Mini Guide to Croatia

Located in the south of Europe, Croatia sits on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. After the independence war, tourism has been growing at a steady rate. Now, readers of Condé Nast Traveler ranked the country among the top 20 countries in the world.

Since as many beaches are protected inside nature reserves, tourists tend to flock to the coast. Some people do go inland to see the impressive waterfalls or go hiking in the beautiful mountainous region.


Croatia is served by most European airlines, which fly into Zagreb, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. The same applies to train travel. The country has a vast network, which connects all the major cities.

You can go everywhere by bus as the services are good and reliable. Another option is to rent a car and drive around the country. For brave backpackers, you can hitchhike.

On the coast, there are boat and ferry services connecting the main islands and cities.


Croatian is the official language in the country, which is a variety of Serbo-Croatian and part of the South Slavic branch. It’s spoken by 95 percent of the population, with Serbian coming in second. Other minority languages include Italian and Czech.

However, at least half of the population speaks English and roughly a third German. So, travelers won’t have communication issues traversing the country.

Main Cities and Towns


Zagreb is Croatia’s capital. It’s divided between Donji grad (the lower town), where most hotels are located, and Gornji grad (the upper town), which is the old medieval city with plenty of churches, galleries, and palaces.

Highlights include:

  • Jarun Lake, where visitors can go windsurfing in the summer, and;
  • The 1876 Mirogoj Cemetery, which is considered one of the most impressive in the world.


Also known as “the Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik has been an important Mediterranean seaport and a maritime trade rival to Venice during the Middle Ages. In recent years, it has risen in popularity as one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones.

The main attraction is the Old Town with its narrow alleyways, churches, and medieval feel. Travelers can walk along the city walls and enjoy amazing views from the top. Other popular sites include the boat trip to Lokrum Island with its many peacocks and the impressive cable car ascent to Mount Srđ.


Split is considered by many as the unofficial capital of Dalmatia since it’s the main economic hub on the coast. The city center was built around the remains of the Diocletian’s Palace, where the Roman emperor retired in 305 AD.

Visitors should climb the bell tower of St. Duje’s cathedral for incredible panoramic views of the city. If it’s too hot, make sure you walk to the small Bačvice beach and sunbathe with a cocktail in hand.

Interesting Sites and Natural Wonders

Krka National Park

Located between Split and Zadar, Krka is one of Croatia’s eight national parks and the perfect location for a day trip.

Travelers can swim at Skradinski Buk, a massive natural pool boasting 17 waterfalls with heights of up to 47 meters. Another famous waterfall is Roški Slap, which can be reached by boat or via a short hiking trail.

Hvar Island

A popular destination in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar Island is home to Stari Grad, the oldest town in Croatia, dating back to 384 BC.

Apart from enjoying the many beaches dotted around the island, travelers can visit the amazing nearby Blue Cave and Pakleni Islands. For those interested in history, it’s worth visiting Trg Sveti Stjepana (Hvar Town Square), the largest in Croatia at 4,500 square meters, and the impressive Cathedral of St. Stjepan.

Plitvice National Park

Considered one of the most incredible natural attractions in Europe, Plitvice National Park is a system of 16 interconnected lakes surrounded by untouched forest.

Unlike Krka, swimming is not allowed in Plitvice. So, the main appeal is the many hiking trails and the view of the turquoise-colored lakes. Bear in mind that you can go camping at Camp Korana and extend your stay for free.

Island of Brač

Brač is another famous beach destination. Many travelers go kitesurfing and windsurfing on this island. The most iconic beach is Zlatni Rat in Bol. It’s also known as “Triangle Beach” since its elongated shape resembles a triangle.

Other popular attractions include:

  • Dragon’s Cave, which are reliefs believed to have been carved by Glagolitic friars, and;
  • Vidova Gora, the highest peak in Brač.

Safety and Health

Like many European countries, Croatia is a safe country. However, travelers should always stay alert if walking through alleyways late at night.

While there aren’t any ozone holes over the country, it’s important to use plenty of sunscreen to avoid unnecessary burns.

If you’re going out in the evening, make sure to avoid strip clubs as they are notorious for scamming visitors. They sometimes charging over €1,500 for a bottle of champagne.


The inland of Croatia has climates ranging from temperate to mountainous. On the coast, it has a Mediterranean climate.

In the winter temperatures can get to -10°C inland and 6°C on the coast with strong northern winds called bura. During the summer, the temperatures can go up to 39°C across the country. In fact, Hvar is one of the sunniest islands in Europe with 2,800 hours of sunlight.

Food and Drinks

With both Slavic and Mediterranean influences, Croatian cuisine is quite diverse. Inland region delicacies include kulen (pork sausages), strukli (cottage cheese pastry), and čobanac (lamb stew). Seafood is the main ingredient along the coast with crni rizot (black risotto made with cuttlefish) being a popular dish.

When it comes to drinks, travelers should try rakija, a strong local brandy made from grapes, figs, and plums. Also, don’t forget about the great selection of wine. Particularly a rich-flavored red wine known as “bevanda”.


Ultra Europe

Ultra Europe is an electronic music festival that takes place on the islands surrounding Split in July. It attracts over 150,000 revelers who go to the Dalmatian coast to see DJs such as David Guetta and The Chemical Brothers.

During the festival, there are several side parties happening on all islands, including a yacht regatta. The main event is held at Split’s Poljud stadium.

International Folklore Festival

The Zagreb International Folklore Festival also takes place in July each year. It showcases the traditional culture of Croatia and other nations. Over a six-day period, people from all over the world gather to see concerts, exhibitions, and workshops.

UNESCO now backs the festival in order to promote and safeguard cultural heritage.

The International Carnival of Rijeka

Rijeka Carnival, like others around the world, are the festivities that take place every year before Lent. As the largest carnival in Croatia, it has a Queen Pageant coronation, several allegorical floats, and masked visitors.

People and Culture

While the horrors of the independence war are in the past, they certainly haven’t been forgotten. Croatians are happy and patriotic people who dislike being lumped together with other Slavic nations — particularly from ex-Yugoslavia. They’re extremely warm and express that with frequent physical contact when talking to other people.

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