Each week, we spotlight a dream vacation recommended by some of the industry's top travel writers. This week's pick is Croatia.
Croatia has an island for every taste, said Kevin Rushby at The Guardian. With nearly 50 inhabited isles among the 1,000 islands and islets that dot its Adriatic coast, the Slavic nation invites hopping from stop to stop, with each adventure linked by a short ferry ride that's "like being on a mini-cruise." There's always a decent café on board, plus lovely views. And you never know exactly what awaits at the next port. Maybe you'll come upon an 80-year-old selling paintings of his local boat-filled harbor, as we did at quiet, charming Cres. Or a "luminously brilliant" family-run restaurant, like the one we found on Krk. My partner, Sophie, and I were traveling with my 13-year-old, Maddy, who can tell you that it's worth visiting Rab for the island's signature pastry alone.
Cres, our first stop, is "an easygoing place, little frequented by tourists and pleasant to stroll around in." Inside the island's 13th-century monastery, we're offered samples of the monks' fennel-based liqueur by a smiling cleric who's delighted we want seconds, even at 9 a.m. Because nearby Krk is busier, a walk amid its stone lanes can be slow going. "But why hurry?" We happen upon a beach-ware shop housed in a former temple of Venus; a lunch of sheep's cheese and squid; and, later, Volsonis, "one of the world's most astonishing cafés." To enter, you duck through a small doorway in an ancient stone wall. Beyond the entrance lies a maze of underground and outdoor spaces — part café, part nightclub, and part archaeological site, because many of the walls, not to mention the sacrificial altar, were built by the Romans.
On Rab, we skip the chichi boutiques to check out the headquarters of the medieval order of crossbowmen, which houses an enjoyably weird collection of weaponry, heraldry, and 1930s local photography. We hire a boat for the afternoon, allowing us to explore a nearby forested peninsula and swim in its peaceful coves. Then it's on to the next island, via another ferry. Out on the deck, I detect what I swear are distinctive aromas of the islands we've enjoyed — "Cres' sage, Krk's pine, and coming up on the bow, Rab's lavender." Or maybe, as Maddy insists, I'm just catching the pleasant smells emanating from the boat's café kitchen.