Croatia is rapidly becoming one of the hottest travel destinations and it’s not hard to see why. There are natural wonders like the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls, islands dotting the Dalmatian Coast, Italian-inspired wines and cuisine, a rich history, and all this available to budget travelers. But as this wave of tourism hits eastern Europe, there are both benefits and drawbacks to those looking to travel here. Read on for my experience with the Americans in Croatia, a sure sign that the tourist craze is taking over!
Americans in Croatia
The first warning sign came early. In the cab ride to my hotel in Split, Croatia, the driver asked me where I’m from. And when I responded, “the States,” he dismissed it like I was the tenth American he had driven that day. Just to be clear, this is not normal. As a professional travel blogger and avid traveler, I have found it rare to come across Americans in my travels. Curious, I asked him if he sees many American tourists. He responds, “All of them. It’s all Americans that come here.” I was truly shocked. Croatia had only recently surfaced on my radar, but it seems that the Croatian coastline has become the hottest vacation spot on the Mediterranean for American vacationers.
The evidence continued to pour in during the remaining weeks that I had to explore Croatia. The sound of American accents overwhelmed the square where I sat to have a coffee, as a group of tourists followed their guide on a tour through town. The sound of Americans discussing politics followed me up the 247 stairs to the top of the belltower. And on the pubcrawl, I met as many Americans as I would in New York. Don’t get me wrong, I love Americans and I love being one. But there’s something just unsettling about being surrounded by Americans when you’re in a foreign land, trying to absorb the local culture. It’s unnatural. It distorts the experience and diminishes its authenticity. I came to Croatia to meet Croatians, after all.
Many cities have fallen prey to the tourist masses, places whose names are so common on travel itineraries that it borders on dull. Places like Paris, London, and Venice have long dealt with the tourist influxes. When it’s a major city that’s concerned, the proportion of tourists cannot really overwhelm the native population. Other destinations have been unable to accommodate the influx, and the tourists have permanently impacted those countries. The classic example is Thailand, an exotic and interesting country on the other side of the world that people have flocked to. But it’s been destroyed by tourists, as described in detail in the documentary Gringo Trails. Many places like this must now limit the number of tourists they let in, so that they can protect their country. Croatia once was considered an off-the-beaten path location, and it continues to be advertised as such. But I think the mass influx of Americans in Croatia may have downgraded Croatia to another overrated destination.
Is Croatia still a beautiful destination? Yes, intoxicatingly so. Will you experience Croatian culture if you go visit the Croatian coast? Almost certainly not. Croatia does still maintain an element of unique Mediterranean flair that the tourists crave after they see what Italy, France, and Spain have to offer. But it lacks the authentic charm that once drew in travelers to its unchartered coasts. You could do a lot worse than Croatia, and I would still recommend visiting this Balkan gem. But if you go, I implore you to ditch the cruise ships and the pre-packaged tour groups. Venture beyond the coastline! Don’t just go to Dubrovnik, travel all around the country (find my suggestions here). Croatia has a unique culture and tangled history that make it such an interesting place to explore. The only way to know for sure, is to go visit for yourself!