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Enjoy Mouthwatering Cuisine in Croatia

Feast Through Croatia

While the country as a whole boasts food that will leave you wanting to lick your plate, each region has its own unique tastes and traditions. Despite what region you decide to visit, the Croatian food will not leave you disappointed, the only thing to decide is where to begin.

Try a Taste of Italy in Istria

In northern Croatia lies the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria. The region runs down the northwestern coast of Croatia but also includes parts of Italy and Slovenia. Istria has become a booming culinary hotspot recently, leaving many to proclaim Istria to be similar to Venice but at half the price. This region is best known for its wine and olive oil, the latter prized as the best in the world. The rolling hilltops and the endless sun provide the perfect environment to create intense flavor profiles. Because of its proximity to Venice, you will find many Italian influences. Manestra is a popular bean soup, similar to Italian Minestrone. Pasta and gnocchi are also prominent on many menus as well as a plentiful selection of fresh vegetables.
Like most of Croatia, Istria has a rich selection of flavorful seafood. Octopus salad is a favorite among visitors and locals and a delicious showcase of what the area has to offer. The dish is traditionally prepared with fresh octopus, onions, and herbs and will often include potatoes. A dressing of fresh lemon juice or vinegar adds acidity and perfectly balances the flavors of the salad.
It’s hard to visit Istria without discovering truffles. These pungent mushrooms are in appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Harvested only a few months of the year, you can’t leave without tasting this delicacy. Try this treat shaved over fresh Adriatic fish or frozen in a bowl of black truffle ice cream.
If you are visiting in the fall, be sure to catch the Zigante Truffle Days International Gourmet Expo and don’t forget to visit Zigante Tartufi. The expo’s host offers a variety of dishes throughout the year with the rare white truffle featured in the fall.

Enjoy the Bounties of the Sea in Dalmatia

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Squid Ink Risotto

When it comes to great Croatian food, traveling south is the place to go. In the south you will find the Dalmatian region. Dubrovnik is a seaport village located in the Dalmatian region in Southern Croatia. It is one of Croatia’s top tourist stops and once again a great place to find amazing seafood. While you really can’t go wrong with any seafood offering, the Crni Rizot is the dish you can’t leave Croatia without trying. The first thing you will notice about the dish is its bold, black color. Crni Rizot, also known as squid ink risotto is a creamy rice dish consisting of Arborio rice, squid ink, and typically squid or cuttlefish. The squid ink is what gives this tasty entrée its unique appearance.
The strong flavors of the risotto are best balanced with a nice red wine. The Dingac wine offers an excellent pairing and has deep roots in the region. Just be warned, because of the growing conditions, this wine can have a considerably high alcohol content.
At the north end of Dalmatia sits the island of Pag. This island is known for its salty sheep’s head cheese. The sheep of this island graze on rosemary and other herbs showered with salt deposits from the sea, hence the distinct salty flavor. There is such a salty influence on the island, that you will find a taste of it in many of the local foods. Just south of Pag lies the city of Zadar. Visit Lungo Mare for dinner on the Maestral Bay and enjoy what Alfred Hitchcock revered as the most beautiful sunset in the world.

Other coastal Croatian food specialties include:

Pršut i sir: Simply ham and cheese. The pork leg is salt-dried, seasoned, and air-cured for 12-18 months.
Mali Ston oysters: The town of Mali Ston is about an hour north of Dubrovnik, and their oysters are to die for.
Ispod Peke: Translated to “under the bell,” Ispod peke is a method of cooking in which meats and potatoes are slow-cooked under a terracotta lid, typically over coals.

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Octopus Peke

Meats and Traditional Flavors Provide a Hearty Feast Inland

Travel inland, and you will see a shift in Croatian food with recipes including more tastes from Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. The taste of punjene paprike will transport you to Hungary with the bold flavors of this dish. Fresh bell peppers are stuffed with mincemeat and rice and topped with a savory paprika-infused sauce. Sarma is another staple in Croatia. Though resembling traditional cabbage rolls, your nose (and your mouth) will detect a distinct difference — the cabbage is pickled.
Where coastal Croatia is known for its pršut, continental Croatia brings Kulen, a full-flavored sausage packed with intense spices and given a bold red appearance thanks to the generous infusion of paprika.
Visit the capital city of Zagreb, and you will be greeted by numerous outdoor marketplaces, with the most visited being the Dolac. Here you will find an endless selection of fresh local produce, dairy, meats, and bread. Visit with the locals and discover some of the freshest ingredients.
Zagreb is also the best place to try zagrebački odrezak, a veal schnitzel filled with melted cheese and ham. Try it at Pri Zvoncu.

Finish with Dessert

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Croatian Fritule

No visit to a new country is complete without sampling the desserts of the region, and Croatia has plenty to offer. Whether you are on the pebble beaches of Istria or dining in Krapina, your sweet tooth will have a cornucopia of options. The fritule is the Croatian version of a doughnut. This doughy treat, found on almost every table in Croatia during Christmas, is not often served at restaurants but can be found at local street stalls.
If you are looking for a decadent dessert, Rožata will delight. A Croatian custard, the dessert is infused with a Dubrovnik rose liqueur, giving it a sweet scent. Although it gets its name from the Dubrovnik region, Rožata is common in many restaurants throughout Croatia.
There is certainly no lack of diversity or flavor in Croatia’s food. Whether you are a seafood lover or enjoy a hearty meal of meat and potatoes, the options are limitless in this beauty by the sea.

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The Thrillseeker’s Guide to Croatia

Croatia Adventure Travel

Snorkeling and Diving

Although snorkeling is a popular activity in Croatia, the waters are actually so clear that its aquatic life can often be seen from nearby balconies without any gear. But if you want to get a closer look, rest assured that underwater visibility is excellent and there are no sharks or large whales in the area, so the Adriatic Sea offers a very safe environment for swimming. If you want to see dolphins, you can usually spot a few near Rovinj and Losinj. Rather than being an organized group activity, snorkeling is more individualized and anyone with the right gear can participate.
Wreck divers will also find plenty to explore along the coasts. Some of the most visited wrecks include the Baron Gautsch, the Totonno, the HMS Coriolanus, and even a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The wreck of the SS Lina, an Italian cargo steamship that ran aground in heavy fog in 1914, is one of the most beautiful diving spots in the country. Despite its steep slope, the site is large enough that visitors can swim among its cargo decks and cabins. In addition to the wreckage, marine life is plentiful. Divers can catch glimpses of schools of salemas and even conger eels.

Whitewater Rafting

Croatia is home to countless lakes, rivers, canyons, and rapids that appeal to travelers looking for an adrenaline rush. Many of them offer sites for white water rafting, with a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike located on the River Una. The waterway creates a natural border with Bosnia, and the most challenging stretch lies between the Strbacki Buk waterfalls and Lahovo, where much of the area is considered a IV and V grade river.
For first-timers and those who prefer a more laid-back experience, the River Mreznica sits less than fifty miles from Zagreb. It’s actually a series of small lakes connected by waterfalls of varying size. Most routes will take rafters over the smaller waterfalls, and the area offers much more than just a whitewater adventure. Visitors will get to see all types of birds as well as old mills and freshwater springs.

Windsurfing

Windsurfing is one of the most popular pastimes in Croatia. Some people will wake up at four in the morning and drive for an hour just to fit in twenty minutes of the water sport before they have to go to work. Tourists can find windsurfing sites all along the coast, although a local favorite is the village of Viganj, located on the Peljesac Peninsula.
One of the most attractive windsurfing sites in Croatia can be found on the south side of Brac Island. With one of the most beautiful beaches on the Adriatic, and idyllic wave and wind conditions, it is a perfect spot for all experience levels. Beginners can choose from several local windsurfing schools to learn the basics before heading out on the water.

Caving

Caves are plentiful throughout Croatia. The country hosts several underground caverns, with varying levels of difficulty. One favorite spot is the Modric Cave, which can be found near the small village of Rovanjska about twenty miles to the northeast of Zadar. It’s a natural cave, meaning there are no man-made railings, concrete, or even lighting. The entrance is a bit cramped, but the cave itself is mostly wide open. They do have a minimum age requirement (12 years old), but no previous caving experience is necessary. Visitors can even take a swim in the Zrmanja River that runs through it!

Canyoning

For low-key thrill seekers who enjoy exploring canyons, Croatia offers plenty of options. One of the most recommended treks is the Vrazji Prolaz (also known as Devil’s Passage), which carves through the hills of Gorski Kotar. At more than a mile long, 300 feet high, and two miles wide, many visitors hail it as one of the most impressive sights they’ve ever seen. Besides canyoning here, tourists can also hike, swim, and water dive.
For visitors who prefer something a bit more involved and challenging, the Cetina River in Dalmatia is worth checking out. The trek is about a mile and a half long and takes anywhere from four to seven hours to complete, depending on how many cliffs are jumped and how much time is spent in the water. The guides are highly experienced and can arrange private tours if requested.

Horseback Riding

Throughout the country, adventurists can find several local ranches and equestrian clubs that offer horseback riding trails. Some even provide packages for trips that last for a few days or up to a full week. One of the best experiences can be found at Old Mulberry in Golinja, which offers home cooked meals, lodging in traditional Croatian homes, and a selection of horses for a day of riding. Another local favorite is Samy’s Ranch in Istria, which even offers paintball, quad ATV tours, and swimming with the horses in addition to riding trips.

Ziplining

In Istria, thrill seekers can get a bird’s eye view of the Croatian countryside by ziplining over the country’s canyons and forests. A favorite spot involves flying over Pazin Cave. Two lines are available here, with the longer one built for speeds of around 30 miles per hour.
By far the most popular ziplining site though is found in Omis above the Cetina River Canyon. This location has eight lines of varying length, with the longest offering rides that fly along at 40 miles per hour. At almost five hundred feet in the air, it’s a great way to take in Croatia from above. Additionally, visitors can spend a few hours hiking along the mountain trails to take in the beauty of the park before checking into a nearby hotel.
Whether you’re into extreme sports or just like to explore the outdoors, Croatia is the perfect getaway. With its many hidden gems and protected countryside, it’s a thrillseeker’s paradise.