With beautiful rocky islands, crystal-clear seas and gorgeous beaches, Croatia is the jewel of the Adriatic. But with stunning national parks, quaint villages, ancient city architecture and a rich cultural heritage, it also offers visitors an opportunity to explore an enthralling and varied landscape.
Croatia is a long, tapering country situated between the Balkans and Central Europe and in the south, bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, sits Croatia’s most famous destination, Dubrovnik. Overlooking the azure Adriatic it is one of the worlds’ most magnificent and well-preserved walled coastal cities. Once the major trading hub and capital city of the Republic of Ragusa, today visitors flock to the city, not for trade but to experience its beauty and wonderful hospitality.
A walk around the Old Town is like strolling around the set of a lavish period drama. Within its thick stone walls, discover tall, tightly packed buildings, narrow lanes, plazas and ancient churches; vistas that rival anywhere in Italy. Its old-world charm attracts film-makers and it was a major location for Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. Fans of Game of Thrones will recognise the city as King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. Take the cable car to enjoy the spectacular views over the wider city, ports and sapphire waters beyond. Beyond the walls it’s just as intriguing with stunning ancient architecture like Fort Lovrijenac, which today doubles up as a theatre.
The Game of Thrones Tour Dubrovnik
There’s no better way to experience the Old Town than by taking the Game of Thrones Tour Dubrovnik. The tour is a mix of fantasy and reality blending historical facts with stories from the series. For those who want to sit on the Iron Throne a visit to the magical city of Qarth, located on Lokrum Island, is just a short boat trip to the south.
There’s a swanky and elegant dining side to Dubrovnik too with a host of sleek wine bars and bistros. For some classy Old Town dining try Restaurant 3600, set atop the city walls, or Proto fish restaurant in the very heart of the Old Town, which features a menu crammed with inspiring local dishes.
For late night revelry check out Banje Beach Nightclub; the perfect spot to dance the night away, or D’Vino Wine Bar with one of the most exceptional cellars in the Old Town. Cave Bar More is the place to see and be seen in the modern part of the city.
There are countless hotels and villas and, set in a peaceful side street off the main walkway through the old town, St. Joseph’s is a beautifully restored 16th century stone building attracting those in search of a chic but unpretentious retreat.
Dubrovnik Day Trips
Dubrovnik is also an ideal base to explore some of Croatia’s most alluring spots. Lokrum, with its beautiful botanical gardens, old monastery and the Iron Throne, is a favourite. Many hotels benefit from a stretch of private beach but there are popular public beaches too, like Banje Beach or Sveti Jakov and, for day trippers, the tapering beach at Bol on Brač is superb.
Found 50km north of Dubrovnik along one of the most scenic coastal roads in Croatia sits the famous salt-producing town of Ston. Once an important military fort, the world-famous walls that guard it are the second longest in the world after the Great Wall of China. Despite its history, Ston is a quaint, laidback fishing town that boasts dramatic views across the stunning coastline. Aside from the natural beauty and cultural heritage, tourists are drawn to the superb oyster farms and dining; try Kapetanova Kuća or Bakus which serve up some of the best fish and seafood in the Adriatic.
Inland and to the northwest is the capital Zagreb. Distinguished by its 18th and 19th century Austro-Hungarian architecture, Zagreb is a blend of medieval towers, palaces, open-air markets, churches and cathedrals, including the Gothic, twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral and the beautiful 13th century St. Mark’s Church. Tkalčićeva Street is famous for its bars, bistros and boutiques.
If you want to indulge in a luxury Croatian experience we suggest looking at Esplanade Zagreb. Built in 1925 as a stopover for Orient Express passengers, the five-star Esplanade is an imposing art deco gem. For an excellent dining experience, try Zinfandel’s, The Esplanade’s superb fine-dining restaurant.
The major port on the Dalmatian coast, Split is known for its beaches and Roman architecture within the Diocletian’s Palace complex. Built in the 4th century, within its walls discover a cathedral and numerous shops, bars, cafes, hotels and even houses. The Heritage Hotel Antique Split is an excellent choice for discerning travellers, while for some of the best local dining check out Konaba Marjan, or the delightful al fresco experience at Portofino.
To the north of Split find the walled town of Zadar with some of the most impressive Roman and Venetian architecture and ruins in Croatia. Centred on the Roman Forum, the Old Town is awash with ancient buildings like the 11th century St. Mary’s Convent, which houses a collection of religious art dating to the 8th century. There’s also the 12th century St. Anastasia’s Cathedral and the round 9th century Church of St. Donatus. If you’re staying the night then the Almayer – Art & Heritage Hotel is a super Croatian experience.
Whilst Dubrovnik, Zagreb and the Dalmatian coast often dominate any Croatian itinerary, there’s so much more to this impressive country. There are many protected areas and national parks; amongst the most popular are the Northern Velebit Mountains, the Krka River basin and the Festini Caves, a spectacular underworld kingdom of stalagmites and stalactites.
Turkish Airlines has direct flights from Jakarta to Istanbul, with connecting flights to Dubrovnik, Pula, Split, Zadar and Zagreb in Croatia. Regular ferries sail the Adriatic, while Croatia’s national ferry service, Jadrolinija offers relaxing and mesmerising travel. For more details, visit the Croatian Tourist Board website.