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Croatia Travel Guide
Having a coastline that stretches for thousands of kilometers and over 100 islands with a Mediterranean climate, Croatia is an irresistible destination. Discover the lovely Venetian cities, with red roof tops photographed by thousands of artists, the craggy mountain chains and seafood from the Adriatic. Even though the coastline is undoubtedly the main attraction, don’t miss the rolling hills from the continental Istria, the cities, the delicious food, the tasty wines and truffles that remind us of Tuscany. Considering its landscape, Croatia can be divided into three distinctive regions – the coastal area, the mountainous area and the Pannonian area.
The Slavonia region from the east side of the country offers the city of Osijek from the river’s banks and triumphant spirit of Vukovar, that is still recovering after the civil war’s devastations, as well as vineyards and castles. A heaven for gormandizer and sunlight lovers, Croatia is also a destination for adventurers. The untouched nature offers excellent conditions for biking, hiking and alpinism. On the coastline you can practice a series of water sports and the BracIsland hosts a Vanka Regule, an annual event of extreme sports.
Croatia Tourist Attractions
Zagreb is Croatia’s economical, cultural and administrative center. Visit the historical monuments in Gronji Grad – Cathedral, St Mark’s Church and Sabor, the Croatian Parliament. The Art and CraftsMuseum describes the history of manufacture throughout the centuries in Croatia, MimaraMuseum has a rich collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics. Admire the dramatic sculptures from the Mestrovic Workshop.
- Head to the rolling hills and vineyards in Zagorje, located north of Zagreb. Explore the Veliki Tabor and Trakoscan castles.
- Dubrovnik is a medieval city enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by the old 13th century city walls with a view to the Adriatic Sea. Visit special monuments like the Vice-Chancellorship’s Palace, the Franciscan Monastery and the lovely Baroque churches. The Dubrovnik summer festival lasts from June to August and offers cultural event and open air shows like jazz, theatre and classical music.
- Take a trip to the past in the city of Split, the economical and cultural center for the central region of Dalmatia. The city was founded during the 3rd century by the Roman emperor Diocletian. The historical center is located inside the castle’s walls. The Archeological Monuments’ Museum will show you the first examples of Croatian art.
- Walk through the small medieval town of Trogir, founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC. Discover the beautiful Venetian Gothic buildings.
- In the city of Pula you can have an impression of the Roman Croatia. You can watch a concert on the Roman arena from the 5th century BC.
- Sail through the BrijuniNational Park, a 14 islands archipelago with untouched nature, located on the western coast of Istria. You can spend the night on the biggest island, Veli Brijun.
- Built on a small peninsula, the city of Porec dates from Roman times. You can climb up the Euphrasius basilica’s tower, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Admire also the basilica’s gorgeous mosaics.
- The romantic cities of Motovun, Buje and Groznjan are ideal for a trip, leaving from the Istrian coast.
- Visit the historical center in Zadar, the main port and city in the northern Dalmatia. Walk on its narrow cobblestone streets, enjoy a coffee in a Roman Forum and listen to the classical music concerts in the St Donats church from the 19th century.
- The second tourist center in the northern Dalmatia is Sibenik. Here you can visit the cathedral from the 15th century and the historical center’s architecture that is typically Croatian.
- Take a boat trip in the KrkaNational Park, where the river has sculpted a scenic gorge, famous for its Skradin waterfall and VisovacIsland, where you can find a Franciscan monastery.
- The PlitiviceLakesNational Park is one of the main attractions in Croatia. The park is a fairytale territory, with 16 lakes and waterfalls with turquoise waters.
- The KornatiNational Park consists of over 90 islands scattered over 300 square kilometers. The islands are not inhabited and they have a harsh and craggy landscape, with practically no vegetation. Some stone holiday lodges will offer a holiday in a Robinson Crusoe style.
- Explore the BlueCave and the wreckage from the VisIsland’s waters, the furthermost inhabited island in Croatia.
- Take a tour in the MljetNational Park, located in the green island that holds the same name. The park contains thick forests and salty water lakes. In a lake’s center there is the St Mary Island and a Benedictine monastery.
- Follow Marco Polo’s footsteps in the city of Korkula, a wonder of medieval urban planning that has been captivating the visitors since the 1920s.
Croatia has a heterogeneous cuisine, with differences from one region to another, the proto-Slavic roots being noticeable especially in the continental regions. Many traditional festivals are connected to dishes, even if it’s about physical activities (harvesting or building a house), religion (Christmas, Easter, pilgrimage, saints’ anniversaries) or the most important events in everyone’s life (baptism, wedding, anniversary, funeral).
Some celebrations are public, other are celebrated with the family, but for every kind of occasion there is a kind of food. In pilgrimages and in fair pork meat and potatoes are consumed, on Christmas’ Eve and the Holy Friday cod is eaten, and in the New Year’s Eve day pork meat is prepared. Doughnuts are always present at carnivals, and in the south something similar to the doughnut is prepared, called “hrostule”. On Easter bacon and boiled eggs with vegetables are served, and the dessert is composed of many traditional dishes. Kulen is a dish that contains pungent potatoes and it’s served during the harvest days. On Christmas goose meat is prepared, turkey and other fowls, as well as stuffed cabbage. At weddings a variety of dishes are served and dozens of cookies and sweets. The favorite Croatian dishes include roasted lamb and pork, grilled fish, gammon, cheese, cream and fish soup.
The former Roman province of Pannonia, Croatia was colonized by the Croatians in the 7th century. They became Christians between the 7th and 9th centuries and they adopted the Roman alphabet under Carol the Great (Charlemagne) rule. In 925 the Croatians defeated the Byzantines and the Francs, establishing their own independent kingdom that had its peak in the 11th century.
In 1098 a civil war broke loose, which gave the Hungarians the opportunity to conquer the country in 1101. The two nations were united in 1102 under the Hungarian king’s rule by signing the treaty Pacta Conventa, between the Croatian tribal chiefs and the Hungarian king, but Croatia kept its autonomy. After the Turks defeated Hungary in 1526, Croatia and Hungary elected the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Habsburg as king. After the foundation of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in 1867, Croatia became part of Hungary until the empire’s fall in 1918.
When Yugoslavia was invaded by the Germans in 1941 Croatia became a puppet-state in the Nazis’ hands. The Croatian fascists butchered many Serbians and Jews during the Second World War. In 1990 free elections took place and the communists that had lead the country after Germany’s fall were defeated by the national party lead by Franjo Tudjman. After the Croatian Parliament declared the Croatian nation’s independence in June 1991 there were many rough battles with the Yugoslavian army that was dominated by Serbia, battles that resulted in thousand of deaths and destruction. In 1992 an agreement was signed for cease fire and the UN sent troops to maintain peace and to protect the Serbian minority.
After the referendum in 1993, the Serbian occupied Croatian area, Krajina, voted unanimously for uniting with the Serbians in Bosnia and Serbia. Even though the Zagreb government and the Serbian minority’s representatives signed a cease fire agreement in 1994, further negotiations failed. In 1999 president Tudjman died and his party was defeated by a center-leftist reformative coalition, lead by Ivica Racan. But 2003 the rightist coalition assumed the power, proclaiming a less nationalist and much moderate leadership than before 1999.
Croatia’s climate is continental-Mediterranean, with very hot summers and harsh winters; along the coast the winters are mild and the summers and dry. The currency is Croatian “kuna”, and the languages spoken are Croatian, Serbian, Italian and Slovenian. The official hour is GMT+1. The electricity: 220-240 V, 50 Hz.
The period from May to September is the best time to visit this wonderful country. The months of July and August are extremely crowded on the Adriatic coast. September is the most favorable month, when the season is closed, the prices are lower and there is an abundance of fruits like figs and grapes. In April and October the weather is cooler, and even if it’s not the right season for camping, the hotel rooms are accessible and hospitable. You can swim from the middle of June to the end of September.