The Jetset Travel Guide to Croatia
With approximately 1,200 islands, sparkling azure water, and picturesque medieval villages full of history and charm, it’s no wonder Croatia is on every traveler’s bucket list.
|The stunning view from the fortress of Hvar|
In fact, Croatia was recently named as the Mediterranean’s fastest growing tourist destination, as more and more people each year flock to its pristine national parks, beautiful beaches, and the medieval Old Town of Dubrovnik. The immense popularity of HBO’s hit TV series, Game of Thrones, has boosted this country’s tourism as well, as the show highlights the majestic beauty of old town Dubrovnik, the shooting location for Game Of Thrones’s King’s Landing.
So, if this country mixes the historical charm of Italy with the beautiful beaches of Greece, why is it the world is just starting to hear about this gem on the Dalmatian Coast?
Well, here’s a quick crash course in Croatian history: After a rich history dating as far back as 11 B.C. (as part of the Roman Empire), Croatia became its own kingdom in 925 A.D., after which it went through many mergers and acquisitions, ending in 1918, after the end of World War I and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, resulting in Croatia joining Serbia in the forming of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia, however, began to fall apart in uprising and civil war resulting from the country’s adoption of communism in the mid to late 20th Century. With a weak economy, cracks in the Yugoslav system began to grow, and Yugoslavia became severely divided.
When Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbs living in Croatia declared their own independence from Croatia, making civil war inevitable. The war that followed lasted until 1995 and was a territorial battle among Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians – characterized as the bloodiest and most horrific event in Europe since WWII. Today, almost 2 decades later, the strength of this country is seen in its miraculous ability to bounce back from this dark period of its history. Most of the Croatian coastline remained amazingly untouched during the war, and the aged, multicolor brick roofs seen in the seaside towns tell a beautiful story of having survived centuries of invading powers. In Dubrovnik, however, the noticeably brighter orange roofs tell a different story, having been replaced after the Dubrovnik bombings in 1991. Today, the country’s history just adds to its allure, and the war damage is completely unseen, leaving behind stunning coastlines, charming towns, and a wonderfully unique european culture.
So, you’re into history, beautiful sparkling blue water and medieval architecture mixed with some wine country and delicious food? Let’s plan your next trip.
Where should I go?
Dubrovnik is a must see. Jutting out on a chunk of Dalmatian coastline, the city walls of Dubrovnik are nothing short of spectacular. The bad news? Dubrovnik is no longer anyone’s best-kept-secret, as the Old Town is gridlocked with tourists during the summer. The good news? Travel in the spring or fall to miss the tourists, or simply walk the city walls first thing in the morning (they open at 8am), when you can beat the crowds.
Wow, wow, wow was all any of us could think about this place, which ended up impressing us so much that we all unanimously called it the best destination we visited this summer. Hvar is a beachy town, with gorgeous islands a 5 minute water taxi ride away. But beaches aren’t the only thing this town has to offer. Have you seen the view from the fortress?? If you’re going to Croatia, do not miss out on Hvar.
|Fortress-ing high above Hvar|
Alert the masses. Add it to your travel list. Tell everyone you know…. I found heaven on earth. Palmizana island, a short water taxi away from Hvar port, is a yachter’s paradise. Palmizana not only has picture-perfect seaside beach chairs lining it’s unbelievably turquoise blue water, but also delicious fresh mediterranean eateries and Veuve-Cliquot-branded VIP lounges scattering the island… Boom. You’re Beyonce on the beach.
Where should I stay in Dubrovnik?
With panoramic views of the bay and a gorgeous infinity pool, it’s no wonder this hotel is always ranked among the best (and best value) places to stay in Dubrovnik.
This gorgeous seaside villa in Dubrovnik is one of my very favorite places to stay in the city.
Where should I stay in Hvar?
This boutique hotel in a secluded bay on Hvar is a gorgeously understated luxury hotel. With just 15 chic, contemporary rooms and a slick bar-restaurant in all raw natural materials like stone, wood, linen and polished concrete, this is the place to stay in Hvar. You have access to a pebble beach, mini-spa and even a private speedboat.
A cute, colorful little villa situated right in the heart of Old Town. Villa Nora Hvar is an ideal place to base for your Hvar vacation.
The Most Beautiful Waterfalls You’ll Ever See:
Krka National Park or Plitvice Lakes National Park
Thanks to a jagged coastline and mountains rich with rivers, waterfalls thrive in this beautiful country. Plitvice Lakes National Park in particular is world-famous for it’s pinterest-worthy waterfalls, making it indisputably one of the top attractions in the country. Krka is just as wanderlust-worthy with its stunning falls. Take your pick, you can’t go wrong.
Into history? You can’t miss this one. The Arena in Pula, Croatia is the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It was constrcuted in 27 BC-68 AD and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world. It is also the most popular (and arguably most beautiful) ancient monument in Croatia.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Walk the city walls
Have you ever seen views like this anywhere else in the world? The old town of Dubrovnik is something out of a storybook, and walking the walls you are presented with gorgeous views of both the town and the Adriatic. The walk takes about 1.5 hours and you won’t want to forget your camera.
Have dinner in the square
You’ve never seen a weekday night like they do in Dubrovnik. With masses of locals eating (late!) dinners in the square of old town, it’s hard not to wish our society was a little less work obsessed and a little more on-permanent-vacation like the Croatians are. It is so much fun to people watch, as the square is clearly THE place to be at night. The food is delicious and fresh pretty much anywhere, so just walk around, pick a good spot, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Have a Drink… On the Rocks
Cafe Buza, continuously ranked as one of the most scenic bars in the world, is hard to find, but well worth it for the best sunset view in town. The best way to get there is to go behind the Church of St. Blaise and to keep walking past Hemingway bar, past the Cathedral, then pick a little side street and walk towards the wall facing the Adriatic sea and Italy. When you hit the wall keep walking along it until you reach a door. At this point, you can go left or right, and either way will take you to one of the two Buza bars- slightly different spots, I preferred the one further down, so keep going after you see the first spot. Great views either way.
Go to Wine Country
Peljesac peninsula is the place where some of Croatia’s finest wines are cultivated and there are many tour companies who will take you there on a day, or weekend trip to visit many family-owned Croatian wineries. It is about 1 hour outside of Dubrovnik. Fun fact: one of my very favorite wineries in Napa, Grgich Hills, is made by the famous winemaker Mike Grgich, who hails from Croatia.
See the City from Above on the Cable Car
There is a cable car, a short 10 minute walk from the old town, that will take you straight up the hillside to a beautiful vantage point overlooking the entire city. Highly recommend doing this.
Kayak around Dubrovnik
This was one of my favorite things we did while in Dubrovnik, as the water is just gorgeous and the coastline so amazing. Take a tour or rent your own Kayak, either way, you’ll love your day on the Adriatic.
Have any of you been to Croatia? What are your must-sees? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
Follow along my travels on instagram @jetsetchristina