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The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Croatia

When it comes to scenery, Croatia offers some of the most spectacular you’ll find anywhere in Europe. It boasts a magnificent over 1,100-mile coastline, more than 1,200 islands and islets, and some of the continent’s most picturesque beaches. There are also impressive national parks with emerald lakes, cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and a wide range of flora and fauna. The cities are impressive too, often with centuries-old architectural treasures, while medieval walled hilltop towns reminiscent of Tuscany, surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and forest, also await. While you may not be able to see it all, you’ll want to put a few of these most beautiful places to visit in Croatia on your must-see list.

Mljet National Park

Mljet National Park aerial
Mljet Monastery

Mljet National Park occupies nearly a third of Mljet Island, known as the greenest isle in the Adriatic with over 70 percent covered in dense forest. The park itself is filled with lush greenery and is perhaps best known for its two saltwater lakes in vibrant shades of blues and greens. A short boat ride brings visitors to St. Mary Islet in the middle of the larger lake, which houses a 12th-century Benedictine abbey and church that now features a souvenir shop and cafe. There is a wide range of activities on land and water, including scenic, wooded paths for hiking and biking. Paddling can be enjoyed in the lakes while their shores offer idyllic beaches for swimming and sunbathing.

Island of Losinj

Mali Losinj
Forest on Losinj

Located in the Kvarner Gulf region, Losinj has long been a popular wellness retreat with many arriving to enjoy its healing properties. The “island of vitality,” offers salty sea air, abundant sunshine, a clear turquoise sea, wild medical herbs, aromatic lavender fields, eucalyptus trees, and pine forests. The perfect place for a little travel therapy immersed in natural beauty, it’s surely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia. A tour of the Losinj Armotic Garden brings the opportunity to touch, smell, and taste the plants while learning about their uses. The towns of Mali Losinj and Veli Losinj are surrounded by some of the country’s most unspoiled beaches with clear water in shades of brilliant blues and greens.

Dubrovnik Old Town

Aerial view of Dubrovnik Old Town
Dubrovnik Old Square

The “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is one of the top spots to visit on a Croatia vacation and one of Dalmatia’s most beautiful cities. It occupies a promontory beneath the shadow of Mount Srd with its walled Old Town encircled by massive stone walls. Step through one of the imposing gates to stroll Stradun, the pedestrianized main street that runs through. There are many historic landmarks, including the Baroque-style St. Blaise Church, the Renaissance Rector’s and Sponza palaces, and the 15th-century Onofrio’s Fountain, one of the ending points of the aqueduct system that supplied water to the city for 500 years. Take it all in by walking atop the 1.2-mile-long city walls and riding the cable car up Mount Srd.

Diocletian’s Palace, Split

Diocletian’s Palace
Close up of Diocletian’s Palace

Built between 295 and 305 AD as a place of retirement for Roman Emperor Diocletian, Diocletian’s Palace is an imperial palace-fortress of vast proportions, covering a 7-hectare area in Split’s Old Town. The emperor lived here until his death in 316 AD. Today it’s widely regarded as the most well-preserved example of Roman palatial architecture. The spectacular centuries-old buildings line a maze of narrow streets and alleyways, now housing everything from museums, independent shops, and galleries to wine bars, restaurants, and apartments. The palace cellars are a must-visit, once serving as the entrance. During excavations, there were many remarkably preserved items discovered. “Game of Thrones” fans will be interested to know that the cellars were where Daenerys trained her dragon.

Old Town of Rovinj

Rovinj Old Town
Rovinj Streets

Set along the west coast of the Istrian Peninsula, Rovinj presents an incredibly picturesque sight, often compared to Dubrovnik but with significantly fewer crowds. It boasts a meticulously preserved Old Town with historic buildings and homes painted in Venetian reds and Habsburg pastels along atmospheric cobbled streets. Learn more about it at the Rovinj Heritage Museum with highlights that include finds from the Roman era, paintings by the Old Masters from the mansion of Habsburg industrialist Baron Georg von Hutterot, and maritime paraphernalia. At the central market just in from the waterfront, you’ll find everything from fresh produce, honey, and olive oil to souvenirs, jewelry, and paintings. Don’t miss the panoramic view from the Baroque-style Church of Saint Euphemia’s bell tower.

Kornati Archipelago

Kornati Islands
Kornati Islands

The Kornati archipelago boasts unrivaled natural beauty with 140 islands and islets in Northern Dalmatia, 89 of which are part of Kornati National Park. It’s a paradise for sailing, with the views only worth the experience. The isles are made up of karst limestone with sea caves and dramatic cliffs that tower as high as 262 feet. They can be visited as part of a small ship cruise, on a yacht charter, or as an excursion from the mainland with departures from Split, Sibenik, and Zadar among others. These day trips often include lunch with items like fresh fish and local wine while offering the chance to snorkel and swim in the remarkably clear turquoise water.

Trogir

Aerial view of Trogir
Trogir Waterfront

Trogir is easy to reach, less than a 30-minute drive from Split. It sits on a small island linked to the mainland by a bridge with its crown jewel the medieval Old Town. The UNESCO-listed site is encircled by 13th-century walls and features many beautiful preserved Renaissance and Romanesque buildings. As you walk along the waterfront promenade you’ll see the Venetian Kamerlengo fortress/castle that dates to 1430. St. Lawrence Cathedral is particularly notable, illustrating all styles that succeeded one another in Dalmatia, built over nearly four centuries. Climb the over 150-foot bell tower for an awe-inspiring 360-degree view over the Old Town. Other highlights include the city gates, majestic palaces, and Clock Tower on John Paul II Square.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park
Krka Waterfalls

Krka National Park offers striking natural beauty with lush greenery, waterfalls, a river, and abundant flora and fauna. The water provides an important source for many rare, endemic, and threatened species. More than 220 bird species inhabit the area, including golden eagles and peregrine falcons, providing a haven for birdwatchers. Nearly 50 different mammals can be found here too, such as wild cats, wolves, and otters. While most come for waterfalls like the 150-foot-high Skrandinski buk, Croatia’s most important Serbian Orthodox monastery is located here too. Built in a unique combination of Byzantine and Mediterranean architecture above a small lake and the river, it was founded in 1354. Between mid-June and mid-October, a guide will be available to tour you around.

Motovun

Motovun Village
Motovun Village

Motovun is a fortified hilltop town, one of the most well-preserved on the Istrian Peninsula. Enjoy spectacular views from its elevated position, while the dense forest at the base of the hill is home to truffles. Visitors can join a local truffle-hunting expert and specially trained truffle-hunting dogs to search for these rare delicacies and enjoy a tasting. The many little shops in town, housed in Gothic and Romanesque buildings, sell all sorts of truffle products such as truffle olive oil and truffle cheeses. Restaurant menus feature truffle everything too, from truffle risotto to truffle pasta. As you explore, the higher you are on the hill, the older the buildings are, with the walls at the top dating to the 13th century.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes National Park waterfall

Croatia’s largest and most well-known national park, Plitvice is one of the top places to visit on a Croatia vacation. Tucked into the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, it’s home to 16 stunning lakes in surreal hues that range from vibrant turquoise to deep emerald along with over 90 waterfalls that cascade above and below ground. Scenic wooded trails, boardwalks, and little bridges wind through providing views of the fantasy-like scenes. One of the top attractions is the Great Waterfall, Veliki slap, which plunges nearly 256 feet at the end of the Lower Lakes section. Watch for the park’s abundant and diverse wildlife too, including eagles, hawks, the smallest European owls, grey wolves, brown bears, and lynx.

Island of Hvar

Hvar Town
Hvar Lavender Field

Hvar is one of the most popular islands to visit on a Croatia vacation, including the rich and famous who often arrive in their mega yachts. Hvar Town boasts a renowned dining and nightlife scene with everything from casual beach bars and Michelin-star restaurants to hopping clubs for dancing til dawn. The island is also stunningly beautiful with everything from the idyllic beaches nestled in secluded coves to vineyard-covered hills and lavender fields. Enjoy swimming in clear aquamarine water, Jeep tours, biking excursions, wine tasting, and exploring historical sites. Stari Grad on the island’s northern side is one of the oldest towns in Europe, founded in 385 BC. In Hvar Town, climb the 13th-century Spanjola Fortress for a breathtaking view.

Northern Velebit National Park

Northern Velebit National Park
Donkeys in Northern Velebit National Park

North Velebit National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to part of the Ancient & Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe. It’s known for its trees which are unique when it comes to their vast size, age, and various characteristics that provide important habitat for endangered plant and animal species such as holly, forest orchids, lynx, bear, roe deer, and red deer. Most drive through to glimpse its beauty but the best way to explore is on foot. The Premuzic trail is a favorite, and while it spans more than 35 miles, it can be hiked in segments to view some of the most scenic, and rugged, places in the Northern Velebit region.

The Pakleni Islands

View of boats in Pakleni Islands
Pakleni Islands

The Pakleni archipelago is just a short boat ride away from the Hvar Town harbor that lies opposite, renowned for its beaches and pine forests. They’re often visited as part of a small ship cruise but you can also take a day tour from Hvar, with many stopping at the largest island, Sveti Klement, to provide time on Palmizana Beach. This sandy stretch is edged by a gorgeous horseshoe-shaped bay with various spots for sunbathing and swimming along with casual beach bars and restaurants. Markinkovac is the second largest island in the Paklenis, known for the Carpe Dieme beach club with its lively parties. Zdrilca Bay is home to more tranquil pebble beaches ideal for relaxation while also hosting several eateries.

Island of Brac

Zlatni Rat
View of town on Brac Island

Dalmatia’s largest island, Brac is incredibly scenic with everything from soaring mountains to a coastline varying from wild rocky beaches to pebbly and sandy stretches. Zlatni Rat, also known as the Golden Horn, frequently lands on lists of Europe’s most beautiful beaches. It’s surrounded by a clear, aquamarine sea on three sides, jutting out a third of a mile into the Adriatic with little white pebbles that glisten in the sun. It’s ideal for sunbathing and swimming while immersed in the stunning natural beauty. Standup paddle boarding and sea kayaking are popular too. If you want to hike, head to the highest point in the Adriatic islands, Vidova gora, for a breathtaking view of the sea, nearby islands, and Zlatni Rat beach.

Cetina River Canyon

Aerial view of Cetina River
Boat on the Cetina River

The Cetina River Canyon is tucked into the heart of the country providing one of the best opportunities for an active Croatia vacation. A scenic natural wonder, the Cetina River winds through, boasting a remarkably clear blue-green hue, supplied by a karst spring. It runs over 60 miles through the rugged canyon, attracting many to embark on whitewater rafting excursions that deliver views of the river, towering mountains, and forest while enjoying the thrill of riding the rapids. A variety of other outdoor adventures can be enjoyed here, including hiking, guided canyoning trips, and ziplining. More gentle pursuits can be enjoyed too if adrenaline isn’t your thing, including tranquil walks by the river, sightseeing boat tours, and picnicking with a view.

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