Croatia Travel Guide: What to See and Do in Croatia
General Information of Croatia
Croatia, a country with a population of just over 4 million inhabitants, offers many possibilities to enjoy your holidays. The Croatian national territory is 56,594 km2, with 31,479 km2 of coastal waters, suitable for sailing, swimming and diving.
Located on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, it has an amazing natural and cultural heritage. With more than 1,200 islands and reefs, eight places declared National Parks and eleven Natural Parks. To all this we must add 7 monuments that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Croatia varies significantly in its Mediterranean and continental parts - from nature and vegetation to gastronomic delights, even northern and southern European cultural influences, when it comes to the attitude of the people.
Geographical Location of Croatia
Map of Croatia on Google Maps
What to See and Do in Croatia?
Croatia is a beautiful destination favored by the history of Central Europe and its climatic conditions, an ideal destination for a vacation break. An ideal place to visit in any season of the year as it has a multitude of tourist attractions that will make all its visitors fall in love. It has paradisiacal beaches, charming stone villages, a lot of history, impressive ruins of the Roman Empire, walled cities, amazing landscapes, natural wonders, a rich and varied gastronomy and very nice people, as well as good prices.
It is a very versatile tourist destination, which allows you to enjoy the summer, with nautical activities and numerous excursions on the mainland and winter, in the continental zone with its recreational, winter and rural centers. Croatia is undoubtedly one of the most complete European tourist destinations on the continent.
Possibly the most visited tourist destination in Croatia is Dubrovnik, a city that today, fortunately, has nothing to do with the one that was bombed in 1991. Its history can be seen as soon as you arrive. A walk along the walls that surround it and a tour of the historic center visiting its churches seem more than essential.
Zagreb, the capital of the country, is another of its great tourist destinations. It is the largest city in Croatia and has 20 theatres, 30 museums and more than 25 art galleries and a magnificent artistic and monumental heritage. The Assumption Cathedral, old baroque and medieval churches and the Medvednica Natural Park are its most attractive arguments.
The Istrian Peninsula is another of the charms of Croatia. On the shores of the Adriatic, it offers beautiful and historic medieval cities, such as Pula (where you can see its Roman amphitheatre), Rovinj, Vrsar or Novigrad (coastal cities) and Pazin, Motovun and Groznjan, further inland. Sea, sunny coasts, ports, bays, medieval hills, citadels… All this is part of Istria.
There are other spots that are impossible to leave behind in Croatia, such as Sibenik and its Renaissance past, Split and its Diocletian's Palace, the medieval churches of Zadar, Trogir and its Greek and Venetian walls, the Dalmatian coast, coastal towns like Hvar, Korcula and Mljet, and the landscapes of the Dinaric Alps and the wonderful Plitvice Lakes.
It is the second largest city in Croatia with an old town that will captivate you from the first minute. Protected by Unesco and beautiful both day and night, especially thanks to the majestic Roman Palace of Diocletian, not to be missed next to the Makarska Riviera and the islands of Solta, Brac, Hvar and Vis.
Capital of Croatia and also one of the most beautiful cities. Its historical buildings will make you feel like you are in one of the main capitals of Central Europe. You will find all kinds of facilities and you will not tire of visiting monuments. Of course, it is far from the coast and many kilometers from Dubrovnik, which is why many tourists decide to discard their visit without knowing what they are missing.
Main Sights of Zagreb
Ban Jelacic Square
Located in the historic center of the city, it is one of the most iconic images of Zagreb. It is the center of social life, the center of the pedestrian zone and a meeting place for locals.
The Upper City
It combines numerous narrow streets between two hills, Kaptol and Gradec, between which there are numerous attractions, such as St. Mark's Square (where the Croatian Parliament resides), the Stone Gate (in the past it played a defense role and today is a square where to buy a candle and pray for whatever is bothering you at the moment), the Dolac market and the Museum of Broken Relationships, a reminder of the consequences of love gone wrong.
Be sure not to miss the splendid Lotrscak Tower or the Klaricevi Dvori gallery. The Upper City also offers a wide variety of cafes and bars where you can rest after a long day.
Also in the Upper Town, it is really an exceptional visit. This Gothic-style sacred building is the tallest in Croatia at about 108 meters high and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
It is the oldest park in Croatia. The landscape is reminiscent of English gardens and the best way to discover it is by walking slowly. You can reach the park by taking trams 11 and 12 from Ban Jelacic Square. If you are traveling with children, it is a good idea to take them to the Zoo, located in the southern part of the park. Nearby is also the stadium of Zagreb's football club, Dinamo.
To the north of Zagreb is the Medvednica mountain, whose highest peak is Sljeme. The name would translate as "the mountain of the bear". What makes the mountain particularly interesting is the winter sports center where the Croatian World Cup Alpine Ski Race is held. Medvednica currently has the status of “nature park”, it is home to many species of animals and plants. Some of the trees that grow there have more than a thousand years of history. In short, if you like nature and hiking, you should explore Medvednica.
You can also explore other points of interest near Zagreb, such as Plitvice Lakes or Trakoscan Castle.
What to Do in Dubrovnik
Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and without being, for many it is the most beautiful city in the country. A jewel within medieval walls, bathed by a sapphire sea and surrounded by mountains. It has become one of the most requested destinations by Europeans during the summer, something that is not surprising considering how much it can offer tourists.
Culturally it is a box of surprises, the views of the Adriatic Sea are privileged and the beaches stand out for the purity of their crystalline waters. Of course, most of them are made of stones.
Dubrovnik is a city that invites to walk and most of the attractions are concentrated within the walled and pedestrian city. Some of the things that we can do in addition to visiting the typical monuments is to spend a day at the beach, walk around the city at dusk, watch the sunset at Café Buza outside the wall or visit the photographic exhibition "War Photo Limited", with photos of the Balkan war in the early 90s.
With a height of 22 meters, a thickness between 1.5 and 6 meters and about 2 kilometers in length, the tour of the walls of the Old City of Dubrovnik is essential to contemplate all the beauty from another point of view.
There are three entrances to the wall, the Pile Gate, the San Juan Fortress and the San Lucas Fortress. It is in the first where the tour usually begins, since the tickets to climb the walls are sold there. In addition, in the square located in front of the Pile gate are the main bus and taxi ranks.
Onofrio's Great Fountain
Polygonal in shape and with 16 mask-shaped water pipes, it was badly damaged during the great earthquake of 1667, losing part of its original beauty.
On hot summer days, you can see dozens of people cooling off around them. And it is that in the square that houses the fountain, there is also the Dubrovnik tourist office and the Franciscan Monastery that stands out for its Romanesque-Gothic cloister and because it houses the third oldest pharmacy in Europe, which has been operating since 1317.
Placa or Stradum Street
It is the main thoroughfare of the old town of Dubrovnik. The 300 meters in length, from the Puerta de Pile to the Old Port, are full of shops, bars, and restaurants where you can sit down for a while to rest and have a delicious ice cream or a soft drink. For many, the best ice cream parlor in Dubrovnik is Dolce Vita, on Naljeshkoviceva 1a street. If you are traveling in winter and don't feel like ice cream, don't worry: the crepes are also magnificent.
It is a Gothic-Renaissance building, formerly used as the Customs House and the Mint, it houses the State Archives and the room in memory of those who died during the defense of Dubrovnik in the War of Independence (1991-1995).
Next to the palace is the Luža Bell Tower, which has two bronze figures that mark the hours with mallets on the great bell designed in 1506. The figures are copies, since the originals are kept in the Sponza Palace.
Saint Blaise Church
Built at the beginning of the 18th century, since the one that was previously located here was destroyed in a fire, leaving only a statue of San Blas, in whose honor the new church was erected.
Opposite the church of San Blas is the small Onofrio fountain which, like its older sister, was built as part of the public sewerage project of 1438.
It was the administrative center of the ancient Republic of Ragusa. From the Doge's Palace you could access the Palace of the Grand Council through a door where you can read the inscription: Obliti Privatorum Publica Curate (Forget private matters, take care of public ones).
In the Doge's Palace you can visit the historical cultural section of the city's museum, decorated with period furniture, exhibits and images of Italian and local artists.
Dubrovnik Old Port
In this small port it is possible to eat fresh fish in one of its restaurants. You can also hire boat trips along the Dubrovnik coast or to the island of Lokrum.
Opposite the Port is the Fortress of San Juan, built in 1346 and which houses the aquarium and the Dubrovnik Maritime Museum.
Dubrovnik Cable Car
It allows you to go up to the hill that is above the city to have the best panoramic views of the Old City and the Adriatic Sea.
Also, you can access the Museum of the War of Independence upstairs.
Get to Know the Lovrjenac Fortress
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will like to know that the Lovrjenac fortress served as the setting to recreate the Red Keep, where the Iron Throne is located. It is located outside the walls of the Old City, on a 37-meter-high cliff, and is open to visitors.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the must-sees in Croatia and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with an area of 30,000 hectares of forest, mainly beech forests that are home to numerous animal species. However, the protagonist is the water that has shaped the landscape over time.
There are 16 lakes of different sizes fed by the Korana River and interconnected by a dense network of cascades, canals, cataracts and waterfalls. These lakes are aligned forming a succession of just over five and a half kilometers.
It is the largest city in Istria, with about 60,000 inhabitants, and another one of those places that you should not miss if you travel to Croatia. What will surprise the visitor the most is the footprint left by the Romans.
Its star monument is the Pula Amphitheater (one of the largest and best preserved) although the Gate of Hercules, the Temple of Augustus or the Sergii Triumph Arch also stand out. Also, don't forget that you can always escape from its streets to relax in the Brijuni National Park or on one of its beautiful beaches.
It is a small city with a lot of history, more than 3,000 years, and the mixture of architectural styles that can be seen in its streets give a good account of the battles that were fought years ago. Its old wall, well protected by the port gates and the mainland gate, welcome you and invite you to visit the ruins of its old Roman forum, while you can visit several Romanesque churches. In addition, you should not miss the opportunity to listen to the sounds emitted by its sea organ, a true jewel created by the Croatian architect Nikola Basic that arouses the interest of tourists.
Beaches of Croatia
Along some 6,000 kilometers of the Croatian coast, including the islands, you can find a large number and diversity of beaches, of which 116 are perfectly equipped with everything that the visitor may need (boat rental, possibility of doing water sports, spaces enabled for children, bars and restaurants). We also find little-known beaches, almost virgin and lonely. All this without forgetting that the quality of its waters is considered “excellent”.
They are perfectly equipped. On the eastern coast, Lanterna stands out, and on the western, the Funtana naturist beach. If you are looking for wilder beaches, paradise is located a few kilometers from Pula, in the Cape Kamenjak reserve, 30 km of wonderful coves.
Another of the most beautiful beaches is in Rovinj, just a 15-minute walk away, Cala Lone, ideal for families with children, nearby there are small rocky coves for those seeking more privacy.
On the islands of this region there is a large number and variety of beaches, from the busiest such as Playa Paradisiaca (Rajska), on the island of Rab, a fully equipped sandy beach almost two km long. Even the loneliest and wildest with more difficult access and even by sea.
We also have the Playa de Vela, on the island of Krk, a pebble and sand beach of about 1,800 meters equipped with sports facilities and beach bars. On the same island and away from the crowds we can find the Stara Baska Beach.
The island of Losinj offers beautiful beaches along its entire coastline and is considered a health and wellness tourism destination.
San Juan Beach also stands out on the island of Cres, and on the mainland in the town of Lovran the Medveja Beach.
Here is one of the longest and best-known beaches, Playa de la Reina, 3 km of sand with warm waters.
For those with children, there is Playa de Jaz, another of the most outstanding and shallow. If we want the typical beach with crystalline waters that occupies all the covers of magazines, we can choose Sakarun Beach, on the island of Dugi Otok.
And we cannot forget Zrce Beach, on the island of Pag, the scene of electronic music festivals, discos, and boat parties throughout the summer.
In the Sibenik region, we find perfectly equipped beaches. One of the most popular Playa Blanca, about 700 meters long with sand and pebbles and shallow, is ideal for families with children and adapted for the disabled.
You will find the perfect bath in the Kornati National Park, these islands stand out for having a large number of coves and hundreds of islands protected as national parks that will delight divers and lovers of nautical tourism. There are sandy, pebble, and shallow beaches ideal for children.
On the Makarska Riviera that goes from the Dubrovnik border to the Omis border, about 60 km full of natural enclaves to enjoy a good bath.
One of the most beautiful beaches is Cabo Largo or Dugi Rat, about 900 meters long and made of pebbles and a pine forest that makes hot summer days more pleasant with its shade.
We must also mention the nudist beach of Nugal, a pebble bay surrounded by cliffs. We must not forget Bol Beach or Zlatni Rat, a spit of land due to the accumulation of sand and its turquoise waters that look like a swimming pool, Stiniva Beach, surrounded by cliffs, on the island of Vis, and for those looking for atmosphere festive the Carpe Diem Beach on the island of Hvar.
In the southern Dalmatian islands, we find the paradisiacal beaches of the island of Mljet and the Lastovo archipelago.
In the town of Saplurana, on the island of Mljet, the beaches are secluded and protected, perfect for enjoying the tranquility and almost untouched nature.
Lastovo Island is surrounded by 46 small islands with beautiful bays and cliffs with practically untouched nature. It is a Natural Park and one of the most beautiful beaches is that of Puerto Escondido (Skrivena Luka), indivisible from the high seas, protected from the wind and facing south, so its waters are warm.
Facing the island of Korčula on the small island of Proizd we find the dream beach of Batalo.
Already in the city of Dubrovnik, next to the historic center is Banje Beach, with views of the wall. About eleven kilometers from Mlini Beach and about 30 minutes by road we find the beach that led the ranking of best beach in 2019, Pasjaca.
Islands of Croatia
In Croatia, there are 1,244 islands and islets spread across the Adriatic from Damacia to Istria. Currently, only 50 islands are inhabited by small urban centers, generally fishing villages that live off national and international tourism.
Each island has its own attraction, traditions, and identity. They are all very pretty and an ideal destination for summer depending on whether you like to party or relax, the mountains or the beach, hiking or water sports... And the best thing is that most of them are located a few kilometers from the coast and well communicated from the main ports of the country.
It is one of the largest islands in the Adriatic and the best known in Croatia for its virgin forests, white sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Two of its most important attractions are the Blue Grotto and the Green Cave. At night, there is a lot of atmosphere since the places close at dawn. The ferry leaves from Split.
It is another of the largest in the Adriatic Sea. Famous because according to what the Croatians say, the famous Marco Polo was born here.
It is a perfect city to savor its beauty, wander aimlessly and enjoy the sunset, and where spend a few quiet days with the family. The ferry leaves from Dubrovnik between May and September, if you want to go at another time you will have to travel to the city of Orebic, three hours from Dubrovnik.
It is very close to the island of Hvar and it was opened to foreigners in 1989 as it was a strategic and military point of the former Yugoslavia. For this reason, its accommodation offer is limited. It is a quiet destination, ideal for relaxation, disconnection and enjoying as a couple.
Its beaches and coves are spectacular and on the small island of Bisevo hides the spectacular Blue Cave, where every day between 11 and 12 the sun's rays enter through an opening and are reflected in the water to a depth 16 meters, illuminating the cave with blue and silver colors.
In Vis you can taste the freshest fish in the whole country due to its fishing tradition and as a curiosity to say that the second part of Mamma Mia was filmed here.
It is the third largest island in Croatia and one of the most inhabited and with the most history. Many consider it the most beautiful in Croatia and it is perfect for sunbathing and doing all kinds of family activities. Here is the most famous beach in the whole country, the Bol beach that we named earlier.
As a curiosity, you should know that its white marble has been used for the construction of the White House in Washington and that the island is the highest point in the Adriatic, Vidova Gora, from where they say you can see Italy.
Brač has very good connections with Split.
It is very close to Dubrovnik and it is a very small island. The ferries leave from Puerto de la Cruz, right next to the bus station.
Mljet is famous for its National Park and its wonderful saltwater lakes located within the same park. It is an island that you will enjoy if you are a nature lover and a visit to Veliko Jezero (big lake) is recommended, where there is an islet called Santa Maria, which houses a Benedictine monastery from the 12th century and visit the town of Prozurska Luka.
Located in the north of the Adriatic Sea. It stands out for its original lunar landscape of ocher colors that blend with the sea’s turquoise blue. It is made up of two mountain ranges that run along the coast along its 63 km. You will find incredible, almost virgin beaches and small fishing villages.
On the north of the island is Lun, one of the three locations with the largest number of wild olive trees in the world, with specimens between 800 and 2,000 years old. On the other hand, if you like to party, remember that this is where the famous Zrce beach is.
Here you will find the best sandy beaches in Croatia, such as Paradise Beach (Rajska Plaza), San Marino, and Kampor. It is also famous for its coves,and natural bays and because naturism began in the country here.
If you come to Rab, it is mandatory to visit the historic center, with numerous palaces, churches, and four Roman bell towers that have become the distinctive symbol of the island, and go up to one of its many viewpoints to enjoy the beauty of the Adriatic.
In addition to being the second largest and most populated island in the northern Adriatic, it is also the easiest to reach as it is linked to the mainland by a bridge, and only a 2-hour drive from Zagreb airport.
It is known as 'The Golden Island', famous for its clean waters, which makes it ideal for scuba diving. Located in the warm Kvarner Bay, its landscape is very different between the north and the south. While the north is rocky and windy, in the south the vegetation predominates and there are the most beautiful beaches of the island, such as the sandy beach of Baska.
In Klimno Bay, the villages of Soline, famous for the salt pans dating from Roman times, and Melini, popular for its curative mud, stand out.
It is another of the islands that are perfect for lovers of nature, wild landscapes, dense forests and Mediterranean fragrance. If you like diving and sport fishing, Cres is a good place to practice them.
Connected with a bridge like the island of Krk and with a big difference between the north (oak and chestnut forests) and the south (almost desert due to the continuous wind). Its towns offer a seafaring atmosphere, delicious and fresh gastronomy, and good infrastructure on the beaches to spend family vacations.
Its great secret is Lake Vransko, there are many stories around it, to the point that they say that a castle lies in its depths and on stormy days the bells ring.
It has gone unnoticed for a long time, however, it offers visitors everything they need for a perfect vacation. It is a zen island, where you can enjoy and disconnect from the world, a place where it seems that time has not passed, but at the same time you can do sports activities, yoga sessions on the beach, workshops to revitalize body and mind. It is also possible to go on excursions to the National Parks of the Kornati or Krka islands. Boats depart from Sibenik and take you to paradise in just 45 minutes.
Croatian Gastronomic Tradition
The gastronomic tradition in Croatia is divided into two large groups, depending on its geographical location. On the one hand, the regions of the Adriatic Sea coast, with a strong Greek, Italian and French influence. On the other, those from the country's interior, with a Slavic tendency, have elements of Hungarian, Viennese and Turkish cuisine.
You cannot miss trying the classic Goulash, of Austro-Hungarian origin, prepared with beef, onion, tomato extract, chicken broth, and paprika. Cooking the meat takes at least two and a half hours. The result: very tender and seasoned meat, which, according to the experts, is cut only with a fork. It is served with white rice or boiled potatoes.
As for drinks, Croatia has an old wine tradition. The north is more famous for its white wines, while the south boasts its intense red wines. The most famous native grape varieties are Malvazija and Plavac Mali.
Rakija is a very strong alcoholic drink made from various herbs and fruits. It will probably be the first thing you are offered when you come to Croatia.
Best Time to Travel to Croatia
In the interior of Croatia, there is a rainy, warm and temperate climate, different from the Mediterranean climate (similar to that of Spain) that is experienced in the coastal areas. It is much colder inland, with snow in and freezing temperatures in winter, and hovering around 20-25 degrees in summer. On the coast, the temperatures are milder, but they become very hot in summer. It tends to rain more inland, especially in autumn and spring.
July and August are the main months of tourist influx, so it is recommended to go in May/June or September/October, thus avoiding large influxes of tourists and enjoying a warm and pleasant climate. As a counterpart, it is in July and August when you can enjoy festivals, parties, and other shows of the lively cultural scene in Croatia.
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