Croatia, a land of haunting beauty, ample diversions and fantastic food.
Croatia is a land unto itself, replete with astonishing beauty at every point of the compass. A vacation paradise with exceptional food, wine and ample opportunities for every recreation you can think of. From sandy beaches encircled by warm, crystal blue waters to thousand year old UNESCO heritage castles tucked into the awe-inspiring mountains that rear up abruptly all around you. This spectacular scenery coupled with pristine examples of ancient architecture inspired the creators of Game of Thrones to film almost 80% of the series in Croatia.
Some things to know before visiting Croatia.
We’ll keep it short. This is an astounding country. The Croats have fought long and hard to keep it that way and continue that fight to this day. Please show respect to every thing that matters to them.
Plan your trips and transportation in advance. Croatia is not a backwater, but transport and lodging can get full during peak seasons. You might consider hiring a local guide/trip-advisor for the first day or two that you are there. Or hire one that can do the local footwork in advance of your visit.
Best times to visit Croatia.
Croatia is a mecca for vacationers of all ilk. If you would like to avoid the peak tourist season, and all the crowds that come with it, here’s my advice: May and June are excellent for Spring and early Summer, September and October are best for late Summer vacations. Imagine all the incredible things Croatia has to offer, then imagine that with 70% less tourists. Hotels and restaurants and transportation are less expensive during off-peak. Things get cold in Winter, so if you visit then, a lot of tourist services may be shuttered for the season.
The best of all Western Europe can offer, and then some.
Imagine if you can; the best of Italy, Spain and France, then magnify that by one hundred times and you have Croatia. Don’t forget the wine! Croatia has been producing wine of the highest quality for well over 3,500 years; reds, whites, and everything in between.
Historical “insignificance” created this exquisite country. Lucky you.
Croatia has a fascinating and ancient history, most significant for the number of occupiers it had over the past several thousand years. Because Croatia was always considered a bit of a “backwater” (if you will) it escaped the ravages of conquerors over time and maintains an exceptional heritage. Croats are very proud of this as they should be. Even more ancient than all of that; Croatia has contributed some of the most pristine and complete Neanderthal DNA to modern science, so yes, Croatia has some incredibly old cultures.
Here’s a brief breakdown on what you should not miss when vacationing in Croatia:
Nature Preserves with great amenities? Check!
The Croatian Adriatic is studded with islands, over 1200, every single one has unique and breathtaking features. For the nature lovers, the Isle of Losinj offers a protected pine forest stuffed with local flora and fauna. This forest marches right up to the waterline where an aquatic nature preserve allows dolphins, seals and other marine life to frolic in the waves just offshore. Swimming, kayaking, hiking, nature hikes and scuba-diving are just some of the attractions. Just across a narrow channel from Mali Losinj is its’ even more rugged and more protected cousin: Cres. 70% of Cres is a highly protected wildlife preserve, the town of Cres itself is an exemplary example of Venetian architecture and planning. The best forms of travel in and around the islands are by sailboat, powerboat and ferry. Take a ferry from Acona to Zadar and then catamaran to Mali. Losinj Island Ferries, (http://www.croatiaferries.com/losinj-island-ferries.htm) as of this publication, are a viable ferry company in the area.
Want something a little more urban in your Croatian island experience?
Nature preserves abound in Croatia, but if you are into something a little more “urban animal”, look no further than Brac or Pag. Pag boasts a series of spontaneous all night, outdoor dance parties at various local beaches (in season, please) while Brac is considered “party central” of the Croatian archipelago. With multiple bars, nightclubs, restaurants and fun-loving residents, Brac is a great place to let your inner party animal roar. Pag has gained world re-known for its lace and hand-crafts, checking out this traditional art form is a nice break from the crazy dance party scene. Both Brac and Pag offer great “non-party” adventures too. Jet ski rentals, scuba-diving, water skiing, wind-surfing, even para-sailing. Transport info?
http://www.croatiaferries.com/brac-island-ferries.htm They also service Hvar and Pag. If necessary, on-island, there are limited taxi and rental car services, plus pedal bikes.
Interested in history and architecture?
Just about any island in Croatia will suffice, but here are some memorable ones. Mljet is probably the most beautiful and green island in Croatia, it also has some exceptional ruins, some of which are so old they can’t be dated correctly. You can take a guided tour of these ancient “dwelling” caves, but exercise caution. Croatia fiercely protects its heritage, attempting to access these caves by yourself can cause big problems. Mljet also has a complete Medieval Benedictine monastery in excellent condition that one can tour. Travel information to and from Mljet: http://www.croatiaferries.com/mljet-island-ferries.htm. While on Mljet there are limited car rentals, taxi and private car services. Rented bicycles are great, some bus services.
Korcula is another island packed with architectural/historical treasures and is said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. Hard to say about old Marco, but Korcula is a treasure trove of Medieval, Venetian and ancient art and architecture. The town of Korcula is slated to become a UNESCO site due to 3500 years of demonstrable habitation starting with the Illyrians. Add to that 1000 years of less identifiable habitation previous to the Illyrians, and you have an old, beautiful, small city. Ancient cave sites and ruins outside of town are all accessible, with the correct guides and permits. Like all Croatian islands, lodging and food are available at reasonable rates. How to get here? http://www.croatiaferries.com/mljet-island-ferries.htm. Once arrived, taxi, private car and bike rental are the best way to travel.
Three cities come to mind immediately as “do not miss” on the Croatian mainland.
Dubrovnik, you should start here.
Dubrovnik is an excellent jumping -off spot for the determined vacationer. Situated in the Southern end of the mainland, Dubrovnik is a classic example of a Venetian walled town: Neon purple and red bougainvillea color every corner you turn in the old town, juxtaposing against the warm cream walls and red tile roofs of the city. Magnificent vistas of the ocean and beaches can be had from anywhere in Dubrovnik. The beaches adjacent to Dubrovnik can get a little busy during peak season, but a fifteen- minute walk to either side will bring you to beautiful quieter beaches, perfect spots for swimming, reading or napping. That incredible crenellated wall that surrounds Dubrovnik is a huge attraction for walkers, you can amble all around Dubrovnik on top of the old wall.
Dubrovnik is one of the main ports for all kinds of transportation to the islands, ferry, catamaran, sailboat and powerboat. Dubrovnik offers all kinds of food, lodging and wine, at every financial scale. There are several wonderful local produce markets that offer the chance to sample some of the finest wines and edibles in the world.
Everything Croatia has to offer is exemplified in Dubrovnik and the surrounding environs. Do not miss this city! Rental cars, a decent bus schedule, trains and taxis are all on offer in Dubrovnik.
Don’t even think of not visiting Split.
Split is yet another amazing city on the Croatian mainland. Further North than Dubrovnik, yet still considered central coast, Split was built on the ruins of the Roman emperor Diocletian’s old pleasure palace. The remaining ruins of the palace are a UNESCO world heritage site, and a staggering glimpse into the past excesses of one of the most powerful empires on Earth. Yes, wealthy and powerful Romans vacationed all over Croatia 2000 years ago, Croatia was considered the “go to place” for the Roman “in-crowd.” You however, don’t have to be that wealthy or “in”. Split offers multiple pricing structures on hotels, inns and other forms of lodging, along with an intense culinary scene. Be sure to clarify how spicy you want your food! All of Croatia has enjoyed thousands of years of trade with the middle East, sometimes the spiciness of the foods has to be monitored. Restaurants, clubs, tours, sailing, and wine tasting are on offer everywhere you turn, along with good transportation to the smaller towns, islands and villages surrounding Split.
Rental cars, bus service, taxis and private cars are all offered in Split. Trains are available for more adventurous inland travel.
Want something a little less ordinary and less touristy?
Please visit Motuvun. Motuvun lies in one of the agricultural heartlands of Croatia; Istria, an area where you can hardly walk without tripping over truffle mounds in the oak forests. Vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, and pizza seems to be one of the favorite foods. (It is rumored that pizza originated here, not in America) Motuvun rises like a benevolent older sibling above this gorgeous fertile plain on the pedestal of a limestone massif. The town is both charming and populated with reasonable accommodations and restaurants. The Motuvun area has incredible archeological sites and active ancient excavations. Hiking, biking, sightseeing and tours are all available to the vacationer. Exceptional foods and wines are so copious and well priced, you might suffer from a glut of choice, but probably not. Just try a little of everything, every day. Buses, trains and taxis from Split, Dubrovnik and other major coastal towns are available. Rental cars available.
Croatia boggles the mind with its historical, scenic, natural and current attractions.
Enough cannot be said about Croatia. It has to be seen and felt and tasted to encompass the staggering array of offerings this country presents. Whether you are out for an action-packed adventure complete with parties, dancing and extreme sports, or just seeking some bucolic downtime in an area with fine food, fine wine and brilliant vistas, Croatia is your “go-to” spot. If you plan your vacation in advance, you can take advantage of very reasonable prices and packages. Travel packages often manage transportation and logistics, too. When you are ready to consider Croatia, please contact us at Croatia travel: what to see and how to get there