Even though Croatia is considered to be a small country, it offers a wide choice of beautiful places, full of rich history and culture. Choosing your target city definitely depends on many factors including what kind of a traveler you are, the number of days you can spend here, your budget, and when you plan a visit. Without further ado, here are some of the best places to visit in Croatia to plan your unforgettable holidays.
So where is Croatia?
Geographically, the Republic of Croatia is located at the junction of Southeast and Central Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. It has borders with Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. It also shares its maritime border with Italy.
The capital: Zagreb
Population: 4.28 million (2017 census)
Official language: Croatian
Writing system: Latin
Currency: Kuna (HRK)
How to get to Croatia
Traveling to Croatia from any European country is relatively easy. There are many direct flights to all major Croatian towns. Several budget-friendly airlines to have frequent flights to Croatia, such as WizzAir, Ryanair, and Eurowings to name just a few. And if you don’t want to look at each website, try using Skyscanner, it shows flights of all airlines, including the cheap ones.
Besides, flying to Croatia, you can try traveling by bus as well. The major cities of Croatia are well connected with other European cities. However, the bus schedules are quite hard to find online as there are plenty of companies offering the service. GetByBus and FlixBus are the ones I can recommend.
However, before you jump and buy tickets, check out the local’s practical tips for Croatia to get a sense what the country is all about
Is Croatia safe?
There is very little street crime and almost no violence, making the country very safe to travel around. However, to be on the safe side, always take care of your belongings.
Best time to visit Croatia
July and August are the peak seasons, thus there are hundreds of thousands of visitors to the most famous locations in the country. And might not be the best time to visit if you don’t like overcrowded places.
Consequently, the best time to visit is June and September. October is not that bad either, however, you won’t be able to swim in the sea. During these months of the year, the country sees far fewer tourists, the weather is still sunny and warm, there are no ques, while prices are quite low.
Best places to go in Croatia
To make the most of your holiday, ask yourself – what kind of vacation am I looking for? Answering the question is one of the most important aspects to determine which places to visit in Croatia. Do you like wandering through cities and learning more about history? Are you an adventure junkie, or do you look for relaxing days at the beach? Or maybe you are a wine enthusiast who wants to visit local vineyards?
Top places to visit in Croatia
Dubrovnik, Split, Krka National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Korčula, and Hvar are the most popular places to visit in Croatia. However, the country is full of hidden gems, gorgeous coastal towns, beautiful beaches, and wonderful natural sites.
So whether you like exploring towns, national parks, or staying at the beach all day, this guide will help you identify where to go to Croatia.
Best cities to visit in Croatia
Croatia is a fascinating country to explore, especially for those who love history and visiting ancient towns. When it comes to naming the best cities in Croatia, it could be a bit hard, as every city has its own charm and beauty. However, to narrow it down, Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Zadar, Pula, Rijeka, Rovinj and Trogir are some of the most beautiful cities in Croatia.
Dubrovnik is known for its breathtaking fortification, enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s called the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’ and offers fantastic views of the sea, red rooftop houses, and medieval architecture. It’s also one of the best Instagrammable places in Croatia. It should be noted, that the city is also one of the most popular destinations among tourists traveling to Croatia. Besides, being the shooting scene of HBO’s The Game of Thrones, rapidly increased tourism in Croatia.
The capital, Zagreb, is not so popular destination, but it’s still worth checking out due to the rich history and gorgeous architecture. Strolling down the Kaptol district to see the remains of the ancient town and city walls, admiring gothic cathedral dedicated to Assumption of Mary, seeing the canon-firing from Lotrscak Tower, or relaxing at one of its parks is just a few things to do in Zagreb. Moreover, we found the capital to be the cheapest spot during our Croatian trip.
Zadar is another beautiful town in Croatia. Apart from historical sights, the city boasts with Sea Organ, an experimental musical instrument that plays ‘music’ via sea waves. Next to it, you’ll find another marvelous site – Greeting to the Sun – made from 300 multi-layer glass plates that illuminate at the sunset.
Pula, the largest city of the Istria region, features an abundance of ancient Roman buildings, from which the most famous is the Pula Arena. It is the only surviving and well preserved Roman amphitheater with its four sides and three Roman architectural orders still standing intact. Built in 27 BC – 68 AD, Pula Arena is also one of the six largest remaining arenas of this kind in the world.
The third-largest city of Croatia, Rijeka, is a less popular city among tourists. However, it offers a great possibility to experience ‘real’ Croatian daily life. The city features neoclassical palaces and theaters similar to Central European cities like Prague or Budapest.
Rovinj is another must-go place in Istria. The beautiful and romantic old quarter, cozy bars, lovely restaurants, and art galleries make this city one of the most beautiful towns in Croatia. You won’t get bored by wandering through its streets, passages of the old town, and alleyways.
The small town of Trogir is another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Croatia boasting with history and Venetian architecture. The town is very close to Split, making it a great day-trip destination from here. And once here, don’t forget to try their local almond cake!
Best Croatian Islands
The country has around 1,200 islands where you can plan your island-hopping in Croatia. Most of them are inhabited, while some have nothing except an old lighthouse converted into accommodation for those who are looking for an isolated holiday. Moreover, some islands are National Parks suitable for nature lovers and hikers, while others are great for windsurfers. Basically, islands in Croatia are suitable for any kind of traveler.
Hvar has a reputation for being a party island for youngsters, but it is much more than that. The central town of Hvar is relatively small, with a couple of historical sights to explore. However, Stari Grad and Jelsa, the coastal towns of the island boasts with culture, heritage, and history.
The birthplace of Marco Polo, Korčula island is another go-to destination for many travelers. The town of Korčula, often called the ‘little Dubrovnik’, boasts with fascinating fortified walls and narrow cobblestone lanes leading to its shores. The whole island is also known as a great wine region, fishing villages, and tranquil towns nestled along with the forests.
If you are looking for a white sandy beach, then Brač’s Zlatni Rat is the place to go. The largest island of the central Dalmatian region is only an hour ferry ride from Split and offers both mountainous landscape and beautiful coast. Additionally, it attracts fewer tourists than Hvar or Korčula, ideal for families and those who don’t like overcrowded places.
The Island of Mljet, located close to Dubrovnik, is the greenest and most lush spot among the Croatian islands. It also is a National Park great for those who like mixing adventure with stunning scenery. The bay is home to some of the broadest variety of sea inhabitants that swim off the coast. Think of the creatures like in Finding Nemo cartoon.
There are two salted lakes Malo and Veliko Jezero (small and big lakes in English) that attract many locals and tourists to swim in their still waters. Afterward, head to the restaurants to try exceptional local goat cheese!
Not far from Zadar lays an island of Pag. This thin and long island is made up of two parallel mountain chains and is mainly home to sleepy fishing villages. The Pag town is characterized by the cultural heritage of narrow, fortified medieval streets and Gothic cathedral.
Exotic places in Croatia
If you are looking for exotic and off the beaten path destinations, Kornati Islands, Pelješac Peninsula, and Varaždin are one of the best places in Croatia.
Kornati Islands is an archipelago of 140 islands, most of which are part of the Kornati National Park. The crystal clear blue waters, various coves, and natural beauty of it what makes them so unique.
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Kornati islands are also great for those who want to explore the underwater world by scuba diving or snorkeling.
Wine lovers will enjoy the Pelješac Peninsula, as its most popular for being the country’s major wine tasting area. Croatia’s famous wine varieties such as Dingač and Poštup are produced here. Apart from wine, the peninsula is home to historical sites, great sandy
Varaždin also referred to as ‘Little Vienna, is a baroque gem of Croatia, lying 81 km from Zagreb. The medieval palaces, cobblestone and pedestrian-only historic town square with its pastel-colored buildings, and the beautiful garden cemetery will leave you amazed.
Best beaches in Croatia
Wonder where to go in Croatia for beaches? Best beaches in Croatia are in the south, on the Dalmatian coast. However, the Istria region also has some great opportunities for holidaymakers. Depending on where you are staying or which part of the country you are planning on traveling to, you can find some of the best coastal areas to enjoy the sun rays.
Nin is a great beach located only 15 km from Zadar. The shore is long and sandy, while the water is blue and clear. There are beach bars to keep your thirst or hunger at bay.
When it comes to Splitbeaches, the best choice is Bačvice, a shallow sandy beach with small pebbles. It’s an ideal place for families, but it’s also known as a buzzing social hub.
Uvala Dubovica and Grebišce are popular ones among Hvar beaches. Uvala Dubovica is a broad pebbly shore near the historic mansion. The place is family-friendly and attracts fewer crowds due to the fact that the parking area is small and accommodates few cars.
Grebisce is also a sandy beach located 4 km east of Jelsa town. People come here for smooth paddling, as the beach itself is very narrow and has almost no shade.
Brač island’s Zlatni Rat is another great beach in Croatia. The shape of the shore will remind you of a tongue that extends into a turquoise sea. The name translates as Golden Cape and serves as a picture-perfect spot of Dalmatian beaches.
It’s one of the most frequently pictured coast in various guidebooks and brochures about the country. Despite the crowds, this pebbly land remains a fascinating destination with its clear, not deep water and marine views.
For those who are staying in Dubrovnik, Kupari is one of the best among Dubrovnik beaches. The former resort of Yugoslav Peoples’ Army, the place reminds of a post-apocalyptic seashore, where hotels still remain neglected since the war in the 90s. However, don’t let this spoil your holiday here; the bay is sandy and the water is clear.
Sveti Jakov Beach, located along the City Walls, makes another great getaway of Dubrovnik beaches. Compared to the city’s main beach, Banje, Sveti Jakov is wilder and takes around 20 minutes of walking to get to the beach. However, you’ll have gorgeous views of Dubrovnik, tranquility, shade, and privacy. The area is also great for snorkeling and watching the beautiful sunset.
Best beaches in Istria region
Below a medieval village of Bršeč, you can find one of the best beaches in the Istria region that rarely sees any tourists. Even though it’s small and getting there is a bit of a challenge, Bršeč beach offers spectacular views of Kvarner Gulf and Cres Island. Do note that there are no facilities here, so you’ll need to bring everything with you.
Kamenjak National Park is home to another great beach in Istria. The protected status of the area keeps the land and water intact and clean. You can easily spot dolphins and Mediterranean monk seals here.
Best national parks in Croatia
Apart from historic towns and pristine beaches, Croatia is also home to several national parks. So if you are an avid nature lover, these national parks make perfect day trips from neighboring cities.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most frequently visiting one among others. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest of the country, consists of 16 interconnected lakes, creating the cascade of waterfalls starting from 25 meters tall. Plitvice National Park is also known for its emerald green and azure-blue colored water. Visiting Plitvice Lakes as a day trip is available from Zadar and Zagreb.
Krka National Park makes the second-best option for many travelers. Unlike Plitvice, Krk has the biggest waterfalls and one distinguishing feature – you can swim at one of the designated waterfalls. Skradinski Buk is the biggest waterfall of them, made up of 17 cascades. You can visit Krka from any major cities of Dalmatia, but Sibenik and Split are the closest ones.
Hiking lovers should head to Sjeverni Velebit National Park. Velebit Mountains divides Adriatic bay from the continental part of the country and offers spectacular landscapes. One of the highlights of the national park is Velebit Botanical Garden, home to around 300 different plant species. Additionally, you can enjoy one hour of stargazing night walk with the guide. The program is called Stars above Zavižan.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.