Istria: Croatia’s own Riviera
As a British person looking for places to travel, Croatia did not strike me as a prime place to go. I thought it was the kind of country that was popular with German and Slovenian tourists of a certain age. Although this is generally true (Croatians can speak German fluently), there is so much more on offer than just sitting round a hotel all day. We travelled to Istria, an area in the country known as the ‘rivera’ of Croatia. About twenty miles down the coast from Venice (an expensive but worthwhile excursion), Istria is all blue seas, huge yachts and stony, but exceptionally clean beaches.
Our hotel was in Porec, pronounced ‘Porridge’, a small, picturesque harbour town. The accommodation was situated on a leafy island opposite the town and we had the novelty of getting a boat across everyday. What I noticed immediately about the country is how safe and relaxed it is. You can freely walk around day and night and this is an advantage because at night the towns come to life. Walking down the narrow cobbled streets, vendors, ice cream sellers and restaurant owners compete for you to come into their establishments. It takes a bit of getting used to the Kunas that are the currency. Before we went, we stupidly thought that Croatia was in the E.U and that we would have to get euros and therefore left it to the last minute where no currency exchange in the UK had any. Although not having the euro would seem a godsend to tourists on a budget, Croatia has still got the same prices as the the more expensive countries in Europe. Accomodation and eating can see that your money gets eaten away quite quickly but if you want to save your money then I would recommend staying with a local services such as www.wimdu.co.uk , which allows you to stay in the European cities such as Pula or Zagreb for a fraction of the price. You also get the added advantage of the knowledge of the people you are staying with which can be invaluable.
Outside of the coastal towns, there is a wealth of things to do. When travelling to the cities, you can experience Pula and Zagreb’s long and ancient Croatian history. Pula has its very own colosseum that used to hold regular gladiator games in its time. Or if you don’t feel up to trekking round a city, then why not relax in a restaurant or bar and sample the typical cuisine that mostly consists of Italian elements thanks to the two countries proximity. Istria is known for its wine and if you don’t try anything else, you have to have this. They also pride themselves on their pizza which if I am being completely honest, tastes no less better than the ones the Italians claim to make the best. Istria is a great place to visit. Surprisingly so. Its climate is hot, but without the muggy air (thanks to the sea) and th landscapes are stunning. I would definitely recommend this as a must see travel destination.
Flights: Start at £130 / $200 from London www.croatiaairlines.com/en
Visas: UK, US, Australian, New Zealand passport holders not required for visits of up to 90 days. Required for South African passport holders. www.croatia.visahq.com/requirements/south_africa