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Five contemporary Croatian villas for lovers of grand designs

Villa Arymor,Okrug Gornji, Split Rivera (11)

Croatia is known for its un-spoilt coastline and, thanks to strict building regulations, it has indeed remained untouched – and beautiful. With sparking azure sea, secluded bays and old stone harbour towns, it oozes charm. However, that doesn’t mean that all accommodation is traditional. Since Croatia bounded back onto the holiday scene and wowed the world with its forgotten coastline, a new generation of villa has emerged. Lovers of contemporary design – or just those that appreciate the latest designer touches- are increasingly well catered for.

The jaw dropping Palm Tree Villa, on Ciovo Island is a stone’s throw from UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trogir Old Town. It has been recently remodeled into a cool, contemporary beach front (with Garden Apartment). In terms of location you’d be hard pushed to find a better position, with the garden ending at a glorious white beach. The bustling shops and restaurants of pretty Trogir are five minutes away by car. Connected to the mainland by bridge, Ciovo is a little island with plenty of beach. Picturesque Slatine Bay, with its harbour of colourful bobbing boats and restaurants is nearby and a great spot for people watching. If you hanker after some solitude idyllic Kava Beach, on the wilder end of the island is the one to head for. You’ll need to remember to take food/drinks with you as there is very little there but beach.

Palm Tree Villa, Slatine, Ciovo, Trogir, Split Riviera (7)
The jaw dropping Palm Tree Villa on the Split Riviera

If you fancy eating out, try Restaurant Don Dino in Trogir Old Town. One of the area’s first fine dining restaurants, chef Ivan Pažanin serves up modern interpretations of traditional Dalmatian dishes with the emphasis on first class ingredients – and the smoked octopus steak is out of this world. Alternatively, the understated Montalbano-esque Frankie’s Seafood Restaurant in Seget Donji, just along from Trogir old town, is the locals top choice with reportedly the freshest fish in the area.

A little further around the coast, Villa Arymor offers acres of glass to make the most of the amazing views from its perch above the sea. You can contemplate the view from various decks and terraces, as well as the infinity pool. The sunsets from the dining terrace are incredible. If you are going to leave the villa at all, which you should, Konoba Duga Restaurant and Beach is an absolute corner of heaven. Best approached via water taxi to their private beach, take a dip in the perfectly clear turquoise water before making your way up to the terrace for seasonal organic specials of the very highest quality.

Villa Aspire, Selca, Brac Island (218)
Villa Aspire is located in Selca on Brac Island

The Croatian Islands are often more laid back than their mainland counterparts, but not so in the architecture stakes. Brac Island is a leader in terms of its more contemporary design and Villa Bougainville in Bol Town is one of the best. With a hefty hint of Bauhaus, its large, airy rooms and wide open plan spaces dominate the villa. Views from the pool on one side, through the house and out to sea on the other offer snapshots of floating staircases rising vertically, juxtaposed against large horizontal windows. It’s worthy of its very own episode of Grand Designs.

Bol itself is a gem, with pretty harbour town and world famous beach (Zlatni Rat – or Golden Horn if you prefer), the coastline is also home to hidden coves and heavenly sunbathing spots. Sophisticated lounge bar or laid back beach, Bol has both worlds covered.

Villa Bougainville, Island of Brac (8)
The beautiful Villa Bougainville is located on the Island of Brac

Villa Aspire is the personification of sleek, modern accommodation. Situated on the hill above Sumartin Bay, the large glass windows and doors make the most of the amazing views over the pine forest to the sea beyond. Inside, the spacious and ultra modern kitchen dining space would look at home on the pages of any glossy magazine.

Brac Island is the place for a really exclusive but authentic experience and dinner in Senjkovic Winery in Dracevica village is a must-do. The winery’s chef prepares exclusive tasting menus, paired with their boutique wines, for small number of guests each evening. They never book in more than 15 people so book well in advance to secure a place.

Villa Arymor,Okrug Gornji, Split Rivera (1)
Villa Arymor can be found in Okrug Gornji on the Split Rivera

Villa Analisse is perhaps the most deceptive. On the outside it appears traditional and looks out over Dubrovnik Old Town itself (specifically to Games of Thrones location of “Kings Landing”). This traditional house has retained some of its original 19th century features but has been thoroughly re-styled to offer light, airy and contemporary living, with minimalistic cool white and smooth lines running through the property.

Dubrovnik is the flagship of the Dalmatian Coast and has a rapidly evolving gastronomic scene – head to Restaurant Nautika on the sea edge for a stunning culinary evening. Situated at Pile Gate, at the entrance to the old town, this restaurant has a long history of VIP guests so it’s a must visit if you fancy rubbing shoulders with the glitterati!

Villa Analisse, Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik area (34)
Villa Analisse is located in the stunning city of Dubrovnik

If you really want a restaurant with a sense of occasion, history and location, Restaurant Gradska Kavana Arsenal in the port itself, is the one to head for. Established originally in 1895 they are known for the fish dishes (as you’d expect) and follow the old local proverb: “Fish is no good if it has not bathed three times, first in the sea, then in olive oil, and finally, in wine.”

This is a personal list compiled by Saron Lease. Saron is the founder and Managing Director of Croatia Gems, a company she started in 2004. One of the first companies to offer villa rental in the country, the company is now one of the market leader with an extensive portfolio of exclusive properties.