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North Croatia’s hidden gems

Amanda Angus / 15 October 2015 ( 17 January 2019 )

Saga Magazine uncovers the hidden travel destinations and historical sites that are essential visits on your trip to Croatia...

A panoramic view of Rovinj, Croatia
A panoramic view of Rovinj, Croatia

When you think of taking a holiday to Croatia, your mind might conjure up images of the walls of Dubrovnik, the Diocletian Palace of Split, or of sparkling waves washing against pristine beaches and sunkissed islands – and with good reason – but there’s even more to be discovered if you venture slightly off the beaten path.

Listen to the sea organ in Zadar

At first glance the wide steps leading down to the sea in the coastal city of Zadar just look like a place to soak up some sun, and perhaps dangle your feet into the waves.

However, underneath the concrete, descending down into the sea, there’s a series of pipes that are ‘played’ by the motion of the waves to create a haunting melody. Together with the Sun Salutation, a circle of solar panels set into the floor nearby that light up at night, it makes for a surreal evening of very interesting sights and sounds.

And if you needed something more to tempt you, it was also here that Alfred Hitchcock proclaimed the sunset to be the most beautiful in the world!

Visit the stunning cathedral in Sibenik

Located in pretty Sibenik’s old town, and blending Gothic and Venetian Renaissance styles of architecture, the UNESCO-protected Cathedral of St James is a fascinating example of the way architecture evolved in the hundred-odd years it took to build, between 1431 and 1535.

Made entirely of stone quarried from the neighbouring island of Brac, it features an interesting frieze on the exterior wall of over 70 faces, sculpted with varying expressions.

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Relax in Rovinj

Istria, situated in the north east of Croatia, is a triangular-shaped peninsula roughly the same size as Staffordshire. Surrounded on two sides by the sea and a short hop across the Northern Adriatic from Venice, Istria is heavily influenced by its Italian neighbours, yet retains its own distinct sense of identity.

Rovinj, a city on the western coast, is criss-crossed by enticing winding alleys and narrow paved staircases. The old town of this pretty fishing port was once an island; today it is watched over by the baroque hilltop Church of St. Euphemia and it boasts two harbours, perfect for watching the industrious fishing boats come and go.

Out in the bay lies the island of St Catherine, ideal for catching a boat over to and enjoying a peaceful picnic.

Step back in time in Pula

Also situated on Istria’s west coast, reminders of Pula’s 3000-year old history will greet you at every turn. Its majestic amphitheatre, once the site of bloody gladiatorial fights is still in use by the local people, usually for music festivals. The reconstructed Temple of Augustus is dedicated to the goddess Roma and Emperor Augustus.

Alternatively, you could discover some of the city’s parks – many of which date back to the Austro-Hungarian period.

What hidden Croatian gem do you think we've missed? Let us know on

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.