The snow peaked coastal range plunging down to nearly 6,000 km of crystal clear Adriatic coastline makes for a wildly beautiful travel destination. Add to that the vineyards and olive groves stretching across the fertile valleys, ancient walled cities, roman ruins, thriving nightlife, national parks, and it's no wonder the tourists found Croatia. Still, you can find secluded beaches and sleepy towns if you know where to look.
Stretching from Dubrovnik to Zadar, the Dalmatian coast is studded with islands and a ferry system that you can't afford not to use. Dubrovnik is well worth a visit even though it is crowded (really crowded) with tourists. The white marble streets are filled with over-priced cafes and lined with baroque buildings. You can walk around the city on the old wall (for a fee) or happily get lost exploring the quiet side streets. Head straight to Gradec, the old town, and enjoy this bustling yet laid back city. From here you can walk from park to park, visit the sprawling Dolac market, stroll the cobbled streets to the cathedral and relax at one of the many outdoor cafes.
Visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park, a devastatingly gorgeous string of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls and crisscrossed with wooden walkways. This is understandably a big tourist attraction, but you can find peace and spectacular viewpoints on the many walking trails around the park.
Highlights from Croatia
- Try island hopping from Dubrovnik to Split, stopping off on Brac, Hvar, Lastovo, Korcula and Vis Islands. Medieval towns, pristine swimming beaches, tiny villages and friendly locals might make it hard to leave!
- Korcula, or 'Little Dubrovnik', is a great alternative to Dubrovnik.
- The Dalmatian island of Lastovo is easily accessed by ferry, but has only been open to foreigners since the 1980's and is packed with hiking trails and peace, perfect for a tryst with nature.
- Climbers and hikers check out Paklenica and Risnjak National Parks.
Hints and Tips for Croatia
- Buses are frequent, relatively cheap and connect almost every town. Ferries run regular schedules to the islands year round and cost very little. Train travel within Croatia is fairly limited, including a line between Split and Zagreb and international destinations from Zagreb. Ferries cross the Adriatic Sea to and from Italy. International airports include Split, Zadar, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rijeka and Pula.
- English is widely spoken in the most tourist areas, but it is still worth learning a few key Croatian (Hrvatski) words and totally necessary if you plan on heading out of the tourist crowds.
- The ubiquitous bakeries (pekarna) offering anything from Burek (meat or cheese filled pastry) to pizza and pastries can be a tasty and inexpensive way to fill the gut.