Tiny Croatia Villages and Towns You Gotta See
There is so much to Croatia beyond the major tourist destinations. Of course, those popular places are popular for a reason. From the majestic City Walls of Dubrovnik to the coastal towns of Istria, the stunning waterfalls of Plitvice National Park and the historic heart of Split, Croatia’s star attractions are well-known.
However, we strongly encourage you to get off the beaten path and visit some of the smaller places in this fascinating country. Below, you will find an overview of tiny Croatian villages and Towns—sometimes impossibly small—that you should consider putting on your itinerary.
They offer a different view on life in Croatia, and visitors can experience a more authentic lifestyle often undisturbed by tourism. Conscious travelers shouldn’t limit themselves to the star attractions. It’s these less-explored, untouched, tiny places that offer the most memorable experiences. A comprehensive perspective of any country, especially a historic place like Croatia, consists of all types of landscapes, every kind of urban environment and as many human interactions as possible.
This is why we recommend that you visit at least one of these teeny tiny places in Croatia:
Despite reading (and hearing) over and over that Hum is listed as the Guinness Book of Records holder for being the world’s smallest town, I can not find proof. Nor can I find any other town in the world so small. Either way. I introduce to you the teeny tiny Town of Hum.
Hum (pronounced who-m) is located in central Istria, approximately 2.5 hours drive from Croatia’s capital Zagreb. When I last wrote about this medieval hilltop town, I thought it had 21 inhabitants (2011 census), but it seems that between 2011, and 2016 there has been a baby boom. There are now 27 people who call Hum home – including four little ones.
I always shout about how safe Croatia is for kids and how we love that part of our life here. But this little town must be the quietest and safest town to live with children. That is if you discount the cobblestone streets. Of which there are just two. Yes, only two streets.
While Hvar Island may be one of the most-visited islands in Dalmatia, you can still escape the crowds. This tiny town is located in the middle of the island’s north coast, neighbored by the two highest mountains on the island—Hum and St. Nikola. Surrounded entirely by hills and pine forests, this sheltered—almost hidden—coastal town features a welcoming atmosphere and oozes historic charm.
Although there may not be any impressive Renaissance architecture like in the town of Hvar, it makes up for that with its cozy squares, lush parks and narrow alleyways. Nearby, a number of nice swimming spots offer refuge from the hot summer sun.
Mali Ston, its name meaning literally “Little Ston”, and its bigger neighbor Ston make up one of the most underrated places on the Dalmatian coast. These twin towns, villages to be more precise, lie on the isthmus that connects the Peljesac Peninsula to mainland Croatia, about 50 kilometers to the northwest of Dubrovnik. When going from Split to Dubrovnik, you can take a detour to pass through Mali Ston.
In (Mali) Ston, you won’t find any extravagant hotels or luxury travel facilities. Instead, there is amazing natural scenery, mouthwatering Croatian food and—last but not least—one of the longest stone fortifications in all of Europe.
Ston used to be part of the Republic of Dubrovnik, also known as Ragusa, its strategic location on an isthmus and its importance as a salt producer leading to the construction of a 5.5-kilometer-long wall. These walls link Mali Ston, a teeny tiny village built as part of this defensive system, to Ston and are an imposing collection of towers and tall walls. There are no fewer than five fortress and 40 towers. Notable features are the Fortress of Koruna, Pozvizd Fortress and the Veliki Kastio.
Another place many people have never heard about, Ozalj is a tiny community of no more than 1,200 residents in the heart of Croatia. Situated near Jastrebarsko and Karlovac, and even the border with Slovenia, its nearest major destination is Zagreb.
Built upon a cliff on the bank of the Kupa River, its first historical mention dating from the mid-13th century, Ozalj might be a rather unassuming place. However, this small town does have a surprising claim to fame. It grew around the Ozalj Castle, an ancient stronghold, one of the best-preserved fortresses of its kind in all of Croatia.
The castle’s importance lies in the fact that it was the setting of the unfortunate Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy, a hugely significant event in Croatia’s history. You can visit the castle’s museum, and there’s a library as well.
One of Istria’s hidden gems, the photogenic hilltop town of Labin lies just inland from the resort town of Rabac and the rest of the Kvarner Gulf. Only three kilometers from the Adriatic Sea and perched 325 meters atop of a hill, it beautifully overlooks the coast.
Founded as a Roman settlement in the 3rd century AD, then known as Albona, which means “town on a hill,” Labin used to be encircled by fortified walls. Only short sections of these ancient walls survive to this day. Labin is an overwhelmingly charming town, characterized by winding, narrow streets, cobbled alleyways, several art galleries and museums, and pastel-colored buildings. It’s everything you expect from an Istrian town—essentially a perfect mix of Rovinj and Motovun, two of the most popular tourist towns on the Istrian peninsula.
Other highlights include the Mining Museum, exhibiting Labin’s long history as a mining town, and the Fortica Fortress, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding rolling countryside and sea in the distance.
If you like a change of scenery, you want an alternative to the bustling historic cities and pebble beaches of the coast, consider a day trip to Rastoke, the historic core of the town of Slunj. Located along the road that connects Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park,
Rastoke is the ideal place to take a break from driving.
The beauty of this town is its location at the place where the Slunjcica River splits up into many branches, which then flow into the Korana River. This results in a multitude of small waterfalls and cascades, similar to those at Plitvice Lakes National Park, yet smaller and less numerous. Rastoke is sometimes referred to as “the small lakes of Plitvice” for this reason. The difference between the park and the town, however, is that Rastoke consists of a centuries-old village filled with historic watermills.
Combining gorgeous nature with historical buildings, Rastoke is unique. It’s exceptionally picturesque and small enough to visit in a couple of hours at most—truly the perfect stopping point en-route between Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb.
Situated along the Sutla River in the far northwestern corner of Croatia, on the border with Slovenia, Kumrovec village is home to no more than 270 people. The municipality has just under 1,600 residents. It’s a teeny tiny place indeed. So, “what on earth is there to see in Kumrovec?” you may wonder.
Well, the town’s main feature is that it’s the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito, the army commander who later became the founder of communist Yugoslavia. It’s also considered to be the best museum village anywhere in Croatia. The house where Tito was born, nothing fancier than a basic peasant home, was converted into a museum during his lifetime. In the decades after his death, the surrounding buildings were renovated and reconstructed.
Now, the town of Kumrovec is a superb example of what a 20th-century Zagorje village looked like. The Ethnological Museum, as it’s called, encompasses eighteen historic village buildings, with permanent exhibits displaying artifacts and furniture.
The Island of Brac is one of the many stunning Dalmatian islands and nowhere is the rich culture and long history of the island better visible than in Skrip. This is the oldest village on the entire island, known to have been inhabited since as early as 1,400 BC. It later became a Roman mausoleum.
Skrip lies on the hills on the central, north coast of the island and is surrounded by a landscape of stone, brush and woods. Once a defensive tower, the Radojkovic Tower now houses a fantastic museum exhibiting the town’s wondrous history. There are Roman tombstones, historical artifacts from various eras and sea charts.
Often overlooked by travelers on their way from Split to Dubrovnik, the coastal village of Gradac is an old fishing settlement on the southern end of the Makarska Riviera in Dalmatia. Inhabited since Roman times, the area still has many features that showcase its long and rich history, including the Chapel of St. Pasquale.
However, the greatest drawcard of Gradac is its gorgeous pebble beaches, so characteristic of the Dalmatian coast. With its shallow, clear and calm waters, this is a perfect place to sunbathe if you have small children. It’s ideal as a stopping point on the journey between Split and Dubrovnik, the village being located roughly halfway between both cities.
Situated in the heart of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, the largest wetland area in Croatia and even in the whole Danube basin, Cigoc may be less-known but is a destination well worth visiting. The wetlands are actually huge floodplains, turning into a lake during winter floods. They provide a habitat for various plants and animals, most notably birds.
What makes Cigoc such an interesting place to visit is the fact that it’s home to a large population of storks. These iconic black-and-white birds like to nest on the roofs and chimneys of the town’s houses, attracting visitors from all over the country. The storks are such an important part of the town that the EuroNatur Foundation designated Cigoc the first “village of storks” in Europe.
Home to about a thousand residents, Karlobag is a teeny tiny town on the central Adriatic coast of Croatia. It’s considered to be the northernmost town in Dalmatia. Situated at the foot of the Velebit Mountains and straddled by the waves of the Adriatic, the town is exceptionally scenic.
Sunbathing and swimming options are plentiful, but the main attraction of Karlobag is the mountains behind it. The Velebit Mountains are a World Biosphere Reserve, the only one in Croatia, and offer great opportunities for outdoor adventures. Numerous hiking trails crisscross the landscape while boaters and fishermen have a blast on the area’s rivers. In the evening, you can wind down at the town’s many excellent restaurants and busy bars.
Phew, so many small places to explore – and that’s not even the half of them!
Of all of the Croatia villages and towns, which one captured your attention?
Main Photo Credit: Mateusz Hromada