There is good reason some tour operators have described Croatia as the “it” girl of Europe, with the emerging Balkan nation achieving record tourism growth last year.

The country notched up more than 100 million overnight stays in 2017, constituting a significant bump of 12% on the previous year. And it appears Croatia is not content with merely resting on its laurels either, with the nation’s tourism minister, Gari Cappelli, recently predicting a similar rise in visitors for 2018.

Outside of the pleasing numbers, Croatia has also racked up some important tourism cred, scoring a number two ranking in the 2018 Virtuoso Luxe Report’s list of emerging destinations and a top 10 finish in Traveller’s Choice Top Destinations on the Rise awards.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

The sheer volume of unspoilt natural diversity on display in Croatia really answers that question. Most of the tourism activity is concentrated on the Adriatic coast, with seaside resort towns such as Opatija and Rovinj proving most popular with tourists. Its coast more broadly is blessed with numerous pristine marine reserves and more than a 100 Blue Flag beaches.

The local industry has moved quickly to respond to the upturn in interest from Aussie tourists, with many operators launching new itineraries or beefing up capacity on existing offerings to cater for growth.

Utracks currently offers tours of Croatia’s amazing chain of islands via a combination of cruising and cycling. The eight-day trip traverses the islands of Korcula, Hvar and Brac, and between cycling jaunts allows time to soak up the ambience of the region’s many seaside towns and swim on its pristine beaches. Packages are priced from US$1,590 (A$2,017).

For those wanting more of a fact-finding feel, Eastern Euro Tours has a five-day Adriatic Highlights tour which takes travellers through some of the country’s most important cultural sites priced from $925 per person. The adventure includes sightseeing around the UNESCO city of Dubrovnik, taking in the Franciscan Monastery with Europe’s third oldest pharmacy, the Rector’s Palace and the Cathedral. Later in the itinerary travellers can investigate Croatia’s oldest continuously inhabited city of Zadar bursting with Romanesque architecture.

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