Is Croatia high on your bucket list? A small yet stunning nation in the Balkans, it can be difficult to plan a trip here, simply because there’s so much to see and do. It’s difficult to balance relaxation and exploration, thrills and cultural connection. If you’re overwhelmed at the prospect of planning the perfect trip, look no further! Here are the nine best places to visit in Croatia.
Famous for its city walls and orange roofs, Dubrovnik may be the first place on your Croatian bucket list, especially if you are a “Game of Thrones” fan! Spend your days here wandering through the Old Town, visiting historic forts, and taking in unique architecture! Take the cable car 1,352 feet (412 meters) above the city at sunset for unforgettable views, and finish your day with a walk on Dubrovnik’s famous beaches.
On Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast sits the town of Split, where time seems to have paused. Spend your time exploring the cathedrals and town squares, taking advantage of every photo opportunity. It’s also well worth noting that, thanks to the presence of third-century ruins throughout the city, much of Split’s historical complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The sun seems to always be shining here, but if you want to avoid burns, step into the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments or the Ivan Mestrovic Gallery.
KRKA NATIONAL PARK
Just an hour outside of Split is Krka National Park, known for its Krka River and 17 waterfalls. This is a seemingly untouched region, where you can bathe in natural pools, hike to stunning waterfalls, bask in the sunlight, explore the trails, and take in what the Croatian land has the offer. During high season, it costs 20 euro to enter, so make sure to budget that in!
If you want to experience Croatia’s version of island time, hop on a ferry from Split to Hvar. You’ll be amazed by the white-washed buildings and the crystal clear water lapping up against the sandy beaches. Take a day trip out to Hvar’s neighboring islands, or rent a cute car to road-trip around! Climb up to Hvar Fort for the best views of the town, and sample some of Croatia’s best wines. What could be better than drinking wine on an island in the middle of the Adriatic Sea — seriously, what?
Feeling the urge to move inland? Zip your rental car north toward Slovenia and stop in Trakoscan, where you’ll trade palm trees for pine trees and sandy beaches for beautiful lakes. (Also, Trakoscan Castle is perched on a hill and definitely worth a visit!) If you love to hike and kayak, or if you’re ready for a break from the hustle of Croatia’s main towns, you’ll definitely want to spend some time in Trakoscan.
As Croatia’s capital and the largest city in the country, Zagreb deserves a day or two on your itinerary. Step back in time when exploring Zagreb’s medieval center, Gradec. Find all the historical museums in Lower Town, and munch on Zagreb’s most delicious food in Tkalčićeva Street. Don’t leave without visiting a market and picking up a Licitar, a honey cookie that take weeks to prepare and that’s formed to look like Zagreb’s traditional shape (a red heart). If you’re a solo traveler (or if you want to give your significant other a run for their money), you can even stop by the Museum of Broken Relationships!
While Omis may not feature on many travelers' itineraries, this medieval pirate town — nestled between the Adriatic Sea and the Cetina River — is bound to add some excitement to your trip. Here, you can raft through waterfalls, zip-line over Cetina Canyon, and climb to Mirabella Fortress! If you’re visiting Omis in August, you should make sure to attend the Pirate Battle and Dalmatian Klapa Singing Festival, which mimics the real pirate battles of the 13th century. Omis is sure to add any needed excitement to your Croatia trip and shouldn’t be missed.
PAKLENICA NATIONAL PARK
Eager to keep your adrenaline levels high? Then visit Paklenica National Park, where you can go canyoning, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, and cave exploring. Known for its rock formations, canyons, and black-pine forests, this national park sits right in the middle of the nation, about an hour from Zadar. You can spot falcons, bears, and deer while exploring, all during an easy day trip from the city! By mixing beaches and mountains, cities and parks into your itinerary, you’ll feel as if you’ve experienced a wide variety of what Croatia has to offer by the time you need to head home.
Named one of the best beaches in Europe, Stiniva Beach is a no-brainer when it comes to listing the best places to visit in Croatia. Known for its small size, unbelievably clear waters, and the limestone cliffs that border all three sides, this beach has become more and more popular over the years. To avoid the crowds, head here for sunrise, or enter by kayak from one of the neighboring beaches. Alternatively, you could bring a picnic here or arrive at sunset for stunning views. While each beach in Croatia is special, the feeling you get at Stiniva will stay with you long after you paddle back home.
Are you inspired to see what Croatia has to offer? If so, book our Croatia and the Balkans Expedition to set forth on the trip of a lifetime! Have you visited this Adriatic nation yet? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Xoxo, Grace Poulos
Follow her adventures on Instagram!