This fastest growing Mediterranean tourist destination has long been revered as a mystic land with incredible natural properties. Of course general unfamiliarity in travel markets outside Europe and the fallout of the 90’s Balkan wars kept Croatia off many radars. Now however the growth is noticeable and as more people become enthralled with this pristine corner of Europe, the time is ripe to explore this fantastic country.
An outside approach
Airlines are increasing their services to Croatian cities like Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Pula, Split and Zadar. From most major European capitals the trip is no more than two hours by air. Croatian Airlines offers an expanding range of outside destinations and many airlines increase their flight to Croatia especially in summer. Personally we’ve always entered Croatia by land or sea. It makes a great addition to any Italian adventure, one can drive in from Venice, by passing through the seacoast of Slovenia or grab a ferry anywhere along the Adriatic coast of Italy.
If one brings a car into the country or rents on site, it promises to be affordable and easy to navigate. A car gives tremendous freedom to explore the entire coastline (days of driving), the interior wild lands and of course little towns along the way with their vineyards, olive groves, pine forests and sensational architecture. One should realize that the bus system is also very good and efficient in Croatia. It is possible to traverse the country very affordably. Bus stations exist in every town, tickets are cheap and the departures frequent. It is a safe way to get around too.
Time to go
Croatia is well traversed by its own residents as much as by tourists, especially along its famous beachfront towns. The best time to visit then is the so-called shoulder seasons, May – June and September –October. These seasons will still have most residences, resorts and tourist venues open, yet crowds will be down to a minimum. Sports and outdoor activities are at there best during this time due to the cooler, yet still sunkissed days. The low season is November to April and while there will be places open, know that many do shut down for winter.
Travelers above all enjoy immersing themselves in the colorful nature that abounds here. The country has miles of coastline that differ from top to bottom. At the top lies Istria, the so called Tuscany of Croatia. It has verdant hills, medieval fishing villages with Venetian architecture, lots of produce and countryside. Plitvice shows the deeper wonder of Croatia beyond the beach. Hills take on an alpine look and this otherworldly park with turquoise lakes, streams and waterfalls. Hiking and Biking are just as essential here as sailing and sunbathing.
The countryside is as marked by the great empires of the past as anywhere else in Europe and more wonderfully preserved. Split houses the palace of Diocletian, a wonderful bastion of 3rd century architecture. Are you amazed by the Coliseum in Rome? Prepare to be overwhelmed by the amazingly preserved Roman Amphitheater in Pula. Dubrovnik offers fantastic old town alleyways, restaurants and city walls that have seen the centuries pass by.
Croatia offers everything from high end villas, to luxury hotels, to basic apartment and country house rentals. We always found our hosts to be very hands on and gracious. Food is hearty and delicious and superior resort style hotels and city properties are kept to high standards with often good rates in shoulder seasons. The Radisson Blu Dubrovnik, Split apartments and Kempinski Istria are some of the hotels we’ve enjoyed most.