Hi Aida! Where abouts in Croatia did you grow up?
I spent my childhood in the beautiful city called Split. This Mediterranean city is the second largest city in Croatia with 467,899 inhabitants and the largest on the Adriatic coast. Previously known as Spalato, Split is one of the oldest cities in the area (1700 years old) and it is a good starting point from where you can explore the numerous beautiful islands nearby.
I have fond memories of my time spent in Split: the sweet taste and smell of watermelon and fresh fish which were sold by sympathetic older ladies on busy markets, I remember the warm summer evenings I spent with my family at the famous waterfront called Riva and I miss getting lost in the small alleys and in the huge Diocletian´s Palace. I enjoy going back once a year or every other year to sample the traditional food, lie on the popular beach called Bacvice, relax in the Mediterranean pine forest Marjan that is surrounded by the city and the sea and catch up with family and friends.
Where’s your favourite part of the country?
I like the mixture between a busy city life and the relaxed atmosphere on an island.
If I want to party and dance until the early morning hours I will go to Pag– a beautiful island that belongs to a group of Kvarner Islands. Pag became famous for its 24 hour nightlife with world famous DJ´s such as Armand van Helden and David Guetta, best places to go are Papaya and Calypso.
However, if I simply want to relax and recharge my batteries you will find me in Krk– an island in the northern Adriatic Sea, located near Rijeka. I always stay in the Valamar Kolarlj Hotel because of the fantastic location just above a picturesque bay.
If somebody only has one day in Croatia, what’s the one thing they absolutely must visit?
That would be definitely Dubrovnik. Although this is the most prominent tourist destination on the Adriatic, you will never get the feeling of being overcrowded in another Mediterranean touristic area. Dubrovnik is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is often described as one of the most beautiful walled cities worldwide. I would recommend a stroll through the pedestrian-only old town packed with small charming cafes, Baroque churches and palazzi.
And if you are in the mood for some refreshment one of the most popular beaches in Croatia is not far away. Banje Beach spreads a spectacular view on the town walls and the island of Lokrum. Those with an adventurous spirit can take advantage of the numerous sport and fun activities on the beach.
One site that Croatia is certainly famous for is the National Parks. What can you tell us about these?
Croatia has 8 breath-taking National Parks that cover 7, 5% of the country. These are the 5 most visited and most popular National Parks in Croatia:
- Croatia´s most visited park and UNESCO World Heritage Site is Plitvice
- Krka National Park is famous for its lakes and waterfalls where people can swim in
- A less touristy National Park is Mljet
- Rock-climbing fans will love Paklenica National Park
- Kornati Islands National Park can be explored with your own boat. Don´t have one? There are numerous agencies arranging guided tours!
As you can see there is a National Park for every taste!
Croatia’s capital city is Zagreb, what would you recommend visiting there?
Zagreb is not only the capital city of Croatia but also a paradise for museum and art lovers. The largest museum ever built in Croatia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, is located in Zagreb and comprises 14,500 square meters of exhibition space and contains a collection of more than 4,000 works. Other must-see museums are the Mimara Museum and the Moderna Galeria, which is housed in an impressive palace. Something unusual is the 1924 tram- this train sets off every Sunday at 9.30 to Maksimir Park ad is filled with rare features. After the free ride I recommend a kava (coffee) by the flower market – this is the best place to enjoy a strong coffee, some tasty pastries and observe people.
If you want to go to a typical Croatian and lively place where locals meet you shouldn´t miss the Dolac market- this market is 80 years old and offers everything from fresh fish, vegetables and fruit to cheap lunches (called gableci).
However, if you are pressed for time you can enjoy a peaceful stroll along the Maksimir that combines park, zoo, the national football stadium and man-made lakes.
Where’s a secret treasure in Croatia that most tourists won’t have heard of?
Most tourists probably haven´t heard of the Crveno Jezero (Red Lake) sinkhole and the Plavo Jezero (Blue Lake) sinkhole in the city of Imotski. Imotski is a small town situated in the Dalmatian hinterland, close to the border with Bosnia –Herzegovina.
The Red Lake sinkhole carries its name due to the red colour of surrounding cliffs; the Blue Lake sinkhole on the contrary is famous for its green to deep blue colour of the water. This is probably the only place in Croatia where you can enjoy some private bathing in the peak season in stunning surroundings.
Any other recommendations?
One of my favourite cities is definitely Mostar. Although this city is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is only a five-hour car drive away from Split and a visit is highly recommended. One of the most recognizable landmarks is the Old Bridge that was built by the Ottoman Empire in 1565. This famous bridge (Stari Most) crossing the Neretva River was destroyed in the civil war but has been rebuilt and restored in 2004. Mostar´s town centre is stunning with small restaurants and cafés by the deep blue river and the beautiful mosque´s and churches that give unforgettable experience. If you visit Mostar in summer you will witness local divers jumping from the bridge into the Neretva.
Croatia fact file
Inhabitants: 4,290,612 (2011)
Currency: Kuna (HRK)
Time difference: +1 hour
Flight time: London to Dubrovnik around two hours and forty minutes
Good to know: Topless bathing is accepted on most beaches but not encouraged, don´t talk about the civil war- it´s still a sensitive subject, most of the beaches in Croatia are pebble,Croatia is very cheap compared to other European destinations: a beer costs no more than £2 and you can enjoy a tasty stone baked pizza for less than £5.