These days, Croatia is no one’s best-kept secret – but there are still plenty of idyllic islands and unspoilt beaches to discover. Europe’s fastest-growing holiday destination has 1104 miles of coastline and 1246 islands to choose from. From the Italian-influenced Istrian peninsula, where quaint cobblestone towns rise out of the hilltops, to the brazenly beautiful Dalmatian coast, Croatia offers incredible scenery and unique experiences at every turn. Croatia holidays promise superb seafood, handsomely historical towns and the famously clear Adriatic Sea.
The coastal city of Zadar offers fabled sunsets and imaginative outdoor art, while nearby Split, its old town within the walls of an ancient Roman palace, bustles with cafés and restaurants. From Split, it’s an easy hop to party island Hvar or the charming island of Vis. The Adriatic pearl of Dubrovnik, a filming location for Game of Thrones, is bursting with medieval-meets-Mediterranean splendour, encircled by defensive stone walls. Like its red-and-white patterned flag, Croatia is a checkerboard of cultural influences. Various empires – Venetian, Habsburg, Yugoslav – have laid claim to this small crescent-shaped country and its myriad islands, and all have had a hand in influencing its architecture and cuisine. It’s what makes holidays to Croatia so unique.
Beyond its beaches, you’ll find excellent museums and nightlife in the urban capital of Zagreb. Rare wildlife inhabits the national parks of Krka and Plitvice Lakes with its series of green cascading waterfalls. Inland Croatia offers bucolic scenery and hearty Central European cuisine. And that’s just scratching the surface of what this beautiful country has to offer.
Dubrovnik Summer Festival
From 10 July to 25 August every year, this summer-long festival of performance, art and music is set across 70 open-air venues in the baroque city of Dubrovnik.
The coast springs to life in July and the summer calendar is stuffed with spectacular events. The Garden Tisno, south of Zadar, plays host to several world-class music festivals.
September sees the crowds thin out. The weather grows cooler and you can soak up the views of Split or Dubrovnik under the warm, slanting light of autumn.
Sound out the sea
Zadar’s otherworldly Sea Organ plays music with the shifting of the tide, piped through marble steps that walk out to sea. At night, it’s illuminated by an incredible light show.
One of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights, Plitvice Lakes is a Unesco-recognised series of colour-changing waterfalls and lakes. In winter, the whole thing freezes over and looks sublime.
Get lost in a palace
More than half of Split lies within the walls of Roman emperor Diocletian's Palace – a maze of winding streets and crumbling ruins. Getting lost has never been so much fun.