I have recently returned from Croatia and regular readers of my blog will know that I LOVE it!! With stunning scenery, gorgeous azure seas, quaint old towns and endless ruins, the country is jam-packed with incredible places to visit. For more inspiration, I asked a bunch of wonderful travel bloggers to showcase 12 amazing destinations in Croatia. I challenge you to check these out and not book a flight via Skypicker. I have included some helpful suggestions on possible places to stay too but if you like to be in control of your own destiny, simply head to Hotels.com and browse at your leisure.
Dugi Otok – Me
Dugi Otok is a small island off Zadar which you can visit on the local ferries. We headed there to sea kayak. We had a spectacular day paddling around the coastline, exploring sea caves and feasting on tuna steaks. The trip out to the island is utterly sublime. You pass untouched islands, flotillas of sailing boats and incredible vistas. Once you get to the island, there is little in the way of civilisation and only three roads to get around. But surely the highlight of this island is the ability to explore the coast in peace? It truly is gorgeous.
Budget stay: Stay in Zadar and take the ferry to the island. The Bridge Luxury Apartments are opposite the old town on the waterside. Rooms cost £70 in May 2020. It is a short drive to the ferry port from here.
Luxury stay: The Almayer Art and Heritage Hotel in Zadar is in a central location in the old town and oozes class. Rooms cost £204 in May 2020.
Varazdin – Tea of the Culture Tourist
Croatia is well known for its Adriatic coast, but there are also many interesting places to visit in the north. The city of Varaždin is one of them. It is around 80 kilometres north of the country’s capital, Zagreb, and you can easily visit it on a day trip from the capital.
Varaždin is home to many beautiful Baroque palaces and churches. In fact, its nickname is the ‘Baroque pearl’ of Croatia. Some beautiful houses are located around Miljenko Stančić’s Square and it’s a lovely place to have a coffee. To enjoy it the Croatian way, sip it for at least an hour as you chat with your friends.
Korzo is the main square in Varaždin and where you can see its old city hall and many beautiful old mansions. It’s also the site of the Varaždin Cathedral. You’ll recognize it by its gorgeous light pink Baroque façade. Another place not to be missed in Varaždin is the Old Town Fortress. It is a symbol of the city and houses a city museum that you can visit.
Budget stay: The Apartment Travel Hub is a short walk from the town centre and has great views. Rooms cost from £54 in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Arbia Dorka Heritage Palace is an upscale B & B in central Varazdin. Rooms cost £132 on the 7th September 2019.
Hvar – Hanna of Solar Powered Blonde
Hvar is a small island off the coast of Split and is easy to reach by boat. It is full of beautiful, cream-coloured buildings, small streets and amazing ice cream. Hvar Town is busy by the harbour, but if you take a five-minute walk along the coast, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. There are also some great places to stay.
Hvar is a great place to kayak or rent a boat to explore the coastline. There is a road that stretches from Hvar Town along the coast which allows you to explore the beaches along the way. If you don’t have a car, there are buses to small towns such as Jelsa. The town is delightful with its peaceful small streets and old churches.
Hvar is also a hilly island and for a great viewpoint, walk up to the fortress for a view of the island. You can also see all the orange rooftops and yachts in the marina.
Budget stay: The Art Deco PapeArt Deco Pape is self catering accommodation in a quiet part of town from £58 in October 2019.
Luxury stay: The Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort has access to a beach, generous swimming pool and rooms with views over the coast from £132 in October 2019.
Pula – Maggie of The World Was Here
If you’re looking for a great, historical place to visit in Croatia, then Pula is an excellent choice.
As the largest city in Croatia’s Istria region, Pula may not be as instantly beautiful as nearby cities like Rovinj, however, it has a lot to offer visitors. The most notable tourist attraction is undoubtedly Pula Arena. It is an incredible Roman amphitheatre considered to be the best-preserved ancient monument in the country.
However, there is more to the city than the arena. It is worth staying a couple of nights in Pula and the surrounding area. Visit the House of Istrian Olive Oil, where you can learn about the history of Olive Oil in the region and try samples of different types of locally-produced oils. Or, go on a day trip to nearby Brijuni island. Once the summer home of former Yugoslav Josip Broz Tito, today it acts as a nature reserve and wildlife park.
If you want a fun and interesting place to visit in Croatia, you can’t go wrong with Pula.
Budget stay: The City Center Pula Apartment offers modern self-catering accommodation less than 0.5 miles from the arena for less than £50 a night in October 2019.
Luxury stay: The Villa Brandestini offers opulent rooms with a rooftop terrace and hottub overlooking the city for a mere £754 a night in May 2020!!
Omis – Greta of Gretas Travels
Omis is a picturesque little town, just 25km away from Split. It is located by the mouth of the Cetina River by the Adriatic Sea.
It has a very well preserved Old Town centre and is surrounded by steep mountains. There is also a big beach with clear water right next to the town centre. In the centre of the Old Town there is a small fort that you can visit and climb. From there, you can enjoy stunning views over Omis and the surrounding landscape.
Omis is especially famous amongst adventurous travellers who seek to explore nearby Cetina Canyon. You can white water raft, hike and zip-line in this canyon. The zip-line is one of the most famous in the world. It’s 150 metres high and 750 metres long, which makes it one of the longest and tallest zip-lines in the world. It also has stunning views over the Cetina Canyon. It’s slightly terrifying but definitely worth it!
Whether you want to add a relaxing beach vacation, a historical old town, or an adventurous getaway, to your Croatia itinerary, Omis can offer all these and more.
Budget stay: You can visit Omis on a day trip from Split. For a basic option in a convenient location, you can book simple rooms at the Hotel Manufaktura from £57 in May 2020.
Luxury stay: For a luxury option in the city book into the Meridian which has an incredible pool and beachside location. Rooms are reasonable from £132 in May 2020.
Rovinj – Lori of Travlinmad
In their haste to get to the Dalmatian Coast and Dubrovnik, many people overlook one of the most charming destinations in Croatia. That is Rovinj, an historic city and fishing port on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula.
On the the Adriatic Sea across from Venice, Rovinj is more laid back and less crowded than the tourist towns along the south coast. The Venetians ruled here for centuries and their influence can be seen in the architecture of the Old Town, and in the local cuisine. Narrow cobblestone streets wind through historical buildings that are now home to boutique hotels, cafes and restaurants, small shops, and markets with fresh fruits and vegetables.
There are so many fun things to do in Rovinj. There is a truffle festival in October and an olive oil festival in November. We especially loved sampling Croatian wines at the annual Rovingno Wine Festival in September. But, what really takes center stage in Rovinj is seafood. It is always fresh and often paired with homemade pasta for some amazing local dishes.
End your day with an evening stroll along the waterfront and through the softly lit streets of the Old Town.
Budget stay: Villa Marea is a short walk to the town and has an outdoor pool with rooms from £65 in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Spirito Santo Palazzo Storico is a gorgeous property with stylish rooms and a quaint courtyard in the heart of the city. Rooms are from £186 in May 2020.
Motovun – Jessica of One Girl, Whole World
If you only visit the south of Croatia, you have no idea how much you’re missing. Croatia’s north is filled with beautiful medieval hill towns, cute seaside villages, Roman ruins, truffles, wine, olive oil, and more! Rent a car and spend a few days in the hill towns of the Istrian peninsula. It’s like Tuscany but less crowded and more affordable.
If you had to pick just one hill town to see, Motovun (moh-toh-voon) is the one. Very few cars are allowed in Motovun, so you’ll pay a few kuna to park at the bottom of the hill. It’s a steep walk up an old cobblestone street to enter the ancient town wall and gate.
If you’re hungry, there’s an amazing restaurant set right in the wall where you can feast on incredible truffle risotto and local wine. Burn off the calories with a walk along the top of the town walls and soak up amazing views of the countryside. Afterwards, stroll the narrow streets and alleys before hitting the road for more hill town adventures!
Budget stay: Villa Borgo offers spectacular views from its terrace and rooms from £65 in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Kempinski Palace Portoroz may be just over the border in Slovenia but it epitomises luxury with its huge pool and seafront location. Rooms cost from £223 per night in May 2020 and give you the opportunity to visit another country!
Zagreb – Emily of Wander-lush
One of Central Europe’s great cities, Zagreb is more than worthy of a place on your Croatia itinerary.
Zagreb’s history dates back to the Middle Ages. Its two oldest neighbourhoods, Kaptol and Gradec, used to sit on opposing hills before the city started to sprawl out through the valley. Today, Kaptol and Gradec make up the centre of Old Zagreb, with Ban Jelačić Square linking the two. This is a logical place to start your exploration of the city.
On the western hill, you’ll find iconic St. Mark’s. The best views of the church’s tiled roof are from the top of Lotrscak Tower. Many of Zagreb’s must-see attractions are also within walking distance of the square. These include the Dolac green market, Tunel Gric, the funicular, and some of Zagreb’s best museums and galleries, including the popular Museum of Broken Relationships.
The southern part of central Zagreb is characterised by its turn-of-the-century architecture, including the beautiful Kallina House. You can also walk the ‘Green Horseshoe’, a ribbon of parks and gardens that form a U-shape.
Check out this picture from our recent trip. It shows a relaxation area in one of the many parks and we could not get enough of it.
Zagreb is a great place to get acquainted with Croatia’s gastronomic heritage. Sample rakija, a fiery spirit beloved in the Balkans and make sure you try zagorski štrukli, a traditional baked pastry dish with a sweet or savoury filling.
Budget stay: The Residence Park Apartments are a short walk to the station and offer modern self-catering accommodation for those on a budget. Rooms cost from £37 a night in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Hotel Esplanade has rooms from £193 in May 2020. It is in a great location, with a spa and luxurious furnishings.
Pag – Mateja from Roaming Goblin
Pag is smaller than Krk island but large enough to cater to all types of travellers. It is around 300 km from Zagreb, and 50 km from Zadar. Ferries connect the island to the mainland as does a bridge.
Handmade stone walls separate different pastures and olive groves. In the centuries old gardens of Lun you can see a 1,600 years old olive tree. Paški sir (local sheep cheese) is something you should try. Various fish dishes, octopus salads, cured ham with olives and lamb dishes are all part of the local menu.
Party people love Novalja with its Zrče Beach and world famous clubs Papaya, Kalypso, and Aquarius. Youngsters flock here for the annual music festivals but this year, ten thousand festival visitors had to be evacuated from Zrče due to a forest fire.
Bosana, Rucica and Simuni beach are only a few of the more family friendly beaches.
Historic Pag town is perfect for a day trip. Lace makers can be found in Kralja Tomislava or Kralja Dmitra Zvonimira. Stroll around the small old town, try some sheep cheese or an ice-cream and enjoy one of the town’s pebbly beaches.
Budget stay: Apartments Vozab is centrally located and costs £47 for a night in May 2020.
Split – Coni from Experiencing the Globe
Get lost in the narrow alleys of Split while discovering many picturesque stops. Discover the city’s main feature, the 1,700 years old Diocletian Palace, or Saint Domnius, a pagan temple turned Cathedral. Look for an authentic Egyptian sphinx in the Peristyle, wander around the basement (the place where the Game of Thrones dragons were kept), and head to the golden gate to meet Grgur Ninski. This 8.5 meter (28 ft) tall statue was created by Croatian sculpture Ivan Meštrović. The legend states that if you touch his toe, you’ll return to Split. Finish the day in Pjaca, the center of the palace. Look for the 24 hour clock, and grab a glass of Croatian wine or a shot of the local spirit, rakija.
The most popular beach in town is Bačvice is only a few hundred meters from the Palace, and it’s calm and shallow. It is ideal for kids and for playing the local summer game, Picigin (players throw a small ball and keep it from touching the water). Alternatively, if you want to avoid the crowds, go to Kašjuni beach, or if you want to explore nature, go for a hike in the lush Marjan park
Stay: See Omis for some suggestions.
Krka National Park – Ashlea of Dashing Around The World
While the famous beaches and spectacular islands are an essential part of your Croatia Itinerary, there’s an equally beautiful natural wonder only an hour away from Split; the gorgeous waterfalls of Krka National Park. The national park sprawls over 100 square kilometres surrounding the Krka River in Southern Croatia. Krka National Park is the perfect place to unwind after the heat and chaos of Split or Dubrovnik.
The journey begins with a boat ride from the dock in Skradin. It makes it’s way down the Krka river, past thick foliage and picturesque bridges. You’ll hear the falls before you see them; the seventeen roaring waterfalls of Skradinski Buk (the most popular attraction of the park).
Something as beautiful and instagram-worthy as these falls inevitably attracts a crowd, so our advice is to try visit earlier in the day. Don’t be afraid to wade into the water for the perfect shot! The water is perfectly safe to swim in (if a bit cold), but may close following heavy rain. After your swim, you can dry-off and warm up on some of the many walking trails spread throughout the park.
Day trips to the park regularly run from the main tourist destinations of Croatia. But, if you want to beat the crowds, stay overnight in the town of Skradin for an early start!
Budget stay: Damir offers basic self-catering accommodation near to the cathedral in Sibenic. Rooms cost from £37 a night in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Heritage Hotel Life Palace is a short drive from the park in Sibenic. It offers specatacular views of the old town, rustic but luxurious accommodation and a spa. Rooms cost from £473 in May 2020.
Plitvice Lakes National Park – Erika of Erika’s Travels
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Europe. It is an undeniable highlight of Croatia. A popular day trip from Zagreb or Split, the National Park is a wonderland of interlocking lakes and waterfalls.
Within the boundaries of the park, cascades tumble into a string of sixteen lakes that reflect the lush vegetation of their surroundings. The lakes are known for their brilliant shades of blue and green that change color depending on the sunlight.
The lakes are very popular. To avoid the crowds, the best time to visit is in May or September
Travellers who visit outside peak season can expect lower prices too. The entry fee to the lakes costs €7.50 between November and March. It rises to €20 in spring and fall and €34 euros in July and August.
With picturesque waterfalls and mirror-like pools, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a fairytale landscape. Despite large crowds and a steep entrance fee, Croatia’s stunning natural attraction is a must.
Anne: I couldn’t agree more. Plitvice is simply amazing as you can see.
Budget stay: The Rustic Lodge offers rustic (doh!!) rooms just a few miles from the park. Rooms cost from £67 in May 2020.
Luxury stay: The Plitvice San is an upmarket villa with an hotdoor and barbecue area less than 10 miles from the park. The villa costs £931 per night in May 2020 but sleeps six in three bedrooms.
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What do you think?
Wow, that’s quite the round-up of 12 stunning places to visit in the country. Have we missed any though? Feel free to have your say in the comments.