As one of the oldest settled places in the world, the eastern European country of Croatia boasts more than 2,000 years of history. Subjected to Ancient Greek and eventually Roman rule, this part of the world has certainly seen its share of conflict and culture, as evident by the many ancient structures still standing in the country’s gorgeous, mostly unspoiled Mediterranean terrain. This has made Croatia one of the top destinations in Europe to visit.
As a former main port and commune of the Venetian Empire, the land and naval fortifications of the island city of Hvar can still be visited today. Lovers of architecture will definitely enjoy exploring the marble stone streets and Gothic palaces that have been here for centuries. It’s also a good place to find lush vineyards, beaches, and huge fields of lavender – a testament to the fact that Hvar is Croatia’s sunniest spot.
The Romans left behind a variety of structures in Croatia, and one of the most impressive is Pula’s Roman Amphitheatre. Its still-intact outer ring is a prime example of how well the Romans understood engineering and architecture. In fact, this site is so well preserved that it’s still being used for events like opera concerts, mainstream pop gigs, and the annual Pula Film Festival. It’s a great alternative destination for anyone who’s curious about the gladiatorial lifestyle, but doesn’t want to brave the crowds in Rome, Italy.
Hilltop vineyards, rolling green hills, thermal springs, and medieval castles line the Zagorje Region near the border of Croatia and Slovenia. This relatively unspoiled European paradise is home to the town of Krapina, which the Huffington Post claims is a good place to find traditional wine taverns as well as take in the local Mediterranean culture. Don’t leave without at least seeing the magnificent Trakošćan Castle.
The picturesque town of Dubrovnik is a meandering maze of white limestone streets and traditional buildings mixed with modern Croatian architecture. The wall surrounding the city is of particular note as it was completed in the 16th century and still stands tall today. Apart from walking along its famous seawall, another awesome way to appreciate Dubrovnik is to get on a cable car to Mount Srd for a panoramic view of the town.
While Dubrovnik is a historic town, it’s has become globally famous as a filming site for HBO’s Game of Thrones, and this has had an effect on the local tourism. One mayor credited Game of Thrones with “half of the 10% annual growth in tourists the city has seen in recent years”. It is not hard to see why, as the HBO series has exploded to become a franchise in the same league of Star Wars and Harry Potter, with iterations of the show found across pop culture. These range from board games to online mobile games. Leading European gaming portal Slingo has an online game called Game of Thrones – 15 Lines which uses iconic elements from the show. With fans desperate to interact with the show in anyway they can, this has helped increased Dubrovnik’s tourism industry in more ways than one. Now they flock to the city to walk where their favorite characters did.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
As a protected site under the UNESCO World Heritage List, Plitvice Lakes National Park features a well-preserved natural terrain that is a must-see for any geology student. Over a millennia, water has flown over Plitvice’s natural limestone and chalk terrain, creating natural dam formations that have resulted in multiple breathtakingly beautiful blue and emerald lakes. A definite must-visit for anyone who likes taking a dip while surrounded by verdant forests. Just watch out for the brown bears, wolves, and the over 160 species of birds that make their home in this veritable paradise.
Croatia’s just one of the European continent’s most alluring and historical locations. Tourism Anywhere has more info on other places in Europe that double as a prime vacation destination and a walk back in time.