Geography of Croatia

Borders

Croatia borders to:

  • Slovenia to the northwest
  • Hungary to the northeast
  • Serbia to the east
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast
  • Montenegro to the southeast
  • The Adriatic Sea to the southwest

Part of the Croatian territory around Dubrovnik in the extreme south of the country is a practical exclave. It is connected to the Croatian mainland by territorial waters, but separated on land by a short coastline strip around Neum that is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

How large is Croatia?

Croatia consists of 56,414 square kilometers of land and 128 square kilometers of water.

Elevation

The highest mountain in Croatia is Dinara in the Dinaric Alps, with a summit 1831 meters above sea level. Dinara is located on the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina and has two major peaks: the 1913 meter Troglav peak in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the 1831 meter tall Dinara peak in Croatia. The Dinara peak, which has a prominence of 728 meters, is shaped a bit like a human head.

Rivers

Major rivers such as the Danube, Drava, Kupa, and Sava flows through the country.

Danube is the second largest river in Europe, only Volga in Russia is larger. In Croatia, the Danube flows through the city of Vukovar in the east and forms the border with Serbia. Vukovar is where the country’s largest river port is located, at the confluence of the Danube and the Vuka.

For a very long time, Danube served as a frontier of the Roman Empire. Today, Danube flows through ten different countries and its drainage basin extends into an additional nine countries. Danube starts in Germany from which it flows southeast, passing through or constituting the border of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine. The final destination for this river is the Black Sea.

Lakes

The most famous lakes in Croatia are the Plitvice lakes, a system of 16 lakes connected to each other through a system that contains plenty of waterfalls. The Plitvice lakes are very beautiful, with a color ranging from mint green to blue and greyish. Founded in 1949, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia, extending over nearly 300 square kilometers in Lika-Senj County and Karlovac County. Each year, over a million people visit the park, and it has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979.

Caves

The mountains of Croatia are renowned for having many caves, including approximately 50 caves that are deeper than 250 meters, of which over a dozen that are deeper than 500 meter.

Croatia has a lot of karst, a topography formed when soluble rocks – such as dolomite, limestone and gypsum – are dissolved by water. Karst is characterized by a profusion of caves, sinkholes and underground drainage systems. In Croatia, the karst geology harbors several thousand caves and pits.

The three deepest caves in Croatia are all found in the Velebit mountains. The deepest of them is the Lukina jama cave which goes down 1,392 meters below the surface. The cave Slovačka jama is 1,320 meter deep, and then there is deep cave near Crikvena that goes down to 1,034 meters.

The longest cave in Croatia is Đulin ponor which is 16,396 meters long. It is one of the Medvedica caves.

Islands

island croatiaCroatia has over a thousand islands and islets and many of them are popular vacation spots. Less than 50 of them are permanently inhabited. The largest of the Croatian islands are Cres and Krk; each one being a bit more than 400 square kilometers in size.

Both Cres and Krk are locatd in the Bay of Kvarner in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. With over 19,000 inhabitants, Krk is the most populous island in the Adriatic Sea. After World War II, it became an important center for summer tourism. Krk is connected to the mainland by bridge, but also has its own airport. The bridge, which runs from northern Krk, uses the small St Mark’s Islet as supports.

Cres, which is home to roughly 3,000 people, can be reached by ferry from Rijeka and from the Istrian peninsula. There is also a ferry going between Cres and Krk.

Climate

Most of Croatia have a modern-day warm and rainy continental climate. The coldest month is January, when the mean monthly temperature for an average year is −3 °C (27 °F). For July, which is the warmest month, that figure is 18 °C (64 °F).

On average, the warmest part of Croatia is the land located near the coast, but not actually at the coast. In this part of Croatia, the elevation is still very low but the distance from the Adriatic Sea is long enough for the sea to not have a significant moderating effect on the heat. This part of Croatia has a Mediterranean climate.

At altitudes above 1,200 meters elevation, Croatia has a cold climate, and these regions are characterized by cold-tolerant forests that can cope with plenty of snowfall in the wintertime.

Precipitation & Sunshine

The Dinara mountain range and Gorski kotar are the parts of Croatia that report the largest amounts of annual precipitation. Gorski Kotar – which means Highlands in Croatian – is a heavily forested region near the Slovenian border.

If you don’t want to get rained on, the islands Vis, Svetac, Lastovo and Biševo – which are all located comparatively far from the Croatian mainland – are known for receiving very little precipitation compared to the national average. Outer islands in the Adriatic Sea are also where we get the largest amount of sunshine, with Hvar and Korčula both reporting more then 2700 sunny hours in an average year. In general, the Adriatic Sea coast is sunny, with more than 2000 hours of sunshine per annum.

Prevailing winds

In the coastal area, the prevailing winds are largely determined by local area features. The interior is more predictable, dominated by light to moderate northeast or southwest winds.

The bora (also known as bura) is a northern to north-eastern katabatic wind in the Adriatic Sea. A katabatic wind is a drainage wind that forms when gravity pulls high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope. The Velebit mountain range in Croatia is known for have some of the strongest bora winds, as this range forms a border between the continental climate of the interior and the Mediterranean climate closer to the coast.

Among experienced sailors in the Adriatic Sea, there is a saying that translates into “When the Bora sails, you don’t.”. The bora is known to create short, tall waves and fill the air with a myriad of small water drops that dramatically reduces visibility. Sometimes the bora comes rolling down unexpectedly on clear and calm days in the Velebit channel, creating dangerous conditions for those who get trapped in the turmoil. Even land traffic can get in trouble due to the strong gusts and reduced visibility. A few days before Christmas in 1998, an especially fast bora gust was measured at 248 km/h at the Maslenica Bridge on the Croatian A1 motorway. This record was broken during Christmas time in 2003 by a bora gust exceeding 300 km/h at the A1 near the Sveti Rok Tunnel.