Croatia stretches from the slopes of The Alps to the shores of the Adriatic Sea. This varied landscape boasts eight national parks—four in the mountain region and four in the coastal region. Runoff from the mountains forms the Plitvice Lakes, a remarkable series of 16 cascading lakes in a heavily forested area that is home to a variety of wildlife.
The beaches and marinas along Croatia’s narrow but lengthy coastline enjoy a Mediterranean climate perfect for boating, sailing and diving. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Adriatic," the city of Dubrovnik is a prominent draw for tourist. Its steep cobbled streets, marble-paved squares, carved fountains, and historic palaces have served as inspiration for prominent poets, playwrights, painters and scholars for centuries.
Sightseeing tours in the capital city of Zagreb offer a look at the palaces, churches, winding streets and historic town squares that make up its medieval urban complex. The capital also includes a wealth of museums and galleries.
Central Dalmatia claims both the highest mountain and one of the best beaches in Croatia. Hiking on the slopes of Biokovo offers stunning views of the countryside and the Adriatic Sea. At the mountain's base, visitors sunbathe and play on the beaches of the Makarska Riviera.
The 13th century Trsat Castle sits on a hill overlooking the port city of Rijeka and the numerous festivals hosted there. In Opatija to the west, a waterfront promenade stretches 7.5 miles along the Gulf of Kvarner. Farther inland, Risnjak National Park is a favorite of hikers and climbers.
Northern Coastal Istria
Narrow streets and fortified towers tell of a medieval past in Novigrad, while archaeological finds in Savudrija have uncovered evidence of settlers as far back the Neolithic period. The Umag region is notable for olive groves, wine vineyards and another "fruit of the vine"—tomatoes.
Often called the "Rome of Croatia," the city of Zadar features ornate cathedrals, cobblestone streets, and the remains of a Roman forum. A visit to the lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park leaves no question as to why it was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Northern Dalmatia Islands
The islands of Northern Dalmatia offer a quiet retreat amidst the blue of the Adriatic Sea. Lighthouses and ferries on the island of Dugi Otok reflect the locals' seafaring lifestyle. The northernmost island of Pag is mostly secluded, though the beaches of Novalja are quite popular.
Biking trails meander through the quaint hamlets of Northern Istria. The Baredine Cave near Nova Vas presents an otherworldly subterranean landscape, while the hilltop town of Oprtalj offers sunnier views of terraced hillsides and, on the horizon, the Mediterranean Sea.
Southern Coastal Istria
Visitors travel to Istria's southern shores for a variety of watersports, including windsurfing, sailing and diving. Bijeca beach in the resort town of Medulin features a half-mile stretch of sand. The fishing village of Fazana offers excellent wine, olive oil and, of course, fresh seafood.
The medieval streets of Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic," have been likened to a setting from a fairytale. Just off the coast, the Elaphite Islands offer secluded beaches in a largely undeveloped archipelago, while underwater cliffs and caverns entice adventurous divers.
High on a hill overlooking the river Rasa, the village of Barban has held a strategic military position since the days of ancient Rome. Farther south, narrow medieval streets wind through the ancient town of Vodnjan, where architecture styles range from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque.