For a nation barely old enough to drink, there’s a lot of buzz around Croatia these days. At first, you might think a Croatia vacation might not have the same ring to it as a Paris or Rome vacation… but once you do your research, you’ll find Croatia’s the new European hot-spot with good reason. Let’s take a look at eight very good reasons your next vacation should be to Croatia.
Roman History in Split
Croatia’s location along the Adriatic Sea makes it a prime melting pot location, as millennia of empires rose and fell along these shores. The Roman Empire was no exception. In the coastal city of Split, the 4th century Diocletian’s Palace is half Roman ruin, half the living center of the city. More a fortified city than the grand residence the name implies, it’s one of the most magnificent examples of Roman architecture in the world. And it’s no museum: you’ll find plenty of bars, shopping and dining amidst the great columns of the past.
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The beaches of Croatia’s coast are lapped by spectacular turquoise waters, reminiscent of the Caribbean Sea. One of the most famous is the Golden Horn, a spit of yellow which slips into the sea and shifts based upon the winds and tides. At this ever-changing beach, you can take a swim in the remarkably clear water, watch wind-surfers, and slip into the nearby pine forest for a little rest from the sun.
Medieval City Walls
Dubrovnik’s walls first went up in the ninth century, and subsequent fortifications in later centuries continued to protect this coastal city from threats by land and sea. Today, the massive walls are the perfect vantage point to gaze at the red roofs of the old city, or out over the turquoise Adriatic Sea.
Inland, the water changes from salt to fresh, but remains strikingly beautiful. In Plitvice Lakes National Park, sixteen lakes cascade into one another through a series of incredible waterfalls. Set amongst the mountains, these turquoise-colored lakes shine in striking contrast to the dark green forest and sharp white rock around them. It’s lush, otherworldly, and completely unskippable.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire loved Opatija, a seaside town on the northern coast, and they left behind plenty for us to love today. A beautiful waterfront stroll along the Lungomare, Opatija’s century-old promenade, reveals Belle Epoque villas and other historic buildings from the resort town’s hey-day.
The Dalmatia coast of Croatia is home to islands large and small. For yacht-life glitz, Hvar beckons to the rich and famous, but anyone can join the party. With marble-paved pedestrian streets and a striking sixteenth century cathedral, Hvar has plenty to keep you busy even if you go to bed early. Other islands like Miljet are Hvar’s opposite, with Miljet National Park protecting its green abundance.
Perfectly Preserved Past
Step back in time in Trogir, a walled city built on an island (!) with a history dating back to Greek times. Trogir’s remarkable collection of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a perfect double for Venice — it’s played the role of its Italian cousin in film many times over the years.
Fresh and Local
Croatian cuisine isn’t world-famous — not yet, anyway — but the abundance of fresh, local flavors available to you will have you swearing it’s foodie heaven. Seafood along the coast pops with Italian-inspired dishes like crni rizot, a squid-ink risotto with garlic, local olive oil and lemon. Inland, you’ll find more central European recipes. And you’ll want to try Peka, an only-in-Croatia way of cooking meat, vegetables and even bread under a metal lid buried in hot embers.
Find Your Perfect Croatia Vacation
Ready to start planning your Croatia vacation? One of the most popular ways to visit Croatia is to combine it with a few neighboring countries on an escorted tour. With an escorted tour, you take the complication of making travel plans and handling transportation in a foreign country out of the equation. And since many of Croatia’s can’t-miss attractions, like Plitvice Lakes, aren’t served by train, you can concentrate on taking in the scenery on your way through Croatia’s gorgeous countryside, instead of handling the wheel.
With a Croatia/Slovenia tour, you can explore deeper into the spectacular Julian Alps, perhaps visit the Postojna Caves, or even add Venice to your trip.
Cruising in Croatia is also a great option. It’s the best way to see Croatia’s beautiful islands. Small cruise ship tours of Croatia combined with a land tour give you the perfect overview of the Adriatic coast. A land and sea Croatia vacation means blue waters, sunny skies and incredible history.
Virgin Vacations offers escorted tours of Croatia, Slovenia and other Central European destinations, plus great cruise tour options with small-scale cruise ships, offering the opportunity to sail into small harbors.