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Country Profile: Croatia

Croatia holds many secrets, a seductive blend of rich history and stunning beauty. Once the retirement haven of one of the Roman Empire’s last emperors, it grew into the power center of the once-mighty Republic of Ragusa. Its Dalmatian Coast, the legendary home of history’s most itinerant traveller, Marco Polo, is heralded as one of the world’s most breathtaking coastal treasures.

After a long reign as emperor of Rome, Diocletian had his retirement built on what was even then one of the world’s most beautiful shores. His massive palace in Split still stands, and still functions as a very active part of the city. Dubrovnik, too, the brilliantly preserved medieval gem jutting into the Adriatic and former capital of the Ragusa Republic, thrives and buzzes with the commerce of today. These two magnificent cities anchor any exploration of Croatia and its spectacular Dalmatian Coast.

An understanding of Croatia’s culture and history begins on its islands. More than 1,000 line its coast like an emerald necklace. Today, they provide snapshots of generations-old lives built on fishing, stonecutting, farming and wine-making. Indeed, walking the well-trod trails of Brač, Hvar and Korčula, you might come to feel that the passage of time has forgotten these rustic places.

On the contrary: history is very much a part of the present here. On Brač, some of the last remaining stone cutters in Europe still carve luminous white stone. On Hvar, often cited as the world’s most beautiful island, lavender roots mingle with vineyard soils that produces some of the best red wine you’ll ever taste. And on Korčula, birthplace of Marco Polo, the Old Town’s herringbone street grid harnesses Adriatic breezes much as it was intended to do when it was built in the 13th century.

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Country Highlights
  • Explore remarkably preserved Old Towns kissed by the Adriatic sun, from Dubrovnik to Hvar.
  • Stroll into traditional fishing villages overlooking deep-azure waters.
  • Swim in the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea.
  • Sample the fresh bounty of the Dalmatian Coast such as oysters and octopus salad.
  • Taste the famed wines of Croatia, from the white Posip Cara to the red Plavac.

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  • Generous inclusions: all breakfasts, many meals, and luggage transfers.
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  • Bring six friends on a guided tour and enjoy special savings, support, and a gift.

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Country Facts

About Croatia:

Set magnificently on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia’s borders and rulers have seen dramatic changes over the centuries. From Ottomans, Habsburgs and Venetians to the French, Croatians and Yugoslavs, its strategic locale and—one can easily imagine—its sheer beauty have made it a coveted region through the centuries. Today, Croatia is a parliamentary unitary state. The capital city is Zagreb.

With a wide range of geography—the heights of the Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian Plains around the Danube River, the coasts of Dalmatia, and more—it is a nation of enormous biodiversity. Inland, one of its grandest features are the Plitvice Lakes, a necklace of terraced hillside lakes connected by waterfalls. Along the coast, a thread of more than 1,000 islands line the shore, creating a stunning haven of beaches, forest and seaside fishing villages dreamily known as Dalmatia.

Croatian is Croatia’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges that reveal the welcoming and resilient nature of Croats. See the BBC’s language for helpful hints.

Life in Croatia

Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. On Sundays some stores in shopping malls may be open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Banks are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is served from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and dinner is usually served from 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. In tourist areas, restaurants serve continuously from noon until late in the evening.

Tipping: In restaurants and bars, it is customary to round up your change on the table. In upscale restaurants, a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary. Taxi drivers receive 10 percent of the fare. For luggage assistance, offer 5 to 10 HRK per bag.

Croatian public holidays: Croatian public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. Visit the Croatian tourist board’s website.

Croatian cuisine is a savory blend of tastes reflecting the cultures–from Italian to Austro-Hungarian–that have influenced the country over the course of its history. Coastal cuisine is typically Mediterranean, generous with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Appetizers may include menestra (a vegetable and bean soup akin to minestrone), salata od hobotnice (octopus salad), prsut (a tasty Croatian version of prosciutto), and Pag cheese, which is a sheep cheese often accompanied with olives. Dalmatian brodet (mixed fish stewed with polenta) and pastičada (beef stewed in wine and served with prunes and gnocchi) are regional delicacies. Fresh grilled fish figures prominently on the menus. Desserts may include amareta (round, rich cake with almonds) and kremsnite (custard pie).

Truffles are a sought-after delicacy on the Istrian Peninsula to the north. The world’s largest white truffle was found here, measuring in at a gigantic 2.88 pounds. In Croatia, dogs are favored over pigs for sniffing out these gourmet indulgences.

Croatia has good-quality wines that are typically only available locally, especially from the Istria region, including a white, sparkling Prosecco-type wine, and red. Many grappa-style fruit and/or herb brandies are also enjoyed at the end of a meal.

Croatia’s climate varies from Mediterranean along the Adriatic coast to continental throughout inland areas such as Zagreb and the plains. The sunny, coastal areas experience hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Wind patterns cool the coast with refreshing breezes in the summer, while the sea stores heat in the summer. Temperatures may range from the mid-60s to mid-80s. Be prepared to layer your attire if your itinerary includes boat journeys, since weather at sea can be variable.

For up-to-date forecasts, see qwikcast.com. For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see weatherbase.com.

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.

Croatia uses the kuna (HRK). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 HRK. (While the official currency is the Croatian kuna, euros are accepted at many large hotels and restaurants; as of May 2015, 1 USD = 1 euros). Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.

Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.

We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.

No immunizations are required to enter Croatia. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity: Alternating current of 220V and 50Hz is used in Croatia. Plugs have two prongs. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.

Phone: Croatia’s country code is “+385.” Cell phone coverage throughout Croatia is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.

Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.

Croatia is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.

A wealth of travel information is available at croatia.hr/en-GB/Representative-offices/United-States-Canada.

Airports

The majority of international flights into Croatia arrive in Dubrovnik and Zagreb, both requiring connections within Europe from the United States. Internal flights are available on Croatia Airlines to larger cities.

International Airports in Croatia

  • Dubrovnik Airport
  • Osijek Airport
  • Pula Airport
  • Rijeka Airport
  • Split
  • Zadar Airport
  • Zagreb Airport

Trains

Croatia’s national train company is HŽ Putnički Prijevoz. If you can navigate the Croatian language, you may book your train travel directly with them. Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.

Other local transportation

In addition to rail and airlines, Croatia has an extensive long-distance bus network that, for some towns and cities, may be more convenient and affordable than rail or air travel. Because there are a number of local companies that do not have the ability to receive bookings online, it is best to buy tickets and seats at the local bus station.
Most major car rental agencies are available at airports and train stations, although it may be best to rent through a local agency branch. Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance).

For additional hints and guidance about travel to Croatia, visit the Croatian tourist board’s website.

Photos

Wine

Croatia Wine

Croatian wine is not widely celebrated in the United States. But overseas, where Europeans know that Croatia enjoys a similar Mediterranean climate to Italy–just across the Adriatic Sea–the old world wine is among the best the continent has to offer. In fact, wine along the Dalmatian Coast was introduced by ancient Greek settlers more than two millennia ago, and many grape varieties first planted in those earliest days still grow here. Over the centuries, the vines and their caretakers have adapted to the country’s particular soils and today’s wine industry is flourishing, with more than 300 geographically defined growing regions, sometimes referred to as vinogorje, or wine hills.

The casual wine drinker would do well to consider just two regions: Continental (Kontinetalna) and Coastal (Primorska). On the continent, white wines dominate production, thanks to soils and a climate–cold winters and hot summers–conducive to grapes such as the graševina. Everyday wines include pinot bijeli and pinot sivi. Muškat bijeli (white muscat) and muškat zuti (yellow muscat) are popular dessert wines produced inland. Light and crisp, Croatia’s whites offer the perfect reward after a day of walking.

Of Croatia’s reds, most of which are produced along the Dalmatian Coast, the most discussed and debated is the bold wine produced from the plavac mali grape. With its long history, the grape is indigenous to the country. When Croatian-American winemaker Mike Grgich (whose story was partially depicted in the film Bottle Shock) suggested that the Zinfandel grape of Napa Valley was descended from Plavac Mali, it created a stir in the wine world. DNA testing confirmed that Grgich was correct and so Croatia became known as the birthplace of today’s Zinfandel, grown and enjoyed worldwide.

Croatia - 1 Tour Available

Guided Walking Walking Tour of Croatia
Europe

Croatia: The Dalmatian Coast

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

4-6 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

11 days, 10 nights

From $5,798 USD

per person

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $4,698 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Stroll through the well-preserved palace of emperor Diocletian with a local historian, who’ll take you through its Temple of Jupiter and ancient mausoleum.
  • After a seaside walk in Sveta Nedjelja, sample the area’s acclaimed, full-bodied red wine, plavac, while taking in coastline views.
  • Enjoy a luxury cultivated in Ston Bay since Roman times (and celebrated throughout Europe) when a local oyster farmer opens his home to you for a tasting.

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Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2016

  • Sep 12
  • Sep 26
  • Oct 3

2017

  • May 6
  • May 13
  • May 20
  • Jun 3
  • Sep 2
  • Sep 9
  • Sep 16
  • Sep 23
  • Sep 30
Tour Only

2016

  • Sep 14

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