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23 Croatia Hidden Gems You’ll Love To Explore
We are always on the hunt for new, off-the-beaten-path travel gems in Europe to share with you, and today’s post is full of them! We’ve compiled a list of Croatia’s hidden gems. If you are looking for an experience that’s a little different, these secret spots are sure to please you in Croatia.
Croatia offers many lesser-known places that are great for recreational activities and sightseeing. There are exceptional hidden travel gems where you can go cycling, spelunking, and fishing. You have to know where to look. F
Following are our top Croatia hidden gems – enjoy!
Kopacki Rit Nature Park
Head 12km northeast of Osijek, and you will find an undiscovered Croatia and Kopacki Rit – one of the largest wetlands in Europe. Nature lovers will delight in the abundance and variety of vegetation growing in and around the Drava and Danube rivers.
The meeting of these two rivers has created the park’s wetlands, providing the perfect environment for wildlife of all shapes and sizes – deer, boar, beaver, fox, fish, eagles, herons, and even the rare black storks. The best times to enjoy this travel gem are in the Spring and Autumn when the wildlife and colors are at their peak! Guided tours and educational trails are available for visitors, along with areas for horseback riding, bird-watching, and canoeing.
The Pakleni islands (Paklinski islands) are located in the Pakleni archipelago, easily reachable by boat from Hvar’s Old Town. You can take a water taxi from Hvar to Pakleni islands or join a day tour during the season.
If you’re looking for a real hidden gem in Croatia – we might know just the spot – how about a private villa in Hvar town or a quaint bungalow amidst a botanic garden on Sveti Klement, which makes up part of the Pakleni islands in front of Hvar?
Meet Palmižana Meneghellos.
Palmižana and particularly Vinogradišće bay have always been beloved by sailors. Still, now the secret is out… thanks to the help of its crystalline waters and well-known restaurants, in recent years, it has become a must-visit for all those who travel to the island of Hvar.
Medika In Zagreb
Big Game Fishing Near The Dalmatian Islands
There’s no better way to spend an exotic vacation than catching some of the biggest fish in the Adriatic Sea. These tours come complete with the captain and experienced crew to guide you to some of the hottest spots for catching fish near the Dalmatian Islands. The fishing spot is about an hour and a half from the shore and will last all day. All tackle is included in the price and available onboard.
You may also fish for smaller catches as well. However, remember that any fish caught onboard belongs to the captain and crew. They are usually good about giving you a portion and even cooking them onboard often for no additional fee. A great time and well worth the experience!
Where: Zadar & Dalmatian Islands
Bjelovar is located in Bjelovar-Bilogora County and is the center of the county in the Croatian interior. It was established in the 18th century and has been voted the third most beautiful city in continental Croatia.
The city has centuries-old milk and cheese-producing history. It is the agricultural and livestock region in Croatia. The city offers many recreational activities, including walking, cycling, jogging, riding, and skiing.
Porer Lighthouse In Istria
The Istria region of southern Croatia is in itself something of a hidden travel gem. Istria has everything, from the crystal turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea to the gentle hills and vineyards of its wine regions and architecture dating back to the ancient Venetians; there is incredible beauty, culture, and history everywhere you look. This is why the area is now having a resurgence of visitors from around the world. But one tiny corner of this nature and foodie paradise has stuck in my memory more than any other.
On a tiny rock of an island just 80 meters across, standing humble yet proud, is the Porer Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Istria. Only accessible by a 30-minute ride on a tiny fishing boat, the tower still protects passing ships from the rocky coast, as it has done for almost 200 years.
The pure beauty of the 35-meter tower by daytime, surrounded by the glistening Mediterranean waters, is transformed when the sun sets and the stars come into view against the clear night sky. The protective beam of light swings around the lonely rock, casting an eerie glow across the rocks and the waves that break against them. The tower becomes a ghost-like presence in the darkness, captivating and slightly spooky simultaneously.
Where: Cape Kamenjak |
Ilok is a small town close to Vukovar, located in Vukovar-Srijem County. The little town is perched on a hill overlooking the Danube River, the slopes of Fruška Gora, and many vineyard hills surround the town. It is known to be a well-preserved medieval town with viniculture since Roman times.
Kornati Archipelago In The Kornati Islands
The town of Đakovo, which is sometimes also spelled Djakovo, is known as a “Bishop’s Town’. Located in the heart of the fertile Slavonia region in northern Croatia, it has been a center for bishops since 1239.
The town is home to many things, but it is one thing you can’t miss if you are in the area. Both its sheer size and position on the landscape, and also for how magnificent it is – The imposing Đakovo Cathedral.
Famous locally for Neretva oranges, tangerines, and nectarines, the Neretva River is the only delta river in Croatia. Not far from Ploče, the Neretva River turns into the Adriatic Sea, where you can enjoy sandy beaches and many kitesurfers.
Kutjevo is a small town in Požega-Slavonia County, located on the south slopes of the Papuk and Krndija hills in the narrow valley of the Kutjevčanka River in continental Croatia. The town was created in the 13th century when the Cistercian abbey founded the area and started growing wine.
Kutjevo is known to be the wine capital of Inland Croatia. It has a very famous Old Wine Cellar dating back to 1232. It is the home of some excellent Croatian wines, including the Kutjevo Graševina, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Traminer. Next to the Old Wine Cellar, you will see a beautiful old Kutjevo castle built on the former Abbey site, connecting the castle to the wine cellar by a cellar passage.
Museum Of Broken Relationships In Zagreb
In Zagreb, we found one of the most unique attractions in the world – the Museum of Broken Relationships.
This museum consists of mementos and stories from broken relationships donated worldwide. The moments range from photographs, a key, and an ax to a toy caterpillar with half the legs broken off!
The stories themselves are surprisingly engaging. Many are pretty detailed and lengthy. Some are funny; others are heartbreaking. The relationships are not just romantic, although most are; it is also about the breakup of many other relationships. There is also a massive scrapbook where you can write your own tale.
I must admit that I also walked out feeling quite sad. It’s impossible not to connect with the people behind the stories – I felt one, in particular, sounded exactly like one of my breakups! And this is a big part of the appeal. It illustrated how people are just the same, no matter where they are in the world.
If you are looking for a fascinating museum utterly different from everything else you will find in Croatia, check out the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.
Saharun is often referred to as the Caribbean beach of Croatia. One of the best Croatia laces for vacation is crystal clear, with a white sand beach located in a secluded bay on the northern tip of Dugi Otok in the Zadar region.
This is easily one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets; as such, it is not as busy or touristy as some other popular destinations in Croatia. It is a private paradise for beach lovers and lovers of the sea who want to explore the Croatian islands on a sailboat or a yacht and are looking for a perfect place to anchor and enjoy the stunning beauty surrounding them.
Waterfalls & Canyons In Rastoke
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see on a Croatia holiday, but solitude while taking in this natural wonder is hard to find during peak season. If you are looking for a less crowded experience, rent a car and drive 45 minutes north of the leading lakes to the village of Rastoke – a Croatian mill town.
Here you will find waterfalls, canyons, and vistas shaped by similar natural phenomena as the main Plitvice Lakes. The area is still within the national park borders and has come to be called “the Small Lakes of Plitvice” and “Little Plitvice.”
A stop here is worth the breathtaking views, a few moments of solitude, and the sounds of crashing waterfalls. The best part is you won’t feel rushed as you spend an afternoon exploring the hidden wonders of this region. Enjoy dinner in town – fresh trout while overlooking the river!
Krapina is a small town in the Croatian hinterland established in the early 13th century, a part of the Krapina-Zagorje County, very close to the city of Zagreb. Krapina is the largest region in the Croatian Zagorje. The town of Krapina is the county’s political, cultural, and administrative center.
Truffle Hunting In Motovun
Truffles are famous worldwide, and the Istrian truffle is renowned for fetching some of the highest world prices. But those tiny fungi are not easy to find – truffle hunting is about patience and very well-trained dogs.
In Motovun, you will find the Kotiga family. They will teach you all there is to know about truffles and how to find them – all you have to do is keep up with the truffle hunting dogs.
Motovun isn’t just about truffles! Put in your best travel shoes and head off on a leisurely walk around the old hilltop town. Motovun is a 12th-century medieval town, and I dare say it is the best-preserved and still used hilltop town in Istria. The village of Motovun is perched at the top of a round hill and currently has approximately 600 people. To get to the top, you need to walk a very steep cobblestone road – we pushed the stroller and partially carried the tired and sick 6-year-old, which was arduous work, so keep that in mind if you are traveling with small kids or the elderly.
A coastal city that has endured nearly a millennium of scorching temperatures, sustaining a few wars, being beaten by the waves and whipped by relentless winds, Šibenik remains as vibrant – and not as well known as it should.
Šibenik is a city of sun, sea, and stone, a unique combination of characteristics that make this a city unlike any other in Croatia. Šibenik consists of stone buildings, stone stairways, rock cliffs, cobbled streets, and stone arches. It is built on rocks and constructed with rocks.
Parenzana Route In Istria
This route was once a railway line that connected 33 different locations between Istria, Trieste, and Poreč. In the early 1900s, the railway closed after only being in operation for 33 years. However, it has undoubtedly left its mark on the region and is known for something else today. Cyclists have become enamored with the old railway line and follow parts of it as a guide for their biking trail.
Biking in Istria, in and of itself, is epic. Great trails wind through nature, wooden bridges that span small gorges, and excellent urban areas for cycling. The old railway line serves as a gauge to follow the lay of the land, winding in and out through the forest and up and over the mountainous terrain.
Baredine Cave In Istria
You will not need the traditional spelunking gear for a visit to this hidden gem of Croatia! Baredine Cave, located in Istria, has been explored since the beginning of the 20th century and, after much exploration, was turned into a tourist attraction in 1995.
Walk through the underground cave, admiring ancient stalagmites, stalactites, and many other “sculptures” created naturally by water moving through the passages. While in the cave, stop to view the underground animal world – yes, animals have made this a habitat!
Kids and adults alike can suit up with a rope and harness to do a little climbing. If you are not used to this activity, be prepared to be somewhat sore the next day. However, the momentary discomfort is certainly worth the experience.
Artifacts are displayed in the gallery for history lovers, and an outside display containing 50+ old tractors unique to the area. Don’t forget to stop in the Konobon Gallery to learn about the process of making bread, wine, and olive oil, an important means of commerce for this region.
Where: Nova Vas 52446, Poreč, Istra, Hrvatska
Castles & Fortresses In Hrvatsko Zagorje
Located less than an hour’s drive from Zagreb’s capital is the hidden travel gem, Trakošćan Castle. Perhaps the most famous castle in Croatia overlooks a human-made lake and bountiful gardens. The exterior of Trakošćan Castle is one of the best preserved in Croatia and is modeled after the romantic castles in Germany.
Local Tip: Trakošćan lends itself to beautiful photographs, so pack your camera and allow plenty of time for happy snaps. Once you’re done with the photos, drive over the road to Hotel Trakošćan, where you can eat a traditional Croatian meal.
Overlooking the beautiful green Hrvatsko Zagorje Valley is Veliki Tabor Castle. While it’s not the most grand of castles, it currently sits on the Croatia UNESCO Tentative list. It offers the heartbreaking legend of the tragic love between peasant and nobleman. Medieval workshops and performances offer castle entertainment for all ages during the peak season (April-May).
Miljana Castle also resides in Hrvastko Zagorje. It dates back to the 16th century and is also one of Croatia’s best-preserved castles, not to mention incredibly picturesque.
A gem belonging to the Baroque era is Castle Orsic. Built on the site of a Middle Ages fortress, visitors can enjoy a lovely park surrounding the castle, a well-preserved chapel with a baroque-style altar, and the renovated interior of the castle that has been transformed into the Museum of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Paklenica National Park was established in 1949 and is Croatia’s second oldest national park behind Plitvice Lakes National Park (also a must-see!). In all, Croatia is home to 8 stunning national parks, all offering something different.
Paklenica National Park is 95 km2 and consists of two dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (Big) Paklenica & Mala (Small) Paklenica in the Velebit mountain is Croatia’s largest mountain range.
Grebišće Beach – Jelsa, Hvar Island
Hvar’s best sandy beach for families is Grebišće, located on the north side of the Jelsa harbor. It’s nothing flashy, but the kids who want to make sandcastles will love it. After a day at the beach, don’t forget to explore Jelsa, a small village not far from Hvar Town. This place is a real Croatian hidden gem as it’s a quiet, adorable town surrounded by pine forests but with all the amenities you’ll need.
Tequila Sunrise Beach Bar In Zadar
Hidden Croatia Gems: Sunset from Tequila Sunrise Beach Bar
About a 30-minute walk from Old Town, Zadar is one of my favorite hidden gems in Croatia: the Tequila Sunrise Beach Bar. While it might not be the fanciest spot, it makes up for its excellent waterfront location and the food and drinks.
Expect fast-food fare here, like pizzas and sandwiches, but trust me when I say it’s incredibly fresh. So fresh that the pita bread for the sandwiches is made when you order, and at 4 euro for a massive, fresh chicken sandwich, you can’t complain about the price either!
Tequila Sunrise is also located on a set of cliffs from which you are welcome to jump. They aren’t too high, but if you prefer, there’s a ladder available for taking a swim in the sea between drinks.
Of course, like almost everywhere else on the coast by Zadar, Tequila Sunrise has a stunning view of the sunset, minus all the crowds and tourists from Old Town. Without a doubt, it’s the perfect local spot to grab a drink and bite to eat for those wanting to spend a few hours, or even a day, playing in the sea.
What other hidden Croatia gems would you like to add to this list? We’d love to hear from you!