Planning a trip to Croatia? 5 must-see highlights
Croatia has been in the international media spotlight lately: from the New York Times to The Huffington Post, American Express Travel to Fodor’s, it has made several ‘must-see’ lists for 2014.
This small country on the edge of the Adriatic Sea boasts over 1700 km of scenic coastline and thousands of spectacular islands. A paradise for sun-worshippers and nature lovers, as well as culture enthusiasts and foodies, it’s no wonder Croatia is on everyone’s bucket list.
Planning your trip? Here are a few must-sees in Croatia:
1. The spectacular lakes and forests of Plitvice
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s most visited tourist sites, and it’s not surprising why. This is a natural wonderland with spectacular cascades and gushing waterfalls, and lakes with crystal-clear turquoise waters set in dense forests of beech, spruce, fir and pine trees. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are 18 km of wooden walkways and footbridges winding through the park and along the edges of the lakes.
2. Charming Dubrovnik
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the enchanting seaside city of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s best-known destination. Though the tourist trail here is well-worn, this beautiful city nestled in the Adriatic Sea is still a must-see for its spectacular ancient city walls, scenic old town, Baroque buildings, marble streets and picturesque squares.
3. Istria: a land of many delights
This heart-shaped peninsula in north-west Croatia, just a ferry ride away from Venice across the Adriatic, is a delight for history buffs, beach lovers and foodies. Rovinj is the best known and perhaps most stunning of Istria’s many beautiful coastal towns, but Pula, Vrsar, Poreč, Novigrad and Umag also deserve a visit. The rolling hills of central Istria offer a scenic backdrop to its many delightful medieval hilltop villages like Motovun, Oprtalj, Grožnjan, Završje, Buje, Gračišće and Labin. Then there’s the excellent cuisine prepared with local gastronomic delights: wild asparagus, white truffles, excellent wine and olive oil.
4. Island escapades
Croatia has over 1000 islands and islets lying in the Adriatic Sea just off its coastline, with each one offering something unique. Swanky Hvar has become a centre for the international jet set, with luxury yachts vying for docking space. Scenic Mljet is home to a national park, picturesque lakes and an island monastery. Brač is one of the biggest islands in the Adriatic and famous for its magnificent Zlatni Rat beach. Cres has a surprising variety of landscapes and pristine beaches. Food lovers will love Pag, known for its excellent cheese, wine and fresh sea food.
5. Dalmatian coastal cities
The Dalmatian coast boasts many fascinating historical cities, each with its own unique vibe. Coastal Zadar is a city with a historic old town and an easy, relaxed pace. Šibenik’s atmospheric medieval quarter of narrow alleys, monasteries, gardens and fortresses are a delight to explore. Its cathedral of St James, built in Gothic and Renaissance styles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further down the Dalmatian coast, Split has an impressive seafront promenade which runs the length of the old town. But its most impressive attractive is the Roman-style Diocletian’s Palace, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive structure resembling a fortress is made up of over 200 buildings and crammed with narrow streets, passageways and courtyards bustling with cafés, museums and shops. Tiny but charming Trogir is an island (and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site!) with many fine examples of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture and an impressive Venetian-style cathedral.
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By Isabel Putinja, Travel Writer.