Croatia might be small in size, but when it comes to holidays, it's a force to be reckoned with. Inhabited since around the 7th century, Croatia is heavy on ancient architecture and has a huge list of UNESCO World Heritage spots and national parks. Plus it has shores that consistently top lists of the world's best beaches. Here are a few activities in Croatia to whet your appetite for a holiday in this Balkan powerhouse.
Dubrovnik's Old Town is no ordinary ancient city. Its stone buildings, craggy walls and terracotta roofs all combine to make a dazzling UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dubrovnik became a full-blown hotspot on the Mediterranean in the 13th century. Most recently, it was used as a backdrop for hit television show 'Game of Thrones', and is today a makeshift living museum. Bordered by the Adriatic Sea, within the Old Town are beautifully-preserved Renaissance and Baroque churches, palaces, five forts and 16 castle towers, all of which are right at your fingertips.
The tropical greenery, waterfalls and turquoise lakes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park are almost too earth shatteringly-beautiful to be real. The park encompasses a cluster of 16 lakes of varying shades of bright blues and greens, mountains, endemic plant species, rare animals like brown bears, wolves and eagles, and waterfalls that tower over 75 metres high. It can be explored on foot or by boat, but swimming in the lakes is not permitted.
Diocletian's Palace was erected in the 4th century for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It's found within the town of Split's city centre, and was originally intended to be the emperor's retirement spot. Nowadays, its original architecture, columns and square have been preserved, though made a little more modern with shops and restaurants hidden within.
If you see a little orange box whisking high above Dubrovnik, don't be alarmed – that's just the cable car, which extends more than 700 metres into the hillside surrounding the city. At the top, you'll find a restaurant and will get unparalleled views of the Old Town and the Elaphiti Islands.
Zlatni Rat Beach is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world, and is one of the reasons people are book more and more Croatia beach holidays each year. It's an odd-looking stretch of beach, sometimes referred to as the 'Golden Cape' or 'Golden Horn', as, from above, the white pebbles are V-shaped and cut by a similarly-shaped grove of trees. The shape changes, however, based on the tide. Back into the trees, you'll find the remnants of a Roman 'villa rustica', a large countryside estate leftover from ancient times.
When you reach the towering walls of the Pula Arena in the resort of Pula, you'll have to blink a few times to convince yourself you aren't in Rome. It looks that much like the Colosseum, until you get inside, at least. The Pula Arena is the only Roman amphitheatre with all four walls still fully standing, and is the best preserved ancient edifice in the country. Today, it's still used as a theatre, sport and concert space, and has welcomed the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Jones and Andrea Bocelli.
Because large portions of Dubrovnik are surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, there are a number of boating excursions that'll take you around the city's waterfront perimeter, offering a whole new view of the Old Town. You can charter a yacht and cruise around in style or rent a kayak and break a sweat. There are also group trips that'll get you paddling through the sea and stopping at caves hidden away in the coastline, where you can hop out and do a stint of snorkelling.