Best places to visit in Croatia

Croatia’s sun-drenched Adriatic coastline is an alluring tapestry of natural wonders and cultural marvels, making it one of the best places to visit in Europe. From the azure embrace of the Plitvice Lakes to the medieval charm of Dubrovnik’s ancient walls, this captivating nation unveils a kaleidoscope of experiences that will etch indelible memories in your heart. Whether you’re exploring the historic streets of Split, basking in the beauty of Hvar’s pristine beaches, or discovering the vibrant urban life of Zagreb, Croatia offers an unforgettable journey for every traveler.

A Turquoise Wonderland: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Nestled in the forested heart of continental Croatia, the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park is a breathtaking symphony of cascading waterfalls and interconnected turquoise lakes. With its 16 crystalline bodies of water, including the 2.35km-long (1.5 miles) Kozjak, the largest, this natural marvel is a feast for the senses.

Travertine expanses adorned with mossy plants divide the lakes, whose startling hues are a product of the underlying bedrock. Wooden boardwalks beckon visitors to traverse this extraordinary watery world, offering unparalleled vistas at every turn.

plitvice lakes

Korčula Town: A Seaside Gem with Venetian Flair

Nestled on the island of Korčula, this enchanting seaside town boasts imposing walls and towers that transport you back in time. Its compact old town, laid out in a fascinating fishbone pattern, is a delightful labyrinth of cobblestone streets and alfresco dining spots.

The town’s extraordinary cathedral, adorned with whimsical carvings, is a must-visit, while the sea-facing Petra Kanavelića promenade invites you to savor the island’s laid-back charm over a leisurely meal beneath the shade of umbrella pines.

korcula island

Hvar Town: A Seaside Revelry

As the sun sets over the tiny seaside town of Hvar, the party atmosphere comes alive. Yachts anchor in the harbor, and sun-dazed revelers descend upon the beachside cocktail bars, creating a vibrant and lively scene.

For a respite from the action, ascend to Fortica, the medieval castle looming above the town, and soak in the panoramic views. Alternatively, follow the waterfront promenade to stake out a secluded rocky bay or hop on a taxi boat to the nearby Pakleni Islands for a swim in crystal-clear waters.

island hvar

Mljet: An Island Idyll Cloaked in Pine Forests

Mljet, a verdant island cloaked in dense pine forests, is a true idyll. Legend has it that Odysseus was marooned here for seven years, and it’s easy to understand why he took his time leaving. The western section of Mljet is a national park in Croatia, home to two sublime cobalt-colored lakes, an island monastery, and the sleepy, picture-perfect port of Pomena.

Beyond the national park, the eastern part of the island beckons with tranquil bays and pristine beaches, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Istria: A Peninsula of Undulating Hills and Seaside Charm

Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula, delights with its undulating hills, charming hilltop towns, and numerous seaside spots. Rovinj, a town of pastel-hued facades and cobblestone lanes lined with art galleries, sits on its own peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea, beckoning visitors to linger and soak in its beauty.

Inland, the picturesque hilltop town of Motovun offers breathtaking vistas of rolling hills, while Cape Kamenjak, at Istria’s southernmost tip, is an undeveloped nature reserve fringed by a string of pebble bays and secluded rocky beaches.

cape kamenjak

Vis Island: A Remote Gem with Hollywood Allure

Once best known as the site of a former Yugoslavian military base, Vis Island in Croatia has recently gained fame as a filming location for the hit movie “Mamma Mia! 2.” The port of Vis, neighboring Kut, and Komiža at the western end are the island’s major towns, boasting lovely stone townhouses and seaside promenades.

The hidden bays and rocky coves of Vis’s southern coast are best explored by boat, with postcard-perfect Stiniva Bay, accessible via a steep, rocky path, being a true highlight.

Split: A Maze of Ancient Roman Splendor

Split’s sea-facing Diocletian’s Palace is a surprising maze of streets and lanes, a mini 4th-century Roman city brimming with cafes, shops, and restaurants. Pause in the domed Vestibule to listen to professional Klapa singers demonstrating their traditional a cappella style, then hike along the forested paths of Marjan Hill for a sweeping panorama of the city and seascapes.

Split’s harbor is also the launching pad for exploring the nearby islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis, Šolta, and Korčula, making it an ideal base for island-hopping adventures.


Kopački Rit Nature Park: A Wetland Wonderland

Kopački Rit Nature Park, situated on the floodplain of the Danube and Drava Rivers, is one of Europe’s largest natural wetlands. Bird-watchers can join boat trips to spot white-tailed eagles, black storks, purple herons, spoonbills, and wild geese – just a few of the park’s 290 bird species.

Alternatively, follow the 2.4km-long (1.5 miles) boardwalk along an educational trail winding through the flooded forest floor, learning about the local flora and fauna along the way.

Šibenik: A Coastal Gem with UNESCO Treasures

Set on a bay connected to the Adriatic Sea, Šibenik is a charming coastal town that often flies under the radar. However, it boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the gorgeous 15th-century St James’ Cathedral, notable for its frieze of 71 comical faces carved into its facade, and St Nicholas Fortress, a sea-bound fortification built during Venetian times.

Šibenik in Croatia also boasts three other fortresses, with Barone being the most visit-worthy, thanks to its excellent visitor center and interactive exhibits.

Zagorje: A Fairytale Realm of Medieval Castles

In Zagorje, postcard-worthy medieval castles beckon time travelers to step into their enchanting realms. Trakošćan Castle, dating back to 1334, boasts a neo-Gothic 19th-century exterior that conceals far older internal structures, while its well-presented museum and 215 acres of landscaped grounds offer a glimpse into the excesses of Croatian aristocracy.

Further west, the hilltop castle of Veliki Tabor transports visitors to the 16th century, with its pentagonal towers, atmospheric interiors, and bucolic landscapes that surround it.

Dubrovnik: A Fortified City of Extraordinary Beauty

The extraordinary fortified city of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s most popular destination, and rightfully so. Enclosed within its massive city walls are more than a dozen churches, medieval monasteries, elegant limestone squares, and centuries-old residential quarters.

An absolute must-do is the circular walk atop its walls, where you can catch glimpses of hidden courtyards, gardens, and sweeping sea views. For the best experience, embark on this journey early in the morning or an hour before closing to avoid crowds and the summer heat.


Brač Island: Home to Croatia’s Most Photographed Beach

Near the town of Bol on Brač Island’s southern coast lies Zlatni Rat, Croatia’s most photographed beach. Its tail-shaped form and the two-toned blue-green waters lapping its strand of fine pebbles create a breathtaking sight. The eastern side of the beach attracts swarms of wind- and kitesurfers, thanks to its steady breeze.

Looming above is Vidova Gora, the highest peak in the Adriatic islands at 778m (2552 ft), offering gorgeous vistas of nearby islands and the famous beach below. For a taste of island life, visit the colorful fishing villages of Milna or Sutivan, and stop by the Olive Oil Museum in Škrip to learn about Brač’s history of production.

Zadar: A Coastal City with Quirky Installations

Set on a peninsula, Zadar’s compact old town is crammed with Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, and Romanesque cathedrals. Its defensive walls, recognized by UNESCO, have been transformed into a tree-lined promenade tracing the seafront.

At nightfall, the northwest corner of the old town comes alive with the ethereal sounds of the “Sea Organ,” a quirky installation of 35 pipes hidden under stone steps that use the wind to create music. Nearby, the “Sun Salutation,” a circular surface of solar panels, transforms into a colorful light show after dark.

Cres: An Unspoiled Island with Artistic Flair

Wild, rugged, and unspoiled, Cres Island exudes an off-the-beaten-track vibe. Cres Town is a busy port town with pastel-colored facades, while the quiet fishing village of Valun is bookended by immaculate pebble beaches and hiking paths leading to the hamlet of Lubenice, perched on a 378m-high (1240ft) sea-facing cliff.

At the island’s southern end lies Osor, a charming village of stone cottages and rose gardens with an artistic bent, revealed in the stylized bronze sculptures of musicians adorning its squares.

Krka National Park: A River of Cascades and Ruins

Nestled in the heart of Croatia, the Krka Waterfalls are a breathtaking natural wonder that should be on every traveler’s itinerary. Located within Krka National Park, these cascading waterfalls create a stunning display as they tumble over limestone cliffs into crystal-clear pools below. The park offers well-maintained trails and boardwalks, allowing visitors to explore the lush surroundings and enjoy close-up views of the falls.

The star of Krka National Park is the Krka River, rushing through canyons, broadening into lakes, and splashing over numerous falls and cascades. Stroll along boardwalks past mighty waterfalls and marvel at the multitude of fish darting through the emerald waters.

You’ll also find ruins of a Roman military camp and amphitheater, historic watermills, and two fascinating monasteries – one on an island and another built over ancient catacombs.

Swimming is permitted in designated areas, providing a refreshing way to experience the beauty of this Croatian gem. The Krka Waterfalls, with their mesmerizing beauty and serene atmosphere, exemplify the natural splendor that makes Croatia a top travel destination.


Zagreb: A Strollable City with Vibrant Cafe Culture

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is made for strolling. Wander along the tree-lined Strossmayer promenade, which winds along the city’s medieval defensive walls to the Upper Town, offering panoramic views over the red rooftops and church spires of the Lower Town.

Afterward, stop at the open-air Dolac Market, where farmers peddle their fresh produce under bright red umbrellas. Then, do as the locals do and head for a coffee on Flower Square (Cvjetni trg) to experience Zagreb’s lively cafe culture.

A great way to explore Zagreb, Croatia is to book a free walking tour, which offers an immersive and budget-friendly experience of the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Guided by knowledgeable locals, these tours take you through Zagreb’s charming streets, revealing hidden gems and historical landmarks such as Ban Jelačić Square, the Zagreb Cathedral, and the colorful Dolac Market. Along the way, you’ll hear captivating stories and insights that you might miss on your own, providing a deeper understanding of the city’s unique character. Perfect for travelers looking to make the most of their visit, free walking tours are an excellent way to connect with both the city’s past and present, all while enjoying the company of fellow explorers

With its sun-drenched coastline, breathtaking natural wonders, and rich cultural heritage, Croatia is a destination that promises to captivate your senses and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime. Whether you’re seeking a panoramic sunset tour, an immersive dive into history, or a serene escape amidst nature’s embrace, this enchanting nation has something to offer every traveler.