Croatia declared its independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991. Prior to the war, it was a major tourist destination for Western Europeans who would flock to Croatia in their millions to occupy its vast and beautiful coastline. However, in recent years Croatia has once again become a tourist hotspot for holiday makers seeking crystal-clear beaches, low-priced escapism, and rugged beauty, and with its 3,626 miles of coastline (1,104 along the mainland and 2,522 along its 1185 islands) it’s easy to see why. The perfect destination for lovers of beach and sunshine, Croatia is one of the sunniest countries in Europe, with an average of 2,600 hours of sunlight a year (seven hours per day).
Located north of the Adriatic Sea, with a shape that has been said to resemble a croissant, Croatia’s northern borders are Hungary and Slovenia, Yugoslavia to the east and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the south and east. Croatia possesses one of the hippest café cultures in Europe, where the cosmopolitan people sit in their oversized sunglasses, smoking cigarettes and people watching for hours.
When to Go
Croatia’s peak season is during July and August, where the coastline is crammed with tourists enjoying the Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry and the average temperature during the summer months is 85F. Inland, the climate is continental, where summers are hot and winters are cold and snowy with Zagreb’s average for January sitting at a frosty 0F. Winter along the coast is mild, however the Bura, an unpredictable wind along the Adriatic, can see temperatures fall dramatically. To avoid the throng of tourists visit the coast during September and October when the temperatures are still agreeable and the prices drop.
For easy listening and funky tunes, visit Zagreb in March or October for the jazz festivals that take place or head to Dubrovnik for the Summer Festival in July and August for classical music. Zagreb is also home to the International Festival of Animation, where every second June animators showcase their work in hope to take home a prestigious award.
Croatia’s population stands at 4.5 million, with 90 percent being Croatian and Roman Catholic. Minority ethnic groups include Serbs, Bosnians, Hungarians, Albanians, Czechs and Slovenes.
The official language is Croatian which is written in Latin script. Small hooks above c and s denotes ch and sh sounds, respectively.
Buses will take you almost anywhere in the country; however the roads are often winding and can take greater time then the distance should regularly allow. Apart from Dubrovnik, a train service is available connecting all major Croatian cities as well as direct international links to a small number of European countries.
Ferries are an option when travelling along the Adriatic Coast; they are the perfect way to island hop between Croatia’s many islands. Jadrolinija sails to most of the coastline’s major cities and islands as well as trips to Bari in Italy. Many travelers will book an overnight ferry to save a night on accommodation. Getting around Zagreb is relatively easy via the tram system, however when in the city walking is the preferred method of transport if wanting to avoid the overcrowded carriages.
The Croatian currency is the kuna which is divided into 100 lipa.For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter. Finding somewhere to exchange money is usually easy as apart from exchange offices most banks, hotels, tourist offices, and train and bus stations will exchange currency (except for the South African rand, which is not exchangeable). ATMs, called bankomats, are common. Hotel prices are usually quoted in euros, but are charged in kunas. Hungary and Slovenia are the only countries who will exchange the kuna, so be sure to exchange any left over kunas before you leave Croatia or you may find yourself stuck with them.
Staying in private rooms (sobe) are a good option when in Croatia and help to keep costs down, particularly as hotels can be quite pricey. Rooms are often adorned with kitsch icons of the Virgin Mary and rosary beads, and whilst one home owner might invite you to dinner, you may be lucky to get a hello from another. Tourist offices will find you private rooms at a higher cost, otherwise look for signs or people touting rooms at transport stations.
For those wanting to experience authentic Mediterranean luxury, villas are available along the coast. Generally housing four to eight people, a villa on the Croatian seaside is a true way to relax amongst summery gardens and an ocean breeze but they do come at a cost.
For the ultimate ocean view, lighthouses are available on some of Croatia’s islands and peninsulas for lodging. Secluded beaches for peaceful bathing and diving are on offer and many have breathtaking underwater landscapes for those who enjoy diving. These apartments are generally available for stays of seven days and a rather excessive fee is usually added for transfer to the island.
Croatian cuisine offers rich dishes which are not for the faint-hearted. Meat is a prime ingredient in Croatian cooking and vegetarian dishes can be hard to come by. Sarma is a national favourite and make for a hearty winter meal – mince meat and rice wrapped in cabbage which is usually served on mashed potato. Often sold by street vendors but a home cooked favourite as well, cevapcici are tasty mince meat sausages, cooked on the barbeque and generally served in Lebanese-style bread. Burek is a greasy layered pastry, filled with either minced beef or cheese and makes for a tasty snack. With its vast coastline, seafood is predominant part of Croatian cooking like brodet, a mixed fish stew with rice. Karlovacko or Ozusko are popular brands of beer (pivo), while a mix of white wine and soda water makes gemist. Also on offer isslivovica, a potent plum brandy.
During the summer months along the coast, wearing little more than swimmers is usually adequate and people get away with wearing even less when on the beaches where there are many nudist beaches. Winter is cold so it is advisable to wear plenty of layers. Inland in the cities, boots are a good idea during the winter as the snow melts leaving slushy puddles along the sidewalks.
Visas are not required for citizens of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland for visits up to 90 days. South African citizens require a visa. Police have the right to check passports anywhere, so be sure to have it with you at all times.
By Natasha Vuckovic
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