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Destinations Typically Included on a Croatia Small Ship Cruise

One of the most popular ways to explore Croatia’s expansive coastline and over 1,200 islands and islets is on a small ship cruise. While you could travel in a large vessel with a casino, Broadway-style shows, and an Olympic-size pool, those types of cruises are more about the ship than the places visited. The destinations typically included on a small-ship cruise are explored much more in-depth with a mix of both popular and hidden out-of-the-way spots, thanks to the vessel’s smaller size. You’ll also get to sample more of the local and regional fare, instead of being relegated to the same old buffets. The attentive crew happily provides recommendations to help you make the most of your free evenings.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik aerial view
Dubrovnik narrow street

Dubrovnik is one of the most popular destinations on any Croatia cruise. In fact, many start or end in this romantic city, renowned for its medieval walled Old Town. The historical core is the reason English poet Lord Byron nicknamed it the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” and it famously served as “King’s Landing” in the hit series “Game of Thrones.” A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its limestone-paved streets are lined with everything from magnificent Baroque palaces to one of the oldest pharmacies still in operation in Europe, dating back to 1317. Visitors can walk right atop the walls that encircle it for a breathtaking view of the red-tiled roofs on one side, with the sea and nearby islands on the other.

Split

Split Riva Promenade
Republic Square

Croatia’s second-largest city, ancient Split is another popular starting and ending point for a small ship cruise. It’s renowned for Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, built over the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, now home to some of the world’s most well-preserved Roman architecture. The harbor is just a short walk away, making it easy to explore before or after your cruise. Today its many historic buildings are home to unique shops, galleries, wine bars, cafes, and fine dining restaurants. Split also hosts a lovely waterfront promenade and multiple museums like the Archaeological Museum, Mestrovic Gallery, and the City Museum, set in a 15th-century Gothic building which is just as impressive as its collection of historic documents, photographs, maps, and paintings.

Hvar

View of Hvar Town
Lavender fields in Hvar

Known for frequent sunny skies, fragrant lavender fields that blanket the landscapes with purple in the summer, secluded coves with idyllic beaches, vineyard-covered hills, and historical towns with centuries-old sites like St. Stephen’s Cathedral and a Venetian fortress, Hvar is one of the most popular destinations to visit on a Croatia vacation. The island is also a hot spot for international jet setters, including Hollywood stars and royalty who often arrive in their mega yachts to enjoy the world-class restaurants and buzzing nightlife in Hvar Town. Tours that include visits for tasting at some of the family-run wineries throughout the island are popular and excursions are often enjoyed to the nearby Pakleni Islands surrounded by brilliant blue-green waters for swimming.

Korcula

Korcula old town
Korcula church

Korcula is the alleged birthplace of international explorer Marco Polo with a quaint walled Old Town. Sometimes called a “mini-Dubrovnik,” it’s one of the favorite destinations on a Croatia small ship cruise. Surrounded by huge stone walls, among its enticing squares and atmospheric streets is 14th-century St. Mark’s Cathedral, built by local masters and craftsmen of stone masonry. Visitors can climb its bell tower for an unbeatable 360-degree view of the island. The Marco Polo House contains a small museum in its watchtower which provides another impressive view over the town’s rooftops and out to the endless blue of the sea. A visit to a local family for a traditional village dinner is often included as part of your cruise.

Vis

Vis Town
Stiniva Cove

Vis is renowned for its unspoiled landscapes, thanks to the lack of tourism development with the island closed off to the public for 40 years while used as a military base. Many visitors arrive by small ship cruise or on a catamaran as part of a private tour of Croatia. It’s an island ideal for taking a break and enjoying breathtaking beaches like Stiniva, framed by soaring cliffs and emerald water. There’s plenty of history to discover too, including Roman ruins and relics from the Croatian War of Independence. In Vis Town, learn more about the island’s history in the fascinating archaeological museum and climb to the top of the fortress to watch a spectacular sunset.

Mljet National Park

Mljet National Park aerial
Mljet Monastery

Lush Mljet is the most southerly of the Dalmatian islands and the greenest island in the Adriatic, blanketed by dense forest. While it has a rich history dating back to the 2nd millennium BC, it’s best known as a nature lover’s escape. Mljet National Park is the star attraction offering solitude among the pines with two saltwater lakes at its heart boasting a myriad of vibrant blues and greens. In the middle of the larger lake is St. Mary Islet, home to a 12th-century monastery and church that can be accessed via a short boat ride. There are also sandy beaches along the lakeshores for swimming while scenic wooded paths are popular for hiking and biking, with bikes available for rent.

Trogir

Trogir
Trogir

Trogir‘s walled Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back some 2,300 years. You’ll notice influences by the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians that reveal its time-honored past. The most well-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in Central Europe, its medieval core is like an open-air museum complete with a castle, tower, and palaces. By strolling the waterfront promenade you’ll be able to look out at Kamerlengo, a 15th-century Venetian fortress/castle. Some of the other highlights include the imposing St. Lawrence Cathedral with its construction started in the 12th century. It features a 154-foot-high bell tower and a remarkable Romanesque door carved by Master Radovan in 1240, a unique work of art and one of Croatia’s most important historical monuments.

Sibenik & Krka National Park

Sibenik
Krka Waterfalls

Medieval Sibenik is a breathtaking thousand-year-old UNESCO-listed city with a maze of steep streets home to stone palaces and the imposing St. James Cathedral. Reflecting influences from Dalmatia, northern Italy, and Tuscany, its exterior, featured in “Game of Thrones,” is carved with over 70 life-sized heads of remarkably realistic ordinary citizens, fishermen, and soldiers. Sibenik is also a gateway to Krka National Park, one of the most popular in the country. It’s home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, and one of Croatia’s most well-known landmarks in Croatia, Skradinski buk. The largest of the group of 20 waterfalls along the Krka River, it plunges over 150 feet.

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