The enticing Mediterranean country of Croatia is becoming one of the hot spots of travel in Europe.
But do you know where it is?
It actually stands on the opposite shore of the Adriatic Sea from Italy, as part of the Balkan peninsular. Its neighbours are Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia.
As a former part of Yugoslavia, Croatia is a relatively new tourist destination for many travellers.
This means many of its world-class sights are less well known – and many of the prices are lower than in the long-standing tourist areas like Italy and Spain.
Croatia has a similar vibe to those countries though – with sunny weather, pretty mountains sloping down to turquoise seas and beautiful beaches.
You’ll generally find it less crowded, less commercialised and less modernised than destinations further west.
From the sizzling nightlife of the capital city, Zagreb, to the simple rural charm of any of the villages in the mountains, Croatia can cater for all sorts of visitor experiences. It’s a lively holiday spot – or a get-away-from-it-all retreat.
Zagreb is the destination if you want to visit the hottest clubs, restaurants and casinos which provide similar entertainment you might find on a poker game online, you could be happy anywhere in this fascinating country.
With an amazing long, complex coast of inlet, islands and peninsulars, there are 5,835km of shoreline in Croatia. Add in plenty of lakes too and you are never far from water of some sort.
In fact many tourists are increasingly discovering the beautiful Croatian islands in the Adriatic, like Pag, Korcula, Brac and Hvar. These are becoming very popular destinations for sailing, watersports and beach holidays.
The country’s biggest single attraction is the extraordinary World Heritage Site of Dubrovnik. This intact ancient walled citadel is an island connected by a narrow bridge to the mainland.
Before you enter the city take time to view the fortress, the bridge, harbour and wild seasape from a distance, preferably up on the slopes of the mountains. The panorama makes Dubrovnik seem like something from a fairytale.
Within its formidable ancient walls is a whole town of tall stone buildings around a fortified harbour. Colourful small fishing boats have moored here for hundreds of years.
It’s a great experience to wander the little shady squares, rocky staircases and cobbled alleyways. There are quirky boutiques, galleries and museums and Dubrovnik’s restaurants are famous, particularly for fresh local seafood.
Croatia’s capital has already been voted one of Europe’s top new destinations. The compact inland city is easily walkable and is packed with things to see.
The top sights here include the grand gothic cathedral, one of the most important in the whole Balkan region. Nearby is St Mark’s Church, another brilliant spot for taking photos – thanks to its unique multicoloured tiled roof.
Visitors also enjoy entering through the impressive medieval city gate, climbing the old Lotrscak Tower and strolling in the romantic Zrinjevac Park. Later head to lively Tkalciceva Street for the best boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
There’s a little of everything in the city. From original folk art shops to glittering modern casinos, Zagreb makes a perfect city break.
Other top sights in Croatia
The country’s top natural attraction is the inland Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is another World Heritage Site and a great place to snap photos for your social media. Everyone will ‘like’ its outstanding series of lakes, caves and waterfalls sparkling in the sunshine.
Another spectacular natural site is the deep rocky valley leading into the city of Split. The highlight here is the dramatic Klis Fortress, built on a rocky promontory high above the valley.
It’s a tough walk up the stone steps to get there but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views.
Completely different is Zlatni Rat, one of Croatia’s most photographed beaches. This glorious tongue of white beach extends into a shimmering blue sea – complete with a backdrop of unspoilt pine forests and mountains.
Among its plunging coastal mountains, the city of Split is another treasure trove for those who like historic landmarks. The cathedral of St Domnius here is one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the world.
Also in Split is Diocletian’s Palace alongside the harbour, another two-thousand-year-old monument that is so intact it looks as if it could have been built recently.
The Croatia experience
Wherever you decide to go, expect to find old stone villages, cobbled alleyways lined with flowering pot plants and classic views of crumbling roofs of terracotta tiles. There seem to be old stone church towers and crumbling castle everywhere.
And with hundreds of unspoilt islands and a long wiggling coastline waiting to be explored, it’s no surprise that Croatia has become one of Europe’s coolest new destinations.