Croatia. Is it all that it's cracked up to be?
In a word, yes. Croatia has startling beaches, sublime weather and food to rival the Italians. So if you’re heading over to Europe for a Croatia holiday, make sure you sample the best of it. Here are excellent reasons Croatia deserves your attention.
1 | Dubrovnik is a seriously cool city.
The city walls, albeit a tourist attraction, make for a memorable experience — skip at your own disappointment. The wall reaches heights of 25m and affords startling views across the city roofline. Allow at least two hours to dawdle along the 2km route; with three cafés en route, you can stop for freshly pressed juice and strong Croatian coffee. For respite from the tourist rush, Park Gradac flirts with the edges of the Old Town and offers a beautifully calm enclosure. One of Dubrovnik’s best-kept secrets, this is the realm of residents, where many hours are spent nursing frosty beers on sun-soaked grass. Crack open an Ožujsko and live like a local.
HOT TIP: Don't miss the sights from Dubrovnik's cable car. You’ll fly north of the city walls towards Mt Srd — in less than 4 minutes. Enjoying glorious views over Dubrovnik's orange dipped roof tops en route. At the summit you can dine in the restaurant, enjoying panoramic views across an impossibly blue coastline.
2 | You can dip your oar into dazzling Croatian waters.
With its fortified city walls and impressive mason stonework, there’s no better way to admire Dubrovnik's beauty than with a small-group kayak tour. You’ll flirt around the edges of the old city, paddling along the impressive Adriatic Sea.
3 | You'll eat unbelievably well.
Don’t worry, most travellers make the assumption that Croatian food is influenced by eastern Europe, and yet, based in the south, it takes its flavours predominately from Italy, which is all but a hop across the Adriatic Sea.
What the Croatians can do with a risotto almost makes the Italians weep. Crni rižot (black squid risotto) is a national favourite, along with risotto made with Croatian Pag cheese. And then there’s the olive oil. Istria produced oil is so good, mention it in Sardinia and you’ll be scalded for using a profanity.
Along the coast, you won’t be able to move for seafood. Fill your plate with fresh sardines, mussels, squid and lobsters the size of your leg. Café culture, much like Italy, is inescapable and contrary to what the name suggests, an espresso can last for hours. As for aperitifs, Croatian Prošek is a red fortified wine similar to port.
HOT TIP: Pag cheese is a simple sheep’s cheese with a flavour that derives from Croatia’s vast salt-production. Salt dust settles on almost everything, including the grass that the sheep feed from. Hence why the cheese is particularly delicious.
4 | You can discover Zagreb with the help of city ghosts.
Considering the Croatian city of Zagreb dates back to Roman times, why not unearth its forgotten past with a two-hour night time ghost tour? Discover the city’s eerie past with a tour led by an English speaking guide….and the dark shadows. Visit graveyards and haunted grounds, accompanied by chilling tales to raise the hairs on your neck.
5 | You can sunbathe while sailing past breath-taking islands.
An obvious one but an absolute must-do while in Croatia – sail along the formidable Adriatic coastline. One-thousand stunning islands make up the incredible Croatian archipelago. A combination of azure water, ancient townships and sand the colour of molten gold, your retinas won’t be disappointed.
HOT Tip: The climate is typically Mediterranean. Summer temperature is between 26-32 degrees Celsius but take warm clothing for the evenings which will drop a lot cooler.
6 | There's stunning walks all around.
One of our favourites? Get off the beaten track with a brisk yet moderate hike to the Medvednica Mountain range above Zagreb. The little known mountain cottage of Gorščica is obscure yet awesome; take the non-demanding trek guided by a beautiful babbling brook and arrive at the mountain house by noon.
7 | You'll find stunning beaches.
Add the old town of Bol to your Croatian adventure. A handsome town by itself, Bol is also home to Croatia’s finest beach; Zlatni Rat Beach. Also known as the golden horn due to its shape that juts into the sea, the sand is a glorious plateau of smooth white pebbles, licked by a deep blue sea and dotted with windsurfers.
8 | The wines will impress you.
If there’s one thing the Romans did well — along with building empires, roads, aqueducts, concrete and central-heating — it was produce fine wine. Vineyards are still rife all over the island of Hvar so why not take a wine tour of Croatia’s best wineries?
9 | You'll want to go island-hopping.
With over 1000 islands, Croatia was made for island hopping. But with Brač, Hvar and Korčula all becoming household, why not find something a little more niche?
The tiny island of Silba boasts one village and only 300 inhabitants. Cars are ditched in favour of pedestrianised streets, and to walk them is to go back in time. By at least three centuries. Tumbling stairwells and narrow lanes lead to old stone churches and pebbled bays. On Vis Island, and in the main town of Luka, commercial development is non existent. To be lazy is a treat; lethargy nips at your senses but rather respectably so, because there will be no rushing in Vis. Then there’s Lastovo. A five hour ferry from Split, it’s not on the doorstep, but with over 40 vineyards and Lastovo Maraština (Croatia’s famed dry white wine) your reward exists in the bottom of a wine glass.
HOT TIP: Croatia’s islands are easily accessible via ferries, catamarans and passengers boats.