Just twenty-five years after attaining independence, Croatia has become one of the top tourist destinations in Europe and it is little wonder. With more than one thousand one hundred islands and a coastline that stretches more than one thousand seven hundred kilometers, the pebbled beaches and sparkling waters tempt visitors with an array of water sports.
Croatia also has a wealth of well-preserved historical buildings, ancient Roman structures, churches, Venetian towers, monasteries, historical walled cities, and magnificent castles left behind by the various civilizations that have made her cities their home.
Situated in South-Eastern Europe, Croatia is just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, and as a holiday destination, it tends to be a lot less expensive than other European destinations such as Italy and Spain.
If you’re considering spending your summer holiday in Croatia soon, here are the top places to consider when it comes to fun in the sun.
The gothic Venetian beauty of Dubrovnik, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, is not to be missed. Founded in the seventh century, the city built up a maritime industry that rivaled that of Venice in its heyday. Overlooking the sparkling Adriatic, Dubrovnik is full of architectural wonders from the great walls to the Pile Gate. Fountains, churches, and museums abound.
Renowned for its white marble pedestrian walkways, the walled old city is closed to traffic. A two-kilometer wall surrounds the city. Although often crowded, a walk along the wall is a must because the views from up there are unrivalled. See the Adriatic on the one side and the old city with its terracotta roofs on the other.
Plan a visit to the Cathedral of Dubrovnik. It can trace its history back to the seventh century, and it holds interesting treasures and relics that connect the city to its various connections in Mediterranean ports.
Dubrovnik was used as the film set of King’s Landing in the Game of Thrones, and if you are so inclined you can book a Game of Throne walking tour.
Visit the Stradun, made from white limestone, it is acknowledged as one of the best pedestrian walkways in Europe. It is lined with buildings that have been designed with living quarters upstairs and businesses below, and it is a great place to have a meal, a drink, or a cup of coffee. Food in Croatia is generally inexpensive and you’ll be spoiled for choice. Seafood is the staple diet of many of the Croatians. They also make some of the best olive oil that you can buy and have been making wine for more than two thousand five hundred years so they serve some great wines.
Beautiful Split lies between towering mountains and the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Founded by the Greeks, Split is unique as it is built in and around the ruins of the Roman Emperor Diocletion’s palace. Dating back to 295 AD, the structure is the world’s best-preserved Roman palace. It comprises thirty thousand square metres of beautiful white limestone. Within the cellars and amongst the ancient columns and walls of the Emperor’s retirement home, you will find bars, restaurants and shops. The ancient building is an integral part of the city and is home to more than two hundred buildings and three thousand residents.
The palace mausoleum was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and is regarded as the oldest Catholic Church in the world that is still in use. Ironically the baptistery of the Cathedral of Saint Dominus was once a temple to Jupiter. Climb to the top of the bell tower, and enjoy the beautiful view of the city.
Visit the gallery of Fine Arts, which contains more than three thousand five hundred works of art from the fourteenth century to modern day.
Take a splash in the sparkling Adriatic or hike up the mountains surrounding Split. Above all make sure to take a boat trip to one of the many islands, or just explore the scenic Dalmatian coast.
Take a ferry or catamaran from Split to Korcula. This densely forested island is just thirty-two kilometers by eight kilometers. The walled city is on a peninsula. The locals claim that the Korcula is the birthplace of Marco Polo. This claim is of course disputed by the Venetians. The ancient walled city of Korcula is said to be the most beautiful and best-preserved city in Europe. The streets on the island are laid out in a herringbone structure to shelter the houses from the wind.
View the Venetian renaissance architecture and visit the fifteenth century St Mark’s Cathedral. Don’t forget to catch the Moreska Sword dance, which is performed daily in the summer months. The dance dates back hundreds of years and is an elaborate mock sword fight by two groups of people over a young woman. Hire a mountain bike and tour the olive groves and vineyards of the city.
Visit the island of Hvar in style. Daily yacht trips are available between Kocula and Hvar. Walls built during the thirteenth century surround the city. Once part of the Venetian empire, the city’s walls and palaces were built by the Venetians. White marble streets and gothic palaces are a feast for the eyes and there are plenty of bars and restaurants.
Take a bus trip to Zadar. Bus trips are reasonably priced in Croatia and more reliable than the train service.
The old town in Zadar is car free, built on a small peninsula its top attractions are the churches built between the seventh and thirteenth century.
Take time out to visit the Zadar Sea Organ where the waves produce music by pushing air through thirty-five underwater pipes, close by is the Sun Salutation. As the sun sets the ground lights up. The incredible light show continues throughout the night.
Finish the day off with a cup of coffee in the two thousand-year-old Roman Forum. Constructed between the first century BC and the third century AD it contains altars with reliefs of Jupiter, Ammon, and Medusa. This lovely park still remains central to city life today.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a short trip inland from Zadar, and a trip to Croatia would not be complete without seeing at least one of the parks for which they are famous. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is the most visited inland attraction in Croatia.
It has sixteen interconnected lakes and plenty of spectacular waterfalls. There is accommodation right next to the park so you can spend the day hiking and walking the bridges and boardwalks of the park or take a boat tour of the lakes.
No matter where your interests lie you are bound to find something in Croatia that will make your holiday one to remember. With ancient Roman ruins and Venetian architecture that rival those of Italy, water sports of every kind, and great affordable food and wine, it is little wonder that Croatia is drawing the crowds.
Where will you be next summer?