Croatia – A Land of Endless Variety
Since the 1990s, Croatia has developed into one of Europe’s most exciting tourist destinations, thanks in large part to its stunning coastline and low prices. While Croatia’s Adriatic Coast attracts tourists from across the world, the country’s major appeal is that it has not yet been overtaken by mass tourism. Indeed, much of inland Croatia has yet to be discovered, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing break away from the massive crowds of traditional western European cities.
A small country located on the dividing line between Eastern and Western Europe, Croatia borders Slovenia in the west, Hungary in the north, Bosnia and Serbia in the east, and Montenegro in the south. It is a small country, with a population of 4.29 million people. Roman Catholicism is the most popular religion. The main language is Croatian (hrvatski). Croatia’s currency is the Croatian kuna (1 kuna = 100 lipa).
Croatia has been inhabited since prehistory. Neanderthal remains have been found near the mainland city of Krapina, and several prominent prehistoric cultures flourished in what is now modern Croatia. Among the most famous is the Vučedol culture, which thrived from 3000 to 2200 BCE, and which was based in the north-eastern area of Croatia, close to the modern-day city of Osijek.
However, the first mention of a ‘Kingdom of Croatia’ is in 925 CE. This Croatian kingdom existed until 1527, when the Croatian Sabor (Parliament) agreed that Croatia would become a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in exchange for protection from the Ottoman Empire, which was advancing on Croatian territory from the east. Croatia remained a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, when it declared independence and joined the newly-formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Croatia remained a part of Yugoslavia until 1991, when it once more declared independence and became the Republic of Croatia. Croatia’s declaration of independence was followed by a war that lasted until 1995.
Much has changed in Croatia since the end of the Croatian War of Independence, with the modern state working hard to forge strong links with the rest of Europe. As a result, Croatia became a member of the European Union in 2013.
Croatia’s natural beauty is reflected in the country’s eight national parks. Plitvice Lakes National Park is the best-known, a stunning area of dramatic waterfalls, dotted with hundreds of clear lakes and lush green forest. You can read more about Croatia’s national parks here.
Croatian cuisine is sure to delight even the most discerning foodie. It ranges from the light seafood and pasta dishes of the coastal regions to the heartier fare favoured by citizens of continental Croatia. Fresh seafood, grilled meat, and delicious cakes and sweets are always on the menu in Croatia.
The climate in Croatia varies widely; coastal areas of the country enjoy a Mediterranean climate, while inland Croatia is mostly characterised by its hot summers and snowy winters.
Cities in Croatia
History, art, and fine dining come together in all of Croatia’s many beautiful cities and towns. Below is just a small selection of some of Croatia’s most attractive and exciting destinations.
Sometimes called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik boasts a spectacular mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. Throughout its history, it became a famous trading-post and home to numerous wealthy merchants, and in 1358 Dubrovnik declared its independence and formed the Republic of Ragusa.
Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most iconic cities. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and outside its walls are numerous beaches, where visitors can swim within sight of the towers and spires of the Old Town.
In addition to its historical and natural attractions, one of Dubrovnik’s most recent claims to fame is as a filming location for the HBO series Game of Thrones, where it serves as the fictional city of King’s Landing.
In 305 CE, the Roman Emperor Diocletian built an extensive palace complex on the coast of what would one day become Croatia. Over the centuries the local inhabitants of the region gradually built their homes within the ancient structures, turning the ancient Palace into a living city.
Like Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the Palace is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Popular attractions include the substructures of the original Palace where, amongst other things, scenes from the HBO series Game of Thrones have recently been filmed. Within the small, pedestrian streets of Diocletian’s Palace, visitors can tread the well-worn marble pavement, enjoy excellent food, and listen to the sound of a Croatia klapa (a capella) group singing one of the region’s many love songs.
Pula’s most imposing landmark is its Roman amphitheatre, which is one of the best-preserved in the world. The city’s main square is home to the Temple of Augustus, and the remains of the Roman city walls still stand, incorporated into the layout of the modern city. Pula is also close to Brijuni National Park, a beautiful collection of islands that feature Roman ruins, 19th- and 20th-century villas, and even a safari park.
Zagreb, the country’s capital, is the heart of Croatia. It is a city characterised by its stunning Austro-Hungarian architecture, thriving cafe culture, and burgeoning cultural scene. From the cobbled streets of its charming Upper Town to the bars, restaurants, and museums of the Lower Town, Zagreb has something for everyone! Discover more about Zagreb here.