10 Best Attractions in Croatia That You MUST SEE
Close to Italy with the Adriatic Sea forming its border, lies the small but significant country of Croatia. Human habitation of Croatia can be traced back to many centuries, however quite a few of the numerous islands that add to the country’s pristine beauty, remain uninhabited. The Balkan country has a long coastline and surprisingly the world’s shortest coast too.
With its rich collection of natural wonders and historical sites set against the backdrop of a beautiful coastline, Croatia holds its visitors in awe as they go about exploring all that this country has to offer. Incidentally, quite a few sites in Croatia have been used as shooting locations and sets for the immensely popular HBO miniseries, Game of Thrones.
Croatia is also the country that gave us the tie! When the French, under Napoleon, captured Croatia in 1808, the neck tie that was used by people in Croatia became the French fashion, slowly gaining popularity across the world as a fashion accessory.
Visitors to Croatia should not miss the view of a natural beach formation that looks like a hand pointing towards the Adriatic Sea, as if asking for something which the local folklore equates with a demand for more wine. Called Zlatni Rat, this beach has been ranked third amongst beaches in Europe. Zlatni Rat has another peculiar phenomenon, its shape changes with disturbance in the natural conditions of its environs, something that has to be seen to be believed.
Best Croatia Attractions
1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Called Croatia’s Garden of Eden, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The park contains 16 lakes that mesmerize visitors with their blue green waters. A waterfall of 70 metres height also flourishes in the park. The surrounding area is the natural habitat of a variety of animal species that cannot be seen anywhere else.
The region has historic evidence of battles that had been fought here between Austrians, Croats and the Ottomans. However, the natural wonders of the lakes and the park withstood these onslaughts. In 1960 the park was declared a national treasure by UNESCO. There is also a myth associated with this area, it is believed that a magic lady created the lakes and then drowned in the same. Quite, an unfortunate tale though! However, all those who visit the park are definitely fortunate, owing to the brilliant sights that they are lucky enough to take in.
2. Diocletian’s Palace
The Diocletian Palace is located in the second largest city of Croatia, Split. Diocletian Palace, built by the emperor of the same name, seems like a city within the city. The emperor had a tumultuous period of reign and it took the palace ten years to be constructed. Visitors to the palace can see a 3500 year old granite sphinx, which is one of the remaining three from the original collection of sphinxes that were brought down from Egypt. The palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses many other antique items in its periphery. The grounds of the palace have also been used as a shooting location for the fourth season of the exceedingly popular television series, Game of Thrones.
3. Euphrasian Basilica
The Euphrasian Basilica symbolises a classic example of Byzantine architecture. Located in the city of Porec in Croatia, the basilica was constructed in the early 6th century AD and it is the third monument to have been built at the same place after the dilapidation of the previous ones. Visitors can see the remains and traces of the two previous buildings that stood here, which were built during the 4th century. The basilica has been given world heritage status by UNESCO in 1997, and the striking mosaics that adorn its walls are a beautiful sight to behold.
4. Cathedral of Saint Domnius
One of the oldest cathedrals found in Europe, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius in Split dates back to the 2nd century. The altars in the cathedral are for St Domnius and St Anastasius who are considered to be martyrs in Christianity. Emperor Diocletian and his wife Prisca are supposed to be depicted in a portrait that adorns the cathedral’s inner wall. Another point of interest for visitors would be the fourteen tablets that are seen at the entrance to the cathedral. Scenes of the Gospel can be found engraved on these tablets, and even the resurrection of Christ has been sculpted on one of them. A walk up the 57 metre high bell tower in the precinct, whose construction dates back to the 13th century, provides one with a splendid view of the city of Split.
5. Church of St. Donatus
The Church of St. Donatus in Zadar was built by a person with the same name. Donatus was a bishop and diplomat who had begun the church’s construction in the 8th century and gave it the name of the Holy Trinity, which was later changed to the Church of Donatus in the 15th century. The completion of the church took nearly a century. Visitors to the church can get a peek at the magnificent Byzantine form of architecture. Donatus is supposed to have visited Byzantium and influenced by their form of architectural designs. There is a sacrificial altar which is well marked and inscribed in the church. Currently the building serves as a concert hall for an annual International Festival of Medieval Renaissance Music due its highly acoustic walls.
6. Walls of Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik earned the name “Pearl of the Adriatic” due to its walls, made of white stone, which surrounds the entire city. This wall structure, that has stood the test of time and nature, has made the city find a place in the list of UNESCO designated places of world heritage. Visitors can see various forts and even an old port constructed along this wall. The total length of the wall runs 1940 metres or 6365 feet. The construction of the Dubrovnik Walls was started somewhere during the Middle Ages, and records indicate that the city had been attacked by Saracens in the 9th century and there was a siege for 15 months, this indicates that the wall was already completed by then.
7. Pula Arena
The Pula Amphitheatre is supposed to have been constructed during the time of the Roman reign of Emperor Vespasian (AD 69 to AD 79). This majestic amphitheatre with a supposed seating capacity of 20,000 people was the point where gladiators and other Roman pagan sporting events took place. Today, it has been converted to seat an audience of 5,000, and the centre stage is set for conducting operas and other such shows.
8. Fort Lovrijenac
The Fort Lovrijenac in Dubrovnik has an interesting story related to its construction. The Venetians had hatched a plan to build a fortress at this very spot in the 11th century. Their intended strategy was to overpower the people of Dubrovnik in the process. Learning of this plan, the people of Dubrovnik went ahead and constructed a fortress of their own on the quite inaccessible site in just three months. The Venetians on arrival with material to build the fort found themselves outwitted.
Another intrigue that visitors will note is that while three walls of the fortress are thick, one wall facing the city is very thin. The reason for this was to overpower any thoughts of treachery that could come into the mind of the fort commander; the fort could easily be breached by cannoning through this wall. In modern times the stage here is used for enacting Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The imposing facade of the fort has also been used in its CGI modified avatar to show “King’s Landing” from the HBO miniseries Game of Thrones.
9. Trogir Cathedral
Popularly known as the Trogir Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence was constructed in the Romanesque-Gothic architectural style in the 13th century. It was devastated by the Venetian people when they attacked in 1171. It was thereafter that the present cathedral structure was built. The crucifix that hangs in the cathedral, a creation of architect Blaž Jurjev, is an amazing piece of work to see. Today, the cathedral still has an impressive and imposing presence on the skyline of Trogir and is a sight that cannot be missed.
10. Temple of Augustus
The temple was built by Emperor Augustus in Pula during the 1st century BC, and was dedicated to the emperor and the goddess Roma, who personified the city of Rome. Right under the facade of the entrance, the motif sculpted on the walls in Latin talks about the temple being dedicated to the emperor and the goddess. The temple precincts have been used for diverse purposes through time by various rulers. During World War II, the temple suffered heavy damage due to bombing and was re-constructed thereafter. Visitors will find a huge repository of sculptures made from bronze and stone in the temple premises.