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September 04, 2009

Bathing Balkan Beauties

Ivanka Trump has hung out at Hvar's Bonj les Bains, built in the 1930s
and the country's most exclusive beach club.

Photo: Julien Capmeil, Condé Nast Traveler

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Summer is officially kaput, and as we look back on all the celebrity sightings of the past few months, we can't help but wonder: What was the hot spot of 2009? I hate to get all Carrie Bradshaw here, but the answer is not that simple. There was Tony Blair in Bali, President Obama in the Grand Canyon, Usher and Kate Moss in St-Tropez, and, of course, George Clooney and his Ocean's mates in Lake Como. Plus, who could forget Jack Nicholson's TMI vacay in Cap d'Ail?

But for us, the winner was a last-minute dark horse--Croatia! With A-listers Mickey Rourke and Jay-Z and Beyoncé frolicking on its shores, Croatia's Adriatic coast is the celeb destination du jour. This comes as no surprise to us: Condé Nast Traveler has long been a fan of Croatia. In fact, as far back as March we featured it as Europe's New Riviera. With beautiful beaches, scenic sights, and plenty of affordable offerings, it's a real find.

Even more good news: September and October are shoulder season in Croatia, with mild temperatures but fewer tourists and cheaper rates. Here are our fave picks:

* The Riva hotel on the harbor of cosmopolitan Hvar island, has beautiful modern rooms with sea views for just $250 per night including breakfast.

* On tiny Lopud island, La Villa is an elegant eight-room guesthouse with French windows and a courtyard covered in grapevines. Rooms start at just $100, and there's a seven-person boat that you can hire for $40 per hour--including captain!

* On the mainland, the palatial Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik was built in 1895 and refurbished in 2005 (just in time to make it onto our 2006 Hot List of the world's best new digs). They're running an online-only special for the fall: a two-night stay, plus dinner and breakfast, for $580.

No wonder our Style Director, Mark Connolly, came back from his vacation in Hvar threatening to jettison his fabulous NYC life for the Adriatic shores.   


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