Croatia is a small country in the Balkans and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. Though it is most commonly associated - in popular conception - with its Yugoslav neighbours to the North and South, visitors are sure to notice the huge impact that the ancient and renaissance civilisations of Italy have left on the country - with a vast number of Roman settlements and stunning renaissance cities. The great majority of tourists to Croatia head to the Dalmatian coast which boasts a gorgeous Mediterranean climate and mile upon mile of shingle beaches. Much less visited are the rugged interiors of Slavonia which - whilst not particularly well set up for tourism - offer stunning landscapes of mountain forests and tranquil lakes.
The most popular destination in Croatia is Dubrovnik which boasts a stunning UNESCO protected, medieval town centre and some fantastic beaches. Split, too is a popular Aegean port town and boasts stunning Roman ruins as well as a lively nightlife. There are a great many grand historic cities to see in Croatia including the gorgeous Medieval settlement of Zadar, the Baroque splendour of Varazdin and the ancient Istrian port of Pula. Amongst the country's myriad natural attractions are the Elaphiti Islands in the Adriatic and the spectacular turquoise lakes of the Plitvice National Park, which must surely rank among the most beautiful natural sights in Europe.
When: Croatia is at its most magnificent in the midsummer months when the long days and balmy Mediterranean nights bring a festive air to the country. The coastal regions of the country are still mild well into autumn though.
Where: Culture buffs and history enthusiasts will find plenty to interest them in Zagreb, the country's capital city which boasts an attractive medieval centre with cobbled streets and stunning churches and palaces.
Why: Though much less visited than the cities of Croatia's coast, Zagreb is a fascinating and attractive place. The main historical areas of Gornji Grad and Donji Grad are treasure troves of antique attractions and the fortress of Medvegrad is well worth exploring. There is also a great, historic art collection in the Mimara Museum.
When: Head out to Croatia in the peak of summer to catch the finest of the country's weather.
Where: Split is a great destination for holidays for groups of friends. It has a long and fascinating history and an ancient city centre as well as some gorgeous beaches and vibrant nightlife.
Why: Whilst you're not relaxing on Bacvice Beach or enjoying water sports including sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving, you can explore such historic relics as Diocletian's Palace and St Duje's Cathedral. There are some great beach parties held here in the evenings too.
When: Croatia is at its most magnificent in the midsummer months. You might prefer to head out in the late spring or early autumn though - the weather is still very pleasant and the beaches much less crowded.
Where: There can be few more romantic holidays than a cruise down Croatia's Adriatic coast. There are many tour operators that offer yachting excursions amongst the peninsulas of Dalmatia lasting from a few days to a fortnight.
Why: The islands of Dalmatia - including Hvar, Korcula, Brac and Vis - are absolutely stunning and boast some of the finest beaches in Europe. They vary in size including some that are completely unpopulated and some that have charming traditional towns and villages with attractive whitewash houses and ancient churches.
When: Children might find the midsummer sun a bit too fierce in Croatia, in which case you could opt to go to Croatia in the Easter holidays. It is still very pleasant in the autumn half term on the coast.
Where: Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is likely to appeal to visitors of all ages. It ranked alongside Venice as the most important city of the Mediterranean middle ages and is today a UNESCO world heritage site.
Why: There are some stunning historic sites to see in Dubrovnik including the Sponza Palace and the Rector's Palace, the Church of St Ignatius, the Franciscan Monastery and the city walls. There are also some excellent beaches nearby and a pleasant day trip can be made to the Elaphiti Islands.
Croatia experiences a moderate Mediterranean climate along its coastline. It has long, hot summers and mild and dry winters. Further inland to the east, the climate becomes more continental, with hot and humid summers and bitterly cold winters. There are heavy, annual snowfalls in the high elevations of the country's mountain ranges. The sunniest part of the country is the Elaphiti archipelago.
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What to expect
Croatia is a stunning country with a rich and chequered history. Traces of the grand historic periods of Roman antiquity and the medieval and renaissance ages - when the country was a vital trade link between east and west - are everywhere to be seen as well as the country's difficult twentieth century which included decades as part of the communist Yugoslavia and the tragic wars of independence in the nineties. Although most tourists get no further than the magnificent coastline and the Dalmatian archipelagos, the interiors display some stunning mountainous scenery and are well worth exploring too. VIsitors should expect a rich and diverse culinary scene of heavy Slavic stews, fresh seafood and the creeping historic influence of Ottoman cuisine.
Flight InformationFlights available from:
Belfast International, Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London StanstedAirlines:
Aer Lingus, Air Serbia, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EasyJet, Germanwings, Iberia, Jet2.com, Lufthansa, Monarch, Norwegian, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Thomson