As my children will tell you, I go on about travel so much that I am regularly asked for a list of the best places I’ve ever been to. At one time I thought I should create a pat answer to this question, but it felt like I was cheating myself as well as the enquirer. If these people are actively asking me to regale them with tales of where I’ve been, then who am I to scrimp over my answer? But it’s never an easy question. Even if you don’t think you’ve visited that many places, as soon as people ask such a broad question you’ll feel like you’ve been trotting the globe non-stop for years!
But I just recently came to the conclusion that Croatia is definitely one of my favourite destinations. I’m keeping it nice and broad by saying a country, but within that answer I’m including spectacular Dubrovnik and all the many treasures of the Dalmatian Islands, as well as continental Croatia, with is pristine farmland and spectacular wildernesses.
Elizabeth Taylor loved it, and who am I to challenge a woman with such epic taste? And, pleasingly, Croatia’s tourist board promises ‘The Mediterranean as it once was’, which sounds like just where I long to be. However, while this takes into account the stunningly glittery sea and pockets of authentic architecture and culture protected from over development, it doesn’t really do Croatia’s glamour any justice. Croatia’s wonderful stretch of coastline, with its thousand or so islands, has glitz, glamour, snazzy resorts and stylish locals aplenty. Fancy yachts cruise amongst the islands, and Dubrovnik and Hvar, especially, are great for star spotting. This is the bit referred to when people call Croatia ‘The jewel of the Adriatic’. And it really is one of the world’s great treasures. Plus, it doesn’t require endless hours on a plane to get to. If you too are dreaming of a blue ocean, let me help with a few pointers:
A Magical Escape
Though well known for its beauty, idyllic Adriatic coastline and sunshine, it’s still relatively easy to find your very own piece of Croatian paradise pretty much all to yourself. And you don’t have to stray too far from some of the country’s best known sights, with this recommendation for a magical escape on a peaceful, but well located, island just off the Dalmatian Coast.
Where to Stay?
Nestled into the Istrian hills with incredible views over the Adriatic, on Croatia’s northern tip, Villa Stefanija is a romantic, seven room haven. The sun terrace with its infinity pool offers peace and those incredible views, the rooms are airy and spacious and the fabulous restaurant serves wonderful Croatian dishes and excellent local wines. There’s a spa and sauna, and you’re surrounded by peace, and hiking and biking trails. All for around €136 per night B&B.
Practical Details: You can fly in to Rijeka International Airport direct from London Stansted, or Trieste – Friuli Venezia Giulia – Airport in north eastern Italy and travel across the border from there. This part of Croatia is warm and sunny, but not too hot, with maximum temperatures in July and August at 28°C and 27°C, with cooler, comfortable nights. Maximum temperatures are in the low to mid 20s between April and October, though, so it’s a long stretch of very pleasant sunny weather.
Or Martinis Marchi, on the more familiar island of Solta, off the coast of Split and on the Dalmatian Coast, is a beautiful Croatian castle renovated into a beautiful, seven suite hotel. Each suite sleeps between four and six, and all have private balconies overlooking the central courtyard and pool, but this hotel manages to feel romantic as well as family friendly. And the location, on a beautiful island within a boat trip of many of the Dalmatian Coast’s treasures, will be perfect for many. Rooms start from €255 per night.
Practical Details: Fly in to Split Airport – which has direct connections to Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and Newcastle – and catch the ferry across. The Split end of the Dalmatian Coast is popular between May – when you can expect high temperatures around 22°C – until September, which is still very warm, with maximum temperatures around 26°C, but growing rainier. The mid-summer months are hot and dry.
Think about your perfect idea of a resort holiday. Does it include sunny days, ocean views, a beautiful pool and sun terrace? The option of a spa treatment or two, proximity to a few sights worthy of an outing? And really great local food and drink? If so then Croatia is the perfect place to find your prefect resort, and there are a number of excellent options, of which this one is the Hotel Guru’s current favourites.
Where to Stay?
In a seriously beautiful spot just outside the medieval port town of Šibenik, between Zadar and Split, the D Resort could almost have qualified for our ‘magical escape’ category as well. But with its extensive spa and range of restaurants and bars it’s a bit too big – but it makes a fantastic resort! There are 63 rooms, suites and villas with chic, contemporary decor which includes original artworks and stunning coast views from private balconies. Included in their list of facilities is a private marina. Rooms start from €176 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: This stretch of the Dalmatian Coast is dotted with medieval churches and Venetian palaces, scenic peninsulas and wonderfully enticing food markets. Split Airport, with its good UK connections listed above, will be the easiest place to transfer from for most of us, but Zadar Airport is about equidistant from the hotel if it offers better options. The summer weather fills this resort, but if you’re not restricted to travelling during the school holidays you might want to consider May-June or September-October when you can still expect long, sunny days – and in autumn a warm ocea
For the Dalmatian Coast
The Dalmatian Coast is one of Croatia’s highlights, known for its climate: Mediterranean on the coastline, but quickly changing to alpine just inland in mountains which roll right down to the sea in a particularly picturesque way; and for its truly charming towns and cities and picturesque and historic ports – both on the mainland and on the islands separated by idyllic clear waters ripe for sailing. And there are a lot of options when it comes to booking accommodation. But, if you’re looking for a grown-up, indulgent and laid back hotel then the Hotel Gurus have a great recommendation for you.
Where to Stay?
Tara’s Lodge is a modern, stylish, 17 room hotel on a stunning, secluded bay on Korčula. The rooms are sleek and minimalist with white washed walls and nice details aimed to amplify the views of this beautiful stretch of coastline. In the evening dine on seafood just a few metres from the sea and relax by the pool after a day seeing the sights. Rooms start from around €151 per night.
Practical Details: If you appreciate vineyards, olive groves and turquoise seas lapping against quiet, sandy coves and picturesque towns and villages then Korčula is possibly your dream destination. Split Airport is the closest point of entry into Croatia, and from there you can catch the ferry catamaran across to Korčula via Hvar. After the beginning of May the hours of sunshine per day along this part of the Dalmatian Coast to increase from around 8 to 12, and there are high temperatures around 22°C until September, which is still very warm, with maximum temperatures around 26°C. The midsummer months are the most popular time to visit, but it’s very hot and busy, so you might want to skirt them if you can.
The sea in Dubrovnik’s sheltered harbour is a wonderful shade of emerald, the historic 13th century walled town is a red-roofed world wonder in Baroque marble, and the main street, the Stradun, is probably one of the world’s loveliest. Michelin chefs love it for the fresh seafood and the city’s cafes and bars buzz. Plus, Elizabeth Taylor came here to shop for jewellery…
Where to Stay?
If you’re looking for something with the essence of Dubrovnik’s glamour and style the Villa Allure might be perfect. This nine room guesthouse hotel is within walking distance of both the beach and Dubrovnik’s Old Town, and offers wonderful sea views. Prices start around €199 B&B. Rooms are quite classic. Think charming original features decorated in tones of creamy beige, with elegant furniture and four-poster beds. The terrace has a plunge pool and wonderful views of both the sea and the Old Town, and, on the best days, this is where an excellent breakfast is served.
Practical Details: Dubrovnik Airport is directly connected to Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, East Midlands, Leeds/ Bradford and Southend. From the airport you can catch an airport bus to the edge of the pedestrianised Old Town. Summer has the nicest weather, but this is peak time for visiting Dubrovnik and between the cruise ships and those restricted by school holidays, it’s pretty busy. There’s a cap of 8000 cruise ship visitors a day but that’s still a large number. So, the best times for most of us to visit are May-June or September-October when the days are long and sunny, the sea is still warm enough for swimming, the attractions and restaurants are all open – but you don’t have to queue for them.
Hotel Guru has commissioned a collection of leading travel writers and journalists to offer their recommendations on where to stay, found out all the important, and minute, details about each property, and then cross referenced that with guides we respect. So, if having a hot tub is important to you you can search by that, likewise pet-friendly properties and hotels with a great wine list.
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