In recent years Croatia has emerged as a one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. The picture perfect Dalmatian Coast now rivals more traditionally established beach holiday mainstays in the Mediterranean and the rest of this beautiful and varied country is opening up to tourism in a way that few would have anticipated as recently as a decade ago.
Croatia is ripe for exploration by car - the country boasts plenty of scenic driving routes and an expansive road system that’s generally well maintained. As with so many countries in Europe, the freedom afforded by a car can really enhance your experience, opening up the country and allowing you to forge your own path. This is a country of distinct landscapes and regional diversity, so branching out and discovering as much of it as possible can be hugely rewarding.
Those looking beyond Croatia’s sun kissed coast are most likely to be drawn to its vibrant capital city. Zagreb is modestly sized, eminently walkable, culturally rich and makes for a great city break destination. While it’s less architecturally impressive and historically rich than Dubrovnik or Split there’s a buzzy vivacity about Zagreb that more than compensates.
Dubrovnik is probably Croatia’s biggest draw and it’s not hard to see why. The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ is an enchanting baroque dream of a city, irresistibly framed by a shimmering ocean backdrop. Situated at the foot of Dalmatia, this beautiful walled city owes its architectural and sculptural opulence to a moneyed 16th Century Golden Age when its status as one of Europe’s major ports funded a period of rapid development and cultured prosperity. Today it’s a haven for sun seeking tourists who flock to the picturesque Old Town – which, though rarely less than bustling with visitors, remains mercifully well-preserved - and enjoy a lively nightlife.
The Dalmatian Coast and Islands
The rugged Dalmatian Coast revels in its proximity to the seductively shimmering Adriatic Sea and enjoys a deserved reputation as one of Europe’s most enticing sun, sea and sand destinations. The region’s natural splendour is beautifully complemented by ancient stone villages, walled cities and roman ruins while its pearlescent coastal waters are studded with hundreds of islands, Islets and reefs. The Southern Dalmatian Islands – including Hvar, Brač, Korčula, Vis and Lastovo – are uniformly idyllic and between them cater to most sensibilities, whether you’re in search of a secluded seaside sanctuary or all night beach parties.
A substantial peninsular that occupies a chunk of the country’s northern coastline - between Dalmatia and the thin wedge of Slovenia that separates Croatia from Trieste in Italy – Istria’s bucolic inland is arguably more of a draw than its Adriatic coastline, which is a bit oversubscribed and rather less lovely than neighbouring Dalmatia’s. With its charming villages, enchanting medieval towns and verdant, hilly countryside the region’s interior is well worth discovering.