Undulating lavender hills on Hvar; the Unesco world heritage site of Dubrovnik and the unrivalled beauty of the Dalmatian coast are some of the main reasons tourists book flights to Croatia every summer. With thousands of kilometres of coastline on the Adriatic and more than a thousand islands, the country is a popular European destination for sunlovers. The surroundings to the predominantly rocky beaches are also stunning. Unending pine forests and mountains make the view inland just as attractive as that out to the turquoise sea.
Though the country’s tourism has completely recovered from the Yugoslav war of the early 1990s, evidence of the destruction is still apparent. A walk along the old city walls of Dubrovnik show a patchwork of roofs, some hundreds of years old, some replaced just a decade ago after the bombings. The coastal towns of Dubrovnik, Split and Rijeka are most visited by beachgoers, but inland Zagreb has plenty to offer sightseers. This is also the arrival point of most flights to Croatia, though transport from here to the coast is easy to find.
Croatia has mild seasons all year, thanks to its coastal Mediterranean location. The summers are dry and hot, averaging temperatures around 27 C. The winters are fairly mild, with temperatures above freezing.
The European summer is the most popular season with vacationers – resorts are fuller between June and August and prices rise accordingly.
As the main draw of Croatia is its coast, the winter period (especially from November to February) is the low season for tourism. However, it is possible to ski in the mountains as there is often snow. Zagreb is rapidly becoming a tourist hotspot and is worth visiting at any time of year – even if the weather is freezing, there is enough to do inside. Lent and the accompanying carnival is another great time to fly: Rijeka is the place in which it is celebrated with the most enthusiasm.
The mountain range running north-south alongside the country’s sea protects the coastline from the worst of the winds and the cold weather, which means spring arrives early and autumn ends late. If you’re heading for the coast, therefore, it’s possible to swim from about May, and right up until October in Southern Dalmatia. This means that May-June and September-October are great times to visit. Avoid most other tourists, pay discounted prices for hotels and pick up cheap Croatia flights.
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Internal Croatia flights are the quickest way of getting around and are available between all major destinations, such as Split, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Zadar and Pula. Croatia Airlines is the national carrier.
If you are planning on staying on Croatia’s beautiful coast, one of the most enjoyable ways to travel round is by ferry. This is certainly not the quickest route – ferries from Rijeka to Split, for example are overnight, whereas you could drive in four hours – however it is easily the most attractive and one of the best ways to see the country. The ferries are run by Jadrolinja (pronounced “yad-ro-lin-eeah”) and are very reasonably priced. For travel to some of the more remote islands, ferry is obviously the only option.
Buses are available throughout most of the country and tend to be the quickest form of public transport. They are often more expensive than the trains, though not as comfortable. The rail network is relatively good, but any travel along the coast, or from the coast to Zagreb, is far easier accomplished by bus. The coastal path from Rijeka down to Dubrovnik offers some wonderful landscape and views of the azure sea.
Cars can easily be hired and driving is easy. Most roads are in a good state of repair for travel between the more popular tourist destinations.