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Looking for a vacation destination with a little bit of everything? We have the perfect destination for you: Croatia!
You’ll find Croatia on the Balkan Peninsula, right across from Italy. Thanks to its Mediterranean location, visitors enjoy gorgeous weather pretty much year-round. And though it’s relatively small, this country along the Adriatic Sea is geographically diverse, offering visitors a mix of forests, beaches, mountains, islands, and historic cities to explore!
So what are the best places to visit in this gorgeous country? Check out our list below to find out!
1. Plitvice National Park
For lovers of forests and waterfalls, the stunning views of Plitvice National Park in central Croatia are a must! This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site has 16 interconnecting lakes that turn into breathtaking waterfalls as they tumble down into each other. Plus, the lakes range in color from blue to turquoise to gray, creating a beautiful aquatic rainbow down the Dinarides mountainside.
Additionally, the surrounding forests in the park’s 74,000 acres boast ancient trees and a spectacular mix of wildlife from lynx to bears!
You’ll find Dubrovnik perched at the southern tip of Croatia, right on the Adriatic Sea. While you may have to fight some fellow tourists as you explore, you’ll quickly see why Dubrovnik is nicknamed “The Pearl of the Adriatic”. This medieval town has preserved much of its original 7th-century charm with cobblestone streets, massive walls, and fortified city gates. Add in the iconic orange rooftops, and the city is picture-perfect.
Visitors can enjoy many local activities, including Banje and Lapad beaches, historic Old Towne, Onofrio Fountain, and the impregnable Fort Lovrijenac (pictured in Game of Thrones). There is also a Franciscan Monastery near the Pile Gate, which has the oldest operating pharmacy in Europe!
Get a taste of Croatian island life on the 20-mile-long island of Korcula. Although it’s small, Korcula has an array of beautiful towns and smaller villages to explore, many of which offer a secluded experience among the dense forests, vineyards, and olive groves.
This tiny island is most popular in the summer months when festivals and dances occur every week, and visitors can catch frequent ferries from Split and Dubrovnik. However, you can enjoy the architecture year-round, and each town offers something unique. Blato has baroque churches, Lambarda has ruins from Greek and Roman times, and Korcula Town has medieval architecture similar to Dubrovnik.
4. Krka National Park
Another must-visit spot for nature lovers is Krka National Park in the foothills of Dinara Mountain. This vast park features stunning, blue-green waters and a system of 7 waterfalls that cascade down the rock faces in wide rivulets.
The park also has a fantastic walkway system that allows guests to stroll right across the vast pool at the base of the famous Skradinski Buk falls. But the best way to explore the park is through a boat ride up and down the river, which is conveniently included with the entrance fee. And for those with an adventurous spirit, it’s even possible to swim beneath some of the waterfalls!
For sunbathing, wine, and lavender enthusiasts, Hvar is the island to visit! This lush island off the Dalmatian Coast offers a variety of relaxing activities and thriving nightlife scenes to fit every visitor’s style.
The quaint towns of Stari Grad and Jelsa offer quiet, rustic settings to explore. Alternatively, Hvar Town is an upscale hotspot for partygoers. However, all the island’s cities have unique elements to take in, from cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings to bright red roofs and Gothic architecture.
For those seeking peace and quiet, head outside the city walls to relish in the scent of massive lavender fields or taste local wine from one of the long-established vineyards. Then, soak in the sun on one of the island’s sandy beaches or take a boat excursion to the nearby Palenki Islands.
If you’re a fan of ancient Roman architecture, Pula offers a unique setting to experience it! This lovely seaside city on the Istrian Peninsula features one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in existence, right next to the gorgeous harbor.
Other notable historic sites include the Kastel fortress, a Byzantine Basilica, and the Temple of Augustus, which was dedicated to Rome’s first emperor.
Pula also offers many seaside cafes, a unique crane art installation called Lighting Giants, a WWII tunnel system, and an aquarium inside a 130-year-old fort!
If there’s a place we’ve fallen in love with, it’s the charming coastal city of Rovinj. Located on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, this old town is steeped in rich history and offers an unforgettable experience for visitors.
Rovinj is one of those towns that you can’t help but adore. As soon as you step foot into its narrow streets, you’ll be captivated by its quaint charm. It’s like stepping back into ancient Roman times. The cobblestone lanes wind past colorful buildings until they spill out onto the stunning Adriatic Sea.
There are plenty of attractions here; from historic sites to beautiful beaches and lovely cafes serving delicious local cuisine. For nature lovers, the Golden Cape Forest Park provides lush vegetation and secluded coves for a peaceful retreat. Those interested in art will find a thriving community of artists showcasing their work in galleries scattered throughout the town.
For thrill-seekers, there’s also ample opportunity for water sports like sea kayaking and scuba diving due to Rovinj’s proximity to the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Rovinj isn’t just about leisurely walks and sunbathing, though. It also boasts some fascinating archaeological remains, including St Euphemia’s Basilica – a baroque church that towers over the town, providing fantastic panoramic views from its bell tower.
Zagreb, Croatia’s largest city and cultural hub, boasts a rich history dating back to ancient Roman times. Its well-preserved medieval architecture in its “Upper Town” juxtaposes against contemporary designs in its bustling lower district. The city offers an array of museums showcasing everything from archaeology to contemporary art. For nature lovers, Maksimir Park – the oldest public park in Zagreb – provides ample hiking trails amidst lush vegetation.
This vibrant city teems with life around every corner. Dolac Market is one popular spot you shouldn’t miss while visiting Zagreb. This bustling farmers market brims with fresh produce, local culture, and good food – providing an authentic glimpse into everyday Croatian life.
Nightlife in Zagreb is another aspect that has tourists flocking year-round. With live music venues scattered across the city and various bars and restaurants catering to different tastes – there’s no shortage of entertainment when sundown hits.
An interesting point about this charming metropolis is how easily accessible it is by public transport. From quaint trams crisscrossing through narrow streets to efficient buses connecting major Croatian cities, visitors can easily navigate their way around.
The ancient heart of Dalmatia, Split is a city where history and modernity meet in a stunning coastal setting. Dominated by the Roman Diocletian’s Palace, the city’s center is a living museum, where the past and present seamlessly integrate. The Riva promenade provides an elegant waterfront, where locals and tourists alike indulge in cafes, bars, and people-watching.
Just a short walk from the palace, you’ll find Marjan Hill – a verdant oasis offering panoramic views of the city and the Adriatic Sea. Split is not just about its history; it is a lively urban spot. The city’s markets, especially the bustling Green Market, is a testament to its vibrant daily life, offering everything from fresh produce to traditional crafts.
The nightlife in Split is both diverse and dynamic. With beach clubs that party until sunrise, and intimate bars tucked away in the winding streets of the old town, there’s a spot for every kind of night owl. Thanks to the city’s robust ferry system, island-hopping from Split is both easy and recommended, making it an ideal base for Adriatic explorations.
Often described as the soul of the Adriatic, Zadar possesses a unique urban rhythm. The old town is a treasure trove of Roman and Byzantine architecture, but what really sets Zadar apart are its modern installations – the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. These architectural marvels use the sea’s waves and solar energy, respectively, to create sensory experiences that are both mesmerizing and harmonious
Beyond its historical and architectural gems, Zadar’s market is a hive of activity, giving visitors a taste of local flavors and traditions. As the sun sets, Zadar’s bars and restaurants come alive, offering both international cuisines and Dalmatian specialties.
An advantageous position on the coast makes Zadar a gateway to many nearby islands, allowing for multiple day trips and adventures. Efficient ferry lines and boat services mean these tranquil escapes are just a short ride away.
A stone’s throw away from Split, Trogir is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, yet it stands as a beacon of medieval heritage. Enclosed within its fortress walls, Trogir’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, flaunting a rich tapestry of Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The Cathedral of St. Lawrence is particularly noteworthy, showcasing intricate portal carvings that are a testament to Croatian artistry.
A walk along the waterfront promenade presents a line-up of bars and restaurants, offering seafood dishes with views of yachts and boats anchored in the marina. The nearby Ciovo Island, connected to Trogir by a bridge, promises delightful beaches and secluded coves, perfect for a relaxing afternoon dip.
Trogir, being smaller and more intimate than Split, provides a quaint atmosphere, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestry and leisurely pace of Dalmatian life.
No matter what type of adventure you love best, Croatia has it! And because this incredible country is less than half the size of Florida, you can easily visit many different sites on one trip. So, next time you’re in the mood for diverse activities and landscapes, head to Croatia and do it all!