Known by many as the more affordable way to experience Italy, Croatia delights with a picturesque setting, perfect weather, and mouthwatering food from the sea.
The History and Culture of Croatia
Croatia has experienced substantial political and cultural changes over the past several decades. The country lived under communist rule for most of its recent history. As part of Yugoslavia, Croatia fell under the rule of Tito. After Tito’s death in 1980, the structure within the Yugoslav system began to break down, and Croatia finally declared its independence in 1991. A year later, Croatia became involved in the Bosnian War, which ran from 1992 to 1995. After much hardship and tumultuous trials, Croatia applied to become part of the EU in 2003. On July 1, 2013, Croatia was welcomed as the 28th member of the EU.
With political stability and EU membership, Croatia has become a popular European destination. Its Mediterranean atmosphere has led many to claim that it provides everything you could get from Italy, only with a much lower price tag. Indeed, there are a lot of Italian influences in Croatia. The Croatian culinary scene features many Italian favorites, including risotto, gnocchi, and pizza. In addition to these fares, locals also enjoy fresh seafood and award-winning olive oils, as well as foods that feature a strong influence from Turkey, Hungary, and Austria.
Croatia is located on the Adriatic Sea, bordered by Slovenia and Hungary to the north and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the east. The landscape is diverse, providing rocky beaches in the coastal regions and striking mountain ranges as you move inland. This provides tourists access to many outdoor activities including sailing, hiking, and scuba diving. Croatia has three distinct climates, the coastal region, the Dinaric Alps, and continental Croatia, with the two regions of note being the coastal and inland regions. The country as a whole receives a lot of rain, but particularly along the coastal and mountain regions. In the coastal region, summer temperatures average around 71°F, with winter temperatures dropping to 50°F. Inland the average in the summer is also around 71°F, but the winter can drop to about 39°F.
The unique soil and climate provide the perfect environment for growing grapes and olives. Croatia has developed a bustling wine industry and has won numerous international awards for its olive oils. Though not as well known as other regions, Croatia’s wines bring flavor profiles similar to many of the worlds popular wines. Plavac Mali is Croatia’s most popular red, with a flavor profile almost identical to Zinfandel. If you enjoy white wine, try Pošip, a full-bodied wine with almond undertones.
Croatia Quick-tips; Know Before You Go
When to Go
Visitors should avoid the peak times of July and August. Here you will see a heavy influx of tourists and hotel prices to match. These summer months are also much hotter, making outdoor activities harder to enjoy. The best times to visit Croatia sandwiches these months, May and June on the front end and September and October on the back.
Bring Proper Identification
Visitors staying less than 90 days (within a 180 day period) do not need a visa. If you are coming from any country within the EU, an id card is sufficient. Travelers from outside the EU will need to show a current passport.
Though Croatia is part of the EU, it does not use the Euro as currency. Instead, the country uses the Kuna (Kn). The EU is accepted at many locations throughout the country, but change will be given in Kunas, possibly at a lower exchange rate.
The official language of Croatia is Croatian. However, many locals speak some level of English, German, and Italian.
A formal handshake and eye contact are appropriate when meeting someone. Formal greetings (Mr., Ms, Mrs. etc.) should always be used unless you are speaking to friends or family members.
Power sockets C and F are used throughout Croatia. If you are traveling from the U.S. you will need to bring an adapter.
Consider renting a car while traveling in Croatia. The country is small and relatively easy to drive. Public transportation is also available for a reasonable cost and ferries will get you to the islands. Traveling on the road is safe in Croatia. The roadways have been recently updated, making car travel easy. Drivers drive on the right side of the road in Croatia. Tolls are enforced on the motorways beginning with A, as well as some bridges and tunnels.
Croatia gets a lot of rain, but during the summer months, it also gets a lot of sun. Though it may not seem too hot, with summer temperatures lingering around the 70s, it’s easy to get too much sun. It’s important to protect your skin. Always use sunscreen and consider a coverup and hat while at the beach.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Croatia is home to ten World Heritage Sites. These include Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Porec, Historic City of Trogir, Historical Complex of Split and the Palace of Diocletian, Old City of Dubrovnik, Stari Grad Plain, Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards, The Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik, the Venetian Works of Defence from the 16th and 17th centuries, Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, and Plitvice Lakes.
Istria is the most popular destination in Croatia, particularly for Europeans looking to enjoy a long holiday. Outdoor activities including cycling and boating are available year round. The city also boasts some of the best wine and food in the country. Zagreb, the country’s capital, is also a great place to visit, rich with history and culture. If you are looking for a unique spot in Zagreb, stop by the Museum of Broken Relationships to browse past heartbreaks from around the world. Other popular cities in Croatia include Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast.
Game of Thrones
Croatia has been featured as a backdrop for many scenes within the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones. If you are looking to see these sites up close, visit Dubrovnik, where many sites have been featured, as well as St. Dominic Monastery in Trogir.
Green markets are open-air markets that sell fresh vegetables and fish. They are very popular with locals and can be found in most cities.
Truffles are a popular culinary treat in Croatia. From savory to sweet, they can be found in almost anything. For a traditional dish, sample shaved truffles over fresh pasta. If you have a sweet tooth, truffle ice cream is a must. There are many locations throughout the country that allow you to search for your own within the forests. Be sure to check out the Zigante Truffle Days festival in the fall.
Croatia hosts many outdoor festivals, making the summer months a popular and busy season. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is the most popular, running from July to August and featuring various performers. The country is also to host to many music, film, and food festivals throughout the year.