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Idyllic Islands Destination Specialists 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Croatia Destination & Travel Guide

  • The ancient city of Split, Croatia

Essential Facts

Currency 

The legal tender is  the Croatian Kuna. You can use Euros to pay for some items, however it is best to have Kuna on hand. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs can be found across the country. 

Language

The official language of Croatia is Croatian. English is widely spoken making it easy to communicate, however learning a few polite words in Croatian will enhance your experience. 

Best time to go 

The best time to visit Croatia and experience all that it has to offer is from May to October. The weather is warm, all the tourist facilities are open, and boats are sailing through the Dalmatian coast. July and August can be very crowded with summer holidaymakers and you can expect heat waves during these months. If you’re not so into beaches, December can be a lovely time to visit Zagreb, Split, or Dubrovnik for advent with smaller crowds and festive Christmas markets. 

Climate

Croatia has three climate regions: The Adriatic Coast, the interior, and its mountains. 

The Adriatic coast and the islands enjoy a Mediterranean climate that is warm and dry in the summer, reaching highs of 30 degrees Celsius, the winters are wet and cooler with lows of 7 degrees Celsius.

Croatia’s interior has cooler winters with temps dropping below zero degrees Celsius and precipitation in the form of rain and snow. The snow can be quite heavy at times. The summer weather swings to the other extreme with hot temps in the mid to high 30s and no sea breeze to cool things down. 

The mountainous (Alpine) region has a milder climate with precipitation throughout the year, including heavy rainfalls in the summer months and snow in the winter. 

Ideal Traveller

Croatia offers diverse landscapes and activities making it an ideal destination for any type of traveller. The summer beach clubs with DJs pumping music attract young, hedonistic vacationers. Mature travellers will love the boutique cruises along the coast, taking in beautiful scenery and historic sites. Families will also enjoy the beach resorts, offering kids clubs and family activities. Croatia offers thrills for active and adventure travellers, plus stunning wilderness regions for nature enthusiasts. 

Getting There From North America

Major airports or ports of entry

Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik are the three major airports. Zagreb receives the majority of the international flights arriving from North America. 

Major Air Routes from the United States

Major US airlines have in the past scheduled nonstop flights to Croatia, and these may return in the future with sufficient demand. In the meantime, travellers from the United States will need to connect through another European gateway before landing in Croatia. Some examples of connections are Air Canada through Toronto, Lufthansa via Frankfurt or Munich, Air France via Paris, or KLM via Amsterdam. 

Major Air Routes from Canada

Air Canada and Air Transat have direct seasonal flights from Toronto to Zagreb. Major Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto (outside of the summer season) will need to connect through another European gateway before landing in Croatia. TheStar Alliance is a solid option for airlines routing from Canada to Croatia. However, other carriers such as KLM, British Airways, and Air France will work as well.Zagreb, Croatia

 

Essential Sights of Croatia

Zagreb 

The capital and cultural heart of Croatia, this often underrated city is an excellent starting point for Croatian itineraries. Most international flights will land or transit through the city and Zagreb is definitely worth checking out and exploring before heading to Plitvice Lakes or the coast. Zagreb is a cultural treasure trove, boasting the largest number of museums per capita in the world. New and quirky museums are opening up each year such as the interactive Zagreb 80s Museum or the Museum of Broken Relationships. With Zagreb’s 900-year history, there are plenty of landmarks, historic buildings and sites to see for free and on foot. Be sure to check out the Zagreb Cathedral, Mirogoj Cemetery, Saint Mark's Church, and Dolac Farmers Market. Then wander the Upper Town streets to pleasantly lose yourself discovering the city. 

Plitvice Lakes

This national park and UNESCO site is Croatia's most popular tourist attraction and a definite must see. If you’re on a coastal cruise, add a land excursion to ensure you don’t miss it. Plitvice Lakes is located on a mountain range set in thick, lush forests, between Zagreb and Zadar. There are sixteen lakes in various shades of blue, interconnected by a series of cascading waterfalls.If you are short on time you can day trip from Zagreb, Zadar, or Split with a guide. However it’s best to stay in the Plitvice area to enhance your experience. 

Zadar

Each phase of Zadar’s long history has left imprints on the city with monuments, architecture, cathedrals, churches and palaces for you to explore today. The Old Town is a peninsula that juts out into the Adriatic Sea offering sea views beyond its ancient sites. Squished into the narrow streets you will find the Roman Forum ruins, Cathedral of Anastasia, Church of St. Donat, the Museum of Ancient Glass and much more. People watch in the afternoon at an outdoor cafe in the People’s Square before listening to notes of the famous Sea Organ - activated by the sea’s waves - at sunset. 

Split

One of the main gateways to the Islands of Croatia and a busy Port, Split is an ancient city that has grown up around the Palace of Diocletian. Similar to other European old towns, Split has a vibrant and active ‘People’s Square’ in its center with outdoor eateries, cobblestone lanes and historic buildings. Taking up almost half of the old town, the Palace is one of the best-preserved forms of roman architecture in the world. The old town of Split seems frozen in time, which is why Hollywood has used it many times as a set. Outside of the old town and city harbor, Split is blessed with ideal places to sun and swim and plenty of gorgeous beaches. The city offers an array of water sport attractions and is a popular starting/endpoint for Dalmatian Coast cruises. The city is also something of a foodie haven.

Dubrovnik

A busy port city with a medieval walled old town, Dubrovnik draws a diverse crowd of travellers to its ancient sites, hidden cavern bars, beaches, historic landmarks, and stunning seascapes. Similar to Split, Dubrovnik has been used for movie and TV sets, with well preserved buildings from the baroque, renaissance and gothic periods. A popular activity is to walk along the old city walls, giving you excellent views from both sides. Dubrovnik offers unique dining locations with spectacular views in the old town and along the seafront. Foodies can delight with the scrumptious seafood offerings. Stradun is a lovely pedestrian esplanade with shops, restaurants and cafes to explore. Dubrovnik is also a gateway to neighboring countries such as Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Off the coast, explore Lokrum Island or the Elaphiti Islands by boat tour. There is plenty to keep you entertained in Dubrovnik, and it is a perfect starting or ending point for your Dalmatian coast cruise. 

 

Other Highlights of Croatia Off the Beaten Path

Hvar

There are many noteworthy islands along the Dalmatian coast. Hvar however stands out with a dramatic walled port town flanked by a hilltop fortress; In the main square lies a renaissance era cathedral. Hvar attracts family vacationers, yachties, and young party revelers. Inland you will find lavender fields and olive trees, out to sea you can discover the Pakleni islands with their secluded beaches and coves.   

Krka National Park 

A lesser-known waterfall site is the Krka National Park, located inland between Zadar and Split. Found within the park is a set of seven cascading waterfalls and several nature trails. Unlike Plitvice, you can swim in the waters here, which can make all the difference on a hot day. 

Istria 

Croatia is a fairly up and coming tourist destination for North American travellers with most people traveling to Zagreb or the Dalmatian coast. The Istria peninsula is generally overlooked. However, it has lots to offer with less crowds, excellent beaches, wooded parks, medieval towns, and ancient sites. 

Saplunara, Mljet

If you’re not a fan of the crowded beaches and are looking for a little piece of Adriatic paradise, venture to the most eastern tip of Mljet Island to reach Saplunara beach. This beach is pine fringed with white sand and crystal clear waters but lacks the crowds of sun-burnt tourists.  

Top Activities and Experiences in Croatia

Sailing

The sparkling waters of Croatia offer many opportunities for sailing and cruises. You can explore the coastline and island on an ocean liner, boutique cruise ship, sail boat, yacht, or privately hired motor boat.  

Adventure/water sports 

Croatia is an excellent destination for adventure sports enthusiasts, offering hiking, rock climbing, white water rafting, windsurfing, surfing, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, cycling, and mountain biking. 

Wine and gastronomy tours

Although not top of the mind when someone thinks of European wine, Croatia’s wine production dates back to the times of ancient Greece and Rome. A wine tour is a great way of seeing the countryside, learning a bit of history and best of all, tasting a variety of samples. The same goes for Croatian food. Taste all of the local delicacies with a local guide on a culinary tour. 

History and Old Towns

Croatia’s history is so rich and ancient, you will marvel at the well preserved palaces, cathedrals, and fortressing. A walking tour is a great way to get acquainted with each city and learn about the history before wandering the old city walls or streets yourself.   

Edivo Wine Bar 

This is an off the beaten path experience for the divers and wine lovers. The Edivo Wine bar is an underwater winery near Dubrovnik. The wine is aged under the sea in a unique process. If you have your diving certification, you can dive down for your own bottle. Non-divers can also enjoy these underwater treasures in a stunning seaside setting. 

 

Essential Croatian Foods to Try

Peka

The most popular dish on the Dalmatian coast Peka is a dish with meat and vegetables, roasted in a fireplace.  

Octopus salad

A popular dish served on the Adriatic coast, Octopus salad has many variations. The Octopus is cooked until it becomes tender and then chopped potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley and olive oil are mixed together. Some will also add tomatoes, capers or olives. The mixture is then refrigerated until it is cool and ready to serve. 

Prsut

Cured ham similar to prosciutto, usually served as a starter with local cheeses. 

Black risotto

Black risotto (crni rižot in Croatian), is a rice dish made with cuttlefish. The ink from the squid gives it it’s dark colouring and unique taste. The dish is seasoned with garlic, red wine, olive oil, and parsley. 

On the side

Other notable food items from Croatia include prized truffles found in the forests of Istria, olive oil that ranks among the best in the world, and pag cheese, made with sheep’s milk from the island of Pag. Wash it all down with rakija, a strong flavoured local brandy. 

Foodie tip

Sometimes the best restaurants are not in the most desirable locations. Leave the central square and seafront to explore side streets, or ask a local for their favourite konobas (taverns), you will be away from the tourists traps and find the most authentic Croatian cuisine.  

  Most Popular Itineraries for Croatia

The Dalmatian coast is a must see when visiting Croatia, especially in the warm summer months. A boutique cruise is the best way to see many cities and sites. The Dubrovnik to Split (or vice versa) and Dubrovnik to Zadar routes are excellent options. It is best to add on at least a 3-day land extension before or after your cruise to see the Plitvice Lakes. If you’re not into cruising and would like to explore more on your own, a self-drive tour from 

Zagreb to Dubrovnik is a great way to see the country.

 

Tips for Sustainable Travel

Croatia is a leader in sustainable tourism, there are many blue flag beaches, the hiking trails are clean and many hotels have adopted green practices. To do your part, try staying in hotels that are more eco friendly, and use public transit or walk where you can. Opt for smaller boutique cruises rather than large ocean liners. Bring a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles and use a cloth market bag instead of plastic bags to reduce plastic waste.

 

Where to Go Next

While many travellers tend to visit Italy and the Greek Islands before Croatia, either option makes a fantastic add-on. Island hop in Greece or explore the Almafi coast, or if you’ve visited all three countries, opt for a more unusual European addition like Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina. These two countries are particularly easy to reach from Dubrovnik. You can take a day trip to Mostar and Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or to Kotor and Perast, Montenegro. To explore in depth, extend your stay in these fascinating countries.

8 Jul 2020, 7:20 p.m.

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