Croatia Adventure Travel Guide
Thanks to the country's diverse climate, there are a variety of opportunities on offer. The Dalmatian coastline runs parallel to Italy's eastern coast and shares a similar climate: hot and dry s... (Read more...)
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Head north from the historic port of Dubrovnik and the ascent begins. You cross the Pannonian plains, which have a continental-type climate of cold winters and hot summers, before moving into the Alpine climate of the Dinara region. Alpine and Mediterranean climates within a couple of hours drive means variety: perfect for travellers seeking a little adventure.
Before travelling, it's perhaps best to decide what it is you want to do. Croatia's hot summers are perfect for watersports, however as temperatures sometimes reach 40C, mountain biking and trekking could be more fun in spring and autumn. Winters are extremely cold, although again this depends on which part of the country you are in - the coast has relatively warm winters but inland you can enjoy months of snow and bone-jarringly low temperatures.
With six world heritage sites and a fascinating history carved from dramatic clashes of empire, there is much to learn about this country. Although, if you are a traveller seeking sporting pleasures, it's probably the country's eight national parks, top winter sports facilities and 1185 islands that will float your boat.
So where to start? If you are flying then it's simple enough: If you want to go inland fly to the capital Zagreb and to the coast try Pula, Split or Dubrovnik, depending on your target destination.
There are also flights to Osijek, Zadar, Krk (Rijeka airport) and to Brac (Bol airport) - flying into either KrK or Brac you will want to have your wetsuit and trunks handy; the two islands are surrounded by crystal clear waters.
Zagreb is joined by rail links to Rijeka, Osijek and Split. Trains from international cities arrive daily, although if you are hoping to backpack your way around, taking the bus will help you get to less well-known destinations.
While improving, the country's road network is perhaps not of the same standard found at home. That's not to say you couldn't drive around from adventure to adventure, just take care on regional routes that traverse the alpine regions - especially during the winter months.
Campsites in Croatia are easy to find. Thanks again to the region's natural variety, you are faced with an oh-so-difficult choice: beaches or mountains? If it's coastal places you are after then you won't be disappointed, as there are many to choose from. Some sites tend to be small, although they are often in fabulous locations. Inland campsites, however, are less easy to source. But thanks to the rich mix of mountains and beaches, many of the sites offer access to both. Notable places to pitch up can be found at Fanzana, Rabic-Labin, Novigrad and Kranjski. If you do find yourself drawn to Plitvice national park, camping places are available in the nearby town. And if it all gets too much and you need to scrub up, worry not; there are plenty of lodges and hotels nearby.
Thanks to such clear waters, scuba fans will have a whale of a time. In 1999, Croatia won three international awards for the cleanliness of its waters, and many of the country's Dalmatian reefs remain uninhabited and preserved. There are a number of diving schools (accredited by PADI and SSI) dotted around the islands. Popular dive spots include Vela Luka on the island of Korcula; the bay of Siroka, on the island of Premuda and the shipwreck of the merchant ship Taranto, off Dubrovnik.
Above water there are a number of choices for sporting fun. Perhaps the most serene is Kayaking, although travelling along the coast (effectively island hoping) there are real challenges to be had. With deep blue waters and majestic views back inland, its little wonder paddlers love this part of the world. With such freedom to explore and water temperatures topping out at a remarkable 26C in the summer, kayaking in Croatia offers adventurers a unique experience and great views to boot.
Either based on one of the islands or mainland, you will soon find Croatia has walking routes to suit all ability levels. Treks range from the easiest coastal paths to full-on mountain adventures. Island walking is typically across rugged but manageable terrain. On Brac, the highest peak (Mount St Vid) is still 778 m above sea level, and there are paths and climbs to test most lung capacities. Inland, there are more challenges to be had. The national park in Plitvice has lakes and waterfalls to view, providing a relaxing break for walkers trudging along its well-maintained paths. For more testing days look to Mount Biokovo (1762m) and the Velebit mountains (1757m).
Flying into the more northerly airports you will find yourself close to the three main ski resorts: Bjelolasica, Platek and Velika. The Croatian Olympic centre is at Bjelolasica and furnished with the best facilities. The resort is served by six ski lifts, which ferry skiers and snowboarders to nine separate pistes. Platak has five pistes and is best suited to intermediate skiers. That said, snow coverage is described as variable, so check the forecast first. If you prefer exploring to racing, then try the resort at Velika; there are 10kms of cross-country trails as well as 6km of downhill pistes to check out.
Prefer two wheels? Then Croatia has some great trails and tracks to test your peddle power. If it's downhill you like but want to cool off in the water afterwards, mountain biking on the Dalmatian coast could be just the tonic - but be prepared for the ascents too! Croatian islands are criss-crossed with routes: perfect for a blast on a mountain bike. With good weather almost guaranteed in the summer, you really should pack your trunks along with that puncture repair kit.
Popular routes are found on the Island of Cres (great if you like it rocky) and near Zagreb airport in Markusevac (more for fans of woodland riding). With such a variety of terrain to choose from, MTB riders will easily be able to take the rough with the smooth.
With miles of coast and thousands of islands, Croatia is a natural destination for watersports fans. A ferry from Split will land you on the island of Brac and once settled in you'll be in the water in no time.
If you base yourself on the coast then look for island-hopping opportunities. There are few better ways to appreciate the topography of Croatia than looking back at the mainland from such beautiful islands - all 1,185 of them! Walking inland you would be foolish not to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Halfway between Zagreb and the coast this Unesco World Heritage Site has 16 lakes set among 300 square kilometres of deeply forested mountains. Looking for a break, or to round off your experience, Croatian culture is equally beguiling: renaissance architecture, coastal forts and international cities all help complete the picture.
You might be surprised at the variety of activities on offer in Croatia. The ever changing climate means that, depending on the season of your visit, you’ll find different things to do.
The rocky terrain makes excellent opportunities for mountaineering, with trails suitable no matter your level of skill or interest. The Croatian caves, too, afford the more intrepid with more glorious sights the deeper you go.
Golf has recently become very popular and there are some excellent courses. As with horseback riding, this is best confined to the summer months when you can bask in the glowing sunlight that warms Croatia’s verdant pastures.