Croatia is a beautiful country, I have been there already a couple of times, and every single time I totally enjoyed it! In September 2021, I made a road trip through this country and visited some of Croatia’s best places. What to expect when you visit Croatia? Charming towns and cities, gorgeous coastlines, and delicious food! However, what places do you really need to visit? Here are my tips for your next trip and my recommendations for the best places to visit in Croatia!
Split, the biggest and most important city in the province of Dalmatia. The harbor city at the Adriatic Sea is very touristy. When I arrived in Split, I really liked the vibe of this city. In the old city center, you find plenty of beautiful historic buildings and cute streets to stroll through. In the evening, it is a very cozy place with many nice restaurants and bars to choose from. The palace and cathedral in the old city center are a must-visit and you can climb up the steps of the cathedral which leads you to a wonderful view over the city. Climbing up the tower in combination with visiting the cathedral costs €9,-.
If you are looking for a place to relax and escape the busy city life, I highly recommend you visit the green park of Marjan. By walking up the hill of Marjan, you can also enjoy one of the best views over the city! Split has its own sand beach called Bacvice, but in the summer, there are parties on this beach so it can become a bit messy and overcrowded. If you want to enjoy a nice pebble beach instead with clear blue waters, walk over to Plaza Jezinac or Ovcice beach. These beaches are both outside of the city center and are perfect places to relax!
Of course, in the evening you can enjoy a great dinner in one of the restaurants in Split. There are so many good ones that it is really hard to decide! My favorites were: Fig (delicious burgers and great curry dishes), To Je Taco (Mexican food) and MakaMaka (Poké bowls and Acai bowls). Split is actually a great place for a weekend getaway since the airport is right next to the city. And in case you plan to visit some of Croatia’s islands, Split is also a good base to start. There are many ferryboats and other smaller ferries leaving from Split to Hvar, Brac and Korcula.
Dubrovnik, a city that was on my bucket list for a long time. Especially after seeing the series Game of Thrones, of which a large part was filmed in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik lies all the way in the south of Croatia and is famous for its old city center which is surrounded by city walls and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets of Dubrovnik are quite steep which often require to climb many steps. So don’t worry about not working out during your vacation; you will have plenty of that in Dubrovnik when climbing up and down those steps!
Dubrovnik is a very popular destination to visit and in the high season it can become very crowded. My advice, start your days early in the morning, then you will have the charming streets to yourself which is great for taking pictures. Walk over the city walls and visit the old fort to enjoy the best views over the city. With €25,- to visit both the city walls and the fort the ticket is quite expensive, but in my opinion it is definitely worth it! Dubrovnik also has a couple of beaches but those are a bit further away from the city. However, you can enter the sea via steps right in the old city of Dubrovnik, so you can still dip inside the beautiful Adriatic Sea. And what better way to finish the day than visiting a beach bar? My favorite one in Dubrovnik was Dodo Beach bar; they have delicious cocktails and calamari!
3. National Park Plitvice
In Croatia, you will find gorgeous cities to visit but also stunning nature to explore. The most known National Park is Plitvice. The Plitvice lakes are located in the middle of the Croatia’s mainland, which is about 2.5 hours of driving from Split. Each year, more than 1 million visitors walk through this national park, marveling at the 16 lakes and 90 waterfalls it has to offer.
These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. Around the lakes and waterfalls, you will find a beautiful forest where you can encounter wolves, rare birds, and even bears. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey and blue. The colors change depending on the season and the amount of minerals or organisms in the water.
While the upper lakes are called Gornja, the lower lakes are known as Donja. In the park, you can make many hikes and you can choose to visit only the upper lakes, only the lower lakes, or do both at the same day. My recommendation is to visit both, which is exactly what we did. We chose a hike that took about six hours, which is one of the longest trails you can find there.
Walking in the park is quite easy, you walk over wooden walkways and the hike is flat most of the time. It can become crowded in the park so you should better start early! I visited the park in September and there were already some autumn colors showing, which was very nice to see. One entrance ticket for the Plitvice lakes costs €35,-.
If you love visiting small but charming towns just as much as I do, you should definitely add Trogir to your list! This little town is about 30 minutes driving distance from Split and one of the oldest towns in Croatia. Everywhere you walk, you will see the influence of the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians.
The historical center lies on a small island that is connected to the mainland by bridges. There are charming streets to walk through, churches to visit, and 13th century old buildings to marvel at. And once you are done with exploring, you can always enjoy a delicious Croatian meal in the harbor, for example, Pasticada or Cevapcici.
In the North of Croatia, you will find the largest city in Istria County: Pula. Istria is a part of Croatia that is an easy visit when you travel through countries like Slovenia and Austria. Pula is over 3000 years old and known for its multitude of ancient Roman sites, with the Pula Arena, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world, being the most famous one. My suggestion is to walk all around the amphitheater, since you can most of its inside from different angles from outside. This way, you don’t need to pay the entrance fee of €9,- and spent it on other things, like ice-cream, instead.
You can explore the city center quite quickly, which leaves time to discover the coastline outside of Pula! You can take an uber, taxi or the bus and get to enjoy beautiful views of the sea and cliffs and just about 10 minutes. If you are into cliff diving, this is the place to do it. You can easily spend a couple hours or longer here, hiking, swimming and snorkeling. It is possible to rent a kayak or book a guided kayak tour to explore some nearby caves, which costs about €45,- for a 3 hour guided tour. When you get back to the city center, I highly recommend dining at Hook & Cook, they have fresh seafood, and the restaurant has a great vibe!
Rovinj is one of the oldest cities of Istria and about 40 minutes away from Pula. The city is one of the most popular ones to visit in Croatia, for a very good reason! The city center is colorful and picturesque, and one of the best sites to see in Rovinj is the old church that lies on top of the hill in the city center. The St. Eufemia church has a tower which you can climb by paying an entrance fee of €5,-, and from the top you have some amazing views over Rovinj and the sea. This church reminded me of the one that stands in Venice on San Marco Square, which is not surprising since the Venetians had a lot of influence on the city of Rovinj.
Visiting markets in foreign countries? I absolutely love it! Almost every day you can find a market at the boulevard of Rovinj where they sell jewelry, hand-crafted products, and souvenirs. In the evening, you can enjoy a nice sunset and after that, Rovinj looks very charming shining in the lights of the harbor. Rovinj is also a great base to explore the neighboring village Porec, and you can even take a fast ferryboat to visit Venice.
There are many great places to visit in the mainland of Croatia, but did you know that this country has over 1,200 islands? Only 67 of them are inhabited, the rest of them are too small, but it’s still possible to explore them by renting a boat. The biggest islands are Krk and Cres in the North and Brac and Hvar in the middle. Every island has its own story and things to see. Brac is known for its famous beaches, Mljet for its green nature and Hvar is comparable to Ibiza in Spain.
In the summer months, you will find big and expensive yachts and many summer parties in the evenings in and around the harbor of Hvar, but since I was there in September, it was a lot less crowded. I did not mind, I really liked the vibe and atmosphere of the island. Hvar town has charming streets, stunning beaches and clear blue water which is perfect for snorkeling.
If you would like to enjoy a nice sunset, you should definitely climb up to the fort above Hvar town. From there you have a great view over Hvar and the islands nearby. Hvar town also has many great restaurants but I would suggest going to Lola’s bar for delicious tapas and cocktails!
My favorite thing to do on Hvar was a boat trip with MarioRent. MarioRent offers a couple of boat excursions where you leave in the morning and get back in the late afternoon. With the boat trip I did, you explore the Blue Lagoon, visit a couple of nice beaches and discover the “blue” cave! This day trip costs €50,- in total.
Don’t Hesitate – Visit Croatia!
These are my tips for the best places to visit in Croatia! Of course, there are a lot more places to discover. Charming cities combined with beautiful nature, the nice atmosphere and Croatia’s numerous islands are reasons why I am sure that I will be back soon. And now I’s up to you and time to see for yourself!
In case you would like to see more of Linda’s trips, follow her on Instagram for more interesting travel tips and stories! And if you are ready to explore Croatia and need recommendations for hotels, car rentals, and secret hidden gems, check out Giving Getaway’s Customized Information Packages for the ultimate travel plan for Croatia.