Then the secession war from Yugoslavia came, which proved to be a negative impact for its tourism industry.
But it has bounced back to its feet just more than a decade after the war’s end. Croatia is fast becoming a favourite travel location again now that it is safe and stable. And with a number of charming countries around it – Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro – you won’t surely be able to resist visiting Croatia this year.
Commonly known as “Eastern Adriatic” by the locals, Croatia has some of the most fascinating beaches you would want to get a perfect tan over with. No wonder this western half of the former Yugoslavia is giving Europe a good name these days.
Boasting of more than 1,100 islands and 3,600 miles of seafront, no wonder this western half of the former Yugoslavia is proud of its coastline. This corner in Europe has pebbly beaches that attract European holiday-makers and everyone else. Plus, the balmy summer weather would really cheer you up.
And its rich history is equally mesmerizing – Venetian bell towers, Hapsburg villas, Byzantine mosaics and Roman arenas – each ruler from the ancient ages leaving their eternal mark all over the coastline. Croatia’s seafaring spirit as well as the ‘aimer la vie’ (love life) attitude is truly contagious. And don’t get me started on its melt-in-your-mouth seafood. Heaven!
The walled medieval city of Dubrovnik is nicknamed as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” because of its romantic Old Town, serene central promenade and an epic history – which makes it undeniably Croatia’s darling.
The Dalmatian Coast is sprawled over the north of Dubrovnik. Its delightful seaside villages along its innumerable islands can be reached through ferries and buses. You have two options: focus on one or two towns to unwind or poke your way into every fishing hamlet and secluded cove. If you choose the first one, your most rewarding choices would be Hvar and Korcula.
The Dalmatian island town of Hvar has a very laid-back aura. Beach bums and the young jet-setting globetrotters love it here. One hidden gem here is the Benedictine convent where the sisters make lace from the agava – a plant similar to cactus.
Korcula is the island town where the famous merchant traveller Marco Polo was born. His former house is now a modern museum. You could also find here dramatic mountain backdrop as well as the traditional Moreska sword dance.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is for those who are looking for an adventurous detour. Though its recovery from war was slower than Croatia, it is still proud of its showpiece city – Mostar. You can find contrasting architectural evidences here harmoniously mingling with each other – minarets and church steeples.
The 16th- century Old Bridge is the highlight of Mostar, and one of the most inspiring scenes in Europe. You can tour old-fashioned houses with Turkish design, visit mosque interiors and the best of all – indulge in some shopping spree along its souvenir stands.
Going back to Croatia, there are still much more to explore. Split is the vibrant and bustling second-largest city of Croatia. Located at the northern anchor of the Dalmatian Coast, it is where the retirement palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian can be found. Now, all that is left from its ancient rubble is a medieval town.
Istria is known for its ‘little Venice’ town, the Rovinj. Situated at the northwest corner of Croatia, this wedge-shaped peninsula has that charming and romantic Italian feeling. Ancient houses in Rovinj are almost crumbling yet still very captivating. You would love to walk along its delightfully twisted lanes or maybe watch the fishermen linger in the harbour.
In the Istrian interior, rows of vineyards exist. Farmers toil faithfully in their lands to revive the delicate tradition of winemaking. Visit Grožnjan, a tiny rugged town filled with undiscovered artists, as well as Motovun, a village overlooking an extra wonderful view.
Slovenia is the cherry on top of your Croatian travel adventure. Situated in the mountains north of Croatia, it presents an exciting mix of the Slavic, Italian and Germanic cultures. Your Eastern Adriatic trip would not be complete without experiencing Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city. Go people-watching here while lounging on the outdoor café.
Afterwards, trek the Julian Alps mountain range – named after Julius Caesar. Its Slavic flavour is evident on its ski resorts, vacation chalets and the hiking paths littered around the mountainsides. And it would be interesting to note that there is a peaceful alpine village around every ridge, having a Baroque steeple to mark it in its centre.
Vršič Pass is for thrill-seekers who want to experience a high-altitude driving on the 50 hairpin turns up here. You can even see Austria and Italy from a distance. Lake Bled has awe-inspiring views and irresistible cream cakes – kremšnita. The combination is heavenly.
Don’t take my word for it. You gotta plan your own Eastern Adriatic trip to actually believe it.