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Destination Guide: Croatia

 

Whatever kind of holiday you want, Croatia will tick all your boxes. Laze in the sun while clear blue water laps at dazzling white shores, or plunge into watersports, and then finish the day at a local eaterie.

 

Tear yourself away from the beautiful coastline to explore its islands and the stunning interior, or delve into its history - because Croatia isn't all about beach holidays and water. Its mountains are perfect for hiking and cycling, while the more energetic can try ziplining, climbing and rafting.

 

Ancient walled cities boast the cultural riches left by centuries of invasions and foreign rule, with a jumble of Venetian, Slavic, Roman, Austrian and Soviet styles competing with more recent additions. Belgrade, Porec, Split on the Dalmation Coast, and the capital Zagreb are among those worth a visit, but for a sense of what Croatia is about, head for Dubrovnik. 

 

 

  

 

Dubrovnik old town

Recent history hasn't been kind to the city, but visit the museums documenting its troubled past, and you'll see that it has picked itself up. Walk past the forts along the old walls that once encased a thriving republic - on hot days, you'll be glad of water, but take your own because it does tend to be a bit pricey if you buy it up here! You'll be elated by the views, but sobered by the bright new terracotta tiling that repaired roofs damaged by bombing in the 1990s. Find out more at the War Photo Limited gallery, curated by a photojournalist based in the Balkans at the time, or spend an hour at a display documenting the siege of Dubrovnik. Appropriately housed in a fort from where locals defended the city, during what Croatians call the Homeland War, it features extensive coverage, including videos. 


Close to this and north of the walls, a four-minute cable-car ride will transport you to Mt Srd for an incredible vista over the glittering Adriatic to the forested island of Lokrum (popular with swimmers) and the more-distant Elafiti Islands. You'll be grateful for the aid of telescopes at the top, and equally glad of the nearby restaurant and snack bar. Be warned, though, that safety considerations mean it all stops in gusty winds or thunderstorms. 

 

 

 


Relax - you're on holiday

It's not all about sightseeing and culture though if that's not your thing. The country's coastline is what attracts many travellers, and there are beaches for all tastes. Zlatni Rat's beauty attracts crowds, and has a section for nudists, while the aptly-named Paradise Beach has all the attractions you could need.

 

But if that's not your idea of heaven, try the seclusion of Stinvia's cove where high cliffs provide an opening of only 10 metres to the sea. Access is via a steep track or by boat, but if you prefer, pretty Srbrena is an easy flat walk from a parking area, near the fishing village of Rukavac. Divers can take advantage of the cliffs at Kolombarica Beach, or if you're less brave, you could settle for a swim in the shallow caves, following it with a pit-stop at the welcoming beach-bar that nestles among the vegetation nearby.

 

Medena Beach attracts windsurfers, but has plenty of land-based activities, while the ice cream parlours and bars along its promenade compete for your custom. Alternatively, hang out with the locals on Ada, an island on the Danube which offers free boats. 

 

 



 

Jedi!

The Croatians love to share food and drink, so if you hear the command "Jedi!", meaning eat, you'll know what to do. Tasty local cuisine influenced by Mediterranean and Central European cooking is served in small taverns (Konoba), restaurants (Restoran) or in a more basic inn called a Gostiona. Ručak (lunch) is traditionally the biggest meal, but eating establishments have adapted to tourists' timetables and provide sustenance all day. Late-morning snacks (marende or gableci) are popular, and reasonably-authentic pizzas are always a good option. 


Breakfast is a light affair, but you can supplement it with a pastry from a local bakery or pekara - most cafés don't mind if you bring your own to eat alongside their delicious coffee. Buy fresh produce at a outdoor market (tržnica) and a variety of breads from a pekara, but as names differ from town to town, it's fine to just point! Grilled meat fills rissoles, burgers and kebabs, while in coastal regions, sea food is the favourite. The country's olive oils and wines have gained international recognition, and you can sip the latter in a kavana (café) or kafić (café-bar) - chilled wine-based mixes are heavenly on a sultry evening! The climate is more suited to lager than beer, and as in the UK, it's worth seeking out small breweries rather than sticking to big brands. 

But do remember vegetarians need to take care! Dishes said to be meatless often contain ham or similar, and vegetable or egg options may have been cooked in an animal-derived stock. This isn't necessarily a deliberate deception but more of a misunderstanding. Cooks are beginning to grasp the concept, however, and Croatians are showing an interest this life-style. So ask and probe, or stick to a Pizza Margherita! If you're a vegan, save yourself anxiety by going self-catering and frequenting the local supermarket (samoposluga) or tržnica. For either group, starters, salads and pasta are a useful standby. 

 



Accommodation

There is always plenty going on in Croatia, with accommodation ranging from youth hostels and camp-sites (useful for festivals) to luxury hotels, with apartments, B&B, privately-let rooms and family-run hostelries in between. Naturists will find complexes in several resorts, so everyone is catered for, and all those boxes are ticked!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Croatia?

 

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