Reasons to visit Croatia are many, though travelers from the United States often don't consider this destination in Southeastern Europe when they plan for vacation. Croatia is an excellent introduction to the Balkan countries with its tourist-friendly cities, regional influences, and proximity to destinations in other countries.
1. Natural Beauty
Croatia's coastal landscape, mountains and valleys, and national parks like the Plitvice National Park imbed themselves in visitors' memories. Driving through Croatia - for example, along the Adriatic Highway - provides views of towns built on slopes, bays of blue water, and craggy cliffs. Explore Croatia via car, bus, or organized tour to most easily enjoy Croatia's natural beauty.
2. Croatian Food
Many restaurants serve slow food - that is, food that is prepared in a home-cooked manner with attention to the quality and flavors of the dish. Croatian national cuisine is a draw as well. Seafood dishes, dishes inspired by the flavors of Italy, and cuisine that takes a cue from neighboring Slavic countries are on menus throughout Croatia.
When you visit Croatia, be sure to enjoy the local culture. Hear traditional klapa singers in Split, buy Croatian embroidery in Dubrovnik, or visit a market in Zagreb. Enjoy a holiday or festival on one of Croatia's islands, or visit Croatia during Easter or Christmas to celebrate with the locals.
4. Croatia's Weather
Along the coast, the weather in Croatia stays warm much longer than it does inland. Even in springtime, when much of the rest of Eastern Europe is stilly chilly, Croatia's coastal weather is comfortable. During the summer, the weather heats up, which means that sunbathing, swimming, and water sports are popular and resorts fill up with beach-loving vacationers.
5. Roman Architecture
Countries like Italy and Turkey are famous for their Roman architectural wonders, but did you know that Croatia is also home to Roman temples, amphitheaters, palaces, and other structures? Croatia's Roman architecture is well preserved in cities like Split and Pula. Sites of more recent construction also show evidence of Roman occupation - for example, the Roman mosaics in the Euphrasian Basilica of Porec show how later groups utilized sites that served the Romans.
Dubrovnik is Croatia's top destination. This walled city sees the most action during the summer months, but it is equally pleasant in spring or fall when the tourist season has eased. Walk the city walls for spectacular views, explore fortresses, palaces, and churches, and relax on the beach, in a pub, or in a cafe.
7. Wine and Spirits
Locally made wine is on menus throughout Croatia. Teran wine, produced in the iron-rich soil of Istria, is one variety you might try, but other wines with unique characteristics can be sampled when you visit. The spirits of Croatia include maraschino, a liquer made from cherries that is produced in Zadar.
8. Croatia's Regions
Croatia's regions offer diversity in culture, food, history, and terrain. Istria takes pride in its Italian influences, while Dalmatia's islands and coastal cities attract sun-seeking travelers from all over. Inland regions have their own traditions and heritage, too, and it's worth knowing a little about what makes each region unique.
9. Croatia Isn't Your Typical European Destination
If you live in the States, the announcement that you're traveling to Croatia will possibly be met with three questions: What? Where? . . . Why? Croatia isn't the most expected destination for Americans, and traveling to locations others would be hard pressed to identify on a map is enough reason to go anywhere. But your photos of Croatia, and tales of your experiences, will put you in a position of envy among your friends and maybe even encourage others to travel, too.