Welcome to Croatia Week! It’s very aptly named so expect this week to be about all things Croatia. Why Croatia? I think Croatia is one of the most beautiful places on Earth that gets overlooked far too often. When you think of a Mediterranean vacation, your mind probably jumps immediately to Greece or Italy but I promise you that Croatia can offer all the beauty and history of those countries and even more.
It was this photo that made me first realize that Croatia was more than just some war torn country that Dr. Luka Kovac came from on the TV show ER. What can I say, I really had no knowledge of Croatia just like most people out there.
One of the most interesting parts of Croatia’s history starts in 9 AD when it became part of the Roman Empire. In the city of Split sits Diocletian’s Palace, a palace built by Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century. This is the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace and it sits remarkably well-preserved. In the city of Pula you’ll also be able to see one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters, built between 27 BC and 68 AD. All throughout Croatia you’ll see historic relics and buildings including churches, cathedrals, and castles. History has been captured in this country as it mixes old with new.
Croatia is home to some amazing National Parks. In the first photo, you’ll get one glimpse into Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to 16 lakes and hiking trails. It sees nearly 1 million visitors a year who take in its natural beauty. Another beautiful site is Krka National Park, known for its waterfalls and its swimming holes. In total, the country has 8 national parks and 11 nature parks.
I had always thought of Italy and Greece as the only countries with a “real” Mediterranean feel worthy of traveling to. Learning about Croatia has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities of the Mediterranean region. Technically, Croatia is located along the Adriatic Sea region of the Mediterranean. Portions of the coast fall into the Dalmatian region, like the city of Zadar. One of Zadar’s claim’s to fame is its sea organ, a series of tubes that play musical notes as the waves come in from the sea. The city of Dubrovnik is also located along the Adriatic Sea and is protected by city walls built between the 12th and 17th centuries. Also along the coastline of Croatia are a large series of islands that can be reached by renting a boat and cruising around the islands. You can also enjoy swimming on some beaches but expect a rockier sea floor.
Croatia is a safe country. The war is over (and has been for over 15 years!) and tourists in North America have been a bit slow to catch on to this popular European destination. The country hasn’t fully joined the European Union yet but it’s well on its way with full membership scheduled to be granted in 2013. The weather here is similar to other Mediterranean countries with warmer weather near the sees in the summer and cooler air inland at higher terrains. The food is also Mediterranean inspired, with plenty of local fruits and grains in the diet. While Croatian is the official language here, estimates suggest 80% of the population speaks some English and the younger generation speaks English fluently.
Croatia is a country full of opportunity and beauty. I hope this introduction to Croatia has inspired you enough to consider it for your next trip. Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on Croatia’s major cities and attractions and later this week I’ll give you more information on the countryside, a sample trip itinerary, and helpful travel tips. Make sure to check back to find out why Croatia should be your next stop.