Croatia is one of the ecologically best preserved parts of Europe. It is a land where the hues of the sunny and warm Mediterranean happily blend with the tranquillity and freshness of mountains and the gentle sway of the golden plains of Pannonia. A land of truly divine inspiration that has delighted many of the world’s prominent men of letters. A rare European landscape which boasts as many as eight national parks in so small an area!
With Risnjak, Paklenica, the Plitvice Lakes and Northern Velebit in the mountainous area, and with the Kornati Archipelago, the island of Mljet, the Brijuni Archipelago and the Krka waterfalls in the coastal area, Croatia is indeed a jewel of the primeval beauty of nature. Adding to that two arboretums, one in Trsteno, near Dubrovnik, and Opeka, near Vinica, numerous historical parks and protected nature parks, it is indeed a green land, with as many as 4300 plant and as many animal species.
Do not delay: sail the azure blue waters of the Adriatic and discover the island which is one of the last habitats of the griffon vulture in Europe. For dedicated nature lovers in Croatia you can put to sea with an adopted dolphin or, if you are particularly lucky, encounter the mysterious and rare Mediterranean monk seal. Whatever you decide to do, you will find that this is a place where the colours of nature are at their warmest and fullest.
Welcome to Croatia! A land whose rich cultural heritage is not discovered only from within the walls of numerous museums, galleries and churches, many of which today, as zero category monuments, are included in a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, but much more in that magical place on the Mediterranean, where even the shortest stroll becomes a journey down a staircase thousands of years old which takes one through a history that is at the same time turbulent, exciting and glorious. Whether walking the intricate grid of narrow white stone streets and alleys, or revelling in the teeming life of the port towns of Istria, Kvarner or Dalmatia, or climbing the green serpentines of Central Croatia to the fairy-like fortresses and castles, each step is an ever fresh experience, made special by the fact that on her territory as many as four cultural circles meet, intertwine and complement one another - west, east, Central European and the southern spirit of the Mediterranean. Croatia is a land of urban culture which numbers more cities than any other part of the Mediterranean.
If you are interested in the days of antiquity, you should start from the Roman amphitheatre in Pula, through Zadar and its forum - the largest excavated forum on the eastern shores of the Adriatic - and then to the magnificent palace of Emperor Diocletian in Split. Walk through time, from the pre-Romanesque Church of St. Domnius in Zadar dating from the 9th century, to the world of the Romanesque that is the magical monument city of Trogir, or the islands of Krk and Rab. Follow the Gothic period in Zagreb, Pazin, or, for instance, the town of Ston on the Pelješac peninsula. Discover the Renaissance in Osor on the island of Cres, Šibenik cathedral, the islands of Hvar and Korčula, and finally, the one and only Dubrovnik. The towns of Varaždin, Bjelovar and Vukovar glow with the splendour of the Baroque, while the heritage of the 19th century is at its best in Rijeka, Osijek and, of course, in downtown Zagreb.
UNESCO destination in Croatia
Diocletian Palace and Medieval Split
The Emperor’s Palace is one of the most significant works of late-ancient architecture, not just for the preservation of original parts and the whole, but also for a series of original architectural forms announcing the new early-Christian, Byzantine and early-medieval art. The cathedral was built in the Middle Ages by using materials from an ancient mausoleum. Roman churches from the 12th and 13th centuries, medieval forts and gothic, renaissance and baroque palaces are contained within the Roman walls, thus creating a harmonious whole.
Dubrovnik Old Town
The Pearl of the Adriatic became a major Mediterranean power after the 13th century. This late-medieval planned city in the south part of the east Adriatic Croatian coast with its historical core situated at the foot of Mount Srđ has preserved the character of a unique urban whole throughout the centuries, defined by the city walls. It has a significant place in the history of city planning. Although severely devastated by the 1667 earthquake, Dubrovnik has managed to preserve its gothic, renaissance and baroque churches, monasteries and fountains.
Early-Christian Euphrasius Basilica Complex in Poreč
The cathedral complex in Poreč was named Euphrasius Basilica after Bishop Euphrasius who thoroughly renovated the cathedral in mid-6th century and decorated it with famous mosaics. Before Euphrasius’ renovation, there were at least two phases of early-Christian buildings in the same place. In Poreč, Christianity was established as early as the 4th century – the basilica, the atrium, the baptistery and the Episcopal palace are remarkable examples of religious architecture, while the basilica itself combines elements of classicism and Byzantine Empire in an exceptional way. The apse is luxuriously decorated with figurative mosaics that are among the most significant examples of its kind in Europe.
Historical Core of Trogir
Trogir is an excellent example of urban continuity. The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement originates from the Hellenic era – consecutive rulers continued to decorate it with exceptional public and residential buildings and forts. Its beautiful roman churches are supplemented with exceptional renaissance and baroque buildings. The most significant building is the Trogir Cathedral with its west portal, a masterpiece of Radovan and the most significant example of roman and gothic art in Croatia.
National Park Plitvice Lakes
The beauty of Plitvice and its unsurpassable attractiveness are a result of gypsum and gypsum-depositing plants. Creation of gypsum and rearrangement of the river bed created a string of 16 Plitvice Lakes representing a magnificent natural architectural phenomenon, surrounded by thick forests inhabited by bears, wolves and many other rare animal and plant species.
St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Šibenik
Built between 1431 and 1535, St. Jacob’s Cathedral witnessed important exchanges in the area of monumental art between North Italy, Dalmatia and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. Three architects - Francesco di Giacomo, George of Dalmatia and Nicholas of Florence – developed a structure fully made of stone, by using a unique technique for the cathedral’s dome. The result is a harmonious stone whole, arrangement methods and absolute harmony within the cathedral.
In July of 2008, Starigrad Plain was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The explanation provided by the World Organization states that the vineyards and olive groves in the Plain have remained practically intact since it was first colonized by the ancient Greeks and that they are a unique example of the geometric land division used in the ancient times.
In the summer of 385 B.C., a group of around a hundred families was sent from the town of Paros on the island of the same name in the Aegean Sea toward the Ionian Bay, as the Greeks referred to the Adriatic Sea, to establish a colony there. Their destination was the island of Hvar, formerly named Fiteja, and they were led by Okist who was, among other things, in charge of proper land division to the settlers in the new settlements. Amidst the plain, in a place from where you can see almost the entire plain, is a marked starting point - omphalos. By using groma, a simple surveying instrument, the plain was surveyed and divided into parcels of 1 x 5 stadia, which is approximately 180 x 900 meters. They also carved boundary stones bearing the names of the parcel owners, but the island and coastal Illyrians did not like such division so they attacked the town in 384 B.C. However, the Greeks defeated the Illyrians, which enabled them to gain control of the entire Starigrad Plain, the largest fertile plain on the Adriatic islands. The settlers soon began to erect ancillary buildings and lodgings in the plain, on their own estates. The luxurious ones date back to the Roman era – so far, they have discovered remains of around sixty of them.
Today, Starigrad Plain represents the best preserved ancient Greek landscape in the Mediterranean.
Gastro & wine corner
The continental cuisine is typical for its early proto-Slavic roots and more recent contacts with established schools of gastronomy – Hungarian, Viennese, and Turkish. Meat products, freshwater fish and vegetables dominate.
The coastal region is characterized by the influences of the Greeks, Romans, Illyrians and later Mediterranean cuisines – Italian and French. It features many seafood specialties (squid, cuttlefish, octopus, shrimp, lobster...) prepared in various ways, olive oil, prosciutto, various vegetables, Dalmatian wines such as Babić, Malvasia, Prosecco and Vrbnik Žlahtina, and various liqueurs like the famous Maraschino.
In 2008, the national culinary team participated for the first time in the world encounter of chefs and pastry chefs, the Culinary Olympics held in Erfurt, Germany, and won the bronze medal.