2019 Guide To The Best Things To Do In Croatia
I’m often asked what is there to do in Croatia? There are so many ways to experience the magic of Croatia, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do in Croatia.
Meander the warrens of centuries-old cobbled streets, discovering UNESCO Croatia sites as you go. Spend a day or even weeks mesmerized by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea as you sail the many islands of Croatia (we love Korcula Island). Alternatively, perhaps you’d like to go for an adventure and hike, cycle or raft in one of the eight stunning national parks?
And, that’s just for starters. Creating a list of the top things to do in Croatia is a virtually never-ending task.
As someone who lives in Croatia, here are my tips for must-do things in Croatia. Consider working some into your itinerary!
Tick Off UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Are you not sure what to see in Croatia? Well, for a small country of just over 56,000 square kilometers, you may be surprised to know that there are ten (yes, that’s right ten!), Croatian UNESCO World Heritage sites you can experience and explore.
There used to be eight Croatia UNESCO World Heritage Sites up until 2017, when two more were added to the list, bringing the total to ten. In the meantime, another ten sites are currently being considered as world heritage. For now, however, they remain on the “Tentative List.” We did include a handful of the most interesting ones of those at the end of this post, too, as they may well become actual UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia shortly.
These world-class heritage sights in Croatia make great places to visit in fall and spring when the summer crowds have dissipated.
- Historic city of Trogir
- Old City of Dubrovnik
- Stari Grad Plain, Hvar
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Stećci – Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
- The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik
- Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
- Venetian Works Of Defense Between The 16th And 17th Centuries
- Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
- Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe
If you’re coming to Croatia in summer, and would rather not brave the masses in peak season, you could also visit some of the lesser-known sites to see in Croatia that have been submitted to the tentative UNESCO list. These include:
- The fortified walls and salt pans in the towns of Ston and Mali Ston, which are less than an hour from Dubrovnik by car.
- The Istrian hilltop town of Motovun.
- The historical nucleus of Varazdin, north of Zagreb, which the New York Times named as one of the top places to visit in Croatia
Sail The High Seas
When a country has over 1,000 islands and one of the richest archipelagos in the world, don’t miss your chance to sail along the coast. Island exploration is one of the best – and arguably the single greatest – things to do in Croatia.
Spending time at sea is one of those epic Croatia tourist attractions. I’d dare to say that a Croatian vacation without any sea action would be sacrilege. Even if you can only spare a day, it’s blissfully worth it. Recommended islands to visit include, Korcula, Hvar, Brac, Cres, Krk, and Mljet, as well as the family-friendly islands of the Zadar Archipelago.
You can combine the best of Croatia, both sea and land, by spending your time sailing the Adriatic Coast, making stops along your the way to explore the mainland. For help choosing a sailing route, we compiled this Guide to Sailing Croatia.
While sailing, we recommend you try Konoba Opat, a restaurant where they only serve you fresh fish caught by local fishermen.
Once you anchor your vessel and take a seat, your eyes will be drawn out to the blue bay that seems to go forever. Mr. Chasing the Donkey claims it to be one of his best food experiences in Croatia.
Explore Croatia’s 8 National Parks
As you breathe in, you’ll draw in an abundance of fresh, crisp or sea mountain air. You’ll hear the crunching of leaves underfoot, coupled with the sound of waterfalls in the distance. Birds will be chirping, and you’ll be relaxed and without a care in the world. Of all of the ‘must-visit places in Croatia,’ the national parks are sure to satisfy the whole family.
I can’t single out any ONE of the national parks as being the best – but, the most popular is Plitvice Lakes, National Park. If you like being outdoors and in nature, a national park is one of the greatest Croatia places to visit you could possibly go to.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Many agree that the most stunning out of all of the national parks in Croatia is Plitvice Lakes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plitvice Lakes is often on those top 5 places to visit in Croatia lists each year.
It’s only two hours by bus from Zagreb. Getting from Dubrovnik to Plitvice National Park is also possible – although long. I’d recommend traveling from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes as it’s the most straight-forward.
Meander along Plitvice’s wooden plank trails and admire the glistening waterfalls crashing into the ever-changing colors of the sixteen interconnected lakes below. Just be sure to bring your camera, it’s a truly spectacular park and among the most popular destinations in Croatia.
Krka National Park
Others might consider Krka National Park more fun to visit. The Plitvice Lakes vs. Krka discussion is an ongoing debate, and there is never one clear winner. We have this post to help you choose which one might suit you.
Not far from the Dalmatian port city of Split, is the best place to take a day trip to Krka National Park. Krka is complete with medieval fortresses, waterfalls and boat excursions.
The other six national parks also make great additions to your what to see and do in Croatia checklist. Especially Paklenica National Park, just 40 kilometers from the low-cost carrier airport, Zadar, is well worth going to. Paklenica National Park is home to Croatia’s largest mountain, the Velebit, which rises sharply from the edge of the sea and is a mountain climbers’ paradise.
You can make many day trips, including from Dubrovnik to one of the parks. If you want to see them all, then four of the eight parks are best reached from the Zadar region. So, use that as a base. You might want to consider private transfer companies that can arrange transport for much less than you think.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Mljet National Park
- Krka National Park
- Risnjak National Park
- Paklenica National Park
- Sjeverni Velebit National Park
- Kornati Islands National Park
- Brijuni National Park
Walk Tito’s Secret Tunnels
Did you know tunnels were built in the side of the Velebit Mountains during the 1950s as a secret place of refuge had the USSR attacked Croatia via air? These cool, mysterious bunkers have been excavated and are available for tourists to wander through, providing a unique experience in Dalmatia.
If you’re heading to Paklenica National Park, don’t miss your chance to experience history beneath the mountain’s strong facade at the same time.
Visit Croatia’s Best Beach
That would have to be without a doubt Zlatni Rat Beach on the island of Brač, which has a long golden pebble tip that stretches out to the Adriatic Sea like a hand reaching out for more wine (or beer, you choose).
The shape of the half-kilometer beach continually changes (albeit ever so slightly), forming the most unusual shape. Zlatni Rat is sometimes referred to as the Golden Horn or Golden Cape beach and is regularly named as one of the most beautiful (and strangest) beaches in the world. Zlatni Rat beach is on Brač Island just four kilometers from the attractive town of Bol, Croatia. If you’re after a unique beach destination and researching things to do in Croatia in July or August, this is a phenomenal option to have.
Get Outdoors (& We Don’t Mean The Beach)
Croatia has some magnificent beaches and makes for an ideal place to kick back and relax. But why not mix it up with some fun outdoor adventure sports, too? Two things to add to your list are zip lining and rafting on the Cetina River. The zip line in Omiš is the fastest one in Croatia and goes a whopping 65 km/h. Now that will get your vacation started.
Party At Carnival
Croatia Carnival or Maškare season hits each February. Visiting some astounding Carnival destinations in Croatia has to be one of the best things to do in the low-season, one of the top Croatia attractions in winter
Croatians are known to take their carnival very seriously, as people in every region, city, and village in Croatia, regardless of their age, participate in the spirit of Maškare. This is a centuries-old tradition that goes back to ancient times when ferocious masks kept away the forces of evil, according to ancient legends.
In each city, the organizers spend an entire year to put together an exciting program with various events and performances for visitors who come from all over Croatia and abroad.
Rent A Car And Go On A Road Trip
If you are not sailing on the Adriatic, the best way to travel Croatia is by car. It makes sense that you want to hit the road with so many magical hilltop towns in Istria and rustic villages across the country only accessible by car.
Hiring a car in Croatia is so much easier than you think, and with panoramic views hugging roads along the coast, you’ll explore Croatia in ways you can’t by bus or train.
Our rental car company of choice is RentalCars.com. They have an easy to use search system (as seen below) and excellent customer service
If you don’t want to drive yourself, a private transfer is a superb option. It will cost you a little more than renting a car, but that little extra will allow you to have a stress-free journey. If you book with Octopus Transfer Croatia, your English-speaking professional driver will pick you up from your accommodation and take you anywhere you need to go. Intercity transfers are often a popular choice with them for instance, Zadar to Split.
Join The Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally
Don’t want to be in a gas-guzzling car? Then join the car race of the future. That’s a proper way to describe the Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally in Croatia, which has taken place for five consecutive years.
The LA Times back in 2014 dubbed the race the “quietest and most beautiful race in the world,” a statement with a lot of truth to it. Bringing together electric Tesla cars and the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, one of the world’s greatest inventors, the Nikola Tesla EV Rally is the only electric car race in the world of this kind.
Hike To Fabulous Heights
Not just only about beaches and extreme sports opportunities, Croatia also boasts marvelous options for hiking. Particularly inland Dalmatia, with its beautiful karst landscape.
Part of the Dinaric Alps, it boasts a priceless wealth of flora and fauna. It is one of the last sanctuaries of wildlife in Europe. These unspoiled natural beauties and all its secrets are yet to be discovered.
Climb magnificent mountains and enjoy its scents, sounds, and colors, and unforgettable panoramic views. Hiking in Croatia gives you the possibility to enjoy the freedom of its wildlife: a flying falcon, the howling of wolves, rock climbing chamois (a type of goat). The blend of sea, islands, shores, and wildlife of inland Dalmatia make it a unique, small region of great opportunity and diversity.
Come To Croatia For A Medical Vacation
Most people visit Croatia to enjoy the stunning natural beauties and to relax; some come for the fantastic food, some want to experience an adventure or do sports, but what if there is more? Did you know that medical tourism in Croatia is on the rise?
You can enjoy many things in Croatia, and while you are here, you can also do something good for yourself and your health. Dental tourism in Croatia is one area within the medical tourism industry that offers lots of options in Croatia.
Discover Off-The-Beaten-Path Places
Traveling to Croatia guarantees you a unique and memorable holiday experience, and everyone has now heard of Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar and a stack of our beautiful islands, but how many of these have you heard about?
Kayaking The Turquoise Waters Of The Adriatic
For half a day (or more or less if you wish) you can paddle leisurely around the small peninsula of Split, learn about the history of the city and the country, dip in the water to swim and cool off.
And, it’s not just in Split – you can kayak almost anywhere along the Adriatic in Croatia.
Local Tip: Kayaking is a great way to spend the day as a family in Croatia.
Sample All Types Of Food & Wine In Croatia
Okay, that’s a given. But where? Food in Croatia is diverse and glorious and sampling it is one of the most fun things to do in Croatia during any vacation. Foodies should head to Istria because that’s where it’s at! We have a list of the top places to eat in Croatia here. Croatian cuisine is remarkably good and varied, from fish and seafood in Dalmatia to lamb in Kvarner and Zagreb steaks.
Croatia offers plenty of delicious dishes to try, and when along the coast, do not pass up the fresh seafood. Freshly caught squid, octopus, sardines, or prawns, which are all grilled to perfection, lightly fried, or added to mouth-watering soups and pasta dishes making it near impossible to push oneself away from the table.
Pair any meal with a chilled local beer such as the Osječko or Karlovačko, on a sunny patio for the perfect Croatian afternoon.
- Traditional Croatian Food To Look For On Menus
- Here Is What To Eat (And Where) In Istria
- Here Is What To Eat (And Where) In Slavonia
- Must Not Miss Wines & Wineries In Croatia
Do you love wine? One of the best places to enjoy wine in Croatia us on the Pelješac Peninsula. Though it is only home to about 8,000 people, the Pelješac peninsula is now coming into its stride as a travel destination.
This region has long been known for its delicious shellfish, dry red wines, and gorgeous beaches and is the key place to take a real adult holiday. Wine aficionados should stop at Korta Katarina Winery in Orebić as well as check out this list of things to do in Pelješac for more ideas.
The peninsula lies conveniently between Split and Dubrovnik, making it a wonderful day trip from both coastal cities.
Find A Konoba
While on holidays in Croatia, no matter where you are, you’ll find something to treat your taste buds. (make sure to read the point above if you skipped it!). So, what is a konoba?
Konoba is a traditional restaurant, and are often much cheaper than a restaurant. Konobas will offer you traditional specialties. For example when in Dalmatia, make sure you order any fresh fish that you see on offer. Trust us, a Dalmatian chef knows how to grill fish to perfection, so it’s something well worth sampling.
A unique Croatian dish you’ll definitely want to try is a black risotto made from cuttlefish called crni rižot. If you are not a fan of seafood, be sure to order pašticada, a traditional beef dish, which is marinated for 24 hours in garlic, wine, and herbs. Pašticada has a rich dark sauce and is served with homemade gnocchi, and best enjoyed with a glass of the Dalmatian Plavac Mali red wine.
Local Tip: don’t let the abundance of pizza ovens seduce you. Although the pizza in Croatia is indeed fantastic, you also need to be on the lookout for small, often family-run local restaurants or go to one of Croatia’s best restaurants.
Attend A Festival
Whenever we travel to new places (and we’ve been to 25 countries and have lost count of the cities now!), we love to find and plan our trips around local festivals. It’s at festivals that you experience what a place is really about, especially when it’s a food festival. Food is an essential part – some would even say the very core – of a particular culture.
Have A Full Family Adventure In Croatia
You can find family fun all across Croatia, and there are so many great family hotels to choose from. With my two small boys in tow, I have been on a mission to find the best things to see in Croatia that please the smallest to the oldest. Here is just the beginning of what a Croatia to do list with kids would look like.
- Make a Sandcastle & Then Play Beach Volleyball
- Swim Under a Waterfall
- Travel Scavenger Hunt
- Get Your Teenagers Off Their Smartphone
- Photo Jeep Safari
- Take a Ferry Ride or go Sailing in Croatia
- Skip the Beach, and Hit a Water Park
- Snorkeling in Croatia
- Water Activities on The River Zrmanja
- Dance in The Dark
- Let The Kids Roam Free
Croatia With Kids
Now that you know what to visit in Croatia with the kids, you’ll need to decide if Croatia is the right choice for your family using our guide to Croatia for families. You may also like this top things for kids to do in Croatia guide.
If you ask me, traveling to Croatia with children is a no-brainer. There are loads of Family Resorts & Hotels For Family Holidays in Croatia that’ll accommodate your family without any problems.
What? I know that sounds odd, but do you know how close you are to other parts of the Balkans that make for excellent day trips?
Surrounded by Slovenia, Hungary Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia is an excellent base from which to explore the rest of the western Balkan peninsula. Day trips from Zagreb include such great destinations as Ljubljana and Lake Bled, both in Slovenia, while day trips from Dubrovnik take you to magnificent places like Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.
The latter two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well and among the most fabulous places to visit in the Balkans.
Another recommended excursion is to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Medjugorje, a renowned Catholic pilgrimage site.
Join A Cooking Class
There are several cooking classes to undertake while in Croatia. If you have a soft spot for fantastic food and wine and want to learn how to make the most delicious, tasty meat using a traditional method, head to Zadar. There you’ll find a bespoke, hands-on, cooking class and wine tour, perfect for mid-size groups (kids included).
Discover Unique Things To Do In Croatia
If you’re looking for unique Croatia points of interest or alternatives to the more famous places in Croatia for your upcoming vacation, this next part if for you!
There are dozens of unique experiences in Croatia that you’ve never had – or maybe even heard of. What about:
- The Sinjska Alka: A Knights Tournament
- Rub Gregory of Nin’s Big Toe – Grgur Ninski
- Enjoy An Electric Car Ride In Kunjevci
- Track Down Dinosaur Footprints In The Brijuni Islands
- Cycle The Parenzana
- Town Of Hum Celebration Of The Election Of The Mayor
- Walk The Second Longest Wall On The Planet, Mali Ston
- Cross The Hanging Bridge at Kriznica
- Watch A Donkey Race At Sali
- Milk A Donkey
Truffle Hunting In Istria
My truffle hunting experience in Motovun was one of the best days I have had traveling in Croatia in my five years of living in Croatia. I suggest you to truffle hunting with Miro, who is the owner of Miro Tartufi. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do, though. He and his dogs do all the real work!
Miro offers guided tours through the Motovun forest, taking you through stunning scenery, on the hunt for those famous black and white truffles. Do not stress though, if you do not find many truffles on your hunt – the Miro family has plenty back at the house.
Truffles are famous all over the world, and the Istrian truffle has a reputation for fetching some of the highest world prices. But, those little fungi are not easy to find – but oh-so-fun!
Horse-Riding / Ranch Visit
Every kid loves animals and the great outdoors in my experience – and most of us big kids, too! There is no need to keep shushing the kids to be quiet, and use an indoor voice at a ranch. There are many ranches around Slavonia. I personally give you my parent seal of approval on these:
- Ranč Ramarin
- State Stud Farm Dakovo
- Ranč Čondić
Get Spiritual In Croatia
I’ve never heard anyone outside of Croatia tell me that they plan to go to Marija Bistrica. Never has anyone asked me about how to get there or what to do there. But if you like religious stops of the Catholic kind, head to Marija Bistrica. One of the top tourist destinations in Croatia for Catholics, this city holds a unique charm and sense of divine healing that I’ve not yet felt anywhere else across Croatia. Be sure to take a look for yourself.
Explore Our Towns & Cities
You have to base yourself someplace, but where? In this list of things to do guide for Croatia, I could write for days on all of the best Croatia travel destinations, but then this page would be a million words. Instead, I am listing below some thought-starters for you. Some of my favorites, as well as the top places to see in Croatia.
If you’re looking for a small and charming coastal town, which still has plenty to see and do, while also enough to entertain you for an evening, then Poreč is the ideal choice.
Situated on the pretty Istrian coastline, ideally placed to explore further afield, too, Poreč is picturesque while also packed with sightseeing options. It’s a strange combination, but it’s one that works fantastically! It might have lots of modern holiday resorts, but also has a place for culture lovers. Poreč is not short on historical attractions, and one that will amaze you is the UNESCO Listed Euphrasian Basilica which dates back to Byzantine times.
Varaždin is located on the right bank of River Drava in the northwestern part of Croatia and 79 kilometers northeast of Zagreb. This city is a significant tourist center in northern Croatia, and it attracts thousands of visitors every year. Varazdin became prominent in Croatia’s history when it became Croatia’s capital in 1756. It remained Croatia’s capital for only 20 years until the city was destroyed. The city was rebuilt, and today that baroque architecture still stands, making it unique in Croatia.
While there be sure to attend Spancirfest, the festival that celebrates street theater and performing arts and of course, wander the old town and admire the historic and well preserved public buildings and numerous palaces.
The diverse cultural and historical activities offered in the city and its surroundings as well as its beautiful countryside, are sure to please. Moreover, the urban heart of this great city is well preserved and is often compared to the likes of Vienna.
By day, you can drink coffee in the 2,000-year-old Roman forum or wander the narrow streets enjoying locally made ice cream from the parlor Donat Sladoled. Once night falls, you can enjoy the sounds of the Musical Nights Festival, A classical music festival that runs from July to August each year, bringing the 9th-century Saint Donatus Church and Roman Forum to life.
Croatia sightseeing gets no better than the music and lights that are found along Zadar’s amazing waterfront promenade. This is all thanks to architect Nikola Basic, who added a fresh dimension to Zadar with his design of the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun. Relax by the Sea Organ, day or night, and enjoy the sound of the waves creating music, as they push air through 35 underwater pipes.
After enjoying all that Zadar has to offer, stay a few extra nights and make use of the city’s convenient location to take day trips to the national parks. Especially Krka National Park is exceptionally accessible from Zadar. Another awesome thing to do is sailing along the Adriatic Coast. One of our favorite day trips in Zadar is cruising around Kornati Island National Park. And for foodies, we love this Zadar food and wine tour + cooking class. Add it to your list.
Dugi Otok (Long Island) is located west of Zadar in Northern Dalmatia. While the island is easily accessible from Zadar, it doesn’t get hordes of tourists through the summer. So, if you’re looking for more peaceful and quieter things to do in Croatia in August, for example, this island is worth looking into.
Dugi Otok is 45 kilometers long and around 5 kilometers wide and has many ancient sites, beautiful beaches, and bays.
What to do on Dugi Otok:
- Visit Telašćica Nature Park and have a swim and hang out with the donkeys.
- Visit the Veli Rat Lighthouse
- Go swimming at arguably Croatia’s best beach: Sakarun.
- Check out the amazing Strasna Pec Cave
- Attend the Saljske Uzance, a celebration that takes place the first weekend in August which culminates in the annual Donkey race.
Omiš is a town located 25 kilometers south of Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Positioned at the mouth of the crystal-clear Cetina River, Omiš was once a famous pirate town. Omiš town’s economic prosperity was born from piracy. Omiš had excellent seamen who navigated the Adriatic sea, keeping the city wealthy. The pirates of Omiš were fierce and were known to have fast ships, protecting the city for over 400 years. Now that the pirates are long gone, there are loads of things to do in Omiš. Here are a few:
What to do in Omiš:
- Adventure sports like canyoning, rock climbing, trekking up Biokovo Mountain or any of the mountains in the area, paragliding.
- Experience Zip Lining Croatia as we did across the Omiš gorges. 8 wires. 65 km/h set over 150 meters off the ground. That’s what you call heart-racing fun! You’ll love it.
- Of all the things to do in Omiš, enjoying the foam of the rapids on the Cetina River has to be one of the best ways a family can spend an active day together. Starting at Penšići and finishing at Radmanove Mlinice, rafting the 9 km route on the Cetina is a day to remember.
- Visit Mirabella Fortress and get panoramic views of Omiš.
The region known as Hrvatsko Zagorje is dotted with castles, thermal springs, vineyards and not to mention some stunning scenery. The area stretches north of Zagreb all the way to the Slovenian border. Taking a drive through the rolling green hills of Zagorje is an enjoyable experience in itself and be sure to try some traditional Zagorje cuisine.
What to do in Zagorje:
- Visit a castle. We recommend Trakošćan or Veliki Tabor Castles
- Try some fabulous Croatian wine at Bolfan Vinski Vrh or Korak winery.
- Visit the Museum of Krapina Neanderthals
- Spend the day at a Thermal Spa like Aquae Vivae in Krapinske Toplice
- Visit Kumrovec, the birthplace of Tito, which is now an open-air museum depicting life in the 19th & early 20th century.
Mljet National Park
The National Park of Mljet is for those who like a little bit of adventure as well as stunning scenery. Situated on Mljet Island, the park takes up the entire northwest of the island. Mljet National Park is bordered by two saltwater lakes that are fantastic to swim in as they are a couple of degrees warmer than the sea temperature.
You can also go kayaking, hiking and of course just relax and sunbathe. In the middle of the larger Lake (Veliko Jezero), there is a small island, with a former 12th-century Benedictine monastery that is now a café. We rented kayaks and paddled over for a coffee a couple of years back, and that was an excellent experience. If the national park isn’t enough, go and explore the rest of Mljet.
A couple of years ago my friends and I sailed to Vis from Hvar and spent a couple of days on the island. Vis Island is a little further out into the Adriatic sea and previously served as a military post, isolating the island from tourism development. There are two main towns on Vis Island, Vis town in the northeast and Komiza Bay on the western side of the island. If you’re looking for an Adriatic escape without being swamped by tourists, Vis Island is the place for you.
What to do on Vis Island:
- Explore the labyrinth of old military tunnels. As you travel around the island, you will see caves and concrete entrances in hillsides dotted all over the place. These are the military tunnels. We recommend you get a local guide and take a tour.
- Go to one of the many beaches on Vis, try Grandovac, Stonćica or the magnificent Stiniva beach.
- Visit the Blue Cave on the nearby island of Biševo. While on Biševo you should stop in at Porat beach for a swim
- Try some of the local vino. We love Vugava a local grape variety that has been cultivated for a couple of thousand years.
Peljesac is a peninsula in southern Croatia, in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, about an hour and a half drive from Dubrovnik. It is around 70 kilometers long and connected to the Croatian Mainland at Ston. If you are staying in Dubrovnik, Peljesac makes a great day trip – this one has been so popular with our readers.
Peljesac is most famous for the excellent Croatian wines that come from the peninsula, particularly Dingač and Postup. Peljesac has an awe-inspiring landscape all while being almost surrounded by the azure Adriatic. This is arguably one of the most underrated Croatia tourist spots.
What to do in Peljesac
- Try some oysters, shellfish and the delicious Croatian cuisine in Ston.
- Check out the great wall of Ston.
- Go wine tasting in Dingač and Postup. Most of the vineyards are open for visitors.
- Go swimming at one of the sandy beaches. Try Trstenica or Prapratno.
- Visit the town of Orebic.
Brijuni Islands National Park
The Brijuni Archipelago National Park is made up of 14 islands, including Veliki Brijun and Mali Brijun. The Brijuni Islands were made famous by Tito, the Yugoslavian leader who made them into his own personal summer retreat. Tito would entertain heads of state and movie stars alike at Bijle Villa (white house) on Veliki Brijun. These days, however, anyone can visit Veliki Brijun and explore the island.
What to do on the Brijuni Islands
- Go to the Safari Park and see some animals that are exotic to Croatia.
- Visit the archaeological sites of Kastrum, Roman villa in Verige Bay, and the 5th century St. Mary’s Church, which is said to have been used by the Knights Templar in the 13th century.
- Visit Tito’s Museum
The town of Senj is located at the foothills of the Velebit and Kapela Mountains on the Adriatic coast. It lies between Zadar and Rijeka. It is a great place to stay if you want to spend some time in North Velebit National Park while still being by the sea.
What to do in Senj
- Visit the Nehaj fortress that was erected in 1558.
- Learn about Senj’s history in the town museum that is housed in the Vukasović palace.
- Go hiking in the North Velebit National Park which is only 50km from Senj and explore one of the world’s longest caves Lukina.
- If an active holiday is more your thing than you can go hiking through the Senj bypass, try cycling one of the many trails, Fishing, sailing, and my favorite personal swimming in the Adriatic
What to do in Rijeka:
- Trsat Castle is perched on top of the hill above Rijeka and historically served as a lookout. These days Trsat is used to serve the city by hosting different events and performances. Head up the stairs and take a look for yourself.
- Korzo is the main promenade in the city of Rijeka. It’s safe to say it’s the cultural heart of Rijeka and is always alive. Have a coffee or a meal on Korzo and see what Rijeka is all about.
- Go biking. Bike Rijeka Mobile App enables you to search for more than 40 cycling trails shown on Google Maps and provides detailed directions on how to reach them. All trails include descriptions of attractions, locations of nearby food and drink venues, service centers, accommodation options and everything else you need to explore new trails during your stay in Rijeka. The app recently won this award.
- Get dressed up and go to the Rijeka Carnival. This carnival is huge and loads of fun. It’s listed as one of the most important events in Europe. The celebration will be held from Jan 17 to Feb 10. Get your masks ready and book your flights to Rijeka.
- Why not consider staying in Rijeka’s Botel a unique accommodation experience.
I often hear from travelers to Croatia that they land in Zagreb, collect their bags and race off to the Dalmatian Coast. They hardly give Zagreb a second thought on their Croatia itinerary. I cannot blame them for doing so, of course, but my advice is not to rush off so quickly.
There are so many things to do in Zagreb, including a unique exhibit of trinkets that people keep to remind them of failed relationships at the Museum of Broken Relationships. Along with museums and galleries, Zagreb also has a fantastic boutique fashion scene that you won’t find anywhere else in Croatia. Best of all, you can zigzag across Zagreb without fuss, as the city is a walker’s paradise and has a great tram network. In fact, many of the greatest places of interest in Croatia actually are in Zagreb. Don’t skip it!
If you are adding Zagreb to your things to see and do in Croatia wish list, we recommend Hotel Esplanade. It is worth every penny. If you want to take our lead and rest your head in this 5-star hotel, our tip to you is to be sure to ask for a park-facing view! Or you can also stay at the Zagreb Hilton, and eat at Oxbo Bar and Grill. We rate both those highly, too.
Zagreb has a thriving food scene, with a mix of upscale restaurants including fusion, international fare, and those serving truly authentic meals. Tkalčićeva Street is the place to eat and drink. Wander up the 800-meter paved street and take your pick at where to enjoy coffee or a cocktail. My favorite spot here is number 18 Tkalčićeva street, where you can drink with the locals and try many flavors of the Croatian liquor known as rajika.
Allow time to wander around the city admiring the architecture, which dates back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some of the buildings have a raw beauty while others are very well maintained, as in the main square of Ban Jelacic.
Zagreb is a place for all seasons, especially December. Here you can escape the crowds that flock to the bigger European Christmas Markets, and plan your stay around the Advent in Zagreb festival, where you can enjoy mulled wine, eat street food and buy trinkets at the open-air markets.
Croatia’s second-largest city, Split is arguably also the country’s most historic destination. The city originated as a Greek colony in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. but became a major settlement when Roman Emperor Diocletian chose it as his retirement home in 305 AD. The enormous fortified Palace of Diocletian became and still is the beating heart of the city. The rest of Split, including the adjacent Roman quarter, developed outside of the palace.
What makes Split so phenomenal and one of the top Croatia tourist destinations today is that Diocletian’s Palace is still there. You can wander its ancient streets, grab a bite to eat in restaurants housed in ancient Roman buildings and see a wealth of ruins. Because the palace, without question one of the top 10 places to see in Croatia, is so well-preserved, UNESCO declared it World Heritage.
In addition to outstanding architecture, culture, and history, Split is also a very modern city. Its nightlife is legendary; its waterfront promenade the most beautiful in Croatia. The food scene in this coastal city is nothing short of sensational as well. On top it, it makes for a great base to explore other iconic places in Dalmatia. There’s certainly no lack of things to do in Split, as you now know. And things to do near Split are abundant as well, as this overview of Split day trips clearly shows.
One of the best day trips from Split is Trogir, a gorgeous walled medieval town a short distance from the city. This town, too, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, when you’re staying in Split, it is a must-visit place. You only need one day to explore and get a feel for this stunner of a town.
Another popular day trip destination is the Klis Fortress. Perched atop a cliff just north of the city, it is most famous for being the setting of Meereen in Game of Thrones. The fortress has a long history as one of the numerous strongholds that line the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.
If Split is on your itinerary and you’re arriving in Zagreb, this blog post tells you how to get from Zagreb to Split. Traveling from Zadar? Find out how to get from Zadar to Split here.
Quickly becoming one of the most popular places in Croatia and in Southern Europe, Dubrovnik is known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. And for good reason, it’s an absolutely gorgeous old city. Its long and rich history includes a time of independence when it was the Republic of Ragusa, a worthy rival of Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. This period of prosperity has resulted in abundant historical attractions in Dubrovnik, from the mighty City Walls to the labyrinth of alleys in the Old Town and its iconic red-roofed houses.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, indicating its historic and cultural importance. In addition to beautiful architecture and a wealth of history, there are also amazing beaches, wonderful nature and a fab foodie scene as well.
Game of Thrones fans will recognize the city as King’s Landing. Game of Thrones tours are one of the most popular things to do in Dubrovnik. You’re encouraged to spend at least two full days in this beautiful old city.
This all makes Dubrovnik one of the greatest and most popular cities in the Mediterranean. And it basically gets more famous every week. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to credit this magnificent old city for the massive boost that Croatia tourism experienced recently.
Dubrovnik is the southernmost city in Dalmatia and in Croatia. It’s best reached from Split. You can check how to get from Split to Dubrovnik in this blog post.
Šibenik may just be the most underrated and overlooked Dalmatian coastal city. Yet, it is home to one of the top sites in Croatia. The city lies about halfway between Zadar and Split on the central coast of Dalmatia. Almost a millennium old, Šibenik has had a somewhat turbulent past. Over the courses of many centuries, it has endured and survived a few wars, hot temperatures, wave beatings, and wind. The fact that the entire city is built with stone has definitely added to its resilience.
There are cobbled streets, stone stairways, stone buildings, rock walls, and stone arches. Its unique combination of stone, sea, and sun, sets it apart from any other city in Croatia. So, when you’re road tripping along the Dalmatian coast, make sure to stop here for a night.
There are many things to do in Šibenik, from visiting its four fortresses to sipping wine on a cozy square to admiring the striking Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We’ve already said we loved Korcula Island (pronounced KOR-chu-la). It is also known as the Emerald Isle and is one of Croatia’s many islands. This island is a Croatia tourism champion.
Located in Southern Dalmatia, this small, 279-square-kilometer island is a favorite among travelers. A place of culture, history, beauty, and charm, the island of Korcula offers a variety of activities and unique traditions all surrounded by the stunning Adriatic sea and excellent Korcula weather.
Skradin is a picturesque little town, with a long history – being first settled by the Liburnians followed by the Romans. The town has cobbled-stoned streets and has that small Mediterranean town vibe. You will see men tending to their fishing nets as the scent of Croatian cooking fills the air. And, hey, if it’s good enough for Bill Gates, should be good for you too huh?
What to do in Skradin:
- Visit the 14th-century Franciscan monastery that is located on an island in Lake Visovac
- Sail all the way to Skradin from the Adriatic Sea
- Visit Krka National Park and swim in the waterfalls
- Eat Skradinski Rižot, which is cooked for up to 12 hours, making it an epic veal risotto. It was also made famous by Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations
- Visit Bibich Winery for some of Croatia’s best wine and out of this world food.
Hidden Gem of Trogir
Located just 25 km from the heart of Split, it feels strange to call Trogir hidden. However, it’s often the case in the offseason that you’ll find only a handful of tourists in this charming 2300-year-old city.
With an amazing boardwalk and narrow winding alleyways, Trogir is the perfect place to escape the hectic mayhem of Split. Be sure not to miss the amazing Venetian Cathedral of St. Lovro or the intricate City Hall. Trogir is one of my top 10 things to see in Croatia so don’t miss it.
Pag Island is in the very north of Dalmatia and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Once you cross the Pag island bridge, there is a noticeable difference in terrain. Rock and stone dominate the landscape. However, to dismiss this location based on the tree-less landscape would be a mistake. During the summer months of July and August, Novalja, one of the island’s two major towns, transforms into a giant, beach party. Pag town itself is quite charming and let us not forget what Pag is most famous for, Paški sir (Pag Cheese), the production of salt and lace making.
What to do on Pag Island:
- Check out the ancient olive grove of Lun at Pag islands very tip. Some of the trees are 1500 years old!
- Try some Paski Sir at Sirana Gligora or visit one of the local cheese producers.
- Visit the Lace Museum. Did you know that the Pag Lacework is so important to the Croatian culture it was inscribed by UNESCO on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009?
- If you like to Party, go to one of the Superclubs at Zrce, in Novalja and party the night away.
When you think of Croatia, you’ll be forgiven if you only think of beaches on the 1,000 out-of-this-world islands of Croatia. There is a part of Croatia to the northwest that you should visit while you’re in the land of the red and white checkers.
It’s known as Istria and it’s one of the most beautiful areas on the well-filled Croatia tourist map.
In Istria, you’ll find medieval hilltop towns, such as Motovun, and gems like the town of Novigrad which some describe as being the ‘new Tuscany,’ an array of food festivals and some of the region’s best olive oil, wine, and the famous white truffle. Other gorgeous coastal towns are Rovinj and Pula with its huge Roman amphitheater. (Check out this blog post highlighting ten things to see in Pula.) Many visit Istria and wonder if they haven’t just stumbled into small-town life in Italy. The region was, in fact, once part of Italy and you will still see a road sign in both Croatian and Italian.
Something else you might want to consider while on holidays in Croatia is cycling. Istria has some of the most scenic routes geared for cyclists. Both amateurs and professionals will find a trail lined with breathtaking views and plenty of places to stop and enjoy a coffee.
Plus, in Istria, there now is now an Aquapark, which is one of the fun things for kids to do in Croatia that we recommend. If waterparks are not your thing, what about one of these killer Istrian beaches?
Istria is well-known for Rovinj and Motovun, but we suggest you also look east and check our Labin & Rabac too! After exploring Istria, the next logical destination to go to is Zadar. Find out how to get from Pula to Zadar (or the other way around) in this post.
Along with Dalmatia, Istria, and Inland Croatia, Slavonia is a region in Croatia. Situated in the far northeast of the country, this is Croatia’s least-visited area – and this needs to change.
While Dalmatia and Istria get flooded with (summer) tourists, Slavonia remains virtually untouched by mass tourism. Yet, Slavonia is undoubtedly a region that’s very much worth visiting, especially if you like off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Slavonia is another foodie heaven waiting to be enjoyed!
2019 Absolute Must-Do Things In Croatia: Local Tips
Come In The Off-Season
Prices drop at least 30%, there are far fewer people, and you’ll get to meet the locals. Winter in Croatia is by far the least busy time of year and is always overlooked.
Granted, the Dalmatian Coast is all but a ghost town, and the Adriatic Sea is freezing cold, but you have skiing, spas and many festivals to keep you busy. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but Croatia in September is amazing.
You’ll just fall in love with Croatia’s old cities and the raw coastline on your visit, and it’s my guess that you’ll need two more trips (at least!) to experience all that is on offer for your family.
Accommodation In Croatia
There are numerous options for where to sleep while on your vacation in Croatia. There are an abundance of hotels, motels, camping grounds and apartments. We keep updating our guides with the best ones here. Once you’ve decided what to see in Croatia, use that guide to find a great deal.
- Best Glamping In Croatia
- Where To Stay In Split
- Where To Stay In Dubrovnik
- Where To Stay In Zadar
- Where To Stay In Sibenik
- Where To Stay With Kids
- Where To Stay In Rovinj
Currency In Croatia?
The official currency in Croatia is the Kuna.
1 Kuna is equal to 100 lipas. You can find foreign currency exchange centers throughout all cities and towns. Currency exchange is also provided in banks and some post offices, as well as some tourist agencies.
Are there any other top things to do in Croatia that you loved that we missed off this list? Are there any key places of interest in Croatiatia that we need to add on? Let us know.
Main Photo Credit Leonardo Uzeda.