Croatia celebrates 25 years of independence this year and the famous news portal The Telegraph writes really nice article about this country. Croatia already had plenty to celebrate this year. Tourism is booming, with British visitors up 21 per cent compared with 2015. And it’s not all down to Game of Thrones (though that has helped). Here are 25 reasons why you should join them (if you haven’t already).
1. It’s hot
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way. Croatia is one of Europe’s sunniest spots – just take a look at the outlook for Dubrovnik. Visitors should expect 12 hours of sunshine a day in May and June, on average, and 13 in July and August. That’s more than Provence (8 in May, 10 in June and August, 11 in July) or Corfu (10 in May, 12 in June, 13 in July and 11 in August). And it’s still pretty warm now. This weekend will see temperatures of 16C in Zagreb, 18C in Pula and Split, and 20C in Dubrovnik. And in November and December you can enjoy in sunny days with warm wind. But, maybe Bura could surprise you.
2. And easy to reach
Some Greek islands take four hours to reach by plane. The Canaries? More like four-and-a-half. Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik and Pula are all just two-and-a-half hours away or less.
3. It’s still good value
Croatia has been a member of the EU since 2013 but kept its currency, the kuna. So while the pound has suffered a massive slump against the dollar and the euro, the outlook isn’t quite so alarming for UK visitors to the country.
Even in popular tourist destinations you can still find good value. A beer at all but the trendiest bars in Hvar will only cost the equivalent of a couple of quid; dinner for two at a good restaurant in Split (including wine) will set you back less than £40. Good value hotels are ubiquitous, as are cheap holiday apartments.
4. And has the Game of Thrones appeal
There is surely some correlation between Croatia’s growing popularity and its starring role in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Among the attractions to have featured are Dubrovnik, whose city walls and forts became King’s Landing; beautiful Trsteno Arboretum on the outskirts of the city, which becomes the Red Keep’s gardens; the Fortress of Klis, which is used for exterior shots of Meereen; and St Dominic Monastery in Trogir, which appears as the city of Qarth.Alas, it may not return for season seven.
5. It has the world’s most atmospheric Roman ruin
The remains of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, another Game of Thrones filming location, is now the buzzing heart of the city. Among the ancient columns, temples, walls and underground cellars that once made up the Roman emperor’s retirement home, you’ll find dozens of hidden bars, restaurants and shops. Stay at Apartments Salvezani, right in the centre of the Unesco World Heritage Site, and be sure to visit hip Uje, a restaurant and wine bar that also lies within the old palace boundaries.
6. And one of its finest amphiteatres
The port city of Pula in Istria is noted for its first-century Roman amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world. Time your visit to the city to coincide with its annual film festival (held in July), which features screenings inside the ruin, or look out for one of its regular musical concerts. Close to Pula, the islets of the Brijuni National Park, once Tito’s summer retreat, make a memorable day trip.
7. There are spectacular beaches
Just don’t go hoping for sand. Croatia is all about picturesque pebbled beaches, lapped by crystal clear water. Zlatni Rat is the best known, and adorns just about every travel brochure, so expect crowds, but there are gorgeous hidden spots on the mainland, such as Nugal, just south of Makarska.
8. Incredible national parks
Croatia has eight national parks, including the Unesco-listed Plitvice Lakes and Krka, both of which are famous for their stunning lakes and waterfalls.
9. You can combine beach life with soaring mountains
The Biokovo mountain range contains Croatia’s second highest peak – Sveti Jure, at 1,762m – but lies just a few miles from the sea. Rise early and follow the steep zig-zagging trail, from the little village of Makar, just above the beach resort of Makarska, up to the peak of Vosac (1,422m), or, if you’re feeling very energetic, Sveti Jure. It’s a spellbinding route, scattered with wildflowers and butterflies, sweet-smelling pine trees and limestone boulders. Then head back down for a refreshing dip in the sea and a well earned gelato (the ice cream here is as good as you’ll find on the other side of the Adriatic).
10. Its capital is heaven for coffee lovers
Zagreb is “a world away from the sun-soaked islands and seascapes of the Adriatic, with a charm all of its own”, says Jane Foster, our Croatia expert. Explore the medieval quarter, Gornji Grad, home to the 13th-century Church of St Mark and a neo-Gothic cathedral, and the very different district of Donji Grad, filled with green squares rimmed by grandiose Hapsburgian buildings and linked by tree-lined avenues, before embracing the city’s coffee culture. The city is bursting at the seams with fabulous cafes – the residents take their coffee drinking very seriously indeed. The Croatian capital’s Museum of Contemporary Art is also among the best in the world.
11. With one of the world’s quirkiest museums
The Museum of Broken Relationships, also in Zagreb, features seemingly mundane and insignificant objects accompanied by captions that explain their relevance in a failed relationship. It explores the “love, pain, drama, irony, humour and reconciliation” of break-ups, and has proven so popular that a second branch opened in Los Angeles this year.
12. They made the White House
In addition to the photogenic beach of Zlatni Rat, the island of Brac is famous for its glorious white stone, which was used in the construction of Diocletian’s Palace, and, far more recently, The White House in Washington DC. To reach the island, take your hire car on the Jadrolinija ferry from Split or Makarska, and be sure to explore the interior, home to dozens of abandoned villages.
13. There are some incredible summer festivals
You’ll now have to wait until next year, but Croatia hosts numerous open-air cultural festivals during the summer, the best known being the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (dubrovnik-festival.hr), staged from mid-July until mid-August and attracting well-known international performers.
There are also plenty of contemporary music festivals. Some of the biggest are the Love International Festival (loveinternationalfestival.com) at Tisno near Zadar, Fresh Island (fresh-island.org) on Zrce beach in Novalja on the island of Pag; the Dimensions Festival (dimensionsfestival.com) and the Outlook Festival (outlookfestival.com), both at Fort Punta Christo near Pula.
14. And party towns
Hvar Town and Rab Town are the best places to go if you love to stay out late.
15. Parts of it remain virtually unknown
Ryanair recently added Osijek to its route map – the gateway to the little-known region of Slavonia. Telegraph Travel’s Adrian Bridge says: “Venture north from the city to the immaculately preserved traditional village of Karanac, where the Baranjska Kuca restaurant offers hearty Slavonian fare (smoked meats and stews are big here) and excellent local wines; to the east and the bird and wildlife-rich wetlands of the Kopacki Rit Nature Park; west to the Djakovo stud farm, in which the world famous white Lipizzaner horses are bred; or south to Vukovar, the city on the Danube that became a symbol of the Yugoslav wars, but which is now is a key stopping off point for cruise ships plying one of Europe’s greatest rivers. It is a fascinating part of the continent with rich stories and deep histories.” Cruise the Danube from Budapest to Bucharest with insights from John Simpson, Martin Bell and Nick Thorpe. The itinerary include a visit to Vukovar.
16. And it’s got wonderful cities you never thought to visit
Jane Foster recommends Zadar, in North Dalmatia, which contains a lovely old town and is home to several Romanesque churches, plus the quirky Sea Organ, which produces music powered by the waves; and Varazdin, with its 18th-century Baroque architecture and an annual Baroque music festival.
17. It’s the birthplace of Marco Polo
Or so claim tourist officials in Korcula, much to the annoyance of their Venetian counterparts. Whatever the truth, Korcula Town is worth visiting anyhow for its impressive medieval old town, good wines and Moreška sword dance performances.
18. And has one of Europe’s tastiest regions
“Istria’s international profile as a fine purveyor of quality olive oil, truffles, both white and black, and wine is growing at breakneck speed,” says Telegraph Travel’s Hugh Morris. “Any restaurant worth its salt in any of the peninsula’s inland hill-top towns is likely to offer meals that involve all three, more than likely with ingredients sourced within a stone’s throw of your table. Homemade pasta (pljukanci or fuži) with a simple cream sauce and a sprinkling of truffles and cuts of the wild asparagus that grows in the region is a must.”
19. You can even spot dolphins
Keep your eyes peeled off the west coast of Istria and you might just see a pod of dolphins.
20. It’s got a fascinating (if sobering) recent history
Hugh Morris adds: “Croatia has a remarkable modern history, starkly evidenced by some of the shrapnel damage still visible on some of the centuries-old buildings, churches and walls of Dubrovnik, which was beseiged by the Yugoslav army for eight months in 1991. A memorial room just inside the city walls to those who gave their lives in defence of their home is a sobering reminder that country’s hard-fought independence is only 25 years old.”
21. Because Dubrovnik is one of the world’s bucket list cities
The crowds can be unbearable in peak season, but what do you expect of a city that is so eternally enchanting? For the best experience, venture to the old town in the early evening to miss the worst of the crush, walk the city walls just before they close at 7pm, then treat yourself to the set menu at Proto, which dates back to 1886 and once welcomed Edwards VIII and Wallis Simpson. Afterwards, get lost in the backstreets en route to Buza, a ramshackle bar that overlooks the sea.
22. It’s got a beach fit for a Bond villain
Almost completely obscured from the view of passing boats, Stiniva beach on the Croatian island of Vis has something of the James Bond villain lair about it – and was recently named among the best in Europe by a Brussels-based tourism organisation.
Vis, the next island beyond Hvar, has plenty more to recommend it, according to Adrian Bridge, who explored it by scooter in 2014. There are just two main roads of around nine and 15 miles in length. The longer is more scenic, he said, affording “wonderful vistas out towards the island of Bisevo and back to the extraordinarily picturesque red roofs of the port of Komiza”. Stops along the way include “Tito’s cave”, where for a while during the war, the leader of the Yugoslav partisan forces retreated to mastermind operations, and the vineyards of Plisko Polje.
23. And a monument that looks like the Millenium Falcon
That’s the Monument to the Revolution in Podgarić, which commemorates the people of the Moslavina region during the Second World War.
24. It has one of the world’s most beautiful palindromic places
The island of Krk – not to be confused with Krka, on the mainland – is home to some of the country’s best beaches, such as Vela Plaza in Baska, ancient fortifications, and peaceful monasteries. Take that, Oruro and Serres.
25. And you can snorkel among shipwrecks
A German Second World War ship can be spotted below the surface of the water in Zavratnica Bay, near the Croatian port of Jablanac. Grab your snorkel and have a gander.