Is Croatia In Winter A Good Idea? Yes. Here’s Why & Where To Go

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

If you’re itching for a unique winter getaway, let me spill the beans on why Croatia should be on your radar. Forget about the crowds and high prices—visiting Croatia in winter is where it’s at. Trust me, as a local who loves to explore Croatia during the off-season, I’ve uncovered some hidden gems to share with you in my travel guide.

Choose from skiing down powdery slopes, getting your hands on juicy mandarins fresh from the trees, and wandering through charming Christmas markets. Croatia has it all, even when the temperatures drop and the European winter sets in.

Is A Trip To Croatia In Winter A Good Idea?

Sure, Croatia is renowned for its summer splendor, attracting hordes of beach-loving travelers. That said, from frozen waterfalls to enchanting landscapes, Croatia transforms into a captivating winter wonderland.

Here’s the scoop on why this European gem should be on your radar for a chilly season getaway. 

Here are six reasons why I think that a winter trip to Croatia is a great idea.

1. Scenic Winter Landscapes

The snow-covered Zrinjevac Fountain with blue and white holiday lights on a winter night in Croatia.

Winter transforms Croatia’s already stunning landscapes into serene, snow-dusted wonderlands. Walking through Plitvice Lakes National Park during the colder months, with its waterfalls and lakes surrounded by snow-covered trees, is downright magical. It’s a quieter, more peaceful version of the natural beauty you’d see in the summer.

2. Cultural Exploration Without The Crowds

Croatian cities like Split take on a whole new charm in winter. You can wander the historic, medieval streets without the summer crowds, making it feel like you’ve got the place to yourself. The architecture stands out more, and the vibe is just different—more intimate and authentic.

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3. Festive Christmas Markets

An Advent in Zagreb street food stall with red and white stripes.

The Christmas markets, especially in Zagreb, are a highlight. They’re full of twinkling lights, delicious smells of mulled wine and holiday treats, and rows of stalls selling unique crafts. It’s a festive experience that perfectly captures the holiday spirit, Croatian style.

4. Winter Sports And Adventure

Croatia’s winter landscape offers plenty of opportunities for those who love a bit of adventure. Whether tobbogoning in Gorski Kotar or snowboarding near Zagreb, you’ll find exciting ways to enjoy the snow without the long lines and high prices of more well-known ski destinations.

5. Culinary Delights

A Traditional Croatian bowl of goulash stew with bread and a glass of red wine.

Winter is the perfect time to dive into Croatian cuisine, which is all about hearty and comforting dishes. From sarma (meat-filled cabbage rolls) to rich stews, the cooler weather is your excuse to indulge in the country’s delicious, warming foods.

6. Value For Money

Traveling in the off-peak season means your money goes further. You’ll find better deals on accommodation and flights, plus you’ll enjoy attractions without the peak season price hikes. It’s a budget-friendly way to enjoy what Croatia has to offer.

Best Things To Do & Places To Visit In Croatia

So, I’ve sold you on the idea that Croatia in January or February is worth visiting, right? Here is what to see if you plan a trip to Croatia during winter this year.

Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park & It’s Frozen Waterfalls

Snow in Croatia at Plitvice waterfalls, Croatia.

While the beaches are the most popular destinations during the summer, there are other unique sites to see in the winter. A great example is the iconic lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park. The place transforms into a winter wonderland as the lakes freeze over – it is the perfect winter visit.

They are dreamy and astounding, just like a scene you might expect to see in the movie Frozen. Plitvice Lakes National Park is open all year round and is one of Croatia’s star attractions – and in winter, the entrance tickets are around 70% cheaper. Yay.

As gorgeous as the park is in summer, I wouldn’t say I like it; with so many people, you feel like you’ll be pumped off the boardwalk at any moment. Whereas in winter, it’s magical and wonderfully empty.

A visit to a frozen-over Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most incredible things to do in Croatia – trust me.

Skiing & Snow In Croatia

SJ and Vladimir at the snow.

Does it snow in Croatia?

You bet it does!

In winter, Croatia becomes an inexpensive place to ski. Head to the Mèdvednica mountain range (1000 meters of elevation), north of Zagreb, one of Croatia’s top winter sports destinations. In addition to skiing, Croatia also offers fun tobogganing and sledding, which are super popular among kids.

There are several different places in Croatia where you can enjoy winter sports, such as skiing, sledding, tobogganing, Nordic skiing, or ice skating.

You can strap on the skis or skates at these top Croatian winter sports locations.

Sljeme Ski Resort

Sljeme Croatia - Winter in Croatia

One of the top ski resorts in Croatia, the Sljeme Ski Resort, is located on Mèdvednica Mountain’s slopes in Mèdvednica Nature Park. Just 10 km from the Zagreb city center, it attracts locals and tourists alike.

The main event at this popular ski destination is the annual Snow Queen Trophy, a competition that’s part of the FIS Ski World Cup and occurs every January. Non-professional skiers and winter sports enthusiasts can also enjoy a variety of slopes and runs here. The resort has three lifts and five slopes: White Meadow, White Slope, Red Slope (the most difficult), Green Slope, and Blue Slope.

The Red Slope has a chairlift and is also equipped with an artificial snowmaker, which prolongs the skiing season.

On the other hand, the White and Green slopes have T-bar lifts. Most pitches are gentle and suitable for children and those just learning how to ski. The Red and White slopes also have a lighting system, making it possible for skiers to enjoy skiing at night.

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Platak Ski Resort

A popular destination throughout the whole year, Platak’s peak season is winter. Located just north of Rijeka and west of Risnjak National Park, this resort has been around since the mid-1960s, when its first ski lift was built.

The Platak Ski Resort is near the mountain towns of Snježnik and Risnja. Even though it’s only 10 km from the Croatian coast, snow does cover the area’s tall mountains for much of winter. Platak’s highest peak is Radeševo (1,363 meters above sea level), the ski resort’s longest and most famous trail. In addition to challenging skiing and snowboarding runs, several easier and gentler slopes are perfect for children and beginners.

There’s even a Baby Trail, equipped with a conveyor belt for kids and tubing and sledding slopes. As one of Croatia’s best ski resorts, Platak is an excellent destination for everyone, from families with small children to recreational and even professional skiers and snowboarders. Non-skiers also visit the area to enjoy its gorgeous winter scenery.

Mukinje Ski Resort

Located near one of Croatia’s most famous natural attractions, Plitvice Lakes, the Mukinje Ski Resort is about 700 meters above sea level and offers you various winter sports.

It is only 2.5 km from Plitvice Lakes National Park’s Entrance 2 and 5 km from Entrance 1. Experienced skiers, recreationists, beginners, and children can all enjoy the wintry beauty of this part of Croatia.

In addition to one ski lift with a capacity of 400 people per hour, there are several ski trails, all about 400 meters long.

The average slope gradient at Mukinje Ski Resort is only 15%, making it a suitable destination for learning to ski or snowboard. Most slopes are also great for sleighing and sledding.

At the resort, you can also rent all kinds of winter sports equipment, including snowboarding and skiing equipment, toboggan sleds, sleighs, and incredibly fun snow saucers. Everything can be reserved in advance.

Čelimbaša Ski Resort

The Čelimbaša Ski Resort is in Mrkopalj, about 15 km from Delnice. Located at an elevation of 1,100 meters, its slopes start at 825 meters above sea level, while its drag lift is about 700 meters long and has a capacity of 600 skiers per hour.

This resort has three different ski trails, all of which have different lengths. The longest of the three, the Tourist Trail, is 1,400 meters long and has the gentlest grade. Tobogganing is possible here, too. The Sunny Trail is roughly 1,000 meters long, while the Black Path is 500 meters long and the ski resort’s steepest run.

So, if you’re looking for an alternative winter sports destination to the popular resorts of France, Italy, and Switzerland, consider visiting Croatia in winter.

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Take A Winter Trip To Croatia To Harvest Mandarins In Neretva

Neretva River mandarines - Hidden Gems Croatia
Neretva River mandarines

The Neretva Valley is known as the “garden of Dubrovnik” for good reasons. This verdant and fertile valley has been a fruit-growing region since the 1400s, and now the orchards are busier and more productive than ever. It’s said that there are about 1.3 million mandarin seedlings in the valley, which explains its other nickname—the “mandarin valley.”

The mandarin harvesting season starts in the fall but runs well into the winter. It makes for a fantastic day trip from Dubrovnik in winter, an ideal activity to stock up on vitamin C before the coldest winter days arrive. Even if you’re visiting Croatia in December, you can still head over and grab some fresh citrus fruit.

Visit Croatia Without The Crowds

Oh, but where to start? There are just so darn many places to choose from, especially if you’re visiting the coast.

Here is my list of places to visit to get you started.

Winter In Dubrovnik

One of the must-see things to do in Dubrovnik is to explore a Cathedral Of The Assumption Of Mary situated amidst the charming cobblestone streets.

The “Pearl of the Adriatic” needs no introduction, but it’s a different experience in winter. With smaller crowds, you can take your time while exploring the centuries-old city walls and narrow alleys.

The historic sites, such as the majestic Fort Lovrijenac and Dubrovnik Cathedral, are more accessible, allowing you to appreciate their grandeur without the usual hustle and bustle. Don’t forget to warm up with a cup of local mulled wine from the charming cafes scattered throughout the city.

Zadar At Wintertime

Experience the enchantment of advent in Zadar, where a Christmas market awaits you with shimmering blue lights.

Escape the typical summer tourist crowds and discover Zadar’s winter allure – which also happens to be my hometown.

Start your exploration with the Sea Organ, an enchanting musical instrument powered by the sea’s waves. As the waves crash against the stone steps, delightful melodies fill the air.

Another must-see is the Greeting to the Sun installation, a mesmerizing display of lights that dances beneath your feet. Take a leisurely walk along the waterfront promenade up to Five Well Square, where you’ll find us locals at the restaurant eating a hearty Croatian lunch for cheap.

Winter In Split

Historical architecture with a bell tower in a Croatian old town setting.

While Split’s Diocletian’s Palace is an iconic destination, it’s even more magical in winter when all you see are locals.

Explore the ancient sites, marvel at the well-preserved architecture, and enjoy the peace that descends upon this historical site during the colder months. Afterward, wander through the quaint streets of the Old Town, discovering hidden shops and bustling local markets. Don’t forget to try “fritule” – small doughnut-like pastries – a delectable winter treat from the Advent street vendors.

Rovinj At Wintertime

Old Istrian town in Rovinj, Croatia.

Known for its colorful buildings and charming streets, Rovinj is a coastal gem that genuinely shines in winter. Stroll through the cobbled alleys lined with galleries, boutiques, and local artisan shops.

Visit the St. Euphemia Church, perched atop a hill, and enjoy panoramic views of the picturesque town and the shimmering Adriatic Sea. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate in a cozy café, savoring the calm and serenity of this hidden winter oasis.

Wintery Trogir

An ornate door of the The Cathedral Of St. Lawrence in Trogir, Croatia with a green door. Radovan portal is the main portal of the cathedral of St Lawrence done by Radovan in 1240. Trogir, Croatia

One of the prettiest small coastal towns in Dalmatia, Trogir, is an ancient stone town that gets overrun by tourists in summer. Located a quick drive from Split, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed town makes for one of the top sights in Croatia in winter, just because it’s super-quiet this time of year. It’s that breathtaking.

Even though many stores and restaurants close for the season, a visit is still worth it, perhaps even more so.

Like Dubrovnik to the south, Trogir returns to its authentic self in winter. Locals come out, and tourists stay away, offering a more “real” experience of wandering the streets by yourself. This is when you can start a conversation with locals much more easily than in summer when the town is super-crowded and everyone’s more stressed.

You can spend the morning sipping coffee at the main square, surrounded by locals, and the rest of the day wandering about the stone core of the town and along its stunning harbor.

Experience The Dubrovnik Winter Festival

Winter in Dubrovnik - Advent Markets with fritule

I know I already mentioned Dubrovnik, but you should think about the Dubrovnik Winter Festival specifically. It is the wintry counterpart of the super-popular Dubrovnik Summer Festival. 

This multi-day festival, which runs from Advent into the New Year, provides tons of fun for young and old. This cultural feast features various events and loads of entertainment all across the Old Town of Dubrovnik and beyond. There are Christmas concerts and other musical performances, New Year’s parties for children and adults, and endless food and merriment.

Several stalls line Stradun, the Old Town’s main street, selling everything from handicrafts, toys, and Christmas tree decorations to mulled wine and cakes. Of course, thousands of twinkling lights magically illuminate everything, creating an atmosphere unlike any other season.

Best of all, visiting off-season means skipping the summer crowds (I know, I know, I keep reminding you of that!) so you can make the most of your time in the city!

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Croatia For Christmas & Stroll Advent Markets

A man and a child enjoying winter ice skating at an ice rink in Bulgaria.

Some of my best memories of Croatia in winter are from the Advent festivities in Zagreb, Croatia’s vibrant capital. In December, Christmas and Advent markets spring up all over the country, from Zagreb to Zadar, Opatija, and from Split to Dubrovnik.

Indeed, this is the most magical time of the year, and we can’t imagine a more atmospheric month for a Croatia vacation than this.

So, think again if you only think of Croatia as a beach destination. The country has much more to offer, even during winter.

Head to King Tomislav Square, where you’ll see an enormous ice skating rink at the ready. After taking a twirl around the arena, head to the small markets in Croatia to pick up last-minute handcrafted Christmas gifts.

If you ever need reasons to visit Croatia in winter, these glorious Christmas markets are one of the main ones.

Soak In Hot Springs

There’s no better way to escape the low temperature in Croatia in January than soaking in a natural hot tub. Another fabulous option when visiting Croatia in winter is one of its natural hot springs and, of course, the thermal spas built around them. The rates at these resorts are usually excellent during the off-season, so why not try them?

Most of the thermal spas in Croatia have been used since Roman times, so you might absorb some history while soaking up the mineral-rich hot waters. The thermal spas offer reasonably priced luxury accommodations during winter and will even throw in extra services!

Reputable spas include:

  • Sveti Martin na Muri
  • Tuhelj
  • Stubičke Toplice
  • Krapinske Toplice
  • Varaždinske Toplice
  • Daruvarske Toplice

Go To The Beach

Best Restaurants In Dubrovnik_Hotel Kompas view (1)

Okay, it is winter in Croatia, but that doesn’t mean a beach visit is out of the question. Although Croatia’s winter temperatures might be too low for a swim or an afternoon of sunbathing, winter days can still be delightful.

On a sunny winter day, you can easily pull up a chair on the beach and soak up the sights, sounds, and smells of the gorgeous Adriatic Sea or pass a few hours with a good book.

On top of that, the huge summer crowds are nowhere to be seen in winter. Being on the beach in Croatia with only a few other people present, how often is that possible in Croatia nowadays?

Croatia In February Means Carnival Time

Rijeka Carnival Ball_Bird

Speaking of January, if you are in Croatia at this time of the year, you might want to attend the Rijeka Carnival, one of the largest carnival festivals in Europe.

Concerts, exhibitions, masquerades, and parties follow the ceremonial handing over of the city’s keys to the Master of the Carnival, leading to a large international masked festival in February.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day In Croatia With Your Other Half

February 14, the global day of love, falls in the middle of winter. And guess what? Croatia is an incredible place to visit for romantic getaways, intimate seaside dinners, couple’s activities, and much more, even in February.

Winter in Croatia has lots to offer to couples. Thanks to the country’s stunning old cities, such as Zadar, Split, Trogir, and Dubrovnik, you’ll have plenty of choices for a Valentine’s Day destination.

Enjoy amazing winter sunsets, soak in hot springs, pamper yourself with a spa treatment, and indulge in mouthwatering Croatian food.

Winter Weather In Croatia

When winter arrives in Croatia, it brings with it a unique mix of weather across its different regions. Let’s take a closer look at the weather patterns in each area so you’ll be well-prepared for your winter adventures, whether you’re seeking coastal charm or exploring the central and northern parts of the country.

Coastal Croatia

Along the stunning Coastal Croatia, you can expect average daytime highs around 12°C (53.6°F) and nighttime lows of 5°C (41°F). These temperatures create a pleasant atmosphere, perfect for leisurely strolls along the seafront promenades or sipping hot beverages at cozy cafes while basking in the refreshing breeze.

Central Croatia

Meanwhile, in Central Croatia, winters can be a touch chillier. During the day, temperatures typically reach around 4°C (39.2°F), while at night, they dip to an average of -1°C (30.2°F). It’s good to pack some warm layers to bundle up as you explore.

Northern Croatian

Heading towards the north, winters in Northern Croatia can give you a genuine taste of the colder side of the season. During the daytime, temperatures hover around 3°C (37.4°F) while dropping to an average low of -3°C (26.6°F) after sundown. Be sure to bring your winter coat, hat, and gloves.

Eastern Croatia

In Eastern Croatia, the winter climate strikes a balance between the chillier north and milder coastal areas. Plan for daytime highs around 5°C (41°F) and nighttime lows of -2°C (28.4°F)

Istria

Last but not least, Istria invites you to experience its winter wonders, offering a blend of natural beauty, historic towns, and excellent gastronomy. Through these chillier months, daytime highs stay around 10°C (50°F), while the lows at night dip to around 3°C (37.4°F). With mild temperatures like these, you can comfortably explore the enchanting towns and countryside, indulging in local delicacies along the way.

Note: remember to check the weather forecast closer to your visit, as temperatures can fluctuate and surprise you. Dressing in layers is always a wise choice so you can adapt to changing weather conditions. 

 

Region Winter (Dec – Feb) High Winter (Dec – Feb) Low
Coastal Croatia 12°C / 53.6°F 5°C / 41°F
Central Croatia 4°C / 39.2°F -1°C / 30.2°F
Northern Croatia 3°C / 37.4°F -3°C / 26.6°F
Eastern Croatia 5°C / 41°F -2°C / 28.4°F
Dalmatia 14°C / 57.2°F 6°C / 42.8°F
Istria 10°C / 50°F 3°C / 37.4°F

 

Where To Stay In Croatia In Winter Time

WHERE TO STAY IN CROATIA IN WINTER

Traveling To Croatia In Winter

PLITVICE WINTER_ Winter in Croatia

Croatia is well-connected to the rest of Europe, even during the winter months. The most convenient way to reach Croatia is by air, and several airports continue to operate regular flights throughout the year. The two major international airports that remain open during winter are Zagreb International Airport and Split Airport. These airports offer a range of domestic and international flights, making them perfect starting points for your winter adventure in Croatia.

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Zagreb International Airport

Located in the country’s capital, Zagreb International Airport is a bustling hub that provides excellent access to the diverse charms of this scenic nation. From Zagreb, you can easily explore the vibrant Christmas markets, immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, or venture further into Croatia’s picturesque landscapes. Numerous airlines offer flights to and from Zagreb International Airport, ensuring you have plenty of options to choose from.

Split Airport

Situated in the stunning coastal city of Split, Split Airport offers convenient access to beautiful islands and coastal regions, ensuring a memorable winter vacation. From Split, you can explore the iconic Diocletian’s Palace, soak up the breathtaking views on the Dalmatian Coast, or embark on an island-hopping extravaganza to popular destinations like Hvar or Brac. Various domestic and international airlines operate flights to and from Split Airport, providing you with flexibility in planning your winter getaway.

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Choosing the Best Starting Point

While both Zagreb and Split offer fantastic opportunities, where you begin your winter vacation in Croatia ultimately depends on your interests and preferences.

If you crave history, culture, and a vibrant city atmosphere, Zagreb should be your go-to destination. The city’s cozy cafes, winter festivals, and charming medieval Upper Town create a magical ambiance, transporting you into a winter wonderland.

On the other hand, if you’re enamored with picturesque coasts, islands, and mild Mediterranean weather, starting your winter vacation in Split is your best bet. The city’s stunning waterfront promenade, bustling markets, and nearby natural wonders will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Traveling In Croatia This Winter

Getting around Croatia in winter is a breeze, thanks to fewer crowds and ample parking. 

One of the best ways to travel around Croatia in winter is by car. Not only does it give you the freedom to explore at your own pace, but you’ll also find it easier to find parking spots in popular tourist destinations. The roads are well-maintained, making driving a comfortable option. Just be sure to check the weather and road conditions before you set off, as winter weather can be unpredictable.

If you’re not keen on driving, fear not! Croatia has an efficient public transportation system. Buses are a popular mode of transport, connecting major cities and towns. They are reliable, affordable, and offer a convenient way to get from one place to another and run all year round.

FAQs

VISIT CROATIA IN WINTER FAQs

Is Croatia a good destination to visit in the winter?

Yes, Croatia is a beautiful destination to visit in the winter months. The country offers a unique charm with fewer tourists, festive markets, and beautiful winter landscapes.

What are some of the best places to visit in Croatia during winter?

Some of the best places to visit in Croatia during winter are Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik, and Split. These cities offer a mix of cultural experiences, natural beauty, and winter activities.

What are some things you should do in Croatia during the winter season?

In Croatia, during the winter season, you can enjoy activities such as winter hiking in national parks, exploring charming Christmas markets, trying traditional Croatian cuisine, and visiting historic sites.

Which cities in Croatia are ideal for a winter city break?

Cities like Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Split are ideal for a winter city break in Croatia. During the winter months, these cities offer a mix of cultural attractions, cozy cafes, and festive events.

Is Plitvice Lakes National Park open during the winter season?

Yes, Plitvice Lakes National Park is open in winter. It offers a unique experience with frozen waterfalls, snowy landscapes, and fewer crowds. It’s a magical time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site.

What are some of the best Christmas markets to visit in Croatia?

One of the best Christmas markets to visit in Croatia is Zagreb. But also look at Zadar, Opatija, Dubrovnik, and Split. These markets offer a festive atmosphere with local crafts, delicious food, and mulled wine.

Final Word On Croatia Winter Travel

A young boy standing in the snow with a ski pole.

Are you still wondering why you should go to Croatia in winter? Let me tell you, it’s one of the best decisions you can make is to come visit us in the winter! Forget about the scorching heat and crowds of tourists – the winter months offer a whole new charm to this enchanting country. 

Whether you are walking along the city walls of Dubrovnik or skiing in Sljeme, there are many reasons to visit Croatia in winter, and there’s something for everyone.

January and February are the prime time to visit when the weather is mild, and the crowds have dispersed. You can have the stunning landscapes and enchanting coastal towns almost to yourself. Plus, the prices are friendlier to your wallet!

So, pack your warmest sweater and embark on an adventure. Croatia in winter is waiting to show you a different side, a side that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience this beautiful country in its quieter but equally captivating season. 

So, come and spend the winter in Croatia. I promise you won’t regret it!

 

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