For one that’s never been to Croatia it could be important to know some things in general about the land’s coastline, which holds the most of its tourist destinations. In this article I will try to set some guidelines for people who haven’t explored it yet, and possibly some unknown information for those who are considering to visit it again. I will keep the focus on the mainland and will cover the islands in another article.
Thousand miles long
Croatia’s coastline is considered one of the most rugged in the world. While it’s only about 330 miles long in air travel, the total distance measures more than a thousand miles between it’s extreme points, with an additional 2500 miles of coast made by more than 1000 of it’s islands.
All this adds up to infinite number of hidden beaches You can visit and enjoy the beautiful Adriatic sea as it was only yours. Whether You’re traveling coast north or south, You will never be without an island in your sight. This includes the national parks Kornati, Brijuni and Mljet, as well as the historically rich Korčula and Hvar, the inescapable Brač, and many more. (For those wondering, the letter Č can be read “ch”)
Focusing on the mainland starting from the north, the Istrian peninsula is ready to take any travelers breath away with the vast cultural and natural treasure it holds. Heavily influenced by the Republic of Venice through history, cities like Poreč and Rovinj will give You the feel of a extravagant mediterranean holiday from the 50’s, and the city of Pula should not be neglected by anyone thirsting for Ancient Roman architecture, as it is the site of one of the world’s most preserved Roman amphitheaters and several other ancient monuments. Cruising around Istria is also rewarding for the genuine cuisine and authentic wines it offers, and if one is to venture inland, the cities of Pazin and Motovun will surely make it worth the trip. Before leaving one should also visit nature park Učka, a part of the mountain range rising near the coast, and if You are longing for civilization, the nearby city of Rijeka should help soothe your metropolitan needs.
Central part of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline is know as Dalmatia, and although in many ways similar to Istria, it offers a bit different travel experience. The biggest distinction being a larger concentration of cities located relatively close to each other, cities rich in medieval architecture.
Zadar is the first one coming from the north, and serves as a good representation of a classic Croatian medieval port city. It’s center is located on a peninsula surrounded by fortifications, and the central square is built around ancient Roman Forum, from whose ruins the 9th century St. Donatus Church that now dominates the site was built.
Following next is Šibenik, (Š=sh) city that is on the first look a bit more industrially developed, but offers maybe unparalleled experience of searching the narrow stone streets of it’s center for that special cafe to drink your day’s coffee, and is the site of St. James cathedral, one of Dalmatia’s many entries on the UNESCO World Heritage list. City also offers visits to any of its four fortresses that offer spectacular view of the city and the sea, and the nearby Krka national park waterfalls will surely prove to be a visit worth anyone’s time.
Further south traveler encounters cities Trogir, Solin and Split, all located in the Kaštela bay. Trogir has a beautiful center located on a small island just off coast, and is crawling with historic architecture from Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance periods. A large concentration of different styles located on a very small surface is a place that every architecture fan should visit. Solin is best known for the ruins of a great ancient Roman city of Salona where You can visit the remains of the city’s thermae and amphitheater, and is considered by legend to be the birthplace of Roman emperor Diocletian.
Split, second largest city in Croatia is actually built around Diocletian’s palace located around 4 miles south of Salona. The palace was completed back in early 4th century, and still stands to this day. It is the only settled ancient Roman building in the world as it makes the city’s very core, but it has however had many alterations throughout its disturbing history. Now it makes a unique monumental blend of Roman, and many different medieval architecture styles.
If You have not had your share of fortresses You can visit Klis near Split, a fort made on a steep hill made of solid rock, with a beautiful view of the Kaštela bay. The fort has quite a history to tell, and it has also served to portray the city of Meereen in the famous Game of Thrones series.
South of Split You can find Omiš, small town located on a narrow patch of land located directly under the mountain, between the sea and the river Cetina. If You are adventurous type You can try canyoning, or take a zip line over the river. If not, You can just enjoy it’s stony streets and genuine Dalmatian cousine.
On the way to the southernmost part of Croatian coastline next comes Makarska riviera, situated right beneath Biokovo mountain nature park. Riviera offers some of the finest beaches in Croatia, as well as a large number of sunny days per year, and the views from Biokovo’s +5000 feet tall peeks are simply stunning.
This region is consisted of Pelješac peninsula and a narrow stretch of territory between the Adriatic sea and the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as many of the before mentioned islands. Pelješac is especially rewarding when traveled by car, as You will often find yourselves in need to stop and just absorb the sights and take pictures. It is also renowned for it’s world famous vineyards. City of Ston is located right where the peninsula connects to the mainland and holds the worlds second longest defensive wall structure, surpassed only by the Great Wall of China. City’s history dates back to ancient times when it was a valuable source of salt. The salt panes that Romans cultivated remain active to this day, which makes them oldest running in the world, and the salt they produce can be bought on site.
The last major city of Croatian coast is Dubrovnik. It could be unfair to compare it to any of the other towns mentioned in terms of monumental architecture, as it was the seat of very powerful Republic of Ragusa since the middle ages, all the way towards the modern times. City center is located on the cliff right above the sea and is completely surrounded by massive stone walls. Walk through Dubrovnik’s streets and around it’s walls is a lifetime memory, and the views from the hill Srđ that rises behind it could make some of Your finest photographs. City and the nearby arboretum in Trsteno have also served as filming locations for Game of Thrones’ King’s landing.
There are thousand more words to be said for each of the mentioned locations, but for now just keep in mind – If You are considering Croatia as your next trip destination, You will not be disappointed.