Since Croatia became an independent country in 1995, it has become a popular holiday destination. It has a beautiful coastline with many resorts and islands that are full of life during the summer months, with holidaymakers flocking to the beaches and bars. Sailing is very popular in the country, particularly around the Kornati National Park. However, there is more to Croatia than this. What else is Croatia known for?
Many of the towns have beautiful architecture and historic sites to visit, much of this dating back to medieval times. The country has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites per capita in the world. The Old Town in Dubrovnik is one of them and it is one of the most visited places in the country. There are also eight national parks, offering great hiking opportunities. They are beautiful with many lakes and waterfalls to be seen. Last but not least, Croatia has a fantastic football team that reached the final of the 2018 World Cup. These are the iconic things that Croatia is known for. I feel sure that you will want to visit after reading this article.[toc
What Is Croatia Known For?
- From Split: Krka Waterfalls, Food & Wine Tasting Tour – nature and food go hand in hand.
- From Dubrovnik: Elaphiti Island-Hopping Trip with Lunch – a lovely expedition from one of the most scenic cities in the world.
- From Split: Plitvice Lakes Fully-Guided Day Tour – do not miss this.
1- Croatian War Of Independence
In June 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia however, Serbia opposed this, leading to the Croatian War of Independence, which lasted from 1991 until 1995.
It was fought between the Croats and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army, together with Serbs living in Croatia.
Most of the Croatian people wanted Croatia to become a sovereign country, but Serbs living in Croatia wanted it to be a state with Serbia.
Eventually, Croatia won, but not without great losses.
More than 20,000 people were killed, and there were refugees on both sides.
At least a quarter of Croatia’s economy was ruined, and it has taken time to rebuild this.
Tourism has been a great factor in helping Croatia’s economy grow again.
Recommended tour: Zagreb: 2.5-Hour Croatian Homeland War Tour
2- National Parks
Croatia has an impressive eight national parks.
One of the most exciting is Kornati National Park, which is both land- and sea-based and is made up of 140 islands that you visit with a motor or sailing boat.
There are plenty of marinas along the coast that charter out yachts, with or without a skipper.
While in the park, you can enjoy water-based sports, such as snorkelling and diving.
A plus is that it isn’t as crowded here as in many resorts along the coast.
Krka National Park covers 109 square kilometres (42 square miles) and has 16 waterfalls, including Europe’s largest travertine waterfall.
Plitvice National Park is the largest in the country and one of the best.
Here, you might see lynx, brown bears, and grey wolves if you are lucky.
Just remember to keep your distance from the animals.
The park also has 16 interconnected terraced lakes that are quite spectacular and worthy of a photograph or two.
There are 90 waterfalls in the park, and it is highly unlikely that you will visit without seeing at least one.
Another interesting national park is Mljet, which has two saltwater lakes and plenty of cycling and walking trails.
Brijuni National Park, like Kornati National Park, is both on land and at sea.
It is made up of 14 islands, which you can reach by yacht or ferry.
- From Zagreb: Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke Day Trip
- From Zadar: Highlights of Kornati by Traditional Sail Boat
I remember visiting Dubrovnik in the 1970s, when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia.
Although it was a long time ago, I still remember my visit and eating freshly caught fish on a restaurant boat.
It was a beautiful town and still is.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and when you visit, you will see why.
It is one of the best-preserved mediaeval towns in Europe, and the buildings are a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture.
There are narrow alleyways where only pedestrians can venture, leading to museums, monasteries, and art galleries.
If you climb the walls surrounding the Old Town, you will have fantastic views of the Aegean and the sea of red-tiled rooftops that make up the city.
Two museums which are well worth visiting are the War Photo Limited, which showcases war photography from 1990s Yugoslavia and other countries, and the Red History Museum, which shows Yugoslavia as it was before it was dissolved.
There are some lovely beaches in Dubrovnik with crystal-clear waters.
They are pebble beaches, but there are plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas to rent.
There is a cable car in Dubrovnik that takes you to Mount Srd, from where you will have fantastic views of the coastline and the mountains.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, but it is often overlooked as a holiday destination because it is inland.
However, it is an exciting city packed with history and culture, as well as a vibrant nightlife.
Zagreb’s buildings are an unusual mix.
On the one hand, you will see beautiful, classic Austro-Hungarian architecture and, on the other, concrete structures built under communist rule.
The Old Town houses many of the city’s attractions.
It is situated on two hills enclosed by Renaissance walls and affords great views of the rest of the city.
There are many museums here, including the unusual Museum of Broken Relationships, which tells stories of relationships that didn’t work out.
Zagreb Cathedral is well worth visiting for its twin spires that tower above all the other buildings.
To catch a glimpse of local life, head to the open-air Dolac Market in the Old Town, which sells fresh vegetables and fruit.
The annual Croatian Christmas market is held in Zagreb.
It has often been voted the best Christmas market in Europe, so if you love Christmas and you are in Zagreb in December, head over.
It has a festive atmosphere, and you can try typical Croatian food as well as buy handmade Christmas decorations.
5- The Croatian Islands
Croatia has a total of 1244 islands, although some are tiny and uninhabited.
Others, though, are lively places that can be visited by ferry or by chartering a boat.
Since the 1970s, the island of Hvar, which is one of the largest of the islands, has grown from a quiet backwater to a hip and happening spot with a vibrant nightlife and popular beaches.
Brac has one of the most photographed beaches in Croatia, Zlatni Rat, which you will see on many postcards.
It also has the highest peak on any of the islands, Vidova Gora, which is 778 metres (2588 feet) high.
The island is famous for water sports, and there are some good hiking and cycling trails.
The island of Korcula has retained its links to its mediaeval past and at dusk, you can watch the Moreska sword dance, which dates back centuries.
The medieval Old Town houses palaces and St Mark’s Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral.
The furthest island from the mainland is Vis.
Foreign visitors weren’t allowed to visit from the 1950s until 1989, resulting in it retaining its Mediterranean charm with a lack of development.
It has some lovely, quiet beaches, and the food is good, especially if you like fish.
- 21 Landmarks In Croatia
- 25 Things To Do In Croatia
- When Is The Best Time To Visit Croatia?
- 20 Best Beaches In Croatia
- 20 Things To Do In Zagreb
- 23 Filming Locations For Game of Thrones in Croatia
- 20 Things To Do In Split
- 20 Things To Do In Dubrovnik
- 20 Islands In Croatia
- 20 Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Croatia
- 20 Things To Do In Zadar
- 20 Things To Do In Pula
- 20 Day Trips From Dubrovnik
- 20 Things To Do In Sibenik
- 25 Types of Croatian Food
- Where To Stay In Dubrovnik
- 20 Croatian Cities For Your Bucket List
- 15 Things Croatia Is Famous For
6- Croatian Food And Wine
Like most countries, Croatia has traditional dishes which you should try during your visit.
Pasticada, a rich dish from the Dalmatian region, is a beef stew cooked with red wine, prunes, herbs and spices, usually served with pasta or gnocchi.
Another popular dish is peka, which is a slow-cooked stew in a pot with a bell-shaped lid.
This way of cooking makes the meat more flavoursome.
Black risotto is common by the coast and is prepared with squid ink, rice, onions, garlic, white wine, and seafood.
Seafood is popular on the coast, and you will find many restaurants serving fish caught on the same day.
Croatia has a booming wine industry and is famous for its red wines, which have a high alcohol content and are full-bodied.
However, Croatia does produce some white and sparkling wines, which are lighter.
The history of winemaking in Croatia goes back to when the ancient Greeks settled in Croatia, especially on the islands.
Many of the grapes used then still survive today.
7- Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was an engineer born in Smiljan, Croatia, in 1856, and who is famous for developing alternating-current electrical systems and the rotating magnetic field.
Tesla influenced much of the technology we know today, such as wireless energy transmission and radio communications.
In the late 19th century, he patented the Tesla coil, which is the basis for the wireless technology we have today.
Tesla Motors was named after Nikola Tesla, and produced the first fully electric car. Book your tickets to the Tesla museum.
8- Game Of Thrones
Game of Thrones was a popular TV series, partly filmed in Dubrovnik, which has resulted in even more visitors.
One of the places featured in the series was the Rector’s Palace, a building originally built in the 13th century and rebuilt twice later, resulting in a style that mixes Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.
In Game of Thrones, it was the residence of the Spic King in Qarth.
Another place you may recognise from the series is Lokrum Island, which is 600 metres (1968.5 feet) off the Dubrovnik coast.
Many scenes from the fictional town of Qarth were filmed here.
In Dubrovnik, many scenes were set along St. Dominic Street, including Cersei’s Walk of Shame, which ended at Ploce Gate.
Other locations used include the Bokar Fortress, Gradac Park, and the exterior of the Ethnographic Museum.
The best way to walk in the footsteps of your favourite characters is to take a guided tour of the Game of Thrones location sites.
Recommended tour: Dubrovnik: Epic Game of Thrones Walking Tour
9- The Birthplace of Marco Polo
Did you know Marco Polo was born in 1254 in the Republic of Venice, which is present-day Croatia?
The house he was born in is inside the old walls of the town of Korcula and is now a museum dedicated to his life and explorations.
Above the house, there is a tower which you can climb for fantastic views of the city and the sea.
Marco Pola’s journeys took him from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, through Persia and Mongolia, and then along the Silk Road to China and the Kubla Khan’s Palace.
The journey took him around three and a half years.
Croatia is one of the most visited countries in the Mediterranean.
In 2021, it had 11.2 million visitors, with tourism centred along the coast.
It’s seasonal, with the most popular months being July and August.
In the winter, the resorts close, although cities inland, like the capital, Zagreb, are still lively.
There are six tourist areas in the county, the first being Istria, where there are some historical Roman towns, including Umag.
There are two national parks in Kvarner and the Highlands, Risnjak and Plitvice Lakes, and the region has the oldest resort along the Croatian coast, Opatija.
Dalmatia is famous for sailing and Kornati National Park is a magnet for nature lovers.
The fourth area, Sibenik, has the Krka National Park.
People also like to sail from here, and there are plenty of marinas where you can charter yachts.
The next area houses Split, the second-largest town in the country, and it is where you can find the UNESCO-protected Diocletian’s Palace.
There are some large islands you can visit from here, including Hvar.
Dubrovnik is the last tourist area and probably the busiest.
11- Diocletian’s Palace, Split
Diocletian’s Palace dates to Roman times and is well-worth visiting.
It was a palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century AD and it is so large, three hectares (7 acres), that it covers half of the Old Town of Split.
Not only was it used as Diocletian’s retirement home, but part of it was a fortress.
It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and it attracts many visitors.
The palace is surrounded by walls, and there are towers and four gates: the Golden Gate, the Silver Gate, the Iron Gate and the Bronze Gate.
It has a square which was used for ceremonies.
Recommended tour: Split: Old Town and Diocletian Palace Walking Tour
Croatia has been successful in football for many years and reached the World Cup final in 2018.
Although Croatia lost to France, the international team is still a force to be reckoned with.
The reason they are successful is because the Croatian Football Federation has focused on youth development and has established several football youth academies throughout the country.
A lot of emphasis has also been placed on training coaches so that they can pass on their skills to the young players.
One of the greatest Croatian players is Luka Modric, who has played for the national team for more than a decade.
He has been named the best player in the world and won titles with his club, Real Madrid.
13- Ultra Europe Festival
The Ultra Europe Festival is an electronic music festival that is part of Ultra Music Festival’s worldwide operation.
It first took place in Croatia in the town of Split on the 12th and 13th of July 2013, with a beach party held the day after on the island of Hvar.
It now lasts for seven days, with an opening party, a three-day festival, a yacht regatta, and a beach party.
It had two years off during the COVID pandemic but reopened in 2022 with a vengeance, and acts such as Above & Beyond, D.J.
Snake, and Nina Kraviz headlined.
With over 1,200 islands, it isn’t surprising that sailing is popular in the country.
Around 40% of the world’s charter fleet is based in Croatia!
Croatia has a lot going for it when it comes to sailing, including a beautiful climate, favourable winds and crystal-clear waters.
There are many marinas along the coast offering a wide range of yachts, both sail and motor.
You might think that the waters are very busy, but there are still quiet coves where you can drop anchor.
The Kornati National Park is also reasonably peaceful, particularly if you go early or late in the season.
There are 140 islands there, many of which you can visit, and there are some high-quality restaurants to be found on some of the islands.
Recommended tour: Kolocep Island: Hiking & Swimming Day Trip
15- The Roman Arena In Pula
The Roman Arena in Pula was built in the 1st century AD and is one of the best-preserved Roman arenas in the world.
It could seat 23,000 people back then and hosted gladiatorial fights until the 5th century, when it was banned.
However, it continued to house fights between wild animals and convicts until the 7th century.
In the Middle Ages, it was used for fairs and tournaments, and since it was restored in the 19th century, it has been used for concerts and theatre productions.
In the summer, it hosts the Pula Film Festival.
You can take a guided tour around the arena or, even better, you can attend a performance.
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