is one of Europe’s loveliest treasures. Everything a discriminating
visitor—or home buyer—is looking for can be found right here: crystal-clear
seas...timeless fishing villages and unspoiled beaches...roman ruins, a
pristine lake district, and medieval walled cities. Every twist and turn
of the coastline serves up grandstand views of secret coves, little harbors,
and calm turquoise waters. Out in the Adriatic Sea, a galaxy of islands—1,185
of them—shimmer like a cache of emeralds.
diving legend Jacques Cousteau once described Croatia’s waters as “the
cleanest and clearest” in the world. When you come here, you simply
must take a boat and go out into the Adriatic—you’ll be astounded at how
far down into the depths you can see.
Oh, yes—Adriatic property prices are what you could find on the Mediterranean
a generation or so ago. Although prices have been increasing at a rate
of between 20% and 30% per annum in recent years, (30% in the last six
months in the splendid medieval city of Dubrovnik, the hottest spot on
the country’s real estate map), it’s not too late to find great values.
are still well below the European average. When compared with many other
European vacation destinations, agents are correct in claiming that the
Dalmatian coastline still has significant growth potential.
surprising, then, that this little gem of a country is experiencing something
of an investor feeding frenzy. Where else along Europe’s sunshine coasts
can you find a two-bedroom seaside apartment for under $80,000? Now could
be an ideal time to snap one up since it seems most unlikely that prices
will fall. Croatia is seeking accession to the European Union by 2008,
though this could actually come as early as 2007.
was once part of Yugoslavia, the vast majority of Croatians actually resent
their country being portrayed as part of the Balkans. Both historically
and culturally, they regard themselves as firmly a part of central Europe.
not a battle zone. The war here ended in 1995. It is neither Kosovo, nor
Bosnia. In fact, Croatia is nothing like either.
you are under the impression that it’s war-torn, backward, poor, or struggling—think
again. Such ideas are either out-of-date or misguided.
What you need
to know is that Croatia is a wonderful retirement destination, a dream
holiday spot, and an interesting investment opportunity.
are coming back! Actually, they’re increasingly returning in droves from
all over Europe. Croatia and its islands have become one of the hottest
new destinations for holidaymakers weary of the crowded resorts and overdeveloped
coasts of Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal.
tourism...adventure tourism...conference tourism. The growth potential
is massive. The World Travel and Tourism Council projects that Croatia’s
tourism figures will grow by at least 6.9% annually for the next few years.
breakup and the ensuing Balkans conflicts, Croatia received some 10 million
annual visitors. Just about all of them came only with beaches and suntans
on their minds. And if the country could get those kind of numbers during
communist era (the peak was in the mid-1980s), just think what it can do
the Dalmation Coast - International Living can’t claim to be the first
to recommend the Dalmatian Coast as a retirement destination. That distinction
goes to the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD 245-316), the only Roman emperor
ever to retire. He chose to spend his golden years in his palace in Split—built
between 295 and 305—where he remained until his death in 316.
1979, The Diocletian Palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and
it remains at the heart of Croatia’s second-largest city.
You can walk
from the Riva, the palm-lined promenade overlooking the harbor, into the
palace complex itself, which sprawls over 7 acres.
took quality of life and retirement seriously. He spared no expense, building
his palace using the white stone from the nearby island of Brac (which
was also used to build the White House in Washington), and importing
marble from Italy and Greece for the squares and columns. He even imported
a sphinx from Egypt.
If you’d like
to live overlooking Split’s 1,700-year-old monuments, at the time of print,
Croatian Sun is offering a 970-square-foot apartment for $258,000. It’s
at one of the four entrances to Diocletian’s Palace—the Golden Gate.
In the modern
part of Split, you’ll find plenty of apartments (generally with clean title)
for low prices––but we doubt they’d appeal to you. This is one of the few
parts of the country that would probably make you think of communism.
you’re interested in Split, look primarily in the old town. Here you’ll
find affordable properties in old (though not ancient) buildings, along
pleasant streets, and just a short distance from the sea and the palace.
screeching around crenellated towers, past secret courtyards of lemon trees
and roses, and waves of russet-tiled rooftops.
On the cobalt-blue
sea beyond the old port, a lone paraglider drifts toward the island of
Lokrum on the sea breezes. These are the glorious views you get from the
rampart walls girdling Dubrovnik, Croatia’s medieval showpiece city. You
won’t find better views of the silken Adriatic, the densely wooded Dalmatian
coastline, and the distant smudge of islands, than in this city.
Once a city-state
that rivaled Venice, Dubrovnik’s history stretches back over 1,300 years.
Up until the Napoleonic wars, this was the principal city of the independent
state of Ragusa. Even at street level, it’s obvious why Dubrovnik calls
itself the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” The drawbridge over Pile Gate leads
into a marble-paved street called Stradun. Laid out before you is a treasurehouse
of bell towers, fountains, and palaces. You’ll find a Franciscan monastery
with one of Europe’s most ancient pharmacies; honeycolored houses with
deep green shutters, and steep alleyways hiding cozy restaurants, bars,
and hole-in-the wall boutiques.
banned from the medieval core—mopeds and scooters included. There’s none
of that annoying “putt-putt-putt” noise to compete with the pealing of
the bells or the strains of classical concertos spilling out from behind
the churches’ wooden doors. Most visitors love this car-free environment—it’s
so refreshing to sit at outdoor cafés without breathing gas fumes
or worrying about risking life and limb whenever you step off a curb.
|Not only is
Dubrovnik more beautiful than you can ever imagine, it is remarkable that
so much still remains. For seven months between 1991 and 1992, it
was bombarded relentlessly by Yugoslavian army shelling. This wreaked immense
damage, but under a UNESCO reconstruction plan, the city has been meticulously
As you might
imagine, space in Old Dubrovnik is limited—planners cannot add more buildings
to those already within the medieval fortifications.
Plus, it has
become a hot destination—luxury cruise ships dock every day, and tourists
are returning to its nearby holiday resorts in force. The Croatian government
is intent on marketing this southern region of the country as a top destination.
managing director of the agency Croatian Sun, says Dubrovnik has seen increases
of 20% to 30% in the past six months. Yet even though prices have taken
off, property here could still prove a worthwhile investment.
One old town
property on Croatian Sun’s books is a one-bedroom apartment of 355 square
feet, for an equivalent $120,000. That’s reasonable—the average price here
is around $392 per square foot. You’ll generally pay more for houses—usually
$500 to $560 per square foot. Croatian Sun has a few properties within
Dubrovnik’s walls—the cheapest is a bijou house of 650 square feet for
Croatia’s re-emerging market should be at the top of your list, be you
an investor, a wandering expat, a would-be retiree, or an adventurer…and
that this may be your last chance to position yourself at a super discount.
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