What the Others Say About Croatia

A selection of articles on Croatia from 1999.

I looked hard for something — a bad mood, an edge of violence or trouble — that might caution against a visit to the Croatian coast. My antenna picked up nothing — indeed, as beach resorts go, Zlatni rat was one of the lowest-key places I’ve ever visited…For now, Brac is the secret bargain-basement escape of Slovene tourists, and I counted myself lucky to be among them. But I doubt it will be long before Croatia returns to the travel agent’s A list.
Daisann McLane, New York Times, 26th December 1999
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Q. Our parents used to holiday in Croatia (when it was Yugoslavia) and they always enjoyed themselves. They’d now like to take my husband and me plus our two children, Mark and Helen, who’ll be eight and six next year. Which resort would you advise for our family (nothing too large or noisy) and what are the standards like after the civil war?

A. Croatia may not seem immediately obvious as a family holiday destination since sandy beaches are in meagre supply and it lacks hi-tech attractions such as the water worlds and theme parks you’d find in Spain and other popular destinations. However, it has a lot going for it; ironically, perhaps, after the horrors of the civil war, Croatia is one of the safest and most relaxing Mediterranean countries for tourists. Prices are reasonable, and the people are welcoming and delighted to have British visitors again. And the waters are some of the cleanest and most unpolluted in the world.

Your parents may well not notice a great change in standards of food, accommodation and service; hotels in resorts – which, apart from some in Dalmatia, were not touched by the tragic fighting – have largely been refurbished and, as before, are comfortable without being luxurious. Some are rather large, uninspiring blocks with somewhat slow service, a legacy of the country’s Communist past. I have never been an advocate of hotel food in Croatia, which I find plain and monotonous (though it may suit children); eating in restaurants is, in my opinion, a more cheerful option.

Last year, members of my own family, with active seven- and nine- year-old boys, were looking for a reasonably priced destination in high season without crowds but with some historical interest for the adults. They spent a week in Rovinj, the old Venetian port, which they all found quite delightful. The old centre was enchanting, with lots of sightseeing nearby. Pedestrianised walkways surround the harbour, and though there was no beach immediately outside the hotel, they hired bikes for picnics in small, pleasant coves in the woods nearby and bought cheap “jelly” shoes for bathing locally. A word of warning though: do check if your parents have any mobility problems, as some streets are quite steep.

Their most expensive – and admittedly tiring – outing was a day in Venice; it cost them £30 each, but
they all though it was well worth the price. An excellent bus service also took them to Porec, which is much bigger, with more organised attractions for kids. Although they said it was fine for an outing, the place would have been too busy for them to stay at. Red Island, 20 minutes from Rovinj by ferry, became the children’s playground.

A week at the Hotel Park, opposite the marina, with Thomson Holidays (0990 502555) costs £275-£295 half board for adults and £139-£299 for children sharing your rooms.

The Makarska Riviera, between Split and Dubrovnik – one of Croatia’s most beautiful stretches of coast, with endless white pebble beaches and pine and olive trees to provide shade – might also appeal. The gentle slope makes the beach highly suitable for children and indifferent swimmers.

The family-friendly resorts here include Makarska itself, still a working port but with a pleasant, lively promenade and historic old town, markets, a fun fair and lots of eateries, and the smaller and quieter fishing villages of Tucepi and Brela.

A week’s half board with Holiday Options (01444 244499) at the Hotel Meteor; close to the beach and on the stretch where you find the evening stalls and restaurants, costs about £319-£419 per adult and £249-£289 for each child.

If you are determined beach-hunters, Croatia’s most spectacular is the vast, golden shingle sandbar, almost 580 yards long, known as the Golden Horn. It juts out into the water at Bol on the island of Brac, the large island opposite Makarska. Bol, a medieval seaport well known for its seafood (and wine), has cultural sights that include a Baroque palace and a Dominican monastery with an original Tintoretto.

A week’s half board at the Hotel Bretanide in Brac, also with Holiday Options, costs £329-£459 per adult, and £249-£309 for each child. It may also be worth getting the brochures of these tour operators, which feature Croatia: Transun (01865 798888); Balkan Holidays (0171-543 5555); Bond Tours (0181-786
8511); Direct Line Holidays (0181-239 3399).
The Independent, 2nd October 1999

RABAC, CROATIA
WHY? Croatia is still suffering from the the side effects of war, despite the fact that
the Foreign Office declared it to be safe way back in 1992. But the Brits still give it a wide berth, which is just one good reason why it should appeal to John and Ghislaine. Also, by September its Italian clientele will have driven home across the border, as will have most of the German visitors. The Woods won’t have it all to themselves, but they should be more than happy with the general demographics.

HOW? The couple would fly to Pula from Birmingham (on a Tuesday charter) and head for the eastern coast of the heart-shaped Istrian peninsula. The pace of Rabac, about an hour’s drive from the airport, is relaxed as well as Brit free, its style not unlike a small-scale Sorrento. The seafront is lined with bars and restaurants (lots of Italian influence in the local dishes), and there are plenty of watersports, including parascending and water-skiing, as well as boat trips promising a fair chance of dolphins. Among the most popular excursions is a catamaran trip to Venice (two hours each way), as well as the nearby city of Pula to see the almost-intact third-century Roman amphitheatre, where, like the better-known arena in Verona, opera performances are staged.

Most of Rabac’s beds are in hotels, but Thomson features the unfortunately named “Pluton A Apartments”, an aparthotel on a hillside some 150m from the beach (pebbly but excellent snorkelling), and 2.5km from the town centre. All rooms have full kitchenette facilities and there is an à la carte restaurant on the property as well as two pools. During the school holidays it is popular with families, but should be relatively child free come September.

HOW MUCH? Flying from Birmingham on September 7, the Woods would each pay £400 for a week, plus an additional £109 each for a hire car, booked through Thomson’s Summer Sun brochure, 0990-502555.
The Sunday Times, 15th August 1999

It’s business as usual along Croatia’s beautiful coastline. Island hopping in the Adriatic is the best way to see the country’s historic towns and quiet coves.
Sunday Business, 16th May 1999

And it seems a shame that this republic [Croatia], with an array of picturesque islands dotted on the Adriatic coastline, is overlooked as a holiday spot by so many.
Steve Dennis, The Mirror, 1st May 1999

Cheaper than other Mediterranean destinations, Croatia also offers quiet and unspoiled charm.
Bournemouth Daily Echo, 10th April 1999

How many times do you have to be told? Croatia is the best-value holiday in Europe right now. Dubrovnik…remains one of the continent’s most stunning and well-preserved jewels…the climate and people are wonderfully warm, welcoming and Mediterranean.
Esquire, February 1999

Dubrovnik is amazing, the first city I have been to which equals and then defeats every guidebook adjective I have read. We entered into a magical world. No wonder the Serbs were bitter to see it go.
Telegraph Magazine, 2nd January 1999

The Croatian capital of Zagreb is now rediscovering its glory days as Europe’s most exquisite city east of Paris…People here consider it their national duty to have a good time and they want you to do the same.
Elle, UK Edition, January 1999