Best Places to Visit in Croatia
Croatia is famous for becoming one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, with its alluring scenery catching the eye of many from across the globe. That includes everything from famous waterfalls that cascade down to stunning pools in shades of deep emerald and brilliant turquoise to storybook medieval walled towns. It’s a place with warm, hospitable people, a laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of spots to delight in mouthwatering authentic cuisine and fine wines. With so many places to visit, narrowing it down to one itinerary can be difficult, but this list can help you discover the very best.
The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic,’ Dubrovnik is a must-visit for any Croatia traveler, with its magnificent pedestrian Old Town jam-packed with centuries-old palaces and churches that are contained within medieval fortifications with towers, bastions, forts, and gates. There are charming cafes, intimate bars for sipping Croatian wine, and everything from casual to fine dining restaurants tucked among unique boutiques and shops. Nearby discover unspoiled white sandy beaches framed by crystal-clear azure waters. “Game of Thrones” fans will find much that looks familiar, including Pile Gate, the entrance to the city, and Fort Lovrijenac, where Prince Joffrey’s name day celebration was held.
Birthed when Roman Emperor Diocletian decided to build his retirement residence here in the late 3rd-century, Split is especially intriguing for history buffs with some of the most well-preserved Roman architecture in the world. Diocletian’s Palace is a maze-like complex with its ancient buildings now housing cafes, wine bars, restaurants, unique shops, and galleries, more like a city within a city. At its heart is Cathedral Sveti Duje, once the site of the mausoleum for the emperor himself. Climbing to the top of the bell tower provides a panoramic view over it all, stretching to Riva promenade and the sea.
Hvar is a sun-soaked island that’s become a favorite among international jet setters with a harbor that’s almost always filled with mega-yachts. The world-class restaurants and buzzing nightlife draw many rich and famous and there are numerous historic sites to explore, including the majestic 1605 Cathedral of St. Stephen and the oldest community theater in Europe, with its doors opened in 1612. From the medieval hilltop fortress, one can enjoy a fabulous panoramic vista over the town, harbor, and nearby islands. The landscapes are stunning, including idyllic beaches and secluded coves for swimming, along with lavender-, olive tree-, and vineyard-covered hills.
Zagreb is Croatia’s capital city with a history that dates back over 3,000 years, although it offers a fantastic mix of both the old and new. In the Upper Town, you’ll discover one of the oldest buildings, the often-photographed St. Mark’s Church with its iconic colorful roof dating to the 13th-century. Zagreb Cathedral is widely regarded as the most monumental sacral building constructed in gothic style southeast of the Alps. It’s also Croatia’s tallest with two twin spires that stretch over 350 feet into the sky. In the Lower Town, you’ll find shops, cafes, restaurants, and picturesque parks.
Korcula was named for its dense forests, so thick it makes the island appear black from a distance, but the reason most visitors fall in love is that the historic center of Korcula Town looks like a storybook. Sometimes referred to as a “mini-Dubrovnik,” it is encircled by walls, gates, towers, and ramparts while inside you’ll see many glimpses of its past among the maze of atmospheric streets. Above the entrance to the Land Gate are two symbols marking its history, including a winged lion of St. Mark, a symbol of the reign of the Venetian Republic.
Remote Vis is the most unspoiled of the Croatian islands, having served as a military base for some 40 years when it was closed off to outside visitors. An ideal spot for an authentic stay, it offers beautiful beaches, secluded coves, and bays, with Stiniva Cove one of the most enticing with its clear aquamarine water that brings the chance to swim with loggerhead turtles and occasionally bottlenose dolphins. Local seafood can be enjoyed at family-run eateries with menus often featuring it along with the exclusive wines that are made right here on the island.
Krka National Park
Krka protects diverse flora and fauna that includes 860 species and subspecies of plants with several endemic types, and over 220 species of bird, but its waterfalls are what most visitors come for. Strolling the scenic pathways and wooden bridges brings the chance to soak up the natural beauty, complete with seven travertine falls like Skradinski Buk, the highest in the Mediterranean. It plunges for more than 150 feet and is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most stunning carbonate cascades.
Plitvice National Park
Plitvice is the most famous place for viewing the country’s beautiful waterfalls, so much so, it’s become a symbol of the enchanting beauty it has to offer. Its images have often gone viral, enticing many to visit with the countless cascades that spill into serene lakes in shades that range from sapphire and turquoise to emerald. It’s all framed by lush greenery, looking like a fantastical paradise. Visitors can walk hop on a boat for a tranquil ride across a lake, accessing scenic pathways that lead to some of the most stunning views. Along the way watch for its abundance of flora and fauna, including over 125 species of birds, red deer, lynx, brown bears, and wolves.
Brac is an island that’s become internationally renowned thanks to Zlatni Rat beach. Also called the Golden Horn, it’s constantly changing with the winds and the tides while jutting out about a third of a mile into a crystal-clear blue sea. The small town of Pucisca is found here too. Not only is it one of the prettiest in Croatia, but it’s famous for its glistening white stone that’s indigenous to the island. The local homes are made from it and it’s even been used to build everything from ancient Roman palaces to famous landmarks like the White House in America’s capital.
Mljet National Park
Mljet National Park covers the entire northwest part of lush Mljet Island and includes two saltwater lakes Veliko and Malo Jesero, both of which feature dazzling water in brilliant hues of blue and green. In the middle of Veliko, the tiny island of St. Mary hosts a historic church and a 12th-century Benedictine monastery which now serves as a café. It’s connected via boat, with multiple trips leaving from both sides of the lake. Kayaks are available for rent where the lakes are joined by a narrow channel for paddling around. You’ll also find scenic paths for hiking and biking that wind throughout the park.
The medieval town of Trogir is located on a small island near Split, connected to the mainland by a bridge. A walk along its enticing streets provides magnificent views of well-preserved Kamerlengo Castle as well as some of the most well-preserved Romanesque/gothic architecture in Central Europe. Don’t figure to bring your camera as you’ll want to capture lots of pictures of this 2,300-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally founded by Greek colonists in the 3rd-century BC, highlights include the Town Gate, Town Hall, Central Square, Small Loggia, Trogir Museum, and the imposing Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
The world-famous 19th-century seaside wellness resort town of Opatija is where tourism is said to have been born along Croatia’s coast. Visitors today will find timeless elegance with lovely churches, impressive monuments, gorgeous parks, beautiful beaches, and magnificent villas with a backdrop of the Učka Mountains. Walking the Lungomare Promenade delivers jaw-dropping views of much of it, with the sea on one side and the historic villas on the other. Villa Angiolina houses the Museum of Croatian Tourism which includes remnants from its past as a place for high society gatherings, including gilded mirrors and frescoes.
Located on the Istrian Peninsula’s west coast, Rovinj is nestled in the hills rising dramatically above the Adriatic. Considered Croatia’s most Italian town, it has a romantic atmosphere and plenty of Venetian influence. St. Euphemia Church tower marks the highest point of the city, while the cobblestone streets below meander throughout, providing memorable strolls with surprises to discover around practically every corner. Take advantage of photo-ops, with ancient crumbling homes and vibrantly hued facades while browsing art galleries and shops. There are lots of enticing eateries and lively bars to enjoy as well.
Located at the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula, Pula is a pretty seaside city with a bustling piazza that contains many cafes for unwinding with a refreshing drink or grabbing a bit, but it may best be known for its well-preserved 1st-century Roman amphitheater, the only one with all four side towers and three Roman architectural orders that still remain. One of the top sights in all of Croatia, it’s ranked among the world’s largest surviving Roman arenas. In ancient times, it was the place to go to watch gladiator fights.
A crown jewel in Istria, Motovun is an enchanting hilltop wall town in an area often compared to Tuscany, surrounded by vineyard- and olive tree-covered hills while boasting a mouthwatering food and wine scene that includes truffles. The rare delicacy can be found in the dark, mythical forest at its base – visitors can even head out with truffle hunters and their dogs. Within its walls, you’ll find a cluster of Romanesque and gothic buildings housing artist studios, restaurants with dishes focused around truffles, and shops that sell everything from truffle olive oils to souvenirs. From the original 13th-century walls at the top, you can take in a jaw-dropping 360-degree view of the Istrian inland.
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