Navigating Croatia

Croatia Somewhere in the southeast of Europe is a small country of approximately 4.5 million citizens. Its name is Croatia. Most of the people have never heard of it, and if they did, they would probably only know a few things about it such as that it is near Italy, or that it’s known for mobs and wars. But the truth about Croatia is a bit different than that. So let me tell you a couple of facts about it…

About 20 years ago, the country was formed with the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. It belongs to the more developed countries of Europe, but with the average salary of 600 € it also is one of the poorer ones. But you won’t get that image about it when you go there. The Croats are very proud of their beautiful, little country. They take care and protect it and it seems like they live their lives in the style of “keep calm, no stress, and everything can be handled.” An interesting thing is that the people are very passionate about spending time in cafés with their friends. So don’t be surprised if you spend 3 hours with your Croatian friend drinking coffee and just chilling on a sunny terrace, because they are huge hedonists.

With its 1233 islands, Croatia has one of the most indented coastlines and also one of the most beautiful. The country lives and breathes of tourism. Yes, it may be a small country but there is so much to see and experience for it is so unique. Every city is special for some kind, and almost every of the 1233 islands are ideal for vacation. You can get in about 20 minutes from one ski resort to the beach. It is very well-connected with the rest of the world with its airports (Zagreb, Krk, Zadar, Pula, Split, Dubrovnik and Osijek), but also with shipping lines (ships and catamarans ship out from Rijeka and connect the whole coastline). The same goes for travelling on trains and buses; all major cities are very well-connected.

Croatia 1

Photo Credit: Potapeni

You will see that the Croats are very kind and hospitable, doing their best to make you feel like home. If you choose to explore the far east of Croatia called Slavonia, you can enjoy yourself visiting wonderful vineyards, or for example riding horses and watching the natural beauty of this small country. Or maybe you are more interested in visiting our capital called Zagreb, a metropolis with lots of sights and landmarks to see but also a place where you can go out and have fun every day of the week. You also won’t regret choosing to explore the coast.  At the very north you will find yourself in Istria. A rich gastronomy, crystal clear sea and kilometers of pine forests will cleanse your sinuses and are the main characteristic of this part of Croatia. Moving along the coastline you will pass through Rijeka, a port city useful for travelling to the South of the country, because of its good connection with all cities on the coast but also with Italy. Travelling on the Magistrala will take your breath away, you get a chance to see beautiful cities along the sea and also spend less on your trip (no toll). If you’re in a hurry, there are newly built highways that save you time and get you to your destination quickly. For example, travelling from Rijeka to Split costs you about 40€ depending on whether you travel in the middle of the touristic season or earlier. Places like Crikvenica, Senj, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik will make you fall in love on first, second and every sight. The extraordinary gastronomy is also one of the main reasons visitors keep coming back for more. Fish, shellfish and other seafood are features of the Croatian coast, and with the low standards of the country you won’t have to spend much on quality fish meals. The best period for visiting Croatia is from April to October. The climate is mild in spring with temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius and the summer can get very hot indeed, between 30 and 40 degrees, normal for a sunny country.

Photo Credit: Chrystal Clear

In the last few years, Croatia has become a leading party destination for electronic music fans but also rockers among others. Many of the organizers saw the massive potential of this country and it definitely paid off. So let me show you the most popular festivals among which you will surely find something for yourselves:

INMUSIC FESTIVAL – ZAGREB

At the very start of the summer, the biggest open-air festival in Croatia brings people together in the continental region of the country, the capital Zagreb.  Started in June 2006, it has been growing every year since. Situated on the Otok hrvatske mladosti (Island of Croatian youth) at the lake of Jarun, the festival expended to 3 days and made the camp available for their visitors. From then, festival was held 9 times, and kept its main form of having 3 main stages and few smaller ones with every kind of genre to listen to. Here you will find rock, pop, electronic music, ska, punk and more. Proud to say that this festival has received lots of honors and awards, like the Nation Geographic Traveler putting INMUSIC in the top 3 festivals in the world you have to visit. Past headliners included: Arctic Monkeys, New Order, Mando Diao, Franz Ferdinand, Nick Cave, Moby, Lily Allen, Iggy & The Stooges, Kraftwerk, Billy Idol, Massive Attack,Morcheeba, Arcade Fire, Jamiroquai, The Black Keys, Pixies, MGMT.  Enough said?

Photo Credit: Fiked

Photo Credit: Fiked

OUTLOOK FESTIVAL – PULA

Held in Istria, more precisely the cove of Punta Christo in Pula, this festival has one of the most astonishing location .The city transforms to an ultimate party destination. Along with its natural beauty, clear sea and the antique amphitheatre (the 6th biggest in the world), Pula combines this historic ambience with young party people. Starting at the beginning of July, this festival takes place at the same cove as Dimensions Festival, which you can visit at the end of summer. Outlook is one of the biggest European festivals for bass music and sound system culture, and also winner of the UK festival award in 2011 for the best European festival. With world-famous names in dub, dubstep, drum ‘n bass, reggae, dance hall, jungle, hip-hop, roots, soul, house, techno, garage, grime and electro with over 550 acts, Outlook ‘s lineup spreads over 12 day and night stages and 54 boat parties. Like other festivals, this one offers you a camp, but besides that you can stay in hotels and other accommodations for prices between 10 and 30 € per night. You can always demand something more luxurious for 50-60 € or more, but here we don’t talk about that kind of crowd who suffers from having a pool in front of their crib. Don’t forget that you can get a rental car on many places for about 50 € per day.

Photo Credit: Dissa UK

DIMENSIONS FESTIVAL – PULA

Taking place between the 27th and 31st of August, Fort Punta Christo again becomes the place to party in Pula. If you want to close your summer and party season with style, you surely want to visit Dimensions Festival. The festival offers you the best underground experiences. Dimensions became the epicenter for electronic music and gathered the best of the electronic scene there is, adding house, techno, jazz, funk, soul, drum and bass, psych and pop music to it. Last year’s lineup was truly impressive; here are some of the names: Caribou, Darkside, Roy Ayres and Jon Hopkins, Moodymann, Theo, Parrish, Underground Resistence, Seven Davis, and more.

Photo Credit: Studenti

We now move from Istria, through Rijeka and head south about 260 km where we finally arrive at the most famous islands of Croatia, the island of youth also known as Croatian Ibiza. You’ll find yourself on the island of Pag, crime scene: Zrće, Novalja. If you are a fan of 24/7 partying, this island is made for you. Whether you choose to spend your time on daily beach parties or on huge parties at night, you can’t go wrong. Zrće is a zone of good vibrations, a beach that makes you forget about your problems, or at least you won’t hear about them because of the loud music. This big beach doesn’t only offer clear blue sea, but also a lots of restaurants, chill out zones for drinking coffee, jet skis, bungee jumping and most importantly…amazing clubs. Noa, Papaya, Aquarius, Euphoria and Kalyspo, all located one next to the other, will surely leave you impressed with their pomp, interior and kindness of their staff.  Papayas stage is impressive and has changed in the past years; like the other clubs, it has invested huge amounts of money in their sound systems and light shows. Zrće has become a destination for electronic music lovers to visit. DJs such as Armin van Buuren, Marcus Schulz, Paul van Dyk, Steve Angello, Afrojack, Benny Benassi, Axwell, Orjan Nilsen don’t miss out their chance to perform here to make the crowd go insane until sunrise.

Photo Credit: BTurn

ZRĆE SPRING BREAK

 What better  way  to celebrate the beginning of Summer than spending 4 days and nights on the almost legendary Zrće beach,  including international Djs, warm-up parties, boat parties and lots more. Four years in a row, this festival is being visited by people all over Europe. It doesn’t matter what time of day you arrive at this beautiful site, there is always something going on in two clubs Aquarius and Kalypso. Afterbeach parties at the pool, intense boat parties cruising around the cove or spectacular parties at night will satisfy everyone. Last year’s lineup included GREGORI KLOSMAN, DJS FROM MARS, MAEVA CARTER, MARTYN NEGRO, MARIO AMARILLO, HRC, RUBIN, MATT DEBEVER, MATRODA. LOOKA. Our FestPop staff paid a visit, making sure that this festival definitely deserves a spot on the party map. Celebrating its 5th anniversary from 4th till 7th of June 2015, expect an even bigger and better lineup and make sure to get your tickets before this popular festival is sold out.

HIDEOUT FESTIVAL

One of the most popular and famous festival on Zrće is Hideout, mainly attended by Brits. Most people will tell you that this festival is the craziest of them all on Zrće. The same can be heard from the locals who can confirm that there isn’t much sleep at night during the Hideout Festival. So if you don’t want maximum enjoyment and partying until you collapse, avoid Zrće between 26th June and 2nd July. The first part of the lineup for the upcoming year is already out: Duke Dumont / Eats Everything Gorgon City / Jamie Jones / Loco Dice MK / Nina Kraviz / Sigma / Ten Walls LIVE  Bondax / B-Traits.

FRESH ISLAND FESTIVAL

Don’t think that Zrće beach is only limited to electronic music. Fresh Island Festival offers you a different taste. Last year’s performance by Rick Ross the year before’s Snoop Dogg were absolutely crazy. Snoop and Madcon were so thrilled with the location that they decided to shoot the video for “Is You With Me” here. The dates for 2015 are already known, so keep this happening in mind if you want to party from 15th-17th July.

BEACH ODYSSEY FESTIVAL

Beach Odyssey is heaven on earth for trance lovers; it gathers the best of trance DJs and their faithful listeners. In 2014. The festival was renamed to DJ MAG Festival and offered 2 stages and 8 different DJs who made their fans lose their minds and voices. Marcus Schulz, Orjan Nilsen, Andrew Rayel, Omnia on Papaya stage and Kryder, Michael Woods, MAKJ and Ummet Ozcan on the Aquarius stage amazed the audiences. It was lovely to see Markus Schulz so overwhelmed with  people and Zrće that he couldn’t be moved from the stage and performed longer than it was planned. The lineup for 2015 is not yet out, but for sure it won’t disappoint trance fans.

SONUS FESTIVAL

From 18.-22.8., Sonus Festival celebrates music for 5 nights with 120 hours of unstoppable dancing and energy. Sonus was sold out last year and the clubs were filled to the top with thrilled music fans from all over the world. One of the leading performers was the legendary Richie Hawtin. Other artists included Adam Port, Alexandra, Aneuria, Chris Liebing, David Mayer, Dejan Milicevic, Dixon, Dyed Soundorom, Gaiser, Hot Since 82, John Digweed, Laurent Garnier, Marco Carola, Valentino Kanzyani and  many, many more.

Zrće offers something new for you every year. If you find some spare time between parties, you can enjoy yourselves in the endlessly long beaches all over the island of Pag, try some of the best cocktails, ride bikes along the wonderful sea sides or climb to magnificent viewpoints where you can impress your friends to make them jealous by taking beautiful selfies. So if all these festivals and happenings situated on one single island aren’t enough for you, then you are surely too demanding. Or insane.

GARDEN FESTIVAL

Travelling further to the south you’ll find yourselves in a happy little place called Tisno, known for the Garden Festival. There is also national park Kornati, famous because of its 89 little islands which are just a short boat trip away.  Don’t forget about Zadar, Šibenik and Split, some of the most beautiful Croatian towns, which you can visit during your free time. The festival lasts for 7 days so prepare yourself for it. Besides the sunscreen and swimsuits, you’ll also need to be in  a good shape if you want to survive until the last day of the festival. Keep that in mind while you sit at home in front of your TV and do nothing. Also, Croatian girls are known for their beauty, one more reason to get into shape. One part of the lineup is already reveale: DJ Harvey, Seth Troxler, Joy Orbison, Ben UFO, Midland, Craig Richards, Greg Wilson, Crazy P live,  Psychemagik, and  many more to be announced soon.

Photo Credit: Papaya

Photo Credit: Papaya

ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL

For the grand finale, I present you the king of festivals…the well-known Ultra Europe. For the last two years in middle of July, the city of Split has become the world centre for young people who travelled all the way to have the time of their lives. There isn’t much to say about Ultra that you don’t already know. Thanks to this huge festival, Croatia has made it surely on the party map of the world, with DJs like Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Carl Cox, Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Hardwell and countless others. Estimated number of visitors in 2014 was more than 110,000 from around 75 countries. Moving from  a two to three day festival at the Poljud Stadium, Ultra Europe is growing every year and offers you after-parties at some of the best clubs in Split where you can continue to party until 11 a.m. The last day the festival switches to the gorgeous island of Hvar, maybe the most magnificent island of all in Croatia, where the party, or better said pool party, continues in front of Hotel Amfora until the next morning. You won’t regret staying for few days and exploring Split because it possesses a rich historic and cultural heritage combined with modern architecture. Countless palm trees, little sweet cafés all over the town, or maybe restaurants in which you can taste some of the best fish meals or famous Croatian wines are just some of the things you can do here.

Photo Credit: Rukes

If you decide to stay after the festivals and tour Croatia, you have to know that you made a very good decision because there is a lot to see. It is a country where you just can’t get bored. Cities along the coast don’t sleep, music can be heard all over the stony streets, and the clear sea calls you to relax yourself in it and let the salt and sun caress your skin. The rich cultural heritage, lots of museums and its history written all over the narrow Istrian, Kvarnerian and Dalmatian streets and cities will make your trip unforgettable. I recommend visiting Zadar and its famous Saint Donatus church, which is the most famous monumental building in Croatia, built in the Middle Ages around the 9th century. In front of the church you will see the Roman forum. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the unique Sea Organs built into the shore, where you’ll see few marble steps leading into the sea. The steps are about 70 meters long underneath, with 35 different tubes on low tide level that moves up to the promenade. This is a very popular gathering place for tourists who relax to the sounds of the sea. Not far away you will find the glowing circular floor of the Pozdrav suncu (lit. Greeting the Sun), which is made of 300 multilayered glass plates and 22 meters in diameter.
Under the plates are photovoltaic solar modules that glow in harmony with the Sun. After the sunset, the circle starts to glow even brighter in rhythm with the sea waves.  As a souvenir you should take is their most famous liker, Maraschino.

Besides Split or Zadar, if you want to enjoy more of the natural beauties, breathtaking coves with crystal clear water and the sound of hundreds of crickets, stop by in Makarska or Primošten.  There is also one city you mustn’t pass by, the one and only Dubrovnik that is since 1979. On the UNESCO World Heritage list, this luxury city surrounded by great walls is slowly becoming a jet-set destination. Churches, palaces and villas together with the main street called Stradun make this medieval town a must-see place where you will want to sit down and feel its spirit.

Photo Credit: Voyage Gentside

Croatia is a small country for big vacations. During winter there is skiing in the mountains of Gorski kotar or Zagreb; the summer for swimming, chilling or partying and even exploring cities from the far North to the southeast part of Dalmatia. One place you might have heard of is the Plitvice Lake. It is the largest, oldest and most visited national park in Croatia. Surrounded by forests and situated in the mountains, it consists of 16 larger and smaller lakes with crystal cyan water which flows into the lakes from nearby rivers; and they are all connected through waterfalls and cascades. The best time to visit this incredible place is in spring or summer, and keep in mind that it’s a good location because of the small distance to Zagreb. Croatia has been recognized by many people; untouched nature, clear sea, good prices, lots of activities and incredible festivals will definitely bring you back to this small piece of heaven.

Photo Credit: Annailia


Written by FestPop Senior Staff Writer

Bernarda Brčić

Email comments to: Press@FestPop.com

Be first to comment