Croatia's tones are warm and rich; the colors of summer cascade all year round. The eye wanders across monochromic orange roof tiles to untrammeled beaches, on wards to benevolent waters and along to forests of pine. Each initial panorama is a postcard, a frame of Mediterranean bliss tucked into a blossoming corner of Eastern Europe. But ravishing as she may be, Croatia's allure is not merely one of aesthetics. Sentiments of old-world charm are inescapable, whether you're sipping fruit wine at waterfront restaurants, lounging in World Heritage towns, or feeling soft sand beneath bare feet. A quaint mystery radiates throughout, tumbling down from hilltop ruins to cobblestone Venetian streets. While Croatia has blossomed as a modern nation within the European Union, it retains an atmosphere of exoticism.
A thousand tales of Croatian history are etched into the old walled towns that dot the coast. These start in ancient Rome and continue through four centuries of Venetian rule. More recently, Croatia has the flavors of Ottoman elegance and the remnants of its part in former Yugoslavia. Consistent throughout these chronicles is Croatia's role as an up-market tourist destination. Ever since Roman emperors and star-crossed Venetian lovers escaped here, the country has always rewarded indulgent tastes and aspirations for exclusivity; untrammeled Dalmatian islands offer a getaway beneath balmy skies, forest walkways open onto veiled waterfalls, private yachts lull in deserted bays, and boutique guesthouse terraces gaze down on 14th century stone staircases. An atmosphere of splendor wraps everything in a blanket of romance, the panoramas soft on the eyes and the destinations reveling in impressions of escapism.
Inimitability is rooted in the country's rich history and geographical location. Croatia is a centerpiece of paradigms; its expressive identity is a blur of Mediterranean reverie, ancient Europe, and Eastern elegance. Then there's a kaleidoscope of distinct local flavors that have flourished since the country's independence in 1991. And while the luxury treatment may suggest otherwise, this is still an emerging and relatively undiscovered tourist destination. You get the intrepid feeling of exploring somewhere new, with the reassuring ease of being in modern Europe. Croatia stands in the top echelons of enchanting world destinations; except it remains off most radars. Here is an opportunity to immerse yourself in somewhere delectably unspoiled:
- The historic grandeur of Dubrovnik: The grandest of the country's ancient walled cities, World Heritage Dubrovnik, towers over sapphire waters with its streets of eternal seduction. Fortressed walls look down on sloped tiles, boutiques emerge down softly illuminated alleys, and city squares are wrapped in the chatter from al fresco terraces. Fully pedestrianized and carefully preserved, Dubrovnik is a 15th century Adriatic wonder that few people want to leave.
- Sailing the Adriatic in a private yacht: Cruising Mediterranean waters in a private yacht is one of Europe's most iconic experiences. Historic wooden vessels offer the elegance of sailing, your yacht propelled by wind power as an evocative coastline gently rolls past. Modern motorized yachts cruise at a faster speed, allowing you to tour all the eclectic treasures of Croatia's Adriatic coastline. In recent years, Croatia has emerged as Europe's premier destination for private sailing trips, the coastline offering dozens of potential routes; dock in secluded bays, explore tiny coastal villages, and snorkel below the sheets of turquoise.
- Getting inspired by the Game of Thrones: The Game of Thrones filming locations radiate a hazy mix of fictional narratives and inspiring history. Crumbling fortresses cling to hilltops, heirlooms of Roman splendor are sprinkled through the country, and climatic moments are relived on islands of superlatives. As the sublime mingles with the surreal, it's difficult to imagine that the alluring Game of Thrones series could have been filmed anywhere else (but this Game of Thrones tour of Croatia will be sure to delight the most passionate fans of the series).
- Delightful Hvar: Scattered along the coastline are dozens of islands, many of them unruffled and virtually untouched by modern development. World Heritage Hvar is perhaps the finest, a succession of serene beaches rolling around a Greco Roman town with 24 centuries of history. Fine art galleries and grilled lobster fumes spill from the seaside fortress, while the old town church bells give the island its delectably slow rhythm. A current favorite of many celebrities, Hvar epitomizes the unique atmosphere of Croatia.
- The splendor of Plitvice Lakes: Cascading through lush forests, the Plitvice Lakes are a symbol of Croatia's inland beauty. A series of wooden walkways and platforms take you through the park, running alongside limestone formations, transparent rivers, and mystically cloaked waterfalls. Hemmed in by green, Plitvice is an explosion of grace and color. It's just one of many Croatian national parks.
- Old meets new in Split: In many ways, Split epitomizes Croatia's idiosyncratic appeal and cauldron of balanced tastes. A vibrant modernity effortlessly blends with history, highlighted by fine dining seafood restaurants that overlook the ancient mausoleum or medieval cathedral. Most postcards are a juxtaposition of 1600 years of history; Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, a harbor filled with super yachts, and Roman walls that encase the Diocletian's Palace. And like all things Croatian, the contrasts are harmonious. Split is also a great starting point for an Adriatic yacht cruise.
- Beautiful rural roads and cruising the Adriatic waters: Croatia's compact size enables two distinct routes to be combined. Country roads pass wandering livestock as they meander through the mountains, dissecting valley after valley and showcasing an atmosphere of rural Eastern Europe. Calm Adriatic waters provide a very different experience. Going by yacht or scheduled ferry offers gracious views of the coastline, whether you're traveling to the islands or simply hopping down the coast. Quick yet calm, it's a form of transport that elevates the immersion into a country excelling in the serene.