Croatia, a major tourist hotspot, is open and wonderfully quiet

The term overtourism could have been coined for Croatia: a much discussed phenomenon before the pandemic, when global tourism seemed to have reached an unprecedented point of saturation. A record 21 million tourists visited Croatia in 2019, which is a 5% increase over 2018. Considering Croatia’s total population of 4 million and its coastal towns are tiny, 21 million was more than a lot; it was hell flooded with tourists.

Cruise ships were a big culprit, as was the popular TV series Game of thrones which was mainly filmed in Croatia. Whatever we choose to blame, the thin cobblestone streets had become as intense as the New York subway during rush hour. Cut to 2021 and that’s another story. It’s a balmy golden summer and while things are upbeat as tourism picks up in earnest, it’s not even close to hustle and bustle yet. Guides and hoteliers estimate the numbers to be 30% of their former glory, which means a happy state of affairs for travelers.

Essentially, this is your last chance to catch these iconic destinations before the legions and liners return, so here’s a look at what Croatia is like right now.

In years past, the advice in travel articles for Dubrovnik was simple: don’t come during the summer months when it is crowded. For the scale, only 500 local residents still live in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the rest of its maze of buildings are Airbnb rentals or hostels.

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These days, city apartments with beige stone walls are only moderately occupied and crowds are rare. The alleys that were once crowded now offer a pleasant day of meandering and church bells ring out in the half-empty streets. Its paradisiacal beaches, such as Banje, Dance and St. Jacob’s, are the real stars of Dubrovnik and offer plenty of space to relax on these days. The best restaurants in the area will be happy to find you a table. Easily the best time to visit in eons.

Plus, with United Airlines launching a direct flight from Newark that takes you to the jewel of the Adriatic in a cool nine hours, it has never been easier and it certainly hasn’t been such a safe and secure peak season. peaceful for years.

Another victim of excessive tourism was Croatia’s oldest and largest national park, Plitvice, famous for its incredibly beautiful lakes of the most ethereal azure blue you have ever seen. Sixteen lakes filled with calcium carbonate and travertine flow into each other through waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. Its pre-COVID popularity saw the designated trails so crowded with visitors that walking them was painful, as the stampede of arrogant tourists would distract your attention from the park’s stunning beauty. There were queues to take photos in front of some waterfalls that stretched for 400 meters, but not anymore. Now is a dream day, especially if you are the type to spend the day in beautiful natural surroundings. The park’s eight loop paths are easy to navigate, the boats on Lake Kozjak are easy to board, and all of those important photos are easy to take.

We fell in love with the yacht set, the oldest coastal town founded by the Croats, Sibernik, is a charming place built into an alcove where the river meets the sea. It has long been popular with all kinds of international tourists who frequent its pretty old town and best restaurants, as well as use it as a base for touring the islands and visit the three neighboring national parks, Krka, Kornati and Plitvice. The narrow alleys of the old town of Sibernik were full of pedestrians and groups of tourists around 2019, but now these Renaissance streets are transporting, an image of elegance and serenity. Famous local restaurants such as Seaside More, chic Pelegrini, and Gradska Vijecnica in the town square still serve the best food in town, but now you can get a table with relative ease and enjoy the tranquility. watching the sun set over the bay.

Famous for its divine aquamarine waterfalls, Krka The national park is a short drive from Sibernik or Split and is a must see in Croatia. Instagram made the park’s Skradinski Buk Falls famous and visitors followed, around 1.3 million of them in 2019, an all-time high for Krka. Google Krka and you will probably see people swimming in the pools with the waterfalls collapsing behind them, but due to the overwhelming wave of tourists, the park has made the executive decision to stop bathers at Skradinski Buk. to save the ecosystem and put health and safety first. Wise. These days the park is still busy – they had 400,000 visitors in 2020 despite the pandemic – but with the bathers disappearing and the crowds of tourist groups declining, it is alive with a dynamism and excitement that make it a wonderful day. Visit as soon as possible while all is well.

Central party, To divide, is arguably the busiest place in the country right now, but it’s still cold compared to what it normally could be. One of the most unusual city centers in the world, the beating heart of Split is its old town which was founded inside the four walls of the palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, built in the 4th century AD. palatial town, its surrounding Venetian squares and seaside promenade, known as Riva, have been teeming with tourists for years, and the quest to find a table has left many behind. Now you can take your pick of water spots and enjoy cocktails or excellent local beers and wines without any stress at all. The late night scene is in a great mood, as Split’s student body and local residents go hard until the early hours, tourists or no tourists. You can join them at tennis or at the cavernous 305 AD disco where you will likely be asked to show your vaccination card at the entrance. Take note, the gargantuan cruise liners have returned to this maritime city, but in a fraction of their former dominance, so walking the ancient streets is now manageable and magical.

Capital city Zagreb is one of the cheapest destinations in Croatia. Unusual for a capital of course, but its lack of beaches means Zagreb is less crowded than its coastal counterparts and therefore prices are extremely reasonable here. That’s not to say that this charming city is not without its appeal. Its attractions always draw a good chunk of tourists, from the Museum of Broken Relationships to swimming / partying around the bustling Jarun Lake or, for the intrepid, exploring the wealth of the city’s abandoned buildings; the unusual views attracted visitors. They come back slowly but in a streamlined way so you can join walking tours of the city and practically have the guide to yourself, then have your choice of fine dining along Restaurant Street, Tkalčićeva Street. Zagreb is yours now.

There is no fear here. Croatia is completely ready to receive its millions again and regain its former top spot on the 21st century European grand tour. The eye-catching but truthful slogan of the Tourist Board ‘Stay safe in Croatia’ rings loud and clear, with all hotel workers being systematically vaccinated and entry restrictions being firm but fair (vaccines or negative tests or a negative test). recovery document for entry). The goal is to remove North American and European tourists as quickly as possible for a glorious, virtually maskless summer vacation that makes people forget that there is even a pandemic. Defeat those impending mobs and make your way to Croatia before it is invaded again.


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