Central Dalmatia extends from the Krka river in the northwest to the Neretva river in the southeast. In addition to the immediate coastline, it also encompasses two large islands - Brac and Hvar - as well as a number of medium-sized islands, such as Vis, Solta and Ciovo, not to mention a great many smaller islands. The hilly hinterland is separated from the sea by a succession of mountain chains - Kozjak, Mosor and Biokovo - which tower above the coast. Central Dalmatia's coast is dominated by the steep-rising karstic highlands. Surface water courses are very rare hereabouts. Indeed, save for the Cetina - which makes its way through a canyon before discharging itself into the sea at Omis - there are no rivers in this region. The climate is typically Mediterranean, with dry and hot summers and mild and rainy winters.
From Primosten, to the south of Sibenik, Dalmatia changes in appearance. The islands generally become larger and further apart, while the vegetation grows more luxurient. In addition to this, the channels are wider and the maestral blows more strongly, making the seas higher. Central Dalmatia's coastal towns speak of the erstwhile wealth of ship owners, merchants and the noble families in centuries past. At the region's nucleus is the city of Split, which is also the economic, mercantile and administrative centre of Dalmatia.
Dating from the 4th century BC, it became Salona - an important Roman port and administrative centre with 50,000 inhabitants (the expansive and magnificent Palace of the Emperor Diocletian survives and is on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage). To the west of the city is the ancient island town of Trogir with its the 12th century Cathedral (also a UNESCO listed site). Southeast of Split, the coastal region becomes generally less populated; Omis and Makarska (riviera) being the only towns of any size. For centuries this area was very isolated, but the construction of Adriatic highway in 1964 helped it develop into a lively tourist center.
Under the magnificent backdrop of the Biokovo chain there are numerous beautiful sandy beaches and sheltered pine groves. The islands of central Dalmatia are very different in character. Solta is modest and quiet. Brac attracts many wind-surfers, while Hvar, with several tourist centres, prides itself on dark red wines of exceptional quality. Collonised by the ancient Greeks, Hvar town has been preserved much as it was in the 15th century. Its theatre dating from 1612 is reputedly the first indoor theatre in Europe. Vis, the furthest from the mainland was, due to its strategic significance, in the past almost closed to visitors. The town of Komiza on Vis serves as Dalmatia's most important fishing port.