Currently the coolest corner of the Med, Croatia is the place to head for this summer, with new flights and hotels, a non-Euro currency and the kind of stunning coastline that looks straight out of a holiday brochure.
What makes Croatia so special is that much of the country still feels as unspoilt as when I first visited, in 1981.
See also: Croatia holidays: Great ideas for blissful escapes
See also: Top ten active holidays in Croatia
Over the following decades, the country worked its magic on me, so much so that it became the location for my first novel, The People We Were Before.
I'll be visiting Croatia again this summer, so here are my seven reasons why you should too.
1 Flying high
More flights mean lower prices, and this year there are a number of new routes from the UK. British Airways starts flying from Heathrow to Pula in July, Monarch has new flights from Gatwick and Manchester to Zagreb from April, and Flybe goes from Southend to Dubrovnik and Zadar, starting in May.
2 Fantastic festivals
Croatia is famous for its festivals, with ticket prices much lower than UK events.
Dance fans will love Dimension, while Outlook brings together the best hip-hop, reggae and garage.
Arts lovers should head to Dubrovnik for the world-famous Summer Festival.
3 The great lakes
There's more to Croatia than its coastline. The Plitvice National Park is a stunning collection of jewel-hued lakes, linked by boardwalks and surrounded by lush, forested hills. Stay at the Ethno Houses (ethnoplitvice.com) – great for families.
4 Italian Istria
The region of Istria in the north belonged to Italy until 1947, and the region still feels and looks like Tuscany, with hilltop towns and plenty of pizzerias and gelaterias selling Italian treats.
5 Sail away
There are more than 1,000 islands scattered along the Croatian coastline, making it the perfect sailing destination, whether for a day trip or a week-long cruise.
The most beautiful is the Kornati National Park – 89 uninhabited islands surrounded by crystal-clear water.
6 Island hop
7 Sand between your toes
Croatia is home to one of the most photographed beaches in Europe – the gorgeous Zlatni Rat on Brac island, an unspoilt spit of sand that stretches out for 400 yards into the sea. The nearest resort is Bol, one mile to the east.
- The People We Were Before, set in Croatia, is published in paperback next Tuesday (Quercus, £7.99)
- Tourist info: croatia.hr