Is Croatia on your list of places you need to visit on your European rail adventure? If not, it should be! With so many places to go to, you could spend a whole month of your Eurotrip in Croatia alone!
Located on the Istrian Peninsula, Pula has always been prized for its strategic position on the coast. It was developed with a natural harbour during Augustus’ reign, and the Venetians and the Austro-Hungarian Empires later made use of this defensive spot. As a result, Pula is filled with inspiring Roman ruins and beautiful old buildings – perfect for a few days of Eurail sightseeing.
For the lover of antiquity, lose yourself in Arena, one of the most complete amphitheatres in the world and the venue for tournaments in the medieval ages, before moving on to the town’s Augustan ruins: the Arch of the Sergii and the Temple of Augustus. The former is carved with garlands and a horse-drawn chariot to celebrate the Sergii family’s involvement in the Battle of Actium; the latter is well-preserved after this pagan temple was converted into a church.
Other things to see include the Venetian fortress of Kastel, which is one of the venues for the Pula International Film Festival. Kastel’s impressive walls were designed in a star shape to effectively repel heavy artillery.
After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991 and the end of the ensuing power struggles, Dubrovnik became one of the Mediterranean’s most popular destinations.
Controlled by the Republic of Rasgusa from the 14th-19th century, the city was a naval powerhouse. Go to the Maritime Museum, set in St. John’s Fortress, to learn about the city’s merchants, its astonishing naval wealth and one of the world’s largest fleets in the 16th century.
Any trip to Dubrovnik would be wasted without walking around the old city walls: a stroll along the battlements offers the visitor commanding views out to sea and won’t take too long, as they are just over one mile in length.
Finish off your day with a swim on the island of Lokrum, a nature reserve just 600 metres off the coast. You can get there by catching a boat from Dubrovnik’s old port anytime from April to October.
Plitvice National Park
Plitvice National Park was included on the UNESCO World Heritage register in 1979 and with good reason: its sixteen terraced lakes, in their distinctive colours, are a marvel to behold, connected by waterfalls and surrounded by a carpet of forest.
You can explore the park’s phenomenal natural beauty through its 36km of walkways or by boat. There are seven different routes exploring the lake system and four walking trails, leaving you lots of choice to get close to nature.
Reaching Korčula, the supposed birthplace of renowned explorer Marco Polo and the sixth largest Croatian island, requires a short ferry ride.
If windsurfing isn’t your thing, rent a bike instead and gently pedal around this charming island. Heading southeast from Korcula Town, you won’t be challenged by any hills and you’ll see the picturesque Lumbarda vineyard; if, on the other hand, you want a test, the path up to the fishing village of Racisce is the one for you.
Korcula Old Town has often been compared to Dubrovnik, with its red-roofed Venetian buildings and medieval walls. Following a look at the Gothic-Renaissance St Mark’s Cathedral, have a well-earned break in a local restaurant with a glass of the region’s famed white wine.
Just up the coast from Pula, the small town of Rovinj is arguably Istria’s most glamorous, packed with good restaurants, boutiques and galleries. Of the latter, the pick of the bunch is the Rovinj Heritage Museum with its fine collection of Italian art dating from the 1400s.
If you want to hawk for some souvenirs or picnic food, then head to the fruit-and-vegetable market of Trg Valdibora. Here, you’ll be tempted to buy honey, lavender oil, local wines, grappa or, possibly a painting or two.
One of the quirkier things you can do during your stay is to dive at the site of the Baron Guatsch shipwreck. The Baron Guatsch was a Habsburg ship that was destroyed by an Austro-Hungarian mine at the beginning of World War I and sunk to a depth of thirty five meters. Alternatively, you can remain above water and go on a leisurely fishing trip.
Split is the one of the glories of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Worth a visit in its own right, it also acts as a good base from which to explore Croatia’s vast array of islands.
Sightseeing-wise, you can’t miss Diocletian’s Palace, an early fourth century building which takes up approximately half of the old town. Palace is a bit of an understatement: this vast fortress was shared between Diocletian’s own quarters and the on-site military garrison, and is now made up of homes, restaurants and shops.
You can’t get any more unusual than Split’s Froggyland, a museum dedicated to stuffed frogs- all 507 of them. They stand on display in a bizarre range of poses: some walk to school, others play tennis and a few run a circus. This bizarre collection was formed by Ference Mere, a taxidermist, in Hungary, and will leave you much to ponder.