If you've clicked on this article then it won't surprise you to know that Croatia is officially the world's most popular vacation destination. Yep, the numbers don't lie - teflSearch analysed data from Google, so can say with certainty that the coastal gem in Southeast Europe comes out on top. Why? We'll get to that. But it won't surprise you to know the other destinations making up the top five favorites are Greece, Turkey, Thailand and Spain. It's pretty clear we all like hot weather and a pretty beach, but Croatia has so much more to offer than just climate and ocean. We'll break it down for you - here's eight reasons why Croatia is the dreamiest.
Insanely Beautiful Beaches
Croatia's been blessed with both a long, azure coastline on the Adriatic Sea and over a thousand small islands ripe for exploration. This means that there are beaches aplenty, many of which are pebbly, but all of which are picture perfect. In general, the southern half of the country has the most attractive spots for swimming and sunbathing. The small town of Brela stands out thanks to the 6km of beaches and crystalline water. Nearby Brac island contains another piece of paradise: Zlatni Rat beach, which is as gorgeous as you'd expect. The island itself is the third largest in the Adriatic and well worth checking out for its peaceful vibes and scuba diving.
Fresh Fusion Cuisine
The food in Croatia is worthy of a trip in itself. With the abundant coastline offering up fresh seafood, and cuisine brimming with influences from Italy, Turkey and Hungary, you can be rest assured you're in for a treat. The range of eats on offer is pretty distinct therefore, as it varies from the seafood-dominated cuisine of the Mediterranean, to the more homely comfort food of Central Europe. As a hub that attracts a ton of visistors (and for good reason), Dubrovnik is a city that comprises the best of both foodie worlds. Visit Orsan, overlooking the marina, for the freshest fish and Dalmation favourites (octopus salad and black risotto). Or head to the cosy Taverna Otto for their standout onion soup gratinée and braised lamb shank. For sunset, head to one of the famed 'cliff bars', like Cafe Buza, which offers spectcular views right over the water.
An Unexplored Capital City
So, Dubrovnik is fairly well-known, but mention the city of Zagreb and it's likely you'll be met with blank stares. But for those in the know, Croatia's capital is quite the cultural gem. And it's increasingly giving similar cities like Budapest and Prague a run for their money. Brimming with Austro-Hungarian architecture, the city is as fascinating as it is different. Case in point: it has more museums per square foot than any other city in the world. And we're not talking bog standard galleries - we're talking the Museum of Broken Relationships and the Museum of Naïve Art. There's a vibrant street art scene too, a farmer's market you must check out (Dolac Market) and a burgeoning boutique hotel scene that's well worth your time (check out the art deco spot, Hotel AS).
Constant Music Festivals
The boom in music festivals in Croatia is huge, meaning there's literally something for everyone (provided you visit May - September). Locations vary from hot boat parties to raves in abandoned forts, and the line-ups are always impressive. Some of our favorites include Outlook Festival, a mecca for underground music lovers (yep, that's the one that takes place amongst Roman ruins) and Hideout Festival, which is home to over 100 DJs and nearly as many electronic raves. All in all, over the past five years the number of festivals in the country has doubled, so there's never been a better time to visit.
Stunning Historic Towns
When the hangovers start to get too much, there's a wealth of stunning historic areas free to explore instead. Head to Dubrovnik for those quintessential Old City views - the mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture is truly magical. And like this 'Pearl of the Adriatic', the city of Split also has parts that are deservedly classed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here, the ruins of Diocletian's Palace, built between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries A.D., are well worth a wander. But if you're more into current culture than the past, you'll love Elite Travel's Game of Thrones tour. In this, you get the inside scoop on the filming that took place within Dubrovnik's medieval city walls. (We were going to hashtag 'winter is coming', but Croatia's pretty sunkissed...)
Glam Party Islands
Croatia's not all cuture, culture, culture. Even if you're not a festival fan, the nightlife is out of this world. Aside from the obvious pull of the bars and clubs in bigger cities, two islands stand out for their non-stop revelry. Head to Pag, the fifth largest island on the Croatian coast, for constant beach parties and the legendary beach club, Papya. And if you're looking for something a little more upscale, Hvar is a must-go. Located under a two hour ferry journey from Split (the coutry's second largest city), it's home to all Croatia's glitz and glamor. Grab a water taxi and party on down at the always-buzzing Carpe Diem, or enjoy champagne, burgers and the hidden roof terrace at 50.
Day Trips Galore
If you were ever do tired of Croatia's delights (unlikely, admittedly), then rest assured there's a ton of cool destinations within several hours drive. And what a drive it'll be - so much of the country is incredibly scenic. Not only can you do various kayaking tours from Dubrovnik, for instance, you can also be in countless countries in two short hours. Get a bus to Kotor, Montenegro to experience quaint coastal life amongst the mountains. Or pop to the town of Mostar in Bosnia & Hercegovina for a unique, cultural experience (and a refreshing one at nearby Kravice Falls).
Pristine National Parks
We've saved the best till last. Croatia's national parks have beauty that you really have to see to believe. But trust us that a visit to the country won't be complete without gazing in awe at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Around two hours drive from both Zagreb and Split, the park has 16 lakes that are joined by a multitude of waterfalls. There's hiking trails, boat trips and enough beauty to fill your Instagram for a decade. Another spot to explore is Krka National Park in southern Croatia, which is less well-known but equally full of breathtaking waterfalls. Magical.