For the past ten years Croatia became a super popular tourist destination. Mostly because a big part of the famous TV-show “Game of thrones” was shot in this area. People suddenly realized that there is a gem hidden on the Adriatic coast, plus who doesn’t want to see where their favorite TV-show was shot. And basically, in one night, Croatia ended up on everyone’s bucket list. In 2018 more than 18.4 million people visited Croatia. Although, the coast cities became overcrowded with tourists and cruise people, Croatia is still one of the most beautiful countries in the world and has a number of amazing and unique places. Here is a guide to Croatia and list of the top places to visit.
By plane. With increased interest to this country more airways opened direct flights to Croatia from all over Europe. There won’t be a problem to get to Split or Dubrovnik.
By bus. From the neighbor countries like Montenegro or Slovenia you can get to Croatia by bus. It is a popular way to travel in this area, since the bus system is quite developed. The buses are very comfortable: enough room for legs, seats are soft and comfy, and there is a wifi on the buses (a deal breaker I would say). We actually took a bus on the way to Slovenia from Croatia and our experience was great.
By car. Another convenient way to get to Croatia from all over Europe is by car. You of course can rent a car, but there are companies that do a car transfer. We used one of them to get from Budva, Montenegro to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Very convenient I must say. The driver picked us up at our AirBnB in Budva and dropped us at our hotel in Dubrovnik.
By train. You can reach Croatia by train from other European countries. Although you might have to do a transfer in Zagreb (the capital) if you want to get to coastal cities.
The trains are possible to take from these places: Ljubljana (Slovenia); Budapest (Hungary); Belgrade (Serbia); Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Graz, Innsbruck, Vienna and Salzburg (Austria); Mestre (Italy); Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart (Germany).
To help you explore Croatia and see many interesting places and of course enjoy yourself I made a list of places you must visit in Croatia.
I put Dubrovnik as number one since there is an airport which makes it convenient to travel to. Plus, Dubrovnik is a city in the southern Croatia and from there you can travel up along the coast.
Dubrovnik is well-known for its charming old town with a massive stone wall around it. The town was built sometime in the 16th century and of course little has changed with the time. Now it stands well-preserved and full of Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic style buildings.
After a wonderful but crowded Dubrovnik head on to a small old town on the Adriatic coast – Makarska. It is a port town that known for its charming Makarska Riviera beaches.
Makarska is a break between two super crowded places (Dubrovnik and Split). It has a cute old square full of good restaurants. If you have a sweet tooth, I have a suggestion. On the coast there is the best cake shop in whole of Croatia that you must check. We ended up going there every day and trying a bunch of different eclairs and cakes.
Take a stroll along the coast. There is a walking path that takes you up the hill with a great view. And of course recharge yourself on those famous beaches everyone talks about.
Split is another marvelous place to visit in Croatia. It is the second larges city in Croatia and is as crowded as Dubrovnik. It was founded by Greeks between the 3rd and 2nd century BC and later became a home to the Roman emperor Diocletian who built a huge palace for himself to retire.
Nowadays the palace premises are taking about half of the old town in Split. The city is absolutely fantastic. There are a few old squares with romantic restaurants, great museums, and churches that are located in the old parts of the city.
Krka National Park is located in the center of the Dalmatia region. The reason I put it after Split is because you can do a day trip to Krka from Split. You don’t need to spend more than one day there, and a day trip is a nice way to save money. Just find any travel agency in Split and pay for the bus tour. The price is around $25 a person.
Krka National Park is one of the most beautiful natural parks in the world. To explore the park will take a few hours. At first you can get all the way into the hills and hit a few small expeditions. Enjoy the riverside and pools with clear water and many fish. After a nice stroll around the park go down to enjoy charming waterfalls and a swim at the bottom of the biggest waterfall. Be aware that the water in the river is icy cold and that the bottom is very rocky, so bring your water shoes with you.
In my opinion Krka is better than Plitvice, but I know that can be a bit contentious. You can read my article: Plitvice or Krka – Which One Is Best for more detailed differences between the two
Hvar is a resort island in Croatia and you can get there from Split. Just get on the ferry and after an hour of sailing you will be there. The island is famous for its secluded beaches and pine forests. In the warm season the place is full of small and luxury yachts.
On the island there is an old port town full of restaurants and cute souvenirs shops. And up the hill there is a hilltop Spanish fortress with a panoramic view on the island. The fortress is well preserved, and it is worth it to visit.
Zadar is not known for its Roman ruins and big palaces, although there are lots of Venetian and Roman ruins in the city, Zadar is known for its Sea Organs. Yes, that is right, the Sea organ. The organ that is played by the sea. That was the reason why we decided to visit this place.
Zadar old town is located on the peninsula and it makes it very isolated. The old part of the city is very quiet due to the restriction on driving inside it (cars drive around the old town, along the coast).
Plitvice National Park is the second park that you absolutely must visit in Croatia. You can hit this place while staying in Zadar. The travel agencies offer a day trip to this place. It is super convenient and enough time to explore the park.
Plitvice park has a few trails that you can take, the longest one will take you not less than three hours if you are a fit and fast walker. Magnificent scenery is changing all the time but stays incredible and makes you feel completely isolated from the modern world. There is a net of lakes and waterfalls that you will pass on the way. Watch your steps, the trails, especially those that are close to the water can be wet and slippery. Better to wear hiking shoes and bring with you a backpack rather than a purse. Don’t forget water and some snacks (somehow in the forests and parks I am always getting super hungry).
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and of course you should visit it if you decided to explore this country properly. Zagreb is very different from all the coast cities of Croatia. It has mostly Austro-Hungarian architecture.
You need to spend few days to explore Zagreb and see all the sights. It is a charming and quite relaxing city for a capital. The city is crossed by long parks and alleys, beautiful squares, and marvelous churches and cathedrals.
Cozy restaurants, tasty food, strong drinks, beautiful scenery, and friendly people – all of these make Zagreb a place not to miss, a place that is worth your time.
Pula is a city located on the very northern tip of Croatia. It is the furthest point in my list and the most difficult to reach. Pula is a seafront city that is famous for its good (military speaking) location, protected harbour, and of course Roman ruins.
Have you seen pictures of a great preserved Coliseum, but it clearly wasn’t Rome? Croatia also has this type of ancient jewel on its territory in Pula. In this small Croatian city is located a Roman Amphitheater with a great exhibition underneath the arena (the ticket includes everything).
The Roman Amphitheater is a must-see place if you are in the area. It is a nice change from the Roman Coliseum as it has much fewer people to create a crowd. The Amphitheater’s grounds are often are used for big and important events.