Croatia aficionados have long regarded the country as having it all. Fabulous cities full of treasures, stunning beaches, a rugged coastline, thrilling countryside and fascinating history.
In addition, Croatia offers excellent value for money. So here’s our guide for this summer … just make sure you get there before the crowds return.
Living History: The city of Dubrovnik, located on the southern coast of Croatia, is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic
Dubrovnik, in the photo, features high 16th-century walls, medieval churches and monasteries, and a cable car up to Mount Srd for spectacular views of the coast
Dubrovnik is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and it’s easy to see why, with its high 16th-century walls, medieval churches and monasteries, plus a cable car up to Mount Srd for spectacular coastal views. .
Meanwhile, in the north, Split, Croatia’s second largest city, was first settled in the 3rd century BC. Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many top-notch seafood restaurants. Further north is Sibenik in Dalmatia, another beautiful historic city, conquered by the Republic of Venice in 1116.
Rijeka (pronounced ree-acre) is next on the coast, a major port that was a European Capital of Culture in 2020 (sadly lacking in visitors due to the pandemic).
One of its most popular attractions, aside from its impressive castle and National Theater, where ballet performances and opera concerts take place, is the Galeb (“seagull” in Croatian), a former ship of the Yugoslav navy requisitioned by communist leader Marshal Tito.
Split, Croatia’s second largest city, was first settled in the 3rd century BC and its center is a Unesco World Heritage Site
Sibenik in Dalmatia is another beautiful historic town. It was conquered by the Republic of Venice in 1116
It has transformed into its lavishly furnished pleasure zone to receive guests such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He even went up the Thames to visit Winston Churchill.
Add Pula and Rovinj, ancient Roman settlements on the coast (Pula is home to a splendid amphitheater) and Zagreb, the bustling capital of the interior, with its cafes, art galleries and museums (including the weird and wonderful Museum of Broken Relationships) – and there’s more than enough of them for even the most avid cultured vulture to bite the bullet.
HOW TO DO? Seven-day self-drive tour combining Zagreb and the Plitvice Lakes region from £ 1,175 per person B&B, including flights, hotels and car rental (regent-holidays.co.uk).
Seven nights at the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel from £ 1,108 per person B&B on August 19th with Gatwick flights and private transfer (tui.co.uk).
Seven nights at Jupiter Luxury Hotel in Split from £ 724 pp B&B in August with Heathrow flights (britishairways.com/holidays).
THE BEST OF BEACHES
Zlatni Rat beach on the island of Brac is often used in the advertisements of the country’s tourist offices, so much is its beauty.
Saharun Beach on Dugi Otok Island features a beautiful half-mile curve of smooth white stones and crystal-clear water
On the island of Hvar – made famous by the arrival of the jetset, including Hollywood celebrities and members of the British royal family – take a break from bars and nightclubs for quiet Pokrivenik Beach
Stunning beaches can be found all along the coast, although they tend to be smaller than those elsewhere in the Mediterranean, with more grainy sand or pebbles. Often times hotels won’t have a beach at all, just a jetty or rocky area with steps into the water.
Among the best beaches are those of Murvica on the island of Brac in Dalmatia, the beach of Zlatni Rat (also in Brac and often used on the advertisements of the tourist offices for the country such is its beauty), the beach of Bacvice in Split and Punta Rata near Makarska in Dalmatia, nestled under Mount Biokovo.
Another major recommendation is Saharun Beach on Dugi Otok Island, with a beautiful half-mile curve of smooth white stones and crystal-clear water.
Meanwhile, on the island of Hvar – made famous by the arrival of the jetset, including Hollywood celebrities and members of the British royal family (Prince Harry has already gone with friends for a wild weekend ) – take a break from bars and nightclubs for the quiet Pokrivenik beach.
HOW TO DO? Seven nights at TUI Blue Adriatic Beach from £ 911 per person all inclusive from Gatwick on August 6th (tui.co.uk).
Seven nights at Hotel Croatia by Cavtat Bay, from £ 929 per person on half board with flights and transfers to London on August 11 (tropicalsky.co.uk).
Seven nights at the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik hotel from £ 849 per person B&B with Gatwick flights and private transfers (flightcentre.co.uk).
ON THE HILLS
Often referred to as the ‘Golden Island’ due to its famous shimmering sunsets, Krk is a favorite with Croats.
An aerial view of Cres Island, popular with bird watchers with its rare colony of Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and Kestrels
- 14 nights in a four bedroom villa for eight in Cavtat near Dubrovnik from £ 4,046 in August excluding flights; use the code DU050 (croatianvillas.com).
- 14 nights in the four-bedroom Lapad Residence villa with pool for eight in Lapad near Dubrovnik from £ 14,059 in August, excluding flights (jamesvillas.co.uk).
- Seven nights at Villa Demetra on the outskirts of Porec in early September from £ 2,798, for eight people, flights excluded (villa plus.com).
- Try oliverstravels.com, tuivillas.com, and vrbo.com.
- Flights available on jet2.com, tui.co.uk, ba.com, easyjet.com.
Away from the coast, Croatia’s hilly landscape with well-groomed trails through national parks and lakes has long attracted hikers.
Some of the best adventures take place in the wilderness of Risnjak National Park (home to the Risnjak mountain range, with secluded mountain huts and fantastic views), Northern Velebit National Park (the country’s newest national park). with more mountain trails) and Plitvice Lakes National Park. There is also the rugged Paklenica National Park and Krka National Park, with waterfalls, lakes and a Franciscan monastery.
Some islands also have good hiking trails, especially Lopud and Mljet.
HOW TO DO? Seven nights on a Croatia Sightseeing Tour: Islands and Mountains covering Paklenica and Krka National Parks as well as Brac Island, Dubrovnik and Split from £ 1199 per person B&B, with flights in early September and all activities included (exodus.co.uk). Seven nights on a self-guided castles to coast walk on the Istrian peninsula from £ 1,729 per person including breakfast with luggage transfers between hotels and flights in August (headwater.com).
Seven nights at Alana Beachclub at the foot of Paklenica National Park from £ 1,779 per person on half board plus four evening meals with Gatwick-Zadar flights on August 20 (neilson.co.uk).
ISLAND IN ISLAND
With so many islands (around 1,200), it’s hard to know where to start. But it’s all part of the joy of roaming the islands – you never really know what’s coming next. Take ferries, use bridges from the mainland, or cruise on your own.
Often referred to as the “Golden Island” because of its famous shimmering sunsets, Krk is a favorite among Croats; many have summer residences there. Expect pretty bays and secret coves near Malinska.
Meanwhile, a 50-minute ferry ride from Split, the island of Brac is home to Europe’s oldest stonecutting school, robust local red wine, and great beaches.
Lokrum Island near Dubrovnik has a naturist beach (if that’s your thing), while Cres Island is popular with bird watchers with its rare colony of Griffon Vultures, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons. and kestrels.
HOW TO DO? Six-night flotilla holidays with skipper in southern Croatia from £ 1,158 per person excluding flights (responsibletravel.com). Six-night skippered yacht charter from Dubrovnik to the islands of Korcula, Hvar and Vis from £ 3,399 per person B&B, four-share basis, with flights and transfers (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
Eight nights with a full day of private sailing and stays on the islands of Korcula and Hvar from £ 2,950 per person with flights (originaltravel.co.uk).
Additional reporting: Julia Mora and Jo Fernandez