If you’ve ever taken the time to examine a map of Croatia, it doesn’t take long to notice how unique the country is. With that long, thin stretch of beachfront property, it’s hard not to imagine that the leaders won a gambling bet with the neighbors. Thanks to so much proximity to the Adriatic Sea, Croatia enjoys having a healthy tourist income in addition to being a culturally significant part of the continent.
Between having so much to see and do, the nation can boast about being a very safe country with little violent crime. Something else that makes a large segment of travelers feels even more comfortable is how widely spoken English is.
Those things and more have a lot to do with why so many come from around the world to experience this southeast European country. Follow along with us as we put together a Croatia travel guide for your next trip.
Best Things to Do in Croatia
Dubrovnik, the jewel of the Adriatic, is a fascinating city on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, a place of historic and cultural importance that has been mentioned in the works by Homer, Dante and Goethe.
The old town is divided into three parts: the Ploče district, the old town and the Lapad district. The old town, which contains the historic buildings and the Old Town Hall, has a number of churches, museums and galleries. The Lapad district, which is home to the city’s beaches, is well-known for its nightlife and is one of the most lively areas in the city.
Dubrovnik is a great destination for people who love history and culture. It is also home to a number of beaches, which are perfect for swimming and soaking up the sun.
Split is the capital of Croatia and is located on the Adriatic Sea. As the second largest city in Croatia, it is a great base for exploring the rest of the country.
Split is the largest city in Croatia and has a number of ancient buildings. Split is also known as the City of Mosaics as the architecture of the city is made up of a number of mosaics that were created using the ancient technique of tessellation. This is because the city was founded on the site of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian is the reason why Split is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Imperial Palace is one of the most significant buildings in the city and is made up of many buildings that were built over hundreds of years. The Imperial Palace is the biggest and most important palace in Croatia.
Krka National Park
One of the most picturesque outdoor scenes in Croatia with deep blue water can be found in Dalmatia. Conveniently on the southern strip by the Adriatic Sea, part of the Dalmatian Coast, the park was dubbed Krka in honor of its river.
This national park is one of the top destinations for everyone, from families to solo female travelers. While here, popular activities include hiking trails, birdwatching, boat rides, and tours. There are 222 bird species and 18 types of bats. The land is also rich in flora with 860 types of plants.
Most make it a point to see some of the abandoned fortresses throughout the park. They date back as far as the early Roman empire. Other spots you can find within the 68-square-mile park are a museum, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
Having food nearby is a bonus after a day of checking out the waterfalls. It’s also nice to know there’s a safe haven from the multitude of bees and wasps around Krka National Park. After all, the area has the second-highest amount of lavender in all of Europe.
This park also used to be home to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monasteries from as far back as the 14th century. They took up residence on the island of Visovac, which can be visited today by boat.
Mljet National Park
Along the coast, just south of Hvar Island, is a national park that could be part of your island hopping. The park is on the north side of the island while most of the population resides closer to the southern half. Speaking of island life, the land is made up of small towns with a total population of about 1,100.
On the Dalmatian Coast, Mljet National Park has a saltwater lake that attracts many visitors. That’s thanks, in large part, to Malo Jezero’s almost neon turquoise water.
Overall, the entire island is 23 miles long and was formed from volcanoes. It has been noticed by visitors as far back as when the ancient Greeks visited Croatia. There’s actually still proof of such. Sunken ships have been found off the coast.
The park takes up a majority of the island but, like other amazing landscapes, there have been fortresses left behind. One such example is a Roman palace that happens to be the second largest in Croatia, behind Roman emperor Diocletian’s Palace. Today, Mljet National Park has the honor of being classified as the oldest marine park in all of the Mediterranean.
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, Mljet National Park is an easy day trip. While on the island, you can rent a bike, go hiking, check out the monastery, see two different lakes, check out the caves, take pictures on the Mali Most bridge, and go swimming.
Many beaches are beautiful but not all of them sing to you. Nikola Bašić wanted to do something about that. So, in 2005, he applied his expertise in architecture, and the Sea Organ was invented. The idea was to provide a sweet welcome to those coming into Zadar.
Essentially, the sea and wind transform marble steps into a 230-foot musical instrument. Under the gleaming white stone are actually 35 organ pipes.
All of the steps host five pipes. Each section is set to a different chord. Waves sweep across the marble and air goes through the channels. That’s when the magic of song comes emanating out of the pipes.
Expect crowds if you take a road trip to witness the musical phenomenon. People stop by from across the world to take in what is commonly referred to as a rhythmically haunting sound. The powers that be bestowed the European Prize for Urban Public Space on the organ in 2006. In part, that was due to the location and uniqueness of such a venture. If that’s not the best way to liven up an area, what is?
Add this to your Croatia travel guide no matter what, especially if you’re traveling on a tight budget. It’s free to listen to and hang out by the ocean.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
When it comes to national parks, this is the most notable in Croatia. For starters, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That already means it’s being kept up well because it has quite a lot to offer. This status might have something to do with Plitvice Lakes being the oldest and largest of the national parks in the country.
What can you find while exploring the cascading forests? Natural dams, waterfalls, lakes, and caves to begin with. There are 16 lakes that can be seen during a tour of the park.
Thanks to the climate, Plitvice is one of the top spots in the country for animal and plant diversity. Bears, wolves, and a multitude of various birds call the park home. There are also almost 1,300 types of plants. Picking a large percentage of the species is illegal. Even orchids can be found in an array of 55 species.
If you want to visit Croatia and see Plitvice National Park, you might want to avoid summer, the high season. To be fair, it’s pretty busy all year because of how inviting the flora and fauna are. More than one million people can be counted as going to the park annually. Plan activities such as hiking, boating, kayaking, sightseeing, and deep meditation.
When you can take some time to relax and go fishing, Rovinj is the place. Not only is it a tourist hotspot, but this old town is also considered one of the best fishing ports. Rovinj is also a favorite of all sailing destinations. Let’s just say, yacht week is a sight to remember.
Aside from taking in the sounds of water lapping onto the shore, there are plenty of fun things to keep one entertained in Rovinj. Before you travel to Croatia, think about what the goal of this trip is. Relaxation? History? Adventure? Narrowing down preferences will help you pick where to keep the focus.
For a chill experience, something locals and tourists alike participate in is walking around the old town. Balbi’s Arch, for example, was built in the 1700s. A lot of the architecture has a story to tell and can pinpoint particular times in history. It’s definitely worth going around solo or joining a tour. There’s a lot to learn and you don’t have to speak Croatian to understand how spectacular the buildings are.
Another way to take in culture is to stop at places like the Church of St. Euphemia. The building is the highest point in the city and is full of significant artwork. Erected in the 1700s, it would not be surprising to feel like you’re walking back in time upon entering. The reason is the whole interior was completed during the Baroque period. Even the altar is a sight to behold.
Why travel to Italy to see the Coliseum when there’s a Roman amphitheater in Croatia? You might even get more out of the experience since Pula Arena happens to be the only amphitheater left to be so well preserved.
It stands as one of the six largest Roman arenas to still exist. This structure is something that the whole country is proud of. It is, after all, the best example of ancient times in Croatia. Pula Arena has even made appearances on Croatian currency.
The arena was built when Julius Caesar was assassinated if that gives you context to its age. It took the better part of a century to complete because it was first built with wood. Later, the arena was repurposed for gladiators and the wood was replaced by stone. Many emperors later, the project was good to go under Titus in 81 CE.
Not as well known as the many big names that came before him, St. Germanus was tortured here just before the 4th century. He was eventually martyred nearby.
Gladiator battles went on here for centuries. That was until the Middle Ages took over and had ideas of its own. Suddenly, the arena was dubbed the perfect place for medieval festivals. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that a restoration effort was put into place.
Today, there may not be a game of thrones or deadly combat being played out in Pula, but entertainment is still alive. Most of what you can do inside, aside from touring the structure, is attend a concert. Plan to wear comfortable shoes, it’s a standing room only.
Museum of Broken Relationships
In the capital, there’s an ode to something no one wants to think about: failed relationships. Yes, you heard that right. Zagreb is home to a museum dedicated to those we have loved and lost over the years.
What started out as a traveling showcase now has a permanent spot for all travelers to stop by. Quite fittingly, the museum started after the breakup of the founders. It was a joke, at first. They thought it would be amusing to put together a collection of leftover romantic items.
Once friends and associates started to donate to the cause, it became clear to the former couple that the world needed more. When we say world, we mean it. The collection has been across Europe, the Philippines, Turkey, South Africa, and even the US. Now that everything has made it back home, there are over 100,000 visitors to the museum each year.
The Museum of Broken Relationships is the city’s first privately owned museum. The unusualness of its contents opened it up to greater public interest. In 2011, eight years after the concept was born, the museum was given the Kenneth Hudson Award by the European Museum Forum.
The members of the board said it was because, in part, the museum of breakups encouraged reflection and conversations on relationships and how fragile they really are.
Golden Horn Beach
That is an oddly specific name for a beach, no? It’s related to shape. From the air, it’s easy to see how the peninsula stretches out into the Adriatic Sea. This has created a perfectly shaped horn of golden sand. Does that have anything to do with it being Croatia’s most famous beach? Sounds like a good reason to visit Croatia and find out!
Be prepared for the journey. Since the beach is on an island just off the coast, it takes extra effort to get to. Day trips are common, coming from Spilt, so finding the ferry over is easy. No need to rush back, there are accommodations on the island. Bol Village is where most travelers get situated for the night.
This is also where you’re most likely to find a place to grab a bite to eat. It’s also one of the best places to get souvenirs. Parallel to the beach is an extra wide promenade where little shop fronts align the path. From trinkets to apparel, there’s something fun for everyone. There’s also plenty of swim gear for those who forgot.
What else can you do on the island? Windsurfing is the most popular sport. If you’ve never tried, this might be the perfect place to dip your toes in. After a long day of exercising on the shore, have a drink. There are several bars inland.
Historic City of Trogir
There’s a lot to know about Trogir. Not only is it one of the most historical sites, but the city is also a UNESCO World Heritage location. Trogir is an island next to the neighboring island of Ciovo. It was founded by ancient Greeks and was originally named Tragurion in the 3rd century BCE.
For a few centuries, it was a major port for Greece. Once Rome started to conquer everything, another city took Trogir’s shine away. That was not the end of the city’s troubles.
By 1123, the entire place was almost written out of the history books by the Saracens. Luckily, Trogir rebounded only to eventually see more war and hard times. This was during a period of time when the land was often traded between foreign entities as a power statement. Today, the city continues to be urban.
The local culture is an interesting mix. A majority of what makes up the traditions of the modern-day Trogir is the influence of Greece, Rome, and Venice. Much of that is played out in the architecture. Trogir is the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic place in all of Central Europe. So, just walking around is enough to take a trip.
What else can you see in the city? There are almost a dozen churches and buildings from the 1200s. Duke’s Palace is from the same time period.
The memorable city gate is from the 1600s and the walls were built in the 1400s. An in-person Croatia travel guide would be a great resource here. Oh, don’t forget the Blue Cave.
Where to stay in Croatia
When it comes to booking travel to Croatia, there are a few things to consider. Whether it’s your first or 10th trip, there’s probably a very specific list of things in your Croatia travel guide. Depending on how much time you have, it might make the most sense to condense the list into things within a short radius.That means you can make the most out of any hotel stay by not having to move to multiple places throughout the trip. Even if you do need to, that’s okay. We’ve got a list of the best places to stay throughout the country!Arba Sea ViewLocated in Kampor, this private room with a maritime view comes with a terrace that really boosts the benefits of the location. The hotel is actually a bed and breakfast where guests can choose from a continental or an Italian-style meal. For your added convenience, the price of the room includes free parking and WiFi.Zrinka HouseThis picturesque place to stay in Grabovac is perfectly surrounded by lush fields and gardens. From Zrinka House, Plitvice National Park is only a few miles away. Want to pack light and still go out for a night on the town? The air-conditioned room comes with complimentary toiletries and a hairdryer. Take in the fragrant air from the private access terrace or patio. This option comes with breakfast, parking, and WiFi.Hotel PrincessStaying at Jastrebarsko’s Hotel Princess might be all the destination you need if a few days of rest and relaxation are the reasons for the season of travel to Croatia. That’s because there are some wonderful amenities to take advantage of while booking in.To start with, there’s a wellness center with a spa, sauna, indoor pool, and massage services. This luxury hotel is all modern and treats the guests to a breakfast buffet or room service. Want to kick it up a notch? Guests are invited to try the wine bar with a wide selection of local wines and international favorites. Take in some retail therapy with a short drive to the shopping center.Bellavita VrsarSometimes it’s the water that’s calling your name. The seaside town of Vrsar is host to Bellavita Vrsar, with natural beauty all around. Of course, if you go off-season, the prices will be more favorable for budget travelers. However, there’s nothing like popular destinations to keep you busy.From the hotel to the beach, it takes about five minutes on foot. After a day out in the sun, you might be looking forward to the flat-screen TV in the room as well as access to a plethora of channels through the satellite. Some of the best beaches can be found here, such as Belvedere and Orsera.Hotel BevandaOpatija’s Hotel Bevanda is all about convenience. The hotel shuttle can pick you up at the airport and bring you back smoothly to the lap of luxury. A shop and bus station are a short walk, in case you want to explore Croatia after arrival. Not that you’d have to because there’s a restaurant, lounge, free WiFi, and views looking out at the Adriatic from every room.Oh, let’s not forget, many of the rooms also come with a hot tub. In the mood for some island hopping? Take a ferry from the port only eight miles away.Osijek Heritage CenterThis hotel is only 10 minutes from the nearest airport and it’s worth the flight. No need to take day trips when you can keep your days busy right in Osijek city center.Within a two-mile radius of the heritage center are the Museum of Slavonia, Osijek Citadel, Kopacki Rit Nature Park, Gradski Vrt Stadium, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Take it all in after a long day by looking out at the gardens or watching TV. Osijek Heritage Center has free WiFi and parking.Hotel Zlatna ValaAt the northern tip of Croatia’s border with Slovenia is a town on the Adriatic Sea of Umag. One of the benefits of staying in a hotel that is that close to the water is the fresh seafood served in the restaurant.The wine production is also on point. Each room has the option to look out at the harbor or park. Be sure to share your preferences when booking. Guests are free to use the WiFi and parking lot.Dilberovic ApartmentsIf you’re in Croatia to visit Dubrovnik, this is the accommodation for you. Located at the southern tip of Bosnia and Montenegro are cobblestone streets that lead up to Dilberovic Apartments. Each room comes with extra-sized windows to make the most of what a majority of travelers want; a sea view.Be like one of the many locals who have everything they need at their fingertips. The market is a short jot from Dilberovic, as are shops, restaurants, bars, a bus station, and even a ferry port.Inside the rooms are kitchens with a microwave, dishwasher, and a full fridge. Need to wash clothes? There is a washing machine in the bathroom.Hotel Mirjana & RastokeAbout a 20-minute drive off the beaten path to Plitvice Lakes National Park is the hidden gem of Slunj. This hotel is wrapped in nature, which would make any outdoor lover feel at home. Take in the fresh air from your private balcony and marvel at all the wooden interiors.If you want to eat like a local, the on-property restaurant will hit the spot. If you want to see the area like a local, there are popular tours that start right from the hotel lobby. Adventures include rafting, kayaking, and bicycling. If you’re staying in the summer, you’ll return from an excursion to live music.Royal Airport HotelJust outside the capital city, in the heart of the country, is Velika Gorica. This city is home to a place that will make you feel like you were born into one of Europe’s high-ranking families. Royal Airport Hotel is only about a mile from Zagreb Airport, which means there is a shuttle.While at the hotel, guests can cozy up in the indoor pool or sweat it out in the sauna. Of course, hanging out at the bar could have you meet a wide range of people. Each room comes equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a mini bar, free toiletries, and a hair dryer.
How to Get Around in Croatia
Depending on where you’re going in Croatia, there’s likely going to be a different means of getting around. If you’re planning to travel across the country or head to a multitude of sites across a city, it might be best to get a rental car.That way, you are on your own schedule and don’t have to worry about encountering strangers at night. RentalCars.com, Sixt, Thrifty Car Rental, and Dollar Car Rental are the most common companies to rent from. A train is also a popular way of going long distances.If you’re arriving in a city where you plan to do most of your sightseeing, public transportation is a great way to see more of the town while riding around. Heck, you might even opt for renting a bicycle.Got a plan to hit up an island along the coast? That will likely require a ferry so use FerryHopper to book your tickets in advance.
Travel Tips Croatia
Croatia has so much history, plenty of beaches, and just so happens to be the home of the world’s most beautiful sunset. There’s so much to see, especially for a first trip. To avoid not missing anything, you’ll want to make sure strategy went into the planning.
Travel to Croatia with Insurance
One part of traveling that is a must no matter where you go is to go with travel insurance. There are just so many opportunities for things to go wrong, whether you’re just crossing the border or flying from the other side of the world.
Because no one wants to get stuck due to an emergency, travel insurance helps keep you covered. Before hitting the road, check out VisitorsCoverage. It’s an online marketplace where you can choose an insurance plan that makes sense for your needs.
Stock Up with Handy Products
Don’t wait to arrive in a foreign country before you pick up the essentials. Think about what you plan to do while away and get products that will make the activities better or more convenient.
While Amazon will inspire you, but focus on the important things like waterproof phone cases, practical outlet converters and even a pack of wet wipes can make all the difference.
Check Out the Lesser Known Places
Croatia is home to Dubrovnik and other well-known cities that often attract a hoard of tourists. As cool as those places are, there’s much more to the country than the hotspots. Limiting your knowledge of Croatia to big cities does not do the country or your travel stories justice. Even if you have a widely-known town as your destination, don’t be afraid to get out and see the neighboring cities.
This list talked about several places that are outside the general go-to spots. You have the opportunity to see and learn more about a wildly interesting place that might be the most breathtaking and unspoiled in all of Europe. You owe it to yourself to get lost in Croatia and experience something extra special.