Croatia

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General Information (currency, climate, population, religion, history, etc.)

The long list of the beauties of Croatia starts with great beaches, a thousand islands, and crystal clear turquoise sea. It goes on with a beautiful and diverse nature that delights outdoor enthusiasts and fans of adrenalin activities. High on the list is a captivating cultural heritage dating back to prehistoric and Roman times. Finally, the Croatian experience is wrapped up with delicious wines, fantastic cuisine, and beautiful accommodation ranging from luxury resorts to charming villas with private pools, surrounded by untouched nature.


Country general information

Geographic Position

Croatia is a small crescent-shaped country in the northwestern Balkan-peninsula. Its coastline is 1777 km (5.807.087 ft) long and occupies the majority of the eastern Adriatic shoreline. The western side of the Adriatic sea belongs to Italy. The country borders Hungary to the northeast, Slovenia to the northwest, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the southeast and Serbia to the east.

Geographic Features

The surface area of Croatia totals 15178.92ft2. The mainland covers 42446.61ft2 (65%) and a coastline – both internal and territorial seas – of 18635.84ft2 (35%). With numerous bays and coves, and 1244 islands and islets, the Croatian coast is among the three most indented shorelines in Europe.

Dinaric Alps, which make the majority of Croatian mountains, extend from the border of Slovenia to Montenegro. Unlike other South-Eastern Europe countries, Croatia doesn’t have a peak above 6561ft. Croatian Dinaric mountain range is famous worldwide, being a classic example of deep karst.

Dinara Mountain Range separates the country’s Mediterranean region from its central European continental part and spans from the Alps region in the West to the shores of the Danube in the East. The North part of the country encompasses the southern part of the fertile Pannonian lowlands.

The Capital

Zagreb, located in the North-West of the country, is the economic, cultural, academic, and transport center of the country. The city has a population of 792 875 inhabitants.

Demographics

Croatia has 4 290 612 inhabitants. The majority of the population are Croats, with the most significant minorities being Serbs, Bosnians, Slovenes, Hungarians, Czechs, Italians and Albanians.

Climate and Weather in Croatia

The country’s coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild winters. Croatian hinterland mostly has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters, while in mountainous regions, winters are snowy, and the summers are mild.

Winter temperatures in the continental region range from -1 to 3°C (30.2 – 37.4 F). In the mountain region, they are usually between 0 and -5°C (32 – 23 F) and 5 to 10°C (41 – 50 F) in the coastal region.

Summer temperatures range from 22 to 26°C (71.6 – 78.8 F) in the continental region, 15 to 20°C (59 – 68 F) in the mountain region, and 26 to 30°C (78 – 86) in the coastal zone.

History

Croatians inhabited the area of present-day Croatia in the 7th century. But, before Croats came, this area was home to many cultures, starting with Neanderthals, more than 100.000 years ago. There is a fascinating museum dedicated to Neanderthal culture near the Krapina.

Before the Greeks came and conquered some region of Croatia in the 4th century BC, Illyrian tribes lived here – Histri (in Croatia) and Delmati (in Dalmatia), Liburns, and Iapods. The leading Greek colonies were Issa (Vis) and Tragurion (Trogir).

Around the 9th century BC, the Roman Empire established its rule over the majority of Croatian lands. In Pola, you can see the beautiful Roman Arena, the Temple of Jupiter, and other remnants of the Roman Empire. Other towns that were established by the Romans were Salona (Solin, near Split), Jader (Zadar), and Epidaurum (Cavtat).

The city of Split was initially built in 3rd century BC as an Emperor Diocletian retirement residence. His famous Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is today a part of old Split.

Adriatic was a trade corridor that connected the Mediterranean to Northern Europe. Many underwater archaeological sites with ancient amphoras and other artifacts bear witness to the rich nautical history of the area. Some of them are popular scuba diving destinations.

The arrival of the Croats

Croats arrived at present-day Croatia from north-eastern Europe during the early 7th century BC. After two centuries that Croatian tribes spent competing for supremacy, they finally established a strong Croatian kingdom in the 11th century. The first Croatian king was Tomislav, ruling from 925. His rule was successful and made Croatia an influential country. After only two centuries, Croatia became a part of Hungary. This Union (with many turbulences) lasted until World War I.

Dubrovnik – Republic of Ragusa

Dubrovnik was established in the 7th century and until 1205 was a part of the Byzantine Empire. Next century and a half, Dubrovnik was ruled by Venice. Finally, in 1358. Dubrovnik gained independence. The prosperous Republic of Ragusa (as it was called back then) kept its independence by unprecedented diplomatic skills and riches the citizens acquired during adventurous trading endeavors.

Ottoman Empire – the centuries of battles and terror

After the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire began its expansion towards Europe. In 1463. It took over Bosnia, and the new constellation brought constant turbulence and instability on the Croatian border.

In the early 19th century, Croatia was ruled over by the Austro-Hungarian empire.

History of Croatia in the 20th Century

In 1918 south Slavonic nations of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes formed their first state – it was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, ruled by the Serbian royal family, Karadjordjević. Since the Serbian royal family favored the Serbs, the state was full of inner tensions. During this period of Croatian history, parts of the coastline were under Italian rule.

World War II and the formation of socialistic Yugoslavia

In World War II, Croats and other nations from the Kingdom joined the resistance movement against fascists and the Croatian fascistic dictator. The leader of the resistance movement was Josip Broz Tito. After the country was liberated from the nazi rule and Croatian fascistic dictatorship, in the 1945 Republic of Yugoslavia was formed. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as the country was renamed in 1963. Consisted of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

Croatian Independence

On 25th June 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, which led to a civil war initiated by the Serbian invasion. Croats under the leadership of the first Croatian president, Franjo Tuđman defended the country in 1995. Since then, Croatia is an independent and peaceful country, well-known for its beautiful nature, lovely coast, and incredible geographical, cultural, and natural diversity.


Currency and Payment Options

The official currency in Croatia is the kuna (1 kuna = 100 lipa). 1 USD is equal to approximately. 6.68 in. Foreign currency can be freely exchanged in banks, exchange offices, post offices, and in the majority of tourist information offices, hotels, and campsites.

Credit cards (Eurocard / Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Diners) are accepted in almost all hotels, marinas, restaurants, shops, and cash machines.

Electricity

All power sockets in Croatia provide a standard voltage of 230V with a standard frequency of 50Hz.

Water

Tap water is safe to drink in all of Croatia.

Airport sand connections with EU and USA

International Airports in Croatia:


Zagreb (IATA: ZAG) is the biggest airport in Croatia. It is located near the city of Zagreb. In 2018 the airport handled around 3.4 million passengers and 13,500 tons of cargo. The airport is well-connected with all major European cities, with a seasonal flight to Toronto, Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Seul. There are no direct flights to the USA, but there is a direct flight into Zagreb from Toronto.

Split (IATA: SPU) is located 19 km (12 mi) from Split. It is the second biggest Croatian airport. In 2018. The airport handled around 3.12 million passengers. This airport is the best choice if you want to visit the Dalmatia and Croatian islands. There are no direct flights from the USA or Canada. Still, since the airport provides flights from all major European cities, you will be able to easily arrive here by the connecting flight.

Dubrovnik (IATA: DVB), is located approximately 9.5 miles from Dubrovnik city center. It is the third-busiest airport in Croatia, after Zagreb and Split Airport in terms of passenger throughput. With the country’s longest runway, it can accommodate heavy long-haul aircraft.
The Dubrovnik airport is very close to Herceg Novi, Kotor, or Tivat in Montenegro. There is a direct flight from USA from Philadelphia.


Pula (IATA: PUY) is located in Istria and the best choice for visiting Istria and Kvarner region of Croatia. The airport doesn’t have direct flights from the USA or Canada, but since it is well-connected with major European cities, you can easily find a connecting flight.


Zadar (IATA: ZAD) is slightly smaller than Split, but also very busy during summertime. Zadar is the best airport if you plan to visit Zadar, Kornati, or island Pag. Like the rest of the Croatian airports, Zadar is also very well connected with European cities but doesn’t offer direct flights from Canada or the USA. But, you can easily book connecting flights with only one stop in some of the major European cities, such as Paris, Brussel, Frankfurt or Munich, London or Vienna, and many more.

Rijeka (IATA: RJK) is a small international airport located near Rijeka, on island Krk. It is connected with several European cities. It is excellent if you want to visit Rijeka, Opatija, Gorski Kotar, or the Kvarner region.


Do I need a visa for Croatia?

Croatia is part of the European Union, but not part of Schengen. EU citizens enjoy full freedom of movement in Croatia. Australian, US, Canadian, and some South American and Asian countries have visa-free access to Croatia for up to 90 days.

Must see sights

Croatia is a diverse country of 1000 islands, gorgeous beaches, romantic historical cities, and breathtaking national parks. And deciding where to go on your first trip to Croatia is easy at all. We picked some of the best places you shouldn’t miss.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Halfway between Split and Zagreb is the most exciting place of Croatian hinterland – National Park Plitvice Lake, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many visitors think that its 16 lakes interconnected with about 90 spectacular waterfalls and framed by lush greenery might be the most beautiful place in the world. And we couldn’t agree more.

Plitvice offers a delightful walk along 18 km of beautiful wooden footbridges and pathways. The lakes are known for their unique colors that range from green to azure blue.

The National Park goes beyond beautiful cascading lakes. It occupies an area of 30,000 hectares, covered by beech, fir, and spruce forest. Deers, bears, wolves, boars, and numerous rare bird species live in this well-preserved piece of biodiversity heaven. An average tour lasts between 2 to 8 hours.

Krka National Park

If you liked the waterfalls in Plitvice National Park, then you will fall head over heels for the Krka National Park – its lush greenery, tranquil lakes, stunning canyon, powerful waterfalls, and cultural sites.

The most appealing waterfall in the park, Skradinski Buk. It consists of nearly 20 different waterfalls and is almost a half-mile long. Swimming beneath Skradinski Buk, in the clear crystalline pool, is a beautiful experience. Apart from the waterfalls, Krka National Park enchants with 14th-century fortress located on the Krka River, and the dreamlike island monastery of Visovac. The National Park is home to 850 types of plants and over 200 species of birds.

Krka attracts nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, and offers an exciting day for a trip from Dalmatian cities.

The small town of Skradin on Krka is famous for Skradinski Risotto, a creamy, delightful dish, traditionally made by men in a huge pot over an open fire for 12 hours. Konoba Cantinetta offers one of the best Skradin risottos, according to a famous Anthony Bourdain.

Hvar Island

Hvar is considered one of the top 10 beautiful islands in the world, and it has more Intangible UNESCO Heritage than any other island in the world. Add to that the title of the sunniest place in Europe, stunning beaches, lavender fields, and charming ancient towns – and you will understand why so many people choose Hvar as their favorite summer destination.

Hvar is a fantastic beach destination, but also a calming place of sophisticated hedonism, shaped by the cultural influence of Venice, the Austrian Empire, and the authentic Dalmatia. Architecture buffs will be delighted by the town’s castle Fortress, Croatian theater and Arsenal, Franciscan monastery, Benedictine monastery, UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage of Stari Grad Plain and the picturesque white-stone houses and streets of Hvar’s villages and towns.

Very nice thing to see here is a subtle agave lace made by Hvar’s Benedictine nuns, UNESCO Intangible Heritage.

And finally, you must experience – klapa singing, listed as UNESCO Intangible Heritage. Listening to the beautiful klapa songs, surrounded by the renaissance architecture of Hvar, will touch your soul to its deepest parts.

Old City of Dubrovnik

Renaissance harmony, a medieval mystic and fantasy-like Game of Thrones vibe – the city of Dubrovnik is bursting with good energy and unbelievably lots of things to see and do. The Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is considered the most beautiful Croatian town and is among the most famous tourist sites in Europe.

Best sights in Dubrovnik are city walls, The Pile Gate, a stone gate entrance to the Old Town, and a 17th-century Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, with beautiful altars and Titian’s paintings. Rector’s Palace is a fascinating mix of gothic and renaissance architecture, built in the 15th century. Main street, Stradun, lined with historic buildings, is one of the most beautiful sights in Dubrovnik.

Elafiti archipelago one day cruise is a great way to experience the authentic life of old Dubrovnik aristocrats who used to enjoy their free time on idyllic islands.

One of Dubrovnik’s most popular summer activities is a sea kayaking tour around the Dubrovnik City Walls. The city’s impressive and invincible fortress looks impressive from a kayak softly gliding through the calm and sleepy sea at sunset.

Split

Split is the second biggest city in Croatia and often referred to as “The most beautiful city in the world” and “Mediterranean flower.” It doesn’t take too much time to find out the origin of Split’s nicknames.

The heart of Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian palace. Although it was built in Roman times, it is still a place where people live, do business and hang around. Narrow streets of the castle are filled with unsurpassable charm and beauty.

Diocletian Palace is an ancient yet vivacious and pulsating heart of the city, which is very uncommon.

Below the Palace is Riva, palm-lined seafront promenade, world-famous for its beauty, lovely historic buildings, and zen-inducing overlook at the Adriatic sea.

Split is an ideal place to enjoy a day at leisure. Sipping a drink on Riva, enjoying the palms shade and mesmerizing sun reflection on a perfectly blue sea, has a flair of Dalmatian fjaka – the art of enjoying the moments of relaxation and calmness.


Zagreb

Zagreb is an inspiring historic site, but at the same time, a dynamic cosmopolitan city with affection for fashion and design. Exuberant and hospitable, Zagreb attracts people from Croatia and Europe to its famous street events. Great music, tasteful street food, artistic decorations, and a good mood made Zagreb events a popular destination for a nice city break.

Upper Town is a historic heart of Zagreb, with medieval monuments, narrow cobblestone streets, and remains from the glorious Austrian empire era. Some of the most prominent Upper Town sights are Lotršćak tower, St. Catherine’s baroque church, relaxing Strossmayer promenade overlooking the rooftops of Lower town and a Saint Mark’s Church, famous for its roof representing the coat of arms of the Tripartite Kingdom (Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia).

On the Kaptol hill are a Zagreb Cathedral, an impressive gothic building, and an important part of Zagreb’s cultural heritage.

Tkalčićeva Street, in the very heart of the city, is home to many amazing restaurants, pleasant coffee bars and is a fantastic place for a relaxing stroll.

During summers, the right spot to hang out in is the Jarun Lake, which is host to a lot of activities during peak tourist season. You can go rowing, kayaking, cycling, and skateboarding, or running. And when you’ve had enough of sports, take some time to sit in one of the numerous bars around the lake. Join Croatians in coffee drinking ritual and relaxed mingling to experience the authentic Zagreb lifestyle.

Korčula Island

The beautiful island of Korčula is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic Sea. Still a bit wild and untouched by globalization, Korčula provides a lot of opportunities to enjoy ravishing nature and rich cultural heritage. Mesmerizing vineyards and olive groves around small villages radiate with a slow-paced rhythm of old-times Mediterranean.

Korčula town, medieval walled Dalmatia city, shares the part of the history and architectural style. It resembles a miniature Dubrovnik. Marble streets, defensive walls, red-roofed stone houses, and their fishbone street structure are packed with heroic history and inspiring century of culture.

Korčula town is surrounded by crystal clear sea and pleasant beaches, inviting for a pleasant swim.

Vis and Stiniva Beach

The farthest inhabited island from the Croatian mainland, where Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again movie was filmed, has one of the best beaches in Europe, the Stiniva beach. In 2016. Stiniva was named the top beach in Europe for 2016 by the Brussels-based tourism organization European Best Destinations.

Narrow streets of the town of Vis are lined with small red-roofed houses; the boats gently sway on a shimmering sea, fishers drink wine and play cards on quaint squares – more relaxing and romantic place is barely even imaginable.

Yet, although Vis might be stuck in the past with its architecture and slow-paced life – its gastronomy scene is up-to-date, vibrant, and incredibly rich. Here you can enjoy the most delicious seafood imaginable. Lobsters, squids, cuttlefish, octopus, and scamp, seashells prepared in Vis restaurants are top-notch gastronomy delights.

ISTRIA

Istria is often referred to as a “Croatian Tuscany.” Beautiful vineyards, olive orchards, and dense woods surround lovely Istrian acropolis cities.The coast is dotted with a cute historic towns, with cobblestoned streets, red-roofed houses and great beaches.

Istria produces some of the world’s best olive oils and high-quality wine, and the hinterland is famous for its delicious truffles.

Some of the best towns to visit are Rovinj, Motovun, and Pula.

Lovely Rovinj, a city port that sits on a picturesque peninsula, is considered the most romantic place in the Mediterranean. Untouched by modern times, the heart of Rovinj is a place to fully surrender to the soothing energy of an old, slow, and cozy Mediterranean.

Motovun is an ancient Istrian acropolis city perched on the top of a 277 meter-high hill. The town radiates with middle aged-fish charm as if its time stopped in the 13th century. Spectacular landscape, beautiful Motovun Forest rich with truffles, and a dreamy atmosphere of Motovun make it of the most famous Istrian hinterland towns.

Streets of Pula are lined with magnificent remains of mighty Roman and Austrian empires – stunning Amphitheater overlooking the sea, elegant city gates, a Roman temple, and a fascinating Austrian empire military heritage.

Gourmet scene (must try and about it)

Indulgent Mediterranean cuisines of Istria and Dalmatia are famous for its delicious seafood, meat dishes, world-recognized olive oil and premium wines. Istria is one of the few places outside Italy where your can find Tuber magnatum, the most expensive truffles in the world.

Slavonia produces high-quality meat products, and northern parts of the country, influenced by Austrian and Hungarian kitchen, offer delicious and hearty dishes based on cheese, apples, and meat. The best Croatian cheese is Paški, rich sheep cheese made on the island of Pag.



Grilled Fish
In the coastal regions, one of the most popular ways of cooking fish is grilling and roasting. The tradition of grilling and roasting is carried down from generation to generation. Although this method might seem simple, there are many nuances to it – such as the grilling technique and the type of wood chosen. Fresh grilled fish is incredibly delicious, so it should definitely be on the list of must-try dishes. One of the most popular side dishes to grilled fish is blitva s krumpirom, a dish made with swiss chard, potatoes, olive oil, and garlic.

Pašticada
Pašticada is a delicious slow-cooked beef in sweet and sour sauce and served with potato gnocchi. The meat is first marinated in vinegar and spices for up to several days and then stewed in red wine (or prosecco) with tomatoes, parsley and celery root, carrot, bacon, dried prunes or figs and spices (rosemary, clove, and laurel). When the meat is cooked, the sauce is blended into a thick sauce.

This meal was initially served on special occasions, weddings, or baptisms.

Štrukli
Štrukli is a dish popular in Zagorje and Zagreb region. It is made of pulled dough and cheese, eggs, and sour cream. After the dough is filled and rolled, it is usually cut into smaller pieces and baked in an oven, with sour cream or butter coating. There is a savory and sweet variety of the dish.

Crni rižot
Crni rižot – Black Risotto is made of fresh squid or cuttlefish, with the addition of their ink, which gives the characteristic black color to the dish. For even better taste, people often add mussels or clams to it. This yummy dish is usually served as a “primo piatto” in Dalmatia.

Brudet
Brudet, fish stew with polenta, is one of the most typical dishes of the Croatian coastal region. Every part of the coast (and every household) has a slightly different recipe. Generally, the dish includes at least three different types of white (and sometimes blue) fish. The best fish for the brudet are sea brass, monkfish, and scorpionfish. Besides fish, sometimes scampi and mussels are added for even better taste.

The fish is first fried with olive oil and garlic and later stewed in a broth made of seafood stock, tomato sauce, and white (or red) wine.

A typical side dish that accompanies brudet is polenta.

Brudet is so popular in Croatia that there are brudet competitions held in many coastal towns. These events are an excellent opportunity to taste many varieties of this incredibly delicious dish. Numerous restaurants – from local bistros to high-end restaurants serve brudet.

Fiš paprikaš
Fiš paprikaš is a popular dish from Slavonija and Baranja. It is a freshwater fish stew, spiced with ground paprika – usually very hot, made in a big cauldron over an open flame. Fiš is made with the starlet, pike, catfish, and carp. The meal is accompanied with homemade noodles. There are fiš cooking competitions in many towns of Slavonija and Baranja.

Peka
Peka is an iron bell-like dome used for cooking meat or seafood with vegetables in an open fireplace. This old way of preparing food is one of the most beloved cooking methods in Dalmatia and Bosnia. Slow cooking under a heavy lid preserves all the juices and flavors. It makes the octopus, lamb, or veal meat incredibly tender and delicious. The meat or seafood is usually cooked together with potatoes, vegetables, olive oil, and sometimes wine.

Scampi, mussels, or shrimps na buzaru
Buzara is a Croatian technique of preparing seafood that can be made with scampi, mussels, or shrimps – but it is made with lobsters and even with small fish.

The dish delights by its light, elegant, and simple taste. It is made of seafood cooked in a mixture of olive oil and wine, seasoned with garlic, fresh herbs (usually parsley). For thickening the sauce, sometimes the breadcrumbs are added when the buzara is nearly cooked.

The basic recipe – with olive oil and wine is called buzara na bijelo (white buzara), while with the addition of fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, it becomes buzara na crveno (red buzara).

This mouthwatering dish is usually accompanied by bread that will soak up the sauce.

Skradinski rižoto
Skradinski risotto is a creamy, delightful risotto, traditionally made by men in a huge pot over an open fire for 12 hours. It consists of a veal rump, beef, ham, onions, a capon, and beef bouillon and rice and is seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. This festive risotto is creamy, incredibly rich, and absolutely delicious.

Rožata
Rožata is a traditional Dalmatian pudding made of eggs, sugar, and milk, covered with caramel sauce and flavored with rose liqueur (Rožalin) and lemon zest. It’s incredibly light and sophisticated taste made it very popular in Dalmatia, and today you can taste it in many Dalmatian restaurants. Rožata one of the treats included in a list of Croatian culinary heritage dishes.


Wine

The tradition of winemaking in Croatia dates back to 2500 BC when Greek settlers came to islands Hvar and Vis. Both the continental and coastal regions of the country produce delicious, high-quality wine. Here is the short description of the most popular varieties.

Plavac Mali grows along the Dalmatian coast and is the best Croatian red wine. It is rich wine, full of flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, carob, dry figs, pepper.

The most notable producers of this wine are Mike Grgich, Korta Katarina, Mokalo, Matuško, Miloš, Miličić, Madirazza, Plenković, Dubrovački podrumi and Crvik family.

Pošip is the best Croatian white wine. It is full-bodied and delights by flavors of apples, citrus fruit, vanilla spice, and subtle almond note. Initially, this wine was growing only on Korčula, but today can be found all around Croatia.

The best Pošip is produced by wineries Stina, Grgić Vina, Zlatan Otok, Korta Katarina and Krajančić Intrada.

Malvazija Istarska is one of the oldest autochthonous grape varieties in Croatia, and the first wine variety mentioned in a written document (14th century). It is refreshing, dry wine with lovely aromas of quince, honey, fennel, apricot, and spice. Malvazija Istarska is mostly grown in Istria.

While there are numerous Malvazija Istarska producers, the best wine is made by Matošević, Kozlović, Meneghetti, Cattunar, and Roxanich wineries.

Grk is indigenous to Croatia and grown only in sandy soils close to Korčula. White wines made from the Grk variety are aromatic, with flavors of pear and pine.

Most notable producers of Grk whine are Cebalo family, Milina-Bire, Milina-Lovrić, and Zure families.

Teran is a red grape cultivated in Istria. It is full-bodied, robust wine, with the flavor of forest berries and pepper and high both in alcohol and tannins.

Veralda Istrian 2015 is one of the best Teran wines. Other great producers are Moreno Coronica, Kozlović, Romeo Licul, Roxanich, Kabola, Trapan and Cattunar

Graševina (Welschriesling) is medium-bodied, everyday wine of Central Europe and one of the most popular white wine grapes in Croatia. It is a dry, fresh, and aromatic white wine with flavors of young fruits (elderberry, green apple, or vineyard peach) and flowers.

The best Graševina is produced by Enjingi, Krauthaker, and Mitrovac wineries.

Crljenak kaštelanski is the most famous indigenous Croatian wine – but not by its original (complicated) name. In the USA, this wine is called – Zinfandel. In Italy – Primitivo. This variety was grown in Croatia since the beginnings of viticulture, with written records from the 15th century about Crljenak kraštelanski on islands of Hvar and Vis.

Crljenak kaštelanski is a deep red wine, similar to Plavac Mali, with berries and spice aromas.

Best wines of this variety are produced by Stina winery, Zlatan Crljenak, Kairos Crljenak by Vinski Dvori, and Zinfandel Benmosche.

National parks to visit

Croatia has a total of 8 national parks in the country that cover about 1,8% of the country. Visiting all of the national parks in one visit can be a daunting task unless you have plenty of vacation time on your hands. However, each one is better than the rest, and they all have something amazing to offer. Stunning waterfalls, amazing islands amidst deep blue sea, majestic mountains – it is almost hard to believe that a small country like Croatia can offer such astonishing diversity.

The national parks in Croatia are not just about pristine nature and beautiful landscapes – many of them offer thrilling activities like swimming, hiking, biking, rock climbing, scuba diving…

The best time to visit most of these parks is during the Spring and Autumn months when there are fewer visitors or in the summer – when you can swim, snorkel, and scuba dive.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, are also a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main attractions of the National Park are 16 lakes interconnected with the world-famous Plitvice Waterfalls. The tallest waterfall is 78 meters tall.

The lakes enchant visitors by its incredible colors, ranging from green to azure blue and lush greenery. Beautiful wooden footbridges and pathways invite for a long, up to 18 km, walk along the crystalline lakes, besides misty waterfalls and bountiful shades of green.

The National Park goes beyond beautiful cascading lakes. It occupies an area of 30,000 hectares, covered by beech, fir, and spruce forest. Deers, bears, wolves, boars, and numerous rare bird species live in this well-preserved piece of biodiversity heaven.

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a fantastic day trip from the nearby cities of Zagreb or Zadar.

Krka National Park

The mouth of the river Krka is a beautiful set of breathtaking features, waterfalls, stunning canyon, and crystalline lakes. It attracts nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, and offers an exciting day for a trip from Dalmatian cities.

The most appealing falls in the park, Skradinski Buk, consists of nearly 20 different waterfalls and is almost a half-mile long. Swimming beneath Skradinski Buk, in the clear crystalline pool, is a beautiful experience.

The National Park is home to 850 types of plants and over 200 species of birds.

Apart from the waterfalls, Krka National Park enchants with 14th-century fortress located on the Krka River, and the dreamlike island monastery of Visovac.

Mljet National Park

Mljet is a most heavily forested Croatian island, recognizable for its unique and unusual beauty. Salt lakes, ancient stone monastery, olive groves, vineyards, and dense forests create a mystic atmosphere and radiate with an extraordinary harmony of nature and human culture.

Here you can relax in the tranquility of the Mljet stunning nature but also enjoy different adrenalin activities – kayaking, swimming, hiking, and biking.

Day trips to Mljet are available from Korcula, Dubrovnik, Makarska, and the Peljesac peninsula.

Risnjak National Park

The mountainous region of Croatia, only 15 km from the Adriatic coast, hides least known Croatian National Park Risnjak.

The park covers an area of 63.5 square kilometers and consists of the central part of Risnjak and Snježnik massif and the source area of the river Kupa.

The rugged terrain offers stunning views to rock climbers and hikers, while for less adventurous visitors park offers fly fishing in Kupa River. Or a cabin in winter and an observatory in summer to make close-ups of Risnjak wildlife. The park is home to brown bears, deer, wolves, wild boar, and of course, lynx. The Risnjak mountain was named after this secretive and rare beast – “ris” means lynx is in Croatian.

Beautiful National Park is a place where you can find more than 1000 thousand plant species and subspecies.

Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park lies on the southern slopes of Velebit, near Zadar. Its central part is karst gorges of Velika Paklenica (Great Paklenica) and Mala Paklenica (Small Paklenica), with cliffs rising to 400m.

Velebit Range is a part of the Dinaric Alps, located along the Adriatic coast, separating the Dalmatian coast from the hinterland. It is the largest (but not the highest) mountain range in Croatia.

The steep limestone cliffs that line the canyons are perfect for hiking and rock climbing. Stunning views and challenging walls attract rock climbers from all over Europe.

The park has over 15 kilometers of beautiful trails. The tops of the mountain ridges overlooking the valleys, rivers, dense forests, and two picturesque lakes, Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica.

The park is home to over a thousand plant species along with many endangered and rare birds that nest along the cliffs.

Sjeverni Velebit National Park

Beautiful mountain landscapes of Sjeverni Velebit (Northern Velebit) National Park attract hikers and cyclists who enjoy tranquil nature and stunning views.

A unique attraction is Velebit Botanic Garden, at 1500 m above sea level, with 300 different plant species. From here, you can take many beautiful trails into the spectacular nature of the National Park.

Stars above the Zavižan program is also a lovely thing to do here. It is a one-hour night walk to do stargazing with a guide. Free of light pollution, Sjeverni Velebit reveals the full beauty of a starry night sky.

Kornati Islands National Park

One of the most famous Croatian National Parks, Kornati, is often mentioned as “nautical paradise.” This archipelago will put to the test all the nautical skills of the crew, but also reward with views of the incredibly beautiful intact nature. The Kornati archipelago consists of 89 islands, islet, and reefs along 238 km of coastline. They are the most densely grouped islands in the Mediterranean.

Besides sailing, Kornati is an excellent place to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Underwater is incredibly rich, diverse, and full of marine life.


Brijuni (Brioni) Islands

Located off the coast of Istria, the National Park Brijuni is an archipelago of 14 beautiful islands with a long history. Archaeological and historical sites date back to the times of dinosaurs, Roman Empire, ages of templars, and fast forward to the communist era, when Tito, Yugoslav president, enjoyed a fancy private residence here.

The largest island Veliki Brijun is the main tourist attraction of the National Park. The island, covered with idyllic meadows, parks, and oak and laurel forests, is incredibly scenic.

Here you can enjoy golf, tennis, archery, biking through the open zoo a or swim in crystal clear sea. A 13-kilometer bike route starts at the Veliki Brijun harbor and runs past the main tourist spots.

During the summertime, an abandoned fort of Mali Brijun island becomes the open stage for spectacular theatre shows performed by Ulysses Theatre.

National parks in Croatia provide unique and diverse experiences, from pristine Plitvice lake, wild mountain landscape of Risnjak to the stunning Kornati, and lush island Mljet. They will test your physical limits in Paklenica or Sjeverni Velebit and feed your soul with picturesque Brijuni and Krka nature. Wherever you are on the Croatian coast, some of the national parks are just around the corner – easy to reach and totally worth a visit.

Getting around (public transportation, rent a car, good to know)

By Rail
The train network in Croatia isn’t extensive, and that is especially the case with the coast. Trains tend to be slow, and travel can take too much time when compared with buses. Zagreb is connected with most of the Croatian cities in the hinterland, while on the coast, you can reach Rijeka and Split by train.

By Car
Driving on the Croatian roads is an easy task as most of them are paved and in superb condition. Picking up a car and hitting the open road is one of the best ways to experience the Adriatic Coastline and the rest of beautiful Croatia. The drawback of driving your own car in Croatia is the lack of parking in historic cities such as Split, Zadar or Šibenik.

By Bus
The bus is the most popular form of public transport in Croatia with an extensive network of long-distance, international and intercity buses. The main bus hubs in Croatia are Zagreb, Split Rijeka, Zadar, and Dubrovnik. From there, you can reach all the towns (and villages) of Croatia. There are all year round connections to Austria, Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

By Boat
Many tourists come to Croatia to visit the islands that mostly can be reached by the ferry from Rijeka, Zadar, Split or Dubrovnik. Some islands are connected with the mainland by inexpensive catamarans from Rijeka, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. Besides that, there are many providers of local boat trips and cruises that cover the smallest islands, islets, and secluded bays.

Car Rentals
All major cities and towns in Croatia have rental companies offering self-drive vehicles. You can book online or book when your land in the country.

By Bicycle
Although Croatia has beautiful landscapes where you can enjoy biking, generally, biking culture is not yet very well developed in Croatia. While some biking roads are great and inviting for the bikers, the streets can get pretty unpleasant for bikers since there is no infrastructure, and the drivers are often not too kind toward bikers. So, for recreational purposes in quiet roads, in national parks and with organized tours, biking experiences in Croatia are absolutely stunning. But if your plan using the bike to get you and your family from your hotel to other destinations around the town, it might be quite stressful and relatively dangerous.

UNESCO sites

Beautiful Croatia has over thousands of beautiful islands, amazing beaches with romantic sea promenades, an ideal Mediterranean climate and rich cultural heritage. But, to experience the best of Croatia, don’t miss its ten astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Halfway between Split and Zagreb is the most exciting place of Croatian hinterland – National Park Plitvice Lake, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many visitors think that its 16 lakes interconnected with about 90 spectacular waterfalls and framed by lush greenery might be the most beautiful place in the world. And we couldn’t agree more.

Plitvice offers a delightful walk along 18 km of beautiful wooden footbridges and pathways. Walking along the crystalline lakes and besides magical waterfalls detoxes from any restlessness or stress. The tranquility of the perfectly turquoise water, misty waterfalls, and bountiful shades of green are a mother’s nature’s most beautiful wellness treatment. Locals believe that wishes made under the biggest Plitvice waterfall always come true. And we think it is worth a try.

The National Park goes beyond beautiful cascading lakes. It occupies an area of 30,000 hectares, covered by beech, fir, and spruce forest. Deers, bears, wolves, boars, and numerous rare bird species live in this well-preserved piece of biodiversity heaven.
If you want to touch the park and see a few highlights – it can be covered as a day trip from Zagreb or Split. But if you’re going to explore the area, you are going to need at least three days here.


Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
The most prominent part of the complex is Diocletian’s Palace, built in honor of the Roman emperor Diocletian, during the 4th century AD. Beautiful Palace, situated next to the sea, was intended to be his retirement residence. Today, Diocletian’s Palace is the surreally beautiful, lively heart of the Split. Narrow streets of the castle are filled with unsurpassable charm and beauty.

Peristil square, formerly a Roman court, echoes the ancient glory of the Roman empire. It is a central square of the Palace, where Diocletian was celebrated as a son of god Jupiter.
In the Palace, you can visit the smallest catholic Cathedral in the world, Cathedral of Saint Domnius on Peristil, built in the 4th century as the Imperial Roman mausoleum. From the top of the iconic bell tower near the Cathedral, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the Palace and the sea.

Below the Palace is Riva, palm-lined seafront promenade, famous for its beauty, lovely historic buildings, and zen-inducing overlook at the Adriatic sea.

Old City of Dubrovnik
Renaissance harmony, a medieval mystic and fantasy-like Game of Thrones vibe – the city of Dubrovnik is bursting with good energy and unbelievably lots of things to see and do. The Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is considered the most beautiful Croatian town and is among the most famous tourist sites in Europe.

Dubrovnik fascinates its visitors by its fairytale ambiance of the breathtaking city walls, Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance churches, aristocratic palaces, red-roofed townhouses, magnificent monasteries… For centuries, Dubrovnik was micro-republic that protected its independence by unprecedented diplomatic skills and riches earned in adventurous nautical trade endeavors of Dubrovnik merchants. During times when practically the whole Mediterranean was under the disastrous reign of the Turkish Empire, Dubrovnik was flourishing with power and bursting with culture, art, and literature. The flair of a strong, independent, and the incredibly rich town still attracts people from all over the world.

Best sights in Dubrovnik are city walls, The Pile Gate, a stone gate entrance to the Old Town, and a 17th-century Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, with beautiful altars and Titian’s paintings. Rector’s Palace is a fascinating mix of gothic and renaissance architecture, built in the 15th century. Main street, Stradun, lined with historic buildings, is one of the most beautiful sights in Dubrovnik. And last but not least is the mountain Srđ, above the Dubrovnik, overlooking the stunning city and the ravishing nature.


Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
Astonishing UNESCO Basilica of St Euphrasius, a masterpiece of 6th century Byzantine architecture, is a must-see of Poreč and Istria. Although the whole complex is beautiful and full of interesting architectural details, its highlight is glittering 6th-century Byzantine-style mosaics in the apse of the church. Art historians agree that by its beauty and significance, Poreč mosaics can rival those in Ravenna.

Poreč is a picturesque Istrian town situated on a peninsula, steeped in the history of the Roman Empire and Venice. Quaint narrow cobbled streets, beautiful Venetian era buildings, and the sea promenades in the shades of the pines are a perfect setting for a relaxing stroll.

The historic city of Trogir
Trogir, “city-museum,” is another beautiful Dalmatian UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every step of Trogir is full of history, culture, and stunning architecture. Laid out in the typical structure of the Mediterranean city, Trogir wins over your heart with every step you make on its 2300 years old streets.

The old core of Trogir is an island, surrounded by the city walls, originating from the age of Greeks and Romans. A guided walking tour will reveal the most important sites and captivating stories from Roman, Greek, and Venetian times.

The main sites to cover in this city include the historic city core that has ten churches and other buildings from the 13th century, the city gate and walls, lovely Kamerlango Castle, a Cathedral, Duke’s Palace.

Cathedral of Saint James
The Cathedral of Saint James, also called Šibenik Cathedral, is a triple nave basilica with three apses and a 32-meter-high dome. Its sophisticated renaissance architecture still amazes architects, and its harmonious structure and refined details awe people from all over the world. Its unique blend of Italian, Tuscan, and Dalmatian architectural influences created one of the most elegant sacral buildings in this part of the world.

Stari Grad Plain
The Stari Grad Plains, located on the island of Hvar, is an agricultural landscape established by ancient Greek colonists in 4th century BC. Due to its robust construction and smart watering solutions, Stari Grad Plain is in continuous use for olive orchards and vineyards for 24 centuries. The area was surrounded by stone walls, along with stone shelters and a water collection system.

Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
This UNESCO World Heritage site spreads across four countries (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia) with 4000 of tombstones (stećci), made of limestone and engraved with beautiful decorative motifs and inscriptions. The stećci are associated with local folk and fairy tales, superstitions, and customs. Their epigraphy and reliefs have significantly influenced contemporary literature and other forms of art in all four countries and the region.

Venetian Works of defense between 15th and 17th centuries
This UNESCO site stretches across the countries – Italy, Montenegro, and Croatia. It consists of 6 defensive walls built by the Republic of Venice. In Croatia, there are Two Works of Defense. The system of Zadar that used to be a center of Dalmatia is the largest and most powerful fortress in the Adriatic. It used to be a strategic defense location for the empire, defending the route between Venice and Corfu from the Ottoman Empire attacks.

The stunning fortress of St Nichols, built near Šibenik, protected the city from threats of the Ottoman Empire. The structure is made on a rocky crag near the Šibenik channel. Other sites are the Fortified City of Kotor (Montenegro) and City fortress of Palmanova, the fortified city of Peschiera del Garda, and the walled city of Bergamo (Italy).

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe
Beech is a large tree with glossy leaves and a pale grained timber. Those forests once covered over 40% of Europe, spreading from a small area to over 12 countries in the continent. Since the end of the last Ice Age, the beech started spreading from the Alps, Carpathians, Dinarides, Mediterranean, and the Pyrenees in a process that is still going on. The beech forests can be found in the Northern Velebit and Paklenica national parks.

All Croatian UNESCO Heritage Sites are on the coast or very close to it. So it’s very convenient to enrich your summer vacation with a visit to incredibly beautiful natural sites or stunning cultural location. Some of the UNESCO sites in Croatia will tell you about its prosperous times and a flourishing culture, while others are monuments to tough times of wars and battles with the Ottoman Empire. And all of them are just too beautiful to be missed.

Safety

Croatia is generally very safe to travel to. There are no terrorist attacks, and violent crimes are rare, and overall crime levels are low. But, keep in mind that as in most popular destinations, there are cases of pickpocketing and petty theft, so keep an eye on your wallet and phone.

Who is it for

Croatia is a great country for all sorts of travelers. Its diverse landscape offers fantastic beaches, mountains, valleys, and rivers that provide numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. Rich cultural heritage, with many remnants, UNESCO sites, and ancient towns delights history buffs. Families and newlyweds will make unforgettable memories on Croatian islands, beaches, and lovely secluded bays. Finally, Croatia is a country with delicious food and fantastic wines, with excellent restaurants that offer fresh seafood and locally produced delicacies.