I’ve been to Croatia twice now and while both encounters were relatively brief, I do presume a certain level of knowledge about the country. Almost immediately I fell in love with it, like a prepubescent boy with a naughty magazine, Croatia was my travel porn. But it’s so much more than just a pretty face and I think that, among other things, is what people misunderstand about traveling here. Even after visiting I don’t think they really get it, so I wanted to share a few things to consider on your next visit to this amazing country.
1. Dubrovnik is great but… – I’ve written about this before, but any tourist to Croatia needs to of course include Dubrovnik on their itinerary, but they also have to promise to leave it. Don’t get me wrong; I love Dubrovnik in a way unlike most other cities. But having seen much of the rest of Croatia, I understand how very important it is to also leave this star city. Nearly every tourist to Croatia will visit Dubrovnik, yet a shockingly low percentage of them will leave the former city-state! Yeah, I know, I’m surprised too. Dubrovnik is but an exemplar of what the rest of the country holds. From quiet villages to medieval towns and some of the best national parks in the world, to really understand Croatia is to 1) yes, see Dubrovnik but also 2) to leave it.
2. Understand the history – I guess I stay up on current events more than the average person, but even I was shocked with how many people asked me if it is safe to travel in Croatia because of, you know, the war. The one in the 1990s. The one that ended in 1995. At first I jokingly asked them if Germany was safe after the events of WWII and if Belgium should be skipped due to those nasty WWI trenches. So, for the record, CROATIA IS SAFE. The war ended quite a long time ago and everything is fine now. At the same time, I think you should take the time to learn about the history of Croatia. Not just about their war of independence in the 1990s, but for the past few decades. While it’s not cheery reading, it will absolutely help you better understand the people you meet and the influences that, over time, formed the modern Croatian state.
3. Eat all the food – For some reason I thought I was visiting a depressing, former Soviet satellite nation on my first visit to Croatia. While they may have spent decades under an oppressive Communist regime, Croatia is anything but boring and the food more than shows that. I personally think that the best and fastest way to learn about any people is through their culinary culture, and the vibrant Croatian foodie scene is one of the best in the world to investigate. Outsiders don’t realize the various influences that have taken place over the centuries. In the countryside, it’s all about the great game and cattle that are cultivated, while on the coast Italian influence reigns supreme. The best Italian food I’ve ever had wasn’t in Italy, but in Croatia. Thanks to being part of first the Roman Empire and then the Venetian city-state, there is a centuries long tradition of amazing Italian food.
4. Live life there – I made a mistake. I traveled through Croatia far too quickly. Watching from the lens of a friend who decided to rent an apartment for a couple of weeks I could see the difference in experiences between he and I. While most of us don’t have the luxury of spending weeks in a new place, it certainly is possible to spend at least one week living like a local. My recommendation is to fly into Zagreb, spend a day, and then drive down to Zadar and spend a week there. Zadar is an amazing city in its own right, but it’s also close to everything. If you have a rental car you can explore huge swaths of the country while calling Zadar home. There are few cities I love more than Zadar and to spend time living there, experiencing life as a local –wow! I can’t think of anything better.
Have you been to Croatia? What did you think?
This campaign was created and sponsored by Croatian National Tourist Board in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.