For dreamy days spent sailing on sapphire waters, lazing on unspoiled beaches, admiring jewel-like lakes, and visiting evocative cities, Croatia has it covered. Here are 10 reasons why you need to visit this sun-soaked Adriatic paradise.
1. DAZZLING BLUE-FLAG BEACHES
Lapped by glittering Adriatic waters, it’s impossible not to be seduced by Croatia’s pebbly and sandy beaches - more than 100 of which have earned Blue-Flag status. You’ll find gorgeous spots across the country’s 2,000 kilometres of coastline, but Bol’s Zlatni Rat gets all the love for its silvery tongue of shingle that stretches out into the turquoise-tinted sea.
2. AMAZING DIVING & SNORKELLING
For seasoned divers and absolute beginners, Croatia has no shortage of places to plunge into the deep (with zero sharks). There’s also a wealth of fantastic shipwrecks worth grabbing your snorkel for, including Dubrovnik’s wreck of the transport ship, Taranto, that sank in 1943, and Hvar’s remains of the English merchant vessel, Paulina, that met its end in the 1800s.
3. SAILING ON CRYSTAL-CLEAR WATERS
Given that Croatia has a total of 1,244 islands and islets (48 of which are inhabited), the yachting and boating are both top-notch. For those keen to bob around on sun-kissed shores and past hidden coves, chic towns and secluded beaches, setting sail for the glitzy port town of Hvar and the magical island of Brac rewards with dreamy vistas.
4. TOURING MEDIEVAL DUBROVNIK
The enchanting walled city of Dubrovnik takes some beating when it comes to ancient ramparts, elegant Baroque architecture and curious monuments. Head to this so-called Pearl of the Adriatic to explore the UNESCO-listed Old Town, marvel at the Rector’s Palace, visit the Franciscan Monastery with its 14th century pharmacy, and take the cable car to Srđ Hill for ravishing views.
5. EXPLORING PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
Of Croatia’s eight national parks, it’s the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes that ranks as the oldest (it was established in 1949) and the best-looking. Head to this wildlife rich wonderland to gaze at the 16 criss-crossing crystalline lakes laced together by tumbling waterfalls and cascades, then explore the limestone canyons, numerous caves, elevated wooden walkways and bridges, and
extensive forest trails.
6. HITTING THE STREETS OF ZAGREB
A world away from the Adriatic’s sun-soaked islands, Istria’s pedestrian-friendly town of Zagreb was made for walking. Stroll around the cobblestone streets of Gornji Grad (Upper Town) for Viennese-style palaces and the iconic 13th century Church of St Mark and visit Donji Grad (Lower Town) for its grandiose neo-Baroque and Art Deco buildings, spacious parks, tree-lined avenues, and outdoor cafes.
7. VISITING LOVELY SPLIT
While its palm-lined Riva waterfront and fabulous markets make the coastal city of Split a real crowd-pleaser, it’s the higgledy-piggledy UNESCOlisted Diocletian’s Palace that steals the show. Built as a retirement home for Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century, it has plenty to amaze; ancient columns, underground cellars, and dozens of bars, restaurants and shops hidden within atmospheric walls.
8. ADMIRING PULA’S ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE
One of the loveliest towns on the Istrian peninsula, Pula is most famous for its Roman amphitheatre - one of the best preserved and largest in the world. Built between 27BC and 68AD and extended by Emperor Vespasian in 79AD for gladiatorial contests, it awes with limestone seats (it held up to 20,000 spectators in Roman times) and underground passageways.
9. LISTENING TO ZADAR'S SEA ORGAN
It’s all about melodies using the movements of the sea at the Sea Organ, a 230-foot-long art installation turned musical instrument on the shores of Zadar. Designed by local architect Nikola Bašić in 2005, it has subterranean organ pipes - all of which are tuned to different musical chords and rely on the wind and the waves for sound.
10. AND FINALLY, SAMPLING THE LOCAL WINE!
Croatia’s wine scene has never been more vibrant; there are over 800 wineries and almost 20,000 registered wine makers. The rich and fl avoursome Plavac Mali is the country’s best-known red, but there are also some fabulous whites, too. If you fancy a tipple, the family-owned Sladić Winery on the border of Krka National Park does behind-the-scene tours and cellar wine-tastings.