Aerial photo of Arena colloseum in Pula


Croatia is a central European country becoming one of the prime destinations during the
last decade or two. A few of the reasons, amongst others, for this popularity are:

* Beautiful and unique natural scenery in the country’s diverse regions, such as a
striking coastline with gorgeous beaches and many idyllic islands, eight national
parks, lakes and breath taking waterfalls, mountains and valleys, rare birds and

* Inviting weather, especially along the coast, with an abundance of sunshine and
long days during summer, even in spring, when it is still comfortable for
partaking in outdoor activities and water sport.

* Ancient architecture, such as many Roman palaces, temples and amphitheaters, as
well as historic ruins all over the country.
* Impressive ancient cities and towns, with interesting sites.
* Unique culture and traditional dishes, like seafood, as well as other specialties,
some of them over the ages influenced by contact with neighbouring countries.


Historically Croatia was over the ages occupied by different conquerors, such as Greeks
and Romans, and also formed part of different regimes, such as the Republic of
Yugoslavia after World War II, until gaining independence in 1991. Today it is a
parliamentary democracy, with a stable government. It has about 4.3 million inhabitants,
with the capital, Zagreb, having about 800 000.

Croatia has a varied relief: a long coastal stretch along the Adriatic Sea, lowland plains in
the northwest, hills and mountains to the north and east of the coastal region. Apart from
the Adriatic Sea along the southwest, Croatia is surrounded by the following countries:
Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Hungary.

However, it is close to Venice in the north, whilst the mainland of Italy lies just across the Adriatic.
The country has an unusual shape – like that of a curved tadpole, with a large head
venturing inland in the northeast, and an enlongated, serrated coastal tail of about 1 800
km, with more than 1 100 islands, of which just about 50 are populated.

When to go

Because of its elongated shape, Croatia has three main climate types, all predominantly
moderate, corresponding to the differences in relief: Mediterranean along the coast, with
warm and dry summers and rain during winter, but a more continental climate with hot
summers and cold winters in the interior. The lowlands in the northeast are colder than
the coastal region, with the mountainous region the coldest. Therefore, most visitors
enjoy the coastal region with its sunshine during summer.


Since Croatia is surrounded by quite a number of countries, as well as the Adriatic, it can
be accessed by most modes of transport. Many visitors enter by car from, or through one
of the neighbouring countries, whilst some may even transport their car by ferry from a
number of ports just accross the Adriatic. Ferry services is a populare way of reaching

The fastest passenger route of only 2 hours and 30 minutes is between Venice
and Umag; however, which route to take, depends on the destination and the time of year.
Unfortunately there are no ferry services from other countries, not even from Greece.

Regular bus services are available from all neighbouring countries, especially to Zagreb,
but some of them also to places along the coast. However, some routes are only available
during summer. The main destination of trains from Europe is Zagreb, but a few other
towns, like Pula or Split on the coast, are also directly internationally accessible. Other
destinations have to be reached internally from Zagreb.

International flights are served by the country’s main airport at Zagreb, but four others (Dubrovnik, Rijeka, Split and
Zadar) also accept international flights, especially during summer.
Getting around

Apart from the five airports mentioned above, three others tend to national flights;
therefore, certain destinations are quickly and easily reachable. However, the other modes
of transport, like cars, buses or trains open up the country more intimately. The road
network has improved greatly over the last few years, with some routes, such as the
coastal route between Rijeka and Dubrovnik, recommendable. The islands can be reached
by ferry. Boat cruises along the coast, stopping at some of the islands, are immensely

Top sights not to miss

No area in Croatia is without interesting sights, as mentioned in the first paragraphs.
However, a traveler should not leave without at least visiting the following:

* Two cities: Zagreb, the capital, with its ancient Old, or Upper Town (Gornji
Grad), with its squares, statues, palaces, churches and museums, and the Lower
Town (Donji Grad), with its parks, theaters, shops and restaurants; and the
historic southern coastal Dubrovnic, with UNESCO protected surrounding city
walls, interesting streets and baroque churches, by some described as the Pearl of
the Adriatic.

* The Istria peninsula in the north-west, with is many ancient walled hilltop towns
like Motuvun, Buzer and Hum, holiday resorts like Pula, Rovijn and Porec, as
well as the Brijuni National Park.

* The Plitvice Lakes National Park, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List,
a park without towns or villages, but with forests, lakes, stunning waterfalls, and a
few hotels.

* Islands, such as Krk, Korkula, Vis, Pag, or Var, each with its unique attractions,
like culture, Croatian dishes, beaches, or natural beauty.



Hotels, guest houses, bed-and-breakfast establishments, as well as apartments are to be
found all around the country. However, affordable private accommodation, even rooms
(sobe, singular soba) with local families are also available; also youth hostels and
camping facilities. Hotels along the popular seaside resorts may be very pricey, especially
during peak season; inland prices are more stable throughout the year. Foreign visitors
have to be registered at the local police when booking in for accommodation. The
establishment itself will organize the process, with passports to be taken away overnight.


As mentioned, many Croatian dishes are strongly influenced by surrounding countries,
such as the Mediterranean fish and seafood with Italian flavour to be found along the
coast, or Eastern European dishes like soups or goulashes in inland regions. Amongst the
typical Croatian dishes are:

* The hvarska gregada, a stew of different types of fish, amongst them cod,
prepared in a large round pot together with herbs, garlic, potatoes and white wine,
to be found on the island of Hvar.
* Another type of stew is the Istarska jota, found in Istria, containing beans, pork,
even sauerkraut, showing its Austrian influence.
* A typical dish is the fritaja, an omlette made with asparagus (sparoga), various
herbs and vegetables, as well as strips of meat.
* For those with a sweet tooth, mouthwatering cakes and sweet treats are to be
tasted, like the custard and vanilla kremsnita, the attractive makovnjaca rolled
poppy seed strudel, also containing apricot jam and cinnamon, or the treasured
madjarica layered cake cut into small rectangles.
Meeting the real people

Many events and festivities offer the opportunity of gaining insight into the cultural,
religious and daily activities of the Croatians. A few of them are:

* The Dubrovnik Summer Festival, held annually from the middle of July to the end
of August, when the city is overflowed by artists of all kinds from around the
world, such as dancers, musicians, actors, painters and many others.
Performances, shows, workshops, and many kinds of artful activities abound,
drawing thousands of visitors.
* Annually during the same time a summer festival of theater, dance and music held
in the historic squares, theaters and other venues of Split, also draws thousands of
* In July a film festival is annually held in Pula, and a medieval festival on Rab
Island, as well as the International Folklore Festival in Zagreb.
* August is, amongst others, also famous for the centuries-old chivalric Sinskaj
Alka Knight’s Tournament of athletes and horsemen. Entwined with this are social
gatherings and religious practices held in the open and at home.

Taking all the above in mind, it is no wonder that Croatia today is one of the top newer
touristy destinations in the world.

Manie Wolvaardt


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