5 things you didn’t know you could do in Croatia

Think Croatia is just sun, sea and scenery? Think again. Here are 5 brilliant activities you never knew you could do in Istria, the most popular region.

1. Whizz through a canyon on a zip wire

Head to the town of Pazin to experience Zip Line Pazin Cave – an adrenalin-filled adventure you won’t forget in a hurry. After two short practice lines, you’ll fly down two long wires (220m and 280) that run 100m above the canyon below.

As you reach heart-racing speeds of up to 50km/h, you’ll take in spectacular views of this beautiful abyss through which Istria’s longest subterranean river flows. You’ll also get a good glimpse of the cliff-perched castle that’s the largest medieval fortress in the region.

2. Explore one of the world’s best-kept Roman amphitheatres

Pula Arena is one of the most popular attractions in Croatia. This ancient Roman amphitheatre is the 6th largest in the world, as well as one of the best preserved. Built between 27BC and 68AD, gladiator fights were held within its huge limestone walls, drawing crowds of up to 20,000.

Today the arena hosts all sorts of cultural and sporting events, including the annual summer “Spectacvla Antiqva” which recreates those gladiatorial contests. And year-round you can enter the Arena’s underground chambers to enjoy museum exhibits about how olive oil and wine were made in the past.

3. Make a splash in the Med’s biggest wave pool

Aquapark Istralandia, Croatia’s first water park, opened in 2014. Covering more than 80,000 m2, this aquatic paradise features 20 thrilling slides (including a 27m free-fall drop) and the largest wave pool in the Mediterranean.

Those who prefer a little less excitement can relax and unwind in the two-level hydromassage pool. And when you’re done with the water, you’ll find sand volleyball and badminton courts as well as plenty of bars and cafes.

4. Ride a train around an Istrian island

Sitting just off Istria’s coast, Brijuni Islands National Park is an extraordinary archipelago of two main islands and 12 smaller islets. The beautiful pine-covered Veliki Brijuni is the largest of them all and home to archaeological sites, landscaped gardens, a safari park and even dinosaur footprints!

You can book a day excursion to Veliki Brijuni from Fazana. After the short boat transfer to the eastern port, why not hop on the tourist train for a sightseeing tour round the island?

5. Taste some of the best olive oil there is

Croatia has a long tradition of growing and pressing olives for their oil. It may not produce anywhere near as much as Spain, but it’s recognised internationally for the quality of its extra virgin oils – particularly those made in Istria.

Agrolaguna, in the resort town of Porec, has 65,000 olive trees producing more than 100 tonnes of extra virgin oil a year. Make a visit to see the groves, tour the mill and sample its award-winning oils in the beautiful tasting room. Delicious!

Think Croatia could be the perfect destination for your next getaway? Take a look at our great range of holiday villas in Croatia.

On the Gourmet Trail. Croatia: Truffle Pasta

This tasty and simple dish is from Croatia and is the ideal dinner for a night in at your villa.


150g Fuži

30g butter

100g cream

40g Truffle sauce

Pinch of salt & Pepper


Drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil

Grated Parmesan Cheese



1. Put fuži into a pot of boiling salt water and cook until al dente

2. On another stove, at the same time, heat butter into a pan on a low heat. Once melted down, add cream, truffle sauce and season with salt & pepper. Stir well.

3. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and pour into the pan with the sauce. Mix well.

4. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil


Dobar Tek! (Enjoy your meal!)

Floral Themed Villas

To celebrate the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 we decided to dig out some of our floral inspired villas and share a bunch of our favourites with you.


Villa Poppy, Polis, Cyprus

Situated in a fantastic central location, just 900 yds from the beach, is Villa Poppy. Ideal for couples and small groups, this 2 bedroom villa is spacious inside and out and is the ideal place for a relaxing week or two in the sun.


Villa Daisy, Lagos, Algarve

Part of our Very Villa Plus programme is the daintily named Villa Daisy. With 4 bedrooms, sleeping up to 9 people, you’ll have plenty of room for all the family. Enjoy your private, heated swimming pool and impressive garden space during your Villa Plus holiday in Portugal.


Villa Lavanda, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

Just a 20-minute walk from the centre of Playa Blanca is Villa Lavanda. With 3 bedrooms, bright and airy rooms and a private, heated pool you have everything you need for your dream holiday this summer.


Villa Rosemary Sostis, Agios Sostis, Zante

This centrally located, 2-bedroom property is Villa Rosemary Sostis. Situated just 500 yds from the beach, the villa is also close to the waterside restaurants and mini markets. Enjoy the privacy of your villa, with heated pool, or use it as a base to explore the island. The choice is yours!

Rosemary Sostis

Villa Lotus, Porec, Croatia

Nestled in the countryside is Villa Lotus, an ideal choice for those looking for a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort. The property had a landscaped garden, perfect for sunbathing in after a refreshing dip in the pool.


Villa Jazminez, Marbella, Costa del Sol

This delightful 3-bedroom property is Villa Jazminez. Set amongst a mature, private garden, you’ll have a private pool, al fresco dining area and plenty of privacy.


Which of these villas would you pick? Let us know in the comments below


By Maddy Morgan


From the experts: Croatia

We caught up with Alex, from our Operations team, and asked her 10 quick fire questions about her resort visit to Croatia.

Croatia is a beautiful destination and Villa Plus have over 40 villas dotted across the stunning Istrian peninsula.


Have you been before?

I’ve never been to Croatia but have always wanted to go!

What were you most looking forward to?

I was most looking forward to the food and taking scenic pics as I’ve always had an eye for photography

What did you expect?

A lot of countryside, wine vineyards and colourful historic buildings

3 things you shouldn’t miss?  

1) Church of St. Euphemia, Rovinj – You can climb up the tower which offers stunning views of the Marina.

2) The arena in Marina  in Pula. An architectural masterpiece, an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

3) The vineyards –  it’s a must to do wine tasting when you have so many options of where to do it in Croatia.

Favourite Villa/Place/Activity and why?

1) My favourite Villa is Villa Judita, in Porec– it gives off a magical fairy-tale and doll house feel.   Recommended for groups! 

2) Favourite place was Rovinj as there was lots of restaurants to choose from, here you can visit the church of St Euphemia and art galleries also!  

3) If I were there long enough I’d get the ferry from Porec to Venice – it’s so easy and a MUST for a day out 😊

How was driving?

Driving was super easy! I’ve never driven abroad before, but all the roads are straight and not very busy. The road signs are easy to follow, I actually enjoyed it as it’s sunny and scenic!  

What’s the food and wine like?

Our rep showed us the must go to tapas bar in Porec – Bacchus Vinoteka. It was full of locals with a buzzing atmosphere. Here we enjoyed wine and shared a meat platter – YUM!



We went in September and it was 25c!

Shopping/local specialities?

Truffles! They were advertised everywhere. We ended up buying a truffle oil as a souvenir. There are lots of markets offering tasters and variety of truffles in all different products.

Most unexpected thing?

We got a boat around sunset from Porec harbour and managed to spot dolphins… this was totally unexpected! 


Recipe for Lamb Peka, and why it is perfect to cook on a self-catering holiday to Croatia

Self-catering accommodation is an ideal way to save money on food, but this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on local flavours or luxurious dining experiences. In the comfort and privacy of your home away from home, you can get stuck in to recreating authentic dishes on your own. Once you’re done cooking, pop open a bottle of wine and sit down to enjoy your culinary masterpiece by candlelight on the terrace of your villa.  Read more

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.

Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.


If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia

Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

5 of the best beach holidays for families in Europe

Europe is blessed with many of the world’s most stunning coastal destinations. Take advantage of shorter flights and jet off to explore the best of them with your loved ones. Here’s the continent’s five best beach holidays, made for families who want something extra special for their next getaway…


Viva Espagna! Spain is a great holiday destination for families. Take the time to unwind on beautiful strips of sand – the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and the Balearic Islands pack them in abundance. On the Costa del Sol, you can explore Marbella’s lush harbours before parking up on nearby beaches, or head to Estepona for buoyant waves and dreamy Mediterranean sunsets. With over 200km of Mediterranean coastline, the Costa Blanca is a beach lover’s gem. Enjoy the beaches, popular with both locals and tourists, at Javea, Moraira and Calpe.

The island of Majorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, is known for its glistening waters and pure sands. Head to Alcudia for relaxed beaches – usually within the backdrop of Alcudia Bay – well suited for young families set on making unforgettable holiday memories.


Portugal’s Algarve has all the right ingredients for a great beach holiday – wide coastlines, entertainment facilities and tranquil views. Located in the southeast, one of the region’s vibrant hotspots Lagos is flanked by turquoise coves and sun-kissed strips, particularly the Blue Flag Meia Praia Beach.

Head here and take your pick from over 5km of prime lounging spots. The waves are top-tier, so why not embark on some bodyboarding or a few hours of splashing about with the little ones?


Some of Greece’s beaches arguably rival that of the Caribbean. Factor in the rich history, cuisine and culture, and you’ve got everything you need for the ultimate family getaway. The country’s rich selection of islands give it an edge over many other countries, many thanks to the luscious coastlines of Corfu and Rhodes…

Both islands boast unreal views over the Aegean Sea, which sits at a temperature ideal for a spot of swimming. Agios Gordios beach and the bays of Sidari and Paleokastritsa beach are some of Corfu’s best family hangouts. In Rhodes, you can’t go wrong by visiting either Ladiko, Lindos or Stegna.


Croatia has some of the greatest landscapes, beaches and architecture in Eastern Europe. The waters are crystal clear and the history is ripe with Roman amphitheatres and medieval castles.

Try heading to Pula, the largest city in the district of Istria, with your family. It’s a fantastic location to stay during your holiday and it has stunning coastlines for whenever you want to take a dip. For a secluded couple of hours away from the city, head south to Kamenjak Cape, a sheltered pebbled beach complete with unbeatable views of the Adriatic Sea.


As the third biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is a treasure trove of fine beaches. On top of that, there’s three breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The best beach for a family holiday in Cyprus is without a doubt Coral Bay. It’s got all the amenities you could ask for – think snorkelling, boat trips, and quad biking tours. Not only that, it’s also safe for swimming, after which you can dry off on any number of prime Mediterranean sand spots. If you get a chance, then both Makronissos and Nissi beach are also worth a visit.

Ready to put the wheels in motion for your own family beach retreat? Take a look at some Villa Plus properties near beaches.

By Lara Scott. A former executive at a major hotel chain, Lara Scott is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She says her previous career gives her extra insight into both sides of the tourism industry.

3 Croatian food and drink combos for a self-catering holiday

Whether you plan to holiday in Croatia for its stunning coastline, epic architecture or paradisiacal islands, one thing is certain – your taste buds are in for a real treat. Croatian food and drink is as rich and varied as the country itself. Almost every region has its own delicacies, as well as its own twists on authentic dishes. Master the nation’s culinary skills yourself, and you’ll be able to whip up Croatian food no matter where you are in the world.

Image by Connie used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

1. Strukli and Croatian white wine

Self-catering holidays are great for learning new cooking skills and recipes, such as the Croatian speciality strukli. Originally from the northern regions of Zagreb and Hrvatsko Zagorje, strukli is a prized national dish made up of dough and a cottage cheese filling which can be either baked or boiled. Better yet, it uses relatively few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

All-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Sunflower oil
Fresh cottage cheese
Sour cream

This is best enjoyed with a fine, crisp local white wine, preferably while sat on the balcony of a villalooking over Croatia’s serene scenery.

2. Pasticada and Dalmatian red wine

Cooking Croatia’s local cuisine also opens your eyes to the amount of love and care that some dishes require. Pasticada is one such dish, and although it takes a little longer to make, the end results entirely justify the means. It’s a slow cooked, stewed beef dish that originates from the Croatia’s southern Dalmatia region.

Drizzle it in a special red wine and puréed vegetable sauce, before serving it with homemade gnocchi. There’s plenty of different ingredients and flavours, so it’ll certainly fill your villa holiday with its sweet aromas for days. To compliment the allures of the dish, opt for a cooled glass of Dalmatian red wine, you won’t regret it.

3. Manestra and Croatian beer

Image by Nikolaj Potanin, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Manestra is a vegetable soup that hails from the Istrian region of Croatia. Again, it does take some time to prepare, but the taste makes it well worth the fruits of your labour. This traditional dish is a hearty one made with beans, seasonal vegetables, and often pasta shells and pork.

You’ll find many local families and restaurants have their own well-guarded Manestra recipe, and for good reason too. This dish is delicious and is extremely enjoyable with a Croatian beer such as Osjecko, the oldest beer brewer (it’s been produced since the 17th century) in all of Croatia! To top it off, you can always follow it up with a glass of Prošek. Not to be confused with Prosecco, Prosek is a sweet desert wine that will add a finishing touch of heaven to any meal.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at some Villa Plus Croatian properties and take the first step towards your next big getaway.

By Imogen Bishop, a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full-time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.

Top things to do and see in Croatia

Ancient cities, breathtaking scenery, and the sparkling Adriatic sea – Croatia offers one of the most stunning holiday backdrops in Europe. Whether you want to dive into history, sail between islands, or relax on the beach, you’re bound to find your ideal getaway here.

Not sure where to stay in Croatia, or what kind of accommodation to choose? To pack as much as possible into your trip for a truly memorable experience, a self-catering rental provides the perfect base. The money you’ll save over purchasing a package holiday can go towards excursions and experiences – not to mention the delicious local produce!

North, south, inland, or on the coast, Croatia is bursting with things to see and do. Here are some suggestions:

Visit Dubrovnik
Image by fjakone, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Explore Dubrovnik’s Old Town

It’s hard not to fall in love with Dubrovnik’s charming streets. The old town dates from the 13thcentury, and you’ll be surprised by how little has changed. This makes it a great place to soak up Croatian history. Stroll along the elegant Strada shopping street, or walk the medieval city walls. Make sure and stop at the Rector’s Palace, which you might recognise from its appearance on Game of Thrones!

See Plitvice Lakes National Park
Image by 29cm, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)

Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park

This national park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located inland, in the northern half of the country, it is an absolute must-see if you’re staying within driving distance. The park boasts sixteen stunning lakes, countless waterfalls, and lush forests. You can explore on foot, by bus, or even go rowing on one of its lakes.

Lounge on stunning Adriatic beaches

Croatia is home to some picture-perfect beaches. Golden Horn Beach on the island of Brac is perhaps the most famous, known for its unique horn shape. Mountains and forests rise high behind this idyllic sunbathing spot. It’s also pebble beach, which means that the waters are crystal clear, and perfect for snorkelling.

Eat, drink, and shop inside a Roman palace

In southern Croatia, the city of Split is remarkable because it’s old town lies inside the walls of the 4thcentury Diocletian’s Palace. You’ll find shops, cafes, restaurants, and even apartments nestled inside these ancient walls. Make sure and visit at night when the ambient lighting and street performances bring the area to life.

Go hiking in Dalmatia

Dalmatia is a region of outstanding natural beauty. With a choice of rugged mountains, lush valleys, rivers, and lakes to explore, it is a hiker’s dream destination. Near Split, the Mosor Mountain offers a climb that all levels of expertise will enjoy. And those that make the trek are rewarded with incredible panoramic views from the top.

Hop between islands

There are thousands of islands scattered along the Croatian coastline, making it the perfect place to go if you’re looking for that perfect island paradise. One archipelago, the Elaphite Islands, lies off the coast near Dubrovnik. A short boat trip will take you to Sipan, Kolocep, or Lopud, the three main islands. Here, you can hike, sunbathe, or take to the waters in one of Croatia’s most serene areas.

Inspired? Browse our selection of Croatian villas and take the first step towards the holiday of your dreams.

By Ciaran Brooks. A former history graduate, Ciaran Brooks’ love for old stories has led him around the world. A self-confessed adventurer, he fell into travel writing after his blog chronicling his year in Thailand was picked up by a national paper.

Awesome Istria!

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Croatia a few times over the last 18 months, and in that time I’ve come to really love the place, for many reasons. If you’re a culture vulture, like me, I’m sure you too will love Istria – the North Western peninsula of Croatia. But there are also loads of places to visit and attractions ideal for a great family day out, and fitness fanatics will also not be disappointed…

So if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, I have squeezed everything into a classic ‘Top 5 Reasons to Visit…’ countdown for you

5. Sporting activities

Not an obvious choice I hear you cry, however, Istria is full of different sporting facilities so anyone wanting to try something different or experience a certain activity for the first time will be in their element! Water sports, tennis, golf, horse riding, hand gliding, cycling, caving and climbing facilities (to name but a few…) can all be found scattered around Istria. Whether it’s a leisurely cycle around the area or a more serious instructor-taught lesson you want, you’ll definitely find it here.

4. Beaches

This Northern part of Croatia does has some fab beaches, although mostly pebbly or paved. But the facilities at most of them are very good, the water is typically clear and shallow so great for kids, and the views across the water from most of them are amazing! And of course, you don’t take half the beach home with you 😉

3. The food

Istria is famous for its wine, ham, olive oil and in particular, truffles. I don’t think I’d ever tried truffle before being in Croatia but thinking about the bowl of freshly made pasta topped with truffle shavings we had one day for lunch is making me salivate as I write this!

This part of Croatia belonged to Italy for a number of years in the early part of the 20th century and its influences are still obvious today. Istria has a rich wine and olive oil producing background, in strong competition with Italy. The last Sunday in May is Wine Day, a popular festival when all of the local farms and wineries open their doors to anyone wanting to find out more about the process of making wine, as well as sample some and even buy a bottle or three to take home with you!

The same goes for olive oil. There are various planned routes along the Adriatic coastline where you can visit olive oil mills, plus taste and buy the produce.

2. The scenery

Croatia is simple beautiful, end of. Always make sure you have a photo taking device to hand so you can, as I did below, capture moments like this!


The number 1 reason to visit Istria has to be its wealth of art, interesting history and culture.

Despite our Croatia programme only currently having villas close to Pula and Porec, anywhere in Istria can be reached in around an hour or so by car so hiring one and exploring the area is a must! We saw the Roman Amphitheatre, the Roman Arch of the Sergi and statue of James Joyce in Pula, the Church of St. Euphemia in Rovinj, and explored the quaint cobbled streets in Porec. Just walking around you’ll see so many photo opportunities, stunning architecture, and beautiful scenery across the harbours and hillsides. And there are various archaeological sites, museums, collections and frescoes to see as well.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see the beautiful island of Brijuni, the valley of Lim, or Hum, the world’s smallest town. But that just gives me a good excuse to go back!