When people think of Dalmatia they usually think of the Adriatic coast, complete with its beaches, islands and swaying palm trees. What is often forgotten is that Dalmatia also has a huge tract of inland territory, much of which is just as exotic and just as interesting as the seaside but much less visited, making it more than ripe for discovery.
Much of inland Dalmatia is covered by the label Dalmatian Zagora (Dalmatinska Zagora); Zagora literally means ‘behind the hills’, a reference to the mountains that run along a good deal of the coast.
The Zagora may be a blind spot as far as tourists are concerned but it has never been so to the Dalmatians themselves, who have a high regard for its resourceful, hard-working inhabitants. The inhabitants of the Zagora are frequently termed vlaji by their coastal neighbours (a mocking reference to the Vlachs, the semi-nomadic sheep-rearers who roamed the Balkan interior in centuries past), although the term conveys a positive sense of hardy self-reliance as well as country-bumpkin simplicity. The populations of the coastal towns have always been fed by immigration from the interior, and settlements such as Zadar, Šibenik and Split have always faced two ways, serving as seafaring Mediterranean cities as well as ‘capitals’ of their extensive hinterland.
Much of the Zagora’s haunting beauty comes from its extensive areas of arid, maquis-covered plateau.