Croatia is about diverse landscapes, perfect beaches and magical cities.
Croatia is perhaps best known for its beautiful coastline and idyllic islands, but it’s also home to a rich culture, striking cities and unspoilt wilderness. A week in this sought-after destination could take you from a sun-drenched beach to a hike through the mountains, a stroll through a medieval city, or a boat ride atop sapphire water — the choice is yours.
WHEN TO GO
When you plan your trip, it’s important to consider the season that suits you best. The high season is also the hottest and is July and August. During these months, you can expect plenty of visitors enjoying boat parties, fairs and beach days, and you’ll have to book ahead to secure accommodation. Late spring (May) and early Autumn (September and October) are quieter, but the weather is still pleasant. The off-season (from November to April) can be quite chilly, but if you’re visiting for good food, galleries and cultural sights, it’s a good time to take advantage of more affordable accommodation.
The southern region of Croatia is generally a bit warmer than the north, although the main temperature difference is between the interior of the country and the coast. Summers at the seaside are warm, while the winters are mild. The interior, however, has slightly warmer summers and colder winters.
WHERE TO VISIT
Croatia boasts over 40 000 kilometres of coastline and almost 1200 islands, so if you’re looking for a beach holiday, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Zlatni Rat, on the southern coast, is the country’s most photographed beach, and it’s easy to see why. The smooth white beach is surrounded by turquoise waters, while rocky cliffs rise dramatically behind. For an off-the-beaten-track feel, it’s worth the trip to Cres Island — the area has retained its wilderness and is covered in forests, cliffs and hidden coves. It’s home to Valum, a small fishing village from which it’s possible to enjoy pebble beaches or hike along sea-facing cliffs.
There’s more to Croatia than sun-drenched beaches — the country is also home to some amazing cultural and architectural sights. Not to be missed, the fortified city of Dubrovnik is a Unesco World Heritage site — expect medieval monasteries, hidden courtyards and gorgeous sea views from its city walls. The country’s second-largest city, Split, strikes a balance between old and new — it’s possible to see some of the world’s most remarkable Roman monuments and enjoy modern bars and restaurants in the buzzing streets.
Known (and loved) for its café culture, Zagreb features a pretty promenade that extends along the city walls and offers gorgeous views over the town. It’s packed with sweet cafés ideal for simply soaking up the atmosphere.
WHAT TO DO
The country also has a number of national parks, which are well worth a visit if you love the outdoors and are looking for activity. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the perfect spot to view lakes and waterfalls and to walk in pristine forests. For more hiking opportunities, visit Mljet National Park. An easy day trip from Dubrovnik, the park has two large saltwater lakes that are great for swimming.
Many people travel to Croatia for its crystal seas and gorgeous beaches, so it’s no surprise that there’s plenty to do in (and on) the water. There are many areas in which diving and snorkelling are possible, but if you prefer to stay on the surface, sailing and yachting are excellent ways to explore the coast. The Dalmatian Coast is the ideal spot to rent a boat and discover little seaside towns and hidden coves.
If you would rather sit back and relax with a good glass of wine, you might consider a drive along Peljesac, the peninsula that winds away from the Adriatic coast north of Dubrovnik. The area is covered in vineyards, and a number of boutique wineries offer wine tasting. In fact, the country has a long history of winemaking, and there’s the chance to visit both historic and modern cellars.
And, of course, don’t forget to try the local food, which is a delightful mix of Italian, Slavic, Austrian, Turkish and Hungarian cuisines. Some must-try dishes include ćevapčići, a dish made of ground meat and often served with flatbread, chopped onions and red pepper relish; burek, a filo pastry pie sold in all bakeries; brudet, a seafood stew usually served with polenta; and fritule, fried pastries made with citrus zest and raisins and often flavoured with brandy or rum.