Having spent some time out of the limelight, Croatia is back with a bang. Shaking off the hedonistic tag that accompanied its initial resurgence, this sun-drenched country of culture and history has established itself as a sophisticated destination. Incorporating sweeping green fields, thick forests, the rugged Dinaric Alps and enchanting Adriatic Coast, Croatia has something for everyone. Throw in a mix of Renaissance, Venetian and Gothic influences and you’ve a culture all of its own.
What to see
Historical capital set on the banks of the River Sava. Explore the cobbled streets, visit the bustling open air market and look out for the fine monuments that dot the parks and squares.
Croatia’s most celebrated city, this thirteenth century gem overlooks theAdriatic and has been granted World Heritage Status for its traditional terracotta roofs, Rector’s Palace, Franciscan monastery and baroque churches. Walk the city walls to see daily life and admire the superlative views.
Vibrant coastal town where Roman ruins rub against a burgeoning food and music scene, epitomised by the summer festival held here.
Interesting region settled by the Romans and still full of their remains and ruins that’s also renowned for its food, especially its truffles, and high quality local wines.
An archipelago of around 90 islands spread over 300 square kilometres that’s almost uninhabited. Usually explored on a day trip, stay over at a renovated stone cottage instead for a better flavour. Croatia’s second city, Split, is further south.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Charming island famed for its blue sea, rocky coves and good beaches.Hvar Town is home to some high quality restaurants whilst theport ofStari Grad is the atmospheric oldest settlement.
Tiny city founded by the Greeks more than 2000 years ago that is today a World Heritage Site celebrated for its Venetian Gothic stone buildings.
Ucka Nature Park
Attractive park with great trekking and cycling opportunities as well as paragliding and horse riding on offer.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Tranquil, crystal-blue lakes, crashing waterfalls and dense forest are the main appeals here. Walk the trails to discover hidden corners of the park.
Less-frequented eastern region where traditional village life continues as it always has.Visit Kopacki Rit Nature Parkfor good bird watching.
When to go
Weather & Seasons: Croatia has a varied climate, with Mediterranean conditions on the coast and a more temperate continental climate inland. The peak season is July to August but you’re better off heading there in spring or autumn – September is perhaps best as the sea is warm, the sun shines, the crowds are sparse and everything becomes a little cheaper as the season winds down.
Important Dates and Festivals: There are a number of rigorously adhered to Catholic festivals and feasts throughout the year. The Carnival is the biggest with the climax just before Shrove Tuesday a nationwide spectacle.
Getting there / around
Flights: There are international airports in Zagreb (ZAG), Dubrovnik (DBV),Split (SPU), Pula (PUY) and Rijeka (RJK) on the island of Krk. There is a limited internal network of domestic flights.
Road & Rail: There is also a reasonable network of both rail and road routes.
Sea: Ferries operate along the coast and connect the major cities here.
Short Trips: A combination of its reasonably compact size and a reasonable network of roads means that you can get around Croatia fairly easily. Take two weeks to travel from the urban delights of Zagreb to the coast via Plitvice Lakes National Park then discover the coastal treasures of cities such as Zadar, Trogir,Split and finally Dubrovnik.
Alternatively dedicate two weeks to exploring the coast and travel the length of the Adriatic from Dubrovnik in the south to Pula and Porec in the north, taking in traditional fishing villages, ancient towns, dramatic coastline and the spectacular islands offshore.
Alternative Routes: If you tire of sun and sea, spend two weeks travelling from Zagreb through the northern interior of the country, looking out for castles, spas and villages set amidst the gentle hills and open plains before exploring KopackiRit Nature Park with its profusion bird life.
Overall Country Guides: There are good Croatia guides available from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Bradt, Time Out and Frommers. More heavily illustrated titles are on offer fromInsight whilst Footprint produces Croatia in their Thematic series.
There are condensed guides from Insight, Croatia Step by Step and Berlitz. Thomas Cook covers Croatia - Dalmatian Coast, whilst Eyewitness offers Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast in their Top 10 series.
City Guides: Time Out's Dubrovnik Shortlist Guide, Insight, Thomas Cook and Berlitz also cover Dubrovnik in smaller-sized format. Time Out also has Istria in their compact Shortlist series, Thomas Cook cover Split and both Bradt and Thomas Cook have mini guidebooks to Zagreb. Signal publishes a cultural and historical look at Zagreb in their Cities of the Imagination series.
Walking Guides: Trekkers should take a copy of Walking in Croatia published by Cicerone .
There is good country coverage on maps of Croatia from Insight and Freytag & Berndt. Reise Know-How publishes a decent map of the Western Balkans that puts the neighbouring countries into context too.
Dalmatian Coast: There are more detailed sectional maps of the Dalmatian Coast available from Kompass Dalmatian Coast South: Dubrovnik - Kotor - Ulcinj, Dalmatian Coast Central: Šibenik - Split - Brac - Hvar - Korcula and Dalmatian Coast North: Krk – Cres – Lošinj – Rab – Pag - Zadar) alongside their Dalmatian Coast Top 10 Tips map. Geocenter’s Dalmatian Coast covers the same area. Freytag & Berndt cover Croatia Coast and Croatia North separately in order to provide better coverage.
Street Maps: They also publish street plans of Dubrovnik and Zagreb. The Insight Flexi Map of Dubrovnik is also worth taking for a visit to the city.
Start by dipping into Croatia, Through Writers’ Eyes, an anthology of classic and contemporary writing about the country. Rebecca West’s classic Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, written in 1941 recounts her journey throughCroatia,Serbia,Bosnia,Macedonia andMontenegro, and conveys a vivid impression of the region at this time.
Croatia: Travels in Undiscovered Country by Tony Fabijancic describes the daily life of rural people in the newCroatia, whilstCroatia, A Nation Forged in War details the country's recent history.
On the coast try the fresh seafood and specialities such as brodet, a mixed fish stew served with rice.
There are some reasonable local wines available to accompany it, especially in Istria and Baranja. Sip sljivovica, plum brandy, especially at celebrations.
Sight & Sound
Music: The predominant music is folk, based around the tamburica, a three- or five-string mandolin. Vocals are often sung in harmony by groups of up to 10.
Language Books: Pick up Lonely Planet’s Croatian Phrasebook, Berlitz’s Croatian Phrase Book or their Croatian Phrase Book and CD in order to help you get by.
Kuna (HRK) made up of 100 Lipa.
UK and US citizens do not require a visa before entering the country.
Hep A, Hep B, Rabies, and Typhoid vaccinations are recommended.
Safety, FO travel advice
The country is essentially safe although there are areas, especially in border regions, where landmines are still buried.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Croatian country representatives can be found
in the UK at21 Conway St,London W1T 6BN. Tel 020 7387 2022
and in the US at2343 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC20008. Tel 202 588 5899.
There are Tourist Boards
in the UK at 2 The Lanchesters,162-164 Fulham Palace Road, London W6 9ER. Tel 020 8563 7979
and in the US at350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4003, New York, NY10118. Tel 212 279 8672.
For more information visit www.croatia.hr, www.hr, www.balkanology.com/croatia or www.hvar.hr.
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