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Visitors from the USA are expected to flock to Croatia in record numbers this summer as a survey by U.S. Tour Operators revealed the country was tied at second for hottest places to visit this year. Only two years ago 200,000 Americans visited the beautiful country bordering the Adriatic Sea, and this year the Croatians are expecting double that number. So, what do the canny Americans know that us Brits don't?
Most obvious are the financial considerations. With the dollar taking a hammering in the international money markets Americans are finding it increasingly expensive, to the point of prohibitive, to visit their traditional European stomping grounds of the Italy, Greece and the French Riviera. Searching for cheaper alternatives has led Americans to Croatia, eager to establish itself as a top European destination. Outstanding quality food and drink at incredible value combined with the clean water, less-than-crowded beaches and friendly, helpful approach of the locals immediately makes the Croatian Tourist slogan of: "The Mediterranean as it once was" ring true. It also helps their ambition to be big on the European tourist map.
Picking up the pieces from the horrendous four-year conflict that saw the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s, Croatia emerged with a spectacular 1,100-mile coast and almost 2,000 islands. Add the imposing and historic city of Dubrovnik to the mix and you already have the basic ingredients for an enticing country. Inland is found one of the country's biggest tourist attractions: Plitvice Lakes National Park. A series of waterfalls joins 16 beautiful turquoise coloured lakes between the Mala Kapela and Pljesevica Mountains. This gorgeous natural attraction, mixed with the coastal hotspots, the friendly locals and the amazing value all make Croatia one of Europe's great undiscovered destinations. It is easy to see why the Americans are flocking here in their hundreds of thousands; it is the antithesis of their crowded, busy and expensive culture.
To make the most of a trip to Croatia, especially those planning on island hopping or travelling up the stunning coast will find that car hire is not essential as the country is well-served by buses and ferries. However, those who prefer to drive, like most things in the country, will find incredibly cheap car hire in Croatia. Most major airlines operate directly to Split which is centrally located on the Adriatic coastline, and also has one of the highest concentration of car rental offices in Croatia.