With its magnificent coastline, more than 1,000 islands, Roman ruins and picturesque medieval towns, Croatia is fast becoming one of the world's tourist hotspots alluring lovers of fun, sun, local colour, great food and history.
Its long Adriatic coastline forms the western leg in Istria, tapering to the unique ancient seaport of Dubrovnik in the south, while the land between the rivers Drava and Sava form the northern section. The capital, Zagreb, sits in-between.
Although the coast, and particularly Dalmatia, is undoubtedly the shining star of Croatia tourism, off the beaten track the country also boasts undulating hills in inland Istria, where hilltop villages, great food, good local wine and a proliferation of black and white truffles has earned it favourable comparisons with Tuscany. In the north of the country the historic castles of the Zagorje and more rolling green hills await. Slavonia, in the east of the country, rewards a visit with the stately riverside city of Osijek as well as vineyards and castles of its own. Kvarner region between Istria and Dalmatia is also popular especially islands of Krk, Rab, Cres and Losinj.
Visitors to the capital, Zagreb, are greeted by a vibrant and grand metropolis complete with all the trappings of modern day life, an attractive old town and lush green spaces. With the Upper Town region offering winding cobbled streets and a medieval flavour, tourist hotspots include St. Mark’s Church, the seat of Croatian Parliament the Sabor and the main square Trg Bana Jelacica. Travel to Lower Town to find the modern, commercial districts of Zagreb, including such sights as the Croatian National Theatre, the Museum of Arts and Crafts as well as Maksimir, one of Europe’s first ever planned parks.
The city of Split has a rich history. Since ancient times it has, in various guises, served as the economic and administrative centre of Dalmatia. From the 5th to the 2nd century BC Greek colonists settled the mainland and adjacent islands. Later came the Romans, in particular the Emperor Diocletian, whose huge palace still stands in the very heart of the old part of Split, which charms visitors with its cobbled streets and Roman architecture. The greater Split area is characterised by its lush vegetation and green areas, particularly Marjan Hill on the west of the peninsula with its ancient indigenous forest. The city makes an ideal base from which to explore the islands, beauty spots, and historic villages in central Dalmatia.
Further south is Dubrovnik, one of the most striking and well-preserved fortified cities in the world, with the city’s 13th century walls still standing and protecting the Old City in its entirety. The old town, dating from the 7th century, is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. Onofrio's Fountain, situated just inside the main entrance to the old city at Pile Gate, is one of Dubrovnik's most famous landmarks and a popular meeting place. The centre of the old town is the Stradun, its main street, which was originally a channel separating an island from the mainland, and was filled in to join two opposite towns into the merged city of Dubrovnik. There are numerous churches, monasteries and museums to explore. The old town also boasts plenty of restaurants, bars and shops and the coastal belt is awash with marinas, coves and promenades. Dubrovnik is viewed by most as the jewel of Croatia.