9th June, 2021
Turquoise delights of Croatia
With its glittering coastline, architectural treasures and cosmopolitan cities, this Balkans beauty offers endless possibilities for exploring, says Liz Jarvis.
Bordering the aquamarine Adriatic and ideal for sailing, cruising or a land-based holiday, Croatia is glorious in summer, but May, September and October are also idyllic – and still balmy enough to dine al fresco. The country has no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Diocletian’s Palace in Split, one of the best examples of Roman architecture in the world. Also worth a visit are the ancient walled city of Zadar, and Pula, known for its well-preserved amphitheatre.
The crown jewel, though, is Dubrovnik, with its distinctive, red-tiled roofs, medieval city walls, palaces and white marble-paved squares. Perhaps the best way to get a feel for the city is with a cable car ride up to Mount Srd, for astonishing views. It’s also worth visiting Mostar. The town’s Old Bridge, which stood across the River Neretva for 427 years until it was destroyed during the Balkans war in 1993, was rebuilt in 2004 and is now a powerful symbol of reconciliation and peace.
Set in woods populated by bears, wolves and rare birds, the crystal-clear Plitvice Lakes are formed by natural dams and connected by cascading waterfalls. The 16 lakes are located halfway between the Croatian capital Zagreb and pretty Zadar on the Dalmatian coast and are accessed by walkways and hiking trails. There are more waterfalls at Krka National Park, which is also home to Visovac Island, the site of a Franciscan monastery. Protected by a ring of cypress trees, parts of the monastery date back to the 14th century.
Also worth exploring is the island of Hvar, well-loved for its dizzying array of lavender fields (at their peak in June and July) and unspoilt Mljet, which is shrouded in forest and has two saltwater lakes – a haven for wildlife.
Dotted with more than a thousand islands and scalloped by bays and shingle coves, Croatia’s coastline is ideal for exploring by small ship or island-hopping by catamaran. The Makarska Riviera includes the island of Vis, setting for the Mamma Mia! sequel, where a trip to the incredibly photogenic Stiniva beach is a delight. Visitors to the Dalmatia coast and Istrian peninsula are spoilt for choice but Murvica, on the island of Brac, is a gem, offering sublime aquamarine waters, a white shingle beach and palm trees for shade.
Renowned for its vineyards, the lush, heart-shaped peninsula of Istria is a must for foodies. Artisanal delicacies include honey, truffles and olive oil; visit the wineries and sample the region’s most famous wine, Malvasia Istriana. Sophisticated Zagreb has chic cafés and nightlife; but for fresh fruit and street food head for Dolac farmer’s market. Sample melt-in-the-mouth štrukli (bakedfilo dough and cottage cheese) and maybe enjoy a glass of the Croatian national drink, a herbal rakija, with dried figs.
The beautiful island of Korcula, famed for pine forests and hidden coves, is the place to sample traditional Croatian food including makaruni (homemade pasta), black risotto and pašticada (braised beef), plus of course, fabulous fresh seafood.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
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