Charming Croatia is accessible again to Americans, and it’s an absolutely beautiful country that deserves a visit at least once. Croatia shares a border with Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Montenegro, making it really easy to plan cross-country itineraries. The Italian peninsula and Balkan peninsula are only separated by the Adriatic Sea, and besides the official language of Croatian, Italian is recognized as a co-official language in most of Istria.
When’s the best time to visit? Spring has increasingly pleasant weather as early as May. Summer months are the hottest with moderate humidity, the peak being in July with highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s. Fall remains lovely through the end of September, followed by cooler weather and increased rain. Winter is much cooler inland with lows in the 30s, compared to the coast with lows in the 40s.
You know I love “fun facts” about everything, so here are a few about Croatia. You’ll find the smallest town in the world in Croatia, where 30 inhabitants call Hum home. The Guinness World Record holder of the biggest white truffle is from Croatia. A giant truffle weighing 2 lb 8 oz was found by Giancarlo Zigante of Pototoska in a town in Eastern Croatia in 1999. Croatia also has 2,715 hours of sunshine in a year and according to Alfred Hitchcock, the seaside town of Zadar in Dalmatia has the most spectacular sunset in the world. Here are more fabulous facts and features about incredible Croatia….
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
The breathtaking beauty of Croatia’s national parks will completely captivate you. Visit any (or all!) of Croatia’s eight national parks: Brijuni, Kornati, Krka, Mljet, Paklenica, Plitvice Lakes, Risnjak, and Northern Velebit, whose unspoiled nature makes up almost 8% of Croatia. The must-see is Croatia’s oldest and largest: Plitvice Lakes National Park with 16 lakes connected by waterfalls as high as 255 feet. In 1979 it became the first national park in the world to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Marvel at this pristine paradise (pictured above) along wooden walkways beside bright-green forests, turquoise waters, and blue butterflies.
Croatia’s capital is rich in history, architecture, and culture, and the majority of flights land here or Split. Plan 1-2 nights in the “City of Museums” on a visit any time of year; Zagreb’s Christmas Market has twice been voted the best in Europe! Personally, I think the Museum of Broken Relationships is reason enough to go.
CRUISING THE COAST
Croatia boasts of 1,100 miles of impressive mainland coastline and over 1,200 nearby islands. What better way to experience the best of Croatia than on a cruise? Croatia's cruise season would usually run Mid-April to mid-October. Start at the pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik's old town center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another beautiful place is Split, the main town of Dalmatia. Back in 305 AD, Split captivated the heart of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who decided to build a residence here. Love the beach? Visit Zadar, known for its wonderfully glassy sea.
With over 1,000 miles of coastline and more than 1,200 islands, Croatia is a must for beach lovers. It's location on the sparkling Adriatic make Croatia one of the best beach destinations in Europe. Pine and olive forests provide natural shade on many of the beaches. You’ll experience beautiful beaches whether you plan to stay in Dubrovnik with its wealth of historic attractions or choose to explore Croatia’s secluded islands.
Croatia offers plentiful sailing options for everyone to see beautiful scenery, unspoiled bays, tranquil islands, and clear waters. Charter a private yacht for the ultimate island hopping experience! There are also sailing schools if you’re serious about learning to sail or improving your skills.
GAME OF THRONES Parts of the Dalmatian coast were used as filming locations for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. The Croatian coast gave life to several scenes from the series since 2012. Fans are especially eager to walk the streets of Qarth when in Trogir or stroll across King's Landing in Dubrovnik. There are even more filming locations throughout Croatia you can visit!
One of Croatia’s famous desserts is a fritter called fritule. It's a mixture of flour, eggs, dry yeast, and warm water, milk or yogurt, and the dough is formed in small balls, fried in oil, and covered with powdered sugar. The taste is similar to doughnuts, but Croatian fritule has some special ingredients tossed like raisins, lemon zest, rum, or apples. The fritule is an integral part of the culture of the coastal region because it is a must-serve on the family table especially during holidays in Dalmatia.
If you’re invited to a Croatian home, make sure you bring a gift – and come ready to eat. They love guests with a hearty appetite, a compliment to the host. It's sometimes disappointing to them if you eat too little or you leave a full plate. A good sense of humor is also appreciated by Croatians - not meant to be offensive, always well-meaning. So if you find yourself the butt of a joke, it's just for fun. Football is a favorite sport in Croatia, and the topic of some heated conversations between locals.
Croatia is world-famous for its authentic and fresh meals that are typically simple but of the highest quality. Fish is a fresh catch and prepared na gradele, meaning grilled. Good fish grilling is a top-secret kept by many restaurant owners and caterers. It’s also an Adriatic specialty to serve the fish as a whole.
The island of Pag produces the most famous cheese in Croatia called Paški sir. It's produced by the smallest breed of sheep in the Mediterranean from grazing abounding with medicinal herbs. The milk these sheep produce is naturally salty and needs no additional salt. The cheese produced in the cheese dairy in Kolan has won the highest awards at prestigious exhibitions in the Mediterranean. It's best served with home-cooked polenta or pasta and makes a delectable dessert when combined with Pag honey and when used as filling for pancakes
Dubrovnik is cut off from the whole of Croatia; just north, a 12-mile strip of Bosnia and Herzegovina cuts Croatia in two. One of the city’s most famous attractions is its arresting stone boundary; the walls that can be seen now were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries and are why Dubrovnik is a familiar background on the silver screen. It was once an independent republic and survived many centuries with constant threats to its territory. You’ll also find the oldest pharmacy in Dubrovnik, the longest operating pharmacy in Europe, and one of the oldest ones at the Dubrovnik Franciscan Monastery - founded in 1317. Dubrovnik is full of stunning architecture and sculptures, churches, monasteries, museums, and fountains. George Bernard Shaw once said that “those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik to find it.”
The town of Split is Croatia’s second largest city and the largest in the Dalmatia region. It was initially built around the Diocletian’s Palace (a fortress-like palace built for the retired Roman emperor Diocletian). It's where the locals, many centuries ago, sought refuge. It expands over a large area, well beyond the ancient city center. Modern Split is a city of 180,000 and is an economic hub of the Eastern Adriatic shoreline (an unofficial "capital" of Dalmatia). With 2,800 hours of sunlight per year, flying into Split will ensure your future travels to Croatia look bright!
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