Once relegated to ‘off the beaten track’ status behind the French Riviera and Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Croatia is now officially on the must-visit list of any Mediterranean itinerary. From sun-kissed beach spots to appetising local cuisine, aquatic activities and historic cities, here’s a taste of a Mediterranean holiday done differently.
Dubrovnik – The Pearl Of The Adriatic
At the other end of the Croatian coastline is the walled city of Dubrovnik, splendid as its nickname (The Pearl of the Adriatic) suggests. Featuring many examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, Dubrovnik’s winding alleys, stone fortresses and towering monasteries are World Heritage-listed wonders best explored by foot over a few days.
The Old City isn’t the only way to step back in time, however. Just off the coast, the Elaphiti Islands are an easy ferry ride away. The absence of cars on most of the islands makes for a much more relaxed feel than the more popular beach destinations to the north.
Island-Hopping The Dalmatian Coast
With more than 700 islands peeling away from the Croatian mainland, visitors are guaranteed to find their own ideal coastal spot. Summer music festivals hum through the night on the islands of Pag and Murter, while foodies head to Vis where local wines are a perfect match for the scent of grilled seafood beckoning from beachside restaurants.
Calm, shallow waters can be found on Brač, which is also home to the famous beach of Zlatni Rat (the Golden Cape). This poster-boy of Croatian tourism features a long tongue of white sand spilling out into blue Adriatic waters and is popular with sunbathers and windsurfers alike.
The calm waters of the Croatian’s slice of the Mediterranean make it a popular destination for scuba divers – Korčula is a perfect place for a beginner to take their first plunge – but the best part is you don’t have to choose favourites. Regular ferry connections mean a leisurely spot of island-hopping is an easy part of a Croatian beach holiday.
Discovering Istria’s Long History
The Istrian peninsula, which extends down from the northern tip of Croatia like a pointed arrowhead, is closest to Western Europe in terms of distance and feel. With cobbled city squares and Roman ruins, the old towns of Pula and Rovinj lure travellers searching for a destination with a deep backstory.
Museums and churches are in plentiful supply, and medieval towns dotting the hillsides of the interior are favourite rest-stops for bicycle tours.
Croatians Are Cooking For Everyone
No Mediterranean holiday is complete without gorging yourself on the freshest seafood imaginable, and this is where Croatia offers a twist on the usual experience. Brudet is a must-try dish of fish and crustaceans simmered in a fragrant tomato and white wine broth, served on soft polenta.
The focus in Croatian cuisine is bringing together big groups for a communal feast, so if you’re invited to share a table with the locals at a bustling tavern don’t hesitate – the memory will linger even longer than the taste.