5 Reasons to Visit Croatia With Your Kids
By Rosalind Stefanac
With a population of only four million, Croatia may be relatively tiny compared to other countries, but it packs a punch as a vacation destination. Situated in southeastern Europe, Croatia has gained popularity as a tourist hotspot for excellent reasons. Whether it’s exploring Roman ruins, hiking alongside waterfalls, or plunging into its crystal-clear, azure sea, Croatia offers enough natural beauty and kid-friendly activities to keep the whole brood engaged. Our first visit to Croatia took place when my sons were little. Upon returning as teenagers, they relished the opportunity to do some exploring on their own while we savoured the breathtaking scenery.
Here are some of the reasons why Croatia stands out as a top choice for family travel:
Swimming in the Adriatic Sea
Croatia boasts an extensive coastline along the stunning Adriatic Sea. This body of water is renowned for its calm currents and warm temperatures, making it an ideal destination for activities like swimming, snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and diving. Sailing is a popular pastime, or you can opt to rent a motorboat and explore the local islands yourself. We joined an all-day fishing boat excursion where the boys were able to jump off the rails and swim and snorkel at their leisure. The crew even prepared a fresh fish lunch using their catch of the day. While on the northern coast’s island of Mali Losinj, you might even catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two. Just be sure to pack water shoes (or buy them there) as stone beaches are the norm throughout Croatia.
Although Croatia often touts itself as the “land of 1,000 islands,” it actually boasts 1,244 islands, islets, and rock formations, of which 48 are inhabited, and one has a heart-shaped configuration (my personal favourite!). The island of Cres is the largest and well worth exploring, but be sure to add Kornati National Park to your list, too. This cluster of 89 uninhabited islands, islets, reefs (and cliffs) are perfect for exploring on a day trip. This is island hopping at its best.
Hiking through waterfalls and mountains
Croatia offers a multitude of hiking and biking trails of all levels. Near the capital city of Zagreb, you’ll discover numerous marked hiking trails leading up to the Sljeme peak on Medvenica mountain, which stands at 1,035 meters above sea level. We also ventured to Krka National Park on the coast, renowned for its seven waterfalls and lush vegetation, all accessible via well-marked trails. This park is a popular tourist destination with lots of amenities, so it’s advisable to arrive early to beat the crowds. Krka National Park remains open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day between April and October. (During the off-season, certain areas of the park are closed to tourists.)
Exploring ancient ruins
With an abundance of ancient structures still intact, it’s not surprising that Croatia provided the perfect backdrop for Game of Thrones. Fans of the hit series can even tour the key filming locations in the historic cities of Dubrovnik and Sibenik. For history buffs, the city of Pula is also a must-visit, with its rich collection of Roman ruins, including an awesome amphitheatre still used today for film festivals and concerts (the likes of Elton John, Norah Jones, and Sting have graced its stage).
Treats for sampling everywhere
Whether it’s freshly grilled corn, warm, jam-filled donuts, or crepes bursting with chocolate and nuts, Croatia offers a delightful array of fresh treats available daily from kiosks on its beaches. The bakeries (available everywhere and open by 6 a.m.) are replete with savoury and sweet pastries. Be sure to try the “burek,” which is a phyllo filled with cheese, meat or spinach. You should also savour the kremsnita, a divine Croatian custard cake! The coast is also famous for its delicious seafood, often caught fresh daily.