These days, everybody is talking about Croatia, the unlikely finalist of the soccer World Cup. Almost literally. The interest it has created has also generated a great curiosity to know more about this small European country. Where is it exactly? What are its attractions? What’s its story? Here, some answers.
With vast culture and history, this small country on the coast of the Adriatic Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) is also the perfect holiday for those who seek adventure and enjoy nature. It has hundreds of charming and unspoiled islands with stunning natural beauty. Croatia offers great possibilities for all kinds of tourists, and you don’t have to decide if you prefer mountains, sea, cities or nature: here you have them all.
Aerial view of Dubrovnik, Croatia.
With a spectacular coastline that stretches from Istria to Dubrovnik along 5,835 kilometers, more than 60 marinas and pristine waters, the Croatian Adriatic is an ideal place for sailing all year round.In addition to its 1,244 islands, Croatia has the most indented coast of the Mediterranean, with a variety of beaches to suit every taste. If you want to enjoy the sun away from civilization, Stiniva Bay is your place. Located on the island of Vis, it is the most secluded beach in the country and almost inaccessible by land.Cape Kamenjak in the south of Istria and the bays of the island of Cres are other ideal sites to relax in serene solitude. Unlike places like the Bahamas or the Caribbean, most of these Croatian beaches are pebbled, covered by small rounded stones caused by erosion, and all have wonderful limpid waters.
1. Kornati National Park. 2. Krka National Park. 3. Plitvice National Park. 4. Velebit National Park.
The most famous pebbled beaches are Zlatni Rat on the island of Brac, Punta Rata in Brela, Baska on the isle of Krk and Banje in Dubrovnik. But Croatia also offers soft sand beaches—the most popular for sunbathing and relaxing. These include Heavenly Beach on the island of Rab, Bačvice in Split, Saharun in the Dugi Otok Island, Lumbarda on the island of Korcula, Kukljica on the island of Ugljan and Spiaza in the remote island of Susak.On the other hand, this country that was once part of the former Yugoslavia, also has a large area of protected sites among which are eight national parks. Especially noteworthy is the Plitvice Lakes National Park, on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. World famous for its 16 lakes connected by waterfalls, it stands out for its natural barriers of travertine, a sedimentary rock formed by calcium carbonate deposits.Other national parks are Northern Velebit, characterized by its hiking trails, its karst formations (natural reliefs formed by chemical weathering of certain rocks composed of water-soluble minerals) and Cave Luka (the eighth deepest in the world); Risnjak, home to many animal species and a natural hydrological monument; Paklenica, with its impressive gorges (valleys or narrow passages embedded in the mountains); Krka, characterized by its seven waterfalls, the most famous being the stunning Skradinski Buk; Brijuni, a group of 14 uninhabited islands known by its nature and vegetation; and Kornati, an archipelago famous for its high cliffs, unusual forms and rare vegetation that form a labyrinth of rocks.
1. Pula. 2. Risnjak National Park. 3. Motovun Film Festival. Photo: Julien Duval. 4. City of Dubrovnik. 5. Paklenica National Park. 6. Alka de Sinj
Tournament. Photo: Nikola BalenčićFor adventurers, Croatia offers some unforgettable experiences, as the country offers a whole range of activities. Hikers have a unique opportunity to enjoy clean air and unspoiled nature touring the beautiful landscapes, hills and slopes of the mountain ranges in the Lika and Velebit regions. Other exciting activities include kayaking trips on the calm, clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, which are ideal for exploring coves, caves and unusual rock formations. The Strbacki Buk waterfall and the Zrmanja River are the best places to visit for lovers of nature and rafting.
Summer is also the perfect time of year to know the Croatian culture through several diverse festivals. Among them, we highlight the top four: the traditional tournament (Alka) of Sinj, a traditional chivalric tournament that commemorates the victory of the Sinj army in a battle against the Turks; the Dubrovnik Summer Games Festival, the oldest one and with a rich and varied activities program that includes performing arts, ballet, opera and classical music, each year attracting world-famous composers, soloists and orchestras; the Motovun Film Festival, a five day event celebrating independent productions and innovations in artistic expression, with daily screenings, and finally the Dimensions Festival, an underground festival of electronic music (techno , house, dubstep and drum & bass) which is traditionally held in the fort Punta Christo in Pula, a venue with excellent acoustics.
It is not easy to decide on a vacation destination, but if you love nature and the outdoors, and think for a moment of all the variety, charms and wonders that Croatia offers, we are sure you will find a unique place to truly enjoy your summer. ■
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