Croatia is a travel hotspot right now yet retains its individuality and authenticity, which is often a rarity. With cultural wonders, glorious beaches, glitzy cities and ancient architecture it’s no wonder that Croatia welcomed nearly 10 million international tourists last year. Croatia, aka Hrvatska, is often dubbed the “Mediterranean As It Once Was” has something for all tastes, budgets and interests.
The historic city of Dubrovnik is a great place to explore. Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ it’s a UNESCO listed site (since 1979!) on the southern coast of the Adriatic Sea. There is so much history and culture within this city dating back to when the city rivalled Venice in Italy in terms of maritime trade. You could spend weeks exploring all of the different sights here. In order to get a great view of the entire city, you can walk on the walls that surround it. There are numerous museums that are filled with various types of art, artifacts, and even antique furniture. Notable museums are the Franciscan Monastery Museum, The Rector`s Palace Museum and the Maritime Museum.
Much of Dubrovnik Old Town was bombed during the war of independence (1991-5) but the majority of the damage has been repaired. Explore the well-preserved Gothic Renaissance Sponza Palace, visit the Baroque Church of Saint Blaise and walk on the old city walls which offer views over many historic forts.
Croatia is one of the fastest growing holiday destinations and the small secluded beaches and many inlets and coves add to the allure. You may also enjoy spending some time at one of the two beaches, Lapad Beach and Banje Beach. You can lie out on the beach and relax, build sandcastles, or play in the water.
Take a boat trip to Hvar Island and explore Hvar Town which has plenty of history and unique culture set against a backdrop of rolling hills smothered with a purple carpet of flowers. The town boasts lively nightlife, small boutiques and quality restaurants.
Wander the Town Square which is a huge 4,500 sq m and notice how the town spans out from this landmark with buildings dating back to the 13th century. Notable historical and cultural sights around the Town Square include; The Fortress, a historic building that was built in the 16th century. Since that time there have been numerous updates and additions and looking down from the walls, you can see the beautiful sites of Hvar Town. Explore the Cathedral of St. Stephan which was built on the site of a church that had originally been built in the 6th century giving this site many centuries of history behind it. Discover the Franciscan Monastery which was originally built as a place for sailors to seek refuge. It was built in the 15th century and today contains many intriguing artifacts.
The capital city of Zagreb lies in central Croatia and is a thriving lively city full of people and visited by millions each year. The Easter festival period is a popular and colourful time to visit. When visiting this city, you should spend some time at the Maksimir Park and the Zagreb Zoo. It is a great place to hang out and grab a bite to eat at the park’s restaurant or to have a picnic. There are also numerous trails and paths to take a walk or bike ride on and enjoy the surroundings. Within the zoo are a variety of animals, including red pandas. There are also two lakes that are quite popular with both locals and travellers; Jarun and Bundek. Jarun Lake is a great place to hang out and relax and Bundek Lake is a beautiful lake and hosts festivals, workshops, and concerts.
Buy a ‘Zagreb Card’ which gives you unlimited public transport travel and discounts on museums, restaurants and shops. There are various museums that hold different pieces of history including artifacts from mummies, fine arts, and pieces of the culture. The Mimara Museum has over 1,500 exhibits including works by Raffaello, Caravaggio and Canaletto with pieces dating from the prehistoric period right up to the 20th century. The Archaeological Museum (Arheološki Muzej) can display only a fraction of their 400,000 pieces including the Egyptian exhibition with a Zagreb mummy on display. The Klovićevi Dvori museums features heritage artefacts and the Hrvatski Muzej Naivne Umjetnosti (Croatian Museum of Naïve Art) features over 1,000 works of Croatian naive art.
Plitvice National Park
Make sure to include a stop at the beautiful Plitvice National lakes and Park which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are stunning waterfalls surrounded by amazing heavily forested greenery, varied wildlife and magnificent birdlife. You can see a variety of frogs, fish, and birds. There are also two particular waterfalls that you can get a real close-up look at, one that can be seen up close by walking on the surrounding boulders and the other that has a cave you can access. There are numerous hiking and walking trails around the park. You will need to purchase a ticket to enter and be aware that there is no swimming permitted anywhere in the park.
Discover the Istria peninsula of Croatia in the northwest of the country which is home to a variety of sports, adventures and activities. There are great activities to take part in that will both excite and inform you at the same time. You can dive around ship wrecks whilst getting a feel for the types of ships used and the years of history around them. If you are looking for some excitement, cliff climbing is where it’s at. Not only will you get a great work-out, but you will have the chance to see your surroundings from atop cliffs as well. There are also numerous bike and hike trails. Istria was historically part of the old Venetian Empire so offers a great deal in the way of culturally and historically diverse sights too with rich architecture and artefacts from subsequent ruling empires such as the Roman, Byzantine and also the Communist Yugoslavian (Communist) rule.
The ancient port city of Split, which is in the central Dalmatia region of Croatia, is rich in Roman ruins. There are numerous museums and historic buildings to visit. You can get a good look of the past while browsing through these great historic buildings such as the Diocletian’s Palace. Whilst walking around here you can get a great view of the once amazing and well preserved, Roman palace.
Browse the Archaeological Museum where you will find numerous artifacts and monuments from earlier Roman times. Discover St. Duje’s cathedral which is the oldest building of its kind in the world. It was built around the time of 305 AD. You can see the amazing architecture of this building and get a great view of the city from the belltower.
Croatia’s Islands; Watersports and Adventure Activities
Croatia is home is over a thousand islands and the long Dalmatian Coast, Istria and Kvarner mountainous coastal regions all provide the perfect destination for watersports such as sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, canoeing, yachting, kite surfing and swimming. There is also fishing, rambling and mountaineering on offer. Try kayaking to one of the various islands and explore the woods and beaches. If you hanker after a challenging climb you could climb Vidova Gora which is the highest peak. Try snorkelling and swimming within the quiet coves of Korčula.