Crystal waters, sumptuous cuisine and exquisite islands, there are so many reasons to visit Croatia. But don’t just take our word for it, hear what one of our expert Travel Concierges has to say.

We caught up with Sharon who specializes in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. With a deep love and knowledge of Croatia, she shares her wisdom here for Luxury Gold guests.

Visit Croatia and revel in natural beauty on our Croatia & The Dalmatian Coast luxury guided tour. Enjoy Michelin-starred dining, exquisite hotels and VIP after-hours access to the Museum of Apoxyomenos. The ultimate Croatia travel experience, board a luxurious week-long cruise along the Dalmatian Coast, discover the cities of Zadar and Dubrovnik and explore the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park.

 Sharon’s love for Croatia

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Originally from New Zealand, Sharon came over to Europe to work as a tour leader and planned to stay for two years. 27 years later she is still in Europe, a specialist in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and in love with Croatia. Her love affair with the country began in 2000 when she first visited. She tells us: “Croatia quickly became one of my favorite destinations, it knocked Italy off the top spot!”

Famed as having the most beautiful shoreline in Europe, Sharon agrees this is an apt accolade. “You have the Adriatic Sea where the water is stunning. It is crystal clear and wonderful for swimming. Then the geography is fascinating with the mountains in the background and the villages and vineyards scattered all over. It is truly a very beautiful destination.”

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Sensational cuisine

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“If you ask me my favorite Croatian foods, the immediate thing that comes to mind for me is octopus salad, oysters and crisp white wine. These are my instant go to,” Sharon tells us with a smile. “When it comes to cuisine, Croatia is like Italy in a lot of ways, in that it is very regional. So in the north, we eat very different things to what we do on the coast.

“In the north they do an amazing meat under the bell,” she says, describing Peka, a traditional Croatian method of preparing food. Here meat is roasted over open flames using a clay or wrought-iron baking vessel, a must-try when you visit Croatia. “It is really juicy and tender and accompanied by roasted vegetables, cooked in the juices for a unique taste.

“In the south it is all about delicious seafood. And some of the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted in Europe. You can also enjoy great wines. The thing about Croatian food is the simplicity, simple grilled fish and greens, but it’s super tasty.”

Travel with Luxury Gold and in the picturesque fishing village of Mali Ston you will meet Tomislav, a local oyster farmer. Here you will see the floating oyster beds and savour an exquisite mouthful of oysters straight from the sea, one of the most naturally decadent things to do in Croatia.

Read more: 5 Michelin star chefs celebrating local culture through food

Zadar

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As you walk the streets of Zadar, Dalmatia’s ancient capital, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. With its remains of a 1st century Roman Forum, the 9th century St. Donatus Basilica, and the 16th century Venetian city walls, you will be captivated.

“Zadar is quite surprisingly historic,” Sharon tells us. “I think when most people think of the Croatian coast they think of beaches and sun and cruising the waters. But a lot of the cities have an amazing history. In Zadar the Romans are still very evident there, and it offers a great combination of historical sights but then contemporary history as well.

“Zadar also has a really interesting sea organ which is quite unique. The water rushes in and, as it goes out, it makes different noises as well. It’s very subtle so you kind of have to just sit there and then you’ll hear the music. It is one of the fun things to do in Croatia, and at sunset it is pretty amazing.”

Read more: 9 reasons to visit Croatia & the Dalmatian Coast

Plitvice Lakes National Park

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At Plitvice walk amongst cascading falls and colorful lakes and marvel at one of the world’s great natural wonders. The lake system of Plitvice Lakes National Park is comprised of 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes, each one cascading into the next, and ending with the impressive Sastavci Waterfalls.

“Plitvice is a great treasure, very unique,” Sharon described one of the great Croatia attractions. “The area is quite quiet and you can hear the birds tweeting. Most of the lakes are very calm and then you come into these pockets where you’ve got waterfalls everywhere and you can hear the rushing water.”

“The lovely thing about Plitvice is the opportunity to go into a National Park and have a walk. It makes a great contrast to the cities. Your local expert brings it all alive and tells all of the little snippets about the nature and the history and personal stories as well.”

“And for me, as well as being mesmerizingly beautiful, Plitvice is quite amazing in that they’re very focused on sustainability. So it’s organized very well.”

Travel with Luxury Gold and join a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience to learn all about the Park’s invaluable research and conservation work.

Read more: How your travels with Luxury Gold help conserve nature for future generations

Dubrovnik

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Regarded as the most picturesque city on the Dalmatian Coast, the moment you see Dubrovnik you understand why it is known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik’s beautiful Old City is surrounded by magnificent defensive walls and forts, running for nearly 1.25 miles. You may well recognize Dubrovnik as the main filming location for Kings Landing, in the hugely popular television series Game of Thrones.

 “I would say Dubrovnik is probably the most unique city in the world. It is the fantastic treasure.  Walking the city walls is one of the essential things to do in Croatia, especially if you can get some quiet time like towards the end of the day or earlier morning. There’s nothing quite like it.

“For me the city is a lot like a Venice. The history is quite amazing, the lifestyle, the culture and the traditions. I would put Venice and Dubrovnik as probably the two most unique cities in Europe because of their maritime history. Their beauty. Everything,” she enthuses.

Read more: 6 of the world’s most beautiful walled cities and towns

Sound like a local

Before we let her go, we asked Sharon for the phrase everyone should learn before they visit Croatia and she tells us: “Pomalo – this is a saying in Dalmatia that means slow down, relax, take it easy.”

If you are feeling inspired to visit Croatia & the Dalmatian Coast then why not treat yourself to a luxury guided tour. Enjoy exclusive experiences, stay in exquisite hotels and taste culinary excellence every step of the way.

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