Is Croatia a war-torn Adriatic backwater or Europe’s best up-and-coming travel destination?
Next question please…
More affordable than Greece and less crowded than Mediterranean hotspots Italy and France, Croatia is arguably Europe’s “it” holiday destination right now – a relatively cheap-and-cheerful getaway that punches well above its weight in terms of touristy pleasures.
Even better, Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast practically begs to be explored by boat – like I did a couple of years back. Sleeping below deck at night and basking on the upper deck all day, for one amazing week I island-hopped along the coast.
With fresh food and cheap beer onboard, I was in my element. I’d swim before breakfast, all but curing my hangovers from the night before in the refreshing aqua, and relax with a book until the boat would moor at our next destination.
Stretching more than 3,000 miles, Croatia’s historic Dalmatia region encompasses more than 1,000 islands and many more towns, villages and cities. These are some the highlights.
Split, like so many other Croatian cities, is beautiful and historic; in fact, the largest city in Dalmatia also happens to be one of the region’s oldest.
Go for a wander through the Split’s centre and you’ll see the city’s Roman walls, squares and temples – including Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site that dates back to the fourth century.
Of course, if you’re looking for more modern comforts then you won’t be disappointed by the city’s many decently-priced restaurants and bars – just beware the more expensive ones down by the water if you’re on a budget.
Among the most populated of the Croatian islands, Hvar has a buzzing nightlife thanks in part to the large number of boat tours that stop here.
Imposing fortifications loom large over Hvar Town, providing a magnificent view point from which to marvel at the beauty of the Adriatic. Meanwhile, the town itself is among Croatia’s prettiest, with a large square bordered by markets and shops as well as a waterfront strip flanked by palm trees, restaurants and bars.
Hvar is well-known for its lavender, which is in bloom in the summer months – making this striking island even more eye-catching.
The “Pearl of the Adriatic” is one of this traveller’s favourite places – and you can see why.
Bordered by massive concrete walls and featuring striking architecture and sculptural detail, Dubrovnik’s beauty is matched only by the likes of Venice, Paris and Florence. The city is best viewed from its historic walls, which span 2km, while the cobbled streets below offer an entirely different perspective.
Dubrovnik’s many inter-connected roads may prove difficult to navigate but getting lost in this UNESCO heritage site is half the fun. Meanwhile, the city has a bounty of excellent restaurants – some much more expensive than others – as well as bars and nightclubs.
Famed explorer Marco Polo may or may not have been born on this Croatian island town to a family of merchants. Either way, you’ll find plenty of Polo-themed souvenirs, cafes and restaurants on Korcula.
It’s a large island but the main Korcula Town is easy to navigate, with a pedestrian road circling the village. On this road you’ll be inundated with choices of places to eat and drink – all with wonderful views of the water. However, you may find the nightlife on Korcula to be more subdued than on other islands.
Makarska is as picturesque as the Croatian coast gets – a palm tree-fringed promenade sweeps past trendy cafes, bars and boutiques on one side and a stunning beach on the other.
Catering for seemingly every type of tourist, the aforementioned beach and promenade is very family friendly while the Sveti Petar peninsula, a relatively small strip of land at the port entrance, serves as a city park and (sometimes) a nudist beach. During the tourist season, the town also has two popular night clubs built inside natural caves near the sea.
Pretty spectacular, huh? Have I missed any other Croatian travel highlights?