders in this niche is Secret Dalmatia, a bespoke Croatian tourism company founded in 2005 by Alan Mandic, which has been leading the way in discovering Croatia away from the crowds for some years now. Mandic's Secret Dalmatia blog, founded in 2009, continues to surprise to this day, as he takes his readers to new discoveries in Croatia most locals have never heard of. A member of Pure, the World's Leading Travel Professionals since 2013, Mandic has a broader view of Croatia's position in the tourism world, and he sat down recently with TCN to share some thoughts. 


1. We hear a lot about the seasonality of mass tourism in Croatia. How is the situation any different in the luxury sector?

It is not much different. Luxury guests usually travel in peak season as well, although we had some exceptional clients traveling in the shoulder season. Many of the top luxury guests want to spend some time on the water as they all know of the beautiful Dalmatian coast and the summer months are the best for enjoying the Adriatic.

2. Luxury tourists are obviously more demanding. Why do they choose Croatia, and what things, in particular, attract them?

Most of them have heard of at least Dubrovnik and the Adriatic coast is high on the list of anyone into yachting and sailing. Many of them come on recommendations of their friends and family. In general, they are curious to see what is there in Croatia as they hear only the good things about the people, destinations, food and wine, natural sights...


3. The North American market is obviously an important one. Are you satisfied with the visibility of Croatia, and what concretely would you like to see done additionally?

I am not completely satisfied as we let the things happen instead of working on promoting all destinations equally. I.e. Šibenik is a great destination and deserves all the attention, but it is still scarcely mentioned in the US media. The traditions of our history, cuisine, wines... are getting only sporadic attention and only for a limited time. I.e. zinfandel - it was all the rage in media when it was confirmed it originates from Croatia and now you can hardly hear about it let alone have niche travelers exploring local wines in search of original Zin tastes. There is, of course, interest but nowhere near what it should actually be and nowhere as directed as it should be. More specific press and media coverage is definitely needed. We all know that the US media are the biggest opinion makers in the world. Working carefully and with a specific plan would definitely bring change and improvement.


4. You have always been a passionate promoter of authentic Croatia, and your Secret Dalmatia blog takes readers to places most locals know little about. What are the opportunities for tourism in Croatia which are not really being exploited? 

Most of the travelers know only of Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik on the coast, and Plitvice in the continental part of Croatia. Only recently, Zadar, Istria and Korcula have become better known with US clients. So, there is a plethora of spectacular places many are not even aware of like Rab and Silba Islands, Krupa canyon and not even to start with beautiful Lika and Zagorje and the traditions of Slavonia. As one can see, there is an opportunity in exploring other destinations. In terms of activities. Croatia has enormous potential in adventure travel  - far beyond what is offered now - and in niche travel like food and wine and health tourism that can drive numbers year round.


5. Availability of luxury accommodation in Croatia. Discuss.

Not great at the moment. Worst of all, many of the hotels - due to lack of competition - are overpriced for the service and accommodation they offer, and that is not helping Croatia attract new travelers. Secret Dalmatia as also the first to start promoting only luxury villas back in 2009 with our website and that part of the market we know well. Luxury villas rental has been on the rise but luxury guests are interested only in top properties, and those are scarce. The situation is definitely looking better than before but more investments are needed. Besides, major luxury hotel chains have their own followings and spend a lot on marketing so the destination benefits as well.


6. Croatia's coast and islands are perhaps well-known. Give us a flavour of what can be experienced inland with Secret Dalmatia, away from the beach.

The issue with experiencing inland Dalmatia these days is that we lack people in those areas. Just pretty landscapes will not be enough to attract more people to the region as guests need restaurants, accommodation, activities that are local. We have been fortunate enough  to have one of the best guides possible for the region and we were able to bring top luxury guests on tours of Vrlika and Cetina river receiving rave reviews, and we continue to bring almost all of our luxury guests to that part of the country no matter if it is just hiking or more elaborate multi-day adventure.

7. There is a lot of talk about branding these days, and you travel a lot. How do you see the branding of Croatia?

We are still a destination best recognized by the pretty pictures of Dubrovnik and Plitvice. That is not enough if we want to be a serious travel destination. More can and must be done if we want to get luxury clients to visit other parts of the country or we risk having reduced interest in Croatia. What happens quite a bit at the moment, for example, is having Dubrovnik combined with Montenegro as they have luxury accommodation and the only mega-yacht marina on this side of the Adriatic.


8. You have been made the Minister of Tourism for the day and granted three wishes to improve tourism in Croatia. What would they be?

First would be a serious effort in marketing and PR, as there is a lot of room for improvement. 

Secondly, there would be an advisory role of the Ministry in terms of local and international businesses interested in investing. I.e. - avoiding situations like overbuilding of apartments by tapping into expert advice on when a destination reaching its limits, or providing a possible list of interesting investments in various regions so, for example, people can decide if they want to build the wine tasting place near Šibenik or a boutique B&B for cyclists near Sinj.

Thirdly, I would start an initiative to more responsibly work with destinations to help them become what they want. At the moment, we have all destinations targeting all types of travelers which is not feasible in the long run.

To learn more about Secret Dalmatia, visit the official website.

For the latest tourism news from Croatia, check out the TCN travel section

Friday, 18 September 2020

Island Secrets: Meet the Prettiest Little Whore on the Adriatic

September 18, 2020 — All my dog wanted to do was take a leak. Perhaps sniff something.

Then the braying started.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Win a Luxury Holiday in Romantic Croatia by Telling Your Love Story

A spectacular luxury holiday in Croatia could be yours, as Secret Dalmatia offers a free trip of a lifetime for your romantic story on December 6, 2017. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Luxury Villas: A Deeper Look Into What Croatia Has to Offer

When it comes to traveling Croatia, there are many ways to do it. The Croatian accommodation offer is rich, from apartments to hostels, camping, hotels and bed and breakfasts. One of the most exclusive ways to travel Croatia is through a lap of luxury, and luxury villas in the Croatian region are sure to win you over.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

An Experiment with the Croatian Media: The Digital Journal Effect

One of the best blogs about Croatia in any language is that of our friends from Secret Dalmatia, a boutique tourist agency which is setting the standards in innovative tours and outstanding customer service. The agency work aside, the company's blog takes its many fans into undiscovered parts of Croatia, bringing out the hidden gems of this fascinating region. 

Another excellent blog went up a few days ago, following a 1570 map of the Sibenik area which had what seemed to be a pyramid. Off went the Secret Dalmatia team to investigate, and they reported back in this great blog

I waited.

Nothing happened. A few Facebook likes as it was shared on social media. Not one Croatian media outlet picked up on the story, which was a pretty interesting one, whether or not it was an actual pyramid. I decided to do a little experiment and write a Google News article about it for Digital Journal, which you can read here. What happened next was rather interesting...

The first surprise was that the story was trending on Google News very quickly, as you can see from the screenshot above. With a missing aeroplane and Ukraine about to descend into war, this was somewhat surprising.

And then it started...

Tportal, Index, Vecernji List, Dnevno,,,, 

It became one of the stories of the day, and while my name was not mentioned, Digital Journal certainly was, and a minority of these portals were kind enough to link back to my story. 

A little strange though, for a very Croatian story about a Croatian investigation to only attract the attention of the Croatian media when an Englishman living in Croatia writes about it in English on a Canadian portal. 

If you are interested in getting wider exposure for your Split business, please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Friday, 29 January 2016

Meet the Bloggers of Croatia: Alan Mandic of Secret Dalmatia

Continuing our look at the bloggers of Croatia, today TCN meets one of the most established and still one of the best - Secret Dalmatia.