Official name : Republic of Croatia
Area: 56,542 square kilometers (21,831 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mt. Dinara (1,830 meters/6,004 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 7 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 499 kilometers (310 miles) from north to south; 463 kilometers (288 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 2,028 kilometers (1,260 miles) total boundary length; Bosnia and Herzegovina 932 kilometers (579 miles); Hungary 329 kilometers (204 miles); Slovenia 501 kilometers (311 miles); Yugoslavia 266 kilometers (165 miles)
Coastline: 5,835 kilometers (3,626 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Croatia is located in southeastern Europe between Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, bordering the Adriatic Sea. The country also shares boundaries with Hungary and Yugoslavia. With an area of about 56,542 square kilometers (21,831 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia. Croatia is divided administratively into twenty counties and one city.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Croatia has no outside territories or dependencies.
The climate in Croatia is predominantly temperate. In Zagreb, the average daily high temperature in July is 27°C (80°F), while in January it falls to 2°C (35°F). The overall average annual temperature in Zagreb is 11.6°C (52.9°F). The Adriatic coast has a more moderate, Mediterranean climate. The average annual temperatures for the cities of Split and Dubrovnik are 16.6°C (61.9°F) and 17.1°C (62.8°F), respectively. The prevailing northeast winds include the maestral (mistral), which mitigates the heat in the summer, and the cold, dry bora.
Zagreb's annual precipitation is 924 centimeters (36 inches). The winter averages 49 days with a snow cover of greater than 1 centimeter (0.4 inch). The narrow Adriatic coastal belt has very dry summers. Neither Split nor Dubrovnik typically experiences snow accumulation in the winter; and each city averages more than one hundred sunny days per year. Split averages 94 centimeters (37 inches) of precipitation annually. Dubrovnik has an annual precipitation of about 102 centimeters (40 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Croatia sprawls along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, on the western side of the Balkan Peninsula. Its long coastal region stretches from the Istria Peninsula in the north to the Gulf of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) in the south, becoming increasingly narrow. For a short distance, a branch of neighboring nation Bosnia and Herzegovina interrupts the Croatian coast. In the north, between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia, Croatia extends inland as far as the Danube River.
Croatia has three main geographic types: the Pannonian and Peri-Pannonian Plains of eastern and northwestern Croatia, the hilly and mountainous central area, and the Adriatic coastal area that extends down to Dalmatia in the south.
Tectonic fault lines are widespread in north central Croatia and also run through the Dinaric Alps down to Dalmatia. These structural seams in the earth's crust periodically shift, causing earth tremors and occasional destructive earthquakes.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea located between Italy and the Balkan Peninsula. Off Croatia's coast in the north near Slovenia, the Adriatic Sea is very shallow, only reaching a depth of 23 meters (75 feet) in the Gulf of Venice. The waters off southern Croatia, however, reach to depths of more than 1,200 meters (3,900 feet).
Sea Inlets and Straits
Kvarner Bay is located in the north by the Istria Peninsula. The Gulf of Kotor marks the far southern coast.
Islands and Archipelagos
Croatia has a total of 1,185 islands, only 66 of which are inhabited. Croatia's coastal islands are mountainous, since they are extensions of the Dinaric Alps. The largest islands are Krk (406 square kilometers/157 square miles), Cres (406 square kilometers/157 square miles), Brač (395 square kilometers/153 square miles), Pag (300 square kilometers/ 116 square miles), and Korčula (285 square kilometers/110 square miles).
Rocks, rather than sandy beaches, cover most of Croatia's coast. The coal mines, on the Istria Peninsula in the north, are one of Croatia's main energy resources. The southern half of Croatia's coastline is called Dalmatia, the ancient Roman name for this region.
6 INLAND LAKES
Croatia's largest lake is Vrana, near Biograd, which has a surface area of only 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles). The Plitvička Lakes are a string of sixteen lakes located within the national park of the same name.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
In the coastal region, many short rivers and streams run quickly down the steep mountains into the Adriatic Sea. Among the largest of these are the Krka and the Rasa. The Neretva River enters from Bosnia and Herzegovina in south Dalmatia and flows through the country for just a short distance.
In the interior east, rivers are wider and calmer. Blocked from the Adriatic by the Dinaric Alps, they flow east towards the Danube River and, ultimately, into the Black Sea. The largest of these rivers form Croatia's borders in this region. The Drava and Mura Rivers make up almost all of the northwest border with Hungary. The Sava River, after flowing across the country from Slovenia, forms the southern border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Kupa and Una are tributaries of the Sava. The country's longest river is the Danube River in the east, at 2,850 kilometers (1,771 miles) long. The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe and flows between Croatia and Yugoslavia. Both the Sava and the Drava are tributaries of the Danube.
Croatia's most notable waterfall is the series of cascades between the Plitvička Lakes. The tallest has a vertical drop of 72 meters (275 feet). Croatia's interior area also has fourteen thermal springs, including seven mineral springs.
There are no desert regions in Croatia.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Occupying the east and northeast region is the Pannonian Plain, a lowland that is the most fertile farmland in the country. The plain was once occupied by an ancient sea, which was gradually filled by silt until it formed a nutrient-rich basin, marked by low hills and broad flood plains. The plains of Slavonia extend through the eastern arm of Croatia near Yugoslavia.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
Much of Croatia lies at an altitude of over 500 meters (1,640 feet). The Dinaric Alps, near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, contain Croatia's highest peak: Mt. Dinara (1,830 meters/6,004 feet). These mountains run across the central region of the country, forming the boundary between the coastal area and the eastern plains and extending southeastward along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Subsidiary ranges of the Dinaric Alps in Croatia include the Velika Kapela, Plješevica, and Velebit Mountains, with the high peaks of Kame Plješevica (1657 meters/5,437 feet), Velika Kapela (1,533 meters/5,030 feet), and Risnjak (1,528 meters/5,013 feet). In eastern Croatia are the Psunj Mountains, Papuk Mountains, and Zagorje Hills.
The limestone ranges of the Dinaric Alps are frequently referred to as karst or karstland, and are distinctive because water seeping through the soluble limestone has formed underground drainage channels. This leaves the mountains dry and rocky, with their surface pockmarked by depressions and caves.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Archaeologists have unearthed cave bear and Neanderthal fossils from Veternica Cave in northern Croatia. This karst cave has a large chamber about seventy meters from the entrance that is often used as a concert site. Located just north of Zagreb, the cave also is sometimes called the Zagreb Underground.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
There are no major plateau regions in Croatia.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of Croatia.
DID YOU KNOW?
Plitvička Lakes National Park is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The forests of the park serve as home to a number of bears, wolves, and rare species of birds. The park also contains beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and caves, which were formed by water flowing through and around the natural limestone hills.
14 FURTHER READING
Carmichael, Cathie. Croatia . Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1999.
Cooper, Robert. Croatia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001.
Foster, Jane. Croatia . London: APA, 2001.
Sabo, Alexander. Croatia, Adriatic Coast . Munich: Nelles, 1999.
Stellaerts, Robert, and Jeannine Laurens. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Croatia . Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1997.
Croatian National Tourist Board. http://www.croatia.hr/home.php?setlang=en (accessed May 3, 2003).