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This post is sponsored by Goolets, a company specializing in luxury gulet cruises.
There are no shortage of beautiful holiday destinations around the world, however, Croatia is a hotspot that only increases in popularity every year. With its rugged mountains, long coastline, and breathtaking blue waters, Croatia is a picture-perfect place to visit.
But what about Croatia’s other charms? This small Mediterranean country is full of surprises: natural wonders, friendly locals, long history, and—despite the popularity of Dubrovnik as a cruise port and Game of Thrones shooting location—yes, still some hidden gems left to explore in various pockets of the country. So, if you’re wondering why everyone you know seems to have traveling to Croatia on their bucket list, let’s run down seven key reasons you should pack your bags asap and visit this under-touristed European hotspot.
Croatia Boasts More Than 2000 Diverse Islands
The long Croatian coastline features over 2,000 islands scattered along the Adriatic, and it would take more than a few holidays to visit them all.
Along the Dalmatian coast you can experience:
- the island of Vis, which is ideal for weekend getaways.
- Brac, which arguably possesses the most beautiful beach in Croatia.
- Hvar Island, home to a glamorous nightlife.
- Korcula, a place with endlessly rich culture and history.
Each Croatian island is unique, offering different scenery and diverse activities for endless summertime fun and relaxation. Naturally, these destinations attract a phenomenal yachting scene. The beautiful islands create a perfect cruising backdrop and yachts offer travelers a chance some of the country’s best, high-end vacation experiences.
If your ideal vacation involves you sailing on a yacht in Croatia, exploring new places each day, eating great food, and drinking amazing wine, then you’ll soon understand why yachting in Croatia is so popular. One of the additional advantages is that you can easily avoid mass tourism that has changed the feel of many areas of Croatia. Instead, on a yacht you can enjoy privacy, personal space on the beach, and sometimes even a whole island to yourself!
History and Culture Tell a Breathtaking Story
You’ll be amazed by Croatia’s long history and rich culture. You’ve likely even heard of—and already seen—some of this small country’s historic towns, thanks to the film and television industry. Historical sights fill the entire Dalmatian Coast, like, for example, the walled city of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is under UNESCO protection and although it is just one of the ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia, it’s arguably the most iconic to foreign visitors. It’s Dubrovnik that you might have seen on film, since it was prominently featured as King’s Landing in the Game of Thrones series.
If history is your thing, then also plan to get lost among the Roman ruins in Split, where you can explore gothic churches and narrow streets, both of which tell stories about the unique culture of this Mediterranean town. Morning is the best time to walk the walls in Split, before the sun becomes too strong. Also in Split, the palace of Diocletian is probably the most famous landmark in town—it’s also protected under UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In fact, Croatia’s ten World Heritage Sites are themselves a unique reason to visit Croatia. These UNESCO sites generate large numbers of visitors, and you should absolutely plan exploring at least a few of them during your trip.
Trogir is a beautiful town only 17 miles west of Split that contains its own heavy dose of culture and history. Trogir’s old town is perfectly preserved and it includes a number of churches, fortresses, and palaces that will transport you to another era. Because of Trogir’s historic past, the old town is one of the best representations of Romanesque and Baroque architecture in Dalmatia—so you’ll need at least a full day trip there from Split.
There’s Undeniably Beautiful Nature
Croatia is a country seemingly made exactly for travelers who love to relax and become one with nature. You can easily move from the country’s vibrant cities to more secluded areas in nature, finding your own inner peace at every turn. In fact Croatia boasts far more national parks than you could visit even if you devoted an entire week to the task!
Plitvice Lakes National Park, for example, is one of the oldest national parks in the whole region and it’s known around the world for its beautiful turquoise lakes and surrounding lush green forests. Most admirable are the park’s waterfalls that land in crisp pools of water (these also provide cool refreshment during a hot summer day!). Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Plitvice yearly and you’ll find no shortage of photos online of the park’s 16 gorgeous lakes and waterfalls—photos that will never do it justice, this pristine nature is something you need to visit in person! Interestingly, when planning your Plitvice trip during the year, due to climate change, some of the lakes dry out and disappear. Thankfully, others emerge and the waterfalls often freeze during the winter months and create their own unique landscape worthy of photos.
If you want to take your Croatia experience to the next level, then you should also explore Krka National Park. The easiest way to access this area is by starting your adventure from the charming seaside town of Skradin. Once you get there, you’ll find another stunning waterfall, Roman ruins, hiking trails, and—if you’re lucky—animals. The best part of Krka is that you’re allowed to swim next to the waterfalls in the park (unlike Plitvice), and that’s a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
Another park worthy of a mention is Mljet National Park, which is easily reached from Korcula. This area contains a national park and two mesmerizing lakes, Veliko jezero and Malo jezero. This area is also perfect for romantic getaways in nature—it’s here that you can witness the most beautiful sunsets in all of Croatia.
Your Taste Buds Will Delight in Rustic Traditional Dishes & Fine Dining
When it comes to food, Croatia has a brilliant mixture of central European cuisine mixed with the Mediterranean influence from its coast. Given the dazzling towns and islands, lush green landscapes, and clear sea, it’s intriguing to find that Croatia’s dining scene is equally brilliant.
Croatian food reflects the country’s long history and tradition, however, you’ll find many places often enrich dishes with a modern twist that appeal to visitors while maintaining important food traditions. While you stroll streets across the country, you’ll easily find rustic family-run tavernas, street food perfect for a quick snack, and ample luxury restaurants offering exquisite dishes for a reasonable price.
If you look closely at the menus, you’ll often find seafood as main delicacies—dishes like fresh grilled fish, octopus salad, shrimp brudet (a local seafood stew), etc. Croatians are also known for their love of meat, however, especially in the inland regions. Roasted lamb, tender steaks with delicious side dishes, and a glass of wine will satisfy every gourmand or emerging foodie—Croatia’s dining scene is truly versatile, so you won’t have trouble finding something you like. Besides the local restaurants, supermarkets carry an ever-increasing variety of foreign foods if you’re ever homesick for the flavors of your homeland, so food is absolutely a reason to visit!
You Can Sip Your Way Through History on a Wine Tour
Good wine is one of the most recognizable symbols of Dalmatia. Although wines are truly excellent, it’s a bit of a secret still for those who have visited the area. Winemaking has a long history in Croatia, and the country’s natural soils produce a wide range of indigenous grape varieties, as well as lots of geographically defined wine regions. Naturally, like other aspects of tourism in Croatia, wine tourism is increasingly popular now that other travelers are spreading the word that the country’s food and wine are top-notch.
If you want to enjoy the countryside in a relaxing way and meet local vintners, wine tours are an amazing option. Each wine tour—no matter if it’s one in a town, island, or the countryside—has been carefully selected and tailored to give travelers the absolute best possible sampling of Croatia’s wine offerings. You will explore picturesque vineyards with long histories, but also modern wine cellars and award-winning tasting rooms. Enthusiastic and charismatic winemakers will make you feel welcomed, and you’ll be impressed by the amount of Croatian hospitality they generously share with guests. A feel good atmosphere is even more enhanced with unique Croatian wine flavors that you will share and discuss in the quiet beauty and glamour of the Croatian countryside.
The Mediterranean Climate—Enough Said
When deciding where you should travel, climate plays an important role—especially if you’re planning your summer holidays. Well, the great weather in Croatia is another principle reason travelers rave about their visits. While you might wonder how clear the sea is and if it’s ideal for swimming, rest assured that Croatia is a true champion in this area.
When it comes to the Croatian coast, expect a typical Mediterranean climate consisting of hot, dry, sunny weather during summer and relatively mild winters. In fact, it’s not a stretch at all to say the weather in Croatia is truly gorgeous year-round, especially when compared to the colder regions of Europe, the U.S., and Canada. Warmer temperatures during spring and autumn allow tourists to travel here all year round and avoid the crowds typical during the high summer season. On average, temperatures during summer swing from mid-to-high— +20°C at night and around +30°C or more during the day. Croatia’s part of the Adriatic Sea is crystal clear and perfectly safe for swimming, watersports, and other fun activities. Due to its clear blue waters and rich marine life, nearly all coastal areas are popular for diving adventures and snorkeling (another reason to book yourself on a yacht to best explore the region!).
Locals are Downright Lovely
We all want meaningful travel experiences, and meeting locals is an important part of a memorable vacation. If you’re lucky enough to meet locals along the way, you’ll experience a whole new aspect of Croatia. Croatian people, in general, are friendly, passionate people who welcome guests with open hands and hearts. They’re a population known for their great hospitality, which is a primary reason you simply must experience it.
The only problem you may come across is a language barrier among older generations, who don’t usually possess strong English skills. That said, it never stops them from making you feel welcomed, and the smile on their faces is truly priceless.
The best way to open and start a conversation with a local is by talking about your best impressions of the country during your visit (or hopefully multiple visits!). Offering a few compliments about the food, the current climate, or the beautiful surroundings will make any Croat smile. Most locals are very enthusiastic about their hometowns, and they’ll often give you helpful advice along the way. You only have to ask.
The thing is, Croatia has a lot of competition out there in the world—many places have tasty food and pretty coastline. So why should you visit Croatia? It comes down to the country’s magical combination that we have yet to find anywhere else in the world.