Canny travellers are fast discovering there’s a wonderful holiday alternative to Greece and Spain. Somewhere the sun shines as bright, the beaches are perfect, but your vacation cash stretches further! Where is this beguiling location? The answer is Croatia, a Balkan country that’s now one of Europe’s most appealing holiday destinations.
Some older travellers may recall how increasingly popular this area was becoming before the War of Independence, when it was part of the former Yugoslavia. Since then, there’s been considerable investment in Croatia tourism. Yet this has been achieved with great care to preserve the area’s incredible natural beauty and rich heritage.
That means Croatia truly has something for all traveller preferences and levels of mobility, from young couples looking for romantic breaks on a budget and backpacking singles, to families seeking quality holidays and beaches and holidaymakers over 50 hungry for arts, culture and new places to explore. If you’re wondering where to go in Croatia, here are our top five places to visit in this beautiful country:
The seafront city of Pula
Pula is located at the southern tip of Istria Croatia, part of an Adriatic peninsula between the Gulf of Trieste and the Kvarner Gulf (Croatia shares this outcrop of land with Slovenia and Italy).
The popularity of Pula dates back to ancient Roman times, when its amphitheatre hosted classic gladiator tournaments. Incidentally, Pula’s incredible amphitheatre still stands proud and many believe it is just as memorable and magical as the Colosseum in Rome. While exploring Pula’s fascinating historical legacy, be sure to visit the Temple of Augustus and see the Gate of Hercules too. This city is not just steeped in the past though, with plenty of great places to stay, shop and eat.
Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb
It’s tempting to think of the best European cities in terms of Paris, Rome, Milan and Vienna. But Croatia’s capital deserves its place on any list of European city breaks that everyone should aspire to.
This large and vibrant city is clearly stamped with historic splendour dating back to its 11th-century origins. There are historic and gothic religious buildings around every corner. However, thanks to its Austrian and Hungarian neighbours, Zagreb is also multicultural, dynamic and contemporary. For example, if you explore the neighbourhood of Gornji Grad, you will find charming narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, but also a great choice of modern shops and cafes selling delicious local food and beverages.
To get the best view of this fabulous European city, climb the Lotrscak Tower. Not only do you get amazing photo opportunities, but if you’re at the top at midday you can hear the historic cannon fire to mark the hour.
Split and Krka National Park
Many people choose Croatia holidays not for the country’s urban splendours, but to soak up its abundance of stunning natural scenery and wildlife. Nowhere is this truer that Krka National Park, on the banks of the Krka River within Sibenik-Knin county. This countryside has numerous breath-taking waterfalls. If you prefer to get into the water, you can swim in its patchwork of clear blue-green lagoons and plunge pools. Getting around Krka National Park is straightforward, as it has a network of well-maintained pathways. You can also choose from various water transport options. The area has the added benefit of being easy to reach from Split. If you use Split as your base while you explore this unspoilt countryside, there will be plenty there to make your Croatian holiday unforgettable too.
Split (known as the Mediterranean Flower) is the second largest city in Croatia. It is probably best known for its fascinating Renaissance and Gothic architecture, especially the unmissable Diocletian’s Palace. Here you will find a complex of buildings like a city within a city, joined by marble walkways and scattered with charming shops, cafes and bars. Split also offers you a relaxing seaside promenade and safe swimming at Bacvice beach. You can also enjoy great retail opportunities at its highly respected Green Market.
Zadar – for sea and city
Quieter than many Croatian cities and offering a perfect blend of urban opportunities and coastal seclusion, is the 3,000 year-old city of Zadar. It’s on Croatia’s northern Dalmatian Coast and is often chosen by visitors who want to get away from the crowds. Yet there is still plenty to see and do. This includes exploring the fascinating Old Town, which has woven together Roman ruins, medieval architecture and awe-inspiring churches. Walk a little way outside of this treasure trove of buildings, and you can stroll instead on the glorious sands of Zadar’s beaches. These offer numerous secluded spots to sit, sunbathe or swim.
How do we even begin to pick off just one of these jewels? Because not only does this beautiful country have around 2,000 kilometres of unspoilt coastline, it also boasts 1,200 islands. Browse a map of the Croatian islands, and you’ll see for yourself how diverse and beguiling this coast is. The islands range from small rocky dots with no more than a lighthouse, to lush green expanses punctuated by ancient buildings that would take days to fully explore.
If you struggle to pick just one to visit, fear not: there are Croatian tours across its wonderful mainland but also many island-hopping experiences to choose from. If you prefer to base yourself on one, you will find that there is a Croatian island to suit any visitor’s preferences or hobbies. That includes ones that specialise in windsurfing holidays and others that offer opportunities to get up close and personal with marine and wildlife.
It’s important to have suitable travel insurance when visiting Croatia to ensure you’re covered should anything happen. Here at Fish, we cover everyone from travellers aged over 50 to those with pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities. Our view is, why should anyone miss out on the opportunity to explore the marvels of this lovely country?