Besides being one of the most affordable tourist destinations in Europe and a filming location for TV’s Game of Thrones, Croatia is a coastal gem among the typically austere countries that surround it.
Inhabited since the Stone Age, Croatia was first organized as a state in the 9th century A.D. At various times, the country was divided into duchies, invaded by Hungary and Ottoman Empire, and briefly united with other countries. Croatia was also a site of major contention during both World Wars. Visitors can marvel at the walled city of Dubrovnik with its Old Town, ancient forts, and later baroque architecture, which can be viewed both from the marbled streets and the top of Mount Srd via a breathtaking cable car ride.
Sun and Sea
While the capital of Zagreb is far inland near the border with Slovenia, the urban city of Split rests on the Dalmatian Coast, where the white sand and pebble beaches meet the stunning Adriatic Sea. By day, tourists can soak in the sunshine, rent a yacht or sailboat to see the hidden coves and towering cliffs, or even go diving to see sunken cargo and warships. Night owls can enjoy the seaside cuisine before hitting the Roman streets with their modern bars and nightclubs. Along with Sveti Jakov Beach in Dubrovnik, Zlatni Rat and Sunj Beach are considered among the country’s best.
Perhaps the most unexpected features of Croatia are its national parks. Known as one of Europe’s most beautiful natural wonders, Plitvice Lakes National Park is just east of the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 16 crystalline lakes and dense forest covering canyons of limestone and chalk. Well-tread paths and constructed walkways make exploration easy for even inexperienced hikers. More intrepid explorers and rock climbers might want to check out Paklenica National Park in Velebit mountain range, with its two vast gorges and 400m high cliffs.
With all that Croatia has to offer, it’s no wonder the country is gaining a reputation as Eastern Europe’s French Riviera. With its walled cities, sunken ships, crystal-clear lakes, and mouthwatering seafood (and wine!), adventurers around the world will be wondering why they didn’t go sooner.