Situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is an incredible fusion of sea, islands and highlands. Croatia is the one-of-a-kind destination for diverse travelers, whether it’s families, friends, honeymooners, romantic getaways, or those looking for the ultimate party experience, outdoor adventures, or simply just relaxation.
While the majority of visitors’ flock to Dubrovnik and the island of Hvar in the Dalmatia region, Croatia is home to 10 regions – Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia-Zadar, Dalmatia-Šibenik, Dalmatia-Split, Dalmatia-Dubrovnik, Lika-Karlovac, Central Croatia, Slavonia and the City of Zagreb – and thousands of neighboring islands spanning a coastline of 6278km 3,625 miles, each offering moderately continental climates and several ecoregions. In the fall months, the weather is mild allowing visitors to still enjoy all the sites and outdoor activities available in the country and has the added benefit of not having as many tourists and being busy. Along with the colors of fall, and festivals celebrate everything from food to movies, music and sailing, experiences in Croatia range from 10 UNESCO sites, luxury hotels, eight vast national parks, elegant city centers, and a vast number of museums.
Croatia’s Dalmatia Coast | Dalmatia is the region on the Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, mostly characterized as a coastal region with its coves, secluded beaches, islands and inlets. Its warm sea and picturesque landscapes consist of four areas: Zadar, Sibenik, Split and Dubrovnik. The coast is a paradise for yachtsmen, divers and sailing enthusiasts and also is a great destination for nature lovers.
Northern Dalmatia has a litany of historic towns, jewel-like waters, rugged limestone mountains where sailing enthusiasts can explore unpopulated islands – must-see is the nautical paradise which is Kornati Islands the archipelago off of Zadar. With a terrain made up of picturesque islands and rugged mountains paired with a number of old-world castles and quiet ports and three UNESCO World Heritage sites, Central Dalmatia is the most action-packed and diverse part of Croatia. Spend time in the medieval walled UNESCO protected town of Trogir, visit the Diocletian’s Palace in Split and experience the glitz and glamour in Hvar town, the island’s hub and busiest destination. Hvar Island, famous since the antiquity because of its important strategic and nautical position, is Croatia’s most happening and sunniest island. Visitors familiar with five-star luxury features secluded getaways, will enjoy the mild climate, abundant cultural attractions and a robust nightlife scene. Famous for its pleasant Mediterranean climate and lavish summer parties, it is a town of a unique cultural and historical heritage and surrounded by turquoise waters.
Dubrovnik Old Town of Croatia | Southern Dalmatia is a region to be explored by beach seekers and history buffs where tourists and visitors should walk the old city walls and forts and experience some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. In Southern Dalmatia, Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Old Town – the highly photographed location seen throughout the world – visit Rector’s Palace and wander through the limestone streets, baroque buildings and the glisten from the Adriatic, all inspiring a sense of awe and beauty. And for those Game of Thrones’ buffs, King’s Landing was also filmed in Dubrovnik.
Advent in Zagreb, Croatia | In Zagreb, the capital and largest city by population, neo-historicism and art nouveau architecture is seen throughout the city giving it a special charm. A mix of young and old, religious and secular, restaurants, cafes and bars, the city has a rich cultural life and the heralded Advent in Zagreb, which has been named (by European Best Destinations) the best three-times in a row as the best Christmas Market in Europe. Broken into three parts, Gornji grad (Upper Town), Donji grad (Lower Town) and Novi Zagreb (‘new Zagreb’), Zagreb is known as the city of museums as there are more of them per square foot than any other city in the world. Among the many exciting museums in the city, one that is a must-go is the Museum of Broken Relationships, a global crowd-sourced project with permanent museum outposts in Zagreb and Los Angeles. Located in a baroque Kulmer palace in the Upper Town, the museum takes visitors on an emotional, heartbreaking and comical journey through a vast number of broken relationships.
Kopački Rit | In central Croatia, just north and east of Zagreb, features some of the countries most beautiful rural scenery. Lying in the valleys of the rivers Sava, Drava and Mura and home to numerous castles and Baroque towns, central Croatia is sprinkled with thermal and mineral water springs. Home to Kopački Rit, a nature park and wetland area covering a total of 238 hectares, is one of the largest natural wetlands in Europe and has remained primarily intact, due to its inaccessibility to portions of the park, since the olden times. Along with large herds of deer and wild boars, over 300 different species of birds are found at the park included rare and protected species like the white-tailed eagle and black stork. Tour the park on an excursion boat and traverse over swampy waters and get lost in the wetlands, forests and diluvial fields.
Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park | For the adventurous traveler, Croatia’s flatlands, hilly Northern region and a number of deep caves and lakes throughout, provides ample opportunities for exploring. Head out to Plitvice Lakes National Park and marvel at the park’s 16 lakes which flow beautifully into cascading waterfalls and sea-glass pools below. The UNESCO World Heritage Site can provide visitors with plenty of walking trails, an abundance of plant life, 160 species of birds to the wolves, brown bear and lynx and a bright fall foliage. For those a bit more adventurous, just 25 miles from Zadar, Paklenica National Park marks a destination for soft-adventure activities such as hiking, camping and cycling. Comprised of two dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (big Paklenica), and Mala (small Paklenica), activities in the park include: rock climbing lessons along with an abundant number of trails for cycling, hiking and walking.
Croatia’s Wine region | Deeply rooted in Croatia is their flourishing wine industry which has a history dating back to the Ancient Greek settlers some 2,500 years ago. With 300 geographically defined wine districts, their two primary wine regions are Primorska Hrvatska (“coastal Croatia”) and Kontinentalna Hrvatska (“continental Croatia”) which are divided across smaller vinogorje (literally, “wine hills). The indigenous grape variety – Tribidrag (also called Crljenak), has recently attained a massive uptick due to the research to identify the roots of Zinfandel and its popularity in the United States.
Running from Istria in the north to Dalmatia to the south, Primorska Hrvatska is lucky to have long, hot dry summers and mild, short, wet winters which is particularly well suited to wine production. Where on the north coast the focus is on fruity dry wines and bold dry reds, further south in Dalmatia the islands and hillsides have a large variety of microclimates and use of indigenous grapes. Central Croatia (Kontinentalna Hrvatska) region experiences typical continental climate with cold winters and hot summers leading to concentration on production of white wines with the widely planted Graševina, which yields light, crisp, refreshing, mildly aromatic wines.
Croatia’s cuisine | Croatia’s burgeoning wine scene is paired with a cuisine that is unique to every region and its culinary tradition. The cuisine is unique to each region of the country, allowing guests to have a taste of past and present influences along with local staples like the Zagorski Štrukli. A combination of old-word cuisine deriving from various cultures that have influenced the region with modern cuisine allow for a wonderful foodie experience. Using locally sourced ingredients and sharing similarity with Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish cuisine, Croatian cuisine is heavily influenced by the sea and its local produce.
Emphasizing the country’s development of the local gastronomical scene, three Croatian restaurants have attained a Michelin-star one-star rating. Joining Monte in Rovinj, which received one star in 2017, was: Pelegrini based in Šibenik, 360º situated in Dubrovnik which received their star in 2018. Pelegrini abides the philosophy of unique experiences through fine dining, which is achieved through a gastronomic menu and deriving influences from French, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Venetian cuisine. Set within the great walls of Dubrovnik, 360º overlooks the port and has deep roots in Mediterranean cuisine where chef Marijo Curić puts twist on locally sourced produce from Croatian regions.
Istria wine region in Croatia | The western most region of Istria is the Adriatic Sea’s largest peninsula and features rolling hills and valleys, hilltop villages, vineyards and olive groves. As the world’s 2nd best olive oil region, it is a gourmet destination and also boasts the Istrian forests boast three sorts of black truffles, as well as the big white truffle. Those traveling in Fall are in luck as Truffle hunting season runs from October–December.
Another notable product from Croatia is its award-winning olive oil production, with olives being a symbol of Istria since circa 50 AD. The region of Istria has been a top olive oil growing region for decades producing with some of the finest award-winning olive oils in the world. Their status as a top producer of olive oils was recognized by Flos Olei, the only extra virgin olive oil world guide, which included 77 oils from Croatia, 11 more than last year, with two hailing from the Dalmatia region, and 75 from Istria in their guide.
With so much to choose from, Croatia is a destination that should be on everyone’s radar – no matter what age or interest – from culture, history, epic food adventure, old world European charm, or relaxing and enjoying an easy Mediterranean holiday — there’s always something for everyone who visits.