Destinations line Destinations

Discovering Croatia's Adriatic paradise


March 10, 1997

(CNN) -- Ever wonder where all the western Europeans go, when they leave on extended holiday? For years, many have swarmed to Croatia's sun-drenched Adriatic coast. Outside of Europe, few people know about the charms and treasures that flourish behind grim images of the nation's recent past.

The Balkan War, which ended in 1995, barely touched most of Croatia's southern islands. Now the nation is dedicating millions of dollars to rebuild its traditional tourist base, and to entice new international visitors.

The Adriatic: Sun to Sea

A weather report is enough to tempt sun-seekers. The climate of the islands is mild, and in summer, ocean breezes bathe the dozens of islands. The southern Adriatic island of Hvar, renowned for being the sunniest place in Croatia, basks in 2,718 hours of sunshine per year.

For sailing buffs, nothing could be better. Chartered excursions from the mainland not only offer stunning views of the rugged coast, but make island-hopping a breeze.

Mljet: An emerald isle

Off the coast of Dubrovnik, a sunny, red-roofed city that was hard-hit in the war, lies the green refuge of Mljet (pronounced "mlee-YET"), which has more trees than any other Croation island. Forest covers almost three-quarters of the small island, and the west coast has been designated a national park.

In the 12th century, Benedictine monks built an abbey and a church on Mljet. Over the next four centuries, it became a montage of architectural styles, as the monks and, at one point, an aristocratic family added on to the buildings. Tourists can visit the site -- and stay, if they really like it; the monastery has been turned into a hotel.

Korcula: An historic gem

On the nearby island of Korcula (pronounced "kor-chew-la"), exploration is more than a pastime -- it's heritage. Marco Polo was born here in 1254. In his late teens, he joined his father and uncle on a journey from the Middle East to China, and eventually across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

For tourists wanting to follow Polo's footsteps closer to home, the explorer's birthplace is near the almost 700-year-old Saint Peter's Church, another popular sightseeing destination.

Shipbuilding and stonecutting played vital roles in Korcula's economy for centuries. Pine forests provided the raw materials for ships, and ships provided transportation for Korcula stone, which was once well-known throughout Europe and used in many palaces.

Korcula's heritage comes alive in a traditional dance that has been performed for more than four centuries. The Moreska sword dance depicts the battle of two kings and their armies for the love of a beautiful girl.

Dubrovnik: A coastal pearl

Today, tourists don't have to get their feet wet, to sample island charms. Dubrovnik, on the mainland, is known as "the pearl of the Adriatic," and basks in the same golden sun and salty sea breezes.

In the city, dancers clad in traditional red and black costumes demonstrate Korcula's famed Moreska. And at restaurants, Korculan wine compliments the region's abundant supply of fresh fish -- and gorgeous coastal views.

Croatia's hidden treasures: 1.2M QuickTime movie

Dance the Moreska: 1.1M QuickTime movie

Weather: Europe Forecast Map

Related stories:
  • Croatia's many faces - March 8, 1997
  • Croatians defend historic city - August 16, 1995
  • Bosnia - Mission: Peace Special Section
    Related sites:
  • Croatia - Consular Information Sheet, U.S. State Dept.
  • CDC Health Information: Eastern Europe
  • Croatia: Island Superlatives
  • Republic of Croatia

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