Best Places To Visit in Croatia
It is never easy to decide which country to visit in Europe. Switzerland, France, Turkey, Austria, Greece, the UK, Spain, Germany, and Italy are among the most visited destinations in the world. Not surprisingly, Croatia did not have a very prominent place on the travel map of Europe till recently. The country’s tourism was also negatively impacted by the Homeland War in the early nineties.
However, things are slowly changing for Croatia. The gorgeous country is an emerging tourist attraction and has been rated as Europe’s fastest-growing tourist destination for the past few years. Nestled between Eastern and Western Europe, Croatia is a paradise waiting to be explored. The stunning natural attractions, miles of unparalleled beaches, fairy-tale architecture, centuries-old harbor towns, and the turquoise Adriatic Sea – everything you need for an exotic vacation. It’s time to cross Croatia off your bucket list if you haven’t already.
When to visit Croatia?
July and August are the peak season in Croatia because of the school holidays. However, the peak season is not always the best season. May, June, and September are also good times to visit as you can avoid the queues and crowded beaches. The weather is not so hot and humid and the accommodations are still affordable. Between November to April, it is freezing cold and the islands are almost deserted.
How to reach Croatia?
Croatia has efficient transport connectivity. All big European cities offer direct flights to major Croatian cities from April to September. Split and Zagreb are well connected throughout the year. You can also reach Croatia by bus, train, and ferry through the connections that may be limited.
How to get around in Croatia?
Buses and ferries are frequent, comfortable, and cost-efficient. It is quite easy to rent and drive a car in Croatia. Trains only run between the big cities. Domestic flights, when available, are generally affordable. Taxis are pricey. Uber is affordable and widely available in Croatia’s metropolises.
Do you need a visa?
A visa is not required for visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Travelers from other nations may be required to obtain a visa. You can visit Croatia if you have a valid Schengen visa with multiple or double entries. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a Croatian visa separately.
The Kuna is the Croatian currency (kn). Despite the fact that Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is advisable to use Kuna in this country. Although the Euro is widely accepted, you will get the change in local currency, and the exchange rate will not be favorable. Credit cards are sometimes not accepted by vacation rentals, small restaurants, and shops. The best way to get local currency is to use an ATM. The value of one dollar is 6.80 kn.
Top Places to Visit in Croatia?
Croatia has so much to see, that it is not easy picking up the best. There are more than a thousand islands, lush national parks, world heritage sites, and a never-ending coastline. Let us list the must-sees:
Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, may be overshadowed by the scenic towns of Split and Dubrovnik, but it is worth visiting for its street art, museums, theatres, Austro-Hungarian architecture, and vibrant nightlife. There are numerous shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities in this sprawling cosmopolitan city. Zagreb sightseeing begins at Bana Jelacica, the city’s heart, where many of the city’s cafes are located, making it an ideal meeting spot. Other famous tourist attractions are the Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb Cathedral, Strossmayer Promenade, Stone Gate, and the colorful Dolac Market.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Any trip to Croatia cannot be complete without visiting the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes National Park. Located close to Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes consists of sixteen aquamarine lakes tumbling into each other and creating cascading waterfalls and canyons in the process. The stunning UNESCO World Heritage site is encircled by verdant trees. The wooden walkways and footbridges crisscrossing the park allow the visitors to get up close to the flamboyant falls. Deer, wild boars, bears, and more than 150 kinds of birds inhabit the dense forest that surrounds them.
There are different hiking trails winding through the park with varying degrees of time and difficulty levels. The park does not allow swimming. With about 1500 daily visitors in July and August, you may have to walk behind lines of people at times. There are three hotels within the park, as well as a handful on the outskirts. Staying near the park for the night is a brilliant option because you’ll get a head start on the crowds before they come from nearby cities.
Entry 7 am – 8 pm in summer and 8 am – 4 pm in winter.
Plitvice Lakes or Krka National park? That needs another post
Nicknamed the ‘Mediterranean Flower’, Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and another popular destination. The entire city of Split is erected around the huge Diocletian Palace which was built by Emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century AD. The beautifully preserved palace covers an area of 400,000 square feet and looks more like a fortress. It can be accessed through four gigantic gates and features a maze of narrow marble walkaways as well as several museums, churches, cafes, and stores. The Cathedral of St. Domnius, with its bell tower, can be seen within the palace.
The palace’s southern gate opens to a seaside promenade. The promenade is the most lively boulevard in Split, with rows of stylish boutiques and beachfront cafes. While in Split, one can swim at Bacvice Beach and shop at the vibrant Green Market. Klis fortress, perched on a clifftop, is just nine miles from Split and a must-visit for fans of Games Of Thrones. The orange-roofed houses provide a vivid contrast to the turquoise sea water and there’s plenty to do and see in the bustling city. Split is also the main departure port for trips to the gorgeous Dalmatian islands of Hvar, Vis, Brac, and Solta, among others.
Hvar is a gorgeous Croatian island off the Dalmatian coast that attracts the wealthy, celebrities, and partygoers. The trendy city of Hvar has some of the country’s best luxury resorts and swishy restaurants. The waterfront is lined with expensive yachts with people partying till the small hours of the morning. However, there is much more to Hvar than being a party place. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of unspoiled beaches, secluded coves, lavender fields, and lush vineyards. The car-free Hvar city has an impressive town square, charming churches, Gothic palaces, and a hilltop fortress from where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the blue sea and the surrounding islands. You may rent a boat to visit the nearby Pakelni islands, which are known for their white sandy beaches and secret lagoons.
One can take day tours to explore the Paklen islands around Hvar. The most popular tour includes a visit to the Green and Blue caves. Green Cave, on the Ravnik islet, is a natural phenomenon that happens when the sun’s rays reach the cave’s bottom and reflect the green algae that grow there. You can swim and cliff jump in the Green Cave. The Blue Cave on Bisevo Island’s islet is a must-see. Sun rays seep into the cave and bathe the interiors of the small cave, giving it an ethereal blue hue. Stinvia (Vis Island), a hidden lagoon tucked between two towering rocky cliffs, is artistic and breathtaking.
Dubrovnik dubbed the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” has always been a tourist hotspot. However, since its treasures were featured prominently in Game of Thrones, the city was elevated to the status of a “must-see destination”. The old town jutting out into the sea, the cobbled streets, elegant palaces, and classy churches will take you into a bygone era. . The majestic city walls encircling the old town are topped by a two-kilometer-long walkway. It is a stimulating experience to walk around the majestic wall and reach the vantage point. The panoramic view of orange terracotta rooftops, church towers, blue sky, and the glistening Adriatic sea will definitely leave you spell-bound.
The old town of Dubrovnik is also located within the city walls and is dotted with beautiful palaces, monasteries, and churches. What is even more amazing is that so many people still live inside the city walls. You cannot miss pedestrian-only street Stradun – a limestone paved 300-meter boulevard. Lined with cafes, pubs, and boutiques it is the perfect location to unwind and mingle over a cup of coffee or a pint of beer. Take the cable car to the top of Mountain Srd for sprawling views of Dubrovnik and Island Lokrum. Rector Palace, Loggia Square, the Church of St. Blaise, and Fort Lovrijenac are all popular tourist destinations. Wandering around Dubrovnik’s narrow alleyways and exploring the hidden nooks and corners is the perfect way to get a feel for the city.
Besides these, there are many exotic locations in Croatia like Krka National Park, Korcula, Pula, Rovinj, and Ziatni Rat Beach. If you have time and resources they are also worth a visit. However, I have made a 10-day itinerary covering the major tourist attractions
Suggested 10 Day Itinerary for Croatia:
Day 1: Reach Zagreb and spend the day there.
Day 2: Rent a car or take a bus to reach Plitvice at your convenience. There are about 10 buses leaving for Plitvice daily from early morning to late at night. The journey will take about 2.5 hours. Stay the night at Plitvice
Day 3: Get up early and explore Plitvice before the place is swarmed by tourists.
Day 4: Leave early for Split via the rented car or use the bus again. This time the journey will take approximately four hours. Buses start in the early morning, but the travel time varies from 3.30 hours to 6:30h. So check before you book.
Day 5: Spend half the day in Split and leave for Hvar in the evening. The ferry from Split departs every 4 hours and takes one hour to reach Hvar.
Day 6-7: Explore Hvar and the neighboring islands
Day 8: Leave Hvar and reach Dubrovnik by ferry which will take more than 3 hours. There are two companies running this service and offer only one or two journeys per day. Take the morning ferry and reach Dubrovnik in time to enjoy the vibrant Dubrovnik.
Day 9: Enjoy the historic town of Dubrovnik
Day 10: It is the end of your Croatian holiday. Time to go back.
Croatia is an amazing destination and still very reasonably priced by western standards. With its growing popularity, soon it will become crowded, commercialized, and expensive, like other beautiful spots in Europe. It is just the right time to visit this paradise.
Want to combine Croatia with the rest Of Eastern Europe?