Croatia is fast-becoming one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, as more and more flock to this fantastic part of the world in search of sun, sea and a plethora of historical sites. Renowned as the location of various Game of Thrones sets, the natural landscape of the country alone is what draws many families, couples and individuals to visit the area, while the many archaeological points of interest and historical context are merely an added bonus. The country is home to an array of World Heritage Sites, each as fascinating as the next, so we thought we’d look into some of them in slightly more detail to give you a taste of what to expect with a holiday to this captivating country.
The Old City of Dubrovnik
Perhaps better known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, the old city of Dubrovnik is a destination of choice for many visitors to Croatia and earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. Home to an array of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic monuments, it is undeniably one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world and there are various monasteries, palaces and churches for you to discover and explore while you are there. The old city is protected by 2km of city walls which are ideal for post-dinner walks and one of the best ways to take in all that this beautiful city has to offer and see Dubrovnik from every perspective.
Hvar’s Stari Grad Plain
A fantastic example of ancient Greek agricultural systems, the grapes and olives grown here, in the same way they have been since the 4th-century, are still used today. After joining the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008, this remarkable site has grown in popularity to become one of the most popular sites to see in and around Hvar. A picturesque spot that’s as educational as it is beautiful and one of the only places in Europe to discover an agricultural system from thousands of years ago that remains in use today.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
One of only two natural UNESCO world heritage sites in Croatia, the Plitvice lakes consists of 16 blue-green lakes, separated by natural dams to create breath-taking waterfalls and formations. The water features themselves were formed naturally over thousands of years upon the vast land of chalk and limestone. With a spectacular display of flora and fauna, this spot makes for fantastic holiday photos; keep your eyes peeled for rare species of wolves, birds and bears. That said, don’t count on a refreshing dip to keep you cool in the height of summer – there’s no swimming or water sports allowed so as to keep the lakes as clean as possible.
The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica
Believed to be one of the founding places of Christianity, the episcopal Complex was built in 313 and is one of the most complete complexes of its kind in the world. Home to a church, atrium, baptistery, memorial chapel, and episcopal palace, there’s plenty to see and enjoy with a visit here. One of the more notable features is the tiled mosaic illustrations that glow in candlelight, while the building itself is sure to be a sight to behold. It is widely respected as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture and art in the world and should not be missed during your time in Croatia.
The Cathedral of St James
Overlooking the town of Šibenik in central Dalmatia, this Catholic church became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000. As one of the most significant architectural monuments from the Renaissance in Croatia, the Cathedral of St James stands majestically over its many visitors and encapsulates a blend of heritage from Northern Italy, Tuscany and Dalmatia. The cathedral features 71 individualised exterior frieze of men, women and children, none of which have ever been identified, further contributing to the element of intrigue.
Stecci, Medieval Tombstone Graveyards
One of the more recent additions to the list, Stecci are cemeteries dating back to the 12th-century. Each is home to limestone tombstones which can be identified by the features of region of which it was made. With over 70,000 stones across Europe, Stecci is certainly a sight to see, and something you’ll only ever find in this relatively small corner of Europe. The medieval graveyards can also be found in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 30 sites in total scattered across this part of the world. It is particularly fascinating because it was used by all three medieval Christian faiths in the region – Orthodox, Catholic and the Church of Bosnia.
The Historical Complex of Split
Walking through this vast complex of 38,500 square metres of Roman archaeological monuments is much like taking a step back in time. Built by the Roman Emperor as his retirement palace in 300AD, the open-air museum impresses all who visit. The palace itself was built with stone from the island of Brač and you can be taken on a tour of the building to see how and why it was used in HBO TV hit Game of Thrones.
That concludes our list of just seven culturally significant UNESCO World Heritage sites in Croatia. There are three other official sites including the Primeval Beech Forests of the Caparthians, Venetian Works of Defense and the Historical City of Trogir. In addition, there are also five tentative UNESCO sites on the verge of validation.
If this blog has inspired you to head to Croatia for your next holiday to soak up some of these sights, check out our Croatia holiday villas for the perfect home away from home. For more inspiration and information, keep up to date with our blog posts, which include a complete Travel Guide to Croatia.
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