CROATIA: A Hot International Ticket
Yes, Croatia! The country has been one of the hottest destinations in European travel for quite a few years running. Stretching from the beautiful region of Slavonia (East part of the country), Central Croatia (Croatia Proper), Istria (the largest peninsula on the north coast), and all the way to Dalmatia (a huge stretch of mid to south part of the coast).
Many have never heard of Croatia, while others know a bit of the history involving the Croatian War of Independence in early 1990s. I can tell you Croatia is now known for being the most beautiful tourist country, mostly visited during summer season. From the beaches, clubs and cafes to the kayaking, sailing, hiking, and homemade cocktails and foods, it’s the place to be!
I was born and raised in Croatia and moved to the United States 16 years ago. I can tell you that every time I read about Croatia, I read about the tourist areas. Yes, touristy cities are beautiful; however, there is so much more to Croatia’s beauty!
I want to take you on a quick tour of the country, and hopefully by the time you are done reading this article, you will want to visit some (if not all) of the places I mentioned. One thing to keep in mind: the entire country is a one huge historical site and visiting any part it will give you an experience of a lifetime. Upon visiting, you will be blown away by the warmth and hospitality of the locals! Our friends are a huge part of our family and you will be welcomed like you have never been welcomed anywhere before.
A quick background on Croatia: the country shares the Adriatic Sea with Italy and it borders with Slovenia (west), Hungary (north), Bosnia–Herzegovina and Serbia (east), and Montenegro (south). As mentioned before, the major industry of the country is tourism. Croatia receives millions of tourist visitors per year and has been a top pick destination in many popular travel magazines. Any time between May and September is a great time to visit the country and experience everything Croatia has to offer (as you can still go to the beach and enjoy the warmth).
Because Croatia will take your breath away, be sure to have your camera ready anywhere you go. Let’s take a drive through Croatia now!
West part of the country is called Slavonia. It is best known for its intact nature, traditional folk costumes, folklore dancing and singing. There, you will find a national park called Kopacki Rit, the most attractive preserved wetlands in all of Europe with more than 260 bird species to enjoy. The most historic city in Slavonia is Osijek where you can see baroque-style buildings that are truly works of art.
Central Croatia is loaded with hilly areas (temperature changes literally every mile), castles, spas and old cities from medieval times! Be sure to visit Trakoscan (the medieval castle is amazing), Varazdin (you will be touched by the baroque culture) and Marija Bistrica (the country’s largest pilgrimage area).
Before talking about the capital of Croatia, we will make a quick pit stop in Bjelovar, my hometown! Bjelovar gained historical importance in the 1400s under the command of the Empress Maria Theresa. The town center features a beautiful, newly renovated pavilion and St. Theresa Cathedral, built in 1700s. As you can imagine from just these two mentions, you can visit a small town and see a lot of history.
Let’s go to Zagreb now, the capital of Croatia. In this city you can enjoy theaters, museums, galleries, some very cool fashion, food markets, amazing architecture, and best of all: you can do it all on foot. Zagreb is a beautifully preserved old town that will make you feel like you are walking through 19th century. It is the host city to many pop-festivals throughout the year, sports events, flower exhibitions and concerts. During winter, you can enjoy Advent in Zagreb where not only do you get to try some mouthwatering traditional foods, but ice skating in the city center.
Moving along to Istria, the north coast of Croatia (basically overlooking Italy), you will be blown away by the historical towns dating back to Roman times here.
Pula has the best preserved amphitheater in the world. Yes, world! Today, it is used for festivals and other events. This area is surrounded with spas, resorts, hotels and beautiful views.
Umag holds the Annual Croatia Open tennis tournament.
I would recommend visiting town of Porec and enjoying the view of the 6th century Basilica. This city is very old and a popular tourist destination.
Istria also has a National Park - Brijuni. Here you will find everything dating to dinosaur footprints and knights and kings!
Opatija is a seaside town with large mountains overlooking the islands in the sea. It is one of the oldest tourist resorts in the country.
Traveling through the region towards Dalmatian coast, you will be able to see even more national parks, forests and beautiful animals, all while surrounded by mountains. Plitvice National Park is probably one of the most famous. It has the most beautiful waterfalls and you will be able to see a large variety of animals native to Croatia.
If you love summertime nightlife, parties, open air clubs and dancing, I would recommend you take the ferry to Island Pag and visit Zrce, Novalja!
We are now in Dalmatia. The first thing that comes to mind is probably Dubrovnik! As many have heard a lot about Dubrovnik (mostly because of the popular show Game of Thrones), I will talk more about other equally as beautiful places.
Zadar has to be one of my favorites. From yachting to Kornati National Park and urban Roman times of forts, towers, temples, and medieval structures, this city is sure to impress. Did you know Zadar is the only city in the world that has piano steps? These steps stretch along the shore and every time a wave hits them, they make piano sounds.
If you are there already, be sure to visit Sibenik, another town known for yachting and renaissance-era buildings.
Dalmatia is a home of the Krka National Park – another world jewel that must be seen in person.
Knin has the biggest amphitheater in that region. You will see historical sites dating to the 10th century that are sure to impress.
Split is the largest city of Dalmatia region and also the oldest city in the area. It is almost 2000 years old and is a home of the Roman Palace of Diocletian!
One of the top beaches in Dalmatia, often mentioned or pictured in the magazines is Zlatni Rat, known for windsurfing. A neat fact about Zlatni Rat is that every 2 to 3 years the shape of the beach changes. Now that is pretty wild!
We end our tour in Dubrovnik, the most known city in Croatia (for foreigners that is). There you will find cathedral-style houses, Roman history and architecture. In one word, this city is a real-world fortress!
When visiting the beach regions, be sure to get a boat, kayak, or canoe, and head to a nearby island. Croatia has tons of islands and large islets (lots of them not populated). What does that mean for you? Well, you can have an islet just to yourself (at least for the day). How cool is that?
I sure hope that you consider visiting this beautiful country and enjoy everything it has to offer. If you are a foodie, love wine and history and want to enjoy old towns, to try different cuisines, swim in the coolest coves, enjoy coffee while sitting in the middle of the historical monuments, to walk through the waterfalls, boating, and swimming in the most beautiful sea and enjoying the fun beaches, you have to go to Croatia!!
If you are on Facebook, check out “Croatia Full of Life” for more fun information about Croatia.