Croatia offers almost everything what we can expect from our beloved travel destination.
First of all, a highly diversified nature, then perfectly visible Mediterranean vibes (appreciated by many) as well as the kindness and hospitality of Croatian citizens. While traveling in Croatia you can discover a wide range of different landscapes including the Dinaric Mountains, eight national parks (e.g. the world-famous Plitvice Lakes National Park), the long and rocky Dalmatian Coast or almost eighty islands on the Mediterranean Sea. In Croatia, you will be intrigued by the medieval architecture in the city of Trogir, the traces of the Roman Empire in Pula or the majestic city of Dubrovnik. On the other hand, here, almost like anywhere else, you can experience the charm of everyday life without the crowds, noise, and hustle of big cities. Croats will captivate you by the simplicity of “being”, ordinary kindness and their everyday smile.
Below, I describe 20 subjectively selected places in Croatia that are worth visiting whether you spend your vacation days here, or organize a longer road trip through various points on the map. I have visited all of the listed places and each of them confirms the original and intriguing image of Croatia as a country full of diversity that needs to be explored in greater depth.
Croatia travel guide: what to see in Croatia
1. Going off the beaten track in Zagreb
Zagreb means nature—the northern part of the city is located on the hill, and it's surrounded by the National Park Medvednica. When planning a visit to the capital of Croatia, it's worth spending a few days on the outskirts of the city with a forest peeping through the windows, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the local atmosphere. In just several minutes of walk from the center of the city, you will arrive at the trails and mountain areas.
2. Lokrum Island
Lokrum Island is located just off Dubrovnik and is one of the main tourist attractions when visiting the city. The island is uninhabited and it’s a nature reserve, where you can spot beautiful species of cacti, admire the surrounding peaks of the mountains or take advantage of sea baths between the coves filled with subtropical vegetation.
3. Trogir Old Town
Trogir is located on the Croatian coast. The city is well-known because of the medieval old town that has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Old Town is entirely located on the island and it’s surrounded by defensive city walls. To get to know the city well, spend a few hours walking between the historic streets and unhurriedly discovering all the nooks and corners. These are exactly the places where - in contrast to the main squares of Trogir - you can discover the most of its charm.
4. Zadar Old Town
Zadar is one of the largest port cities on the Croatian coast. It’s famous due to the historic old town that combines both the remains of the Roman period and the neighborhood of Romanesque and Baroque architecture. What completes this mosaic of various architectural periods in Zadar is a modern sundial built on the promenade by the sea just outside the city walls.
5. Croatian coast
Croatia has access to the Dalmatian coast stretches for miles in length, where you will find a lot of beautiful and diverse beaches. The country is known primarily for stony ones, which are often interspersed with caves. Some beaches are easily accessible from the main roads and pavements, while access to the others may require going through the cliffs. A common feature of many Croatian beaches is the cleanliness - many of them have received a blue flag certificate that rates beaches for its water quality. It’s worth to remember about protective footwear while visiting Croatian beaches, due to the sea urchins common in this part of Europe.
See also: Sunset over the Croatian coast
Dubrovnik is the most recognizable city in Croatia, well-known for every fan of Game of Thrones and also a place described on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Dubrovnik is considered the most beautiful city on the entire Croatian coast with a rich history and medieval architecture. It includes among others defensive walls reaching even 22 meters, narrow, picturesque streets and Mediterranean vegetation (on the Dubrovnik Riviera you can see and feel the whole range of tropical fruits, trees, and plants, including oranges, pine, cypresses, bay leaves or rosemary).
7. Island Pag
Pag is located only a half hour drive from Zadar. The island has an unusual, longitudinal shape (in total it’s almost 70 km long) and offers unusual but stunning views, completely different from those found in the continental part of Croatia. The island of Pag it’s well-known due to its rather raw, “lunar” landscapes. You won’t find much greenery here, however, everywhere you look at you can see the hills with white sand, yellowish grass, and stones. The most frequent companions of your journey across the island are flocks of sheep grazing on the hills.
8. Islands Brac and Hvar
Almost 80 islands in total belong to Croatia, and Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Krk are among the most popular ones. On the Croatian islands, there are both small-sized towns, walking routes surrounded by orange trees and olive groves, as well as long coasts encouraging to walking here and there for hours. You can reach most of the islands using boats from the mainland.
9. Old Split, Croatia
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and - at the same time - the largest one on the coast. In the very central part of Split, there are located many historic remains of the Roman Empire. It includes e.g. the famous ruins of the Diocletian's Palace, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list and the Cathedral of St. Dujam. You can also have a walk by a long promenade enjoying the sunset over the sea and rooftops. The historical center of Split co-exists here with blocks of flats located in other parts of the city and more modern residential complexes.
10. Dubrovnik Riviera
The Dubrovnik Riviera (officially known as the Zupa Dubrovacka) stretches for 20 km in total from Dubrovnik to Cavtat. It’s a mountainous peninsula in the southern part of Dalmatia that abounds in many picturesque paths and routes, offering phenomenal views of the cliffs and rocky beaches.
11. The beaches in Pag
Due to the highly characteristic landscape, the journey through Pag is like discovering completely unknown terrain. The island has many roads that are almost empty especially outside of the peak season. There are also smaller and larger beaches hidden far away from the main routes. Organize a road trip through Pag especially in the off-season as even in October the temperature here is about 25*C.
12. Sailing in the Adriatic Sea
Croatia is one of the most frequently chosen destinations by sailors and people who are fascinated about cruising. It offers excellent weather conditions for more than six months per year, the long coast, lots of islands and crystal clear sea water with colorful fishes. Sailing holidays in Croatia on a crewed sailing yacht can be an interesting alternative or an adventure that complements the journey through the continental part of the country.
13. The town of Pag
Pag is a small size charming town located on the island of Pag with just over 5,000 inhabitants. The center of the town has several buildings from the Roman period, a small port, numerous alleys filled with orange trees. From almost every place in the old town of Pag, you can spot beautiful views of the hills of the island.
14. Coastal towns and villages on the Croatian coast
Dalmatia consists of small villages and towns full of Mediterranean vegetation. Go for a long walk through one of many small streets with orange trees or olives alleys and try to feel very calm but friendly vibes. From time to time, you will come across villages with a few houses only. However, the colorful architecture and energy of local people will seem to be perfectly bigger and more intense. Don’t be surprised if you forget what the date is while living your perfectly slow life somewhere on the Croatian coast.
15. Nature Park Medvednica
Medvednica mountain range is located just behind Zagreb (there is public transportation available that connects mountain areas with the city center). It’s the main destination for the majority of residents when want to organize a weekend trip outside the city. The largest peak of Medvednica is called Sljeme and it’s located 1033 m above sea level.
16. Road trip in Croatia
A road trip through Croatia is one of the best ideas for those of you who want to explore various regions at the same time. Regardless of the part of the country that you choose as the destination of your trip, the landscapes around simply won’t allow you to stay longer anywhere. There are mountain areas, lakes, picturesque valleys, lush forests, diverse islands, long bridges and smaller wooden ones located between waterfalls. All you want to do is just drive continuously, drive further!
17. Plitvice Lakes National Park and other national parks
There are eight national parks in Croatia in total, including the most famous Plitvice Lakes National Park—a huge natural area with 16 lakes and numerous waterfalls. The smaller, but equally attractive waterfalls are located in the Krka National Park in the south of the country.
Gradac is a small town at the very end of the Makarska Riviera. It offers direct access to olive groves and the coast with its typical Croatian architecture, long beaches and the views over the mountain peaks. It’s also the starting point for day-trips to the islands like Brac and Hvar.
19. Old Town Zagreb
Zagreb is located in the north of Croatia not far from the borders with Slovakia and Hungary. It’s the capital city, and the largest one in the country, however, you won’t find here the hustle and bustle of big cities, nor the architecture typical to them. Zagreb has exactly the same vibes as the rest of the country—the pace of everyday life is slow here, everything moves in its own rhythm without unnecessary rush. A bit old-fashioned blue trams glide slowly through the city, and the streets of the old town are still illuminated by gas lamps lit by a lighthouse keeper.
20. Pula and other cities on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia
Pula is the largest city in Istria, famous for its location on seven hills and historical buildings—including the centrally located amphitheater called the Pula Arena, the Temple of Augustus, and the Roman Forum. The nearby Croatian islands and the coastal areas offer an ideal environment for camping.
Have you already had the opportunity to visit Croatia? What other interesting places or things to do in Croatia do you recommend especially?