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Culture Trip

Explore Croatia’s rich history, dramatic landscapes and enticing cuisine

By Beth D’Addono

For savvy travelers familiar with iconic European destinations, discovering a road less traveled brings adventure and authenticity to the vacation experience. For those seeking a destination not overrun with tourists that offers interesting local culture, history, gastronomy and natural beauty, Croatia and neighboring Slovenia tick all the boxes. Add the value that local currency brings to the table, and these Trafalgar journeys offered by AAA Vacations deliver a lifetime of memories.

To get your bearings on the map, imagine the boot of Italy. Just across the Adriatic Sea to the east, wide at the top and narrowing to a sliver of land at the bottom, is Croatia, within ferrying distance from Italy’s coast. Croatia has been a coveted strategic region for centuries, fought over by the Romans, Venetians, Hungarians, Turks and French. The country, a former Yugoslav republic, is newly minted, achieving its independence in 1991.

It’s only been in the past few years that Croatia has emerged as one of the hottest destinations in Europe, attracting visitors to its storied 3,000-plus miles of azure coastline, medieval villages and captivating culture. With the dark Croatian War of Independence in its recent past — waged from 1991 to 1995, Croatia needed time to recover and rebuild its tourism infrastructure. It’s done that and is more than ready for its close up. And because Croatia is still an emerging destination for Americans and a less traveled European Riviera, expect to rub elbows with experienced travelers eager for new adventures.

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

 

Best of Croatia and Slovenia

Connect with local culture on this 11-day adventure, which takes a deep dive into local customs, flavors and geography in Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Informed always by local guides, this well-paced vacation takes you from the storybook castle on Lake Bled’s crystal waters in Slovenia to a sojourn along the picture-perfect Dalmatian coast. Travel past seaside villages to the ancient city of Dubrovnik, with storied terracotta rooftops, fortified walls and white limestone facades that seem to tumble into the Adriatic.

On the third day of your trip, visit a fifth-generation-owned family farm in Bled, where you’ll take a walk with Monika and Gregor and meet their family and resident animals. A home cooked meal of local specialties — like favorite dishes pumpkin soup and buckwheat zganci — caps off an amazing day. Foodies will also swoon over Istrian white truffles, a regional specialty in the bit of Croatia closest to Italy.

On the way to the World Heritage site of Dubrovnik, don’t miss the walled city of Ston, home to the longest stone wall in mainland Europe that conjures up visions of China’s Great Wall. Extending from the sea into the mountainside, Ston is home to stunning views and pristine seafood. Throughout your vacation, whether exploring Plitvice National Park, Diocletian’s Palace in Split or Europe’s oldest salt pans in Ston, the wonders keep coming. With plenty of time to relax and explore on your own, this tour offers the very best of all worlds.

 

Radovljica

 

Highlights of Austria, Slovenia and Croatia

Trafalgar does all the leg work for you on this relaxed tour through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, setting the stage for you to discover some of Europe’s most gorgeous landscapes and dazzling cities while enjoying unique Trafalgar highlights and creating lifelong memories along the way.

The 14-day experience starts with highlights of Vienna, the city of music and home to the world-famous waltz. Following an insightful tour led by a local guide, you can spend the evening as you choose, maybe with a classical music concert and a meal of schnitzel and apple strudel. Pass through the “Austrian Riviera,” with its storybook old towns and clock towers to cross the Slovenian border to gorgeous Lake Bled, where a fairytale castle awaits.

Discover Radovljica, a medieval alpine village in northern Slovenia with its ancient moat. See what the buzz is about at the beekeeping museum and learn more about the lect hearts, the region’s iconic gingerbread cookies, at the famous gingerbread museum. In Slovenia’s largest city, Ljubljana, a local specialist gives you special insights into the capital’s iconic locations, including the Cathedral, Three Bridges Square and the Castle. In Croatia, walk along wooden pathways suspended over the natural beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, where endless forests and waterfalls dazzle.

Croatia’s dramatic coast is dotted with more than 1,000 islands, yet only 47 are inhabited. You’ll have a relaxed three nights on the island of Hvar, first settled by Greeks in the fourth century, with its fortified harbor, a stunning Old Town and 16th-century Venetian-built cathedral. Savor a local lunch of sea-to-table flavors against the backdrop of the vivid-blue Adriatic. And don’t miss sampling Croatian beer along with wines such as plavac mali and vugava made in nearby Vis.

Balkan Escape

In this eight-day ramble through the Balkans, you’ll enjoy a mix of scenic beauty and historic sites as you form connections to this culturally diverse location’s medieval heritage. Starting in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital and largest city, stroll the romantic promenades and cobblestone squares and walkways. Dive into the city’s vibrant café culture, people watch at a market and climb up Lotrscak Tower for views of the city’s storied red rooftops. History lovers might add the option of visiting the birthplace of Marshal Tito, considered the architect of modern Yugoslavia.

 

Old town of Rovinj

 

Take a relaxing drive south towards the Kvarner Gulf along the seaside promenades of Opatija and past the region’s lush green landscape. Croatia’s heart-shaped Istrian Peninsula is a quiet alternative to busier tourist destinations and here you can explore with ease. Wander and shop in the Rovinj’s Old Town, with its baroque Church of St. Euphemia. Don’t miss tasting the region’s famous white truffles, found in everything from cheese to oil and pasta, easily as delicious as their better-known cousins across the border in Italy.

Heading north, visit the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, where a local guide will share stories and history about sites including the Opera House, Cathedral and Castle, where you can find some of the best city views. Stroll on your own and shop for souvenirs only available in Slovenia, from delicate Idrija Lace to painted beehive panels and salt from the Secovlje salt pans. On your free day in dazzling Bled, famous for its crystal blue lake and dramatic castle, explore the town and dip into a café for a slice of the local kremsnita cake, a creme and custard delight that will haunt your dreams.

Explore Croatia’s many charms with Trafalgar and AAA Vacations. Call 800-750-5386 today!