You may have heard of Croatia as the trendy up-and-coming destination for international travel. Or perhaps you have heard about how Dubrovnik, one if its most stunning cities, serves as the set of Kings Landing in the enormously popular Game of Thrones TV show on HBO. Or you could be like me, and you saw pictures of its glittering waters and picture-perfect cities a decade ago and immediately dreamt of visiting this paradise one day. I tried convincing my college roommate (to no avail) that we should take a trip over to Croatia during study abroad in Florence. The opportunity never seemed to present itself until my husband and I decided on the spur of the moment (only hours before our flight home) to extend our honeymoon - and Dubrovnik was finally on my itinerary!
Finally Visiting Croatia!
I have to admit, not even I was ready for the stunning country we were presented with. After the plane landed amid soaring mountains, an impossibly friendly driver brought us to our accommodations. The whole way he pointed out various places of cultural and historic interest, his favorite restaurants and beaches, and told us stories about his life in this beautiful country. Who knew that your driver could be such a memorable part of the journey? But as we soon learned, he was simply one of an endless number of friendly locals more than happy to share their country and customs with anyone who is interested. So often you hear that a country has friendly people - but in Croatia it is remarkably true of everyone you meet.
Why should you consider visiting Croatia? One of the wonderful things about Croatia is that it truly has a little bit of something for everyone. Sparkling waters, luxurious beaches, trendy nightlife, delicious restaurants, hiking in national parks and mountains, historic cities and monuments, a very favorable exchange rate and the ability to travel somewhere that is only just now becoming popular amongst American tourists. While Europeans have long known about the charms of the Dalmatian Coast - Americans are only just now tuning in. From Diocletian's Palace in Split, to the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park, to swimming in sapphire water lapping the medieval walls of Dubrovnik, there are endless unique and beautiful ways to explore this country.
So, what is it you are looking for? If nightlife is your thing then check out Pag. This island is the home of the country's biggest hotspot for clubbing - Zrce Beach. During July and August the island is filled with young partygoers from around the world who spend their days on the beach and their nights dancing in the clubs and bars scattered along the water.
Do you want a glamorous and lively spot with glitzy nightlife as opposed to the club atmosphere in Pag? Then try Hvar Town on the island of Hvar. While this town can be more expensive due to the large number of yachts which drop anchor here every summer, there are plenty of beautiful Gothic palaces and winding streets to explore.
Perhaps you like the sound of Croatia but the thought of a bustling destination with lots of nightlife and tourists isn't exactly what you're looking for? Not to worry, there are plenty of options for you as well. Zadar is a perfect choice if you want a town that is not filled to the brim with party goers and tourists - it still has a beautiful old town with cafes, medieval churches and Roman ruins (not to mention quirky attractions like the Sea Organ) - but it also has an extensive network of ferries that you can use to visit neighboring islands.
Take the cable car to the top of Mount Srd in Dubrovnik for great views
Then there is Dubrovnik (my personal favorite). Yes, it is a popular spot for tourists and yes perhaps it is better to visit in a shoulder season - but there is something magical about this pretty little spot. Take the walk around the medieval city walls and stop for a drink at one of the cafes perched along the way, spend the day snorkeling around the pristine beauty of Lokrum island, take the cable car to the restaurant at the top of Mount Srd and watch the sunset over the water. Dubrovnik is also a short drive from the beautiful country of Montenegro which is definitely worth visiting while you are there.
All this being said, there are nearly endless places to stay and see while in Croatia. There are, afterall, over 1200 islands in addition to the mainland so there is most definitely a town, city, or fishing village that would be exactly what you are looking for. Or, perhaps, just find a secluded harbor to drop your anchor and do a little exploring.