12 interesting facts about Croatia

Think you really know Croatia? From spotty dogs to fancy neckties, Croatia has gifted the world many surprising things, and has some remarkable landmarks both old and new. We look at some surprising facts about the land of a thousand islands.

By Saga team

Published 14 May 2024

Croatia - Split in Dalmatia. Diocletian's Palace - famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. AV212

Everyone's favourite spotty dog, the dalmatian, hails from Croatia and was used to guard the borders of Dalmatia and run alongside carriages to protect the horses from threats such as other dogs. It takes its name from the Croatian region of Dalmatia, the central coastal strip along the Adriatic Sea.

It's probably now one of the world's most recognisable dog breeds thanks to its distinctive coat, the very same coat which inspired Dodie Smith to write the classic children's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, later adapted into an animated film by Walt Disney.

Croatian-born Nikola Tesla invented the ‘Alternating Current’ electrical system that fuels our modern lifestyles. This prolific genius also had a hand in the development of light bulbs, X-rays, radio, laser, remote control, wireless communication and robotics!

Relative to its size Croatia has a vast coastline, with 1,144 islands, islets and reefs, accounting for 4,058 kilometres of its swerving 5,385 kilometre total length. Being situated on the Adriatic Sea it's no wonder Croatia has enjoyed a booming tourism industry, with visitors flocking to the historic cities and coastal resorts to enjoy the fine weather, beautiful beaches and warm sea. It's not surprising that Croatia is often affectionately referred to as 'the land of a thousand islands.'

Tennis player Goran Ivanišević won the Wimbledon Championship in 2001 and remains the only person to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon on a wild card entry.

Wild card entries are players whose world rankings are not high enough for them to automatically qualify.

Zagreb is just 820 miles from London with flights taking under two hours. Dubrovnik is 1,057 miles from London, with a flight time of just over two and a half hours. The quick flight time and warm Mediterranean climate make it an increasingly popular holiday destination for Brits.

Zadar’s ‘Sea Organ’ (Morske orgulje) is a prize-winning piece of architectural design that uses the action of the wind and waves to create hypnotic rhythmic harmonies. Marble steps lead down to the water, and concealed underneath is a system of tubes and a resonating cavity which plays music as the waves come in.

National Park Krka and Cascade of Waterfalls

Croatia is known for its wonderful beaches, but did you know it also has some stunning national parks? Croatia has eight national parks, including Mljet – home to Europe’s only wild Mongooses, Plitvice Lakes – a series of 16 lakes interconnected by waterfalls and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the limestone gorges of Paklenica. One of the most popular parks is Krka National Park in Dalmatia, home to some of the most photographed waterfalls in Europe thanks to its beautiful surroundings and easy access from Sibenik, Split and Zadar.

As well as eight national parks Croatia also has two strict reserves and 11 nature parks, and these green spaces make up 9% of the country.

The elegant cravat first hit the spotlight when rugged 17th century Croatian mercenaries, enlisted by Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, wore them on the streets of Paris. The modish Parisians embraced this ‘new look’, ditching their ruffs in favour of this natty necktie. Traditionally, cravats were part of the Croat military uniform.

The Rijeka Carnival, Croatia’s biggest carnival, celebrates Slavic folklore and mythology with much use of masks and merrymaking. It’s held annually before Lent (between late January and early March), on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The carnival in its modern interpretation started in 1982, but Rijeka was historically a town rich with festivals, parades and carnival balls, often frequented by royalty from Austria and Hungary. During good weather up to 100,000 people attend the carnival.

Pula’s beautifully preserved amphitheatre, the Pula Arena, was constructed in the first century AD, during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian and is the sixth largest Roman arena in the world. Impressively, it's the only Roman amphitheatre to have all four side towers preserved and is Croatia's best-preserved ancient monument and rivals Italy's Colosseum in its magnificence. These days you're more likely to see the space being used as an outdoor cinema, theatre or concert venue but in Roman times it would have been the site of many bloody gladiator battles.

The Emperor Diocletian utilised Brac’s dazzling white stone to construct his magnificent palace in Split. The sandstone remains highly prized and unpolished white stones still litter the island, relics of projects past. The stunning palace was actually built as a retirement home for Emperor Diocletian, the first Roman emperor to abdicate voluntarily.

The smallest town in the world, according to the Guinness World Records, is Hum in central Istria – at the time of the 2021 census it had a population of 52 people. Despite its small size, Hum has a long history – it was first mentioned in documents dating from 1102, although back then it went by the name of Cholm.

Hum's church, the Assumption of Mary, holds one of the oldest examples of Croatian Glagolithic writing. This early script went on to become the main script used by Istrian Slavs in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Explore the history, culture and stunning landscape of Croatia for yourself on one of our holidays to Croatia

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