Want to visit Croatia? Interested in seeing luscious rolling hills, olive groves, a walled town, a blue cave, and Roman ruins? Then let us introduce you to a few of our favorite must-see spots in Croatia.
Croatia is famous for its beautiful rocky beaches, dramatic coastline, the world-renowned Game of Thrones locations, and, of course, its delicious local cuisine. Sound good?
Let us guide you to our favorite Croatian holiday destinations that are packed full of land and sea adventures, culture, wonderful locals, and food!
Located in the Southwest of Europe, travelers flock from all over the world to vacation amongst some of the wonders of the world.
With an abundance of UNESCO world heritage sites, you will find yourself traversing sensational scenery, lakes, national parks, and a jagged coastline surrounded by the Adriatic sea. In our opinion, it is one of the most diverse areas of Europe.
So why should you go? If you’re not already in love with the idea of an adventure there, let us guide you through our favorite spots in Croatia, where we think every traveler should visit in their lifetime.
Table of Contents:
- Dubrovnik: Take a Step Back in Time
- Elafiti Islands: An Abundance of Tranquility
- Hvar: Home to Lavender, Wine, and History…perfection?
- Pakleni Islands: A Slice of Heaven
- Split: A City Of Color
Dubrovnik: Take a Step Back in Time
With areas dating back to the 7th century, Dubrovnik is packed full of culture, giving you a real sense of Croatia’s history.
With almost 2km (1.2 miles) of historic walls that surround the city, its winding narrow streets and traditional houses are ready to be explored.
Let’s take a closer look at why Dubrovnik is the perfect place to kick off your Croatian adventure.
History: Wall-to-Wall with Culture
Founded in the 7th century when refugees fled to the coastlines from the barbarians, and originally called Ragusa, Dubrovnik has survived earthquakes and sieges, shaping it into the beautiful city that you see today.
The city walls were built in the 16th century, and house hidden fortresses, towers, and monuments inside. Dubrovnik itself has been named a UNESCO world heritage site, offering protection to this famed city.
This dazzling city offers newer areas to explore, however the Old Town is famous for being one of the most protected and preserved medieval cities in the world.
Old Town is the perfect place to wander cobblestone streets, try the local wine, and learn about Croatia’s fascinating history.
Here it is still possible to get glimpses into churches, monasteries, and palaces that are intertwined with cobbled paths which have remained unchanged for centuries.
As well as the beautiful town, the Old Port hosts its own view of Dubrovnik’s dramatic coastline. With plenty of forts that once protected this lucrative area, it is now the home to an array of boats.
You can still see the remnants of the old shipbuilders within the port, which is the perfect area for an evening stroll after you get your fill of delicious Balkan cuisine.
Many travelers head to Dubrovnik for the role it played in the famous TV series, Game Of Thrones. With many of its historical sites being used in the series, you can wander the streets bumping into recognizable areas and re-enacting your favorite scenes. Or, if you like, you can even take a Game of Thrones tour!
Bringing in new cultural aspects to this old city invites many different types of travelers from all over the world. Dubrovnik offers a glimpse into its history and transports you back in time all within its city walls, offering rare sightings that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
Coastline: Beautiful Cliffs and Calm Waters
As well as its beautiful cities, Dubrovnik has some of the most dramatic coastlines in Europe. From secluded beaches that offer privacy and perfect swimming, to rugged dramatic beaches surrounded by cliffs, there really is a beach for everyone.
Croatia’s Adriatic coast offers some of the most gorgeous beaches around. A very popular tourist destination is Banje Beach, frequented by both locals and tourists. It is located just outside Dubrovnik’s Old Town and offers crystal clear waters and a chance to swim while gazing up at the historical walls of the city.
It is the perfect place to dip in the Adriatic sea and cool off from the Croatian sun. In a prime location, make sure you get there early to grab a lounge chair or try one of the many watersports available.
For the more adventurous traveler, some beaches can only be accessed by boat or kayak, giving you a sense of discovery as you explore coves that have been hidden for centuries.
Dance Beach is not for the faint-hearted – you have to either snorkel or kayak to visit. But it’s well worth the trek, as this sandless beach offers some of the best snorkeling in Dubrovnik thanks to its crystal clear waters.
Don’t forget, if you love adventure, there is scuba diving in Dubrovnik, something we recommend. You can also check out the many famous hiking trails to get some of the best views of the coastline.
Food: Adventure Awaits
No European adventure would be complete without trying the local cuisine, and Dubrovnik does not disappoint! With a variety of dishes, from black risotto, to Zelena Menestra (translated as “green stew”), to the famous dessert in Dubrovnik, Rožata (a traditional medieval desert of caramel custard), there is no short supply of delicious food in local restaurants.
Croatian food often uses fresh local ingredients with a focus on seafood. Dubrovnik is the perfect place to try traditional Croatian cuisine, as its location on the coast means there is fantastic access to an abundance of fresh seafood.
Some of the best local restaurants are Orsan Yachting Club and Glorijet, offering local and affordable food. You can also find many Michelin star restaurants here if you fancy taking your food to the next level.
Dubrovnik is also famous for its olive oil production in the surrounding areas of the city, with many local tastings available in the historic center. It’s a great way to support local production and taste some delicious products.
What’s not to love about Dubrovnik? It’s certainly one to be added to your bucket list.
Elafiti Islands: An Abundance of Tranquility
When we think of Croatia, we can’t help but include the secluded Elafiti Islands on the Dalmatian coast. These nearby islands are located in the northwest of Dubrovnik and are made up of Kolocep, Sipan, and Lopud.
Offering the perfect day trips to escape the busy tourists of Dubrovnik, these islands embody tranquility, spoiling you with charming villages, delicious food, a national park, and historical sites.
Let’s take a closer look at the Elafiti Islands and why they should be on your Croatian bucket list:
Kolocep: Crystal Clear Waters
With a population of 300 and a totally car-free island, Kolocep is the closest of the islands to Dubrovnik. Famous for its clear waters, it’s the perfect location for scuba divers and snorkelers.
One of our favorite spots here is the blue cave, a fantastic place to snorkel. When the sun hits the ocean, this area comes to life with bright blue waters and great visibility. Grab your snorkel because you don’t want to miss this unique blue cave.
As well as its fabulous coastline, Kolocep has a number of interesting churches that stem back to the 9th century, allowing you to explore a different angle of history.
There are some fantastic walks and cycle routes in Kolocep. Whether you walk from one side of the island to the other, follow the tiny paths through the olive groves, or take the coastal cliff route around the island (this one is for the adventurous), it’s a wonderful place to explore.
Sipan: Seafood and Sensational Views
Sipan is the largest of the Elafiti islands and offers a beautiful mix of coastline and culture. Šipanska Luka and Suđurađ are the two small towns in Sipan, where you can explore some of the 43 churches on the island. A few have had a modern makeover, however you can still see the spirit of the past in Sipan.
There are also palaces on the island that make you feel like you have stepped back in time, like the Vice Stjepović-Skočibuhae Palace, which is the most famous among them.
Hiking isn’t in short supply in Sipan, with beautiful walks on the island, you can meet locals, admire the sparkling water, and head off the beaten track.
Did you know Sipan made it into the Guinness World Record Book for having the largest number of olive trees per square meter? As well as an abundance of olives, Sipan has fig trees, vineyards, oranges, and pomegranates to try. Food lovers, this place is for you!
With local fresh fish caught in the area, you can enjoy some delicious Croatian fish dishes right by the water after your day out walking.
Lopud: Quaint Cafes and The BEST Beaches
Inhabited since Roman times, Lopud was purchased by the Republic of Dubrovnik in the 11th century. Like many of Croatia’s islands, there is a beautiful blend of cultures represented in its architecture and historical sites.
Famous for having one of the best beaches in Dubrovnik, it really is a treat. Lopud is covered in lush green hills, complimenting the natural beauty of the coastline, a rare sight in Croatia. With monasteries, fortresses, and ruins to explore, there is something for everyone.
The most famous attraction on Lopud is the 5th-century Franciscan monastery. Founded in 1483, it is found on the east side of the island overlooking Lopud Bay. It is a beautiful site that regularly hosts many visitors, along with art, cultural events, and even retreats.
This lovely island has a range of restaurants and cafes to keep you busy after a day of exploring. From the local Croatian cuisine to international favorites, Lopud is waiting to welcome you with open arms.
Hvar: Home to Lavender, Wine, and History… Perfection?
Hvar island, located on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, is packed full of natural beauty, cobbled streets, and slices of Croatia’s history. In our opinion, Hvar is the perfect place for pretty much everyone.
With a mild climate, rows of vineyards, fields of lavender, and ancient olive trees, you’re sure to be wowed by all that Hvar has to offer. With over 2,800 sunshine hours per year, get your sunscreen ready as we explore this special island.
History: Snippets of Culture
Did you know that Hvar hosts one of the most significant prehistoric sites in the Adriatic sea? They found fragments of pottery from 4BCE in a small cave in southern Hvar. These relics depicted a boat, making it the oldest depiction of a boat in Europe. Now that’s something special!
The Croatians arrived in the Middle Ages, many using Hvar as a stopping destination for both sailing and pilgrimage. You can see the impact of the first settlers through Hvar’s rich archeological and architectural legacy.
Later down the historical timeline, Hvar was sought after by many countries until it became part of The Republic of Croatia, resulting in many other cultural influences on the island.
Hvar really has a mixture of history, making it fascinating for history lovers, as every corner holds a new cultural surprise.
On the island, there are many historical sites that must be explored. Hvar has the oldest theatre in Europe, which was founded in 1612. It’s a fantastic site to explore and learn how it was used over the years.
Finding Spanish influence in the city is easy with the famous Hvar cathedral that was built during the Venetian reign. It dates back to the early 16th century and offers panoramic views of the city.
Each wonderful site offers a glimpse into the Renaissance period and aspects of Venetian culture found within Hvar town.
Food and Wine: Wine, Wine, and Well..More Wine
Famous for its beautiful vineyards that produce wonderful Croatian wine, Hvar is every wine lover’s dream. With its indigenous grapes, Hvar’s unique wine is sought after all around the world.
As you move through history, from the ancient Greek to Roman influence, to the Venetian notes, the vineyards in Croatia tell the story of the island’s history through its grapes. The wine really tastes as good as it sounds!
Whether you visit the vineyards for a day of tasting or enjoy a bottle of local wine with friends, it’s the perfect end to your day on Hvar.
As well as its world-renowned wine, Hvar is also home to a number of restaurants and cafes serving up delicious Croatian food. Some of the best restaurants are found in Hvar’s main town square and harbor area. This island is abundant in fresh seafood and Croatian specialties such as Dalmatian prosciutto and the local spinach and feta pie.
Giaxa is one of Hvar’s most famous restaurants. With a mixture of Dalmatian flavors and a mercurial twist, locals and tourists flock to this restaurant. It can be a little pricey, so you may want to save this restaurant for a special occasion.
If you’re looking to get great food at great prices, then the restaurant Antika is for you. With fresh locally produced food served in a funky environment, sip on cocktails as you enjoy fantastic service from their wonderful staff.
The island’s gastronomy has been praised by many, and it’s well worth a taste!
Hvar’s Coastline: Beaches Galore!
Hvar’s coastline delivers a beach for everyone. With several sandy beaches, it has become a trendy area for many sunbathers and snorkelers.
For those looking for pebbled perfection that’s only 8km (5 miles) from Hvar town, Dubovica Beach is for you. This beautiful beach is surrounded by pine trees and olive groves and has its own beach bar offering plenty of refreshments to keep you cool in the sun. It is accessed via a steep path, so good shoes are essential!
Beach Skala is another famous beach in Hvar that’s great for families, offering very fine gravel, making it a comfy place to spend the day. This beach is the perfect place for swimming and snorkeling, with its bright blue seas and perfect visibility, people come from all around Croatia to take a swim.
As well as beaches on both the North Coast and in the Southern part of the island, there are many coves to explore that offer sensational views and a break of shade from the endless sunshine.
Pakleni Islands: A Slice of Heaven
Just off the coast of Hvar you will find the Pakleni Islands in Croatia. With sensational beaches, woodland paths in the lush forest, and wonderful small locally-owned restaurants. It’s one of the best places to visit if you’re looking for an island escape. Covering just 10km (6 miles) between them and 14 islets in total, they make for the ideal secluded island getaway.
This cluster of small islands is a popular trip from Hvar, with a short boat ride to take you there, you can explore more than one in a day. Now that’s time-efficient.
It’s not just about lying on the beach here; there are many activities you can do, such as hiring small boats, sailing trips, sea kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling. These tiny islands offer an abundance of adventures.
With a few beautiful islands to choose from, let’s take a closer look at some of our favorites:
Sveti Klement Island
Sveti Klement Island is located just a short boat ride from Hvar and is one of the most picturesque islands in Croatia. It is the largest of the Pakleni Islands, boasting crystal-clear waters and serene surroundings. It’s easy to see why this island is a favorite for visitors.
With bars, restaurants, and beach clubs to enjoy, this small island has a menu packed full of fresh seafood and Croatian specialties. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a meal with a view of the sea.
A small local restaurant called the Meneghello Restaurant, owned by the Meneghello family, has been open for over 100 years, serving up delicious local dishes for many tourists. On the beautiful grounds of their restaurant are the botanical gardens that they have worked very earnestly to create. It’s a lovely place to take a stroll after your local Croatian meal.
Don’t forget to explore the rest of the island, too. From its stunning beaches to its quaint little streets, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Marinkovac Island is another of the Pakleni Islands that is well worth a visit. This islet is the second biggest and is a popular destination for its serene beaches and buzzing beach clubs. The famous Carpe Diem Beach Bar, located on Stipanska Bay, boasts nightlife and tasty drinks by the beach. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere.
Just a short walk through the woodlands you will find Zdrilca Beach, a quiet area with a local beach bar that prepares international cuisine throughout the day. If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere, then this beach is for you.
This beautiful island is known for its nudist beach, however, this little islet has a lot more to offer. With rocky edges and beautiful towering pine trees allowing for a respite of shade, this little island offers seclusion and sunshine.
Amo Beach is the most popular area to hang out. This beach faces the town and has a beautiful restaurant and bar to enjoy whilst basking in the sun. However, a short walk away brings you to Kordovon Bay and Mare’s Place, a secluded and quieter area of the island.
Whether you choose to spend your day with or without clothes, there are beaches, food, and sunshine for everyone.
Split: A City Of Color
Split is located on the Croatian coast. It is a vibrant coastal town packed full of history and culture, as well as an abundance of delectable cuisine.
This city offers a real mix of old and new, with its medieval center dating back 1700 years. As the city has grown it has held its history, showcasing some of the most beautiful pieces of architecture.
This bustling ancient city has its hands full, with fantastic restaurants to dine in and sensational rocky beaches to cool off at. It has become extremely popular. Its seaside promenade is famous for people watching, so grab a bench and admire the vibrant atmosphere.
History: A Mix and Match of Beauty
Can you believe Split is over 1700 years old?! In its early years, Split hosted Greek colonies, moving through Venetian, Hungarian, and French rulers. Which has resulted in a mix of cultures, embedding its fascinating history with beautiful buildings.
From Roman walls to medieval buildings, the historic center of Split offers a unique take on its diverse history. The most famous building in Split is Diocletian’s Palace. This beautiful palace was built for the Roman Emperor in the 4th century and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. This Palace was the first building in Split, and the city grew around the palace into what it is today.
Diocletian’s Palace itself offers insight into how the rich lived during this time, as it was used as a retirement residence for the Emperor. It’s now home to many Split residents, with apartments, shops, and restaurants all calling it home. It is one of the best-preserved palaces, and we definitely recommend a visit!
If you fancy a short trip out of Split into the valley, you will see the hidden wonder of Klis Fortress. It reaches 1260ft (385m) at its highest point, towering over the countryside. Many Game of Thrones fans will recognize this location from Season 4. If you’re not a GOT fan, you will still be thrilled by the impressive display of 17th- to 19th-century swords and armor.
Split really holds the key to its history, showcasing some of the best attractions in Croatia. A city we would recommend exploring, you will be sure to find lots of hidden historic treasures.
Food: Perfection Fit for a Palace
Split, in true Croatian form, has an abundance of amazing food. From its bright buildings to its colorful fruit market, it really is a city that comes to life.
You will find us wandering the fruit and vegetable market. With its local delicacies on display, it’s the perfect place to mingle with the locals and try some fresh products.
With a bounty of local dishes such as risottos, seafood, and sweet treats found on every corner, your tastebuds will be tingling with excitement.
Why not try something new in Split, from Dalmatian Brodetto, a local fish stew, or Pasticada Stewed Beef, or head straight for dessert and try the local Dalmatian Fritters, a traditional Croatian pastry.
Split has a true feast waiting for you! With many delicious Croatian dishes to try in Split, you can rest easy, because whatever dish you choose, they are all made with love.
Split’s Coastline: Gaze Upon Natural Beauty
Split’s coastline is dotted with rocky coves and secluded beaches, making it the ideal place to relax and enjoy the stunning views.
The pebble beaches in Split offer a break from a day of exploring. Or, if you want more, an adventure waiting to be had, as there is an abundance of snorkeling and scuba diving here.
Bačvice Beach, just a short trip out of the town center, is a beautiful pebbly beach that has become popular because of its fantastic location. With a few great restaurants to choose from, you won’t go hungry here.
If you don’t mind a short 20-minute trip, Kaštelet Beach is worth the drive. Famous for its fantastic water visibility and sand/pebble combination, it’s the perfect swimming spot to cool off after a busy day of sightseeing.
Well, that’s a wrap from us. Thinking yet about visiting Croatia? We love this beautiful country. With its endless history, friendly locals, and delicious desserts, it’s a place we can’t get enough of.
We mentioned a few of our favorite places, but there is a whole host more to explore. Whether you travel alone, with family, or friends, you will be welcomed with open arms.
Looking for a group to go with or someone to plan your trip?
Need some tips on traveling?
Check out our blog on how to prepare for a successful trip abroad
Leave a Reply