Croatia

An Introduction To 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…

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!

Essential information

Croatia flag

Continent:                         Europe

Capital:
Zagreb

Time Difference:              Local Time + 1 hour

Currency: 
                          Kuna


Flight Time:
2h 30m from London

Visa:                                     No for British Nationals

Language:                          Croatian

Vaccinations:
None required

 

Weather

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Top Sights & Attractions

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is the jewel in the Croatia crown and a must visit even if just for the day to walk the wall and marvel at the ancient city.

Cavtat

Cavtat - a magical town of many palaces, residences and monuments from Roman times and located on the western shores of Konavle.

Pula

Pula, a city that has existed for three thousand years, is situated in the south of the Istrian peninsula and is famous for its Amphitheatre .

Hvar Island

The stunning island of Hvar is a unique blend of unspoilt nature, a rich culture and historical heritage and sophisticated tourism.

Split

The lively city of Split has a special charm and ambience and has at its heart the Diocletian's palace which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Getting Around

Resorts & Regions

First of all Croatia is divided up into four historical and cultural regions – Central Croatia including the capital Zagreb (north central), Dalmatia (south), Slavonia (east) and Istria & Kvarner (north coast). These are then further divided into other, smaller regions. The Dalmatia and Istrian regions on the coast tend to attract the majority of tourism however given that I am such a fan of this beautiful country I really am loathe to favour any one area.
 
If your requirement for a beach holiday is a soft sandy beach then Croatia may not be for you. The majority of beaches with an exception on the island of Lopud are rock, shingle, gravel or man made platforms.
 
Having said that don’t let this deter you from the beach resorts as they are buzzing in the summer months of July and August and a delight in the shoulder seasons of late May, June and September.
 
For city breaks Dubrovnik receives the headlines however consideration must be given to Split, Pula and the capital Zagreb. Smaller towns are also ideal for a weekend break like Makarska, Rovinj, Porec, Cavtat and a very small UNESCO jewel of a village which I adore near Split called Trogir.
 
 

Island Life...

Then there are over 1,000 stunning Adriatic islands with the most popular for tourism being Brac, Korcula, Hvar and Mljet. Smaller options just to visit or some to stay on are Lokrum, Sipan, Kolocep, Lopud and Vis.
 
For adventures, recent years has seen many music and art festivals taking place and these attract younger audiences. For touring you can stay on the mainland using the excellent road network including the iconic Adriatic highway. Finally why not let a skipper take the strain and trust in them to navigate you along the Adriatic waters while you sip on your Croatian wine and admire this regions sheer beauty … you cant beat it !! 
Croatia Map

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 ??

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 ?

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Kvarner Islands

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.

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.

Central Croatia

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