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Croatia and Malta, the genuine Mediterranean experience

Updated on October 27, 2013

Top 10 Croatian highlights

Croatia is a charming Mediterranean country every year visited by millions. This article addresses a list of top 10 “must see” places in Croatia. Although based on a personal experience, the list highly correspond to other guides. Some practical information are presented as well.

Although this top 10 "must see" have been chosen based on my experience, including impressions from my trips and my meetings with people there, there is a high overlapping with "official" and other tourist guides. At least, everybody agrees on Dubrovnik, medieval Mediterranean town of art and science which was a great sovereign for centuries.

In this article I am concentrating only on breath-taking places, leaving out exciting activity you can do, rare flora and fauna you can find or traditional food you can taste. However, I could not resist temptation so I put some authentic events at the end of the list...

1. Dubrovnik old town - architectural masterpiece

"If I looked for a paradise on the earth I would choose Dubrovnik" - is quite common beginning sentence of a tourist guide or documentary film about this one special town. It's difficult to say what makes it so famous and attractive nowadays, is it its architectural perfections or inheritance of its glory history (Dubrovnik has been independent and very prosperous state for centuries).

Basically, the old part of this UNESCO World heritage Site is nowadays town-museum which every street and corner talk stories from old times. Walls surrounding the town, Rector's palace, Onofrio's Fountain, churches, museums,... are some of the most visited spots.

When I spent a week in Dubrovnik and surroundings last year, my happiness was endless.

Plitvice Lake, one of eight Croatian national parks
Plitvice Lake, one of eight Croatian national parks

2. Plitvice lake - untouched nature

It's really difficult to say which one of eight Croatian national parks to put on this list, since each of them are of surpassing beauty. Consisting of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls and streams, situated in the heart of Lika region, The Plitvice lake attracts a lot of travellers every year. Far away of daily routine, it provides us with a unique touch with nature.

Republic of
4.5 mio
Roman Catholic (87%)
Croatian kuna
Saint Joseph

3. The island of Hvar - jewel in crown of Croatian islands

The crucial argument of putting this magnificent island on this list, for me, is its presence in everyday cultural life of Croatia.. New books promotions take place there as well as theatre performances and those are only a few of many such events.

However, for its visitors the island sounds and flavours are probably more attractive as well as spots of historical importance and beauty. My impressions of this island of lavender and sunshine still reverberate in my mind.

Some interesting facts

  • Croatia as a sovereign country dates back to the 7th century when Croats arrived in the land of present-day Croatia. The first king of the Kingdom of Croatia was Tomislav, who ruled by 925.
  • The Republic of Dubrovnik was founded in 1358 and existed to 1808, when it was conquered by Napoleon's army. The Republic of Dubrovnik was very prosperous and reach European country with wide diplomatic network, including USA and India among the other countries.
  • The oldest university in Croatia is University of Zadar, established in 1396 by Dominican Order and operated until 1807. The university is refounded in 2002 and nowadays counts 21 departments.
  • It is believed that tie as an item of clothing comes from Croatia. It is recorded that Croatian solders in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) wore their traditional 'neckerchiefs'.
  • In 1991 Croatia and Slovenia declare their independence from Yugoslavia (which was a legal act, guaranteed by the Constitution). However, Croatia was attacked by Yugoslav army. The war, called Croatian War of Independence, was over in 1995 with Croatian victory.

Vestibul, part of Diocletian palace; Split is the second largest city in Croatia
Vestibul, part of Diocletian palace; Split is the second largest city in Croatia

4. Diocletian palace in Split - the spirit of ancient times

Some of ancient buildings on the Croatian ground are still in a usage. For example, remaining Roman amphitheatre in Pula nowadays serves as a stage for many music stars from throughout the world (and being there is unforgettable experience). But probably the most famous Roman building, still in a function is palace of Roman emperor Diocletian, making significant part of the city centre.

The Palace is a large architectural structure which consists of several buildings, the square and basement. The city's main symbol, the bell tower of the cathedral of Saint Doimus, is part of palace as well. Nowadays you have opportunity to sleep in the same rooms where possibly Diocletian hosted his guests. Namely, in one part of the building there is a small luxury hotel called Vestibul.

Of course, once being in Split you can enjoy not only Diocletian palace but also endless beauty of the city centre. Tiny, narrow streets in the walking area are only part of city's charm. Split is also an excellent starting point for visiting southern Adriatic islands since there is a good ferry connection from Split, especially in summer season (and I'd like to take this advantage once being in Split).

A street in Zadar - typical street in Dalmatia
A street in Zadar - typical street in Dalmatia

5. Zadar - where the sea plays music

If your first thought when you read the title was this is an allegory or even a fun, your are wrong! Famous, recently built, the Sea organ is an architectural masterpiece which plays music by means of the sea waves. St. Donatus's Church, a pre-Romanesque church from the 9th century is a famous landmark on the Zadar skyline. Then, the oldest university in Croatia is University of Zadar, established in 1396 by Dominican Order and refounded in 2002.

Walking through the old town parks and streets you will experience charming flavour of Croatia Mediterranean. In Zadar there is also possibility for tourists, and others, to enrol Croation language course.

Video: A creative and useful presentation of Croatia

Zagreb, funicular towards upper town
Zagreb, funicular towards upper town

6. Zagreb - charming capital

Although losing its charm in last few decades, Zagreb still won't leave you indifferent. A beautiful walking area, parliament building, church of St Marko, fantastic museums and galeries,... are the most visited places in old town called the upper town. In the downtown is city centre and "green horseshoe" - including parks, Botanic garden, national theatre, museums, university building and hotels.

Motovun Town, situated in the middle of Istria - the biggest Croatian peninsula
Motovun Town, situated in the middle of Istria - the biggest Croatian peninsula

7. One town in Istria inland

Together with Dubrovnik, county of Istria is one of the Croatian hot spots for tourists. The Istria cost, picturesque towns in inland usually situated at the top of a hill, sound of sopile, wine, hum and truffles nobody will leave indifferent.

Some of breath-taking spots: the view from the top of St Eufemija church in Rovinj, the view from walls surrounding Motovun (magnificant view on all four sides of Istria), Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, Hum - which is known as the smallest town in the world.

Kornati Islands; Croatia is a country of islands
Kornati Islands; Croatia is a country of islands

8. One small island

It can be said that Croatia is a country of islands since there are more than 1000 islands, around 50 of them being inhabited. As there is a huge diversity among the islands by their size, there are many differences in all aspect of life as well.

While the biggest islands count their population in thousands, there can be only few people living on some small islands presenting a strong will of people to live there. As an example I would like to mention the island of Susak where on the areas less than 4 squared kilometre live around hundred people.

A few times in its history population of Susak reached above 1000). Second time visiting this island, I was so impressed that I wrote a travel article. Nowadays list of inhabited islands is getting shorter and shorter. Majority of islands lose their population with some bright exceptions like the island of Rab whose population is increasing. However during the summer season population of many islands increases significantly, in some cases even a few times. Every small island is a treasure for itself which deserve to be explored.

Trakoscan Castle, inland of Croatia is not less interesting than the coast
Trakoscan Castle, inland of Croatia is not less interesting than the coast

9. One castle

Croatia has plenty of castles, especially in Zagorje and Slavonija region. Some of the most famous and the most visited castles are Trakoscan and Veliki Tabor.

There is no castle except Veliki Tabor with so many legends - and the story of The rose of Zagorje is the most famous one. In Veliki Tabor very inspiring was sitting at the table in the knight's hall where once real knights were sitting. Going into a castle, in its halls and towers, we enter into old times...

10. One authentic event

In Croatia there is an enormous wealth of cultural heritage. Sinjska alka or simply Alka make part of it. Alka is a knight tournament which takes plase every first Sunday in August in honour to the victory over Ottoman Turkish army.

Moreska, a traditional sword dance from the town of Korcula, can be seen on the island of the same name. The list of my "top 3" I will conclude with the Procession Za Krizen wich has been recently put on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. To participate in such an event is a remarkable experience of Croatia.

The video above presents part of moreska dance performance.

Lonely Planet Croatia (Country Guide)
Lonely Planet Croatia (Country Guide)
Simple but very, very informative guide.

Basic words in Croatian

Thank you - Hvala

Please - Molim

Hello - Bok, ciao, dobar dan (formal)

See you, bye - Do videnja

Where are you from? - Odakle ste?

Please, where I can find the nearest shop? - Molim Vas, gdje se nalazi najbliža trgovina?

Please, is the train station this direction? - Molim Vas, je li željeznički kolodvor u ovom smjeru?

What is your profession? - Čime se bavite?

What time is it? - Koliko je sati?

What a wonderful day! -Kakav predivan dan!

Croatian culture and sport - news from Croatia

Locations of places from this "top 10"

Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

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Dubrovnik old town – architectural masterpiece

Plitvice, Croatia:
Plitvica, Plitvička jezera, Hrvatska

get directions

Plitvice lake – untouched nature

Hvar, Hrvatska

get directions

The island of Hvar – jewel in crown of Croatian islands

Split, Hrvatska

get directions

Diocletian palace in Split – the spirit of ancient times

Zadar, Hrvatska

get directions

Zadar – where the sea plays music

Zagreb, Hrvatska

get directions

Zagreb – charming capital

Istria, Croatia:
Istarska, Hrvatska

get directions

Together with Dubrovnik, county of Istria is one of the Croatian hot spots for tourists.

Susak, Mali Lošinj, Hrvatska

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The istand of Susak - people living on the area less than 4 squared kilometre

Hvar, Hrvatska

get directions

The island of Hvar – jewel in crown of Croatian islands

Zadar, Hrvatska

get directions

Zadar – where the sea plays music

Malta, a country of knights and lights

Malta is a country consisting of the three islands located in the Mediterranean Sea. The biggest island is Malta, fallowed by Gozo while the smallest island is called Comino. The total area of the three islands is 316 sq kilometres, population is around 400 000.

The national language of Malta is Maltese, which is co-official language alongside English. Malta is a country of rich and turbulent history – part of what will be described in the travel article below. One of the most famous historical event is St. Paul shipwrecked, that deeply influenced the whole country. So, no wonder that in Malta there is one church to every 1000 residents. St. Paul's Shipwreck is also a national holiday, celebrated on February 10 each year. Nowadays, Malta is mostly oriented to United Kingdom and to near by Italy.

The following reading describes a travel experience but in the same time the article is quite documentary. It is illustrated by two video, one showing a firework, which is a typical event on Malta and another one presenting Malta highlights

This is a travel article, based on the author's personal experience . Although the author went on Malta in order to improve his second language, it proved that mix between study and fun is best for both... The article provides an impression on this charming country, with some concrete touristy information.

That summer I spent my holidays on Malta, a charming country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea; a country of St Paul's shipwreck, a country which has more banks then villages, a country of knights and lights. Although I went there in order to improve my second language, it proved that mix between study and fun is best for both English and relaxation...

Maltese knight
Maltese knight

History of Malta

Most likely around AD 60 a famous Mediterranean traveller St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, on his voyage from Caesarea to Rome. Paul and other shipwrecked prisoners were received by local people with kindness, and Paul didn't miss out on an opportunity to spread his belief. Influence of this brief stay on island, nowadays, is much more then just names of two islands and a near by bay.

Knights of St John arrived to Malta from Rhodes in 1522 (because of spread Ottoman Empire). At first, knights were not amazed with Malta, but since they hadn't choice they accept new home. Their greatest enemy was Dragut Reis, the Turkish admiral, who attacked Gozo (second Maltese island) in 1551 and carried almost the entire population of 5000 into slavery. Then, 8 year later, knights lost half their galleys in a disastrous fight on the sea. After these events Suleyman saw nice opportunity to capturing Malta as a base for the invasion of Europe from the south.

Knight la Valette inherited the title of Grand Master in 1557. He was disciplinarian and experienced soldier; and except this, it proved that he was a great strategic. He guessed Suleyman's tension and sent urgent request for aid to pope and Europe emperors. But no help came.

In May 1565, when enormous Turkish fleet carrying around 30000 men arrived in front of Malta, la Valette was 70 years old and commanded a force of only 700 knights and 8000 Maltese irregular troops. The Turkish force, led by admiral Piali and Mustafa Pasha, at first attacked fort St Elmo which was defended by only 60 knights and a few hundred men. Fort St Elmo held out for over four weeks, and cost the lives of no less than 8000 Turkish soldiers before it was finally taken; no one of the Christian defenders survived.

Finally, on 7 September the long-promised relief force from Sicily arrived. Tired and demoralised Turkish soldiers were in no mood to fight these fresh forces. That night flag of the Order of St John flew once again over the ruins of St Elmo, and in their churches the knights and the people of Malta gave thanks for the end of siege.

Video: Malta is a country of fireworks

Malta info

Area: 316 sq km

Population: 400420

Capital city: Valletta

People: Maltese

Language: Maltese, English

Religion: Roman Catholic (91%)

Currency: Maltese lira

Malta buses

With these well known events in my mind, I arrived to Malta late in the night. Actually, at first I was a little disappointed with my destination. I didn't expect neither untidy streets nor so fast taxis and cars. It seems that no one driver takes care of anything. It seems that in this country cleaners don't exist! It is normal, in Malta, that buses drive with open doors (and windows, of course); and the crown all that, some buses don't have doors at all!

However, Maltese are so proud of their buses they even didn't want change their buses for the newest one. You can buy stuff inspired by 'Maltese buses' on every corner in the town; postcard and books are the most common.

That was my first impression on Malta. However, very soon everything changes. The longer I was there, the more I enjoyed my vacation.

Famous Malta buses
Famous Malta buses
View of Valleta, the capital of Malta.
View of Valleta, the capital of Malta.

Too much sun will spoil your fun

… says one of advertises in town. It seems that I deserved it when I don't listen to warning; I usually forgot a sun crème.

Average temperature in Malta in summer is around 300C. Perhaps it is the reason why nothing is accurate.

For example, bus drivers don't pay attention on amount of money that travellers give them for tickets; bus ticket controller didn't wait when I was looking for my ticket in my bag - he just went ahead. However, I got used to these conditions very soon.

Therefore on Malta there are many celebrations, you can watch fireworks almost every evening, attending some fiesta as well.

Vittoriosa, an ancient town in Malta, that played significant role in the Siege of Malta in 1565.
Vittoriosa, an ancient town in Malta, that played significant role in the Siege of Malta in 1565.

Like a president

In Malta, there is strong Catholic spirit. Everywhere, in buses, of the reception of hotels, in the markets etc. we can see Christianity signs. Malta is probably the most religious country in Europe. When I attended Saturday's Christian's party in Valletta, one of my new Maltese friend told me that 95% of citizens go to church. There is most common that more educated people, like lawyers, teachers ... take one year off and go around through Malta to spread belief. On that party I realized how kind people of Malta are. Every foreign visitor was given his/her own translator, who made me feel like president of country.

I met many people, from younger to group of pensioners, and really enjoyed their company. I would say that people of Malta are like their weather - always shiny.

Except this, I experienced many other wonders. I went to Sicily, to volcano Etna and climbed two 'Crateri silvestri', did swimming, went out in karaoke bar and the best part of my holiday - made new friends from around the Europe. Truly experience of Malta, which I can recommend to everyone!

Video: Malta highlights

Malta, Comino and Gozo


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Malta, a country consisting from the three islands: Malta, Comino and Gozo

Comino, Malta

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Gozo, Malta

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Valleta, Malta:
Valletta, Malta

get directions

Valleta, the capital of Malta

A poll...

Your favourite vacation is...

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    • flysky profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia

      Thank you very much, travelholidays! I specially choose these images; of course I visited all these places. Regarding Malta – it was incredible experience... :-))

    • travelholidays profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Fantastic images thanks for sharing this post . The content below the heading "Malta buses" is very fare :)

    • flysky profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia

      Hi Larry! I am very glad because of that! I wish you very nice and pleased time in Croatia, and in this part of the world. The biggest towns and cites are connected by flights but the distances are quite different than you are used – the longest flight, Zagreb-Dubrovnik, takes around an hour. Train is also a good solution for travelling around the country, as well as rent a car. On the south part of the country the climate is Mediterranean – I think similar like in California. If you need any info or help, don't hesitate to contact me.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      Hi flysky. Loved your hub. One of these days, I'll have to see the natural beauty of your country. (And of Slovenia, while I'm in the neighborhood.) Voted up and interesting.

    • flysky profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia

      Thank you, WestOcean! Everybody is invited :-)

    • WestOcean profile image


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      Great review. Must visit.


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