Best places to visit in Croatia - Lonely Planet (2023)

If your Mediterranean fantasy involves balmy days on sandy beaches, beside sapphire waters, with views of medieval city walls, Croatia ticks all the boxes. The Adriatic Coast is dotted with sandy beaches, rocky headlands and famous walled cities from the height of the Venetian empire. It's the very vision of the Mediterranean, and many regions are so far unmarred by resort strips and villa developments.

As a primer, Croatia's island-speckled coastline is indisputably its main attraction. Whenset against a dazzling white pebbly beach, the waters sparkle with an almost jewel-like intensity in shades of emerald and sapphire. But shift your gazefrom the glittering waters and chances are an almighty mountain will loom into view. Croatia's limestone karst landscapes are a wonderland of craggy peaks, caverns, river canyons, waterfalls and ridiculously picturesque lakes.

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There's a lot to choose from, so here's a guide to the best places to visit.

Best places to visit in Croatia - Lonely Planet (1)

1. Dubrovnik

Croatia’s most popular attraction, the extraordinary walled city of Dubrovnik, is a Unesco World Heritage Site for good reason. Despite being relentlessly shelled in the 1990s during Croatia’s Homeland War, its mighty walls, sturdy towers, medieval monasteries, baroque churches, graceful squares and fascinating residential quarters all look magnificent again. For an unrivaled perspective of this Adriatic pearl, take the cable car up Srđ, the city's craggy backdrop. For a more intimate glimpse, circle the city walls and peer into hidden gardens and ancient lanes strung with laundry.

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2. Plitvice Lakes National Park

A turquoise ribbon of lakes linked by gushing waterfalls in the forested heart of continental Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park is an awe-inspiring sight. There are dozens of lakes – from 2.5-mile-long Kozjak to reed-fringed ponds – and their startling colors are a product of the underlying bedrock. Travertine expanses covered with mossy plants divide the lakes, while boardwalks allow you to easily traverse this exquisite watery world. To escape the crowds by the water, follow hiking trails through the beech, spruce, fir and pine forests.

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3. Hvar Town

Come high summer, there’s no better place to dress up and get your groove on than Hvar Town. Gorgeous tanned people descend from their yachts in droves, rubbing shoulders with up-for-it backpackers at après-beach parties as the sun drops below the horizon. While the cashed-up yachtie types keep the town's top-notch restaurants and cocktail bars in business, sun-dazed young revelers do the same for the little dance bars that are the mainstay of the Hvar scene. Pack beach gear and shoes suitable for dancing on tables and you'll be set.

Introducing Croatia

4. Mljet

Cloaked in dense pine forests, marvelous Mljet is an island idyll. Legend has it that Odysseus was marooned here for seven years, and it’s easy to appreciate why he took his time leaving. The entire western section ofMljet is a national park, where you’ll find two sublime cobalt-colored lakes, an island monastery and the sleepy little port of Pomena, which is as pretty as a bouquet. Don’t neglect eastern Mljet, home to some tranquil little bays, brilliant beaches and a couple of excellent eateries.

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5. Zagreb

Zagreb is made for strolling. Wander past the red roofs and cobblestones of the Upper Town, which is peppered with church spires. Afterward, do as the locals do and head to a cafe. Zagreb's cafe culture is just one facet of this city's vibrant street life, egged on by a year-round roster of events that brings music, pop-up markets and food stalls to parks and plazas. Even when there's nothing on, the centerthrums with youthful energy, so it's no surprise that Croatia's capital is now bringing in the city-break crowd.

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6. Istria

La dolce vita reigns supreme in Istria, Croatia’s top foodie destination. The seafood, truffles, wild asparagus and boškarin (an indigenous species of ox) all stand out, as do myriad regional specialties and award-winning olive oils and wines by small local producers. Sample the best the region has to offer in upmarket restaurants by the sea, in traditional family-run taverns in medieval hilltop villages and in farmhouses all over the peninsula’s verdant interior. If you're not consuming at least one truffle dish a day, you're not doing it right.

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7. Vis Island

The most remote of Croatia's main islands, Vis is also one of its most captivating. Two attractive towns add historic interest to its northern and western coasts, while hidden to the south and east are some of the nation's most idyllic little coves, some pebbly and some sandy, and all completely irresistible. Scattered around the island – in villages, on farms and at isolated beaches – are an assortment of excellent traditional taverns, making the most of the island's organic produce and thriving fishing traditions.

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8. Bol

Bol, on the southern coast of Brač Island, is home to illustrious Zlatni Rat beach, a spit of tiny golden pebbles extending like a horn into the bay. This pretty harbor town is a favorite among windsurfers: the channel between the islands of Brač and Hvar provides ideal wind conditions, thanks to the maestral (strong, steady westerly wind) that typically blows between April and October. The wind picks up slowly in the morning, an excellent time for beginners to hit the water. By early afternoon, the winds are strong – perfect for those looking for a real adrenaline kick.

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9.Korčula

Like Dubrovnik in miniature, the sweet little seaside town of Korčula has its own set of imposing walls and towers, but it only sees a fraction of the tourists of its more famous sibling. The highlight is its extraordinary cathedral, adorned with a downright kooky set of carvings. You can walk every one of the marbled streets of its compact old town in an hour, leaving plenty of time for lazing on the beach or heading into the hinterland for a memorable meal at a village konoba (tavern).

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10. Krka National Park

This fascinating national park has Roman ruins, historic watermills and two fascinating monasteries (one on an island and one built over ancient catacombs), but the star of the show is the Krka River itself, as it rushes through canyons, broadens into lakes and splashes over numerous falls and cascades. You can stroll along boardwalks and marvel at the multitude of fish darting through the emerald waters, then cap off your visit with a dip in a lake at the foot of a mighty waterfall.

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11. Split

Split deserves its popular acclaim. Experience life as it’s been lived for thousands of years in Diocletian’s Palace, one of the world’s most imposing Roman remains. The maze-like streets of the buzzing old town – the living heart and soul of Split – are chock-full of bars, shops and restaurants. Getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets, passageways and courtyards is one of Croatia’s most enchanting experiences – and it’s small enough for you to always find your way out again easily. Before you leave, escape the palace walls for a drink on the marble-paved, palm-fringed Riva along the water’s edge.

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12.Zagorje

The postcard-perfect medieval castles of Zagorje sit waiting for time travelers. Journey back to 1334 in Trakošćan Castle, whose neo-Gothic 19th-centuryexterior hides far older internal structures. Learn about the excesses of the Croatian aristocracy in its well-presented museum and wander 215 acres of castle grounds, landscaped into a romantic English-style park with exotic trees and an artificial lake. Further west, the hilltop castle of Veliki Tabor offers a trip to the 16th century, with its pentagonal towers and turrets, atmospheric interiors, and bucolic landscapes all around.

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13. Zadar

Set on a peninsula shaped like a hitchhiker’s thumb, the old town of Zadar has history and culture in spades. Roman ruins protrude haphazardly from the city streets, while museums and churches lurk around every other corner. Artsy types, students and trend-setters rub shoulders in bars ranging from utterly classy to deliciously divey, while foodies frequent the many excellent restaurants and cafes. Backpackers are well served by some brilliant hostels, while families gravitate to the surrounding beach resorts and charming boutique hotels reel in the romantics.

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(Video) Introducing Croatia

14. Cres

Leafy, sparsely populated and never overwhelmed by tourists, the island of Cres stands out among Croatia’s Adriatic isles. Strolling through the Tramuntana region in the north you might even believe the old people’s stories about elves lurking in the ancient forests. At the other end of the island, tiny Osor is a walled town as sleepy as you’ll find on the entire coast. Scattered in between are gorgeous beaches, lost-in-time hilltop villages and the pretty pastel-hued harbor of Cres Town.

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15.Cape Kamenjak

It’s the rugged beauty and end-of-the-world vibe of Cape Kamenjak that have earned cult status for this small Istrian peninsula. An undeveloped nature reserve on Istria's west coast, Cape Kamenjak showcases a carpet of heath plants, shrubs and wildflowers, crisscrossed by a maze of dirt tracks. It’s fringed by a string of pebble bays and secluded rocky beaches, surrounded by a crystalline blue-green sea. It gets busy in summer, but there’s always an empty beach to escape to, followed by a refreshing drink at a buzzy beach bar.

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16.Kopački Rit Nature Park

On the flood plain of the Danube and Drava Rivers, Kopački Rit Nature Park is part of a Unesco biosphere reserve – come here for some of Europe’s best birdwatching opportunities. Join a boat trip and keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed and imperial eagles, black storks, purple herons and woodpeckers – just some of the nearly 300 species recorded here. Alternatively, you can explore a flooded forest by canoe, or hike the nature trails and try to spot red deer and wild boar.

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17.Motovun

The approach to Motovun is almost as captivating as the destination itself. This picture-perfect hilltop town rises from a forested valley that appears untouched by the 21st century. Centuries-old houses line the steep approach to the outer gate of the even-older walled town, where a final gate opens onto the town square. The views from the fortifications are virtually unchanged from when they were built, taking in a lush expanse of green and the rolling hills beyond. Go forth to hunt down truffles, fine wine and even finer olive oil.

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FAQs

What is the nicest part of Croatia to visit? ›

Best places to visit in Croatia
  • Rab – for sand. ...
  • Brač – for postcard-perfect pics. ...
  • Pag – for partying. ...
  • Lopud – for beaches. ...
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park for nature. ...
  • Istria for never-ending views. ...
  • Telašćica Nature Park for a time capsule. ...
  • Dubrovnik for historic sights.

What part of Croatia should I visit? ›

Dubrovnik. Often called “A Pearl of Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is the most popular place to visit in Croatia, and one of the best-known cities in Croatia. It's on the itinerary of every traveler to Croatia. Dubrovnik is gorgeous, with its medieval old town and two km long city walls as the town's main attractions.

What is the most beautiful town in Croatia? ›

Dubrovnik. No round-up of the most beautiful towns in Croatia would be complete without mentioning Dubrovnik.

What is the best part of Croatia to stay in? ›

Where to Stay in Croatia 2022
  • #1: Zagreb: Croatia's charming inland capital.
  • #2: Pula: Gorgeous coastline and Roman ruins.
  • #3: Split: The sunny heart of Dalmatia.
  • #4: Dubrovnik: A medieval town with a modern lifestyle.
  • #5: Hvar Island: Lavender hills and coastal vistas.
  • #6: Zadar: A unique historical town.
Dec 13, 2021

Is Split or Dubrovnik better? ›

Dubrovnik is a better travel destination for foodies, and has a better Old Town. Split offers better nightlife, better day trip options, and is generally cheaper than Dubrovnik. Both destinations offer excellent beaches.

Is Dubrovnik or Zagreb better? ›

Dubrovnik is by far the more popular city among tourists, but don't be fooled by Zagreb's unassuming facade. There are great experiences in both cities. If you're looking for a quick getaway with your family, you'd probably appreciate Dubrovnik's beaches, historical monuments and city tours.

Where should I stay in Croatia for the first time? ›

Stay somewhere central
  • Split can be a good base to visit Dalmatia (and Split is an awesome town to see!). ...
  • Porec is a great base to visit Istria. ...
  • Plitvice is one of the most visited places in all Croatia, and the single most visited national park in Croatia. ...
  • Croatia's got them eight.
Jan 15, 2021

How many days do you need in Croatia? ›

Planning Your Trip to Croatia

Spending a week in Croatia is a great choice for most travelers. In seven to 10 days, you can easily explore Dubrovnik, Split, and the Dalmatian Islands, with enough time left over to add another region or national park to the itinerary.

What is the best time of year to visit Croatia? ›

When is the best time to visit Croatia? The best time to visit Croatia is during the summer months, from June to September, when sunlight is plentiful and temperatures are warm, between 66°F and 86°F. These conditions are ideal for boating and swimming in the blue waters around the islands.

Is Croatia cheap to visit? ›

On average, you can expect your trip to Croatia to cost €45-105 per day (about $50-118 USD per day) if visiting the country on a budget but are still wanting to enjoy the occasional splurge. However, this travel budget can vary significantly depending on your spending habits.

Is Croatia worth visiting? ›

Tourism to Croatia has skyrocketed in recent years. However, the country still might not be at the top of many traveler's bucket lists. But it should be. Between multiple gorgeous national parks, excellent food and wine, historic sights, quirky museums, and plenty of sunshine – Croatia has it all.

Where in Croatia was Game of Thrones filmed? ›

The coastal city of Dubrovnik, Croatia has been one of Game of Thrones' most prominent filming locations, mostly for the exteriors of Westeros' capital city, King's Landing. Dubrovnik's Lovrijenac Fort was the set for most of the Red Keep scenes, the West Pier for Blackwater Bay, and the Jesuit Stairs off St.

Where should I base in Croatia? ›

Opatija, Rovinj, Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb are all great places for a weekend break in Croatia. If you plan to stay in Croatia just a bit longer, for up to one week, decide on a centrally located destination in Croatia. This can be your base to explore the surrounding area.

How far is Split from Dubrovnik? ›

How to Get from Dubrovnik to Split. There are a number of ways to travel the 143 miles (230 kilometers) between two of Croatia's most popular coastal destinations, Dubrovnik and Split.

Is Zagreb or Split better? ›

Zagreb Vs Split – our conclusion

On top of that, Split has one of the most incredible old towns outside of Rome, and a buzzy nightlife that's fueled by summer holidaymakers. Zagreb is better for an authentic look at modern Croatia, art galleries, and urban vibes.

Is Zadar or Split better? ›

In general, I would choose Zadar if you're looking for a quieter place to stay and a base to get more off the beaten path in Croatia. Alternatively, I would choose Split if you want to stay in a busier city and explore the highlights on the coast.

Where is best to stay in Croatia for beaches? ›

The best Croatian islands for beaches are Krk (Vela Plaza in Baska), Rab (notably around Lopar), Pag (with Zrce party beach, known for its open-air dance clubs and music festivals), Dugi Otok (Saharun) and Brac (with the star being the stunning Zlatni Rat beach in Bol).

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