|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Olde Worlde Charm
Croatia is a country in Central Europe bordering Slovenia in the west, Hungary in the north, Serbia in the east and Bosnia & Herzegovina in the south, Croatia also has a long maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic Sea.
The climate is Mediterranean along the Adriatic coast meaning warm dry summers and mild winters with 2,600 hours of sunshine on average yearly and is one of the sunniest coastlines in Europe. In the interior the climate is continental with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. Northern Croatia has a continental climate, central Croatia has more of a mountain climate.
Croatia has an amazing 5,835km of coastline, 4,057km of which belongs to islands, cliffs and reefs. Every twist and turn of the coastline serves up grandstand views of secret coves, little harbours and calm turquoise waters. A flotilla of dazzling white yachts glides into a sheltered cove.
Unspoiled, relaxed, beautiful and safe, Croatia is one of Europe's loveliest treasures. Crystal clear seas, timeless fishing villages and unspoiled beaches, little harbours and calm turquoise waters. Roman ruins, medieval walled cities, pristine lake district and out in the Adriatic Sea, a galaxy of islands.
Attractive mountains, wooded sides, deep blue lakes and sweeping white beaches adorn the country's lengthy Adriatic coast and here is some of the most stunning scenery in all of Croatia, probably in the whole of Europe.
This beautiful country is just really opening up and with so much diversity in climate, beauty in the countryside, stunning scenery on the coast and islands; you will never be at a loss for something to do. Spas of West Bohemia have for centuries attracted visitors from all over Europe.
The capital Zagreb is 1000 years old and Gornji Grad,(upper town), has cobbled streets lit by gas lamps and 19th century Donji Grad,(lower town), is full of museums. The people, Zagrebanci, enjoy people watching from the numerous sidewalk cafes.
The city has imposing architecture and Austria-Hungarian formality, the soul of Istria whispers dark green aromas of sea mist, pine smoke and herbs from the crisp silence of wooded hills flanked by ancient stone fences.
The coastline from Zagreb to the Istrian peninsula is like being transported back 60-70 years to the unspoiled European coastlines of classic movies with crystal, blue waters, weathered clay roofs and picture perfect villages. It is an almost magical scene with pristine mountains and sparkling seas, dotted with billowing sails.
Pula, the largest city, has a well preserved Roman amphitheatre built during the 1st century AD. Umag is an old town full of narrow, cobbled streets and the coast is full of pretty bays. Porec is a popular holiday resort. The old town dates back 200 years with many historical sites. Liznjan is one of the last oases of untouched nature and traditional Mediterranean way of life and seems to have stood still in time.
Rovinj is a picturesque, fairy tale town with cobbled streets and was originally an island, but 250 years ago the channel which separated it from the mainland was filled in.
The sleepy village of Smoljanci, just a short drive from the fairy-tale city of Rovinji, is where the only sounds you will hear is the creaking of oaks and croaking frogs.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia's most popular tourist attraction, was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. Located roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast, the lakes are definitely a must-see.
The beauty of the National Park lies in its sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species.
The Makarska Riviera stretches for 60 km between the towns of Brela and Gradac. The Riviera is one of the most famous tourist locations along the Croatian coast and is also one of the most beautiful with countless sandy beaches, pine trees, sparkling water and peaceful bays. The area is also known for Biokovo Mountain, which overlooks the coastal area.
The town of Makarska is a combination of a cosmopolitan seaside town, with its pretty promenade, and popular family resort in summer. One of the main sights in the town is the Franciscan Monastery which was founded by Bosnia monks in 1614. The basement houses a Malacological museum. From Makarskaa there is a ferry across to Sumratin on the island of Brac.
In the heart of the Makarska Riveria is the beautiful village of Igrane. Igrane is a typical Dalmatian village with old houses made of stone which have been very well preserved. The history and culture of this village speaks for itself in the monuments especially the 11th century church located on the Biokovo Mountain. Below the church is the unique 400 year old Zalina Kula tower which has been very well preserved. The tower is unique as there is no other like it in the area and was used to defend the town from the Rutkish attacks.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia, coupled with its strong history - it emerged from a palace built by Roman emperor Diocletian, and was also an important city within Yugoslavia - this lively city sure is worth a visit. The most important sight is Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace. On the western side of the palace is the Peoples Square built in the 15th century and now the Town Hall, nearby is the city museum. The Cathedral of St.Domnius one of the most visited sights.
The Kvarner Riviera is located next to Istria and is centred on the main Croatian port of Rijeka, the busiest port on the Adriatic. The Kvarner Riviera has a long association with tourism with some resorts - especially Opatija and Crikvenica - emerging as popular holiday places in the late 19th century. Opatija in particular was an upmarket resort visited by many well-to-do holidaymakers - including various European royal family members - and is still considered something of an upmarket resort today.
The Kvarner Riviera's largest city is Rijeka is Croatia's third largest city and busiest port. The fully pedestrianised Korzo is the main street in Rijeka with numerous shops and cafes. The Church of St Vitus dates from the 17th century. St Vitus is the patron saint of Rijeka and within the church is a crucifix from the 13th century that, legend has it, was struck by a stone thrown by Petar Loncaric in 1296 after some bad luck on the cards. The earth opened up and swallowed him whole, while the crucifix began to bleed.
Southeast of Rijeka as you head along the coastline is Crikvenica. It was a very fashionable resort before World War II, particularly with Czech tourists and nowadays still retains a lot of charm. It is well known for its mild climate and clean air, and people go there to seek relief from illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma. There is also a lovely beach which is over 1 mile long. The Frankopan Castle built in 1412 has been a monastery, place for convalescing soldiers and a children's home. Today it is the Hotel Kastel.
Lying 14 km west of Rijeka is the grand dame of Croatian tourism, Opatija. It was the most fashionable seaside resort during the Austro-Hungarian Empire and many fine hotels, residences and houses were built there during that period. European royalty, famous celebrities such as the singer Gigi, the dancer Isadora Duncan and composers Mahler, Puccini and Lehar stayed there. St Jacob's Church is built on the site of the abbey from which Opatija grew.
Villa Angiolina the first major building to be built in modern day Opatija in 1844 still exists in good condition. It is surrounded by a beautiful nature park. The Lungomare is the 12-km seaside promenade which stretches all the way to Lovran. The path winds past many of Opatija's attractions and is a wonderful view of the sea.
Istria borders Slovenia and has a maritime border with Italy. This peninsula is the most popular destination for foreign visitors to Croatia. Umag and its riviera (which is about 20 km long) is very popular destination. The rather compact Old Town is well worth a stroll with its attractive and narrow, cobbled streets. The coast is full of pretty little bays. Umag is also well known for its marina Porec is the most popular holiday resort in Istria.
The Old Town has numerous historical sites particularly the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica which is wonderfully preserved and is well known for its beautiful gold mosaics. The Basilica includes the baptistery and the Bishop's Palace. Marafor Square is where a Roman forum was once situated and parts of two temples can still be seen here. The main tourist areas are two bays south of the town, called Zelena (Green) and Plava (Blue) Laguna (lagoon). They are almost like small towns, with several hotels in each, as well as camping, marina, shopping and entertainment areas.
North Dalmatia stretches from the Kvarner Riviera down to about Split. Sometimes overlooked as a holiday destination in favour of the more famous resorts and islands further along the coast, the North Dalmatia region has much to offer visitors. The area contains the beautiful coastal towns of Zadar and Trogir, both of which are lovely to base yourself in.
Zadar is the main city in Northern Dalmatia and is famous for its Old Town, located on the tip of a narrow peninsula. Most of the town is surrounded by city walls, with towers and the two city gates. It is a stunning place to visit. Climb the Captain's Tower for a great view, visit the 9th century St Donatus Church, the cathedral of St Anastasia which dates from the 13th century, the Zeleni Trg is a the bustling Central Square.
Sibenik is unique among-st the many Adriatic towns and cities in that its history lies in neither Roman nor Greek origins. Sibenik, although small, has some fantastic sites in particular the cathedral of St James which is UNESCO World Heritage Site, plus there are seven other churches worth visiting.
Trogir has a number of fascinating historic sights the best being the cathedral of St Lawrence. Opposite the cathedral is the Cipiko Palaces which were home to Trogir's noble family in the 15th century. Located a little inland from the North Dalmatia coast is the Paklenica National Park situated south of the largest mountain range in Croatia, the Velika Mountains. The park has a mixture of high peaks with stunning views, deep gorges and beech and pine forests.
Among the wildlife in the park are deer, bears, foxes, wild cats and lynxes. There are a few villages dotted around although none of these have any inhabitants now. The Marasovici Ethno House, in the abandoned village of Marasovici, is a house that has been preserved to give an idea of what life was like for residents of the area in days gone by.
As you enter the Old Town of Dubrovnik through Pile Gate you the Stradun and the fortress with its four corners along the sea wall. Here you will find the Franciscan Monastery, with one of the oldest functioning pharmacies in Europe, in operation since 1391. At the other end is the local's favourite meeting place, the Orlando Column near the Sponza Place. Here also is the Rector's Palace dating from 1441 which has a somewhat turbulent history. It is now home to the city museum, the palace was home to the Rector who acted as a kind of figurehead to the Republic of Ragusa.
Opposite the palace through a narrow street is Gunduliceva Poljana square which is the site of the busy morning market. From here you can head for the little old town port and visit the city walls which encircle the city and are remarkably preserved. The cathedral dates from 1673 replacing the original 12th century one which was destroyed by an earthquake. The cable car takes a journey to the top of Mount Srd only three minutes for some stunning views. At the top is a cafe and museum.
George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this beautiful city, about which he said "those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and see Dubrovnik", as well as, famously, describing it as "the pearl of the Adriatic". Dubrovnik truly is a stunning city with its amazing Old Town, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
One reason that the Croatian coastline is so beautiful is that it contains no fewer than 1,185 islands in the Adriatic, but only 50 are inhabited. If you were to look out to sea from anywhere along the Croatian coastline, it would be unusual for you not to see a green speck in the distance! They shimmer like a cache of emeralds.
Centuries ago, the islands were plagued by malaria, until in 1893 when they were bought by Austrian industrialist Paul Kupelweiser. He rid the island of the disease and set about creating an up market health resort. Only up until a few years ago, the islands were closed to the general public as they were the summer residence of President Tito and top officials of the former Yugoslavia.
Over the years, almost 100 foreign heads of state were received by Tito on the islands. Many film stars were also guests of Tito, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, and Gina Lollobrigida. In 1983, the islands were given National Park status and were opened up to the public.
The group of islands consists of two larger ones and twelve smaller ones. The largest island is Veliki Brijun, at 1,700 acres (5.6 square km), and is 2 km from the coast. It is especially green and is covered with Mediterranean vegetation, and you will see herds of wild deer and peacocks roaming around. The island also has a safari park which is home to various animals, many of them given as gifts to President Tudjman, such as zebras, giraffes, bison, camels and deer.
Cres is the second largest island in the Adriatic, covering 155 square miles, and is connected to the island of Losinj by bridge. It is long and spindly in shape, and the main resort is Cres Town. Much of the town dates from the 15th century including the Church of St Mary and the town walls one of the more popular of the Croatia
Like Cres, this island was also under Venetian rule until 1797, although it was overshadowed by its neighbour. The main resort is the town of Mali Losinj, whose harbour is said to be the most beautiful in the entire Adriatic. The tourist area is centred around Cikat bay, which is well known for its beach and good windsurfing. The town of Veli Losinj is quieter and there is easy access to it from Mali Losinj.
In the Cres-Losinj archipelago, one of the strangest islands is Susak. This island has a small population of less than 200 who speak their own dialect, which is not easily understood by other Croats. It is also distinct because the women often dress in a colourful costume, comprising of a short, multicoloured dress, white blouse and red leggings.
Krk is the largest island in the Adriatic, covering 157 square miles (405.78 square km). It is also one of the most populous with 17,000 inhabitants. It is well developed and very busy with tourists as it is connected by bridge to the mainland. Rijeka Airport is also located on the island of Krk.
Rab's main claim to fame is a stone cutter called Marin. He settled in Italy and founded the state of San Marino. Once again, Rab was under Venetian rule between 1409 to 1797. However, it was under Austro-Hungarian rule that the island thrived, and became a popular tourist resort. It also became well-known as a naturist resort.
Rab island covers 90.48 square km. It is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic and probably one of the most magical. It is covered with pine forests and has beautiful sandy beaches, and is well known for its mild climate which differs from the mainland. The reason for this is that three ridges are present which protect the island from cold winds from the Velebit mountains. The main resort, Rab Town, is full of medieval buildings that were built during Venetian rule in the 13th century. The old town walls are still visible in some places.
Like its neighbouring islands, Pag featured under Venetian rule between 1409 to 1797. Austrian rule followed, under which the island did well, becoming an important salt production area. The island finally came to be part of Yugoslavia in 1918.
Pag is the second longest island in the Adriatic. It covers an area of 110 square miles (284.6 square km) and is 37 miles (63 km) long. Due to the strong wind of Bora, the island has very little vegetation but the numerous stone walls built by farmers and shepherds allow for some cultivation. In spite of this, Pag has a lot of charm.
Pag is very well known for its paski sir (sheep's cheese) and its lace making. The main resorts are Pag Town and Novalja. Pag Town was built according to plans by the famous Croatian Renaissance builder, Juraj Dalmatinac. Novalja is the largest resort on the island, and is well-known as being the most party-orientated place throughout the whole of Croatia!
The Komati Islands archipelago consists of 140 islands covering an area 114 square miles (300 square km), with most of the area declared a National Park because of its natural beauty due to its numerous coves and crystal clear blue waters.
George Bernard Shaw fell in love with the group of islands and said "On the last day of Creation God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars and breath." There are no permanent residents of the islands and most of the area belongs to the people of Murter island who come to tend the olive groves, the vineyards and orchards. They have cottages there, in which they stay during the agricultural season.
The islands are best visited on a day excursion from Zadar, Sibenik or Split. It is possible to stay in one of the cottages doing a Robinson Crusoe type holiday (no electricity or running water in your house). A boat from Murter delivers you there and picks you up a week later.
Brac is the largest island in Dalmatia at 150 square miles in size, the third largest in the Adriatic, and is one of the sunniest with 2,700 hours of sun annually. The island is known for its fishing, agricultural products and the locals produce good wine, olive oil, figs, nectarines and other fruits. But the main export is, and has been from ancient times, the famous Brac stone from which many buildings in the world have been built, including the White House in Washington D.C.
The Museum of Olive Oil making is in the village of Mirca a small place located on the northern part of the island. The village has always been known as a village of oil makers. Old machines, At the beginning of October in Supetar is the Grape and Wine Festival which is a week long festival of local cuisines devoted to the Varenik.
Brac is the most accessible and ferries run almost every hour from Split and there is also a daily catamaran services which then travels on to the island of Hvar. The main resorts are Supetar, Bol - with the most beautiful beach in the Adriatic, the Golden Horn (Zlatni Rat), Sutivan, Milna and Sumartin. There is also the rather small airport near the resort of Bol, which has a scheduled flight each Saturday during the summer months.
Hvar was under Venetian control from 1420 to 1797 when it then fell under Austrian rule. It was briefly held by France from 1806 to 1812 before returning to Austrian control until 1918 when it was ruled by Italy until it finally became part of Yugoslavia in 1922.
Hvar is the fourth largest island at 182 square miles (300 square km). It is even sunnier than Brac, with almost 2,800 hours of sunshine per year. However, there is enough rain to keep the island green and to maintain the beautiful fields of lavender, rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme and the carefully cultivated vineyards. Many people remark that in the spring, Hvar smells like a herb shop! The main resorts are Hvar Town, Stari Grad, Vrboska, Jelsa and Sucuraj. The island is famous for its unique culture and cuisine.
Vis is the most westerly of the larger Croatian islands at 24 mils from the mainland and its area is 56 square miles it is quite easily reached with a fast boat from Split. Vis is the oldest established town in Dalmatia, founded in 397 BC by the ruler of Sicily, Dionysius - the Latin name for the island is Issa. In World War II, the island was major base for British troops stationed there and there is a British military cemetery on the island.
After 1945, Vis was closed to tourism by the Yugoslav army and only reopened when Croatia declared its independence in 1990. Some of the most exclusive wines in Croatia are produced on the island, such as Plavac and Vugava. From the town of Komiza you can get a boat to the nearby small island of Bisevo which is famous for its Blue Grotto.
Korcula is the sixth largest island it is 20 miles long and rather narrow. The island is known for its dense forest. Local legend says that Prince Antenor of Troy founded the Korcula settlement. Marco Polo, the famous adventurer, was born on Korcula, and his house can still be viewed there. Korcula Town is called Little Dubrovnik because of its medieval squares, churches, palaces and houses.
According to legend, Mljet is the beautiful island of Ogygia where the nymph Calypso kept Odysseus captive for seven years. The ancient name for the island is Melitta, which comes from the Greek melitte nesos, meaning honey isle. Mlket is 23 miles from Dubrovnik and is the southernmost of the larger islands. Over two-thirds of the island is covered by forest with the western half declared a National park. The island is famous for its culture and maritime culinary.
Situated between the Peljasac peninsula and Lapad are Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan, the Elaphite Islands are Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. There are actually six islands in the group, and they were particularly famous as the most skilful mariners came from there. The islands are very beautiful and are perfect for a relaxing holiday, especially so as they are complete car-free and, on the whole, the natural environment is completely untouched.
Maybe you will have enjoyed this short visit to the islands, or if you are not an island lover the mainland could be for you. Wherever you decide to go in Croatia you certainly will not be disappointed. The beautiful country, warm people and climate make this an ideal place to live.