Croatia has quickly become Europe's hottest destination, and for good reason.
The rocky coastline continues for 1778 kilometres and includes pine-fringed coves,
wide sandy beaches and cozy inlets. As if that weren't enough, there are a good
1185 islands that range from lush and wooded to stark and hilly. Yachties love
the sailing opportunities, sunbathers have an incredible choice of beaches and
scuba divers have a paradise of sea life to explore.
The Romans swept through two thousand years ago, leaving an amphitheatre in Pula and Diocletian's Palace in Split. Long ruled by Venice, many ports along the coast bear the distinctive imprint of its former master. In southern Dalmatia, the towns of Hvar and Korcula resemble Little Venices without the canals. In Istria, the striking bell tower in Rovinj is modeled after that on St Mark's Square in Venice.
In contrast to the Italian-influenced coast, the Croatian interior was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and looks it. Zagreb, Croatia's capital, has the kind of stately architecture that wouldn't be out of place in Vienna or Budapest. Plus,it has a small medieval quarter that vaguely resembles Prague.To the north of Zagreb, in the middle of green, rolling hills, lies Varazdin, Croatia's most underrated city. Lying too far from the coast to attract much tourism, Varazdin nevertheless boasts a stunningly well-preserved baroque center.
So, what to see first? Following is my personal list of highlights for a Croatian visit:
Jeanne Oliver has written all three editions of Lonely Planet's Croatia guidebook. To find out more about traveling to Croatia and to book your trip, visit Jeanne's website, http://www.croatiatraveller.com.
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