The pearl of the Adriatic is just one of many poetic descriptions heaped on the Croatian port of Dubrovnik. With an old city surrounded by walls, some of them 20ft thick in places, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was moved to write: “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik.”
Perched at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea, it is a favourite destination for cruises meandering gently along a coastline that in many respects is still developing its tourist offerings.
CLC World Travel will introduce you to a world of cruising with Croatia Tours 2019, on ships that offer levels of comfort calculated to entrance and enhance your enjoyment. A cruise along the Adriatic coast offers a picture of cities, islands, towns and villages which you can truly believe have stood still in time.
When you disembark in Dubrovnik you’re setting foot in a World Heritage Site. There are numerous tours that can be pre-booked on the internet and which snake in and out of the walls, taking in the city’s most famous sites. One of them is the 16th century Sponza Palace. It now houses the National Archives and escaped obliteration in the earthquake which struck the city in 1667. The force of the quake destroyed three-quarters of the entire city. If you can coincide your visit to Dubrovnik with the advent of the city’s Summer Festival, you will be taking part in a 45-day celebration of music, theatre, opera and dance, not to mention the wining and dining that goes along with such festivities. The festival itself runs from July 10th to August 25th and many of the events are free.
The coastal city of Split is Croatia’s second largest after the capital, Zagreb. Unlike Dubrovnik, where most historical buildings are post-1667, the centrepiece of a visit to Split is the giant palace of the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, who was actually born in what is now present-day Croatia.
The building is so big that around 3,000 people live within its boundaries. There are numerous shops, cafés and restaurants to savour during your visit. It is hard to imagine now, but Diocletian insisted the building should be constructed to allow him to sail straight into it from the sea!
Less than 20 minutes on foot from the port, there are tours round the giant palace which take in the Temple of Jupiter and the beautiful Cathedral of St. Duje. The tours can also include a trip to the island of Trogir, famous for its Venetian architecture and another World Heritage Site, this time stretching back 2,500 years. Its beautiful streets not only attracted the producers of HBO epic, Game of Thrones, but also 40 crew and cast from Doctor Who, who used it to mimic 19th century France.
A less cultural offering on a visit to Split is afforded by the left foot of a 10th century cleric! The statue of Gregory of Nin commemorates his decision to abandon church services in Latin (which most of the populace could not understand), in favour of the locally spoken language. If you rub his left foot, it is said to bring you good luck.
Once ashore, you should seek out a restaurant serving Peka. This dish is a mixture of vegetables, meat and herbs which is cooked in a pan with a dome-shaped lid. Try to finish it off with a shot of Rakija, a traditional fruit brandy, but beware, normally this spirit is around 20 per cent proof, but ‘unofficial’ versions can be a lot higher!
Plitvice National Park
Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction is a couple of hours inland from the coast and another World Heritage Site. This time though, it is one populated by brown bears, the European lynx and the Golden Eagle. Plitvice National Park consists of sixteen lakes, interconnected by a series of waterfalls, and covers an area of 300sq/km. Created in 1949, there are guided tours in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. There are several hotels in the vicinity of the park though not all of them are open all year round.
You can take a virtual tour of the park which should be all the persuasion you need but bear in mind that swimming in the lakes is not permitted. It was banned in 2006 in an effort to prevent human influence adversely affecting the park’s delicate ecosystem.