Croatia has grown in popularity over the last decade, especially for UK travellers, and the economy is booming. Great for couples and families alike, it offers long hot summers, stunning beaches, untouched islands and fabulous Balkan culture.
An Eastern European country with long coastlines on the Adriatic Sea, plus more than a thousand islands, Croatia is vast and diverse. Crossed by green forests and mountains and dotted with picturesque old cities, towns and castles, there’s plenty to explore inland too. Divided into four regions – Central Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, and Istria – we’ve uncovered some of the highlights that are sure to make your holiday unforgettable.
It’s good news for beach lovers and sun worshipers. Croatia has an incredible and long coastline, meaning lots of pretty sandy beaches, quiet bays, coves and inlets. Favourites are Porec and Rovinj in the north in Istria, and the Makarska Riviera in Dalmatia on the west coast. The beaches here boast an incredible mixture of idyllic white sand and small pebbles, backed by picture postcard scenery.
Croatia is the perfect place to island hop. Hvar island has so many we don’t know where to start! Lucisca is possibly the best, with a sandy cove which legend says has procreational powers. Dubovica Beach is one of the most iconic of Hvar, where it’s emerald green waters changes to bright sapphire blue in the blink of an eye.
Brac is another well-known island home to the famous Zlatni Rat Peninsular near Bol. Brac is great for water sports and for those looking for family-friendly hotels.
For incredible food and wine, try the island of Vis – ideal for foodies and bohemians looking for a hideaway. Here you’ll find quaint fishing villages and great seafood dishes to boot, which you can wash down with locally produced island wine made from Carob which grow in abundance.
For a day trip from Dubrovnik, the small, car-free island of Lopud is a peaceful retreat. You can walk across the whole island in just 15 minutes. You can choose to stay a night or two as there are a few hotels and a handful of small, family-run guest houses.
The City of Zagreb
Inland in Central Croatia, the Capital city Zagreb is described by locals as young and playful at heart, despite being nearly 1000 years old. By day it is like many capital cities, a harmonious blend of thriving businesses and sightseeing tourists, but after sunset it’s the perfect example of a metropolitan city full bars and nightlife with added Croatian charm.
This city is vibrant and full of it’s own special character, bursting at the seams with all the things you expect from a modern Balkan city – architecture, art, music, great restaurants and bars, shopping and of course friendly people, which makes it a perfect city break destination.
As seen on screen in the hit series Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is one of the most popular locations in Croatia. Known as ‘heaven on earth’, Dubrovnik is possibly one of the world’s most striking cities.
Wrapped in a 2000-meter-long stone wall, this gem sits on the Adriatic Sea meaning it has not only hundreds of years of history, but also beaches which is a winning mix. One of the best ways to see the city is from the sky, so hop in a cable car which will whisk you up to Mount Srdin in under four minutes.
For diving, summer is the best time to visit. There are plenty of wonderful diving sites in the Adriatic Sea, but Dubrovnik is arguably one of the best for it’s marine life, reefs and clear visibility. The wreck of Taranto – a merchant navy ship – is accessible from here. There are plenty of diving schools that offer lessons for beginners and first timers, so you won’t miss out on trying a new activity on your holiday.
Some unmissable dive sites elsewhere include Bisevo Grotto or ‘Blue Grotto’ just off Vis island. This magical sea cave has visibility up to 80 feet deep. You may even see lobster, octopus, corals and scorpion fish on your dive. Another great spot is on Pag island, just north of Zadar. Premuda is a series of inter-connected underwater caves which are out of this world and famous for the light shows that filter through from the sunlight. If you’re lucky, you’ll see octopus, spider crabs and amberjack.
Croatia offers seriously good walking opportunities too. Forests, national parks, mountainous peaks and vineyards are just a few of the outdoor adventures that await you. As Croatia’s climate cools down in September and October, it’s a great time to venture out on a walking holiday. Equally, May is good time to avoid the summer crowds.
The Dinaric Alps and Velebit are popular; this range sits in east Dalmatia straddling Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Possibly the highlight though is Krka National Park, about 10 km inland from Sibenik in Dalmatia. Named after the Krka River, it has seven magnificent waterfalls where you can cool down in the refreshing shallow pools.