Written by Linda Bendt for Tonka Times Magazine
If you’ve ever talked to someone who has traveled to Croatia, you may have heard of its old-walled city of Dubrovnik, beautiful beaches along the Adriatic Sea, ancient museums and historical sites, pristine mountain lakes, quaint cultural events or the hundreds of islands, inlets and reefs perfect for most any water activity. So to say this European country attracts a wide range of guests with an even wider range of interests, is clearly an understatement like no other.
Croatia is located to the east of Italy’s notorious “boot,” just across the Adriatic Sea. Visitors coming from the US fly in through a major European airport such as Amsterdam or Munich and onto this somewhat undiscovered country to spend at least 7-10 days soaking up its diversity and beauty. (Or, if Italy is already on your destination list, visitors to Venice often extend their trip and ferry across to Croatia.)
Once in country, travel options are plentiful, whether it’s by train, bus, rental car, ferry or plane. But choosing your mode of transportation won’t be your biggest dilemma – having to narrow down all the sights and activities on your Croatia bucket list, now that could be!
Honored for Its Culture and Heritage
Croatia is home to some of the world’s most noted UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Diocletian Palace and Medieval Split, Dubrovnik Old Town, Historical Core of Trogir, St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Sibenik and several others are why this small but mighty country is known throughout the world for its rich history and amazing sights.
In addition to the physical locations that have been honored, Croatia is among the countries with the most protected intangible cultural heritage elements recorded on the UNESCO List. From lacemaking events to the bell ringers’ pageant, Ojkanje singing to the Za Krizen procession (following the cross) on the island of Hvar, this country has some of the world’s most unique and interesting traditions and cultural experiences to share.
While many of Croatia’s cities are well worth the visit (particularly its capital of Zagreb and others including Split and Sibenik), perhaps the country’s most medieval and fairy-tale like is Dubrovnik.
Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is a must-see when visiting Croatia. Located on the southeastern coast of the country, this historic city has preserved its character over the centuries, which is most notably defined by its glorious city walls. Visitors to Dubrovnik will see old-time drawbridges, 18-foot-high gates guarding the main entrances and watchtowers that provide perfect views of the city and the Sea.
The 1.2 mile-walk around the walled city and cable car to Mount Srd above the town each provide a beautiful introduction to the character of Dubrovnik and its majestic coastline. And, because most of the city’s residents live outside the walls, traffic is non-existent, making it a pedestrian’s dream. The streets and alleyways are full of tiny shops, bars, cafes and restaurants perfect for exploring.
Guests should be sure to visit the Dubrovnik Cathedral and Treasury, tour the historic Fort Lovrijenac and take in the Dominican Monastery, a Gothic-renaissance style building constructed in the late 1300s (today it’s home to an impressive art collection of the Dominican friars).
Croatia’s Colorful Countryside
Those familiar with Croatia associate it with old majestic coastline cities built into the seaside mountains. However, what many don’t realize is the country’s interior has some awe-inspiring sights of its own.
Eight national parks pepper the countryside of Croatia. Its oldest, and perhaps most popular, is Plitvice Lakes National Park located in the mountainous bedrock area of central Croatia.
Visitors to Plitvice can see 16 lakes, all of which were formed from mountain runoff through a series of rivers. One of the most noticeable beauties of the area is the color of its water – ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. These colors change constantly depending on the mix of minerals (mostly limestone or dolomite), organisms in the water and the angle of the sunlight.
Because the terrain of its lakes is arranged in cascades, waterfalls are plentiful. Natural dams of travertine have formed over the years helping to create a unique habitat for flora and fauna that is surrounded by mountains (brown bear, wolf, eagle, lynx and other animal species can be found supervising the area).
Croatia by Sea
The 1,300+ square miles of sea along Croatia’s coastline are home to more than 1,000 islands. While only 20 or so are popular among tourists (due to size and location), they don’t have to be inhabited to be a destination!
Among the top choices for visitors looking to head to the islands is Brac (one of the liveliest and sunniest islands), Hvar (known for its lavender), Krk (connected to the mainland via bridge at Rijeka), the Elaphite Islands (easily reached by ferry from Dubrovnik), among others.
The waterways formed by these islands throughout the Adriatic Sea make for great fishing spots, scuba diving and snorkeling adventures and beautiful yacht or boating expeditions. Many Croatia visitors actually choose to come into the country by sea on one of many luxury cruise lines that make frequent stops in its ports.
For more information about Croatia, or other beautiful European destinations, contact us.
Croatia Fun Facts
- The man’s necktie originated in Croatia from the cravats worn by 17th century Croat soldiers.
- Croatia’s agriculture industry includes grapes (vineyards), olives, sunflowers and wheat.
- Zagreb is the country’s capital and largest city with nearly 700,000 urban residents.
- The country declared independence in October 1991 leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia.
- Roman Catholicism is the primary religion of residents, accounting for nearly 90% of the population.
- Croatia is home to many klapa competitions (small a cappella choirs) that are common throughout the country during peak tourism season.
- Lion sculptures are often affixed to buildings in Croatian cities that were once under Venetian rule. Usually, a sculpted book rests under one of the lion’s paws. If the book is open, that means the city was at peace when the sculpture was made. If closed, the work was commissioned during a time of war.
- Croatia is also a great natural and historical stage for many unique festivals, exhibitions, concerts and events such as the Dubrovnik Summer Games, Split Summer, Rab Fjera, Pula and Motovun Film Festivals, or the Špancirfest in Varaždin.