Written by Roberta Striga : Photographs by Getty Images
CROATIA With the World Cup fresh in our memory, one country has been on everyone’s lips – Croatia. Football accomplishments aside, any traveler in the know will inform you it is a destination worth exploring.
Vis is the place to be if the mere thought of crowds makes you shudder, the filming location and indeed real star of the recent Mamma Mia movie sequel . Croatia has over a thousand islands, and Vis is located the furthest from the coast. However, its remoteness is not what makes it special, because it served as a military base it was closed for foreign visitors from 1950s until 1989. It is unspoilt, undeveloped and sublime if you want to find a secluded beach where you won’t be disturbed. Visit the Blue Grotto, check out the remains of Tito’s Cave or go diving in the crystal blue waters. Foodies can enjoy an appetising meal in one of the rustic konobas (taverns).
A UNESCO world heritage site, Dubrovnik is one the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. With cobbled limestone streets, breathtaking views of the Adriatic and imposing city walls, it is easy to understand why. But over the last few years, it has become a popular filming location. You might recognise it as the King’s Landing in the Game of Thrones or Canto Bight in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (guided tours are available if you want to take a picture at one of the filming spots). We would be remiss not to mention though, that if you value your sanity and abhor the crowds, visit during the off-peak season of May/June and September. The tourist numbers keep going up year after year, so off peak season may be the only way you can still enjoy the balmy weather sans the maddening crowds.
If the thought of 24-hour party appeals to you there is no better place for it in the summer than Zrće Beach on Pag. Located about 2km from Novalja and one kilometre long, Zrće Beach is a clubbing central for EDM fans. With open-air nightclubs and bars, and 20 meters from the sea, it was dubbed “the Croatian Ibiza” for a reason. On the off-chance you need to rest (and you do not want to kip on the beach) Novalja offers plenty of accommodation options, you will need to book well in advance as during July and August lots of like minded people have the same idea.
Many associate Croatia with its coastline, but Zagreb is making a name for itself as a popular city break destination. The city centre is compact and ideal to explore on foot. Check out the Zagreb Cathedral, wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town or visit the Dolac Market piled high with local in-season produce. If you need to visit at least one museum (it is a city break after all) check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. In the evening sample the local beer or rakija (a version of grappa) in one of the many bars in Tkalčićevastreet. Zagreb’s Christmas market won a number of awards over the recent years and is popular with tourists and locals alike. A month-long event features food stalls, ice rink, and plenty of activities to keep your mind off the cold.
Plitvice Lakes is the oldest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nestled in the mountainous region of Lika– Senj, it is known for its 16 lakes arranged in a cascade and connected by waterfalls. The lakes vary in hue, from the palest blue to intense cerulean, all thanks to the site’s unique mineral composition and a wonderful contrast to the lush greenery that abounds all along the boardwalks that snake through the park. You don’t necessarily need to visit in the summer since the lakes are a sight to behold regardless of the season. In fact, the park is swamped with tourists during July and August. Plitvice Lakes are located at a half-point between Zagreb and Zadar on the Dalmatian coast, which makes it an ideal choice for a day trip. Frequent buses run daily from both Zagreb and various towns on the coast.