From famed olive oils and a burgeoning wine scene to delicacies such as oysters, figs and seafood, Croatia is a melting pot of flavours for curious palates

Croatia is predominantly known for being a sun-soaked holiday destination, however, beyond its crystal-clear waters and lush Mediterranean landscapes lies a gastronomic journey of flavours and ingredients waiting to be discovered.

From its Adriatic coastline, which is home to over 1,000 islands, to the rolling green interior landscapes and dramatic mountainous peaks, there are plenty of reasons to visit Croatia – and the diverse culinary offerings that these landscapes provide are the perfect allure for gourmand travellers. 

Throughout the destination, there is ample opportunity for visitors to experience a true taste of Croatia; whether that’s going straight to the source for tastings in the famous wineries, hand-picking olives in a hidden grove, or visiting foodie hotspots. What’s more, leading Croatian tourism company Valamar not only provides luxury and modern accommodation across the country from which to explore Croatia’s culinary highlights, its local experts also curate bespoke local gastronomic experiences for Valamar guests.

Here, Valamar has rounded up some of the top culinary explorations that are just waiting to be explored.

Wine and olive oil run through the veins of Hvar 

The idyllic island of Hvar’s celebrated gastronomy lies in its hand-harvested olive oils and its indigenous grape varieties.  As the sunniest island in the Mediterranean, Hvar basks in up to 3,000 hours of sun per year, resulting in fertile soil and an enviable biodiversity that make it one of the best regions for growing grapes.

The island’s winemaking tradition stretches back thousands of years to when the island was occupied by the ancient Greeks, bringing with them vines and olive plants. Maintaining the vineyards has continued through the centuries. Famed wineries include Zlatan Otok, who turned his winemaking from a hobby into a successful family-run business that has been lauded with more than 100 awards. Notable recognitions include the Decanter Award for its red Crljenak (Zinfandel) and Hvar Bogdanuša (a golden yellow grape only grown on Hvar), as well as the Zlatan Plavac Grand Select – made from carefully selected Plavac mali grapes.

Hvar is also home to over 220,000 olive trees and handpicking their fruits during the harvest season in October and November is somewhat of a rite of passage for island natives.

With virgin olive oil now reaching status as a luxury food product, it too seems that Hvar is carving out a reputation for itself with the international success of its ‘oblica’ variety.  Although olive oil production on the island has been around for centuries, with many families keeping olive trees, it is only recently that production has taken a more artisanal route with the Uljara Božić family and their brand Božić Uje winning a Gold Award no less than four times at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Visitors to the island can explore the walking paths among the bountiful olive groves, enjoying aromatic colourful plants and the stunning surroundings inland. Valamar has also branched out into producing olive oil, combining the olives from Istria, Kvarner and Dalmacija to obtain the taste of the full range of Adriatic olives. Favouring the traditional method of hand-harvesting its olives, the hotel group aims to preserve the most natural flavour of  this cherished produce.

Where to stay in Hvar: 4* Valamar Amicor Green Resort, Hvar

New in 2022, Valamar Amicor Green Resort is situated north of Hvar, a stone’s throw away from the historic centre of Stari Grad and is the first family resort on the Croatian Adriatic to be built according to principles of sustainable development.

Striving to be in harmony with the surrounding flora and fauna, the resort favours renewable energy sources as well as locally-sourced produce. Offering a range of 56 beautiful accommodation options, including family villas and suites, the resort’s offering extends to the Aquamar family waterpark, multi-media playroom, old-school games lounge, open-air cinema and range of V-Sport facilities, including tennis, cycling and watersports.  The hotel group’s signature MARO entertainment concept, designed for children aged three to 12 years, is brought to life by the hotel’s MARO Eco-Playroom, where creative ecology workshops guide young guests on how to care for the environment.

In 2023, the resort will see an expansion of the property with 30 additional villas (two of which come with a private pool). Younger guests will experience a wealth of new attractions including a kids’ outdoor playground area and an eco-garden, insect hotels and interactive educational panels.

Villas start from £144 per night (based on a Villa with Terrace, sleeps up to three people).

Discover the fruit of heaven in Istria

Known as the fruit of heaven, the fig originated in northern Asia Minor and spread with the Greeks and Romans throughout the Mediterranean region. Most of the fig trees in Croatia can be found on the west coast of Istria and in Dalmacija, where the sun helps to dry the fruit to make preserves such as jam. Figs play an important role as an ingredient in traditional Croatian coastal dishes, and make for one of the key components in dishes such as the Split cake, pašticada (braised beef in aromatic sauce), and Hib, a flat cake native to the Croatian island of Vis. The fruit has also inspired some contemporary dishes including pairings such as grilled figs with bacon and goat cheese, lamb with figs, and fig tarte.

Where to stay in Istria: 5*/4* Girandella Valamar Collection Resort, Rabac, Istria        
Situated in the small coastal town of Rabac, the award-winning Girandella Valamar Collection Resort presents the ultimate luxury sanctuary for families looking for a premium getaway. The superior quality accommodation ranges from contemporary and stylish rooms to the luxurious signature V Level suites, and guests can opt for a Champagne breakfast or brunch at Rebelle restaurant as they take in the captivating sea view. At the Momenti restaurant, guests can take advantage of the extensive wine list and sommelier service to sample exquisite local and international wines while trying out the wide-ranging selection of local and foreign cuisine.

Family suites start from £264 per night (based on a Junior Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to four people), including buffet breakfast and dinner.

The gateway to seafood royalty: Dubrovnik

One hour’s drive outside of Dubrovnik, the bay of Mali Ston stretches 28 km across the Pelješac peninsula and is one of the last healthy habitats of ostrea edulis – European flat oysters. Tours can be taken to see first-hand the different processes used to farm the oysters, those looking for a more luxurious experience can sample the seafood delicacies at Vila Koruna, a restaurant that overlooks the bay and prepares oysters in 11 different ways.

Where to stay in Dubrovnik: 5* Dubrovnik President Valamar Collection Hotel

This award-winning hotel offers a unique beachfront location on the tip of the green Babin Kuk peninsula, only a few minutes from the enchanting Old Town of Dubrovnik. Guests are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation, ranging from Classic Rooms to the luxurious V Level Presidential Suite – all offering breathtaking views of the sea.

For the sunseekers, the Val President Relax Beach with premium V Level service lies a few metres from the hotel and offers a welcome retreat with panoramic views of the sea and Elaphiti islands. The Miramare restaurant and the V Level exclusive Momenti restaurant provide fabulous dining options that offer the best in Croatian, Mediterranean and international cuisine. Those seeking rest and relaxation have a choice of the elegant outdoor and indoor swimming pools as well as a dedicated wellness area offering spa treatments. 

Rooms from £115 a night (based on a Classic room, Balcony, Seaview, which sleeps up to three people)

Party with the fishermen in Makarska

A harbour town hidden on the Croatian coast, Makarska is known as the source for some of the finest and freshest seafood in the Mediterranean.

From sampling the signature swordfish at local tavern Jež to taking a seat at the popular fish restaurants on the waterfront, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the taste of the sea in this charming town. A particular highlight is Makarska’s Fishermen’s Night, which takes place weekly from June until September and sees fishermen, locals and tourists come together to celebrate the community’s culture. It’s a great opportunity to sample some of the best fresh fish and seafood, devoured with local Croatian wine.

Where to stay in Makarska: DALMACIJA [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar

DALMACIJA [PLACESHOTEL] by Valamar is set against the backdrop of Mount Biokovo and located a short stroll away from the vibrant Makarska seaside promenade. Guests are provided with slick wristbands for easy room access and cashless payment throughout the hotel.

The flexible dining options allow guests to choose from the buffet style restaurant’s wide selection of fresh eats or opt to sample the neighbouring culinary hotspots. For downtime, visit the beach or sit poolside taking in the sounds of the DJ. For those seeking sporting options, the V sport programme includes SUP, bicycle rental and tours. In addition to what’s on offer at the hotel guests can discover a range of active adventures in the surrounding area, such as the spectacular Skywalk and Biokovo climbing adventure.

Rooms from £93 a night (based on a [PLACESROOM] for 2 Balcony / Seaside)

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