Croatia’s underrated capital Zagreb is a regular central European metropolis, including elegant nineteenth-century structures with lots of cultural diversions and a dynamic café life. It’s also an excellent base for journeys to the undulating hillsides and mesmerizing towns of the rural Zagorje area to the north, and to the well-preserved Baroque town of VaraÅdin to the northeast.
The rest of inland Croatia provides numerous opportunities for relaxed exploring opportunities. Stretching east from Zagreb, the plains of Slavonia form the richest agricultural parts of Croatia. The endless corn and sunflower fields fanning out from interesting Habsburg-era rural towns such as Osijek and Vukovar. The latter, was almost entirely destroyed during the 1991 to 1995 war, but is now in the throes of total reconstruction.
Inland Croatia offers numerous tracking chances: Mount Medvednica, north of Zagreb, or Samoborsko Gorje, west of Zagreb, is safe for gentle climbing. Lying between Zagreb and the coastline, are the deservedly hyped Plitvice Lakes. These enchanting series of forest-fringed blue-green swimming pools are connected by mini waterfalls and offers a spectacular view and surroundings.
Croatia’s lengthy shoreline, together with its islands, is big enough to handle many tourists without being crowded. At the northern end, the peninsula of Istria includes many of the nation’s most developed resorts. You will also find here old Venetian towns like PoreÄ and Rovinj, and the raffish port of Pula, the home of some exceptional Roman remains.
Inland Istria is defined by sleepy hillside towns, such as Motovun, GroÅnjan, RoÄ and Hum – blending medieval architecture with rustic calmness successfully.
The city of Rijeka, a hard-edged port city with an energetic cultural life presides over the island-scattered Kvarner Gulf, south of Istria. Nearby are a clutch of resorts that were trendy high-society hang-outs in the late 19th century and retain a smattering of belle Ãpoque appeal, including quaint, small Lovran and the bigger, more industrialized Opatija.
Not far offshore, the Kvarner islands of Cres, LoÅ¡inj and Krka have long been colonized by the package-holiday crowds. Each has actually retained its affordable share of quiet beach towns and tranquil coves; while the capital of the island of Rab, south of Krka, is most likely the best-preserved middle ages town in the northern Adriatic.
Beyond the Kvarner Gulf lies Dalmatia, a dramatic, mountain-fringed stretch of shoreline studded with islands. It’s a raw, arid region where fishing towns and historic towns hang on to a narrow seaside strip rich in figs, olives and subtropical greenery. Northern Dalmatia’s major city is Zadar, whose chaotic central streets are stuffed with churches.
From here, ferryboats serve a chain of laid-back islands such as Silba, Olib and the ruggedly sensational Dugi Otok. None of them get many tourists and they’re enticingly unwinding as a result. Don’t forget to visit the Renaissance cathedral, in the middle of Dalmatia’s major town, Ãibenik. It is an excellent resting point en-route to the waterfalls of the Krka National Park and the amazing bare islands of the Kornati island chain.