Croatia is a wondrous place rich in natural beauty, history, and culture. I had heard a lot of good things about Croatia over the years, and I have to say the country exceeded my expectations. The landscape is stunning; mountains lining beautiful coastlines with secluded beaches, crystal clear water, and rolling hills make it an interesting mixture of Iceland, Jamaica, and Southern France. History and beautiful architecture can be found around just about every corner. The people are amazing; extremely friendly, great sense of humor, and English is widely spoken. And of course, the local cuisine is incredible.
There is so much beauty in Croatia and so my list of the top 10 things to see and do was placed in no particular order.
Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s most glamorous tourist destinations centered on the magnificent old town. The medieval city is contained within sturdy medieval defensive walls and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Any first-time sightseeing tour of the city should begin with a walk around the ramparts (the complete circuit measures over a mile), which incorporate fortresses, towers, and cannons overlooking the sea. From high up on the walls, you can enjoy amazing views over the old town rooftops and out across the glistening Adriatic Sea.
The city also serves as the home of King’s Landing in the HBO series Game of Thrones! Tours and activities can be found ranging from Game of Thrones show tours, Old Town walking tours, and jetskiing around the coastal waters!
One of the most captivating old city centers I’ve ever seen. Split, Croatia’s second biggest city after Zagreb, was created around the ancient Roman remains of Emperor Diocletian’s Palace. Overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the palace was built in 305 AD for Diocletian’s retirement and within the walls, you can see the magnificent Peristyle, where now lies the Cathedral of St. Domnius with its elegant bell-tower. The entire old town is pedestrian-only and has been proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site. Roam the ancient streets, visit beautiful historic sights, and take in the coastal scenery on the Promenade.
3. Waterfalls at Krka National Park
Named after the Krka River, Krka (pronounced Kirka) covers an area of roughly 90 sq miles and includes two thirds of the river itself. The top attraction are its magnificent waterfalls, including the famous Skradinski Buk falls which are one of Croatia’s most prized natural treasures. Swim, eat, and relax as you take in the gorgeous falls. There’s a footpath following the river up and around that offers even more tiered waterfalls. The nearest town is Skradein, where you can reach the falls by boat or footpath. Touring by boat is a popular way to see the natural beauty of the Park.
4. Pag Island
Pag is a gorgeous island on the Northern Dalmatian coast; the second-longest island in the Adriatic covering an area of 110 square miles. Due to the strong “Bura” wind, the island has very little vegetation, but the numerous stone walls built by farmers and shepherds create a special charm. In recent years, Pag has become increasingly popular as one of Croatia’s premier party destinations. With a lot of open-air clubs right on the beach that features several summer music festivals, Zrce Beach is the perfect place for those who want to party away their holiday.
There’s plenty more on the island besides clubbing the night away. Pag Town, roughly in the center of the island, is famous for its lace-making, and the local cheese – paski sir (meaning, Pag cheese) – that is made from sheep’s milk. Natural beauty is plentiful and the island is full of secluded beaches just waiting to be discovered.
If you want to enjoy the island beauty without the crowds you will need to avoid late June-August, as this is the high season for the area. Before mid-June and you can enjoy endless beauty with little to no people. Riding scooters around the island was definitely one of my favorite experiences in Croatia!
5. Yacht Tour of the Coastal Islands
This is a unique way to see the many islands around the Croatian coast. The Yacht Tours are growing in popularity with all different age groups. Choose your Yachting tour and island hop around Croatia and explore some of the best destinations the Med has to offer. Join as an individual or a group onboard our flotilla of yachts where you can grab the wheel, hoist the sails and jump in the crisp blue waters whenever the mood strikes. The tours come in all shapes and sizes; but they are reasonable at just $500-$600 for a 7 day island tour.
6. Brac Island
Brač is a popular island off the coast of Split, accessible by ferry and catamaran. Croatia’s most photographed beach is Zlatni Rat (the Golden Horn) on the south coast of Brač Island. Backed by a cluster of pine trees offering shade and overlooked by the rocky heights of Vidova Gora mountain, it is lined in summer with sunbeds and umbrellas. The sea is warm enough to swim from June through September, and some people can manage in May and October, too. Further attractions on the beach include water sports such as paddle boats, sea kayaks, and banana boat rides. Zlatni Rat is also Croatia’s top wind surfing destination. Brač is accessible by ferry and catamaran from Split.
7. Plitvice National Park
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s most popular tourist attractions. Located roughly halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast, the lakes were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979 and are a definite must-see. The beauty of the National Park lies in its sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, and set in deep woodland populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species.
Zadar’s car-free old town is built on a small peninsula. Its top attractions are its fine Romanesque churches, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and filled with religious paintings and ornate golden treasures. Be sure to check out the 9th-century pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donatus; the 11th-century Church of St. Mary; and the Cathedral of Anastasia and the Church of St. Chrysogonus, both from the 12th century. Other things to see include the Museum of Ancient Glass, and the Sea Organ; a fascinating series of pipes built into the bedrock that creates music from the incoming tide.
Hvar is the longest and the sunniest Croatian island and touted as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Hvar Town is also home to some of the country’s top hotels and best seafood restaurants. Dating back to the years spent under Venetian-rule in the 15th century, its car-free old town is made up of a spacious main square overlooked by a 16th-century cathedral, a picturesque fishing harbor, and a hilltop fortress. Hvar is popular with yachters and celebrities, as well as travelers who come here to enjoy its beaches and watersports. The island is served by ferry from Split.
Zagreb is the capitol city of Croatia, and is very different than the coastal cities the country is known for. the main sightseeing area is the medieval Gornji Grad(Upper Town). Here, attractions include the cathedral with its Neo-Gothic façade and twin steeples; the Croatian Sabor (Parliament); the Church of St. Mark with its colored tiled roof; and the 13th-century Tower of Lotrščak, which you can climb for fantastic views over the city rooftops. Also be sure to catch most people’s favorite, the much-loved Museum of Broken Relationships.