Croatia is cool for many reasons: the vibrant capital city of Zagreb, sparkling blue seas on the Adriatic coastline and a relatively low cost of living are just a few. One of the most popular destinations in Croatia is Split and the country is well known for the many music festivals that are now held here every year – including Soundwave in Tisno.
It’s the hundreds of islands, however, that prove the real draw. From excellent local wine and unspoiled nature to 24-hour clubs, here’s the lowdown on the best beach breaks in Europe!
Vis is for… food
Remote Vis is well off the beaten track – and despite its vineyards, olive groves and picture-perfect charm, the visitors aren’t flocking. Away from the tourist trail, the laid-back konobe (taverns) serve up well-priced local seafood. The cuisine has an Italian flavor, with risotto and spaghetti dishes being most popular. Specialties include skarpina (a red fish), octopus salad and a selection of cheeses and prust (prosciutto).
Vis is also known for its organic Vugava (white), Mali Plavac (red) and Prosek (sweet) wines, as well as rogacica, an aperitif made from locally grown carob.
Where to stay: Isolation means accommodation is short, but these Vis apartments offer comfort and convenience at affordable rates. Rooms start from €26pppn.
How to get there: Ferries run from Split, which is a convenient transport hub, and take two and a half hours.
Korcula is for… the beach
One of the greenest islands in the Adriatic, Korcula attracts travelers to its shores with its mix of heritage (Marco Polo war born here), ancient walled towns and small, secluded bays.
The best sandy beaches lie at Lumbarda, but there are private inlets to explore all over the island. The deep blue Adriatic Sea makes for an idyllic image and safe swimming.
Where to stay: Hostels in Korcula provide a cheap bed for the night, with prices starting from €10pppn in summer.
How to get there: Great links – ferries to Rijeka, Split, Hvar, Mljet and Dubrovnik, or a short hop across the water to Orebic on the mainland.
Brac is for… water sports
Although it is one of the largest and busiest Croatian islands, Brac arguably has the best (and most photographed) spots for windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, para-sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, wake-boarding, ringos, banana boats and more…. On the south coast, Zlatni Rat beach (at Bol) is the place to make for.
Where to stay: There are a number of apartments and hostels in Brac from €10pppn (and even a few hostels in Bol from €12pppn) so finding a budget place to stay shouldn’t be a problem, although it’s advisable to book in advance during the summer months.
How to get there: Served by ferries on the Split-Hvar route, it’s an hour journey from the mainland to Supetar. Alternatively, flights from Zagreb land on island during summer.
Cres is for… nature
With its contrasting landscape of snowy peaks, steep cliffs and lush forest, Cres Island is a stunning retreat east of Istria. The top sights include Vransko lake, a natural resevoir of rainwater, and the 90 species of bird which make the island their home, from eagles and owls to the griffon vultures.
Eco Centar Caput Insulae protects the biodiversity of Cres, particularly the rare vultures, and there efforts have seen a recent rise in eco-tourism to the island. Trails wind across the island, whilst the solitude of the shoreline is also a great place for cycling or hiking.
Where to stay: At the edge of the eco-trails through the ancient oak forests of Tramuntana, Pansion Tramontana has rooms from €23pppn, a barbecue, outdoor terrace and stunning views. Rates start at €23pppn.
How to get there: Ferries run from Rijeka or there’s a bus direct from Zagreb, which takes around four hours.
Pag is for… parties
Once renowned for its sheep and special cheese, 2007 saw Pag take the title of Croatia’s top summer clubbing resort; Zrce beach (at Novalja) is now home to the country’s only licensed 24-hour bars and clubs from June to October.
Nightclubs Aquarius, Kalypso and Papaya attract world-famous names in dance music, leading Pag island to be nicknamed the “Ibiza of Croatia”. Much less hectic than the Spanish isle, the club scene is popular with a laid-back crowd of young locals and visitors.
Where to stay: Apartmani P&Z in Pag offers 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in the quieter part of Pag, so you can get some sleep after partying all night! Rooms start from €17pppn.
How to get there: The south of the island is connected to the mainland (north of Zadar) by road, or you can hop straight across to Zigljen from Prizna by ferry.
Thanks to Sean MacEntee, michaelgrotman, Sobrecroacia.com, Britrob, Mark Heard and njaminjami for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.