The Dalmatian Coast, a place of extraordinary beauty on the Adriatic Sea. When most people think of Croatia, this is what comes to mind. Well this and of course Luka Modri?, the World Cup, and Game of Thrones. Croatia is often overshadowed by its neighbor across the Adriatic; however, travelers in the know have long recognized the region’s beauty, history, and culture. If you’re looking for a European adventure but don’t fancy traditional destinations in the West, you certainly cannot go wrong in Croatia.
When traveling through Croatia, it’s helpful to picture the country as comprising three distinct parts: 1) the capital Zagreb and areas to the north, 2) beautiful natural scenery in the middle sections, and 3) the Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic. Most travelers will be drawn to the coast; yet, those neglecting Croatia’s other regions risk missing quite a lot.
Zagreb is a place for the museum lover in all of us. The city’s many cultural institutions reflect its long history and deep roots. More than thirty collections and galleries are housed here. Reputedly, Zagreb has the highest concentration of museums in the world. Given it tends to be ignored by travelers making a break for the coast, you won’t be as burdened by the constant flow of tour buses stopping to unload a sightseeing excursion. Upper Town is a good place to start your visit. The narrow streets offer heaps of charm and allow you to hunt for a hidden restaurant, picturesque park, or a great art gallery.
In Lower Town, you will find a collection of varying architectural styles including secessionist, neo-baroque, and art deco. Zagreb is best enjoyed casually, with no defined plan. Allow yourself the freedom to wander, visit where you want, and find a place that calls to you. Make a point to see the Museum of Broken Relationships, St. Mark's Church, and Zagreb Cathedral. Finally, venturing into the hills to the north will give you a great vantage point for some magnificent pictures.
Central Croatia’s National Parks
Croatia has eight national parks scattered around the central region and along the coast. The most spectacular is Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plitvice Lakes was Croatia’s first national park and it’s easy to see why. The scenery is breathtaking, with the main attraction being the park’s interconnected lakes and famous Plitvice waterfalls, a cascading series of waterfalls as high as 78 meters. Nature lovers will adore this place. Make sure to pack a day bag and link up with a guide who can recommend some of the more scenic trails.
A less traveled option is Risnjak National Park, which is set in Croatia’s mountainous region. Here you will find beautiful mountain trails, fly fishing, deer, lynx, and other incredible wildlife. The park showcases the connection between the Adriatic coastal regions and the Central European hinterlands. There is a stunning amount of geological and ecological variation on offer in Risnjak National Park. A visit here is certainly worth considering.
The Dalmatian Coast
Croatia’s principle attraction is undoubtedly the coastal scenery. Stretching over 600 kilometers in straight-line distance, there is unimaginable beauty and travel opportunities to be found here. Some 79 islands dot the journey as do a handful of sizable cities. Finding quaint coastal towns is not hard. Travelers will find the most accessible transportation links between the main cities of Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik, and ?ibenik.
The nightlife of Split is rich and varied, especially in the vicinity of Diocletian's Palace, where you will find numerous bars and restaurants. The palace is part of the city’s historic core, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Friday and Saturday nights are especially active with lots of travelers and locals navigating between pubs in the city’s maze of alleys. As the largest city along the coast, it is easy to find ferries bound for many of the coastal islands.
The ancient city of Dubrovnik is a prominent tourist destination that attracts countless Game of Thrones fans. Filming locations are scattered around the city and include Lovrijenac Fort, Dubrovnik West Pier, and the Jesuit Staircase by Saint Ignatius Church. Each of these locations is worthwhile in their own right; however, fans will find them all the more thrilling as they walk in the footsteps of their favorite characters. Game of Thrones tours are ubiquitous and you will have no trouble finding one.
A Beautiful Coastal Road
On the way from Split to Dubrovnik, travelers should not pass up the opportunity to ride along the famous D8 roadway. Built in the 1960s, the D8 is often labeled the “most beautiful coastal road” in the world. To one side are the azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. On the other side are rolling hills and a lovely countryside. If you can find your own vehicular transportation, this is the best way to stop and see the lovely small towns and scenic points along the way. Alternatively, look for short ride services that will help you move up and down the coast.
It’s nigh impossible to capture the full majesty of Croatia in such a short article. The country is simply one of the world’s great travel destinations. Croatia’s tourism industry has developed rapidly in recent years as demand has increased. Transportation is straightforward and you will have plenty of opportunities to meet fellow travelers along the way. Take to the open road in Croatia and find out why this has long been a favored destination.