Croatia: From Turquoise Waters to Enchanting Cities
Croatia has always been a place of inspiration for travelers. This is where George Bernard Shaw, captivated by the surreal beauty of Dubrovnik, found his “Paradise on Earth”. Situated between the Balkans and Central Europe, bordering Hungary, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia boasts one thousand islands and nearly 1100 miles of coastline (equal to that of California and Oregon’s Pacific coast). Croatia draws its rich cultural heritage from its long history that included kingdoms, empires and republics fighting for reign over the beautiful land. It is the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea dotted with the thousand plus islands and ancient coastal towns that are the first attraction for most travelers, but for the more adventurous there are stunning national parks, wine-rich valleys, medieval castles, quirky festivals and charming villages waiting to be discovered. The diversity of landscapes, climates and cuisines in a rather small geographical area makes Croatia special.
. The historic towns, including Dubrovnik and Zagreb, are lined with ancient buildings with beautiful architecture including fantastic museums and art galleries.
Beyond the blue waters and picturesque ports bustling with fishermen and exquisite seafood served in the local restaurants, the journey inland is equally enchanting. Forests, mountains, and waterfalls offer unique hiking and biking opportunities coupled with simple relaxation and soaking up the natural surroundings.
When to Go:
The warmest months of the year are July and August when the daytime high temperatures will hover around the mid-80s to low 90s. The coldest months of the year on average are January and February, during which time the daytime highs will be around 50°F. The rainiest months of the year are generally November and December, with the summer months being fairly dry.
Where to Go:
Visitors can combine three key destinations to enjoy a myriad of experiences and culture, as well as an active vacation including hiking, biking, and water sports. Our suggestions for a 10-11 day trip are:
Plunge into the bustling streets of Split, exploring the winding alleys and cobbled streets of the city with a private guide. Famous for its varied history and Roman architecture,
Split is the perfect place to absorb Croatia's past and its vibrant culture. In the evening, wander down to the Riva waterfront and join the locals for a drink in this lively stretch of bars and restaurants with spectacular sea views. Here you are perfectly located to continue your trip to the neighboring islands of Brac and Hvar, both reachable by a short ferry ride from Split (and each other). You may of course opt to explore the islands by private charter yacht. Crewed charters are available for a minimum of 3 days, April through October.
Brac & Hvar
Home to mountains, pine forests and peaceful coastal villages, Brac is Dalmatia's largest island, and a picturesque haven just one hour from mainland Croatia. The pine forests are peppered with quaint fishing villages, and the island plays host to olive groves and vineyards, producing some of Croatia's best wines. The island is steeped in history, so take some time to explore the rugged coastline and historic towns as your private guide shares stories of the region's myths and legends. Medieval forts, hidden caves and abandoned monasteries are just a handful of what the island has to offer. A combination of walking and off-road adventure takes you off the beaten track to discover authentic island culture.
From Brac, you may take the ferry south to the island of Hvar to spend your next few days relaxing and soaking up the local culture. The pretty central harbor is incredibly popular during the summer months, and with good reason, however it is the little-explored interior of the island that is arguably the most beautiful, with lavender fields, peaceful villages, rolling vineyards and pine-covered hills. Explore the hidden corners of beautiful Hvar by car, foot, or bicycle. Hvar is becoming particularly well-known for its wines and a tour of the local vineyards is highly recommended, while foodies will love the opportunity to enjoy a traditional lunch cooked over an open fire in a hidden village, high in the hills overlooking the azure sea.
If you have the time to explore by boat, consider a visit to Vis and Biševo islands' hidden inlets, caves, and beaches with your local skipper. Discover the spectacular Blue Cave on the island of Biševo with its local wildlife and natural beaches before venturing to the unspoiled island of Vis, renowned for its blue waters, ancient architecture, and cultural heritage. Here you can take time to snorkel, swim and relax on one of the island's beaches before heading to Komiža town, known for the Renaissance tower, today home to the local fishing museum. Your crew will recommend a lovely local tavern for lunch.
For the final leg of this spectacular journey head back to the mainland to Dubrovnik, the jewel in the crown of the Dalmatian coast and a fitting place to finish your journey. The magnificent city walls surround marble streets and baroque buildings that exude an almost ethereal light in the Adriatic sun. Churches, monasteries, and museums ornamented with finely carved stone recall an eventful history and a vibrant artistic tradition. There is plenty to keep you entertained in this fascinating city and your private guide will help bring Dubrovnik to life with a guided tour of the Old Town. Soak up the cobbled streets lined with traditional churches and admire the stories behind this quintessential walled city. If you do want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the stunning Elaphiti islands are just a short boat trip away, or the spectacular Mljet National Park is the perfect place to discover Croatia’s natural beauty.
Wait! There Can be a 4th Stop if You Have More Time… in Zagreb
With more time you should stop in the historic town of Zagreb where you can visit the Museum of Broken Relationships. No joke- this unusual museum can serve as a salve for a wounded heart or a humorous look into troubled relationships. The exhibits include donations or relationship memorabilia from people around the world with stories of their break-ups. Not all stories are sad- instead, they reveal hope, change and wisdom that might be insightful.
This museum was conceptualized by two artists who had broken up, then joked about creating the museum which went on to receive an award for innovation. The Museum of Broken Relationships is open year-round, although it has different hours depending on the season. All displays have English captions.
Afterward you may choose to stop by one of the excellent bars nearby.
The lively capital city of Croatia attracts more and more visitors with a charming mix of medieval history and a trendy lineup of restaurants, festivals and shops. Zagreb is a great year-round destination; spring and fall bring beautiful colors to its many popular parks spread throughout the city, summer is popular with music loving crowd that gathers for the famous InMusic Festival, and wintertime is ideal for discovering many museums and galleries.
Like its many European counterparts, Zagreb boasts a long fascinating history that is so visible on every cobblestone alley in the Upper Town. Here, one can peek into a pharmacy dating back to 1355, light a candle at the Stone Gate passage, take a selfie in front of the colorful St. Mark’s church or peruse the delicious local produce at the famous open air Dolac market in the city center. There is another interesting museum outside Zagreb: the Neanderthal Museum or explore some of the many Castles that reside in the green hills surrounding the city in the Zagorje region.
You may also choose to discover more islands of Croatia on a live-aboard boat for a (recommended) 7 day cruise. There are several options for small, 36 passenger ships, that cruise the islands. A combination of cities and a live-aboard ship is an ideal way to spend two weeks discovering more that Croatia can deliver.
Let us plan your trip to this stunning European country to create memories of a lifetime, and find out why it’s a destination on many travelers' bucket list. It is a unique destination where the variety of options give you free reign to "do it your way".