Ancient mythology permeates Croatia, and nowhere more so than across the constellation of islands along Dalmatia’s coastline. Follow the course of Greek hero Odysseus and negotiate the Adriatic Sea, before taking a dip in Calypso’s cave on mystical Mljet. Celebrate Mother Earth with every season in Croatia; cross the footbridges of photogenic Plitvice Lakes National Park in summer, cycle around Slavonia’s Kopački Rit Nature Park and watch birds feed here in autumn, or build snowmen in Kvarner’s Risnjak National Park in winter. You’ll need sustenance after your adventures. Try Pag cheese in Dalmatia, succulent scampi in Kvarner, and head to Istria for wine tastings.
Craving the bustle of a city? You’re spoiled for choice. Traverse the medieval walls of magnificent Dubrovnik, today recognised for their starring role in Game of Thrones. Make like an emperor and explore the Palace of Diocletian in ancient Split before unwinding in a bar in the city’s labyrinthine streets. Follow in the footsteps of Roman gladiators at Pula’s amphitheatre, which today hosts less gruesome film festivals. Inland, café-hop around ultra-cool Zagreb before calling in at its unique museums, like the emotive Museum of Broken Relationships.
With its narrow, photogenic alleys overlooked by historic monuments, the walled city of Dubrovnik has few equals in Europe. It’s no wonder it is frequently seen on the silver screen. The city’s sophisticated seafood eateries are well worth splashing out in, and the nation’s boutique wine and beer scene is eloquently showcased in Dubrovnik’s growing number of chic, buzzing bars. Quaint passenger- only ferries chug their way around the unspoiled Elaphite Islands, while sun-soakers head for the beaches of sandy Lopud and rocky Sveti Jakov.
Split is one of the great Mediterranean cities, brimming with both historical sights and the bustle of contemporary life. It’s certainly unique, with the 3rd-century palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian forming the very heart of the modern city. Accessible from Split by ferry, the islands of Hvar, Brac, Vis and Korčula attract the well-heeled with their quaint fishing villages, mouthwatering cuisine, great playground equipment for the kids, quiet pebbly coves and outstanding wines, not forgetting their effervescent nightlife.
From its cities steeped in history and culture, to the rocky canyons and cascading waters of its national parks, Northern Dalmatia has it all. Ultra-hip Zadar and stylish Šibenik attract the crowds thanks to their mix of medieval fortresses, cutting-edge museums and urban landscape art. Both make great bases from which to explore some of the most stunning natural sights in the Med, such as the hauntingly bleak Kornati Islands and the enchanting lakes of Krka National Park. Those looking to take a break from sightseeing can chill on its plethora of beaches.
In Istria, chic cosmopolitan coastline segues into a beautiful green interior dotted with ancient walled towns. Established resorts like Rovinj and Poreč combine evocative medieval town centres with modern complexes. The port city of Pula contains an unmissable Roman relic in the shape of its fabulous amphitheatre. Just inland, hilltop settlements like Motovun and Grožnjan loom above misty valleys famed for their truffle-bearing forests. Foodies flock here for the region’s irresistible traditional cuisine.