by Barbara Broadbent

This stunning and affordable destination has become one of Europe’s “hot spots.” Visit traditional mediaeval cities with winding streets, city walls and oldtown squares; historic monuments and beautiful Roman or Austro-Hungarian architecture; pretty islands easily visited by a superb ferry system; spectacular mountains, rugged coastlines and sparkling lakes. And although many areas are still visibly war-torn, the cities are still steeped in rich history and culture.

The capital, Zagreb, is divided into an Upper and a Lower town, and has a majestic Cathedral. Take an excursion to the Zarorje region to learn about the local traditions and visit the house of Marshall Tito. The lovely seaside resort of Opatija was once a summer retreat for Roman Caesars and the Hapsburg monarchs. Take time to stroll past the luxurious villas along the tree-lined seafront promenade.

Plitvice Lakes National Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stunning forested hills enclose sixteen terraced turquoise lakes that change hues depending on the rainfall and are linked by spectacular waterfalls, wooden footbridges and pathways. The historic inner city of Split is built around the Roman Emperor’s Diocletian’s Palace … another UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It was built from white stone from the island of Brac, marble from Italy and Greece, and sphinxes and columns from Egypt. It is more a labyrinth than a castle, with passageways and courtyards filled with cafes and shops.

Zadar is a major city southwest of Zagreb, and is a key transport hub to Croatia’s Adriatic Islands. It is home to the unique Sea Organ, designed by a local architect, an organ powered by the ocean’s waves. It produces whistles and hypnotic notes that increase in volume when boats pass by. The most well-known Croatian city is, of course, Dubrovnik, another UNESCO World Heritage Site This mediaeval baroque town dates back to the 13th – 16thcenturies. Its elegant marble streets, high city walls, and forts hint at the deep and tumultuous history of the area. Visit the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries, the Rector’s Palace, Onofrio’s Fountain and maybe even walk the walls.