This spectacularly beautiful and historic country boasts nearly 6,000km of coastline and over 1,000 islands draped along the sparkling Adriatic Sea, not to mention medieval cities and beautiful national parks full of wildlife rarely seen in other parts of western Europe.
The people are friendly and welcoming, the food an enticing mix of Mediterranean cuisine on the coasts and hearty meat stews with dumplings inland, and there are countless outdoor activities from sailing to hiking. Croatia is definitely a rising star on the beach break map.
Getting there/getting around in Croatia
Scheduled airlines such as British Airways and Croatia Airlines fly to Dubrovnik, Split and the capital Zagreb. There are also numerous charter and low-cost flights to coastal resorts on the Istrian Peninsula and further south. There is also a network of internal flights around the country too.
Buses and trains connect the major cities while there are plenty of ferries taking locals and tourists alike to some of the 50 inhabited islands. Croatia has several motorways and they’re building more to cope with the increasing numbers of tourists flocking to its picturesque shores.
Beaches in Croatia
On the whole, the beaches tend to be pebbly rather than sand, lending an incredible clarity to the aqua-coloured seas. There is a wealth of coastal spots to choose from ranging from the Istrian Peninsula in the north to the Dalmatian Coast in the south.
On the Istrian Peninsula, Rabac beach is considered to be one of the best and is ideal for windsurfers, while Cape Kamenjak offers coves, camp sites, diving and biking. Porec and Pula are key resorts here. The Kvarner region is good for families – head for Crikvenica or Paradise beach.
The Dalmatian coastline is studded with beatiful islands such as Bracm, home to the country’s most famous beach, Bol, Zlatni Rat, which is akin to Turkey’s Olu Deniz in its beauty; Hvar; Vis and Korcula. Split’s Riva Beach is also a tourist honeypot.
Other excellent beaches include Baska on the popular island of Krk, where there’s a beautiful stretch of sand backed by a scenic mountain range. Or for the ultimate in sandy beach, visit the tiny island of Susak.
Sightseeing in Croatia
The medieval, walled city of Dubrovnik with its cobbled streets, red tiled roofs and lively summer festival is a must. Visit the Rector’s Palace and the churches on either side, Pile and Ploce Gates, St Blaise’s with its original statue of the town’s patron saint and finally walk around the city walls. It’s around two kilometres and the views of the city and sea beyond are spectacular.
Zagreb, the country’s riverside capital, is fantastic for culture lovers. Visit its atmospheric medieval centre, monuments, museums and art galleries.
There are eight national parks in Croatia offering a wide variety of outdoor activities from hiking and rock climbing to biking, fishing and simply wildlife watching. Two of the best parks are Plitvice, renowned for its lakes, and Paklenica on the coast offering huge grottoes and stalactite and stalagmite-filled caves.
Finally, history lovers can visit the Istrian Peninsula’s Roman sites. Pula has a stunning Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought, as well as the Historical Museum of Istria, Augustus Temple and a magnificent Golden Gate. Porec’s Basilica of St Euphrasius has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Split further south has a Roman palace at its heart.
Family attractions in Croatia
From Zagreb, visit the 13th century Gothic Trakoscan castle which has been turned into a living musuem exhibiting life in the medieval ages. Visit its dungeons before taking a stroll in its surrounding parks.
From Split, take a trip to Makarsa 30 miles away. Overlooked by a mountain, it flaunts a stunning natural harbour, secluded beaches, palaces and churches.
Day trips around Croatia
If you are staying anywhere along the coast there should be an island within a short distance which you can visit for the day. Popular islands include Brac, Hvar and Vis on the central Dalmatian coast and the Elaphite Islands, Mjlet and Korcula off the southern coast.
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, enjoy sea kayaking exursions to the islands of Kolocep or Cavtat which also incorporate swimming and snorkelling. Or visit car-free Lopud island strewn with pretty buildings and flowers.
Eating out in Croatia
Croatia’s renowned for its excellent, fresh seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. Juicy tomatoes, olive oils, garlic and herbs with pizza and pasta feature heavily on the coast.
If you are visiting Zagreb and north-western Croatia you can expect hearty meaty dishes like spit-roasted lamb or pork, Hungarian-style goulashes and thick soups followed by cheese dumplings.
Nightlife in Croatia
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is the best place to go for nightlife action in the city. Visit the clifftop Buza Bar for sunset views, Hemingway for cocktails or the Troubadur for jazz. Zrce Beach on Pag is Croatia’s version of Ibiza and promises round the clock drinking, while the open air Faces club in Bol, Brac Island, attracts around 2,000 revellers.
Look out for summer festivals too in places such as Rabac and Lovran which offer everything from modern to classical music and performances.
Shopping in Croatia
Embroidered fabrics and delicate laces are a couple of the specialities of Croatia. Go to the island of Pag where laces are traditionally made or head to the island of Hvar where you can pick up all manner of lavender goods and take pictures of the beautiful, fragrant lavender fields that bloom here in summer. Brac specialises in stone goods and you can always pick up some olive oils or other foods in markets throughout the country.