Brief History of Croatia

Croatia’s history dates back to the prehistoric times, with traces of Neanderthal presence in the Krapina region. The first known organized societal groups, the Illyrians, settled the region in the first millennium BCE. However, it was the Roman Empire’s rule starting from the 2nd century BCE that brought significant development, including the founding of many towns still present today, such as Zagreb and Split.

Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Ostrogoths briefly took control before the Byzantine Empire established its rule. The 7th century saw the arrival of the Croats, a Slavic people who migrated from Eastern Europe and eventually formed two duchies. Christianity was adopted during this period, and by the 9th century, the duchies united under the Kingdom of Croatia.

The Kingdom flourished until the 11th century, when it entered a personal union with Hungary. The region faced numerous threats, including Mongol invasions and the Ottoman Empire’s expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries. This led to a military frontier’s creation, managed directly by the Habsburgs who were ruling over Hungary.

In the late 17th century, the entirety of Croatia came under Habsburg rule and remained so until the end of World War I, when it joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia). Croatia declared independence in 1941 during World War II under German and Italian influence, but this Independent State of Croatia was characterized by fascist rule and atrocities against minorities.

After World War II, Croatia became one of the six socialist republics in the newly formed Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito. Tito’s death in 1980 sparked a period of political instability and economic decline across the federation, leading to nationalistic sentiments. In 1991, following a contentious referendum, Croatia declared independence, which led to the brutal Croatian War of Independence against Belgrade-backed Serb forces.

Since the war’s end in 1995, Croatia has rebuilt its infrastructure and has become a democratic state. It joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union in 2013. Despite challenges, the country has made significant strides in its development, becoming a popular tourist destination with a growing economy.

About Croatia

Country Code: +385.

Crime: Generally, Croatia is considered a safe country for residents and tourists. Common crimes include petty theft and pickpocketing, particularly in crowded areas or major tourist destinations. Like many European countries, Croatia has also faced issues related to cybercrime, fraud, and corruption.

Violent crime in Croatia is relatively rare, especially compared to countries with higher overall crime rates. Most violent crimes tend to be linked to organized crime groups, which are present but not as pervasive as in some other countries.

Drug-related offenses are also a concern. Croatia’s location makes it a transit route for drugs being transported from production countries to markets in Western Europe. The country has strict drug laws, and possession of even small amounts can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.

On a societal level, Croatia has made efforts to address domestic violence, which is a problem as it is in many countries. The country has legal protections in place and provides resources for victims, but challenges remain, particularly in terms of societal attitudes and enforcement.

Corruption has been a longstanding issue in Croatia. While efforts have been made to reduce corruption, particularly since joining the European Union in 2013, it remains a concern, particularly within the public sector.

Currency: EU Euro.

Language: Croatian.

Latitude and Longitude: 45.1000° N, 45.2000° E.

Population: 3.899 million (2021).

President: Zoran Milanović.

National Parks

Croatia is known for its stunning natural beauty, which is preserved and showcased in its national parks. Croatia has eight national parks, each with its unique ecological, geological, and cultural features.

Plitvice Lakes National Park: The largest and the oldest national park in Croatia, established in 1949. Known for its cascading lakes, the park is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The 16 interconnected lakes are divided into upper and lower clusters, with waterfalls and lush greenery surrounding them.

Krka National Park: Named after the river Krka that it encloses. It’s known for its seven waterfalls, the most famous of which is Skradinski Buk.

The park also features the tiny island of Visovac, home to a Franciscan monastery.

Brijuni National Park: This park encompasses 14 islands and islets in the Adriatic Sea. It was the personal State Summer Residence of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito.

Today, it’s known for its safari park, archaeological sites, and beautiful beaches.

Mljet National Park: Covering the western part of Mljet Island, this park is known for its dense vegetation, saltwater lakes, and the 12th-century St. Mary’s Monastery located on a small islet in one of the lakes.

Risnjak National Park: Located near Rijeka in the mountainous region of Gorski Kotar, it’s named after the lynx (ris in Croatian), its most famous inhabitant. It’s a haven for hikers and nature lovers with its diverse flora and fauna.

Paklenica National Park: Located on the southern slopes of the Velebit mountains, it’s renowned for its two dramatic canyons, Velika and Mala Paklenica. It’s a popular spot for hiking and rock climbing.

Northern Velebit National Park: This is the youngest national park in Croatia, known for its diverse karstic phenomena, rich biodiversity, and stunning landscapes. It’s also home to the Hajdučki and Rožanski Kukovi strict reserves.

Kornati National Park: Made up of 89 islands, islets, and reefs, this is the largest and most complex group of islands in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. The park is famous for its strikingly rugged landscapes and the rich marine ecosystem.

Top Tourist Attractions

Croatia is a country blessed with rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, making it a popular tourist destination.

Dubrovnik Old Town: Often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the Old Town of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its well-preserved medieval architecture, including the city walls, fortresses, and the Gothic-Renaissance Sponza Palace.

Plitvice Lakes National Park: this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its 16 terraced lakes connected by waterfalls. Walkways and hiking trails wind around and across the water, offering breathtaking views.

Hvar Town: Situated on Hvar Island, the town is known for its stunning landscape, mild climate, and extensive lavender fields. The town itself is characterized by the medieval architecture of the St. Stephen’s Square and Cathedral, the hilltop fortress, and a bustling harbor.

Diocletian’s Palace, Split: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ancient palace was built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 4th century AD. Today, the palace is the heart of the city, housing numerous shops, restaurants, and residences within its walls.

Pula Arena: Located in the city of Pula, the amphitheater is one of the world’s best-preserved Roman arenas. It was once the site of gladiator fights, but today it serves as a venue for concerts and film screenings.

Zagreb’s Gornji Grad (Upper Town): It is the medieval core of the capital city, featuring the twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral, the 13th-century St. Mark’s Church, and the Croatian Parliament (Sabor).

Zadar’s Sea Organ and Sun Salutation: These are two unique installations by architect Nikola Bašić. The Sea Organ is a set of steps descending into the sea that produce music when waves hit them. Next to it is the Sun Salutation, a solar-powered installation that produces a mesmerizing light show after dark.

Korčula Town: Known as “Little Dubrovnik,” this historic city located on Korčula Island offers medieval walls, beautiful beaches, and is believed to be the birthplace of the famous explorer, Marco Polo.

Rovinj: Situated on the Istrian Peninsula, Rovinj is a charming town known for its well-preserved old town, colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and the hilltop church of St. Euphemia.

Krka National Park: Known for its stunning waterfalls, the Krka National Park also offers walkways for visitors to enjoy the scenery, and you can even swim in certain areas.

Wine and Wineries

Croatia has a long and respected tradition of winemaking that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It’s a diverse country with many different grape varieties, wine styles, and wine regions.

Istria: Located on a peninsula in the north of the country near the Italian border, Istria is known for its white wines, especially those made from the Malvasia Istriana grape. The region’s red wines, typically made from Teran, are also highly respected. Kabola, Kozlović, and Trapan are some notable wineries in Istria.

Dalmatia: This region extends along the Adriatic coast and islands and is home to the Plavac Mali grape, a relative of Zinfandel. This grape is used to produce robust red wines.

The Dingač and Postup appellations on the Pelješac peninsula are particularly known for high-quality Plavac Mali wines. Wineries like Grgić Vina, Bura-Mrgudic, and Stina are worth a visit.

Slavonia: This northeastern region is best known for its Graševina (Welschriesling) white wines, which can be dry or sweet. The Kutjevo winery, one of Croatia’s oldest, is located in this region.

Uplands: In the north of Croatia, this region is home to a variety of winemaking styles and grape varieties, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Tomac winery, known for its sparkling wines, is located here.

Korčula: Located in Dalmatia, the island of Korčula is known for its indigenous white grape Pošip, producing aromatic, full-bodied white wines. The Pošip wines from the wineries like Korta Katarina and Bire are highly esteemed.

Croatian wines are characterized by their diversity, indigenous varieties, and the unique characteristics of their terroir. Despite being lesser known globally compared to other wine-producing countries, Croatian wines have a lot to offer and are gaining recognition in the international wine community.

Here are a few of the most famous wineries in Croatia:

Grgić Vina: Founded by Croatian-born Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, who gained fame in California for his role in the “Judgment of Paris” wine tasting in 1976, Grgić Vina is located in the coastal region of Dalmatia. The winery is particularly known for its Plavac Mali and Pošip wines.

Korta Katarina: Also located in Dalmatia, Korta Katarina has gained a reputation for its quality wines, especially its Plavac Mali and Rosé. The winery also offers spectacular views over the Adriatic Sea, and its villa doubles as a luxury hotel.

Bibich Winery: Situated in Northern Dalmatia, Bibich Winery is known for its innovative approach to winemaking and its diverse range of wines. Its Debit, a crisp white wine, and the rich and complex red blend R6 Riserva, have received international acclaim.

Kozlović Winery: Based in Istria, Kozlović is known for its exceptional white wines, including Malvasia and Muscat. The winery’s modern architecture is a standout in the region, and it offers a beautiful tasting room.

Tomac Winery: In the Croatian Uplands, Tomac Winery is celebrated for its sparkling wines and its amphora-aged wines. The winery uses traditional methods, fermenting some of their wines in large clay vessels buried in the ground.

Kutjevo Winery: One of the oldest continuously operating wineries in Croatia, located in the Slavonia region. It’s particularly known for its Graševina wines.

Bura-Mrgudic: Located on the Pelješac Peninsula in Dalmatia, the family-run Bura-Mrgudic winery is renowned for its excellent Plavac Mali wines.

Stina Winery: On the island of Brač, Stina Winery is famed for its white Pošip and red Plavac Mali. The winery is housed in a refurbished historical building and the bottles’ design, featuring white Dalmatian stone, is iconic.