Croatia’s natural features are without doubt what make it such an attractive destination. Consisting of 1185 islands, only 66 of which are inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the Mediterranean. It has 1,778 kilometres of coastline with the Adriatic running along the entire west coast of the country. The Dinaric Alps run the length of the country and it is one of the few countries on the continent which has preserved its natural habitat. Almost 8% of the country is contained within its seven national parks, four of which are along the coastline (Kornati, Mljet, Brioni and Krka) and three in the mountains (Risnjak, Paklenica and the Plitvice).
While it may have wonderful geographical attributes, however, its history hasn’t always been as favourable. Having served as an important province of the Roman Empire and home to Eastern Europe’s largest fortress of that era, it was largely occupied by immigrants after the fall of the Romans. These immigrants who were mainly of Slavic origin created their own empire but came under heavy attack from the Crimean Tatars in the mid-thirteenth century and again from the Turks in the mid-sixteenth century. Following the second attack, most of the country fell under the Austrian Empire while Italy and France secured control of the remainder.
Following the end of World War I the Croats, Serbs and Slovenes formed a kingdom which, in 1929, became known as Yugoslavia. This new kingdom took a heavy blow during World War II and following this it became an independent communist state under the hand of Marshal Tito. Again the Croats suffered greatly and this communist regime was to continue up to 1991 when they declared their independence. Four long years of violence were to ensue, however, as the Croats tried to eject the occupying Serb armies from their land. A ceasefire was finally declared in 1995 and under UN supervision the last enclave was returned to Croatia in 1998.
In the years which have elapsed since the bloodshed of the 1990’s life in Croatia has improved steadily and the country is now becoming an important tourist destination. The strength of the Croats has played a large part in the country’s transformation and has also been responsible for the fact that so much of the culture and so many of the traditions of the past thousand years have been preserved. From food and drink to music and dance, ethnic diversity is visible throughout and it is not without reason that both Dubrovnik and Split have been classified by UNESCO as world cultural heritage cities.