Croatia is located in southern Europe, along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. To the northwest is Slovenia. Hungary lies to the northeast, Yugoslavia to the east, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the southeast. The entire west side of Croatia lies along the Adriatic coast. Hugging the shoreline north to south is a chain of over 1,000 islands, the largest of which are Krk and Cres. Most are uninhabited.

Croatia can be divided into three geographic regions. In the north are the Pannonian Plains, lowlands with a continental climate of cold winters and hot summers. Central Croatia consists of the mountainous Dinara Region, which is covered with large forests and has an alpine climate. The Adriatic coast enjoys a Mediterranean climate of cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.

The Pannonian Plains is the most densely populated area, the location of the country's main urban centres: Zagreb, Karlovac and Osijek. The area's fertile soil is good for farming and raising cattle. Rivers such as the Danube, Sava and Drava flow through this region and have assisted the development of major industrial and commercial centres.

Southward, the plains gradually rise into the rugged Dinaric Alps, which run southward along the Adriatic shore, reaching heights of 1,900 metres. The alps mountains interspersed with many lakes and waterfalls. Forests of beech, oak, fir, spruce and Scotch pine provide habitat for animals such as deer, boars, bears, wolves, rabbits, pheasants, partridges and other birds. A number of national parks, including Plitvice National Park, are located here. The coastal Dalmatia region in the south is the original home of the well-known Dalmatian breed of dog.

West of the alps is the narrow, Adriatic coastal region. Distinguished by beautiful, long beaches, peninsulas, capes and bays, the coast is one of the most important bases of Croatia's economic development, home to a number of port cities. Off the coast, the Adriatic islands are dotted with trees such as cypress, pine, palm, chestnut and bay. Vineyards, oleander, aloe, pomegranate, mimosa and olive groves also thrive here. The islands contain a number of parks, including the Kornati Archipelago, a group of 101 islands that constitutes Europe's largest archipelago.

  Did you know?
Croatia's white-headed griffon vulture has a wingspan of 2.5 metres and can live up to 60 years. The vulture feeds on carrion and can spot a carcass from a distance of six kilometres.

  Did you know?
The bura is a cold, dry, northeast wind that blows across the central European plain into northwestern Croatia. The wind can be so strong as to overturn cars.