As a travel specialist, it is always exciting to highlight unique and notable destinations that are gaining prominence.
Croatia has a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, fascinating history, and is located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe. It shares a maritime border with Italy and is a destination that’s easy to pair with travel to nearby countries. No matter where your journey begins, Croatia’s unique regions are sure to satisfy with their savory cuisine, impeccable views, and friendly locals.
Throughout this article, I will showcase what I believe will put Croatia at the top of your list when considering your next adventure! And as always – simply get in touch for more details.
Let’s begin our journey to Croatia in its capital city of Zagreb, considered by many to be somewhat of an Austro-Hungarian heaven. While strolling around the city center, you will feel as if you’ve traveled through time. Marvel at architecture dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, and step into one of the city’s numerous cafés when you need a pick-me-up or want to experience life like a local.
While exploring, you will find several museums in both the upper and lower town. A few I encourage you visit include the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art, Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
If you’re interested in experiencing a unique form of public transportation, consider riding the world’s shortest transportation system: a funicular between lower and upper town. And after a long day of sightseeing, there’s no better way to end the day than with a feast of local specialties like turkey with homemade noodles and traditional štrukli.
Further north of Zagreb is the region of Zagorje. This off-the-beaten-path destination is known for its beautiful natural surroundings comprised of lush vineyards and picturesque hills dotted with castles. One of the most impressive is the Trakošćan Castle, where noble families once lived. During your visit, I encourage you to take advantage of an exclusive cooking class inside the castle where the local chefs will teach you how their ancestors prepared Zagorje dishes in the 14th century.
Another great place to visit is the Krapina Neanderthal Museum in Hušnjakovo. The museum’s architecture evokes the habitat of the prehistoric man, and here you’ll experience incredible educational exhibitions.
Let’s head southwest to Central Croatia to experience Plitvice Lakes National Park, a stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. This natural forest reserve is comprised of a chain of sixteen terraced lakes, interconnected by a series of breathtaking waterfalls which extend into a limestone canyon. Set in deep woodland, and home to deer, bears, wolves, boars, and rare bird species, this National Park covers a total area of 300 square kilometers, and simply must be experienced in person.
We now head to Istria, the region known as Croatia’s Tuscany because of its warm, sunny climate, arable grounds great for cultivating olive oils and wine, and its charming hilltop villages. This region is full of cultural and historic appeal, and is a noteworthy stop as you make your way to Pula.
Pula, located on the Croatian coast, is where you’ll witness ancient Roman ruins in impeccable condition – like the Roman arena, pictured above, where gladiators fought their fierce battles. Don’t miss the Arch of the Sergii, the archaeological museum, and the Gate of Hercules – one of the earliest historical pieces of the region.
After Pula, drive back to Istria, and then north to Motovun, one of the most charismatic villages in the western part of Croatia. Although relatively small, it offers an experience like no other, with its authentic local wine Malvazija and delicious truffle meals. Anthony Bourdain once said that this is where he had one of the best meals of his life.
Set your sights on the Dalmatian coast, and your travels there will showcase Croatia’s incredible diversity. On your way to Split, stop in Zadar to experience a famous music festival, or search for ruins from the time of the Roman and Byzantine empires.
Among the contemporary installations and exhibits, Zadar has two of Croatia’s most peculiar tourist attractions: Monument to the Sun and Sea Organ. You can hear the organ’s musical sound or play on the surface of the Sun monument, an opportunity you have only in Zadar.
One reason Split is famous is because it is the home of Diocletian’s Palace. Built in the 4th century, upon entering, you will immediately understand why the palace is one of the most notable Roman complexes in the world. The complex is so massive you can visit it from different city points and enter it through several gates. While exploring one end to another, you have the option of visiting different bars, cafes, shops, and restaurants – the perfect blend of modern and historic parts of the town.
If you are a fan of the television series Game of Thrones, visit Diocletian’s Palace and Klis fortress to imagine yourself on set of your favorite scene. Nature lovers should not miss Marjan Park, and wine lovers will enjoy tasting Crljenak.
Island of Hvar
Croatia has over 1,200 islands, making it challenging to decide which ones to visit, but the Island of Hvar should be top of your list! Lavender fields and vineyards make your travels here a fully sensory experience.
Check out St. Stephan’s Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Square (the largest in Dalmatia), Spanjola Fortress (which dates back to the 1500s), and an old Franciscan monastery, located just outside of town. Greeks settled in the city of Stari Grad in 384 BC. You can see artifacts and fascinating items dating from that time period at the Stari Grad Museum.
Interested in an easy day trip? The Pakleni Islands are known for their deserted beaches, crystal clear sea, and hidden bays and coves.
Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations – and for good reason. Aptly nicknamed “the pearl of Adriatic” – it is known for its Old Town that vibrates with extraordinary historic energy and includes a complex built between the 11th and 17th centuries. Those who climb to the top will be rewarded with spectacular views and feel as if they are on top of the world.
Kayak or sail into the sunset as Dubrovnik’s city walls shimmer in the background. For more incredible vistas, pay a visit to Dubrovnik’s Biokovo Nature Park. You can usually see as far as Italy on the horizon!
Split wasn’t the only location site in Croatia for filming Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik had the honor of hosting film crews, and you can book a tour that will guide you through notable filming locations.
Get in Touch
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about many of the unique offerings of Croatia. I wish you a year filled with the very best things – good health, fulfillment, and of course, travel! For more information on Croatia (or any destination), please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
310-909-0351 (direct) 310-271-9566 x 0351