Croatia is a looker. It may be foolish to generalise but within minutes of arriving at this Balkan beauty you'll be blown away by her sheer grace and charm.
And while she's known for her hedonistic summer festivals, where revellers rub shoulders with the bronzed and the beautiful aboard party boats, she also possesses a much softer, serene side.
At odds with her wild and wacky nightlife, you're never far from nature in Croatia, whether strolling through ancient olive groves, pacing its coastal pathways beside cobalt-blue seas, or trekking along secluded valleys. There are walking trails to suit travellers of all fitness levels — from hardy mountain treks to gentle coastal walks — but whatever you choose, try and set off early to avoid the midday heat. This is the time to wallow in the shade or paddle beside Croatia's azure waters.
||Plitvice National Park
Missing out on a trip to this sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a crime on a Croatian walking holiday. Lying between the cities of Zagreb and Zadar, it's a captivating cluster of 16 interlinked lakes covering the kaleidoscopic spectrum of blue, slowly brightening and dulling as you wander past. And while swimming in these aquatic wonders is prohibited, it's worth hopping on a boat for views of the travertine terraces trickling down the hillsides and waterfalls cascading into the calcium-rich pools. Walkers will relish ambling its marked trails, among its forested hillsides and myriad orchids of cyclamen, scabius and smoke bushes, while would-be Attenboroughs can attempt to spot the odd, elusive bear. Keep your eyes peeled for fleeting glances of wolf, eagle, owl and wildcat, too.
From one national park to another, head to the craggy cliffs of Paklenica in the southern slopes of Velebit Mountain — one of Europe's most visited climbing sites. Mountain paths lace this region's majestic karsts and weirdly formed gorges, ideal for exploration on foot. Winding slowly towards the canyons of Veilka Paklencia and Mala Paklenica on two legs is deeply atmospheric, where towering cliffs rise auspiciously from the terra firma — don't be surprised if you suddenly feel tiny beside these looming rock faces.
While Croatia's natural wonders are prime walking territory, a stroll within its charming towns reveals an old-world exoticism that so brilliantly defines this part of the world. Basking in Mediterranean sunshine, the city of Trogir is a historical gem. Travellers with a nose for culture will relish roaming its tiny medieval streets, past curious Venetian gothic mansions and the Church of St. John the Baptist, all in the shadow of the Kamerlengo Fortress, a 15th-century edifice with its mighty battlements. And after an afternoon's saunter around this ancient city, kick back in one of the cafes on the handsome riverfront promenade with a cocktail and freshly caught garlic clams.
How to do it
Our eight-day Croatia Walking Tour costs from £1,079 including flights, accommodation, and tour leader.