Croatia is a vacation hotspot with influencers flocking for candid selfies on the awe-inspiring shorelines, while adventure seekers roam in its breathtaking scenery.
Just a few hours from London by plane, Croatia has become increasingly popular for those seeking an idyllic haven steeped in rich history and a foodie scene that really lives up to its buzz.
If you’re not bound by the school holidays, the best time to visit is during what’s known as the ‘shoulder-season’, between May and June as well as September and October. During this time, you can avoid the summer crowds but it’s still warm enough to take a refreshing dip in the sea, soak up the warm rays of sunshine and extend your summer while the nights draw in at home and the temperatures drop.
A foodie (and wine) heaven
The coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia are renowned for their fresh seafood. Shellfish snapped up from the Adriatic Sea and barbecued sea bass and gilthead bream are staple bases of the mouthwatering local dishes, which are served up alongside the best local produce bought the same day at market.
With its Mediterranean climate, there’s a huge emphasis on fresh, organic, locally sourced ingredients and it’s not just a new trend. This approach has been at the heart of Croatian cuisine for centuries.
But the country’s thriving markets are worth a visit whether you’re a foodie or not. Watching as they come alive with the sound of emphatic bartering, while the fragrant aromas of fresh produce fill the air will give you a real taste of Croatia and its culture.
Head to Dolac in Zagreb, one of the largest markets, and you’ll find goods from all over the country, including the famous Pag cheese, Zagorje turkey and Slavonian kulen sausage.
The Osijek market is also worth a visit, especially on Green Thursday, when special tastings of local delicacies are held. So why not spend a couple of hours browsing the stalls and having a bite of what you fancy?
There’s one speciality, in particular, worth shopping for in a Croatian market; truffles. A truly exclusive treat!
Truffles were discovered in the country by chance, with people initially describing what are now considered a culinary luxury as ‘smelly potatoes’. Both black, and the more rare, white truffles are abundant in the region of Istria, the only place outside Italy where they can be found.
If you want the chance to hunt for them yourself, then be sure to plan your visit between October and December, when they’re in season. You won’t regret it.
Other absolute must-haves include Istrian prosciutto, which is dry-cured with local spices and sea salt, before being air-dried in the Bura (a northern wind which blows across Croatia), making it an extra special delicacy.
At home, we’re prepared to spend a fortune on olive oil to add to our favourite dishes, but few people know that Croatia’s olive oil is among the best in the world, giving its food an extra depth and quality. Snap up a bottle to enjoy at home with this extra special ingredient and impress your pals next time it’s your turn to cook.
Another of Croatia’s best kept secrets is its wine.
There’s a huge array available across the country including Muscat, Riesling, Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to its dramatically different climates. From the Mediterranean heat in Dalmatia to the cooler, more Alpine regions in the north, there are stunning vineyards producing a great variety of grapes, which you can try for yourself when you book a tour.
And why not take a few bottles back home to enjoy too?
Fairy tale castles
Those who want to enrich their holiday by immersing themselves in culture, as well as by indulging in tempting cuisine, will be able to let their imagination go wild as they’re transported back in time at some of this ancient country’s most stunning spots.
With ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and six to be found along the coast), there are fascinating stories waiting to be discovered. But even a wander down the charming streets of its towns and cities will provide a history lesson as you soak up the the many influences which have left their mark over the centuries.
And it’s not just Britain that boasts castles; there are plenty to be explored in Croatia.
In fact some, like Medvedgrad, Bežanec Castle and Trakošćan Castle, throw open their doors to visitors. Take a walk through their halls, feel like royalty and learn the quirky legends that have helped to shape Croatia’s folklore, with some even inspiring popular movies and TV shows.
And be sure to maximise your time and avoid the queues by travelling after the school holidays are over. This way you can meander in peace, while gaining a real understanding of the history and culture which abounds around you.
Yes, Croatia is blessed with sparkling crystal waters and unrivalled beaches, but there is so much more to be discovered (and devoured).
For more information on this mouthwatering holiday destination, visit https://feeds.croatia.hr/en/
by – metro.co.uk