Hip and happening Croatia combines the best of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to devastating effect. Wooded hills, traditional villages, idyllic islands, walled medieval cities and Roman ruins are among the attractions in region’s such as Dalmatia and Istria. Then there’s the stunning, unspoilt coast and the archipelago of islands lying offshore, which provide abundant highlights for the many luxury cruise lines that sail this idyllic corner of the continent.
With entry to the EU in 2013, Croatia achieved a spectacular turnaround; the War of Independence devastated the country in the early 1990s and the subsequent breakup of Yugoslavia broke the country politically and economically. Over the ensuing years Croatia has repositioned itself and built a new identity around its natural and cultural heritage, marketing itself as the Mediterranean as it once was.
When to go to Croatia
The best times to explore Croatia are the shoulder season months of May-June and September-October, when you can look forward to warm weather, plenty of sun and all of the tourist facilities functioning, but without the busy crowds that can affect some areas during the height of summer, when the coastal resorts in particular can become busy and both temperatures and hotel rates soar. These ‘shoulder season’ months are also ideal for outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, rafting, sea kayaking and more.
Who to cruise with to Croatia
Many of the major cruise lines sail to the Adriatic, but our favourites are Crystal Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. A typical itinerary will include stops in Split, Zadar, Hvar, Kotor, Korcula and Dubrovnik, while also incorporating other Adriatic cities such as Venice in Italy and Kotor in Montenegro.
Dubrovnik, dubbed the Pearl of the Adriatic, is a city of terracotta roofs, Baroque churches and winding cobbled streets that conceal all manner of historical treasures. To the north is Split, a seaside city built around the magnificent Roman-era Diocletian’s Palace. This lively, cosmopolitan centre is full of Venetian-Gothic stone buildings, charming street cafes and a dramatic location between towering coastal mountains and the crystalline waters of the Adriatic. Those who make it to the capital, Zagreb, will find a city that dates back to the Middle Ages; one full of mesmerising monuments and fine buildings. It’s a vibrant, bustling place that’s well worth a visit if time permits.
Elsewhere it’s all mountains and forests, waterfalls and lakes, encapsulated by the gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park near the pretty coastal town of Zadar. Then there are the islands, more than 1,000 of them, spread across 2,000 kilometres of pristine coastline, each one competing for attention; each one offering its own unique atmosphere and attractions. From traditional Brac with its peaceful harbour and famous beach, Zlatni Rat, to the fashionable bars and super-yachts of glitzy Hvar; from the history and beauty of Korcula to the pristine reefs and untamed islets of the Kornati National Park, these are Croatia’s real stars; 1,000 very good reasons to visit this magical country.
By Scott Anderson, General Manager at The Luxury Cruise Company.