Croatia is a country with a rich history as it sits across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and not too far from Greece. In the 1990s, Croatia fought with Yugoslavia to achieve independence. Then, the nation got involved in a conflict with Serbians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the recent battles, the nation has remained one of the most beautiful coastal countries on earth.
Along with notable historical events, Croatia also has played a role in many modern events. Our list of 21 interesting Croatia facts combines the old and the new aspects of this unique coastal nation.
#1. Filmmakers and TV producers shot several movies and shows in Croatia.
One of the most popular television shows in history, Game of Thrones, took place in an imaginary land but was filmed in Split and Dubrovnik. Popular modern films Spiderman: Far from Home and Star Wars: The Last Jedi had scenes filmed in Croatia.
Several Westerns, like Apache Gold and The Last of Renegades, were filmed in Croatia. Eleven of them were filmed in Paklenica National Park and Plitvice Lakes. Zagreb, Croatia, is the setting for the popular musical Fiddler on the Roof. These movies and films have attracted visitors to their locations.
#2. The Croatian women who live on the island of Susak have the only national costume with a skirt that falls above the knee.
Most other national costumes have traditional dresses with long skirts and petticoats. The Susak dress has bright, almost neon-like colors and a short skirt supported with petticoats. Women put their hands on their hips while wearing the pink and orange outfits to accentuate the short skirt’s fullness.
While the skirt is quite short, almost like that of a prima ballerina, it is rather modest. The Susak Croatians wear long stockings that cover their legs. They also wear tops with long sleeves and high necklines.
Some credit the colorful costumes to Susak’s relative isolation in the Adriatic Sea. The Susak people would not have seen other folk costumes, so they designed one that fits their style and culture.
#3 The deepest European sinkhole is in Red Lake near Imotski, Croatia, in the Dinaric Alps.
Several sinkholes are nearby, but the Red Lake sinkhole is the deepest, with cliff faces over 800-feet above the top of the lake. The name comes from the red cliffs, despite the lake being shades of blue or green depending on the sky above it.
Several caves surround the sinkhole with a maximum depth of 942 feet and an average depth of 804 feet. The lake has 6.7 acres of surface area, and the elevation is 1,713 feet. Eighteen other lakes surround Red Lake, which is the biggest and deepest of all of them.
The first person spelunked in the water of the sinkhole was in 1998. Geologists studied it for years, but they only descended to the lake’s surface, not into the lake itself. No other sinkhole lake has been surveyed and documented as much as Red Lake.
#4. The Croatian language is complicated.
It has several long, unusual words and many dialects that prevent Croatians from talking to each other, especially from different regions.
The longest word in the language is prijestolonasljednikovičičinima. The word means “of the little heiress apparent to the throne.” It is not the longest word globally, as that currently belongs to a scientific term that is almost 200,000 characters in length. The numerous dialects are formal and informal, making them even more confusing.
The Croatian language is a Slavic language spoken by nearly five million people. People in Croatia, Austria, Bosnia, Germany, Italy, the United States, and Canada speak Croatian. When Croatia earned its independence from Yugoslavia, it chose the language as its independent state name.
#5. Croatians love to drink.
The country has the fourth most alcohol consumption per capita of countries around the world. And, the country is tied to the origins of the Zinfandel grape. The Croatians have been producing wine for over two millennia after learning the practices from the Ancient Greeks.
With so many connections to wine, it is easy to see why the Croatians love to drink. The small country has over 300 areas where citizens grow grapes and produce wine. Many of the wineries are on the islands that dot the coastline. The rich soil makes the islands ideal for growing flavorful grapes.
The majority of the wine bottled in Croatia stays in the country. In 2014, the Wine Institute claimed that Croatians consumed more than 12 gallons of wine annually. As more people outside of Croatia learn about the country’s delicious offerings, Croatian wine exports continue to grow.
#6. Along with grapes, Croatians grow truffles.
In 1999, a Croatian man named Giancarlo Zigante found the largest white truffle in Istria, Croatia. The giant truffle weighed over two pounds. The truffle is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
White truffles cost over $4300 per pound, so this truffle could have sold for nearly $10,000. Other large truffles have sold for more than $100,000.
#7. Croatians can pick truffles and grapes, but they cannot pick irises.
The iris is the national flower of Croatia, and its prominence dates back to Slavic mythology and the goddess Perun who left irises behind each time lightning hit the ground.
The Northern Croatians call the flower ljeljuja as they believed Ljelja was the wife of Perun, while those who live near Dubrovnik call it bogiša or divine flower. In Croatian, “bog” translates to god.
Irises are perennial flowers, but they only bloom for a few days. Croatia has other protected plants, like the edelweiss, the common yarrow, and the Istrian bell. Some of the endemic plants have been alive for over 100 years, so picking them can have severe consequences.
#8 Croatians take pride in having some of the cleanest water on the planet.
As tourists began flocking to the country, pollution began to affect water quality. So, the Croatians decided to do something about it. They installed 14 near wastewater treatment plants that use biological microorganisms to clean the water.
When it comes to drinking water, the best is in the southern part of the country. Like many countries, Croatia has aging water pipes, so most people have to deal with hard water.
#9 Ruins from the Roman Empire are all over the country.
The ancestors of the modern Croatians settled along the Adriatic Coast during the seventh century, well after the Roman Empire destroyed itself.
A reminder of the Roman Empire is the amphitheater in Pula, where gladiators fought. Only a few other ancient amphitheaters still exist, and Istria is one of the largest in the world. Today, you can see concerts and the annual Pula Film Festival within the ancient walls.
The iconic walls of Dubrovnik did not come from the Romans; instead, Florentine architect Michelozzo designed them after Venetians left the city. The curved walls were not just beautiful but sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake.
#10. The Romans weren’t the only ancient culture to live in Croatia.
The Krapina Neanderthal Museum is home to the fossilized bones from professor Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger’s dig at the turn of the 20th century.
He found over 900 fossilized bones, which was the most ever discovered in one site. They belonged to the men, women, and children who lived there thousands of years ago.
#11. Most Croatians—over 80%—practice Catholicism.
So, it makes sense that the tallest church in Croatia is the Catholic Cathedral in Zagreb. The cathedral has two spires that measure almost 355 feet tall.
The Croatians built the cathedral in the 13th century and added to it in the 19th century. The government placed the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption on the back of the 1,000 kuna banknote. You can see the cathedral’s spires from most places in Zagreb.
#12. The population in Croatia is shrinking.
According to the latest census, over 300,000 people have moved out of Croatia since joining the European Union. Some areas of Croatia have very few residents. For example, only 15 people live on Biševo, a tiny island in the Dalmatian Archipelago.
#13. The tiny island Biševo may only have a handful of residents, but many know it for its Blue Grotto that resembles the Grotto on Capri.
While the sun is at its peak, the rays fill the cave with light that turns the cave blue. You should not visit in the summer heat, as the cave has become a major tourist attraction.
#14. Dalmations and the Croatian Sheep Dog come from Croatia.
Dalmations come from the Dalmation Coast along the Adriatic Sea. There, the earliest known reference to the spotted dog dates back to the 1600s in a painting found in Zaostrog in Dalmatia.
The Romans named the region for the people who lived in the area. They called them the Dalmatae, which comes from the Illyrian word for sheep. Researchers assume that shepherds lived in the area. Interestingly, Dalmations did not herd sheep. Instead, they served as guard dogs and companions.
#15 The Croatians take pride in their beautiful beaches.
The most famous beach is in the town of Bol. The V-shaped beach, known as Zlatni Rat Beach, can have different shapes and colors when the wind changes direction. Sometimes the V has a distinct point; other times, it has a curve. The beach is on the island of Brac.
Many of those beaches are on over 1,200 islands. Only 48 of the islands have residents. Sailors can navigate those islands, islets, and reefs to see some beautiful scenery. Several have private beaches or other notable geography. The inhabited islands have distinctive rock formations, history, and people.
#16. Another notable location on Brac is the world’s largest collection of shells and snails.
The mollusks are in the Malacological Museum in Makarska. Friar Radic collected over 3000 shells along with invertebrate fossils, slugs, snails, and octopi. This collection is the most comprehensive in the country.
#17. Inventors created some very useful items in Croatia.
One notable investigation from Croatia is the Penkala, a mechanical pencil. Slavoljub Penkala, the inventor, patented the mechanical pen in 1906, and people who work in the capital still use the pencil.
The Croatians also invented the cravat necktie, which is worn by professionals all over the world today. The first people to wear the necktie was the Croatian soldiers who worked for the King of France.
Another notable Croatian inventor is Nikola Tesla. His parents were born in Serbia and Croatia, but he was raised in Austria and Austria-Hungary. He earned his education in Prague, Budapest, Paris, and New York. Eventually, he became a US citizen.
To celebrate Tesla’s alternating current, the people of Croatia have an annual Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally. The quiet EVs race from Istria to Zagreb for eight days. The first rally was in 2014, but the pandemic resulted in cancellation in 2020. Planners organized a return to the rally for 2021. People who live on the route appreciate the quiet electric motors.
#18. Inventors need to write down information about their creations, but the odds are good that the oldest Croatian text does not involve an invention.
Instead, the Baska Tablet includes information about King Zvonimir. The tablet has the oldest known mention of the word Croatian as a reference to the language on the tablet.
The tablet dates back to 1,100, about 400 years before the North American continent was discovered by Europeans. Interestingly, this isn’t the oldest document that mentions Croatia, as some Latin documents have the word on them.
The Baska Tablet has Croatian Glagolitic Script, which looks like a cross between cuneiform and a traditionally written language.
#19. King Zvonimir cursed the Croatians.
The king ruled between 1075 and 1089. He was a successful ruler. The medieval ruler helped Pope Urban the Second with a crusade. The people of Croatia were upset that the crusade was far from their shores. They attacked the king.
Before he died, Zvonimir cursed the Croatians, telling them that they would not have a Croatian leader for 1,000 years. Considering that the Croatians had to fight for their independence in the 1990s, some think that Zvonimir’s curse was true. He died in 1089, and about 900 years later, the Croatians earned their freedom from Yugoslavia.
#20. Two of the world’s best exist in Croatia.
According to Alfred Hitchcock, the town of Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world. Many believe that honor belongs to Key West, Florida, where sunset aficionados congregate to watch for the quick flash of green as the sun sinks into the Gulf of Mexico.
But in Zadar, the sunset is always different but often has eye-popping shades of orange and red. Zadar features the Greetings to the Sun light installation to add even more beauty to the daily event.
The other world’s best is the Rijeka Carnival which is held in different seasons throughout the year. The carnival includes a parade, a DJ party, a snowboarding party, and more. The carnival created its own season, making it the fifth one in Croatia.
#21. History takes center stage in this area of the world.
Croatia’s Dubrovnik has one of the oldest sewage systems on the planet. Croatians built the sewage system in 1296. Consider the British who did not install a sewer system until the Victorian Era in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, because of Game of Thrones and other popular cultural moments, Dubrovnik has been overrun by tourists. The ancient city has struggled to maintain its UNESCO status because so many tourists have come recently, especially since the city has been a popular cruise ship stop.
The sewer system cannot support all tourists, and sewage often spills out of manhole covers. The power supply in Dubrovnik is also substandard for the number of tourists who stay in the Medieval part of town.
Related: Cost of Living in Croatia
These 21 interesting Croatia facts show how unique this country on the Adriatic is. With a history dating back to the Neanderthals and the Ancient Romans, the country should be on everyone’s bucket list.
If you visit Croatia, take time to see the small places, like the remote islands and beaches. The country has so many unique places that you could spend an entire year there and still not see everything. The four million residents are proud to be Croatian, and many are welcoming to visitors. If you show respect to their country, the Croatians will return the respect to you.
Along with a rich history, the country is worth visiting today. With a booming wine industry and notable inventors, Croatia has plenty to offer to the world. If you do visit Croatia, you might want to schedule your travels in the colder seasons, so you do not have to deal with crowds. Croatia deserves respect from the residents, visitors, and the world at large.
This list covered 21 facts, but that doesn’t even cover a fraction of Croatia’s culture. What other interesting facts might we have missed? Let us know in the comments below.