Croatia: The sunny country at the crossroads of Europe
Renowned for its beautiful beaches and with more than 1,000 islands to its name, Croatia is a leading destination for nautical tourism. Home to the world’s largest fleet of rental boats, this diverse country sits at the crossroads of Central and South-Eastern Europe on the Adriatic Sea.
Don’t worry if you’re seasick, there is something for everyone in this Balkan country.
How to get to the Peljesac peninsula?
While the cobbled streets of Dubrovnik are teeming with Game Of Thrones fans (the city was a key location in the series), just an hour away you can experience the quiet side of Croatia.
The 65 km long Peljesac peninsula is the second largest in Croatia. Located just 87 km north of Dubrovnik and 144 km south of Split, it is a popular destination for long weekends.
The peninsula will soon be connected to the rest of the country by the Peljesac Bridge, which is “big news” for anyone looking to explore Dubrovnik-Neretva County, said director of Croatia’s National Tourism Board Kristjan Stanicic .
When the first vehicles cross the Peljesac Bridge in spring 2022, travelers will no longer have to waste time crossing the border on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s short coastal strip, Neum, to get there.
What can I do in Ston?
Coming by road from the Adriatic coast from Dubrovnik, the first thing that will catch your attention is the 5.5 km long defensive walls. These run along the steep slopes that join rock and Mali Ston, two medieval fortified towns on the isthmus (a thin strip of land).
The Ston Wall, built in 1333, is considered the longest preserved medieval stone fortification system in Europe and one of the longest such walls in the world.
It is also the location of the Ston Wall Marathon held every September. Ston’s “white gold” is well worth a visit saltworks, the oldest salt harvesting site in the Mediterranean. Foodies, meanwhile, can taste Ston’s famous mussels and oysters, fresh from the beds of Mali Ston bay.
Where can I taste Croatian wine?
The peninsula is also Croatia’s most famous wine region. The colorful little harbor of Trstenik is home to GrgiÄ Vina, the estate created in 1996 by legendary Napa Valley winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, born in Croatia.
Mike made his name with a chardonnay that won at the legendary Paris Tasting 1976, the first great triumph of Californian wines in Europe. In 1958, Mike noticed the resemblance between Napa Valley Zinfandel and Plavac Mali, which originated in Croatia.
35 years later, he cultivated Plavac Mali (which means âlittle blueâ in Croatian) in a small, craggy area of ââvineyards on the south-facing slopes of the peninsula, perched above the Adriatic Sea.
How is the food in the Neretva?
The Neretva region is Croatia’s largest agricultural region and is known as the homeland of mandarins. Located between land and sea, “this part of Croatia is the link between green and blue”, explains Kristjan Stanicic.
Although long associated with French gastronomy, several restaurants in the Neretva Delta specialize in serving frogs from the marshes and surrounding rivers. A special dish is the Frog and Eel Brudet, a rich and thick stew seasoned with bay leaves and hot peppers.
The mouth of the Neretva river is also a hotspot for kitesurfing. This is due to its shallow sea, beautiful beaches and very stable and reliable thermal wind during the summer months.
Where can I sail in Croatia?
To “really experience Croatia, you can try sail along the Adriatic and stopping in several of its coastal towns and landing on a few islands along the way, âsuggests Kristjan Stanicic.
“It’s the best way to experience Croatia from spring to autumn – cities like Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Rijeka are great starting points.” If you are a lover of the land, you can hire a car and explore regions such as Istria and Dalmatia.
What are the best places to eat in Croatia?
Croatia has 78 restaurants in the Michelin guide, including ten Michelin stars; “a lot for a small country,” says Stanicic.
âIn the Istrian peninsula you can find truffles and ‘the best olive oils in the world as well as excellent white wines, mainly from Malvazija,â he adds.
For red wines, head to Dalmatia for native grape varieties such as Plavac Mali. In addition to fine dining, you can also find popular budget restaurants offering traditional regional cuisine. “We call them Konoba (tavern). This includes seafood if you are near the sea, or if you are in the mainland, it means meats.”
Where to go for a short stay in Croatia
Zagreb or one of the other coastal towns are worth a visit for a different Christmas experience, suggests Stanicic.
While Dubrovnik still tops the list for most visitors, Split has grown in popularity, along with the Dalmatian islands of Hvar, BraÄ, Vis, and Korcula, among others.
For something new, try Zadar, Pula and Rijeka and Zagreb.
Where can I see animals in Croatia?
Croatia has eight national parks and 12 nature parks for nature lovers to explore.
In the center of Croatia is Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is recognized by UNESCO. Located in a forest reserve, it consists of a chain of 16 terraced lakes, connected by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon.
The Gorski Kotar and Lika regions, on the other hand, are some of the best places to see Croatian bear, wolf, lynx and otter in their natural habitats.
Croatia is also home to some of the rarest bird species in the world, such as griffon vultures, golden eagles, and short-eared owls. Many shorebirds and migratory birds stop off in Croatia on their way to Africa.
Visiting the protected Nin, Nijemci or Vrana Natural Park wetlands offers a unique opportunity to see the birds in their natural habitat.
2021 also saw the appointment of a new natural park, Dinara Natural Park.
What is the best time of year to visit Croatia?
Croatia is best known as a sun and sea destination, but a visit in April and October means you can enjoy the most popular destinations, such as Dubrovnik, with fewer crowds.
The capital of Croatia and other cities like Split can be visited all year round, and from there you can explore other parts of the country by car, even in winter.
Where to stay in Croatia
Luxury travelers should try the new Hilton Rijeka Costabella Beach Resort & Spa, a 5-star establishment in Rijeka.
Or if you are looking for lasting luxury, try Villa NaÃ¯ 3.3 on Dugi Otok Island (Long Island).
Families should explore the new Shhhuma Water Park, located in the Papuk Nature Park.