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Croatia — The Jewel of the Adriatic
Europe's Best Surprise Has It All

My wife and I oftentimes dream about moving to Croatia for at least six months of the year. It truly offers Mediterranean magic. We’ve been all over the world and place Croatia at the top of the places we love the best! The majority of the few Americans that have been to Croatia have only done so via brief cruise ship stops in Split and Dubrovnik. They haven’t even begun to tap the beauty of it all. Pity! Sadly, most Americans can’t point Croatia out on a map and know nothing about it. They think people are crazy to visit the country, as they believe tourists will be harmed. Nothing is further from the truth!

Europe’s Best Surprise

Statistically Croatia is 80% the size of Ireland. The population is a little under five-million, predominantly Roman Catholic, and very well educated. The country was once part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so its people have the mentality of Austria and Bavaria, which is to say everything is kept clean and has its place. All the towns, with their red tile roofs, look like something purchased at a hobby shop. In June of 2002 it was listed as the safest country in Europe. For its relatively small size it is one of the best travel destinations in the world. We have been organizing custom designed trips and escorting them all over the world since the mid-1980s. To people who can only take one trip to Europe and have three weeks to do it I tell them to spend two days in Bled, Slovenia and the rest of the time in Croatia. It has it all! What’s been so fun taking people there since 1999 is that expectations are so low. They mentally picture black and white and once there it all turns to Technicolor. They fall in love with it all. They come home saying over and over "I had no idea of the beauty of the place," "I would love to return," or "Spectacular."

Section of Dubrovnic's coast

The country itself has good highways and roads, a growing number of good-to-excellent accommodations at all budget levels, stunning mountain and lake scenery, the largest concentration of medieval castles outside France’s Loire Valley, colorful vineyards and great wine. The coastline boasts outstanding resort towns, and the cleanest water in the entire Mediterranean region. The colors of the coastal waters are incredible! Croatia’s 1,100 islands in the Adriatic Sea east of Italy offer great sailing and charming medieval towns and ports that have ruins and influences from Greek, Roman, and Venetian times. There are eight UNESCO World Heritage sites to enjoy, some with history that dates to 4,000 B.C.! The value of the dollar is outstanding. A dinner for two consisting of two mixed salads, two entrées with vegetables, three scoops of ice cream, plus a half-liter of wine runs $12-14 total for two people. Unreal! So much to see and do!

Bled region
Alpine lake of Bled, Slovenia

A Sampling of  Incredible Locales

It’s impossible to describe every beautiful place of interest. What follows will provide you with a mental feel for the country. Zagreb, the capital, is in the interior and is a pleasing, lively city, untouched by the war, with a preserved medieval old town section. East of Zagreb you enter rolling hills dotted with castles and vineyards. You’d think you were in Tuscany. A few hours north of Zagreb would place you in the beautiful alpine lake community in Slovenia called Bled, another special place on our planet.

The northwest region of Croatia is called Istria. It is very green with mountains and valleys and many villages and vineyards. The coastline is filled with little fishing ports and good size resort areas that are among the best anywhere. Umag, Rovinj (known as the Venice of Istria), and the historic city of Porcec are outstanding resort communities.

Historic Pula has one of the best-preserved Roman Coliseums. The small and beautiful coastal city of Opatijia sits in the heart of what is known as the Croatian Riviera. The Hapsburgs of Austria once had winter palaces here, and waltz music filled the air around their grand old estates.

You can’t describe the wonder and beauty of Plitvice Lakes, which is a series of 16 small, narrow lakes with hundreds of waterfalls that terrace down into a valley through natural forest vegetation. Incredible beauty!

Plitvice1.jpg (11365 bytes)
Plivice waterfall scene

Tile roofs of Croatia
Croatia's red tile roofs

The highlight of the historic city of Split is the large and well preserved Palace of Diocletian, a Roman Emperor, which dates back to the 3rd century. The lit up atmosphere inside the palace walls at night makes for an enchanting atmosphere!

Split sits in the middle of the region known as Dalmatia, which is more arid, has dynamic less forested mountains that rise straight up thousands of feet behind the many coastal communities.

The Mediterranean’s Prettiest Island?

Conde Nast Magazine rates 40-mile-long, 10-mile-wide Hvar Island as one of the ten best islands in the world. I think it should be rated higher. It has more than a handful of cute charming villages but the town of Hvar tops the list. When the lights go on at night in the little harbor town, and on the castle above it, it is like magic. There are lots of outstanding little restaurants to choose from and a great island to explore.

On another nearby beautiful island is the town of Korcula where Marco Polo was born.

Hvar and its harbor, Hvar Island

Markaska is a nice typical seaside port resort town that offers good hiking in the area. It also functions well as the base for a day trip into Bosnia to visit the religions shrine called Medjugorje.

Dubrovnik is the crown jewel of Croatia. It has to be the best-preserved medieval city in Europe. You’ve not lived until you've walked the walls of "Dub" on a sunny blue-sky-and-blue-water kind of day. It is like stepping back into history.

Pat Flood
Patrick Flood at Ravinj, Croatia

An Invitation

Croatia has so much to offer that you could easily spend a year exploring and still not see it all. Visitors really take the time to smell the Croatian roses.

Well, you may not have a year, but you need to start somewhere. Join us on our next trip to this magical Adriatic region. Visit our web site and let us know if you want to know more. Trust me on this one — you'd love it!

Croatia is just east of Italy,
on the Adriatic Sea

Article by Patrick Flood
Pat & Mike’s Travel Company
email: funtrips@patandmikestravel.com
Portland, Oregon
Web site:   www.patandmikestravel.com

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