It’s exceptionally hard trying to construct a list of the best destinations in Croatia as there’s so many wonderful destinations for a holiday, making it rather hard to choose. The following list isn’t really a proper chart – many of the following destinations are on par –
Croatia’s jewel, Dubrovnik is absolutely magical! Its Old Town is truly stunning and an absolute must-see – it’s easy to spend a couple of days exploring, walking the city walls, and visiting all the sights in and around it.
Dubrovnik does tend to get very crowded during the summer months – especially as it receives so many cruise ship passengers – so a citybreak trip outside the busiest of months is ideal. Alternatively, putting up with the crowds may well be worth it to see Dubrovnik!
There’s a very wide variety of accommodation in Dubrovnik – from hostels, to private rooms to 5* luxury hotels. Some hotels have their own private beaches or swimming areas, whilst there are also public city beaches such as Banje if you fancy combining your sightseeing with some sea ‘n’ sun relaxation.
There’s also plenty of opportunity for day trips to nearby islands – such as small island of Lokrum (which is very close), the Elafiti islands or Mljet, and other nearby resorts such as Cavtat. For the more adventurous amongst you, you can also take day-trips to the neighbouring countries ofMontenegro and Bosnia & Hercegovina.
2. Plitvice Lakes
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is another amazing wonder within Croatia. With sixteen interconnecting waterfalls, and beautiful flora and fauna, visiting the Park is quite a unique experience.
It’s possible to stay right by the park itself, or just outside, so you can easily spend a good couple of days exploring its various trails. There’s also a boat tour within the park, as well as a shuttle bus that runs regularly, so you don’t have to spend all your time hiking around.
As one of Croatia’s top attractions, the Park attracts a large number of visitors in the summer months but its size means large numbers are quite bearable. However, the Park is actually open year-round so it’s also more than suitable a destination during winter (and quite stunning to see in the snow) – and there’s even a very small ski resort nearby; the expert skiers amongst you will be disappointed, but it’s quite suitable for beginners or families. (Not to mention that skiing in the rather unique surroundings is rather exciting.)
Plitvice is a little off the beaten track in terms of where most visitors to Croatia go to (it is inland north of Zadar, and a good few hours southwest of Zagreb), but it’s definitely worth trying to incorporate it into your trip if you can. If you do fancy visiting the Plitvice Lakes, we’d recommend flying into one of these two places, and then using Plitvice as a stop-off point either on your way to or from the coast.
Okay, so we’re cheating a little bit by naming an entire region, but as so many of Istria‘s resorts are perennially popular (it’s easy to see why) we thought we would include the whole lot as one destination. The region was totally unscathed by the war so was still visited even during that time, and just after was quick to promote its tourist offerings once more.
With good transport connections including flights to Pula or to nearby Italy, it is easy to reach the area. Most Europeans drive down from their home country, but there are also bus connections to Italy as well (from Trieste) and a summer catamaran service that connects several Istrian ports toVenice – a quick and easy easy of combining that fantastic holiday destination with this one in Croatia.
Porec is one of the top resorts – there’s a good selection of resort type hotels there – though our personal favourite is the charming Rovinj (shown above) and its wonderful harbour. Both of these have a number of sights for you history buffs, but don’t forget to visit the Pula to view the amazingly well-preserved Roman amphitheatre.
However, Istria’s (relatively!) undiscovered secrets are its wonderful inland, hilltop towns and villages. These include Motovun, which is gaining recognition of its annual film festival, and Buzet, which is famed for its truffle festival every autumn. And not forgetting Hum – (unofficially) considered to be the world’s smallest town, with only 22 inhabitants.
Some compare Zagreb to the ever popular Prague, which is no surprise to us. Zagreb is also perfect for a short break with numerous sights, restaurants, nightlife and even not-all-that-bad shopping. (Although you’re not going to get any bargains here!)
Zagreb has good flight and other connections to the UK and Europe, so it’s easy to reach – and it’s only around 2 hours from the UK, which makes it a very acceptable place for a city break. Alternatively, Zagreb is also very well connected to the rest of Croatia by train, bus and air, so it’s also a great place to commence your holiday in Croatia – spend a couple of nights here, and then make your way to the coast.
Spend your daytime in Zagreb sightseeing – there’s very pleasant walks to be had in both the Upper Town (home to the Cathedral, St Marks’s Church, Kamenita vrata, Lotrscak Tower and more) and Lower Town, not forgetting the ubitiquous stroll through the main square, Trg bana Jelacica. There’s also plenty of galleries and museums and, befitting a capital, there’ll be a handful of exhibitions and events taking place at any one time.
When all this takes it toll, join in Zagreb’s cafe society for a cup of strong coffee – or a refreshing beer – at one of the numerous cafes on the main square or on Tkalciceva ulica in the Upper Town.
Finally, why not sample the nightlife? There’s a number of bars and clubs in the city to give you a taste of clubbing, Zagreb-style.
Another great thing about Zagreb is that it has plenty of accommodation – from budget hostels to 5* hotels – so you’ll be sure to find something that fits the bill, whatever your budget.
5. Hvar Town, island of Hvar
Considered one of Croatia’s more upmarket islands, you’ll often read about various celebrities and the well-to-do holidaying on Hvar each year, but don’t let that put you off. (Although, this may well be a draw to some holidaymakers!)
Hvar is very well-known for its wonderful weather, with the highest annual average hours of sun in the whole of Croatia. The island is also famous for its lavender growing in amongst its beautiful landscape, so you can imagine a pretty heady combination of great weather and beautiful and aromatic surroundings as you relax on the island.
There’s a number of stylish hotels located in Hvar Town, and a handful of sights (although not too many – avid sightseers should really go elsewhere), whilst its wonderful harbour is a very pleasant place to while away your time in early evening, people- and yacht-watching.
There’s a few beaches close to Hvar Town, though our recommendation is to head to the nearby small group of islands, the Pakleni islands (local boats will take you there) for a relaxing day out.