Croatia: a beginner's guide

Jeanne Oliver

Jeanne Oliver has written all three editions of Lonely Planet's Croatia guidebook. To find out more about traveling to Croatia including accommodation, car rentals, ferry schedules and itineraries, visit Jeanne's website.

Croatia has quickly become Europe's hottest destination, and for good reason. The rocky coastline continues for 1778 kilometres and includes pine-fringed coves, wide sandy beaches and cozy inlets. As if that weren't enough, there are a good 1185 islands that range from lush and wooded to stark and hilly. Yachties love the sailing opportunities, sunbathers have an incredible choice of beaches and scuba divers have a paradise of sea life to explore.


Dubrovnik in Summer: sure beats Wanganui.

Beyond the pretty scenery, Croatia also boasts a fascinating history and cultural life.The walled city of Dubrovnik on its southern tip is a must-stop for Mediterranean cruises but the long coast is littered with remnants of Croatia's varied past.

The Romans swept through two thousand years ago, leaving an amphitheatre in Pula and Diocletian's Palace in Split. Long ruled by Venice, many ports along the coast bear the distinctive imprint of its former master. In southern Dalmatia, the towns of Hvar and Korcula resemble Little Venices without the canals. In Istria, the striking bell tower in Rovinj is modeled after that on St Mark's Square in Venice.


Croatian National Theatre, Zagreb


In contrast to the Italian-influenced coast, the Croatian interior was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and looks it. Zagreb, Croatia's capital, has the kind of stately architecture that wouldn't be out of place in Vienna or Budapest. Plus,it has a small medieval quarter that vaguely resembles Prague.To the north of Zagreb, in the middle of green, rolling hills, lies Varazdin, Croatia's most underrated city. Lying too far from the coast to attract much tourism, Varazdin nevertheless boasts a stunningly well-preserved baroque center.


Varazdin Castle

 
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  • What a breathtaking glimpse of the world's unspoilt natural beauty. When I win Lotto, this will be my first taste of Europe!
  • I dated a Croatian and he told me the beaches over there are sublime and not half as packed as other European beaches - it's defanitly on my bucket list
  • milliestar says
    I absolutely LOVE Croatia - it is one of my favourite countries in the world. I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks there in 2009 while supporting my brother in the World Waterpolo Champs. The age, beauty and simplicity of everything was just wonderful. I especially loved the early morning hustle and bustle of the "green" market and the "fish" market - it was so much fun buying our picnic supplies from the locals. I hope to return some day and explore a little more....
  • Bernadette says
    WOW! by looking at these pictures Croatia looks absolutely beautiful. :)
  • Claire1971 says
    Dubrovnik is a beautiful city in a beautiful country, albeit one with a rather chequered history. Hard to believe Dubrovnik was under siege as recently as 20 years ago. Now Croatia is establishing a well-merited reputation of its own, and not just for tourism. It is a fast developing country when it comes to wine production, and is a serial, if somewhat underperforming, participant in the Eurovision Song Contest!
  • The country looks so clean and green too. Just lovely.
  • Mel80 says
    It is obvious why Croatia is Europe's hottest destination,. The green hills, the blue ocean, the charming history ... Croatia seems to offer something for everyone./ ... When I win LOTTO and marry a billionaire you're all invited to come stay in my new house aka Varazdin Castle! *dreams are free*
  • felix says
    As a proud half Croatian it's nice to see articles like this, and how popular Croatia has become in the past 10 years as a tourist destination. It's hard to fathom how recent the violence was in Dubrovnik when you look at photos like the above. Apparently the bullet holes are still visible in the tiled roofs when you walk the walls of the city.
  • joyg says
    Croatia show a wonderful place to visit. It is now on my bucket list of things to do.
    It's sounds enchanting
  • daisy says
    Croatia sounds amazing it's the sort of place that isn't over commercialised except everyone seems to want to go there /i know I would love to.

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