10 amazing adventures in Croatia for 2020

Nick Trend
Plitvice National Park - (c) 2015 jamesdronanjr ((c) 2015 jamesdronanjr (Photographer) - [None]

From Istria to the Dalmation Coast, Nick Trend gets active in Croatia

1. Istria by e-bike

Steep terrain makes the northern region of Istria challenging for cyclists, but Saddle Skedaddle is offering a guided holiday on electric, pedal-assisted mountain bikes with full-suspension. It is based in a seaside hotel in Rabac and highlights include a long descent in the Ucka mountains, cycling the Parenzana, a converted railtrack linking the rural villages of Groznjan, Motovun and Vizinada and a backroad tour of the Skitaca peninsula.

Terra Magica – Electric Mountain Bike Holiday from £1,275 for six nights, including transfers and most meals. Electric bike hire £295. Excludes flights. Departs Oct 4. Saddle Skedaddle (skedaddle.com). 

Motovun Credit: getty

2. Pula fly-drive

Quiet roads, coastal views and inland landscapes peppered with vineyards and hilltop villages make Istria an ideal region for touring by car too. Regent Holidays has a circular fly-drive from historic Pula, with time to admire its Roman amphitheatre and forum before heading to Porec with its 6th-century Byzantine mosaics. Includes car ferry trips to the islands of Cres, Mali Losinj and Krk and time back on the mainland in Rijeka, a port with a lively cultural scene.  

Fly-drive through Istria, including Rijeka and the Kvarner Riviera from £1,380 for 11 nights b&b in three and four-star hotels including flights and car hire. Regent Holidays (regentholidays.co.uk).

3. Elaphiti adventures

Northwest of Dubrovnik, the Elaphiti islands are – with the exception of Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep – largely uninhabited, which makes them wonderful to visit. The archipelago is the focus for a week with Artisan Travel, including paddleboarding, sea kayaking, hiking, snorkelling and a three-day catamaran trip to tranquil coves and beaches. Excursions to castles and monasteries are on offer, plus a day trip to Dubrovnik by ferry.

Elaphiti Islands Active Adventure from £795 for seven nights B&B. Excludes flights and transfers. Departs April to June, September and October. The Artisan Travel Company (artisantravel.co.uk).  

The Elaphiti islands Credit: getty

4. Kvarner Riviera

Elegant Belle Époque villas and summer homes that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian elite in Opatija’s 19th-century heyday have been converted into grand hotels overlooking the Kvarner Gulf. Chic bars, stylish restaurants, flower-filled gardens and hillside walks lie behind a long, tree-lined seafront promenade. The resort makes a good base for exploring the lively port of Rijeka with a hilltop castle, 17th-century cathedral and buzzing shopping streets. 

Four-star Hotel Miramar in Opatija from £1,820 for seven nights b&b in a deluxe sea view room including flights and transfers, based on May 20 departure. Classic Collection Holidays (classic-collection.co.uk).

5. Balkan butterflies

Around 200 species of spectacularly colourful butterflies are native to Croatia, including the small and rare Dalmatian ringlet, the exotic tiger blue and distinctive Balkan marbled white. Naturetrek leads a small group tour through the limestone gorges of Plitvice and Paklenica national parks to seek them out. The tour also takes in the Velebit Nature Park, a Unesco biosphere reserve. home to the luminously orange Balkan copper. 

Butterflies of Croatia from £1,795; eight days including flights, transfers and all meals. Departs June 1. Naturetrek (naturetrek.co.uk). 

Around 200 species of spectacularly colourful butterflies are native to Croatia Credit: getty

6. Dalmatian discovery

Undulating coastal paths, often through pine forests, combined with ancient mule tracks make the Dalmatian region good for walkers. Headwater has a week of daily guided hikes of three to eight moderately challenging miles plus sightseeing excursions. After hiking in Krka National Park, take in an ascent of Vidova Gora on Brac island and an exploratory hike on Lopud from a four-star hotel base in Dubrovnik.

Delights of the Dalmatian Coast Walk from £1,565; seven nights including flights, transfers and some meals. Departs May, June, September and October. Headwater (headwater.com).

Zlatni Rat, Brac Credit: GETTY

7. Family fun

Most holidaymakers make a beeline for the Croatian coast, but inland the forests and rivers also offer plenty of fun. Families Worldwide has a small group activity week for parents with children aged seven years and over, staying in a relaxed base in the village of Rakovica. It combines kayaking the Mreznica river with a hike through the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Private departures also available.

Croatia River Adventure from £1,205 (adult), £1,139 (up to 11), for six nights half-board including flights and transfers. Departs Aug 2. Families Worldwide (familiesworldwide.co.uk).

8. Cultural coastal cruise

Croatia is rich in architectural and archaeological treasures, especially on the coast. Martin Randall has a cruise aboard the 20-cabin MS Desire in the company of expert lecturer, Dr Zoe Opacic. The ship visits Sibenik, for a tour of its Gothic-Renaissance cathedral, and the former capital, Zadar, as well as island city Trogir. Other highlights include the former Roman city of Salona.

Sailing the Dalmatian Coast – Maritime beauty, natural and architectural from £3,980 for 10 nights including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs May 5. Martin Randall Travel (martinrandall.com).

Trogir Credit: getty

9. Mountain rides

The fields, mountainsides and wide valleys of Croatia’s rural interior provide plenty of scope for intermediate and advanced riders wanting fast-paced riding. Unicorn Trails offers itineraries to groups of up to six, which include three to five hours riding daily, with picnic lunches and home-cooked evening meals based in a family-owned ranch, an hour’s drive inland from Split. Trail through the Svilaja mountains, pass villages and follow Roman roads. 

Croatia – Dalmatian Mountain Explorer from £639 for seven nights including full board. Excludes flights and transfers. Departs April to October. Unicorn Trails (unicorntrails.com). 

A fortress near Split Credit: getty

10. Gourmet tour by gulet

Drawing on a broad variety of culinary influences, ranging from Austrian to Ottoman Turkish, Croatian cuisine is a fascinating fusion. Peter Sommer Travels offers a food-focused gulet cruise from Marina Baotic, near Split, to Dubrovnik. It includes wine tastings on the islands of Brac, Hvar and Korcula, and on the Peljesac Peninsula, home of Dingac reds; plus a visit to an oyster and mussel farm, and excursions to sample local cheeses, prsut (cured ham), olive oil and fruit preserves.

A Gastronomic Gulet Cruise in Croatia from £3,425 for seven nights including full board and transfers. Excludes flights. Departs Sept 26. Peter Sommer Travels (petersommer.com).