Walk the massive medieval walls of Dubrovnik, try to stand on the gargoyle within the main gate, or swim off the rocks upon which the city is built. Called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ by Lord Byron, Dubrovnik earns its iconic status not only because of its spectacularly beautiful Old Town, but also for the family holiday delights of the suburbs of Lapad, Babin kuk and Gruz, whose hotels and beaches are only minutes away using its efficient bus service.
Explore the centre of Split, fascinatingly built on and through the ruins of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s gigantic retirement palace, and rub the toe of the huge statue of Grgur Ninski for good luck.
Wander around the bijou medieval Trogir, stunningly sited on an island attached to the mainland by a bridge, or the alleys and squares and churches of Sibenik (take a look at the city’s cathedral, with its unflattering medieval carvings of the heads of locals who refused to contribute to its upkeep) and Primosten.
Trawl the Markarska Riviera (hotbed of Croatian rugby!), ride the white water of the Cetina Gorge, or drive inland to the other-worldly landscape of Imotski.
Listen to the flutings of Zadar’s extraordinary sea organ and dance on its funky Greeting to the Sun monument, then explore the city's Roman and Venetian ruins and spend a few hours on its bustling Kolovare Beach. From nearby Bibinje, take a boat trip out to explore the Telašćica and Kornati islands, some of which fall within a National Park.
Swim in the lowest pool of the waterfalls of Skradinski Buk, in the Krka National Park.
Enjoy the Roman remains at Pula, dominated by its spectacular amphitheatre, now used as a venue for opera and pop concerts, or have a drink with James Joyce (or at least his statue) sitting at a table in the café/bar Uliks (it means Ulysses). Press up the coast to beautiful Rovinj (yet another town-on-an-island topped by an elegant campanile) famous for art and its House of Batana, a museum devoted to the local fishing boat. Yet further north are Porec, with its early Christian Basilica of Euphrasius, and sporty Umag.
Leave the busy holiday coast and within minutes you’re in a different world of meandering country lanes and pretty hill towns, where the Croatian government are making a concerted effort to counteract rural depopulation by attracting artists and encouraging agritourism. Look out for delightful Motovun, birthplace of motor racing’s Mario Andretti, Buzet, the truffle capital of Croatia, and Pazin, famous for a gorge used, it’s said, by Dante in The Inferno as a model for the entrance to hell. Visit, too, the tiny village of Roc, renowned for its inhabitants’ attachment to folk music, the even smaller but atmospheric Hum, and the gorgeously rural Glagolitic Alley in-between, a 7km country road lined with inventive modern monuments to a 9th-century Croatian ecclesiastic script.
Finally, head north to Croatia’s large, cosmopolitan capital city, Zagreb. Though approaching a million souls, much of the city is easily manageable, on foot or using its excellent public transport. The city has some splendid museums, acres of public parks arranged in a U-shape (Lenuci’s Horseshoe, named after its architect), a busy central market at Dolac, the picturesque Upper Town of Gronji Grad (made up of religious Kaptol, around the cathedral, and secular Gradec, home of the seat of government), and all the shops, restaurants, bars and cafés you’d expect in a large city. For swimming, fresh air and exercise, the open spaces of Jarun Lake and Bundek are a short tram ride from the centre, as are the extensive Maksimir Park, with a zoo and Dynamo Zagreb’s football stadium, and the tamed almost-wilds of Mount Medvednica, accessible by bus, tram and/or cable car. And if the city palls, during the stifling continental summer, the green hills and pretty villages of the Zagorje are less than an hour away.