Overview of Croatia
The Republic of Croatia is part of South-Eastern Europe and is situated on the crossroads between the Pannonian Plain, the Balkans, and the Adriatic Sea. Croatia borders several countries including Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, Serbia and Montenegro. The official capital city is known as Zagreb and is considered a stopover point for travellers who are passing between Eastern and Western Europe.
Croatia was originally split into two ‘dukedoms’ when the Croats arrived in the 7th Century. Croatia became a Kingdom in 925AD when its first King Tomislav was inaugurated – after which sovereignty was retained for 200 years. After this, a slew of events throughout history led to the development of an independent country.
Croatia is a member of several high status councils such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organization and CEFTA. Although not technically a member of the EU yet, it is a base member of the union for the Mediterranean.
The International Monetary Fund has declared Croatia as a developing economy, whereas the World bank calls it a ‘high income’ economy.
Croatian is the official language and there are many faiths here including Christianity and Islam
Climate and Geography in Croatia
Croatia has a typically Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, sunny summers. Rainfall in winter is particularly heavy, so if you are travelling around this time be sure to take an umbrella. Winters also suffer from a cold, brisk wind called the Bura – this can make the temperature seem colder than it really is.
Summers can mean thunderstorms so having a light waterproof overcoat is mandatory, as is having high factor sunblock. Average temperatures during summer reach between 26°C and 39°C, with around 11 hours of sunshine during the day. Winter temperatures can even plummet below zero, with only 4-6 hours of sunlight.
Croatia has a large mountain range known as the Dinaric Alps. These rise up to 1800 m and form the backdrop of the Croatian coastline – meaning brisk winds and snow on the mountain tops. Because of the height of the mountains and the numerous hills that are a part of the Croatian topography, snow can rest for several months on the peaks of the hills and mountains, making it feel much colder than it actually is.
Moving inland towards the continental part of Croatia means winters are much colder and wetter too. Eastern Croatia is mostly covered in fertile flat land in the valleys of the river Danube.
There are 1,185 islands in Croatia, of which only 67 are inhabited. The largest Islands are Krk and Cres. The Croatian coastline runs for a length of 5,835km including reefs and Islets.
Main Cities and Places Croatia
The main cities and places in Croatia include:
Zagreb: The capital city of Croatia, Zagreb lies on the crossroads between the Central European and Adriatic coastline. The city itself has buildings influenced heavily by Baroque architecture, quaint little markets, a huge variety of shopping facilities and superb eateries.
A traditionally historical city, Zagreb is rooted in central European culture which is heavily influenced by Mediterranean and Balkan traditions. With a population of around one million, the city has good public transport links and lots to see and do including museums and art galleries. Zagreb is also very green, and there are no shortages of parks and walks here.
Dubrovnik: Described as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ by Lord Byron, Dubrovnik has some phenomenal scenery this side of Eastern Europe. Classed as a world heritage site and protected by UNESCO, the city offers spectacular view of the ancient city of Dubrovnik which stands proud from the city gates.
The city is famed for its four monasteries and its fortresses. Dubrovnik has a good mix of old city ruins and newly built up areas, but it’s the old city which holds the greatest interest. The ruins have been carefully restored since most of the city was bombed in the 90’s during the war.
Split: Split is the main city in Dalmatia, as well as being one of the largest cities in Croatia. It is also the largest city on the Adriatic coast. The Roman Emperor Diocletian built a palace a palace here called Diocletian’s Palace. This 1700 year old palace is well preserved and protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Most of the historical monuments in Split are found within the walls of the palace, and there is even a Cathedral to be found here on the Eastern side of the square. Diocletian’s Palace is considered to be one of the best examples of exceptionally well-preserved Imperial palaces.
Split has its own airport that connects it with Zagreb, and other international cities. Because of its position, Split is a major port for ferries that connect Split with the other Adriatic islands. You will also find a ferry service to Rijeka to the north and Dubrovnik in the south.
Croatia has a good transportation system which serves the country very well. Because of its location, the ideal forms of travel are air, road, rail and ferry.
Air – Croatia has airports in all its major cities including Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb and others. Croatia has its own carrier called Croatia airlines which do domestic as well as International flights. The various Islands belonging to Croatia such as the Island of Krk also have flight terminals for ease of travel.
The main airports are:
- Dubrovnik (DBV) and the contact number for more information is: +385 20 773 100,
- Zagreb (CTN) and the contact number is +385 1 45 62 222
Road – Croatia has a superb network of roads and everyone drives on the right hand side of the road. If you are planning to hire a car, you will need your driver’s license and a passport for proof of ID.
The Croats are strict about speeding restrictions and it goes without saying that you should always observe road traffic rules carefully.
All the main car rental companies can be found here including Hertz, Avis and Budget. You can find all this information on the Croatian Car rentals site which is here.
Train – Croatia’s main railway station is Zagreb and Split. You can’t reach Dubrovnik by train. It’s worth mentioning that although Croatia has an extensive train network covering most of the country, it is not necessarily the fastest way to travel. Train travel is however relatively cheap and you can see a lot of the countryside which you might otherwise miss.
The number for the Split train station is: +385 21 338 582. To find out general information about rail travel in Croatia, go here.
Most International rail routes pass through Croatia, so you should easily be able to get to Croatia from any main European city. Smaller cities may mean connecting with further trains, but on the whole, train travel here is relatively cheap.
Ferry – Ferry is a great way to travel along the Croatian coastline. Virtually all the coastal towns and Islands have some form of water crossing and connections via boat or ferry, and there are international and coastal ferry lines available in most places. Jadrolinija is the main Croatian ferry company, and has the largest international and domestic lines.
Water crossings increase during the summer months due to the heavy tourism. Ultra-fast hydrofoil and catamaran services are available when summer is at its peak. The summer sailing schedule normally remains in operation from 28 May to 30 September.
Main Attractions in Croatia
Croatia has seven National parks, each with their own stunning natural beauty. Risnjak is a mountain which is also a national park found in the region of Gorski Kotar. For those who love water and serene surroundings, Plitvice Lakes are loacted in Lika, half way between Zagreb and Sibenik.
The huge diversity and rarity of some of the animal and plant life in this region is what led it to become a National Park. UNESCO has declared the Plitvice lakes as a world heritage site and is known throughout Croatia as being an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The Paklenica Canyon in Zadar, is also a protected National Park. With two huge 400 m deep gorges, it ranks among the best naturally eroded formations in Europe. The Krka River is also a national park. The river runs through a canyon forming stunning lakes, waterfalls and rapids.
Dubrovnik houses the old city of Dubrovnik with huge castles, ruins, monasteries and fortresses. You will also find plenty of monuments and fountains in this great city – a tribute to times once passed. One of the highlights is the Fort Royal Castle – a huge fortress built by the French. The fortress sits proudly on top of such a steep hill and walking up it is nothing short of exhausting.
Hvar town in the Southern Dalmatian Islands is chic, sophisticated and has superbly carved Venetian architecture with a huge welcoming seaside promenade. It’s one of Croatia’s top spots and one of the most romantic too. You can take a day trip via boats which head out to the Pakleni Islands of Stipanska or Jerolim.
Mljet is one of Croatia’s top sights, and is one of Dalmatian’s Islands. This unspoilt paradise is a haven for those looking to get away from it all. It is so beautiful that reputedly, even Odysseus was seduced by it.
Over half of Mljet island is a well-preserved National Park. The coastal villages of Pomena, Polace, Sobra and Saplunara are the most popular for tourists who come for different activities such as hiking and biking as well as enjoying the beautiful scenery.
The Park has two rather unusual features – inland salt water lakes–Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero. Veliko Jezero has a tiny islet called Sv Marija that houses a former 12th Century Benedictine monastery. The monastery has now been replaced with a restaurant, accessible by only by boat.
Located in Porec, the Euphrasian Basilica is considered to be one of Croatia’s best sights. The Basilica was built by Bishop Euphrasius between 543 and 554 and has nine naves, fine sculptures as well as marble columns imported from Constantinople. The apse contains some sensational Byzantine mosaics with Christ overlooking his disciples at the very top. The Bishop’s Palace can be found next door and is a small museum containing mosaics and ancient stone fragments.
For more information on tourism visit the Croatian National Tourist Board
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