Heavenly Beaches

 

 

Croatia has the purest sea in Europe, next to Malta, Cyprus and Greece.

 

Picturesque seaside towns and villages are one of the strongest Croatian advantages, and journalists, individuals and the world media, all of which rightfully place Croatia in the top most beautiful beaches in the world, discover such beauties every year in the eve of another tourist season. It is particularly important to mention Hvar as an oasis of beautiful beaches, and an oasis for party goers from around the world.

 

One of the most attractive and most photographed beaches in the Croatia is certainly Zlatni rat in the town Bol, on Brač island, which is not only considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but according to LA Times it is in the top 40 most beautiful places in the world in general. The beach is made of fine white pebbles and it is widely known for its natural phenomenon where the shape and direction of the beach changes with the wind.

 

Sakarun, a unique beach on the Dugi otok island carried the title of the most attractive beach in the past, but this rural beach was in 2013 included amongst „The most beautiful bays in the world“. On the island of Cres, by Lubenice, lies a hidden beach in untouched nature, full of Mediterranean plants. It is not easy to reach, but the natural “obstacle” did not stop it from being included onto their list of 15 most beautiful beaches in the world, next to contenders from New Zealand, the Carribean, Hawaii islands, Ibiza, Sardinia, Brazil…

 

On the Vis Island, the Stiniva beach, hidden between two cliffs, is also a natural treasure and a must see for the visitors.

 

Fort Kamenjak, south of Pula, is one of the most famous beaches in Istria, and according to the Lonely Planet guide, this beach is famous for its wild, untouched nature and the feeling of being “at the end of the world”. Kamenjak is a protected natural reservation with crystal-clear blue sea, full of wild growth and dusty pathways.

 

Another hidden beach is the Nugal, which is visited mainly by naturists, and it is located about 2 km from the town harbour, between Makarska and Tučepi. It is a unique natural beauty and the right choice for those who enjoy naturist tourism. It is located at the foot of a cliff, and when it rains it is adorned by a beautiful waterfall.

 

Zrće beach on the island of Pag, also known as the Croatian Ibiza, captivates visitors not only with its beauty, but also with its world-renowned 24-hour party offer in a small town that never sleeps, and where top international DJs have been performing for 11 years.

Gastronomic Delights

 

 

The gastronomic culture of Croatia is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and richest in Europe, primarily because it unites the richness of Central European, Mediterranean and Eastern cuisine, but also because it is based on an extremely healthy food. Refined European gastronomy connoisseurs will recognize on the plates of the Croatian cuisine achievements of the former rulers of its regions, from Vienna to Istanbul and Venice, but also a precious legacy of people’s cuisine, developed in conjunction with the modest possibilities of individual regions.

Essentiality and originality

 

Regardless of whether it is anchovy, which is considered a food resource of Dalmatia, livestock on the Dalmatian islands and inland, wildlife in the mountain and the lowland part of Croatia or forest fruits in the woodlands of the country, Croatia’s gastro culture has always been developed in harmony with the climate of the region and, of course, the material wealth of the population. The necessity and originality of many regional people’s cuisines today, in modern conditions, are one of the strongest assets of the national cuisine. Croatia has turned its ecological preservedness into an unforeseen culinary advantage.

 

Croatia is a country of healthy food, originating mainly from the greenery of naturally preserved landscapes untouched by the harmful effects of excessive industrialization. Because of that, many Croatian culinary delights are unique in Europe and the rest of the world.

 

 

Culinary rarities

 

Mali Ston’s oysters Ostrea edulis, islands’ lamb, a wealth of fresh-water and marine fish, shellfish and crabs, one of the best olive oils in the world, Pag’s cheese, Slavonian kulen (hot sausage), Istrian Boškarin (less known type of beef originating from Istria), truffles and asparagus, Dalmatian chard, arugula, artichokes, broad beans, mišancija (Dalmatian mixed herbs) and other types of vegetables, smoked ham and bacon from the Dalmatian hinterland, naturally bred Zagorje turkey, rich wildlife and wild berries, potatoes from Lika and Međimurje’s cabbage, rarities like butarge (salted and dried fish roe, a rare and precious delicacy), dried fish eggs, or dried tabinja (a rare fish) which many consider more tasty than dried cod – these are the ingredients on which the best Croatian gastronomy is based and which, thanks to tourism, has become well known in Europe and worldwide.

 

 

The development of gastronomy has been strongly supported by tourism development, and the partnership of these two disciplines influenced the reappraisal of the gastronomy and wine culture and its adaptation to modern conditions and needs. Our long neglected cuisine has finally become a treasured and properly valued occupation, and more and more young and educated people get drawn to catering, hospitality, agriculture, fisheries, orchards and vineyards. They are conscious that this is a potentially lucrative part of the Croatian economy in which demand is on an upward curve.

Natural Wonders 

 

 

Croatia has eight national parks – four in its mountainous area and four in the coastal area. They are: Brijuni, Kornati, Mljet, River Krka, Plitvice Lakes, Risnjak, Paklenica and Northern Velebit.

 

Brijuni Islands are a group of islands that include Veli and Mali Brijun, and 12 smaller islands. They make an oasis of natural beauty and interesting historical sites that date back to ancient times. The islands stretch along the southwest cost of the Istrian Peninsula, separated by the 3-kilometre Fažana canal. The islands preserve the memory of their former owner, the Austrian industrialist Paul Kupelweiser who made it a destination for the European elite, and the memory of the former president Josip Broz Tito who welcomed many international statesmen and celebrities here.

 

Kornati islands are the densest Mediterranean archipelago, consisting of 152 little islands scattered across the blue sea between the islands of Dugi Otok and Žirje. The National Park includes 89 islands, and one quarter of the Park is land, the rest are marine eco-systems. There are plenty of natural and cultural elements; vertical cliffs, “the crowns” of Kornati islands that face the open sea are the most popular phenomenon, and a habitat to some rare species. The land area of the Park is privately owned.

 

National park on the island of Mljet occupies the western, wooden part the island, with five types of wood, the remains of rainforest, numerous singing birds and the snake eagle habitat. The Large lake has 145 hectares of surface and it is 46 meters deep, while the Small lake has 24 hectares and the depth of 29 meters. They attract scientists and nature lovers with its secrets. In the middle of Large lake there is the island of St. Mary, with an ancient Benedictine monastery, and a church from the 12th century. For its extraordinary aesthetics and strong spiritual and cultural dimension, the island has somewhat become a symbol of Mljet and the Mljet National Park.

 

The virgin-clean karstic river Krka, with its seven magic waterfalls, has its source near Knin, and two-thirds of the river passes through canyons. It is extremely rich with endemic flora and fauna, with 222 bird species. The special features of this river landscape are the water mills along the river and above the waterfalls, defence hillforts overseeing the canyon, and the colourful confluence of river Cikola, above the Skradinski buk waterfall. The estuary of river Krka – the Prukljan lake – stretches all the way to Skradinski buk waterfall. It is 25.5 kilometres long and rich with seashells, freshwater and sea fish. Between Roski waterfall and Skradinski buk waterfall, in the Visovac lake, there is an island with the Franciscan monastery with an idyllic garden and a rich cultural history. The Krka monastery (Arhandelovac) is situated in the wider part of the canyon in Kistanje area.

 

The most famous continental National Park – Plitvice Lakes – is a complex of 16 lakes that are interconnected with waterfalls. They form breathtaking forest scenery that stretches between Mala Kapela and Plješivica mountains. Prošćan Lake and Kozjak are the two highest and largest lakes (on dolomite surface), and the lower lakes, in limestone layer, after 146 meters end in a waterfall that runs into the river Korana. Rainforest Ćorkova uvala adds to this exclusive scenery with 120 bird species and numerous caves. In this mountain climate the hills, woods, lakes and waterfalls are covered with snow and ice between November and March, and in summer months this is the perfect place to hide from the heat.

 

Risnjak National Park is located in the Gorski Kotar area, and it forms part of the western mountain massif that connects the Alps with the Dinarides. It incorporates Veliki Risnjak (1,528 metres) and Snježnik (1,506 metres) peaks. It is abundant in karstic faults, sinkholes, caves and pits. Large areas of the Park are covered with old conifer woods, mountain meadows, sub-Alpine and Alpine flora, and many endemic species. The largest wild animal groups are bears, wolves, chamoises, Alpine dears, wild boars and lynx. The mountain rivers are the natural habitat of rainbow trout and other salmonidae.

 

Somewhat to the south and east lies Sjeverni Velebit National Park. This is the widest part of the Velebit massif, stretching from the Vratnik notch (698 metres), on the Otočac-Senj road, to the Veliki Alan peak (1397 metres). On its coastal side, it overlooks the Velebit canal and it is covered in bare rocks, while the continental side is rich with woods. Zavižan peak, with a mountain home and a botanical garden, is the ideal starting point for hiking and riding tours. The Premužić ridge trail leads through Rožanski kukovi reserve, offering spectacular views over the sea and the islands as far as the island Rab, and the strict reserve Hajdučki kukovi.

 

Paklenica National Park is situated in the southern part of Velebit. It is one of the most attractive natural areas in the Mediterranean: dense black pine and beech woods, caves, watering-places, wild streams and drinking water sources lie underneath the highest peaks. Velika Paklenica is a favourite place with climbers, and Manita peć cave with speleologists. There is a stone-trail leading from the entrance to the Park through the gorge, towards the mountain home. There are also several additional maintained shelters across the mountain.

Fairytale Castles

 

 

Croatia is well known as a land of thousand islands, but it is also a land of thousand castles. They range from simple, unassuming abodes to truly majestic residences. You can find medieval feudal fortified castles, castles and curiae in Northern Croatia built after the wars with the Ottomans in the 17th century, Renaissance summer houses and rural country-house castles in Southern Dalmatia, especially in the Dubrovnik area. It can be said that Croatian castles are a common part of the landscape of numerous areas of the country.

 

The Hrvatsko Zagorje region has the largest density of castles and curiae in Europe, most of which belong to the Baroque period, showing excellent craftsmanship in building and architecture.

 

The Trakošćan Castle

 

The best preserved castle in Croatia is the spectacular Trakošćan Castle. It is situated in the Zagorje region, in a lush forest and next to the lake bearing the same name. It was built in the end of the 13th century. After the Ottoman danger decreased, the castle slowly started decaying. Luckily its owners, the Drašković family, decided to renovate the building in the 19th century due to the spirit of romanticism and the awakened interest for the national and family heritage.

 

The castle museum boasts an extensive weapon exhibition, as well as the portrait gallery and the old furniture exhibition.

 

The Zrinski castle

 

The Zrinski castle is a medieval fortification in the middle of the town of Čakovec, in the Međimurje county. Nikola Zrinski, nobleman and general, and member of one of the great mid-European dynasties, wrested the territory from Hungary in 1546 and built a Renaissance residential palace inside the walls of a medieval fortress. The castle fortress held Međimurji against the turks but could not sustain the revolt for independence that the Zrinskis and the Frankopans fought against the Austria-Hungary empire. After the last Zrinski died, the castle was overrun by the force of the Vienna Imperial army. Throughout the 1700’s the castle was in the hand of the Czech counts but in 1738 an earthquake devastated the whole county and with it the castle. It was later rebuilt, this time in Baroque style.

 

The city of Čakovec and the castle returned to Croatian rule at the end of World War I. The castle has been turned into a museum and it is possible to visit.

 

The Dioš Castle

 

The Dioš castle lays on a hill of the same name, in the Bjelovar-Bilogora County. The feudal possessor, the noble by Alajoš Tükory and his wife Paula built it for their daughter Marija in 1904.

The owners did not allow the appearance of the castle to give the impression that it was a country-life villa. They wanted it to look like a lord’s house. The castle presents a luxuriant and elaborate architectural solutions. The rooms’ interiors and the outdoor elements make of it a beautiful and rich monument, especially the roof which presents an extremely sophisticated structure.

 

In 1995 the castle was returned to the Silesian monks. Every year in May, on the catholic holiday – a holiday of great importance for the monks – they carry out the procession that gathers a large number of believers and the curious.

 

The Maruševac castle

 

The Maruševac castle is situated in the Varaždin County, in a municipality of the same name. It was built around the XV century by the noble family Vragović, but over the course of the centuries it changed many owners. In 1945 it was expropriated from the Pongratz family, and recently it has been returned to them, who are now their final owners.

 

Today’s construction of the castle is a combination of Renaissance and neo-Gothic architecture. It has been enlarged and re-constructed several times. In early XX some intensive interior works were accomplished by its next owner, Dr. Oscar Pongratz. The castle is surrounded by a park and there is a small fountain behind it.

 

The bright yellow color of its facade gives it warmth and beauty.

 

The Miljana Castle

 

In the Krapina – Zagorje county there is another beauty of the Croatian castles – the Miljana Castle. It is the best preserved Croatian castle. It is located in the vicinity of the Sutla river, some ten kilometers from Kumrovec, famous for being the birthplace of marshal Josip Broz Tito.

 

The building of the castle lasted during three centuries, and was finished in the 16 century by the Rattkay family. It was in their possession until 1793, when the last member of the family died. After that, the castle changed many owners. In 1900 the Jäger family took possession of it, while in 1980 dr Franjo Kajfež bought it and by restoring the whole castle he gave it back its initial shine.

 

Today it is open to the public, prior announcement necessary.

 

The Lužnica castle

 

The Lužnica is an 18th century castle, located in the Zagreb County. It is a beautiful open type castle surrounded by a lake and a park, with a surrounding promenade.

The first owners of the castle were the noble Italian family Čikulini, who arrived in Croatia at the end of the 18th century. After the Čikulini, the ownership of the castle passed to the family of the baron Rauch, an important figure in Croatian history.

 

The castle was built under the influence of 18th century Austrian Baroque. It is a one-story baroque style castle with highlight to the central hall. It was in that central hall where all the socializing between the baron and the respectable gentlemen and high ranking society members of the domestic and foreign nobility took place. One very interesting fact about the hall is that it had separate balconies for men and women. The female balconies had a bulge because of the large crinolines that they were wearing.

 

Today the Lužnica baroque manor is run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and it’s primary role is to provide spiritual and educational programs for the surrounding communities.

Inviting wine routes

 

 

Considering that wine growing has been present in this area since antiquity, Croatia is proud to have a wide selection of wines. There are more than a thousand wine labels, 900 of which come with a certified and controlled geographic origin.

 

Croatian wines are also special because Croatia has five wine-growing zones that are based on the number of sun hours and air temperature. In comparison, the world’s first wine and vineyard nation – France, has only four. The result is a diverse wine mosaic, from fresh, aromatic and fragrant wines in the North, to the strong, sweet and full wines in the South.

 

Croatia is divided in two wine growing regions – continental and coastal – and 12 sub-regions.

 

The coastal region

 

The coastal wine region stretches from Istria, down the Adriatic coast and into the continent. This whole region is divided into four vine-growing sub-regions:

 

Istria and Hrvatsko Primorje

 

Northern, Central and Southern Dalmatia

 

and Dalmatinska Zagora inland

 

The continental region

 

In continental Croatia, there are several sub-regions:

 

Zagorje-Medimurje

 

Prigorje-Bilogora

 

Plešivica

 

Pokuplje and Moslavina in the north western part

 

Slavonia and Podunavlje in the north eastern part

 

 

In most of the Croatian regions you can discover the diversity of the wines, and get acquainted with the typical methods of wine production for that region, by taking one of the organized wine tours. They include trips through the amazing local vineyards followed by visits to private wine cellars. In the wine cellars you will get to know all about their wines, the typical wine sorts of the region, the methods of production and, most importantly, you will taste all their amazing wines, often accompanied by delicious matching appetizers.

 

With regards to the types of wines in Croatia, the most common white wine in continental Croatia is Graševina. Common local sorts also include Škrlet and Kraljevina. Good wines are also made from international vines, such as Pinot, Rhein Riesling, Traminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. The red wines from continental Croatia are Pinot Noir, Portugieser, and Frankovka wine, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, the latter two sorts are more common for the coastal vine-growing region, where the most typical sort is the Dalmatian Plavac Mali.

 

The most famous Croatian wine is precisely Plavac, but it is commonly named after the places where it is grown, such as Dingač, Postup, Ivan Dolac, and similar. Interestingly, recent research has shown that Dalmatian Plavac Mali, also known as Crljenak, is the original vine that was used for Californian Zinfandel and the Italian Primitivo.

 

Well know white sorts are the Istrian Malvazija, Pošip, Rukatac and Vis Vugava.

Unesco treasures

 

 

UNESCO recognized the extraordinary value of Croatian natural and cultural beauties already in 1979, when it inscribed two of today’s best known tourist symbols, Dubrovnik and Plitvice Lakes, on its World Heritage List.

 

After that, many other sites have been inscribed on this precious list.

 

The City walls of old Dubrovnik encapsulate the perfectly preserved complex of sacral and profane buildings in the city centre, dating from various periods from 7th century onwards. In addition to the Walls, Stradun, the city’s main street is equally important, and other important sites include the Rector’s Palace (Knežev dvor) which was the seat of the city’s rulers; the church dedicated to the city’s patron St Blaise; the Cathedral, three large monasteries, Old Customs building and the City Hall. The Republic of Dubrovnik was a politically and territorially independent state that for centuries managed to preserve its culture, trade and freedom.

 

The best known continental national park – Plitvice Lakes – is a system of a 16 lakes connected with waterfalls. They create beautiful forest scenery that stretches between Mala Kapela and Plješivica mountains. The rainforest Ćorkova Uvala adds to this exclusive scenery with 120 bird species and numerous caves.

 

Together with these two jewels, UNESCO also added the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian in 1979, from which medieval Split developed. The Palace of Diocletian represents one of the most important examples of the late classical Roman architecture, with its high level of preservation and the originality of applied architectural forms that paved the way for early Christian, Byzantine, and Medieval art.

 

In 1997, UNESCO added the Romanesque historical centre of Trogir to the World Heritage list. Trogir was established on the grounds of the older Greek town from the 3rd century BC. Its medieval city centre, surrounded by walls, includes a well preserved castle, a turret, and numerous buildings and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque period.

 

In 1997, the Early Christian Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Basilica represents one of the oldest and most beautiful 6th century monuments. The entire complex received its final form in 13th and 15th century, and today it includes the Episcopal complex, the Baptistery, the Atrium and other Romanesque and Renaissance style buildings.

 

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000. At the time it was constructed in Cinquecento and Seicento, the Cathedral represented the most demanding building project in the region. The church has three naves and three apses, with a large 32-metre high dome. The construction was started in the Venetian Gothic style, and it was completed in the style of Tuscan Renaissance.

 

In July of 2008, the Starigradsko Plain on the island of Hvar was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for its vineyards and olive groves that have remained practically intact since the ancient Greeks first colonized it, and as such they are a unique example of the geometric land demarcation used in the ancient times. This area, the largest agricultural area on the Adriatic islands, was colonised in 385 B.C by a group of some one hundred families from the Greek town of Paros. The settlers soon started to erect ancillary buildings and lodgings. The more luxurious remaining ones are from the Roman period, and foundations of around sixty such buildings have been discovered thus far. The Starigrad Plain today represents the best-preserved ancient Greek landscape in the Mediterranean.

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