|According to the country’s tourist board,
Croatia’s Adriatic coast is “the Mediterranean as it once was”, and indeed
most of the tourists who make it the 18th most popular destination in the
world flock either to the Istrian peninsula in the north or the Dalmatian
coast further south. Croatia has 7 sites on Unesco’s World Heritage list.
The Romans were there from the 1st to the 7th century AD, and they left
behind many well preserved buildings of great interest. Other architectural
influences include Venice (Istria is the closest part of Croatia to Italy)
and Austria. Italians still make up the largest number of visitors, and
Istrian restaurants serve excellent sea food and pasta. Its coastline is a
mixture of rocky coves and open sandy beaches, and numerous holiday
complexes provide accommodation for sun and sea worshippers.
||Off the Croatian coast lie over 1,000 magical islands, of which only around
50 are inhabited. An increasingly popular way to see some of them is to join
a sailing ship with about 30 passengers and a crew of five. In a week you
will visit seven islands, typically arriving in the afternoon and spending
the night on the boat in harbour, before leaving after breakfast for the
next island. More comfortable, but possibly less fun, are the many cruise
liners calling at ports in Dalmatia, allowing passengers to spend a day
there. Indeed, if you prefer to explore Split or Dubrovnik in peace and
quiet, it is a good idea to look at the schedule of cruise ship arrivals and
choose a day when there isn’t one due!
Although one of the more touristy places in Istria, Rovinj presents an
opportunity to see one of the last true fishing ports in this part of the
My favourite among the Roman remains is the remarkably preserved
amphitheatre in the Istrian regional town of Pula. Still sufficiently intact
to be used for concerts and shows, it is a fascinating place to spend an
hour. There are many other Roman buildings in this largely unspoiled
shipbuilding, fishing and winemaking centre, with its mild climate and fine
views of the Adriatic. For a small town, Pula offers good nightlife.
Lying beneath the mountain of Biokovo, Split’s brilliant white buildings
contrast with the deep blue of the Adriatic. The Roman Emperor Diocletian
built his retirement home here, which says something about its beautiful
coastline and mild climate. From Split you can go on a day trip to see the
biggest waterfalls in Dalmatia in the Krka National Park.
With its atmospheric old town, Dubrovnik is full of history. A good way to
see it is to take the 2.5 km city walls walk, but you need to be reasonably
fit as there are a lot of steps, many of them steep. Alternatively, for
excellent views of the town and the stunning Dalmatian coastline, take the
vertiginous cable car up to the fort.
Dalmatia now attracts visitors throughout the year. Temperatures are
typically around 30 degrees in July and August at the height of the tourist
season, but September is still very pleasant and less busy. Even winter
months in the coastal parts of Croatia are mild.
Croatia expects to be a full member of the EU by July 2013. Its capital,
Zagreb, began as two medieval hill top fortresses overlooking the Sava
River. It is a city still noted for its medieval streets and architecture,
as well as 19th century palaces and open air markets. As the country’s
capital, it is the centre of cultural activity and sport – something that
Croatia increasingly excels at.