In Southeast Asia, the 10 best in almost any country stays the same 12 months a year but in a swing climate such as you have along the Adriatic, the 10 best in Croatia will depend on the time of year you visit.
Sun bathing in Hvar in July may be wonderful but two months later, it is a refrigerator. Brijuni Islands (picture below) in Istria can still be visited in November but many places close down at the end of November. Still, in Croatia even in the Winter, there are still many places to visit.
We went to Croatia in November and we did not run out of places to explore in the 20 days we were there. Dubrovnik is stunning as an archaeological statement 12 months a year. Split is the same. The remnants of past civilizations that all contributed to what the world is today can be seen lived in and celebrated in Croatia with a great local wine.
But again, I can name twenty other places that will beat the 10 I have here. For now, though, enjoy and know these places a bit more.
This historic walled section of town paved with limestone offers medieval churches, museums, restaurants, palaces and so many other engaging features that you can explore. However, in your exploration, don't miss the Franciscan Monastery. Although the main draw here is the old Apothecary, still a working pharmacy today, the other parts of the Monastery are just as absorbing. After watching the old pharmacy still dispensing today, roam the corridors of the monastery and look up at the paintings to get a sense of how the monks lived at that time.
Enjoy the old market of Gunduliceva Poljana, buy fresh fruits and sample some of the Croatian sweets. As you let your smell guide you, you'll find the Fish Market and right beside it is the restaurant, Nostromo. Go in there if you are a fish and seafood lover and you will not regret it. The locals recommend it.
Walk the walls especially during sunset to be entranced by the dramatic views of the city.
Close by are some interesting islands and surprisingly, there are still tours that go to these islands. As long as you keep yourself warm, the trips are fun. There are also villages including Catvat where you can eat al fresco, watching the sea tells its story of the day. Or, drive through Konavale and see the charming village and its agricultural charm.
Diocletian has indeed built a Palace and a garrison that now serves as the Old Town of Split. Within this fortified area are churches, restaurants, museums, apartments, hotels and shops. Go under the cellars and have a tour of the ruins of the Palace.
The Cathedral was originally the tomb of Diocletian but because of his persecution of the early Christians, his burial place was likewise desecrated and on it was built this huge basilica.
As you enjoy looking at some of the valuable features of the Palace, listen to beautiful singing. That's the Dalmatian Klapa using the acoustics of the Dome of the Palace and singing some traditional Dalmatian songs. Not only is it worth listening to, it is even more engaging to join in.
A short drive from Split, history buffs will enjoy exploring this place. You can also take the bus and here's the site for time tables: BusCroatia.
This is the oldest Roman settlement though even before the Romans, this was already an established community. It was here that the early Christians were martyred.
The Roman remains include an amphitheatre, basilicas, and other things in a Roman city of quite an importance.
The coastal highway from Split up to Rovinj is in marvellous shape and is a great drive. The continuous views just keep unfolding and it is a memory you will keep for a long time. I'd vote for it over some of the California coastal drives but make sure there is no Bora when you drive through it. This wind can be very strong and intimidating.
This is like Venice but, of course, from here you can take a day trip to Venice. It's a coastal city that is ready to be enjoyed. Parking is so easy and inexpensive.
Close to the parking is the fresh market where you can get not just the obligatory truffles and olive oil but also fresh fish and produce. Walk on and the squares by the water have many cafes and restaurants where you can partake of the best sea food and other specialities of the area.
You can climb up the hill where the Cathedral is and pay homage to the body of St. Euphemia. On your climb up, look at some of the medieval houses and its features. They are lovely. But when you come down, sit in one of the al fresco restaurants facing the ocean and just enjoy it.
In the summer, most of the coastline is a beach. It's an easy drive for most Europeans and the Adriatic is beautiful, warm and clear. Viewing that sea from the mountains is the equal of the Amalfi Coast. Rovinj as well as Pula are all coastal cities and the most popular of all the other smaller ones worth visiting.
Pula was a major surprise for us when we arrived there. We have seen many Roman ruins but did not have an idea of how grand this amphitheater is right in the middle of the city. There are Roman ruins to explore in the city and after you've done this, the tiny coastal villages await.
Bizarre and neighbouring fishing villages in the north are a wonder in the Spring and the Fall but a zoo in the tourist season. As there were only few tourists in November, we enjoyed walking its seaside and talking to some fishermen.
Drive through Vsar, Umag, Porec and Savudria. The sea side stroll is the most enjoyable for us.
There is nothing like the small coastal towns of Istria to draw you to this country. Even in November, you can enjoy the sun and the al fresco cafes and restaurants in these towns. Fanzana is a sunny little town with the islands of Brijuni a small distance from its shores.
This national park was where the first agreement of the non-aligned nations under the leadership of Yugoslavia's leader then, Tito and Egypt's leader, Nasser. Today, it has a hotel, a golf course, a safari and a train that brings visitors around.
We even had a good boat trip to Brijuni Islands with a guide. But the crowning glory of this trip to Istria is the Olive Festival in Vodjnan.
We were lucky that our guide mentioned this so from Fanzana, we drove straight to Vodjnan and enjoyed tasting the various olive oils, truffles white and black and marinated in different olive oils, wines, meats, cheese and other delicacies of Istria. Know the dates of this festival next year and don't miss it.
The towns of Motovun and Buzet are close by and there you can join the search for the most valued truffles and enjoy dishes with best olive oil and truffles.
Where is Vodnjan?
8. Peljisac Peninsula and Ston
For the wine connoisseurs, this is the place to visit. There are wineries from where you can sample some of Croatia's best wines.
Coming back from Istria and Split, the drive to Dubrovnik can be enhanced by a stop at this walled city of Ston, where you can sample the best oysters we've ever tasted. It tastes of sea and that's all you need. They have some of the best salts ever produced in the same way it has been done centuries ago.
There are tours from Dubrovnik which you can easily arrange with the many tour operators, some even with kiosks right in the Pile Gate of the walled city.
About 67 kms. from Ston, this old city is said to be the birthplace of Marco Polo and as such, is an attractive place to visit. Add to this its vineyards and olive groves, the island is a great day trip from Dubrovnik.
A 295-sq.-km forest reserve in central Croatia, it has terraced lakes and waterfalls extending into a limestone canyon. The drive through the mountains is very beautiful and , in November, there can be snow enhancing the beauty of this park.
Here's a bonus. Find a restaurant in or next to a fishing port and order a seafood platter. Absolutely amazing! From the boat, to the chef, to your plate with a freshness you may never have experienced. Montalbano would have wept.
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