Europe’s Best Kept Secret!
Croatia is a well-kept secret as a European holiday destination. It rivals the Cote d’Azur for its coastline, France for wines, Greece for islands and Tuscany for architecture yet it is quiet and extremely affordable.
Better known by its former name, Yugoslavia, Croatia was a popular tourist destination before the civil war tore it apart. Twenty years on, all evidence of conflict has been erased. Historic Dubrovnik with its fine Renaissance architecture has been restored to its former UNESCO-listed glory and now hosts classical concerts and exhibitions. The café culture, particularly after Sunday mass, has been reinstated and food stalls once again line the square on weekday mornings.
This lovely Old City with its historic harbour and marble streets lined with monuments and statues is a wonderful place to step back in time. Still retaining its old fortifications, towers and battlements, the red roofs glow in the warm Mediterranean sunshine making this a must-see destination to visit or stay.
Croatia’s fractured Dalmatian coastline is littered with small unspoilt islands and inlets. A ferry trip from Dubrovnik carries visitors south to Mljet, home to a handful of small villages, a couple of saltwater lakes and acres of thickly wooded hills. It is said to be one of the world’s top 10 most beautiful islands. You can feel the pace of life physically slowing down as you explore the coastline where fishing and wine are timeless industries. The Mljet National Park is perfect for wildlife spotting, hiking, kayaking and swimming in the clear turquoise sea.
Closer to Dubrovnik is Lokrum Island which is uninhabited and visited by those seeking peaceful pine forests and quiet coves. Boats regular depart from the old harbour of Dubrovnik carrying visitors to see the old monastery or enjoy a quiet day bathing in the clear waters.
Back on Croatia’s mainland, two national parks stand out as being well worth visiting. The Paklenica National Park is a wild and remote area of canyons and badlands in the Velebit Mountains. It is particularly attractive for hiking and wildlife-spotting and was once used as a film set for Wild West films – you’ll understand why when you see it! Plitvice Lakes National Parks is a total contrast. Lush green valleys are watered by a series of rivers and lakes with fantastic waterfalls in the limestone karst canyons. The most impressive is Veliki Slap, the “Big Waterfall” which pours over a lip to the valley below. Access is easy along a boardwalk and the white water cascades for 78 metres in a spectacular display. Steps climb up the side of the falls with superb views from the top.
After all your excursions, end the day with a fine meal of affordable Istrian seafood washed down with one of the vintage wines and toast the natural beauty of this undiscovered country.