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“Dobar Dan!” (“Hello” in Croatian)
Croatia has rapidly become one of Europe’s most trendy places to visit. However, it still doesn’t feel like a tourist country. It’s come a long way since it’s long fight for independence in the 1990s. If there’s an upside to the constant transition, it’s in the rich culture footprint that each government has left behind. Venetian palazzos can be seen near Napoleonic forts, Roman columns, early Slavic churches, and Viennese mansions can be found near Socialist Realist sculptures. Croatia’s coast has something for everyone, whether you dream of sunbathing on Zlatni Rat beach, partying in uber trendy and glamorous Hvar Town or relaxing in the natural terrain on the island of Mljet. For the history buff, Croatia offers historical landmarks such as Dubrovnik’s Old Town or Split’s Diocletian’s Palace, where the imposing Roman ruins have been repurposed into a bustling area for day and nightlife.
Although Croatia has steadily become commercialized and booming in some cities, their cuisine, wine, and natural beauty offers so much more than the cliché tourist boom. Luckily, the locals of Croatia feel the same, and restrict the tourist industry by focusing more on local businesses, delicacies, and all Croatia has to offer.
Whether you’ve come to backpack cross-country, surf the beaches, drink a cocktail on the sand, hike the waterfalls, or see some of the architecture, Croatia has a little something for everyone. Croatia’s gorgeous beaches, rocky shores, islands, and several National Parks make every picture a potential postcard perfect shot. With over 1,200 islands, turquoise waters, and villages that step out of a fairy tale, it’s easy to see why Croatia’s tourism is rapidly growing year after year. Away from the coast you can explore the oasis of Plitvice Lakes, hike and climb in the dramatic mountains of Paklenica or spot rare exotic birds and wildlife at Kopački Rit wetlands. It’s also a land of vineyards, with more than 300 geographically defined wine districts. Known for it’s “niche festivals”, Croatia’s tourism offers a unique opportunity to live like a local. These festivals are often featured in random places (think art festivals on the beach, culinary festivals in an abandoned warehouse, or small town music festivals).
If you’re looking for some city life and nightlife, Croatia has that available too. From swanky hotels, fancy cocktails, and urban dance floors, Croatia has an appeal for any taste. Speaking of taste, Croatia’s restaurant culture is as diverse as the country itself. Though Croats traditionally see themselves as a Western country with its close proximity to Italy, many of the landmarks and food staples in Croatia resemble Balkan culture. Croatia offers fresh seafood from the Adriatic Sea, homemade delicacies such as olive oil, wine, cheese, and don’t forget sampling rakia!
There is so much to do and so much to see. We can’t wait until you’re here and have the experience of a lifetime!
Welcome to the new paradise!
Here’s a quick rundown of our guide for easy reference.
• Chapter 1: A brief overview of Croatia-Historical knowledge on its lengthy battle to become independent and the road to becoming one of Europe’s trendiest countries to visit.
• Chapter 2 – Essential Croatia Experiences: A brief “To Do” list of Croatia’s top attractions from a visitor’s perspective, helping you to narrow down your list and help set your itinerary.
• Chapter 3 – Essential Croatia Travel Planning: This chapter starts with a rundown of the best of Croatia, important things to consider when planning your trip, and a “To Do” list of top attractions. Whether looking for historical, famous, sights or preferring adventure with the unknown attractions, we have you covered.
• Chapter 4 – Where to Sleep: From hostiles to five star luxuries, Croatia hospitality is just as diverse as the country itself. Whether staying in a penthouse or sleeping on a couch, we have options for every preference. This chapter covers it all and includes what websites to do your research on, and what places to look for specifically.
• Chapter 5 – Transportation in Croatia: From cabs to subways to buses, we have the inside scoop on all you need to know. From airports that travel country wide or international, we have the information on all of Croatia’s eight airports.
• Chapter 6 – How to Travel Smart, Experience More, and Spend Less: Croatia is one of Europe’s most trendy places to visit. With the increasing tourism, it’s hard to know where you are able to cut corners. We’ve compiled a list of ways to travel smart and stay in budget.
• Chapter 7-Where to Shop-Did someone say shopping? This Chapter provides some of the best places to shop until you drop! From outdoor markets to marble lined streets that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a movie, we have your bases covered for any budget!
• Chapter 8-The Best Beaches in Croatia-This Chapter provides some of the best beaches in Croatia. We’ve also taken out the stress of packing and have you covered with an essential list of what to bring on your beach trip.
• Chapter 9-Where to Dine and What to Eat in Croatia-This Chapter provides some of the places to eat in Croatia as well as expands on local delicacies that you must try!
• Chapters 10-14: These chapters provide an in depth look into Croatia’s most famous cities. These chapters provide great tips, details, insights, noteworthy attractions, and hidden gems in each of Croatia’s distinguished most distinguished cities. They’re packed with local tips of where to eat, drink, party, and how to experience Croatia like a local and off the beaten path.
• Chapter 13: See you in Croatia! A brief conclusion and thank you.
Are you ready to start the journey?
Croatia’s Transitional History
Located between Balkans and Central Europe, the land of Croatia has been through a lot of transition, to say the least. After being passed between competing kingdoms such as the Roman Empire or the Croats Tribe, they united under the independent name Yugoslavia. After years of bitter fights, Croatia finally declared its independency late in the 20th century.
Although still a relatively new independent country in terms of history and time, Croatia’s long journey makes the country rich in diverse culture and its own unique history in architecture. From Venetian palazzos, to Napoleonic forts, to Roman and amphitheaters, as well as intricate Viennese mansions and Socialist Realist sculptures, Croatia’s transitional history are apparent in its architecture.
With so much transition of rule and identity, historians today still are unclear with the exact timeline of Croatia’s rule. This centrally located country offered extensive trade and migratory opportunities for growing civilization. To fully understand Croatia’s complex architecture and long journey to its relatively new independence, you must understand some of the backstory to Croatia. Here are a couple important periods in Croatian history:
The Roman Empire Period
From about 11 B.C. to about the 5th century A.D., the Romans dominated most of Western and Eastern Europe. During this era, the territory of what is now modern Croatia was organized into two specific areas. The coastal area called was Dalmatia while the northern area was known as Pannonia. The Romans, known for their strong trade routes and advanced roads, linked the Aegean and Black Seas with the Dalmatian coast. This provided ample trade and commerce opportunities within the Roman Empire. While little is left of the Roman Empire in Croatia, the amphitheater in Pula is still standing and a footprint of the past historical significance. For those able to stop for a visit in Pula, make sure to compare the Roman’s grander amphitheater of the Coliseum in Rome. Although a much smaller version, both pieces of architecture have similar artistic qualities as well as materials. The Romans must have done something right for both to be free standing over 2000 years and going!
The Croat Tribes
While the Roman Empire was highly advanced in areas of trade and internal empire improvements such as their expansive roads, they lacked knowing how to live within their means. As their empire expanded, they had a hard time ruling their empire as tightly as they could before. Soon, a Slavic tribe called the Croats migrated to Croatia and formed permanent homes and communities within the country. Although historically unclear on the exact date, it is estimated that by the middle of the 7th century, the Croat tribes migrated into Pannonia and Dalmatia, and powerful clans and rulers emerged from the Roman Empire’s ruins.
The Christianity Spreads
In 800 A.D., Charles the Great, both Frankish emperor and ruler of Western Europe conquered Dalmatia and launched a campaign to convert Croat citizens and rulers to Charles’ religion Christianity. After Charles’s empire ended, the Byzantine Empire took control over most of Dalmatia, while the Pannonian Croats remained under Frankish rule. Charles’ focus on the conversion of Christianity lasted long after his rule. The Catholic faith strengthened cultural ties with Rome, which later helped in Croatia’s foundation of their national identity. Today, the majority of Croats (about 90%) are still Catholic.
In a time of unsettled serfdom, lords, and knights, Croatia looked for a steady ruler. Beginning in 925, Croatia the Kingdom was officially born. The Kingdom united Dalmatia and Pannonia into one single kingdom. During this time due to location and the united force, Croatia became one of the most powerful forces in the Balkans. After King Tomislay, ruler of Croatia the Kingdom’s death, his royal successors continued to rule the kingdom until the end of the 11th century, when Hungary took control.
When Hungary took control of Croatia, King Ladislaus of Hungary became the new ruler of Croatia. As the Ottoman Empire tried to seize control of the, Croatia joined the Hapsburgs empire and fell under the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the end of World War I in 1918, Croatia joined forces with the Serbs and formed the official “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes” aka the “Kingdom of Yugoslavia”. This kingdom was a huge disaster and declined rapidly. Other opposing groups saw the declining kingdom and tried to seize control in the opportunity. Croats were brutally murdered and the country was terrorized. The Partisans, another group, took control of Yugoslavia.
In 1980 the cracks in the Partisan’s rule lead to a weak economy and a weak government. Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, a day that is now known and celebrated as “Statehood Day.” At that same time, Serbs resisting the independence living in the Krajina proclaimed cession from Croatia, which lead to a brutal four-year Civil War.
Then to NOW: Modern Croatia
It has been two full decades since the end of war in Croatia and their fight for independence. Today, the local population is roughly 4.28 million, roughly half of the population of New York City. The capital city is Zagreb, although one of the most popular cities is Dubrovnik. The country joined NATO in Spring 2009 and finally joined the European Union in July 2013. Since then, the economy has continued to hold strong with stabilized government and a steady flow of tourism. Gone are the memories of unsettled politics. A thriving economy, sapphire waters, romantic historic towns, and delicious local delicacies now place those painful memories.
Important Information about Croatia
Visas: Generally not required but last up to 90 days
Busiest Tourist Season: Summer
Climate: The weather is diverse as Croatia’s terrain. The Mediterranean areas on the coast with mild, wet winters, an early spring and autumn and hot, dry summers. The continental inland, with cold winters and hot summers. In Zagreb, temperatures average 35C (80F) in July, falling to 2C (35F) in January.
The Country Flag: The Croatian flag of Croatia in December 1990 (Six months before Croatia officially proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia). The red, white and blue colors that are used in the flags of several Slavic countries have been used in the Croatian flag since 1848. A Coat of arms is set in the center of the flag.
Croatian Anthem: The national anthem of Croatia is “Ljepa nasa domovino” which translates to English as “Our Beautiful Homeland”.
Internet/Wifi: Like many other countries today, wi-fi in Croatia is continually improving all the time. If you do not opt for an international plan during your travels, you can at least find least one wi-fi network wherever you are. Some towns (or parts of towns) are even setting up their own free-to-use hotspots. More and more hotels or accommodation places (particularly private room hotels accommodation) offer complimentary wi-fi for their guests.
Traveler Tip: Make sure to get a calling card or a travel app like What’s App or Skype to be able to contact relatives or friends back home.
As any true Croat will tell you, there’s no way to see all the highlights of this vast, complex country in just one visit. That’s part of the thrill of traveling to a new country is that there’s always something new to discover. From iconic landmarks to local favorites these essentials must be at the top of your list. We’ve compiled a list of ways you not only can spot true Croat, outside of their habitat, but can blend in with the locals.
Ways to Spot a true Croat in Croatia or how to act with one:
• Practice living like a Dalmatian
‘Fjaka’ (pronounced “fyaka”) means “the relaxed like”. To have the mindset and lifestyle of fjaka is a way of life in Dalmatia and is something that cannot be taught, but something the Dalmations think is something you can feel. To act like a true Dalmation, practice the art of relaxation. It seems easier than it looks! Let your mind go, release the stress, and remember you are in Croatia to travel and
• They’re Bicycling or Scooting Their Way Somewhere. Typically, they do not rent a taxi.
If you plan on living like a Dalmatian and trying the “relaxed life”, then leave the stress of being stuck in a taxi at home. Enjoy the natural beauty of Croatia by driving a scooter or renting a bike through the hillsides. Head to Istria to enjoy a bike tour through wine country, and stop to have an antipasto and glass of wine. Enjoying life in Croatia is to live life.
• They always have a cup of coffee in hand or are at the cafe.
Croatians love their coffee or “kava”. To live in full “relaxed life” mode like a Croatian, try to drink a single cup of coffee slowly sipping at it for hours while watching the world pass on by. Croatians are infatuated with their coffee culture. Full bodied, rich, whipped, with cream, or without, cafes are often busy and filled with Croatians enjoying their time conversing over coffee. To act like a true Croatian, you must keep the caffeine intake continuous.
• Eat breakfast like a local
Dalmatians enjoy most meals similar to a Balkan or Mediterranean lifestyle. Dalmatia Brunch is called “Marenda”. Marenda usually consists of seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts (such as almonds), fresh meats, seafood, cheese, and fresh brandy.
• Wear Sunglasses
Croatians live a relaxed lifestyle and what better way to show off their “European cool” than to wear sunglasses. Dalmatians usually have two pairs of sunglasses: a less expensive pair for use at the beach and sunbathing, and a more expensive chic pair when walking around the city. ‘Cvike’ pron- svi-ke is the local coastal slang for sunglasses, and they are the must have accessory for Dalmatians. So make like the Dalmatians and wear your sunglasses!
There is so much to do in Croatia. Whether you’re looking for adventure, living like a local, or getting down on a dance floor, the diverse history and people of Croatia make the country a paradise of variety. Get a taste of the country with top highlights, ranging from historical to mouthwatering, famous, and the unusual.
Hvar: the Town-For those looking for a vacation spot like St. Tropez while still rocking a travel budget, the town of Hvar is the place to be. Whether looking for mixology cocktail bars, local delicacies, or dancing the night way, the town of Hvar offers a diverse cultural experience. Locals compare Hvar the Town to the luxury beach town of Ibizia.
Skradinski buk -The Krka National Park is a natural gem. The park provides hiking trails and a stunning series of waterfalls. Don’t forget to take your bathing suit and water shoes, as the rocks tend to be sharp.
Trsteno -Travel just north of Dubrovnik to the breathtaking Renaissance gardens in this beautiful coastal village. Capture the artistic beauty and relax with the scenery. We recommend bringing close toed walking shoes for this trip, as walking is a must.
Hvar: The Remote Island-If looking to get away from the hustle of metropolitan life and in search of a digital detox, we recommend the untouched natural island of Hvar. Offering reclusive bays and coves, the island offers a natural getaway.
Istria –This area of Croatia has been called “the new Tuscany” and it’s not hard to see why. There are brightly hilltop villages, seaside towns and its Italian neighbors inspire food.
Sunsets in Zadar -Alfred Hitchcock said there wasn’t a sunset anywhere else like one in Zadar. Make sure to listen and look for the sound-and-light effects of the famous Greeting to the Sun and Sea Organ art installations.
The Elaphite Islands -These gorgeous islands are easy to explore and offer great hiking, swimming, sandy beaches for sunbathing, and plenty of tranquility.
Stari Grad –Feel transported back to medieval times to Stari Grad, where you can find scenic stone houses and Renaissance palaces in one of the more quiet towns on the Dalmatian coast.
The Premužic Trail- Croatia’s most exhilarating long-distance hiking route takes in mountain ridges, dense forests and awesome views.
Pelješac peninsula-Explore the rocky mountain scenery, quiet coves and low-key seaside villages in a region renowned for its fantastic and complex red wines and fresh seafood.
Cafe culture, Zagreb-One of the nicest ways to experience špica, the Saturday morning and pre-lunch coffee drinking ritual, is on a terrace in Zagreb. Order your coffee like a true Croat and relaxed while people watching.
Walk around the Old Town in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is one of the top cities to visit, with all there is to do and it’s natural beauty. It’s packed with five star luxury hotels, decadent dishes from upscale restaurants and countless tourists. If you stay away from the main touristy streets, you’ll find a whole different world.
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Croatia has rapidly become one of Europe’s most trendy places to visit. However, it still doesn’t feel like a tourist country. It’s come a long way since it’s long fight for independence in the 1990s. If there's an upside to the constant transition, it's in the rich culture footprint that each government has left behind. Venetian palazzos can be seen near Napoleonic forts, Roman columns, early Slavic churches, and Viennese mansions can be found near Socialist Realist sculptures. Croatia’s coast has something for everyone, whether you dream of sunbathing on Zlatni Rat beach, partying in uber trendy and glamorous Hvar Town or relaxing in the natural terrain on the island of Mljet. For the history buff, Croatia offers historical landmarks such as Dubrovnik’s Old Town or Split’s Diocletian’s Palace, where the imposing Roman ruins have been repurposed into a bustling area for day and nightlife. Although Croatia has steadily become commercialized and booming in some cities, their cuisine, wine, and natural beauty offers so much more than the cliché tourist boom. Luckily, the locals of Croatia feel the same, and restrict the tourist industry by focusing more on local businesses, delicacies, and all Croatia has to offer. Whether you’ve come to backpack cross-country, surf the beaches, drink a cocktail on the sand, hike the waterfalls, or see some of the architecture, Croatia has a little something for everyone. Croatia’s gorgeous beaches, rocky shores, islands, and several National Parks make every picture a potential postcard perfect shot. With over 1,200 islands, turquoise waters, and villages that step out of a fairy tale, it’s easy to see why Croatia’s tourism is rapidly growing year after year. Away from the coast you can explore the oasis of Plitvice Lakes, hike and climb in the dramatic mountains of Paklenica or spot rare exotic birds and wildlife at Kopački Rit wetlands. It’s also a land of vineyards, with more than 300 geographically defined wine districts. Known for it’s “niche festivals”, Croatia’s tourism offers a unique opportunity to live like a local. These festivals are often featured in random places (think art festivals on the beach, culinary festivals in an abandoned warehouse, or small town music festivals).