Croatia's rare blend of glamour and old-fashioned authenticity make the country Europe's 'it' destination; a place where beaches and sunshine vie for attention with cultural treasures, ancient architecture and time-tested folk traditions.
There's plenty of glitz and glamour in Dubrovnik and Hvar, where night action and celebrity-spotting, designer cocktail in hand, is de rigueur, and fancy yachts dock in droves. Croatia's reputation for food and wine is also on the rise, with locally sourced, prime-quality ingredients from the land and sea, creatively prepared by celeb chefs or cooked up home-style in family-run taverns.
For those wanting peace and quiet, hideaways aplenty wait to be discovered, including remote lighthouse islets, fetching fishing villages, secluded coves and Robinson Crusoe-style atolls. Then there is the unsung beauty of inland Croatia, where you can enjoy a slice of pristine farmland in one of the rural hotels or roam rugged wilderness.
Stroll the city's promenade and explore its Gothic-Renaissance architecture, swim its island beaches and dine at its seaside restaurants - all on this three-day tour of Croatia's most enchanting city.
Fresh seafood straight from the Adriatic, fantastic olive oil and truffles, and some of the finest fuzi, tartufi, and pasticada you'll ever taste! Take a mouth-watering tour through the cuisines of Istria, Dalmatia and Continental Croatia.
The sparkling Adriatic is dotted with over 1000 Croatian islands, but who has time to explore them all? Hop between these five for your fix of gourmet food, parties and peace and quiet.
From the urban and continental delights of Zagreb, the cascading waterfalls and tranquil lakes of Croatia's national parks, down to the coastal treasures of cities such as Zadar, Trogir, Split and Dubrovnik, this 600km-long itinerary gives you the cream of Croatia's aesthetic crop.
Get your sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat for there'll be sun-soaking galore along this 660km route that covers old-school fishing villages, ancient towns, a dramatic and rugged coastline, spectacular islands and the sparkling waters of the Adriatic.
Explore the bucolic region of Slavonia in Croatia's east, and then head southwest to the Istrian peninsula for hilltop medieval towns, top food and lovely rural hotels.
Got questions? We've got answers. Here, experts from Lonely Planet and Visa answer commonly asked questions about travelling to Croatia and managing your money while you're there. Have more questions? Email us at email@example.com.
Question: What is the best way to access cash when I am abroad?
Answer: [Visa expert] With your Visa card you can access local currency from 1.8 million ATMs worldwide - just look for the Visa or PLUS sign. All ATM transactions require a PIN so make sure you know yours prior to leaving on your trip. Your PIN should be 4 digits as many international ATMs do not accept longer PINs. It's a good idea to contact your issuing bank before you leave and ask if your cards have daily cash withdrawal restrictions.
Question: Is Croatia a safe place to travel to?
Answer: [Lonely Planet expert] Yes. The 1990s conflict is well in the past for most Croatians. The crime rate is relatively low, though you should take the usual precautions of keeping your belongings safe when travelling.
Question: What's the local language? Do many people speak English?
Answer: [Lonely Planet expert] The local language is Croatian, a Slavic language related to Russian and Polish, among others. Most young people speak excellent English, though many also speak German and Italian.
Question: If the shopkeeper offers to charge me in my home currency instead of the local currency, is that a good idea?
Answer: [Visa expert] When you travel internationally, some merchants may offer you the option to convert your purchases into your home currency at the register. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and means the merchant - not Visa or your issuing bank - is converting the currency. While you may appreciate the convenience of knowing the exact price in your home currency at the point-of-sale, you should be aware that the merchant may charge you for this service. Visa requires that you be given a choice to either accept or decline DCC. In addition, Visa requires merchants offering this service to inform cardholders of the exchange rate including any applicable commissions or fees being charged. Only agree to this do this if you think you are getting a good deal.
Question: What do I do if I lose my card?
Answer: [Visa expert] Call your bank immediately to cancel your card. In an emergency, you can get a temporary card replacement or cash disbursement in 24-48 hours with the help of Visa's Global Customer Assistance Service (GCAS).
Question: Do I need to let my bank know that I'm traveling before I depart? And who at the bank should I tell?
Answer: [Visa expert] Yes, it is good practice to let your bank know you will be travelling so they don't decline any of your legitimate transactions. Call your bank's credit card customer service centre - the number is usually on the back of your card.
Question: What exchange rate will I receive when using my Visa card abroad?
Answer: [Visa expert] Exchange rates on Visa cards are competitive and may be better than rates available from other sources. You can research Visa's current exchange rate for your destination using the Visa exchange rate calculator. This will allow you to compare it to the exchange rates offered by foreign exchange bureaus. Do remember that there is always a charge for changing currency, no matter where you do it – at a bank, hotel, bureau, online or by buying travellers' cheques. Visa cards are no exception.
Question: Can I use my Visa credit, debit or prepaid card in Croatia?
Answer: [Visa expert] Yes. Most tourist areas are well populated with ATMs that accept internationally issued Visa cards - just look for the Visa logo. Similarly, all retailers who accept Visa will clearly display the Visa logo in their stores.
Question: When is the best time to travel to Croatia?
Answer: [Lonely Planet expert] Croatia is at its best from late May to October - early summer and autumn are especially wonderful because there are no crowds and the sunshine is still mild. Note that prices go up quite a bit in August, the height of the summer season.
Question: I want to sail around the islands - what are my options?
Answer: [Lonely Planet expert] Croatia's Adriatic is ideal for sailing, with its placid waters and gorgeous islands. Most local harbours cater for yachts and you can rent boats with or without a skipper. There are also courses for those who wish to brush up on their sailing skills.
Question: Will I be charged a fee for using my Visa card while overseas?
Answer: [Visa expert] Fees are dependent on your issuing bank and whether they will just charge you the foreign exchange conversion rate or include an additional service charge. Some banks charge an ATM access fee as well. For more details, contact your issuing bank.
Question: What are the beaches like?
Answer: [Lonely Planet expert] The beaches are mostly pebbly, and there is an abundance of rocky coves. Sandy beaches are rare. There is usually natural shade under pine trees that back many beaches, but you can usually rent an umbrella if you need to.
Between late January and early March
For the nonstop revelry of this pre-Lent celebration, head to Rijeka and two weeks of partying that involves pageants, street dances, concerts, masked balls, exhibitions and a parade. Check out the zvončari, masked men clad in animal skins who dance and ring loud bells to frighten off evil spirits. http://www.ri-karneval.com.hr/
The streets of Dubrovnik perk up with this city-wide bash of folk dancing, concerts, food, processions and lots of street action, all happening in honour of the city's patron saint, St Blaise.
Catch documentary films from around the globe during this annual festival in Zagreb, the international Zagrebdox. Starting in late February and continuing into March, it draws a small crowd of avid doco lovers. http://www.zagrebdox.net/
Held in Zagreb each April during odd numbered years since the 1960s, this is Croatia's high-profile contemporary music event. By 'contemporary', do not read 'pop' - this prestigious fest celebrates modern-day classical music.
This ultra-fun summer-long event that features free outdoor film screenings, concerts by local bands, artsy workshops, best-in-show mongrel dog competitions and other quirky happenings, all along the leafy Strossmayer Promenade. http://www.ljetonastrosu.com/
Get your groove on during this three-day music extravaganza which takes over leafy Jarun Lake with multiple stages and spots for camping. This is Zagreb's highest-profile music festival. Previous years have seen Billy Idol, Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand, Iggy Pop and Morrissey take the Jarun Lake main stage. http://www.vipinmusicfestival.com/
This festival has been taking place in Dubrovnik since the 1950s. Classical music by chamber and symphonic orchestras, theatre productions including Shakespearean plays and Greek tragedians and dance performances are held at different venues around town, including the Lovrijenac fortress. http://www.dubrovnik-festival.hr/
Late July/early August,
This film festival is Croatia's most fun and glamorous, presenting a roster of independent and avant-garde films. It attracts quite a crowd, with nonstop outdoor and indoor screenings, concerts and parties taking over the medieval streets of the hilltop town of Istria. http://www.motovunfilmfestival.com/
This eclectic festival enlivens the parks and squares of Varaždin with a rich repertoire of events that range from world music (Afro-Cuban, gypsy, tango and more) to acrobats, theatre, traditional crafts and illusionists. http://www.spancirfest.com/
High-quality contemporary theatre comes to Zagreb for a couple of weeks each year, often extending into early October and delighting the country's die-hard theatre buffs. http://www.zagrebtheatrefestival.hr/
Don't miss this major cultural, with film screenings, accompanying parties and international film directors competing for the coveted Golden Pram award. http://www.zagrebfilmfestival.com/
Martinje is celebrated in all the wine-producing regions across Croatia on. There are wine celebrations and lots of feasting and sampling of new wines.