The Mediterranean country of Croatia possesses one of Europe’s great coastlines, a staggering collection of natural wonders, and an amazing mixture of cultural and architectural influences. Croatia’s coastal towns and cities have a fascinating history and are filled with the historical remains of Roman and Venetian times.
Croatia boasts striking scenery, with tall mountains overlooking large islands in the sea, the Zadar region which caters yachting and leisure travel, dotted with islands, and centered on Šibenik and the Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a whole lot of others.
Croatia’s most popular tourist destination is Dubrovnik, a walled city that juts into the deep blue Adriatic waters along its southern coast. Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the UNESCO site’s thick medieval walls, shiny limestone-paved streets and Venetian-meets-Gothic buildings draw tens of thousands of summer visitors each year.
If you would prefer a less-crowded destination, nearby Cavtat is a wonderful alternative. It has become a popular holiday destination for Europeans who want to enjoy a bit of Croatian ambiance.
Farther up the coast, Split’s old town lies inside the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. The Roman emperor built it as his holiday home, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A short ferry-ride away, the Venetian-era island of Hvar is popular with yachters and celebrities. It boasts some of the country’s top hotels and best seafood restaurants, as well as a pretty fishing harbor, 16th-century cathedral and a hilltop fortress. Travelers come here to enjoy its beaches and water sports.
If you prefer to spend your time in nature, visit in the autumn and try your hand at truffle-hunting, a popular Croatian pastime. Year-round, the forested Plitvice National Park is Croatia’s most visited inland attraction, thanks to its extensive web of hiking trails, emerald-green lakes and thundering waterfalls.
Croatian cuisine to try
Every region of Croatia has its own distinct culinary tradition. For instance, the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians frequently visited the coastal Dalmatian peninsula. As a result, this area enjoys plenty of seafood and uses lots of olive oil, lemon, rosemary, sage and other common Mediterranean spices.
Further north in Croatia’s mainland, expect to find Slavic, Hungarian and Turkish flavors. Meat and game is popular, and dishes are frequently cooked with lard, and flavored with spices such as black pepper, paprika, and garlic.
Read more about Croatian food and drink here.
Hvar Island, known for its lavender fields, produces sachets and oil worthy of bringing home. However, the most iconic Croatian memento is probably the Licitar Heart, a shiny red heart made from dough and considered a symbol of friendship and luck. They can be found all over the country, along with another, better-known souvenir, the necktie. Yes, the tie is a Croatian invention.
You can also bring home a taste of Croatia with olive oil, arancini (candied bitter orange peel), a bottle of Croatian wine, or Maraschino, a drink made from distilling the famous Marasca cherries.