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The Adriatic Highway stretches nearly 400 miles (643km) along Croatia’s coast and provides a front-row seat for 1,185 islands, an embarrassment of cultural riches and slow-food prowess.

My first brush with Croatia came 20 years ago on the Jadranska Magistrala, or Adriatic Hwy, which hugs the country’s shoreline from Rijeka, in the north, to the border with Montenegro. It passes nearly 1200 islands, endless vineyards, Unesco sites, national parks and olive groves. But I knew none of this at the time. I was just cruising the sea. On that initial drive, the two-lane ribbon of tarmac – part of the E65 roadway funnelling into the smaller D8 – unfurled beneath my rented, yellow Fiat as I drove between the Dinaric Alps, a string of jagged limestone cliffs teetering above me on one side, and the sea below on the other. Zen-filled open roads, extending to the horizon, would suddenly give way to whiteknuckle hairpins and crawling along in first gear as a rainbow of sailboats appeared on the rocky beach below.

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