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Croatia - The Most Beautiful Country in the World

If you don't believe it, check this out:

The 2012 Hot List by National Geographic Traveller UK
The 45 Places to Go in 2012 by NYTimes.com
Top 10 Regions for 2012 by Lonely Planet
Best of the World 2012 by National Geographic Traveller USA
21 Places to Go in 2012 by Fodors.com

Although Croatia is not a large country, it is a land that is Mediterranean, Central European, mountainous and flat, coastal and continental. It can therefore be safely said that Croatia is characterized by a diversity and wealth of nature seen in much larger European countries; that is to say, within a relatively small area are landscapes that otherwise one would have to seek in widely spaced parts of Europe, and indeed the world.

Which is why Croatia ranks as one of the top five European countries with regard to biodiversity, with some parts being among the world's richest such areas. Thus, in Croatia we have a richly indented wooded shore line, with numerous islands, as in the Southern Seas, preserved old Mediterranean towns with stone-built houses and narrow streets, as in Italy, but also green coastal meadows with dry stone walls that seem to have been transposed from Ireland. The mountainous areas abound in wide expanses of woods and forests, as in Scandinavia, romantic lakes, rushing rivers and settlements, as in the Alps, as well as harsh and barren karstic landscapes with deep gorges and canyons, like those in the "Wild West" of the USA. In the wide plains of lowland Croatia there still exist preserved wetland areas otherwise found only in the easternmost parts of Europe, in Russia or Ukraine, while the country's mellow, gently undulating areas are decked with vineyards, medieval castles, burgs and fortresses the likes of which are seen in Germany and Austria.The most treasured parts of Croatia's natural heritage comprise 447 different protected areas covering a total of 5,178 km2, i.e. about 10% of Croatia's land area.The most important among those areas are eight national parks (Plitvice Lakes, the River Krka, the Kornati Archipelago, the island of Mljet, Northern Velebit, Paklenica and Risnjak); eleven nature parks (Kopacki rit, Papuk, Lonjsko polje, Medvednica, Zumberak, Samoborsko gorje, Ucka, Velebit, Telascica, Vransko jezero, Biokovo and the Lastovo islands); and two strict regime reserves (Bijele and Samarske stijene, on Bjelolasica, and Rozanski and Hajducki kukovi, on Velebit).

In addition to national parks, nature parks and strict regime reserves, Croatia has another 426 different smaller areas and objects under protection. Of those, 78 are special reserves (botanical, wooded/forested, geomorphological, hydrological, ichtyological, ornithological, maritime and zoological); 38 are park woods; 71 are classified as outstanding landscapes, and 104 are natural monuments (geological, geomorphological, palaeontological, and rare examples of trees). Special protection has also been extended to more than 135 monuments of park architecture: arboretums, botanical gardens, parks, individual trees and groups of trees. A total of 846 animal species have been placed under protection (including 339 birds and 74 mammals), 809 plants species and 314 types of mushroom.The three main natural entities of Croatia: flat,mountainous and coastal, are fundamentally different in their main characteristics. The largest of these areas comprises fertile and well populated lowland Croatia, which occupies the south-western edge of the vast Pannonian Plain. Its main natural characteristics are the centuries-old oak forests of the diluvial plains, numerous rivers, their original courses preserved, and an abundant plant and animal world on land, in the waters and in the air. However, although located within Panonian Plain this region is not always uniformly flat. Rising along the horizons of the fields and meadows are the wine growing hill slopes and wooded elevations of Pannonia which, like islands, rise above the sea of wheat.In contrast to the lowlands, mountainous Croatia is small and very sparsely populated, which explains why it has been so well preserved in its original state. Its dense forests of beech, pine and spruce are the domain of bears, wolves and lynx, while its sparkling clean and clear rivers are ruled by otters and trout. The heights reached by Croatian mountains may not be those of Alps, but the shapes of white limestone are often such that they can be an inspiration to even the most imaginative of sculptors, this thanks to the wide range of karstic phenomena within the limestone composition of rocks so specifically typical of Croatia.

The wealth of karstic forms: fissures, sink holes found on the surface continues through a subterranean world of caves, caverns, galleries, chasms and other distinctive relief forms not easily found elsewhere in Europe. The significance of the Croatian karst is best seen in the fact that in the technical literature for the majority of these forms, the names of which are difficult to accurately translate, the original Croatian terms are used, for instance: "uvala", "polje", "hum".And finally, the jewel in the crown to all that attracts most visitors to Croatia, her littoral. The Croatian coastline has, alongside the Greek, the largest number of islands and is the most indented in the Mediterranean. Length of the coastline extends to 1,778 km and, together with the shores of the 1,185 islands, isles, crags and reefs, to an amazing 5,835 km. The number of coves, bays, nooks and crannies, and hidden intricate details along those shores is difficult to comprehend, and all are washed by crystal clear seas and boasting a wide variety of faces: from craggy and harsh rock-bound vegetation. Here, all our visitors, particularly those on their boats or yachts, are able to discover their very own little corner. So now let us set off and get to know the natural beauties of Croatia, and help us to make sure that they remain as they are today for future generations to enjoy.

 
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