Croatia seems to be one of those places that fly’s under the radar for most North Americans. You’ve heard of it but you’re not quite sure what it has to offer, or how it compares to nearby places like Italy and Greece. Well when we went on our honeymoon in 2014, Croatia immediately sparked my interest. Whether it was curiosity or a desire to get off the beaten path, especially coming from places like Paris, Rome and London, I knew Croatia was somewhere I had to include. I understood the confusion when friends and family asked – why Croatia? As my first time being in Europe it only made sense that I would stick to the major sights and get my fill of the tourist hot spots. Well that wasn’t what I wanted from my first experience in Europe. I longed for culture, architecture and warm sunny beaches and I wanted to be able to bring back stories from a country that not a whole lot of people I knew had been to. Well I’m happy to say that Croatia did not disappoint. A country with such charm And little to complain about made it an easy front runner in a trip full of mammoth tourist countries like Italy, France and the United Kingdom. I knew I would like Croatia, I mean who wouldn’t? What I didn’t realize was how many things would stand out above any other countries I’ve visited to date. Croatia is one of those places I could visit again and again and still find beauty in every corner. Croatia has increasingly become more popular in recent years, especially as a tourist hot spot for many Europeans. With the tourism industry growing at such a rapid pace, it wont be long before Croatia is at the top of everyone’s list. So with that, here are 12 reasons why Croatia should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
The Culture and History
Croats have been inhabiting the country for over fourteen centuries, which means the country is rich in culture and history. It is also a country that underwent fairly recent unrest as seen in the Croatian War of Independence which lasted from 1991 to 1995 whereby Croatia declared independence from the Republic of Yugoslavia. The remnants of the war can be found in some places including evidence of bullet holes in an old hotel just outside of Dubrovnik.
Some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered. During our time in Croatia we stayed at AirBNB guest houses which I highly recommend. One experience really stood out for us in Dubrovnik. Our host knew it was our honeymoon and decided to let us use her spa room free of charge which was equipped with a full size Jacuzzi, running waterfalls and soothing music. She even left us a note with 2 mini bottles of wine to celebrate the occasion.
The most beautiful blue water you have ever seen. Seriously. I’ve seen the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Caribbean but nothing compares to the deep blue Adriatic Sea.
It’s such a shame when countries with so much history and beautiful architecture are overtaken by garbage and vandalism. Don’t get me wrong, places like Rome and Paris are beautiful, but there are a lot of areas that feel less magical due to the lack of proper care and respect for their streets and buildings. Not in Croatia. Pristine ivory buildings and fresh clean streets. During our time in Dubrovnik, we were told that the government of Croatia routinely power washes their streets and regularly restores old buildings and has a tax program which encourages locals to keep their houses and roofs in good condition. What’s left are towns that are spotless with buildings that haven’t lost their historical feel.
The Water Adventures
Awesome kayak adventures. Grab a guide and take an adventure into the Adriatic. We kayaked from the coast of old-town Dubrovnik around the island of Lokrum which houses a medieval monastery, a small salt lake and roaming peacocks. Just be careful to not get stuck on the island over night as legend has it that it’s haunted!
The Island Adventures
Island hoping is a great way to explore Croatia, and with over 1000 islands you will constantly have a new island to explore. We took a ferry from Split to the island of Brac, and while we did not make our way to the famous Zlanti Rat beach we found plenty to explore during our time on the popular island. If you do make it to Brac, I suggest planning ahead and taking a bus or hiring a private taxi to take you to Zlanti Rat beach, as I’ve heard it’s worth the trip.
The Land Adventures
If you find yourself on the island of Hvar, don’t hesitate to rent a scooter for a trip down the coast exploring all that Hvar has to offer. Not sure how to drive a scooter? Don’t worry, all you need is a drivers license from your country and a little crash course (not to be taken literally!). We set out for the day, rode through the hillsides, had lunch at a little local restaurant overlooking the Adriatic, climbed an old fortress and took in one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. This is sure to be a highlight for any traveller. Also, if you happen to be on Hvar during the summer and your into the party scene, I assure you it will not disappoint. Just be prepared the cough up some dough for highballs priced at $15 CAD a drink.
If medieval castles and historic churches are what tickles your fancy you are sure to find some of the best in Croatia. Climb the old bell tower in Split Croatia or take a trip into the hillsides of Hvar and climb the old fortress. Walk the surrounding walls of old-town Dubrovnik and you might even catch a glimpse of a castle where they have filmed the popular series, Game of Thrones.
We thought we were spoiled in Italy! !hen we got to Croatia, we quickly realized that a much needed break from pizza and pasta meant gorging ourselves on wine, shrimp, mussels, and seafood risotto, which was completely okay with us. Not into seafood? the good news is there is plenty to choose from on the menu in Croatia. Croats are big on pastas with tomato sauce, meat dishes, soups and stews and delectable sweets for dessert!
The Music of the Sea
If you find yourself in Zadar, Croatia, be sure to visit the Sea Organ along the shore. Sit down and relax or grab a book and lay on the large marble steps. Prepare to be serenaded by the music of the sea as the waves hit tubes located under the steps.
The Cheap Drinks and Cheap Haircuts
Cheap drinks and cheap haircuts. We found a great little AirBNB in Zadar right in the centre of town which just happened to be across from a really great little pub with $2 CAD drinks. After a few gin and tonics, I decided an impromptu haircut was necessary. Not bad for a $15 CAD haircut in Croatia!
Around every corner in Croatia, you sure to find breath taking views like the one above. Another hot spot is Plitvice lakes national park which is sure to be on everyone’s list of places to see. While we unfortunately did not make it far enough inland to see the Plitvice lakes or to the capital city of Zagreb, I have heard amazing things about this national park which means it had to make this list. It consists of a 295-sq/km forest reserve containing a chain of 16 terraced lakes joined by waterfalls, which extend into a limestone canyon. Make a day trip by bus and hike for the day, but be sure to get there early in order to avoid the crowds, especially during high season. This is sure to make my must-do’s list for the next time we find ourselves in Croatia.
Have you been to Croatia? What are some of your reasons for visiting this beautiful country? What stands out for you? Comment below!