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Croatia Travel Guide

Croatia has emerged triumphantly as an attractive and stable tourist destination, having put years of civil and ethnic unrest behind it. With its magnificent coastline boasting 1,185 islands, islets and reefs, and countryside scattered with Roman ruins and picturesque medieval villages, Croatia is fast becoming a rival to the magical Greek islands for luring lovers of beaches, great food and history.

After centuries of being sliced and diced geographically to suit empires, conquerors and political and ethnic divisions, Croatia has been left with a diverse cultural legacy and a wealth of historical attractions. The long Adriatic coastline forms the western leg of the arc-shaped country, tapering to the unique ancient seaport of Dubrovnik in the south, while the land between the rivers Drava and Sava form the northern section. The capital, Zagreb, sits in-between. Although Croatia's history is dramatic the atmosphere of this balmy Mediterranean country is now tranquil, with sleepy old towns and impossibly picturesque lakes and beaches just begging travellers to relax. The wonderful landscapes can be easily explored on foot or by mountain bike as the country is criss-crossed with good trails, and the food and wine is so delicious that a bit of exercise might be necessary.

The most prominent feature of Croatia's tourism offering is the glorious Dalmatian coastline, which is indented with rocky cliffs, peninsulas and small inlets. Numerous good quality hotels and marinas have been resurrected or constructed in the past few years, and Croatia is once again beginning to enjoy a tourist boom reminiscent of its heyday in the 1930s, becoming ever more popular as a cruise destination. There is a special atmosphere in Croatian towns and villages, many of which were built on the sites of ancient Greek settlements dating from as far back as the 4th century BC. This, coupled with a reserved but hospitable population, Mediterranean climate, scenic beauty and lush vegetation, is aiding Croatia's transformation into one of the world's best tourist hotspots.

All foreign passengers to Croatia must hold return/onward tickets and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Diocletians Palace

Address: Split

Roman Emperor Diocletian, having abdicated his throne in AD 305, decided to spend the last years of his life in Dalmatia and built a palace for that purpose on the bay of Aspalathos, on the south side of a peninsula extending into the Adriatic Sea. The spot he chose is now the very heart of the city of Split, and the palace still stands as the city's main tourist attraction. The building and the entire historic Split inner city area around it have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the palace walls are a network of narrow cobblestone alleyways that house a mixture of residential apartments; modern shops, cafes and restaurants; ancient Roman relics; and a magnificent cathedral.

The palace is interesting in that it was designed to combine a luxurious palace with the defences of a military camp, having towers and fortifications on its landward sides with three monumental gates. Originally situated on the water, the palace is now fronted by the city's popular waterfront promenade and faces onto the harbour. The buildings are made from local white limestone, quarried on the nearby island of Brac.

Archaeological Museum

Address: Zrinsko-Frankopanska 25 Split

Founded in 1820, the Archaeological Museum in Split is the oldest museum in Croatia. Its displays include many archaeological artefacts from prehistoric times, the Greek colonial period, and from the Roman, early Christian and Medieval ages. Most of the relics found in excavations of the Roman city of Salona are displayed here, and there is an interesting collection of submarine archaeology. There is also a collection of antique coins and a large library. Outside the museum there is a lovely garden with a covered walkway and a number of statues on display, which makes for a good opportunity to wander a bit and take some photographs. Those who have smartphones can make use of the free wifi audio guide, which is very informative and adds a great deal to the experience. Although this museum is not enormous, it is very interesting and a great place to get familiar with Croatian history.

Mljet Island

Address: Dubrovnik

Covered by forests, vineyards and small villages, Mljet Island is most famous for its national park, occupying the western half of the island. The main attractions in the national park are the two salt water lakes, Veliko Jezero (Great Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake), and the 12th-century Benedictine monastery situated on an island on Veliko Jezero. The lakes are popular for swimming and the beauty of this unspoilt oasis attracts nature lovers and those in search of peace and tranquility.

Mljet is said to be Croatia's greenest island; in Greek mythology, it is the island that captivates the legendary hero Odysseus for seven years. Mljet is popular with couple's because the lack of crowds and the pristine natural beauty make it a romantic and private getaway. It is a great destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and kayaking. There are many different kinds of accommodation available and a variety of great places to eat. This island could easily occupy nature lovers for a whole holiday.

Hvar Island

Address: Split

Off the coast of Split, just 15 nautical miles (24km) from Baska Voda and accessible by ferry, is the island of Hvar, which abounds with Romanesque and Renaissance buildings and a true Mediterranean atmosphere. Hvar has been populated since prehistoric times; archaeologists have found evidence of life on the island dating back to 3500 BC. The island is noted for its fertile soil and was the site of the world's first parcelling out of arable land by the ancient Greeks, who farmed here. It is now mainly a wine-growing area. The island's main towns are Vrboska and Jelsa, famed for their Dalmatian wines. Hvar is dotted with picturesque villages, many of which remain fairly untouched by time and tourism.

Must-see attractions in Hvar include the incredible Hvar Fortress which can't be missed by history buffs and anybody who appreciates a great view. It is a bit of a climb to get to the old fortress but from the site you can see the whole town and harbour, and there is a lovely cafe for refreshments. Lovers of beautiful beaches can't visit Hvar without making the short trek to Dubovica Beach, which is often delightfully free of crowds.

Franciscan Monastery

Address: Placa 2 Dubrovnik

The original Franciscan monastery in Dubrovnik was built in the 13th century in the Pile area, but when war broke out in the 14th century the monks were forced to relocate to gain the protection of Dubrovnik's formidable defensive walls. Parts of the current monastery, and most of the church, have had to be rebuilt over the centuries due to damage, but parts of the complex date back to 1317. This Franciscan church and monastery, still enclosed in the walls of medieval Dubrovnik, boasts one of the most beautiful Romanesque cloisters in Dalmatia. Within the monastery complex there is also a working pharmacy, which has been in business since 1317, and is thought to be the third oldest pharmacy in the world. A museum houses relics from the original medieval pharmacy such as medical books, instruments and weight scales, as well as some gilded church relics. The massive monastery library - one of the richest in Croatia - is renowned globally by historians for its inventory: it contains some 30,000 volumes with 1,500 handwritten documents. The monastery is a great refuge after sightseeing in the heat and crowds of the city; it is cool and quiet and also has some gardens to venture into.

Dubrovnik City Walls

Address: Dubrovnik

The impressive walls enclosing the ancient city of Dubrovnik were laid out in the 13th century and became an ongoing work for almost two centuries. They are among the finest in the world and are the city's main attraction. The fortified walls are up to 10 feet (3m) thick on the sea side, and at least twice as thick on the land side to guard against invasion by the Turks in the 15th century. They reach 82 feet (25m) in height. Visitors can access the walls via a steep stone stairway and once ascended they will be rewarded with superb views over the old city and out to sea. A walk around the old city from this fascinating vantage point is a must for visitors to Dubrovnik; in fact, it is a good way to begin your sightseeing in the city. The detached Lovrjenac Fort to the west of the old city stood guard against both land and sea invasion and is also worth a visit for its superb views.

Marin Drzics House

Address: Siroka ulica 7 Dubrovnik

Croatia's best-known literary genius, Marin Drzic, has been immortalised by turning his Dubrovnik home into a museum which introduces visitors to the writer with a 40-minute presentation on his life and work. Drzic was born in Dubrovnik, probably in 1508, and he was a popular playwright, entertainer and even musician. The house itself has been restored to reflect the 16th-century Renaissance period that Drzic lived in and you can see what his room may have looked like, a 16th-century stage set featuring some of his famous characters, and an interesting, narrow, lecture hall.

The Marin Drzic House is more than just a memorial, it is a theatrical museum and exhibition space; the museum collects theatrical material for study and further dissemination and it is the only institution of its kind in Croatia. The museum has a collection of posters, programmes and photographs from performances of Drzic plays all over the world. The exhibition is a good introduction for visitors to the history and culture of Dubrovnik itself; however, travellers who are not interested in Croatian literature and theatre may find the museum dull.

Cathedral Treasury

Address: Kneza Damjana Jude 1 Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has had at least three cathedrals on the same site during its long history (some argue there have been as many as five since the 6th century). The first was a Byzantine building dating from the 7th century; the second a Romanesque Cathedral which was destroyed by the great earthquake of the 17th century; and at present the beautiful Baroque structure which was designed by Italian architect Buffalini from Urbino and completed in 1713.

Within the current cathedral, called the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, there are several magnificent statues and paintings, including the appropriately themed 'Assumption of Mary' by Titian, which dates back to about 1552. This cathedral has stunning Baroque features as well as valuable art and is definitely worth a visit. The cathedral also has a treasury where hundreds of religious relics are stored. There is a cover charge for seeing the treasury, which is rich in religious relics, icons, paintings and other items of value. The storage is a bit chaotic but there is something very exciting about this mysterious collection of treasures. It is also possible to view the archaeological excavations that continue on the cathedral site.

Dubrovnik Riviera

Address: Dubrovnik

There is enough to do in the area surrounding Dubrovnik to fill any holiday, and leave visitors desperate for more time. In close proximity to the city of Dubrovnik there are numerous picturesque villages and resorts to visit and explore.

About 11 miles (18km) away, on the road to Split, is the quiet bay of Zaton, with its sandy beaches and pine forest. The town has numerous restaurants, a relic of the days when it was the chosen retreat for the aristocrats of the Dubrovnik Republic.

The village of Tristeno features the 'Arboretum', a Gothic-Renaissance park on the coast. In the centre of this village visitors are awed by two gigantic sycamore trees, reputedly 500 years old, and standing 197ft (60m) tall.

Even closer to the city, the towns of Kupari, Srebreno, Mlini, Soline and Plat lie along a chain of hills descending to the rim of Zupa Bay, known as one of the most beautiful resorts on the Dubrovnik Riviera, with modern hotels offering a variety of watersports. Also very close to Dubrovnik, Lapad Beach is a popular sandy beach with a number of bars and restaurants; a lovely spot to while away a sunny afternoon while staying in the city.

Andautonia Archaeological Park

Address: Archaeological Museum: 19 Nikola Subic Zrinski Square Zagreb

Near the village of Scitarjevo, close to Zagreb, are the remains of the ancient Roman town of Andautonia, which have been excavated and provide a fascinating tourist excursion. Andautonia was a prominent administrative, economic, cultural and religious centre about 400 years ago. Archaeologists are still excavating the site, but at the Andautonia Archaeological Park visitors can view a 26,910-square-foot (2,500 sq m) area of the Roman City including parts of the main street, city baths, colonnades and side streets. There is a museum at the site which exhibits artefacts from the Greek and Roman history of the area. Tourists can also visit the present-day village of Scitarjevo, which offers examples of typical rural farms with their characteristic wooden houses.

Croatian History Museum

Address: Matoševa 9 Zagreb

The building that houses Croatia's history is itself a part of that history. Situated in the historical town centre, it is the beautiful Baroque palace, Vojkovic-Orsic-Rauch, built at the end of the 18th century and formerly the private residence of three successive baronial families. In the late 1930s the palace became the residence of Zagreb's mayors, before being designated as a repository for the historical relics of the city. It currently houses more than 140,000 artefacts in various collections, from stone monuments to fine art, religious artefacts to heraldry.

The exhibitions in this museum are not permanent but constantly changing so that all the collections get an airing. This means that it is possible to visit the museum many times and never tire of the exhibitions. The artefacts are grouped into 17 collections which include a map collection, a coin collection, a collection of religious items, a collection of stone monuments, a military uniforms collection and a weapons collection, among other things. It is a small museum but the exhibitions are thorough and interesting.

Croatian National Theatre

Address: Trg Marsala Tita 15 Zagreb

The building housing the Croatian National Theatre (commonly referred to as the HNK Zagreb) is as much a national treasure as the world-class theatre, opera, music and ballet productions that take place on its stage. Construction began on the theatre building in 1894. Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac painted the ceremonial curtain while Viennese artist Alexander Goltz decorated the ceiling of the auditorium. The building was officially opened by Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz-Joseph I at the end of 1895. The theatre is owned and operated by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and it is constantly busy with full performing arts programmes. At the entrance to the theatre visitors can see the famed wall fountain called "The Source of Life", designed by Croatian artist and sculptor Ivan Meštrovic in 1905.

The Croatian National Theatre has hosted famous artists and performers from all over the world and culture vultures shouldn't miss seeing a show. If travelling with a group, the mezzanine boxes are a wonderful way to experience the performances together. Even if you don't have time to catch a world-class ballet or opera, it is worth walking by the HNK Zagreb to see the building itself.

Town Squares

Address: Zagreb

Praska Street, in the lower part of old Zagreb, leads on to a sequence of attractive park squares, each flaunting their own attractions and worth a walking tour. Zrinski Square features a music pavilion dating from 1895 and fountains, with the Archaeological Museum at No.17. This square also features a row of busts of distinguished Croatians and the palace of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (1876), which houses the Strossmayer Gallery of old masters. On Strossmayer Square is a monument to bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, founder of the academy, and several other historic buildings.

Tomislav Square features the Art Pavilion, fronted by a monument to Croatian Renaissance painter Andrija Medulic. King Tomislav rises on horseback at the southern end of the square. Starcevic Square is home to the City Library and Hotel Esplanade, and gives access to the Botanical Gardens and Frane Bulic Monument. In Marulic Square the University Library building stands as a magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture. Mimara Museum is on Roosevelt Square, and the neo-Baroque Croatian National Theatre stands on Marshal Tito Square. Any or all of these squares are worthy of attention and it is best to just stroll around them all, camera in hand.

Trakoscan Castle

Address: Zagreb

Trakoscan is a legendary 13th-century Gothic castle that was home to various influential families for centuries before finally falling into abandoned disrepair in the second half of the 18th century, when it belonged to the Draskovic family. In the 1950s the castle was taken over by the state and turned into a living museum, reconstructing life in a medieval castle. Visitors can explore four levels, including the dungeon, and finish their exploration by enjoying the surrounding parklands.

Trakoscan Castle is a spectacular journey for the imagination as it feels so authentic and you can wander with remarkable freedom through the stone corridors, up and down the winding staircases and into the numerous rooms. It is a great attraction to enjoy with kids because they particularly love exploring the castle; with the lake and forest setting it really does appear to be straight out of a fairytale or a medieval romance. The castle contains original artefacts from its history, including furniture and weaponry, and the displays are informative and well laid out. As wandering through the castle, and its beautiful grounds, can be somewhat tiring, you may want to stop for a break at the restaurant by the lake.

War Photo Limited

Address: Antuninska 6 Dubrovnik

Located in the historical centre of Dubrovnik, the War Photos exhibition space features temporary, changing exhibitions of photographic works relating to war and conflict. The photographs aim to showcase war as it really is, exposing the horror and brutality that is experienced by innocents and combatants alike through the photographic medium. War Photo Limited exhibitions are intended to be educational and showcase the work of world-renowned photojournalists. Although they have no political agenda War Photos Limited consider war a disease and exist to expose its cruelties and rid people of the perception that it can be glorious and righteous. They showcase some of their exhibitions at schools, universities and other educational centres. Anybody interested in military history or photography (or indeed the human condition) will be fascinated by War Photo Limited. As the exhibitions change frequently it is of course possible to visit the space many times and the documentation of particular wars and atrocities is very informative and well handled. Although some exhibitions may be quite shocking, a visit to War Photo Limited is a rewarding experience.

Elafiti Islands

Address: Dubrovnik

A popular excursion from Dubrovnik is a day trip to the offshore islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan, which are part of a larger archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik; they are the only inhabited islands in the group and the most popular for visitors. The islands are an escape from the mainland crowds and boast olive groves and orchards, sand and pebble beaches, 15th-century summer residences, and several interesting churches and monasteries.

Kolocep is the smallest and closest island to Dubrovnik, and it is beautifully covered in green vegetation; Lopud is the most visited and is famed for the stretch of sandy beach at Sunj; while Sipan used to be the summer getaway of choice for aristocratic families in Dubrovnik and is more interesting from an historical point of view. Each of the islands has something unique to offer visitors and it is worth investigating them all if you have time. Kolocep and Lopud are both car-free islands but they are tiny and easy to get around on foot. You can choose to stay on one of these charming islands and accommodation here is generally less expensive than in Dubrovnik.

Korcula Island

Address: Dubrovnik

Korcula Island is one of the bigger Adriatic islands, and it boasts beautiful views, secluded beaches, vineyards and olive groves, as well as pretty towns and harbours. Korcula Town is the island's main town and is situated on the northwest coast. This old town, sticking out into the sea, is typically Dalmatian, and is often likened to a small Dubrovnik, with its red-roofed houses and enclosing walls. Marco Polo is said to have been born here and his house is now a museum open to the public. The town is also famous for its 15th-century Moreska sword dance which is performed during summer.

Other main towns on the island include the tourist centre of Lumbarda, which is surrounded by vineyards and coves, and the port town of Vela Luka on the east coast. They say that Korcula was a favourite Greek holiday spot over 2,000 years ago, and since then it hasn't stopped delighting visitors with its culture and its green landscapes. Of the 1,000 or so islands in Croatia Korcula is often ranked most highly as a holiday destination by tourists.

Trogir

Address: Split

The beautiful old walled town of Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site enclosing a maze of cobblestone streets; Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture; and one of the finest cathedrals in Croatia. The old town is situated on a tiny island between the mainland and the island of Ciovo and is connected to land by bridges. The narrow streets hide countless restaurants and cafes, shops and shuttered residences, and outside the city walls there is a waterfront promenade lined with yachts and dominated by a medieval fortress that was once connected to the city walls.

Trogir boasts 2,300 years of continuous urban settlement so it is not surprising that it has numerous attractions to offer visitors. It has a high concentration of palaces and churches and is lauded to be the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. In the unlikely event that you exhaust Trogir's charms, you can use it as a convenient base for other activities: a popular excursion from Trogir is a boat trip to the nearby islands, Drvenik Mali and Drvenik Veli, whose beaches and secluded coves provide an idyllic getaway.

Brac Island

Address: Split

Brac's main claim to fame is the strip of beach near the resort of Bol that stretches out like a finger into the sea, which is featured on almost all Croatian tourist brochures. Brac is the largest of the central Dalmatian group of islands and its major agricultural products are wine, olive oil and fruit. The island is also known for its white stone, which is exported; Brac's famous white stone was even used to build Washington DC's White House.

Bol and Supetar are the two main resorts on Brac, with attractive old towns and a laid-back charm. Bol is the windsurfing capital of Croatia, and Brac is a great destination for a number of watersports. The rest of the island boasts numerous villages and dramatic coastal scenery. Like much of Croatia, the beaches on Brac Island are mainly rocky, boasting stunningly clear blue water and calm seas. If you are desperate to find a sandy beach head down to Lovrecina, which has its own beach bar and restaurant and is a lovely spot to spend the day.

Brac is generally less crowded than Split and other popular areas on Croatia's mainland, but it can get very busy during the peak summer months.

Sibenik

Address: Split

Sibenik is an historic town, located in central Dalmatia. One of the most notable things about the town's history is the amount of nations that have claimed it as part of their territory: Between the 11th and 12th centuries Sibenik was claimed by Venice, Byzantium, Hungary and the Kingdom of Bosnia (the Republic of Venice only surrendered the territory in 1797); after World War One Italy briefly claimed Sibenik, and during World War Two it was occupied by the Germans and the Italians. As one might imagine, the town is the product of diverse influences and it has a rich cultural heritage.

Sibenik is home to the crowning glory of the Dalmatian Coast, the Cathedral of St Jacob, which was the masterpiece of sculptor Juraj Dalmatinac. It is reputedly the largest church in the world to be built entirely from stone and is unusual for its 71 stone heads on the exterior walls, a beautiful baptistery, the domed roof complex, and various works of art in the interior of the building. The city also makes a good base from which to visit the nearby Krka National Park.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Address: Zagreb

The Plitvice Lakes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the national park that encloses them is the oldest in Southeast Europe (founded in 1949). It is the natural beauty of the 16 green and turquoise lakes, linked by waterfalls and surrounded by forests, that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Wooden walkways meander over, around and across the magical watery setting that was formed by mineral deposits in the water creating travertine barriers within the constantly changing limestone landscape. The lakes are divided into lower and upper lakes and trails are well marked. Visitors can cover the 11 miles (18km) of walkways on foot, but the park entry ticket also includes the use of buses and ferries to cover certain sections.

The incredible lakes are not all the park has to offer; it is a heavily forested area with an extremely diverse variety of flora and fauna, including rare European species like the brown bear and wolf. It is one of the last regions in Europe in which these two species can be found living in the wild. Some may recognise the area from the film adaptations of Karl May's Westerns, which were filmed here in the 1960s and 70s.

Sponza Palace

Address: Dubrovnik

Built between 1516 and 1522, the Sponza Palace was the centre of medieval Dubrovnik, complete with a mint, a weights and measures office and a Custom-House, a place where the goods brought by merchants from all over the world would be conveyed and custom fees collected. Apart from the customs office the palace once also housed a number of the Dubrovnik Republic's state offices, the mint, the bank, the treasury and the armoury. A mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, Sponza is one of the most beautiful palaces in the city and has been well-preserved so visitors today can still enjoy its stunning facade. It has been suggested that the architectural style of this well-preserved old palace gives some indication of what the public buildings in Dubrovnik may have looked like, before they were destroyed in the 1667 earthquake that did considerable damage to the city. The palace was largely undamaged. Today it houses the Dubrovnik archive, which contains 7,000 volumes and about 100,000 individual scripts. The atrium of the palace is now an art gallery which showcases various exhibitions from contemporary artists and Dubrovnik's past.

Dubrovnik Port

Address: Dubrovnik

Lined with palm trees, Dubrovnik's Old Port is a major focal point of the city, featuring breath-taking and unforgettable scenery. Located right next to the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town, the port features great shopping at small markets along its tiny cobblestoned streets as well as fantastic sightseeing opportunities. Known as the 'Jewel of the Adriatic', the beauty and fun of the Old Port area makes Dubrovnik a very popular cruise port. The cruise liners generally stop off at the modern Port of Gruz in Dubrovnik, which is less than two miles (2,5km) from the Old Town, and tender in to the charming old port. The old harbour has a rich history as a trading port (to give some geographical perspective, Venice lies just to the northwest). It now continues its tradition of exciting trade opportunities with its delightful markets and shops.

Many different kinds of boat tours are operated from the Old Town harbour and these trips offer a wonderful chance to explore the stunning coastline from the water. Many of these tours will point out attractions and landmarks, tell you a little about the port's history and Dubrovnik in general, and also stop off at local beaches.

Stradun

Address: Dubrovnik

The biggest, longest and widest street in Dubrovnik, the Stradun dates back to the 13th century, while the uniform houses that line it were mostly built in the 17th century. The street is 958 feet (292 metres) long and is the commercial, entertainment and spiritual centre of Dubrovnik. The shiny, slippery, marble-paved Stradun is the main walkway of Dubrovnik's Stari Grad, and the best place to get a feel for the 'pulse' of Dubrovnik.

The Stradun holds many of the city's monuments and some great restaurants and shops. One of its more famous attractions is Onofrio's Fountain, which is located in a small square near the Pila Gate and Franciscan Monastery. This large fountain was built in 1438 by the famous Italian architect from Naples, Onofrio della Cava. After sustaining severe damage in a 1667 earthquake, the fountain was repaired and now features 16 masked faces, known as 'maskeroni', which supply water via an aqueduct. This construction was a masterpiece of its time. A smaller Onofrio's fountain is located on the opposite side of the Stradun.

A walk down the Stradun is a good introduction to Dubrovnik and it is the first stop of many visitors.

Makarska

Address: Split

About 30 miles (47km) south of Split is the popular resort town of Makarska, with its cobblestoned streets and natural harbour nestled in the shadow of Mount Biokovo and fringed with the two green peninsulas of Osejava and St Peter. This beautiful spot offers secluded beaches washed by an azure sea, and it lies at the heart of the Makarska Riviera, which is characterised by pine forests and a string of white pebble beaches.

Makarska was an important trading port during its colourful history, which spans occupation by the Venetians, Turks, French and Austrians, all of whom left a taste of their culture and tradition behind. The town boasts a world-renowned collection of sea shells, a Franciscan monastery dating from the 16th century, a Venetian fountain, and several churches and Baroque palaces, although its main attraction is its scenic setting.

The main tourist area of Makarska is lined with fashionable boutiques, cafes and bars, all a stone's throw away from the numerous yachts and catamarans docked in the harbour. There are a few beautiful churches and cathedrals dating back to the 13th century, and monuments dedicated to Friar Andrija Kaèiæ Miošiæ and Napoleon Bonaparte are popular photo spots.

Rijeka

Address: Zagreb

The commercial capital of the idyllic Adriatic coast is the cultural city and holiday destination of Rijeka, which has an international harbour that lends it a cosmopolitan flair. Rijeka is not only the gateway to the beautiful coastal island resorts, but a tourist's delight in itself with its charming historic buildings. A stroll along the Korzo Promenade in the old part of town provides an eyeful of classic buildings and a variety of street cafes ideal for resting your feet and enjoying the passing parade. Rijeka also has an annual carnival full of lively music and dancing, involving plenty of ancient Slavic folklore and mythology. Revellers don masks to scare away evil forces and a good time is had by all in numerous events, concerts and the carnival parade.

There is plenty to eat, drink, see and do in this vibrant port city. The best way to see Rijeka's cultural and historical attractions is to follow the well-worn tourist path that takes in all of the most important sights of the town. Most of them are accessible by foot, as they are located in or near the city centre (parts of which are not even accessible to traffic). Although, to see the remarkable Trsat Castle you will have to either hire transport or climb the formidable stone steps from the city centre to the castle. It is certainly worth it.

Krk Island

Address: Zagreb

The largest island in Croatia, Krk (pronounced kirk) is a haven of sparkling beaches and lovely holiday towns. Nicknamed the 'Golden Island', Krk is the nearest Croatian island to mainland Europe and has a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere.

Getting to Krk from the mainland is made easy by a 4,500-foot (1.4km) bridge. Once there, visitors are spoiled for choice as there are many beaches and villages to explore. Krk Town is the largest and most popular hub for tourists with many restaurants, shops and bars in the attractive Old Town area.

The best beaches in Krk are found in Baska, which boasts more than 30 beaches connected by a promenade. Though most are covered in pebbles, soft mats and chairs are available for hire. Other popular beach towns on Krk include Njivice and the sandy coastline of Klimno Bay, though many towns have more to offer than just beaches. Vrbnik is home to vineyards that produce some of the best white wines in Croatia, while the August folk festival in Dobrinj draws crowds from all over Croatia.

Krk Island is popular for weekend excursions from the Croatian mainland; however, visitors can easily spend a week exploring the winding streets and hidden corners of the island. A paradise for summer watersports, diving, bird watching and hiking, there are many things to see and do on Krk for just about anyone.

Cruising in Croatia

Croatia is rapidly building its reputation as a world-class cruising destination, with Dubrovnik in particular a red-hot port now included in almost every eastern Mediterranean cruise itinerary. It's not hard to see why: known as the 'jewel of the Adriatic', historic Dubrovnik is a strikingly attractive city set like a shimmering diamond in the crown of its magnificent 13th-century harbour.

Dubrovnik cruise passengers can access the pedestrianised Old Town right from the port. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features a renowned Franciscan Monastery with a working pharmacy dating to 1317, as well as plenty of lively, modern sights and sounds that draw a substantial influx of tourists and cruise passengers throughout the year.

The best of the invariably excellent beaches is probably Banja with its crystal clear waters and white sand. For a bit more seclusion (and the prospect of nudist sunbathing) get a ferry from the port to Lokrum Island. Don't miss Dubrovnik's annual Summer Festival over July and August when live music by international stars brings the peak tourist season to life.

The harbour is the centrepiece of the town but only yachts and small boats can dock there. Cruise ships will either berth at Gruz Harbour, 20 minutes from the Old Town, or anchor in the deep waters offshore affording passengers lingering views of Dubrovnik's romantic facade.

Cruises from Dubrovnik will take in other Croatian highlights such as Split, which is built up around Roman Emperor Diocletian's Palace; Zadar, with its numerous historical sites; and Korcula, birthplace of Marco Polo. On-course to these attractions passengers will enjoy views of the thousands of pristine islands that make up the Croatian Archipelago.

For those who wish to cruise from Dubrovnik, a good alternative to big cruise liners are the traditional Gulet cruises. These wooden vessels generally carry from 20 to 40 passengers and offer sleep-on packages of up to seven days. The small size of the Gulet allows it to access coves and harbours in the Adriatic that larger vessels are denied.

No vaccinations are required, but it is recommended that all travellers get vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Travellers who plan to spend a significant amount of time travelling off the beaten track should consider getting a typhoid vaccination. There is a risk of tick-borne encephalitis for those travelling in forested areas during the summer months.

The medical facilities and care in Croatia is fairly good, with free emergency medical care available to UK citizens with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), though some medicines are in short supply in public facilities. Non-UK nationals are advised to invest in comprehensive health insurance and those who need particular medications should take the supply needed for the duration of their stay with them, with a doctor's letter on hand to get them through customs.

Passports, or some form of identification, should be carried at all times. In some towns and cities it is prohibited, or considered rude, to walk around town centres shirtless or in swimming costumes - sometimes, such as in Dubrovnik, there is signage indicating that the practice is prohibited by law and offenders will be fined, but even when no such signage exists travellers should pay attention to local conventions.

In tourist or upmarket restaurants a tip of 10 percent will be appreciated, but otherwise it is usual to just round up the bill if the service has been good, unless a service charge has already been added. Tour guides expect to be tipped. Most other services receive a small tip by rounding up the bill.

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