Between Croatia’s border with Slovenia at the very top of the Adriatic, and Dubrovnik in the south, stretches more than 1,700 kilometres of largely unspoilt Adriatic coastline, sprinkled with bays, inlets and hundreds of little islands. Add in one of the sunniest climates in Europe and dozens of charming, historic and visually stunning towns and you can see why the tourists are flooding back.
Croatia’s resorts and coastline are less crowded than more mainstream Mediterranean destinations. Back in Yugoslav days, tourist development was strictly controlled, so long stretches of coastline remain pristine. Tourist ‘hot spots’ were carefully planned, with plenty of healthy outdoor activities.
The emphasis on family fun is still there today and the resorts are free of excessive commercialism. But there has been a blossoming of private restaurants, bars, clubs and other facilities, so there’s everything you need for a very pleasant holiday. Prices have risen recently so Croatia is no longer in the bargain basement, but costs remain reasonable and you still get the feeling Croatians are pleased to see visitors.
The main tourist areas are the Istrian peninsula in the north, the middle coastal area and islands near Split and the Dubrovnik area in the south, all of which are served by scheduled and charter flights. There’s also a good choice of no-frills flights, to Pula and Rijeka in Istria and to Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast.
Villa holidays are relatively new in Croatia, but plenty of apartments and a growing number of villas – some British-owned – are available. Most are offered in Britain through specialist villa companies and tour operators, the best of which advertise here.
The Istrian peninsula lies just south of the Italian city of Trieste, facing Venice at the top of the Adriatic. Westward-facing coastal towns like Porec and Rovinj are picturesque gems, almost like film sets in their mediaeval perfection. The coastline here is rocky with few beaches, but there is excellent swimming in the clear, sparkling water from the rocks and specially constructed platforms. Inland, it is mostly rolling, heavily wooded limestone hills, offering pleasant walking.
The peninsula's other, eastward-facing coast has a number of small resorts, culminating in the ‘Istrian Riviera,’ a 40km stretch around the towns of Lovran and Opatija. They have an elegant, fashionable feel which means you can have a Cannes holiday at Benidorm prices!
The coast from which the spotty dogs get their name stretches from the island of Pag, just south of Istria, to the Bay of Kotor on the border with Montenegro, south of Dubrovnik. There are literally hundreds of islands along the way, ranging from the biggest like Brac, Hvar and Korcula with sizeable towns and some tourist hotels, to tiny islets crowned with a simple monastery. They offer peace, quiet and beautiful surroundings to the few canny holidaymakers who rent a villa or house on them.
The whole coastline faces Italy across the Adriatic, leaving a strong Italian flavour in the coastal towns and villages. The towns are mostly beautiful and charming, culminating in peerless Dubrovnik. This World Heritage city really is one of the most beautiful in the world – everyone should visit it at least once!
Bulgaria has advanced fast since joining the EU, with rapidly improving standards in everything from transport links to the range and standard of restaurants, bars, shops and other tourist facilities. Despite these improvements, prices remain pleasantly low by British standards, whether you are buying a drink or a villa.
What hasn't changed is Bulgaria’s choice of dramatic inland scenery, with mountain ranges, gorges and pine forests, or its excellent Black Sea beaches. It's a year-round destination, catering for visitors who want to ski, hike, explore, see the sights or just soak up the sun and relax. The range and quality of self-catering accommodation available has improved greatly as converted and newly built villas and apartments have joined the rental market.
Bulgaria has become easier and cheaper to reach, thanks to new air services. There are year-round scheduled flights to the capital, Sofia, from Luton (Wizz Air), Gatwick (easyjet), Stansted (germanwings) and Heathrow (BA), while BA flies from Gatwick to Varna, Aer Lingus from Dublin to Burgas and Wizz Air from Luton to Burgas. Several charter airlines also run seasonal flights from various British airports.
Many visitors to Hungary come just for a Budapest city break. But an increasing number are returning for a longer holiday to experience more of this delightful country.
Top destination outside the capital is Lake Balaton, which has been a holiday playground since the 19th Century. It still retains a flavour of the waltz-filled Austro-Hungarian empire, with plenty of baroque palaces, spas (the area abounds in hot springs) and casinos in towns like Balatonfured and Héviz.
The lake is the biggest in central Europe, with almost 100 miles of shore. Most of the beaches are artificial, or simply grass banks, but the water is clean, shallow and warm, making it ideal for family swimming as well as all sorts of water sports. The surrounding volcanic slopes produce some of the best wine in Hungary. One good place to sample it is in the charming lakeside village of Tihany, occupying its own small peninsula. And if you’re feeling energetic, there are dozens of marked hiking and riding trails through the hills, woods and the Balaton Uplands National Park.
The area became more accessible from the UK in 2006 when Ryanair launched a service from Stansted to the new Balaton airport, at the western end of the lake. But Balaton is only a couple of hours’ drive from Budapest, so it’s easy to reach from there by hire car (or train). We hope you found our villa rentals croatia useful in helping you decide on what to do and where to go next!