It has to be admitted that Croatia isn't exactly the first place that leaps to mind when you think of diving. First and foremost, Croatia is a place for healing, where spa cities are drowned among the pine trees. The country is blessed with many architectural monuments and olive groves. But besides all the sights to be found on land, many more interesting places like among the emerald-green waters of the Adriatic, which are behind Croatia's recent rise to prominence as a new diving hotspot. Many years ago, the Adriatic was a prime trade route and many ships, laden with goods, met unfortunate ends and now the Croatian coastline is abound with wrecks and that attract divers keen on the possibility of finding something special on the bottom. 

Most Popular Destinations

Istria

The Istria Peninsula is located in the north of the country and is rather different from the hinterland. The culture, architecture, cuisine and even the locals are distinct, with the latter considering themselves more Istrians than Croatian.

The cities of Pula and Rovinj are very popular among divers. The majority of diving centers are concentrated here and are well placed to help you organise your diving trip to one of the many wrecks. Around ten wrecks are located about one hour away from the shore. We’ll tell you about the most interesting of them below.

Perhaps the most famous Istrian wreck is the Baron Gautsch. This 80 meter-long ship was damaged by a mine and sank with many of its passengers. Now she is located at a depth between 26 to 80 meters and is one of the most popular diving sites. As Baron Gautsch is both a war grave and a site where military ordnance might be found, diving there is possible only with help of diving centers which hold a special license.

John Gilmore is another interesting wreck which can be explored not only from the outside, but also inside. She is considered one of the oldest Adriatic wrecks but, despite this, she is well-preserved. She rests at a depth of about 35-40 meters and many divers purport that the visibility is really very good and that there are no currents. This cargo ship is 50 meters long and, like the Baron Gautsch, she was a victim of an underwater mine. Big schools of fish surround this wreck on the bottom and its body has been totally covered by corals.

Good visibility and a variety of fish you also be found at the wreck of the Luana. This 110 meter-long ship sank in 1943 and lies at a depth of 48 meters. She hasn’t fallen apart and has remained intact and whole, so divers can enter the interior to see the wheel and a whole manner of other stuff. Most wrecks near Istria are located at a great depth and are available only to technical divers.

If you’ve just started on your way to explore the underwater world, Istria is ready for you with a wide range of reef diving (max. depths of 18 meters). You’re sure to be wowed by the flora and fauna. One of these places is named “The Canyon.” Visibility there is perfect and the depth ranges from 3 to 25 meters. At this dive site you can dive in numerous tunnels and caves or just float in open water and look at angel-fish and octopuses.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is one of the top ten most well-preserved ancient cities, but the Old City holds a spot on UNESCO’s world heritage. It’s not just among the tiny Croatian streets that you can find a good time, though, but also underwater. The wreck of the Taranto is the most popular locally; in 1943, this 60 meter-long ship was damaged by a mine and sunk with all cargo. She split into two parts: the aft of the ship lies at a depth of 50 meters, while the bow came to rest on rock and can be seen while diving just 10 meters down. Two tractors, which Taranto never hauled to their final destination, are located not far away from her. Here you can find cardinal fish, scorpion fish and lobsters. The best time for diving is from May to November when the water temperature is about 25*C (air temperature 27*C) and visibility ranges from 10 to 15 meters.

The Maros cave near Dubrovnik is another site for those who prefer a difficult dive. This cave is located at a depth of 45 meters and it has a very narrow entrance! it's impossible to dive there without torches, ropes and other special equipment. Inside a cave dwell a rare species of snail, squids, morays and lobsters. While you explore everything inside, you can see an ancient anchor, which has seemingly merged with stones on your way back from the cave.

The Little Africa diving site is a coral reef with depths varying between 4 to 40 meters. Visibility is about 15 meters, depending on the currents. Thanks to these current, and its location, this reef has been chosen as a home by tuna, lionfish, morays, and schools of colored fish. with a host of seaweeds and corals all adding  to this variety. This diving site is very popular among beginners and experienced divers alike.

Croatian Islands

Aside from the mainland, there are a great number of islands near Croatia. TOnly 47 of these are considered inhabited and the biggest of them are very popular among divers and travelers.

Krk is the biggest of these Croatian islands. There are a lot of diving sites around the island which are good not only for beginners but also for experienced divers. At the Selzine dive site you can see a plateau covered with different colored seaweeds. The wall is covered with coral fan, and goes 40 meters down. There you can see huge scorpio-fish and eels.

Giant lobsters can always be found at Lobster Point, as the name suggests. Experienced divers are always thrilled by the Tunnel dive site. Its wide entrance begins 9 meters down and ends at a depth of 18 meters. Visibility is absolutely perfect and you can take a close look at a variety of sponges, snails, seahorses and fish (especially in a middle of a summer).

We want to talk about one more island, named Brac. It gained its fame by virtue of its white marble deposits; as a matter of interest, the American White House is lined with marble taken from Brac island.

There are diving sites for divers with any level. Walls, caves, wrecks, which lie on from 20 to 50 meters depth. During your dive, you'll see morays, lobsters, octopuses, snappers and shellfish. On the South part of island, diving sites are full of colored corals and you'll surprised at just how rich the Adriatic Sea is. Also, during diving, you can find big amphoras, which become a new home to the shellfish.

Korcula is the greenest Croatian island, with 65% of its surface being covered by pine trees and its coastline washed by emerald-green water. Among the popular divers’ locales you can find some interesting wrecks: The steamer Garda at 35 meters and the Boca , sunk after colliding with the shore. Now her bow is at a depth of 5 meters and her stern is at 15 meters. The Boka’s site is well preserved, so it’s possible to swim inside and see a variety of fish. Cape Ranjich looks like cascade of series of walls, which go down to 30 meters. Visibility on the bottom is highest, but in the shallows it can vary in accordance with the weather conditions.

At any diving center, staff will advise on what diving sites are better to choose.

The islands of Hvar, Pag, Rab, Vis and others are also popular among divers. The convenient transport network allows for easy traveling between islands and will make your journey varied and substantial.

Conclusion

Croatia is breaking down the stereotypes and burying the myths. It’s a pleasant discovery for those who didn’t expect to see anything special underwater here. A good part of her great history lies on the bottom and you'll get a chance to learn more than what the guides will tell you on ordinary excursions.

Please note, that some time ago, to dive in Croatia you needed to have a special permission, which cost more than 20 Euros. Since 2008, this permit's no longer required but  fraudsters will often try to sell a fake to naïve tourists. So pay attention and don’t be deceived.