When it comes to travel destinations, one of the most visited in recent years is Croatia. Croatia is known for its rich history and culture, amazing cuisine, and idyllic coastline. Because of its many stunning and picturesque sites, the country has become a favorite filming location for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Today, it is one of the top tourist destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe. More and more travellers are discovering the joys of Croatia, and you should too. Here are the reasons why it should be on your travel list this year.
Perfect if you like being near water
Lovers of sun and sea flock to Croatia's multitude of beaches. Most are rocky, although there are also a lot of pebbly ones and the rare strip of powdery sand. There are many coastal havens that are accessible only by boat. The top beaches include Bol on Brac island, Lubenice on the island of Cres, Stiniva Cove on Vis island, and the islands of the Kornati National Park.
Speaking of the Kornati islands, it is one of the best places to sail during the summer months. Most of the uninhabited islands are part of the protected Kornati National Park area, and are so naturally gorgeous that George Bernard Shaw remarked, “On the last day of Creation, God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars, and breath.” Sail with a seasoned skipper, so he can single out the best seasonal restaurants, the safest shelters to drop anchor at night, and, in August, surprise you with a show of shooting stars streaking across the sky.
Great for exploring, even if you don’t have a lot of time
Only have time for a short vacation? Croatia can still dazzle you even if you’re just staying there for a week or less. First-timers can hit the following places:
Diocletian’s Palace – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the town of Split. The Roman emperor Diocletian built it as his retirement residence at the turn of the fourth century AD, but its massive size makes it more of a fortress than a palace. Aside from Diocletian’s residence, the structure housed a military garrison as well.
- Korčula Island – Of the 1244 islands and islets that dot the coastline of Croatia, Korčula is one of the country’s most treasured islands. It is also not the most popular, which means fewer crowds! Korčula’s main town is full of medieval squares, churches, palaces, and houses, perfect for sightseeing and touring. Or trek further and visit its dense pine forests, olive groves, quiet coves, and sandy beaches.
- Dubrovnik – As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean. Easily the most requested by travellers, the old city’s fabulous historical architecture has become world-famous because of Game of Thrones. Many visitors seek out King’s Landing, Qarth, and the gardens of the Red Keep in real life.
- Istria – If you just want to stay in one location, then you can’t go wrong with sticking to the region of Istria. This heart-shaped peninsula is popular among food lovers, cyclists, and history buffs. Aside from exploring the beaches during summer, visitors can bike along the many trails that pass through different landscapes, visit a winery, hike up the mountains, go truffle hunting, enjoy various historical sites, and so much more.
It’s a foodie heaven
The country’s culture and cuisine are influenced by the original Greek settlers, and by the Illyrians, the Romans, and the Slavic tribes seduced by the Adriatic Sea. In the following places, the must-try dishes are:
- Istria – Black and white truffles! Black truffles are harvested year-round, while white truffles are available from September to January. You can also hunt for truffles yourself, with the help of locals and their truffle-hunting dogs.
- Kvarner and Gorski Kotar – Polenta with porcini mushrooms. Polenta is a boiled cornmeal dish, though it can also be made with yellow maize, buckwheat, or a combination of both. Polenta can either be made firm or soft and creamy, depending on the grains used. Top it off with big, freshly picked porcini mushrooms. Other specialties of the region include frogs legs and scampi.
- Dalmatia – It’s all about the goodness from the sea, so enjoy fresh oysters and sea salts. And don’t forget to savor their Paksi Sir, winner of 2017 Best Hard Sheep-Milk Cheese in the World at the Global Cheese Awards in Britain.
But wherever you are in Croatia, make sure to taste these local culinary delights:
- Fuzi – fresh, handmade pasta covered with organic butter and white, shaved truffle
- Scampi alla Buzara – delicious, freshly caught shrimps cooked in tomato wine sauce
- Crni rižot – black risotto with squid ink and seafood
- Peka – is both the name of the dome-shaped baking container as well as the traditional dish itself, a delicious mix of fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and various types of meat (chicken, lamb, veal) or seafood, baked in a wood-fired oven
You can also do a wine tour; Croatian wines come highly recommended. Some of their finest vintage include those from Istria, the Pelješac Peninsula, and Korčula Island.
For more delectable dishes and desserts, check out our earlier article on Croatian cuisine.
Discover Croatia on Wheel & Anchor’s 2019 tour
In June 2019, we’ll embark on an 18-day tour of Croatia, Slovenia, and the Adriatic Coast. For seven days, we’ll be on board the MY Callisto, a 34-passenger mega-yacht with all the luxuries and amenities of a private vessel, as we explore the islands and ports that dot the coastline of Croatia.
Want to join us on that tour, and many more? Be part of the growing Wheel & Anchor community. We’re like-minded travellers who share the same passion for adventure. Be a member, and let’s make unforgettable journeys together.