1777km of dramatic coastlines!
Sun-drenched beaches, succulent seafood, and a taste of la dolce vita...in Eastern Europe? With thousands of miles of seafront and more than a thousand islands, Croatia's coastline is Eastern Europe's Riviera. Holiday-makers love its pebbly beaches, predictably balmy summer weather, and dramatic mountains. But there's history here as well: from ruined Roman arenas and Byzantine mosaics to Venetian bell towers, Habsburg villas, and even communist concrete, past rulers have left their mark. Most travelers flock to the Dalmatian Coast, where dramatic cliffs rise from the deep and islands are scattered just offshore. But savvy travelers make time for more: the Venetian-flavoured Kvarner Gulf and Istrian Peninsula, the stunning waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, and Zagreb, the nation's engaging capital.
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South Dalmatia (7days)
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Istria (Istra to Croats) is where continental Croatia meets the Adriatic, the heart-shaped, 3600-sq-km peninsula just south of Trieste, Italy. The rustic view of rolling hills and fertile plains attracts artsy visitors to Istria's hilltop villages, rural hotels, and farmhouse restaurants, while the verdant indented coastline is enormously popular with the sun-and-sea set. While vast hotel complexes line much of the coast and the rocky beaches are not Croatia's best, facilities are wide-ranging, the sea is clean and secluded spots are still plentiful.
From the island of Korčula in the northwest to the magical plains of Konavle in the southeast, this is an area to be savored by beach seekers, wine lovers and history buffs alike. Yet one location eclipses any discussion of Southern Dalmatia for a reason: the remarkable old town of Dubrovnik. Enclosed by powerful defensive walls that wash their feet in the cerulean sea, the city encapsulates the very essence of a medieval Mediterranean fairytale. Dubrovnik is simply unique; its beauty is bewitching, its setting sublime. Thousands of visitors walk along its marble streets every day, gazing, gasping and happily snapping away.
Boasting a historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, exquisite cafes and rich museums set on a small peninsula, Zadar is a charming city. It's not too busy and its two unique attractions – the sound-and-light spectacle of the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation – need to be seen and heard to be believed. While it's not a picture-postcard kind of place from every angle, the mix of ancient relics, Habsburg elegance and coastal setting all offset the unsightly tower blocks climbing up the hilly hinterland. It's no Dubrovnik, but it's not a museum town either – this is a living, vibrant city, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
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