Highlights of Croatia
My experience of this country actually started long before the word Croatia came onto our radar as it was in the 70’s that my Mum, Dad and brother, like hundreds of thousands of other Brits, with a caravan in tow, drove from the UK down into Istria in the north of the former Yugoslavia for our annual two week summer holiday….
As a result this region will always hold a special place in my heart. Strange then that in the late 90’s the tour operator I worked for, Holiday Options, decided to be among the first, after the dreadful Balkan war, to seriously step back into the emerging country of Croatia.
Back in those days I formed a great friendship with a true gentleman called Josep Lozic, who was then the head of the UK Croatia Tourist Board. I can hear him now at travel industry events proclaiming in his fantastic Croatian/English accent that Croatia is “the Mediterranean as it once was” or when he was feeling mischievious “the only non hamburgerised nation in Europe” referring in the late 90’s to the lack of well known american food chains!
24 hours in Dubrovnik...
I recall the day in 1999 when we chartered, just for 24 hours, an aircraft with 130 curious UK travel agents on board from Birmingham to Dubrovnik. We spent the day in the old town mooching around the slightly damaged walled city and then enjoyed an incredible seafood lunch at the famous Gradska Kavana restaurant overlooking the bay on one side and the famous Stradun (main street) on the other. After lunch and more mooching we visited the jaw droppingly beautiful village of Cavtat before our flight back to the UK. All in a day but what a day!
It was on another trip on this same Stradun street in Dubrovnik where I remember leading a group through Ploce gate (there are two in Dubrovnik Ploce and Pile) where a couple of elderly ladies selling lace, honey and figs heard our English voices. As they did, they shouted at me (nothing unusual there!), declaring that the English were back and how much they had missed us. It was a small but significant moment in my travel career as it suddenly made me feel a real sense of achievement and worth that I and the company I represented was making a difference to these ladies and this countries lives.
Behind the lens...
In 2002, with a view to increasing the awareness of this destination, I escorted Craig Doyle and his film crew from the BBC Holiday programme to Dubrovnik. Here unfolded perhaps the scariest moment in my travel career to date. We were filming up on top of Mount Srd looking down on beautiful Dubrovnik and Craig was doing a piece to camera and was told to step a little further back by the director. At that moment a lady screamed out “mines” as back then sadly mines from the war still existed on the mountain side especially as the slope got steeper and where mine sweepers could not go.
Here is that program preserved on You Tube including at the beginning that piece of footage of Craig on the mountainside – think of me having heart failure behind the camera…
Time Difference: Local Time + 1 hour
2h 30m from London
Visa: No for British Nationals
You will be back...
Those troubled times are long gone and now Croatia as a holiday, city break, a tour, an adventure or just for fun has it all. However understanding the complexities of the regions and deciding where to start can be a little daunting to plan so I hope this review will help.
There is something so chilled about Croatian life and the combination of stunning scenery, a rich history, unbelievable cuisine, warm and friendly locals with a great sense of humour plus a fantastic climate make this country one of the must visit destinations for anyone ticking off their European country bucket list.
The problem with Croatia is you can’t do it all in one visit so rest assured you will be back again and again!
Top Sights & Attractions
Across Croatia there is a wealth of different accommodation options ranging from shepherds huts on the Kornati Islands to 5* deluxe villas in Dubrovnik – there really is something for everyone !
Hotels have over the years tended particularly in Dubrovnik to evolve into expensive 5* properties offering service and location but at a considerable price. There are still some 3-4* jewels to be enjoyed but in peak season to get what you want you will need to book ahead.
Self catering apartments are a popular choice for families and these are often ideal as the chance to take the family shopping each morning for fresh fruit and vegetables in the many markets is a joy and an education.
Private Villas again are popular with a real difference in standards available from the simple to those catering for the super rich.
With over 1,000 islands you can also always hire a liveaboard yacht or take an old time motorsailer cruise along the Adriatic coast.
I would highly recommend car hire but only if you are a confident driver as some of the highways hugging the mountainous coast can be intimidating. If you are OK with that then the experience is one to savour.
Car hire is excellent value and can be organised in advance or through your hotel or in town.
If you are planning to travel into a neighbouring country and I have in the past travelled to Bosnia, Slovenia and Montenegro in a hire car then please ensure you get the necessary permits so mention your plans at time of booking/collection.
Given the numerous islands located off the Adriatic Coast, it’s very likely that you’ll be utilising the network of ferries. The main ferry company in Croatia is Jadrolinija and it is highly likely you will use their services. Boats and ferries sail the Adriatic connecting major ports with almost all the inhabited islands all year round. However always check the schedules as regularity is seasonal.
- Jadrolinija Routes along the coast, including a Split – Bol – Korcula – Mljet – Dubrovnik catamaran service
- Kapetan Luka Operate two Split to Dubrovnik catamaran services (including one that operates April to October) as well as several Split – Hvar and Split – Hvar – Korcula services
- G & V Line a catamaran service from Dubrovnik to Sipan & Mljet which continues to Korcula and Lastovo in July & August
- Catamaran Line Operate the Pula – Mali Losinj – Zadar year-round catamaran, plus a local Sibenik route.
- G & V Line Iadera Routes from Zadar to the local islands, plus a Rijeka – Krk – Rab – Pag – Zadar catamaran route
- Mia Tours From Zadar to the islands of Premuda, Silba and Olib
- Rapska Plovidba Service between the islands of Rab and Pag, and Rab and the mainland
- Bura Line Operate a route between Split, Slatina and Trogir
- Bilan operate services between Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula and Korcula
- Porat Ilovik have a route from Losinj to the small island of Ilovik
- RPZ Vrgada operate a service from Biograd na moru and Pakostane on the mainland to the small island of Vrgada
- GP Sibenik operate a route from Brodarica (near Sibenik) to the island of Krpanj
- Nauticki Centar Komiza have a ferry line between Komiza on the island of Vis and the island of Bisevo
Croatia Airlines, the countries national carrier, British Airways and a host of low cost airlines including Jet 2, Easyjet and Ryanair all have various services from the UK to Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Pula Rijeka and Zagreb.
All of Croatia’s main airports are modern, welcoming, airconditioned and clean as you would expect.
Taxis are generally very high quality and reasonable value for money especially if they are pre ordered. Picking one up from an airport to your resort on the fly however can be expensive so with a little planning you can save some money here.
Tipping of 10% is expected assuming you are are satisfied customer.
Resorts & Regions
Dalmatia - Dubrovnik Region
To further complicate the regional names there is a 20km stretch of coast between Dubrovnik and Cavtat which is unofficially known as the “Dubrovnik Riviera” and officially as the Zupa Dubrovacka named after the Zupa bay. Its all park of the Dalmatia Dubrovnik region – all clear ??
Always a favourite with the Brits, I have yet to meet anyone who does not like Cavtat. Located on the western shores of the Konavle Valley, an area of natural beauty south of Dubrovnik, Cavtat is such a delightful resort with a picturesque bay, harbour and palm fringed promenade. It is a mix of ancient culture, modern hotels, gift shops, pavement cafes, bars and I am afraid now quite expensive restaurants that come alive at night time. A walk around the peninsula path is a lovely early morning or sunset experience as are checking out the back streets, the art galleries, the Baroque parish church and the octagonal Mausoleum built by the famous sculpture Mestrovic. A really popular pastime is to head down to the bay at about 6pm and catch a game of water polo – a sport where Croatians excel.
From Cavtat you can catch the bus to Dubrovnik but I much preferred jumping on a water taxi from the harbour front that takes about 30 minutes and drops you right in the heart of the old town.
If you are sporty there is so much to do in and around Cavtat and into the Konavle valley. You can go sea kayaking from Cavtat, scuba diving, horse riding, cycling, hiking or there are even buggy adventures and off road jeep safaris.
Other little tips for Cavtat are to get up early and watch the fisherman docking and selling their haul to the local restaurants. You can also take the boat from Cavtat on a variety of island excursions so do your research and pick your island – Korcula for history, Mljet for nature, the Elaphite islands for a variety in one trip (Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep) or Lokrum the island of love just across from Dubrovnik where the kids can play on a swing over the little pool or you can visit the botanical gardens and enjoy a meal in a tropical setting.
Watch out around the peninsula of the Hotel Croatia as you may stumble upon the nudist beach which are pretty common throughout Croatia…. of course you may be there to partake in the sunbathing in which case my advice is don’t burn your bits in the summer! There are a number of hotels in Cavtat – some catering for the family market and other smaller boutique style for those looking to chill without the frill !
Cavtat is a magical place to stay as it offers the best of both worlds – the small resort with an evening atmosphere to savour yet close enough to the major city and island excursions. I love it there and its definitely one of my happy places in this world of ours!
Cavtat is for everyone – families, couples, lovers and loungers !
Where do you start with this perfect medieval city? The huge walls were built between the 11th and 17th century and today you will find tourists paying a fee to climb the steps and walk around them for views of the city from above. One tip when doing this is avoid the hottest part of the day as its hard work with little shade and limited refreshment stops.
Dubrovnik is alive both day and night with tourists although an ever decreasing number of locals still live in the little cobbled side streets off the main Stradun where restaurants, cafes and bars lines the street. There are two gates at either end of the old town – Pile gate is north and Ploce by the old harbour is south. In the mornings the bars and cafes are filled with people enjoying the coffee, in the afternoons its the delicious ice cream and in the early evening its the cool beer that draws you in! Dubrovnik is the perfect place to people watch. Within the city walls are also boutiques, souvenir shops, churches, palaces, museums and markets so whenever you visit there is plenty to do. The nightlife within the walls is pretty low key although a couple of Irish bars tend to attract the crowds.
A couple of bars I love in Dubrovnik are the tiny Troubadour where they regularly play Jazz outside on the cobbled streets or the Beach Bar Buza which is a late afternoon / early evening establishment where you stoop to get through this narrow entrance to a bar perched outside the city walls but where you can enjoy a sundowner with views across the Adriatic and the island of Lokrum. The Buza Bar is a real hidden gem and the word in Croatian means “hole” as it is accessed by a hole in the old city walls. There are nowadays a number of high end glizy bars catering for the rich and famous…. avoid those and feel the real Croatia !
Just across from Dubrovnik you will find the island of love – Lokrum where you can find the ruins of a Benedictine monastery, a botanical gardens, a restaurant and there is also a pool with swings and countless spots to relax and gaze across the Adriatic sea without a care in the world.
Dubrovnik also has a fabulous cable car that will take you just 4 minutes to the top of Mount Srd for views of the city and where there is a classy restaurant and also the Homeland War Museum dedicated to the history of the Balkan war back in the early 90’s. Its fascinating and I would highly recommend.
Now Dubronik is not just about what takes place within the old city walls. There is much more to discover including the lovely Lapad peninsular where there are a selection of well priced hotels as well as a popular beach and promenade full of bars and restaurants. Access to the old town from here is best by bus which is cheap and cheerful and drops you right outside the city walls. Add to this local markets, the Gruz port area and the Franjo Tuđman Bridge – one of the largest single-pylon, cable-stayed bridges in the world.
I love Dubrovnik although in recent times with the arrival of big cruise ships it can get very busy so I prefer it out of high season and I also shudder at some of the prices being charged now. Most well located hotels are now 5 star and offer a high standard of service while catering for families or couples or even those just wanting a weekend break – Dubrovnik is for everyone – just not all at the same time hopefully.
Just 11 kms south of Dubrovnik is the little fishing village of Mlini is sheltered by high mountains, nestled amongst pine trees, cypresses, olive trees, orange groves and oleanders and many excellent beaches which bask in the warmth of the Meditterranean sun. Old stone houses, a peaceful harbour and pleasant shoreline just add to the traditional and untouched feel of this small hamlet.
Dubrovnik is a short 10km bus or boat ride away. The Zupa Valley with its enchanting villages, vineyards and farms are just a 15 minute walk away.
Until recent times Mlini was pretty low key however as Dubrovnik hotel capacity has maxed out naturally companies have looked further afield and now the resort is getting many more visitors in particular to the five star Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel.
Dalmatia - Elafiti Islands
If you are staying in the Dubrovnik region then a popular day trip is a three island cruise to the Elafiti islands. It is a really enjoyable day out but I strongly suggest suncream, comfy shoes and if the skipper is in the mood a strong liver as there could be some liquer unveiled at some stage!
You can also stay on any of these islands and while accommodation choices are limited there is normally something for everyone as long as you are there to relax and switch off and not expect too many modern day trimmings…. who needs them anyway ?
Kolocep pronounced KO LO CHEP is one of 13 islands that are part of the Elafiti. With less than 200 inhabitants and no cars you will find the island charmingly simple.
This island is famed for its sub tropical vegetation as well as the quaint fishing village of Donje Celo which is on the north west coast of Kolocep and protected from the winds by a limestone ridge. The other popular beach is Gornje Celo on the south west coast.
The “Church of our lady” from the 13th century is a popular attraction.
Back when I last visited the Hotel Villa Kolocep was the place to stay however it was taken over by TUI and is now exclusive to them. Otherwise accommodation tends to be villas or apartments and of different standards.
Visitors would be families and couples looking for a peaceful relaxing holiday although I can’t say what goes on within the TUI hotel resort.
A small and peaceful island renowned for its warm and sunny climate as well as tropical vegetation and mediterranean flora. The island does boast one of Croatias very few truly sandy beaches in the Bay of Sunj.
Lopud itself has a large promenade, a botanical garden, a profusion of flowering shrubs and trees, some bars and a limited choice of restaurants.
My main memory of Lopud is taking a group of travel agents to the Hotel Lafodia when it was so sadly damaged from the war that it was difficult to “sell” to the agents. I always remember as we sailed away thinking one day this island will prove everyones doubts wrong. Would love to take those agents back and see what they think now !
Lopud is ideal for a families with children wanting that peaceful, safe, traffic free holiday experience.
Sipan is the most populated and largest of the Elafiti islands at 9 km long by 2.5km wide. There are two main villages Sipanski Luka and Sudurad where the charming and popular Hotel Sipan is located. In Sudurad there are the ruins of a castle and palace as well as 30 churches dating back to the middle ages.
Most people staying on Sipan go for the peace and quiet, the excellent home grown hospitality and the opportunity to explore on foot via a choice of well marked hiking trails. Dubrovnik is accessible by ferry from Sipan.
Sipan definitely has a magic to it that is very appealling to many UK guests who just want to switch off relax and enjoy local food, wine and hospitality.
Sipan is perfect for couples looking to relax or a family holiday without the modern day frills.
Dalmatia - Dubrovnik Riviera Islands, the Peljesac Peninsular & Orebic
The Dubrovnik Riviera is rich in island diversity so be sure to check that the attractions of each match your requirements.
Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo and often referred to as a mini Dubrovnik, is one of the largest of the Adriatic islands with over 195 unspoiled coves and beaches and an old town full of charm and character. It is easily accessed by a short ferry from Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula. In fact the image of Korcula old town from the sea is one of the most popular images used to showcase the country of Croatia after Dubrovnik of course !
The island will appeal to those who enjoy their active pursuits. There are pine scented woods and caves to explore, numerous watersports and activities to take part in, plus a selection of little bars, restaurants and coffee shops to while away those hot steamy days and barmy nights.
Korcula also has a very proud tradition and one of the Adriatic’s most unusual customs – the Moreska sword dance. It probably began in Spain as a form of protest against the Moorish occupation and then migrated to Korcula in the 15th century. It is effectively a danced version of a sword battle and tells the story of an abducted princess. My advice is stand well back and stand behind some one bigger than you !
Korcula is for everyone – families, couples and those who like to get out and about.
I have always loved the feel of Korcula as it has that real magic and air of history about it.
Lastovo is where you can taste some of the finest lobster in the region. Albeit a distant island from Dubrovnik, a visit is well worth the effort. Try to visit at Carnival time, as Lastovo’s unusual carnival traditions are among the best known in Croatia.
Lastovo is for the adventurous and fo rthose who want to switch off.
Now I am a fan of Mljet but then when you hear thats its all about nature, peace, quiet and scenery then you will know why! Thought by many to be one of the most beautiful islands on the Adriatic I visited way back in the late nineties. Mljet is a national park with two lakes, Malo and Veliko. Within one of those lakes is home to a tiny island called St Mary and a Benedictine monastery which bizarrely sells some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted – funny what you remember !
All over Mljet are a criss cross of paths often lined with locals selling honey or olives or oils. I always think of Mljet as an ideal place to go if I ever wanted to just switch off and reflect – maybe even write my travel blog – it is so peaceful and full of forest, attractive shorelines, a few hills to keep you fit and then of course you have those lakes.
Its not really a place for the family however I am probably saying that coz I dont want screaming kids on this little corner of paradise – just me, nature and that ice cream !
Orebic is situated on the south west tip of the Peljesac peninsular at the base of Mount Ilija. There are beautiful beaches here lined with palm trees as well as a little fishing village with views across to Korcula. There is a regular ferry that takes the short hop over to Korcula so this is an ideal excursion if staying in Orebic.
Personally I think there are better places to stay than Orebic…. it is perhaps good for those travelling as an overnight stop before an early morning ferry to Korcula or to explore the south mainland. Having said that the wine from Orebic and this Peljesac peninsular is excellent so maybe my memories of this village are a little hazy…
Vis was one of the few islands of any size that has so far eluded me and as such I have always had this yearning to go !
Vis is the furthest island from the Adriatic mainland and has in recent years gained increased recognition as the island where the Momma Mia sequel was filmed.
The natural vegetation of Vis means it is a ideal for those who love the great outdoors as the region is covered in pine trees, carob trees and citrus orchards as well as exotic species such as palm trees, cacti and rare silver palm trees. Much of the island is devoted to vineyards that produce the famous white wine, “Vugava” and the red wine “Plavac” to which I am rather partial !
I hope one day to get there and to tell you a whole lot more !
Dalmatia - Split & the Makarska Riviera
Located between the two cities of Split and Dubrovnik is arguably the most glorious stretch of coast along the Adriatic. This amazing route is dotted with seemingly endless white pebble beaches fringed with sweet scented pine and olive trees. In the winter months when you are back home in the wind and the rain that smell of Croatia is one that you will crave. The views of the spectacular Biokovo mountains overlooking this beautiful coast as well as the warm azure blue sea and the islands of Hvar and Brac plus many more will leave you speechless.
Trogir is one of my special places in Croatia. Its not big, its not flash, and unless you cross the small bridge over to Ciovo Island then there are no beaches. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trogir is a unique and beguiling ancient city full of history dating back to 3BC and founded by the Greeks.
What I love about Trogir is the cobbled streets packed with shops, bars and fantastic restaurants, the walled medieval centre, the charming main square and the fresh food market. You only stay perhaps one or two nights either on arrival into Split or as I prefer before heading home as it means a short 10 minute transfer to the airport.
There is also a lovely marina here where in the late afternoon you wander up and down the promenade where there are often kiosks selling art or local gifts to those who have pulled in on their yachts for an overnight stopover. I love the atmosphere here and to me it is one of the most lovely Croatian towns with a magic in the air.
Over on Ciovo island its good for that family holiday but Trogir itself is for people like me…. who love to potter around, take photos, wander around markets and generally relax and people watch…. perfect… for a day or two !!
If you are looking for a spectacular backdrop for those holiday snaps then the old town of Makarska located in the middle of a horseshoe bay with the imposing Biokovo mountain range behind is hard to beat.
You can travel up those mountains for spectacular views of the town and its surroundings but a word of warning… if you are hiring a car be aware that the track is narrow and if you encounter a car coming the other way as I did, you may need a second pair of pants, as I did!
Makarska has a beautiful palm fringed promenade with a wide range of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. As is the Croatian way, during the late afternoon and early evening the promenade becomes the place to be seen and to people watch.
The town is bustling with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, particularly in July and August when it is heaving. There is a pretty harbour where you can see the fisherman in the mornings selling their mornings catch or in the evening varous sea faring craft bobbing at their moorings.
Alongside Markarska and the location of the majority of the hotels is a gorgeous pebble beach separated by a pine fringed path full of restaurants, cafes and bars.
Makarska is perfect for families and also for those looking for a livelier holiday.
Personally I love Makarska in June or September when its not so crazy busy but I guess if I was 25 again it would be the height of the summer all day long !!
Sitting in the heart of the Makarska Riviera, Baska Voda, once a small fishing, farming and trading village is now a popular tourist spot and favoured by the Brits and the Germans. As with Makarska it has the sensational backdrop of the Biokovo mountains but also olive groves, vineyards and pine forests between the mountain peaks and the golden beaches.
People dont come to Baska Voda for art and museums they come for the great outdoors. The beach is always going to be the star attraction but there are many pleasant walks and hikes in the area and Makarska is just 9km south.
Baska Voda is for families and couples although those who like it livelier should head down to Makarska.
Now my old wonderful boss at Balkan Holidays used to say that in the charming resort of Brela was his favourite beach in all of Croatia and when you first see the white pebbles, crystal blue waters and green pine backdrop its difficult to argue against him !
Brela ia a sleepy little village that is littered with stone houses, small bars and cafes which only really come alive in the evening. Most accommodation is located to the side of the port area on densely wooded slopes. There are a lot of high quality villas and private accommodations here but to secure it you need to book early.
Visitors, including families, tend to be those looking for a relaxing seaside holiday.
The city of Split is dominated by the Diocletians palace in the heart of the city. This palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian 1700 years ago is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Split is a busy bustling city full of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Many are located on the famous Riva promenade where those wanting to be seen stroll in late afternoon/early evening sunshine before pulling over for a coffee or a cocktail in one of the many watering holes.
Split is not just a city with cultural and historical significance. It is also a great base from which to explore. The airport is located close to the city centre and also from a huge marina where many of those heading onto the Adriatic seas will embark.
Sport is popular here in Split with Hadjuk a famous football team in the Croatian league plus the city also boasts strong tennis, volleyball and water polo credentials.
Personally I see Split as a gateway to other parts of Croatia so I only like to stay in Split for one or two nights before heading off to Makarska, the national parks or one of the islands. It so depends on your requirements but for a cultural weekend break its ideal.
Tucepi is a quiet town with a flat promenade running alongside its shoreline making it ideal for visitors with restricted mobility. The beaches here are beautiful and like all of the resorts in this area are backed by the imposing Biokovo mountains.
Cafes, restaurants and bars and a few shops are available and with its location just 80kms south of Split airport its a great place for holidaymakers seeking a peaceful, carefree summer holiday.
Dalmatia Split Region Islands
When enjoying your holidays in Split you may fancy some island hopping in Dalmatia. Besides being the second largest city in Croatia, Split is also a big traffic hub with airport, ferry port and train station connecting Split to the rest of the country and beyond. The ferry port in Split is the main stop to the islands of south Adriatic sea.
Some of the most popular Croatian islands are located in the Split archipelago and can be reached from Split by ferries or catamarans in 30 minutes or more.
Hvar is known as the “Madeira of the Adriatic” with a climate that boasts 2,715 hours of sunshine every year. For those of you that know Madeira then you will know that the comparison is drawn due to the islands lush vegetation, pinewoods, olive groves and munerous aromatic plants that perfume the fresh clean air. Hvar is famous for its vineyards producing countless different types of impressive wine and also for its lavender fields. Every souvenir shop will be selling little bundles of lavender to take home.
Hvar town is the main town on the island, although there are plenty of other smaller resorts and villages throughout the island. The main fortified town is now seen as a place for the rich and famous to moor their yachts and dine al fresco in one of the many restaurants dotted around the harbour. Hvar can be lively so prepare for a party in the main summer months. The town also boasts a Venetian palace and a perfect centuries old theatre, the first to be built in Europe and still in use today.
Hvar definitely has the X factor. I remember arriving by boat early evening and being picked up from the harbourside by a friendly guy in a golf buggy…the luggage was put on the back and I was quietly whisked off to my hotel which in those days was in a tired state with hideous purple doors and corridors and desperately in need of renovation – today that hotel is the Hotel Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort & Spa and is 5 star, expensive and oh so exclusive…. its the way Hvar has gone in recent years and thats the market it now attracts although in outlying towns and villages you can still discover the real Hvar.
The island of Brac is the third largest island in the Adriatic and enjoys hot and dry summers. Famous for its lovely coves and coastline and three key towns – Bol, Postira and Supetar.
Bol is Brac’s oldest coastal settlement with its origins dating back to the Christian era. On the south side of the island under Mount Vidova Gora is the medieval seaport. Bol town has a lovely feel about it with a some narrow cobbled streets and a promenade of shops, bars and restaurants. From this town there is a land train that runs along the coast to probably Croatia’s most famous beach which is called the Zlatni Rat or the Golden horn. Aside from its beauty it is known for changing shape depending on the direction of the wind. The beach is small stones and almost gravel rather than fine sand as it may appear in the images. Behind the path way from Bol Town to Zlatni Rat are a selection of family orientated hotels and in the high season many stalls selling gifts, drinks and there are some restaurants and cafes too.
Postira is a small fishing village located on the north coast and as is customary in Croatia surrounded by pine and olive trees. The village has some bars and restaurants and the nearby Lovrecina with its lovely sandy beach and sheltered cove making it an ideal bathing spot for families.
Supetar is a town with a gorgeous harbour that links the island with the mainland. I love Supetar for its long promenade which you stroll along in the early evening deciding which of the many bars and restaurants to stop at.
Istrian & Kvarner Riviera
The Istria and Kvarner regions of Croatia are located in the north of the country along the largest peninsula in the Adriatic. This enchanting region of old Venetian ports, classical architecture, sun drenched beaches, vineyards, olive groves, quaint stone houses and old watermills are all components that make for a fantastic holiday experience.
Groznjan, the village of artists, is the most charming of Istrian hidden gems that if you hire a car and get the chance, go and explore as it is also close to Motovun and Hum which are also full of character. This is the real Croatia !
The village also has a love of local music that you often hear as you wander through the narrow lanes of pretty little shops and studios selling art and crafts plus there are a few little restaurants. You can feel its soul in those little cobbled streets and enjoy breathtaking views all the way to the adriatic sea.
Remember to get a parking ticket for long enough to be distracted – its small but there is heaps to keep you interested.
Grosnjan is generally just for a visit as opposed to an overnight stop.
The charming and sophisticated resort of Opatija was originally created by the monarchs and aristocrats of the Austro hungarian empire. Today, the splendour of a bygone era of opulance and grandeur still remain in the architectual style of many of the hotels.
In fact my grandfather and grandmother used to waltz on the terrace of the Hotel Kvarner back in the fities so this town has a special place in my heart although its not my favourite Croatian resort.
The gardens and parks of Opatija are a pleasant feature as is the main waterfront promenade which is lively in the summer months.
Opatija is definitely for the older market and those seeking a peaceful stay.
The town of Porec is probably the most popular resort in Istria with it positioned on a wooded peninsula amongst small bays and uninhabited islets. Its Venetian feel and Roman heritage is clear to see with churches, medieval walls, towers plus as the town developed over the centuries there are beautiful Gothic and Baroque houses throughout.
My childhood memories of Porec are of an ice cream parlour that the family used to go to and on the ceiling were circles as the owner used to toss the balls of icecream in the air (sometimes too far hence the marks) and catch them in the cornet before presenting it to this excited kid ! I also remember he always used to talk about Kevin Keegan who in those halcyon late seventies days was a footballing icon all over the world. Great memories.
Porec now boasts not only those ice cream parlours but also a range of quality hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, cafes and bars.
This is a great choice for a family holiday or as a base from which to go off an explore if you are more the adventurous type.
The port of Pula is located on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula. This beautiful Istrian city offers a fascinating mix of roman history and contemporary style and is the most important commercial and cultural centre of the region. The sea is crystal clear and the fishing superb plus there is excellent shopping, museums and art galleries and a friendly warm welcome from the locals.
The highlight of any trip to Pula is the Roman Amphitheatre. It is the only remaining amphitheatre to have four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.
People do stay in Pula but personally I find it ideal for one or two nights before heading off to explore more!
One of the largest Central European ports and until recently a powerful industrial centre, Rijeka is a city of history, culture and fun!
Walk the central town squares, Korzo, visit the Old Town, the Shrine to Majka Božja on Trsat, and in the evening, visit the theatre, stop in one of the many restaurants, walk on the waterfront and then finish the evening dancing to rhythms in one of the many clubs.
This city is famous for its many cultural and entertainment events such as the Rijeka Summer Nights, where musical-theatrical events are held throughout the city. Also the Rijeka carnival is one of the five largest carnivals in the world, where the interesting combination of old Slavic traditions and the urban carnival is similar to that in Venice.
Again this is a city to visit rather than base yourself for any length of time.
The ancient fishing port of Rovinj is arguably the most breathtaking beautiful resorts in the whole Adriatic region. The town is dominated by the Cathedral of St Euphemia which towers over the town from up above. I remember walking up the cobbled streets to the top early evening to watch the sunset – the walk will make you puff but its worth it !
Before you embark on that walk up the hill you may get sidetracked and pulled into the legendary Valentinos Cocktail Bar where you are taken through the bar to the rocks on the sea front the other side….you are given a cushion to sit on, order a cocktail and watch the sunset for a moment you will cherish forever.
Rovinj is packed full of little side streets of restaurants and shops and studios selling all sorts of art, souvenirs and keep sakes. The town is a special place… its unspoilt…. its clean…. it makes you feel that life aint so bad after all !
On the outskirts of Rovinj are large hotels catering for families. Those looking to stay in Rovinj will pay a premium in small boutique hotels often squeezed in on narrow streets…. it can be noisy but then thats part of the appeal of being in the old town.
Nestled between Kvarner and Istria, the beautiful islands of Cres, Krk, Losinj and Rab have stunning beaches, pretty old villages, historical buildings and pristine natural environments to explore.
Cres, the second largest island in the Adriatic is a nature lovers dream. Lush Mediterranean forest, Vransko lake and an island rich in plant life.
In the northern part, with cold, dry winds gusting south in winter, the flora is typically sub-Mediterannean with oak and sweet chestnut woods. In the south, which is protected by the hills, are evergreen coniferous forests.
Everywhere there are wild herbs that flavour the local food aswell as wildflowers in the pastures and thousands of olive trees. Over ninety species of bird nest on the island. As well as eagles, falcons and owls, there is a dedicated ornithological reserve for the white-headed griffon vultures which nest on rocks next to the sea.
Krk – a town and port on the island with the same name. Krk is also the managerial, administrative, cultural and religious centre of the island.
This former bishop’s town has an extremely significant architectural monument – a cathedral, whose origins reach back to the 6th century. The old town, which can be entered through four town gates is surrounded by walls, which guard the valuable memorial heritage; there is a roman basilica leaning on the cathedral, there is a Frankopan castle from the 12th century as well as many profane buildings (Kotter house, Kanonička house) with valuable markings from the different periods. In terms of the many towers, the oldest is the four cornered tower of Kamplin built in the 12th century.
The newer, urban part of the town expanded outside the walls a long time ago. There are luxurious villas and summer residences which during the season offer tourists comfortable accommodation. The pretty pebble beaches, the many cultural entertainment events (the Krk fair that has an attractive maritime battle and others), excellent offer of food, the possibility of trips (Biserujka cave, Košljun island and others) make Krk an attractive tourist destination.
Lošinj has been a tourist trap since 1897 when Austrians and Hungarians visited for its clean, unspoilt landscape and air. The forests are ideal for cycling and walking trails, which wrap around secluded beaches. The best beach is in Mali Lošinj, a pebbly and rocky cove protected by the forest and excellent for windsurfing. Mali Lošinj is a picturesque port town, where you can walk along the seaside promenades, and enjoy the pretty bays, gardens and natural forest.
Neighbouring smaller town Veli Lošinj has the feel of an old fishing village, with a castle, a Venetian tower and many lovely gardens.
Rab is a lush green haven with small towns and secluded beaches. King Edward VIII and his lover Wallis Simpson visited in 1936 while sailing nearby. Rab has some wonderful beaches, including the popular and beautiful Rajska Plaza in Lopar – considered one of the best beaches in Croatia.
Pudarica beach near Barbat is known for being a party place with its beach parties and night clubs. The lovely Komrčar forest park is full of exotic trees, flowers, birds and butterflies, with lots of bike and walking trails. Inland Rab is also speckled with vineyards, olive groves and crops.
The main town on the island, Rab, is a medieval walled city with churches, palaces, romanesque bell towers and an interesting cathedral.
Dalmatia - Zadar - Kornati Islands
The Zadar region of Northern Dalmatia is well known for its beautiful beaches, glorious islands and wonderful national parks. It is a popular place for sailing and caters for both active or relaxed holidays.
The Kornati islands are an archipelago consisting of 140 islands covering an area of 114 square miles. Many of these islands are part of the Kornati National Park due to their natural beauty, numerous coves and crystal clear blue waters
There are no permanent residents of the islands and the majority of the area belongs to the people of Murter island. They will visit to tend the olive groves, vineyards and orchards. Many of them will have cottages where they stay during the agricultural season.
The islands are best visited on an organised days excursion from Zadar, Sibenik or Split although it is possible to stay in one of the cottages for a Robinson Crusoe type holiday.
Don’t expect many facilities though as you will stay in a house with no electricity or running water. A boat from Murter will deliver you there and pick you up a week later. This is truly the place to get away from it all !
Zadar is an ancient Mediterranean port city. The old town, surrounded by walls and towers on a peninsula, with a new, urban part is connected by the symbol of the city – a bridge.
Built on Roman principles, the streets are very well structured and orderly thus giving them and the city a rectangular shape. The old town is a treasure trove of archaeological artefacts and monuments to the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods.
In the summer there are traditional or contemporary events like the full moon nights and Zadar dreams. There are some nice beaches on the outskirst of Zadar for that day enjoying the sunshine while in the evening there is the town and those streets to discover.
As a little tip here – try the sweet Maraschino cherry liqueur – a local treat !
Zagreb is Croatia’s capital, as well as being a business centre, university centre, city of culture, art and entertainment. Springing up from two medieval settlements – Kaptol and Gradec, which form the core of the old Upper Town, it is a true Central European city and with the surrounding settlements it has about one million inhabitants.
The old Baroque nucleus is woven from old stone streets and buildings, many churches, a magnificent cathedral with modern shops, cosy cafes and restaurants. Have a ride on the Zagreb’s blue tram or walk down the longest street in Zagreb – Ilica, climb up the funicular to the Upper Town and visit the Lotršćak tower, St. Mark’s Church, Kamenita vrata, museums and galleries…
A large number of green oases and walks, numerous excursion sites in beautiful surroundings, monuments and sacred objects make it a pleasant place to live in and a city tailored to fit every man.
Located at the foot of the Medvednica mountain, which hosts two FIS ski races, there is a sports and recreation centre on Lake Jarun with regatta races and the tennis tournament Zagreb Indoors; all this makes Zagreb a city recognized for its world-renowned sporting events.
Cheese from the Island of Pag
Pag cheese or is a Croatian variety of hard, distinctively flavoured sheep milk cheese originating from the Adriatic island of Pag.
Ham and kulenova seka of Slavonia
Kulen (pronounced [kǔlen]) is a type of flavored sausage made of minced pork that is traditionally produced in Croatia (Slavonia) and Serbia (Vojvodina). … This type of sausage is often referred to as kulenova seka (literally kulen’s sister).
Oysters and Mussels from Ston
North of Dubrovnik why not take a fabulous excursion into the Peljesac peninsular for Oyster and Mussel tasting along with some of the magnificent wines from this region.
Black Ink Squid Risotto from Dubrovnik
It was not my favourite as I find it too heavy but there is a hell of a lot of risotto consumed in Croatia with one version dyed in the black ink of squid… certainly not a nom nom from me !
Grilled fish, salted anchovies, eels & frogs from the Neretva Valley
The grilled fish throughout Croatia is the best simply served with potatoes, local fresh vegetables and lemon. Delicious !
Pašticada from Split
A beef stew marinated in vinegar and spices for up to a couple of days, after which it’s stewed in red wine or prošek with bacon, tomatoes, a few dried prunes or figs, and root vegetables.
Maraschino of Zadar
An authentic liqueur of the Zadar region, whose recipe is obtained from the essence of ripe fruits of the Dalmatian sour cherry marasca and the leaves of its young branches.
Prosek is a subtly sweet Croatian dessert wine which is traditionally produced in the south of the country, predominantly Dalmatia. I suggest you have one of these with ice and unlike some of the after dinner offerings this wont blow your socks off !
Wine – Grasevina (Welschriesling) has long been the preferred white-wine grape in Croatian vineyards. It is backed up by regional specialties Bogdanusa, Grk, Posip, and Vugava.
The favored local red wine Terlan (a member of the wider Refosco family) and Plavac Mali of which Dingac is my favourite.
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is dotted with numerous peninsulas, islands and inlets. The most famous of these are the Island of Hvar and the Peljesac Peninsula.
The two most well known beers and available everywhere are Ožujsko and Karlovačko. Ožujsko was established almost 130 years ago this is the most popular beer in Croatia. It is a lager beer with a golden colour, featuring a deep white head. Karlovačko is an award-winning golden-yellow beer that offers a bitter, yet refreshing taste. The name of the beer comes from the city Karlovac, which is where the factory is located.
Croatians love tennis and you will find tennis courts everywhere. The country really saw lift off in this sport when Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon in 2001.
As we in England know to our cost the Croatians are also very good at football. The pain of losing a World Cup Semi final was made a little easier as it was to this nation and not one of our usual rivals.
Basketball & Volleyball
Croatian people are naturally very tall and this benefits many sports and so in basketball and volleyball where height is a key component once again they excel.
Croatia is a strong nation for swimming and waterpolo and you will often see men and woman training at various locations along the coast.
You may think that Croatia is a country of summer sports. Well in Janica Kostelic they have one of the greatest alpine skiers ever as she is a four time Olympic gold medal winner.
There are the eight incredibly clean and well managed national parks in Croatia.
Brijuni Islands National Park.
Kornati National Park.
Krka National Park.
Paklenica National Park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Mljet National Park.
Risnjak National Park.
Northern Velebit National Park.
The Krka Waterfalls and the Plitvice lakes often get the headlines but if you want to head off into the unknown and discover a real slice of fresh air and nature at its best then make time for any of these Croatian natural wonders.
The stand out animals in Croatia are the Brown Bear which sadly is still hunted in the country as well as Wolf and Lynx.
The region between the Danube and Drava in northern Croatia has an abundance of waterfowl and marsh bird populations making Croatia a fantastic choice for bird watchers.