Croatia is nothing short of everyone’s Mediterranean fantasy. Whether an island-hopping sailing getaway calls your name, you’d prefer to spend your days sampling food and tasting wine in ancient towns or perhaps head out on a big outdoor adventure; Croatia is truly the one destination that has it all.
Two hundred kilometres of stunning coastline, balmy sunshine-filled days and stone-built fishing villages make you feel as though you’ve landed in an unspoilt destination. If you step inland beyond Croatia’s sandy coves and island-studded coast, you’ll be greeted with stunning turquoise lakes, lush forests, glittering mountain ranges and an abundance of national parks. Few countries will keep you as busy as Croatia, add to that the growing list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and you have a gem waiting to be explored.
Much of Croatia’s appeal is rooted in its fascinating history which saw the collapse of communism, a national war and declared independence all within the space of ten years. Positioned between the Balkans and central Europe, Croatia sits on one of the great division lines of European civilisation where kingdoms, empires and republics have fought for many millennia. The country’s individuality is achieved through both its geographical position paving the way for its stunning scenery and its national history which characterises Croatia as multi-dimensional.
Croatia’s draw increases through its ever-growing artistic attractions, party and niche festival scene and rich culture, which draw in people from all over the world. Locally-sourced ingredients, a spectacular sea-to-table penchant and established wines and olive oils amalgamate into a cuisine which is fast becoming one of the main reasons to visit Croatia. Combined with the nature of Croatian hospitality -sharing, homestyle cooking and family-run taverns- and you’ll find yourself wanting to book tickets to Croatia sooner than you thought! Read on for everything you need to know about your Croatia tour;
- The Best Time for a Croatia Holiday
- Unique Experiences & The Best Places to Visit in Croatia
- How to Get Around on Your Croatia Trip
- Where to Stay on Your Croatia Tour
- Must-Try Foods in Croatia
- Special Events & Festivals in Croatia
- Quick Tips & Important Facts to Know Before You Go to Croatia
- So, Are You Ready to Plan Your Croatia Travel?
The Best Time for a Croatia Holiday
There are three distinct seasons in Croatia: low season which lasts from November to April; the shoulder seasons which occupy the period from May to the middle of June and mid-September to October; and finally, high season which takes over from mid-June to mid-September.
Aligning with the European summer, as you can expect, most tourists choose to cover the best places to visit in Croatia in the high season. The peak of the peak -if you will- is the last week of July and the first two weeks of August.
Each season brings advantages and disadvantages. The low season sees rock bottom prices for accommodation and flights, whilst the high season sees these rocket. During the low season, much of the Adriatic Coast shut up shop, so it is better to head inland and explore the cities and national parks at this time of year.
If you’re looking to spend Christmas in Croatia, a joyous time of the year as much of the population is Catholic, then be prepared for average temperatures of around 5°C across the country. However, you’ll be accompanied by beautiful winter sunshine on most days.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Croatia is the shoulder seasons or the month of September, when you will still have beautiful weather, festivals are in full swing but won’t have the crowds that the high season brings.
Unique Experiences & The Best Places to Visit in Croatia
Narrowing down the best places to go in Croatia is no easy task. For a destination that presents so many options, planning your Croatia itinerary requires some research into the kinds of places you’d like to visit. We’ve rounded up the best places see and things to do in Croatia to help you, so read on to be enchanted;
While this list is in no particular order, most travellers would put Dubrovnik tours at the top of their list for the best things to see in Croatia, and with good reason. The majestic, walled UNESCO World Heritage city of Dubrovnik is a perfectly-preserved jewel of medieval Europe. Dubrovnik walking tours will take you on a journey strolling through the Old Town streets, past monasteries, Baroque churches and stunning squares to the top of the city walls to marvel at this impressive-looking city. Taking the cable car up Srd, the city’s rugged mountain backdrop is one of the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
If you’re thinking of basing yourself here for the entirety of your Croatia trip, day trips from Dubrovnik will take you to a number of destinations in the Balkans including Mostar and Montenegro!
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Of all the Croatia destinations, Plitvice Lakes is probably the one that gets the most coverage in Croatia travel guides. Once you lay eyes on this majestic wonder which consists of sixteen turquoise lakes connected by streams and gushing waterfalls, it is easy to see why.
Set in the forest-flooded heart of inland Croatia, an easy day trip from Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes is a sight to behold. The park is laced with wooden walkways, weaving around the sapphire lakes, and hiking trails through the densely wooded hills which enable you to explore this Balkan gem on your tour of Croatia.
You can travel from Split to Plitvice Lakes National Park on this 8-day Croatia private tour!
Croatia’s top foodie destination, Istria is filled with seaside resorts boasting upmarket restaurants with sea-to-table cuisine, family-run taverns and charming hilltop villages that have perfectly retained their medieval charm. Regional specialities of this verdant peninsula include seafood, truffles, an indigenous species of the ox and wild asparagus. If a truffle dish doesn’t touch your tongue at least once a day in this region, you’re doing Istria wrong!
Home to one of the country’s most atmospheric coastal towns – the Italian-influenced Rovinj, and one of the best things to do in Pula – visit the best-preserved and largest Roman amphitheatre outside of Italy, an Istria tour does not disappoint.
The Sunshine Island of Hvar
Known for its wonderful weather and the highest average of sunshine hours in the country, Hvar Island holds the title of the sunniest place in Croatia and Europe. Secluded coves, crystal clear waters, abundant lavender fields, olive groves, stone-built villages and flashy yachts bobbing in the harbours of pretty towns; Hvar is characterised by beauty, romantic surroundings and its popularity with the elite.
Add to this its indulgent, traditional Dalmatian cuisine bringing highly-rated restaurants and you have a winning Croatia holiday destination. You can sample the delights of Hvar Town and island on this 12-day Croatia road trip!
Believed to be the birthplace of the famous world traveller Marco Polo, Korcula Town, which sits on an island by the same name, is often described as a ‘Dubrovnik without the crowds’. If that wasn’t a big enough draw, the town is a stone’s throw away from some secluded coves and bays which sit like a necklace around the island.
This charming seaside town boasts a set of city walls, punctuated by towers, as well as an extraordinary cathedral. Korcula’s compact Old Town is perfect for exploring on foot; followed by an afternoon lazing on the beach or dining in a village tavern and you have an ideal Croatia vacation.
Krka National Park
Declared a national park in 1985 to protect the Krka River which runs through the 109-square-kilometres of the park, Krka National Park is known for its seven stunning waterfalls and for being home to the second-highest density of lavender in Europe.
The abundant wildlife, cascading falls perfect for a dip and luscious scenery draw travellers from all over Europe. Add to that, the ancient ruins, historic monasteries and traditional watermills and you have one of the top places to go in Croatia.
Take a day trip from Split to Krka National Park on this 9-day Croatia private tour.
The Island of Vis
One of the most popular day trips from Split; Vis Island was off-limits to tourists until 1989. It served as a Yugoslav military base for many years and has perfectly retained its traditional Croatian island life charm. With few accommodation options, the island lacks the crowds that are often found on neighbouring islands.
In recent years, Vis has grown in popularity, largely due to its Hollywood debut as the main filming location for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. You can take a Split boat trip to the island of Vis, and you’ll find colourful fishing boats bobbing in the harbours of charming towns, lined with Venetian-style houses and palm trees. The famous Blue Cave of Croatia is also an easy boat trip from Vis.
The Elafiti Islands
Dubrovnik boat tours will deliver you in minutes to this cluster of three islands. The Elafiti islands – Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan – are wonderfully peaceful, car-free and barely touched by tourism. Each settlement on the islands caps out at around a few hundred people, and you’ll find one hotel on each island.
If you’re looking to ditch the crowds for a few days, the Elafiti islands will enhance your Croatia trip with unspoiled, lush scenery, tranquil hikes and miles of olive groves and vineyards.
Step back in time thousands of years and experience ancient life in the heart of one of the world’s most impressive Roman remains, the Diocletian’s Palace. On a Split walking tour, you’ll also find yourself strolling through the maze of atmospheric streets, absorbing the soul of Split and meandering through passageways and courtyards. Split is, without a doubt, one of Croatia’s most enchanting destinations.
Small enough to explore on foot, Split tours will be spent padding the ancient cobbled streets and marvelling at its fascinating history and bustling cafes. When you want to explore outside of the city, day trips from Split to places like the Blue Cave, Croatia’s famous blue lagoon, and islands like Hvar and Vis are plentiful.
How to Get Around on Your Croatia Trip
The beauty of Croatia is that it is relatively small and, therefore, easy to get around. Each route, from one key destination to another, is punctuated by pretty villages and towns that are always worth the detour. Here are the main ways to travel around Croatia;
Croatia by Car
Arguably, the best way to get around Croatia is to either drive yourself or hire a driver and car to tour the country. Travelling by car affords you the freedom to stop whenever you like and take any detour you want to.
If you’re not sure about a self-drive Croatia adventure, then another option is to hire a private driver. A Croatia private tour will enable the flexibility of touring the country in a car whilst also having a local guide on hand.
Croatia by Bus, Ferry & Other Public Transport
Another great way to explore Croatia is by bus. Unlike other countries, bus travel in Croatia is reliable, fast, modern and frequent. For mainland and coastal Croatia, bus travel is your best option.
When it comes to the islands and the Istria peninsula, car and ferry transport is favoured over bus travel. Many of the islands will also have the option of hiring scooters to explore the island; if you’re keen to have the sun on your back, hiring a scooter to explore the islands is the perfect option. Always wear a helmet!
Croatia’s islands are all linked by reliable ferry routes. In high season, you will have to book your ferry in advance.
Where to Stay on Your Croatia Tour
As Croatia rapidly climbs the bucket list of many travellers, the accommodation options grow. Like most destinations, high season in Croatia means high accommodation prices and not a bargain in sight. From four- and five-star hotels to quaint boutique guesthouses and value-for-money private rentals by local families, you’ll be able to find something to suit your budget and travel style in Croatia.
Hotels in Croatia
Those in search of luxury in the form of five-star international accommodation will look to Dubrovnik and Zagreb hotels, where most are centred. The mid-range market is served well by family-run hotels offering cosy, informal surroundings and affordable prices.
A fresh crop of boutique hotels have been founded along the Dalmation Coast and on many of the islands, and usually occupy a renovated palace or restored historic house. Generally, in most key Croatia destinations, you’ll find a range of hotels servicing those looking for a comfortable place to stay with a few added luxuries.
Croatia Villas, Private Rooms and Apartments
Croatia villa holidays, private rooms and apartments make up the majority of Croatia’s tourist accommodation. From private rooms in family houses or separate buildings or apartments run by local families, this type of accommodation is both budget-friendly and private.
As you may expect, the standards of private rooms can vary widely, but thanks to the three-category rating system put in place by local tourist associations, you’ll be able to find something to suit you.
If you are looking for a little more character and home touches to your Croatia accommodation, then apartments and private rooms are perfect options. For couples travelling together, this is a great way to get a little more for your money. For solo travellers, it is worth noting that you will often be expected to pay the price for double occupancy in a double room, despite being only one person.
B&Bs, Guesthouses & Rural Homestays in Croatia
This type of accommodation is your go-to in rural regions of Croatia including inland Istria, around Plitvice Lakes and Zagorje. Here, you’ll find ‘pensions’, which are small family-run hotels that serve locally-produced food and drink.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture, opting for a homestay or family-run guesthouse is a great option.
Hostels & Campsites in Croatia
Long popular with backpackers, Croatia serves up a great selection of hostels and budget accommodation in tourist centres such as Zagreb and Split.
On the Adriatic Coast, campsites are in abundance; from large-scale offerings with fancy facilities to small, family-run camps situated in private gardens or placed amongst olive groves; it’s all here.
Bear in mind that due to the rocky terrain, hammering tent pegs into the ground is often not possible, so plenty of extra rope is needed to secure your tent to nearby rocks and trees.
Must-Try Foods in Croatia
Influenced by its neighbouring countries and colourful history, Croatian cuisine is wide and varied yet distinguished in its own way. With similarities to Italian, Hungarian, Turkish and Austrian cuisines, traditional Croatian food is a people-pleaser. Here’s a selection of the must-try foods in Croatia;
Black Risotto or Crni Rizot
Topping the list of almost every must-try foods in Croatia list, black risotto can be found on every menu along the length of the Croatian coast. Each restaurant, town and region put their own spin on this classic dish. Made with rice, onion, garlic, red wine and olive oil, this delicious risotto is coloured jet black with cuttlefish ink. Various kinds of seafood are then added to the dish – it is the ultimate coastal speciality!
The rocky island of Pag off the northern coast of Dalmatia is famous for its sheep cheese which is enriched by the way these animals graze on wild herbs such as rosemary. Pag cheese is best sampled on a platter with thinly-sliced cured ham and black olives to garnish. You’ll find this dish everywhere from upmarket restaurants to rustic taverns, and it is definitely worth a try.
Istrian Truffles & Truffle Pasta
A speciality found deep in the oak woods of inland Istria, these truffles -black and white- are a gourmet delight! Try them grated over fresh Istrian pasta known as fuzi or served with steak as a rich, creamy sauce. Look out for restaurants sporting the ‘Tartufo Vero’ sign; this means they have met Istria’s high standard of serving and handling these truffles and you’re guaranteed a rich, delicious treat.
Whilst this is not a dish, this method of cooking is a must-try in Croatia. Literally translating to ‘under the bell’, this method involves slow-cooking tender meat and vegetables under a terracotta or iron lid placed over burning embers. To sample this dish, you should head to Dalmatia and order it the day before in a local restaurant. Typically, this dish is prepared with octopus, lamb or veal, but other meats or fish can be used.
Found on the Adriatic coast, these battered doughnut balls, filled with rum and raisins dusted with powdered sugar, are little bits of heaven. In different regions, lemon zest or grated orange may be added but the principle of fritule stays the same wherever you are in the country – sharing. This dish is meant to be shared and is often associated with joyous holidays such as Christmas.
Special Events & Festivals in Croatia
Croatia’s festival calendar is jam-packed with exciting events. From rock festivals to beach parties, niche art experiences and folk fairs, festivals spring up along the length of the country year-round. The bulk of events take place in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. Here’s a selection of Croatia’s best cultural festivals and events;
Rijeka Carnival – January/February
Taking the title of one of the most colourful festivals in Croatia, Rijeka Carnival is also the biggest festival of the year. Kicking the year off with a bang, Rijeka Carnival features parades, celebrations, men dressed in animal skins and locals chasing away bad spirits by clanging huge cowbells. Originally founded in the 1800s, the festival was long forgotten until 1982 when local men revived the tradition. Today, it is an explosion of colourful floats, masked partakers and musicians.
Rovinj Easter Food Festival – March/April
Come with an appetite and let this festival warm both your heart and your tummy. As a deeply religious country, Easter in Croatia is already a big celebration. However, Rovinj combines this iconic festival with the country’s second passion, food! This three-day festival straddles the Easter weekend celebrating through edible delights, exchanging chocolate eggs and brass bands.
Half New Year’s Eve – June
For the tiny Adriatic island of Korcula, June is a busy month. Not only does it host the annual Sword Dance Festival, a proud tradition that once was prevalent across Europe, the island also celebrates ‘Half New Year’s Eve’ on the last day of June. The tradition began 20 years ago and has grown into an all-encompassing raucous celebration of all-night parties, street performances and fun. It’s a festival with all the excitement and revelry of the actual New Year’s Eve but with much better weather.
International Folklore Festival – July
Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, showcases the diversity of this wonderful Balkan country with the annual International Folklore Festival. Supported by UNESCO, the festival presents a wonderful opportunity for travellers to witness and take part in the traditions and customs of Croatia, past and present. Featuring performances on the city’s Ban Jelacic Square as well as workshops and exhibitions throughout the city, the festival celebrates all things Croatian.
Quick Tips & Important Facts to Know Before You Go to Croatia
Here’s a breakdown of the essential pieces of information you should know before setting off on your tour of Croatia;
Currency: The currency is Croatian Kuna (HRK). The exchange rate at writing was US$1 = 6.40HRK
Language: The main language is Croatian; however, almost everyone speaks a little English, German or Italian, so you should be able to get by with a few Croatian phrases.
Religion: Over 86% of Croatia’s population is Roman-Catholic with smaller minorities of Orthodox Christians and Muslims.
Visas: Croatia is within the European Schengen Zone, meaning Central Americans, South Americans, North Americans and most Europeans don’t need a visa to visit for up to 90 days. Before travelling, you should check if you need a visa.
Water: The tap water is safe to drink in Croatia, and it is home to some of the best natural springs in Europe!
So, Are You Ready to Plan Your Croatia Travel?
Stunning coastal scenery, remote islands, breathtaking forests and national parks, as well as intriguing medieval cities and traditional towns; Croatia travel is as exciting as it is diverse. Whether you are looking for an island escape or a two-week tour of the entire country, your Croatia tour is custom-made for you.
Our Local Designers in Croatia are ready and waiting to tailor your trip to suit your travel style, budget and interests. To get started, simply browse our range of fully-customisable Croatia tours or tap ‘Design your Own Croatia Trip’ to start planning your itinerary from scratch! Either way, you’ll be connected with one of our trusted Local Designers who will work with you to design your dreamy Croatia holiday!