If you haven’t visited Croatia yet, what’s been keeping you?
Turquoise water and breathtaking beaches, set of Game of Thrones, a museum of broken relationships, not to mention wine that will blow your mind – plus it’s still great value against the pound – there are countless reasons why Croatia is becoming such a travel hot spot. And now that it’s autumn and kids are back to school, villas will be offering better deals, as will the airlines, and with fewer tourists you’ll get the beaches all to yourself. All the more reason to book a last-minute trip this autumn!
Here are just 18 reasons why Croatia should find its way to the top of your bucket list (if it hasn’t already).
1. It’s still hot and sunny in autumn
While summer holidays might be over for some, now is actually the perfect time to book a last-minute trip to Croatia. It’s one of the sunniest countries in the Mediterranean – with more hours of sunshine than Provence or Corfu. The sun is still pretty strong in September and October (it’s only marginally less hot than July and August), which makes it the perfect temperature for exploring towns or hiking mountains. Can’t book time off work? If you book well in advance for next year you’re bound to find even better deals.
2. It’s super accessible
While other hot European holiday destinations like the Greek islands or Canaries can take four hours to reach by plane, Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik are all just two-and-a-half hours away or less.
3. It’s still great value for money
Croatia is part of the EU but has kept its currency, the Kuna. So while the pound has suffered a slump against the dollar and the euro, the Kuna still offers great value for your money. A beer will usually only set you back a couple of quid, and you can still enjoy a full meal in a sea-front restaurant for around 10 pounds.
4. There’s plenty of variation
Despite its rather small size, Croatia is home to major cities that offer both modern shopping streets and cosmopolitan areas as well as old-fashioned cobbled streets to explore. Here you can experience the best of both worlds: a fast-paced city atmosphere with the ambiance of a relaxed coastal town. Zagreb, the nation’s capital, includes a trendy vibrant downtown region that also still maintains much of its historical charm. Other major cities worth include Dubrovnik, Osijek and Rijeka. Or, to get a better feel for the people and culture, visit charming towns like Vrlika, Slunj and Cres. Komiža is a seaside town that is the site of an old fortress and hillside church.
5. There are some unusual attractions…
The Museum of Broken Relationships, in Zagreb, features seemingly mundane and insignificant objects accompanied by captions that explain their relevance in a failed relationship. It explores the “love, pain, drama, irony, humour and reconciliation” of break-ups, and has proven so popular that a second branch opened in Los Angeles last year.
6. You can walk around naked
If you think that no pants are the best pants, then you’ll feel right at home here. Croatia was the first country in Europe to introduce the idea of commercial naturist (nudist) resorts, and more than 1 million naturists flock to Croatia each year.
7. You can inhale the lavender fields
The country is known for its wild lavender, which is even more common than their olive groves or vineyards. Rent a car or (motor)bike, pick a town that’s a little off the beaten path (like Supetar on the island of Brač) and spend a few hours driving alongside wild lavender.
8. The water is turquoise
The Croatian coast is absolutely astounding, framing the crystal clear and turquoise blue water of the Adriatic Sea. Ideal for swimming, sailing and other water sports, and rather mesmerizing to look at.
9. The beaches are breathtaking
There’s no shortage of beaches to take your breath away. Zlatni Rat is probably the best known beach, and adorns many travel brochures (expect crowds). Baska Beach has stunning mountainous scenery, while Zrce Beach on Pag Island often attracts younger travelers as there is more of a party scene. Saplunara Beach and Palmizana are also popular seaside spots in Croatia.
There are also gorgeous hidden spots on the mainland, such as Nugal, just south of Makarska. And if you rent a boat, you can find many more hidden beaches beaches such as Stiniva Bay located near the caves (and only accessible via boat).
10. So. Much. History.
Besides Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, other must-sees include Brijuni National Park, where you’ll find Roman and Byzantine ruins, a 1,600-year-old olive tree and 100-million-year-old dinosaur footprints.
Several Stone Age sites have also been discovered all around the country, along with numerous caves containing hand-made objects from people that lived thousands of years ago. Croatia is also home to the best-preserved ampitheatre in the world (situated in the port city of Pula in Istria). Time your visit to coincide with its annual film festival (held in July), which features screenings inside the ancient ampitheatre, or look out for one of its regular musical concerts.
11. The Game of Thrones factor
If you’re a big GoT fan, you’ll recognize many filming locations in Dubrovnik and Split. ‘Kings Landing’, ‘The Red Keep Gardens’, and the city of ‘Qarth’ are all found in Dubrovnik where Game of Thrones tours are popular.
12. The Food
When it comes to cuisine, Croatia is up there with Italy. And Croatian wine just might blow your mind (and is great value). The country’s climate is perfect for vineyards, and there are many. Croatia’s climate is also perfect for the cultivation of olives, and some of the olive trees in Croatia are a staggering 1,600 years old.
And then there’s all the fresh produce and seafood – not to mention the cheese. Their national cheese is one you’ve likely never heard of: Pag sheep’s cheese. The island’s intense winds spread the salt of the Adriatic Sea everywhere – even onto the vegetation that the sheep graze on. This provides the island of Pag with the ability to produce some of the finest fromage you’re ever likely to eat!
13. The Nature
Aside from the turquoise Adriatic Sea and breathtaking beaches, there are also 8 national parks around the country. Croatia has eight national parks, including the Unesco-listed Plitvice Lakes and Krka, both of which are famous for their stunning lakes and waterfalls.
Krka boasts a jaw-dropping vivid green lake you can swim in – and it’s fed by a massive waterfall.
14. Stunning secret caves
Renting a boat once you arrive in Hvar is a must if you want to see the iconic blue and green caves. At the green cave, you can swim in pristine green waters, while the blue cave boasts the most epic electric-blue water – although swimming is not allowed in this one it makes for some fabulous photo opportunities.
15. Incredible Islands
Croatia is home to over 1,000 islands that dot the ocean, making island-hopping and sailing very popular activities.
16. Be Your Own Captain
Sailing is one of the best ways to see Croatia. You can charter a boat for a day and explore the coastal islands and archipelagos. Not a confident sailor? Croatia also organizes the popular annual Yacht Week – which is less sailing (you can leave that to the skippers), and more boozing. Or you could rent a small motorboat from Hvar harbour, pack a picnic and spend the afternoon zigzagging the Pakleni Islands.
Croatia’s natural beauty has also become an attraction in itself, from hiking and climbing its mountains to skiing down them in winter (you can find popular ski resorts in Bjelolasica, Velika, Platak or Sljeme in Zagreb). Then there’s also white-water rafting, sea kayaking, canyoning and zip lining.
18. Summer festivals
Often referred to as the new Ibiza, Croatia is a music mecca that’s quickly becoming the ultimate destination for music lovers seeking out top DJs and popular artists. Croatia hosts numerous open-air music festivals, including Hideout Festival, Ultra Europe and Fresh Island Festival. Then there’s also many cultural festivals during the summer, the best known being the Dubrovnik Summer Festival (dubrovnik-festival.hr), on from mid-July until mid-August. Tiny Motovun, a hilltop village in Istria, hosts a film festival each year, with parties held within its medieval walls each night (motovunfilmfestival.com).