When I first travelled to Croatia ages ago, I thought I’d stumbled on some kind of semi-secret. I now realize that I was, in fact, correct. But a secret? Not quite anymore. (In hindsight, it probably wasn’t back then either.)
In any case, I’m proud to proclaim that, without a doubt, visiting Croatia could be one of the best things that you could ever do for your European travel plans. Although it straddles the (invisible) border between Central & Southeastern Europe, one thing that’s certain is that Croatia is a destination that’s anything by ordinary.
From island-hopping on the Adriatic to waltzing through towns, small and large, that feel trapped in centuries past, here’s a short Croatia travel guide to help light the way to nailing down your ultimate itinerary…
When to visit Croatia
If you’re used to the sometimes haphazard weather of Central Europe, Croatia will come as a nice surprise. There’s two main climatic zones at play here that give Croatia such a unique flavour.
Travelling through the inland, you’ll notice a fairly typical continental European climate consisting of hot summers and cold winters. Along the coast though is where Croatia gets its biggest fans as its Mediterranean climate brings warm sunny summers and milder winters to the table.
Overall, the best time to visit Croatia is around May-June and September-October. The peak tourist season in Croatia runs between July and August. During these months, its top destinations fill up fast leading to, at times, overly burdensome crowds and limited accommodations choices.
Far better is to travel in the late spring/early summer or late summer/early autumn shoulder seasons. The weather at this time is still quite pleasant while providing a little more elbow room for you to maneuver through the country.
Where to go in Croatia
One of the reasons Croatia’s so compelling is the wide variety of destinations you’ll encounter on any trip here. The unique shape and location of the country means that you’re just as likely to find peace among the pines as you are on the pebble beaches of the Adriatic.
If you’re not sure where to get started in planning your trip, we’ve compiled a list of a few of the best places to visit in Croatia. However you decide to hammer out your itinerary, these top destinations surely won’t let you down.
Looking for quick ideas on where to go in Croatia? Check out these travel resources:
If there’s just one city to throw into your Croatia itinerary, you gotta make it Dubrovnik. As much as its popularity might come at the chagrin of some travellers, there’s no denying that Dubrovnik is one of the most eye-catching places on the planet.
Game of Throne fans will recognize Dubrovnik’s distinctive city walls doubling as the King’s Landing. In many ways, this powerful similarity isn’t so far off. For several centuries, Dubrovnik was an independent republic called Ragusa. And even as that republic folded into larger empires over the past two centuries, Dubrovnik’s free spirit and unique character remained.
While it’s got plenty of classic European sightseeing charms in the delightful Old Town, one of Dubrovnik’s most compelling features is its seaside location. After exploring the tourist sites, be sure to make time to stretch out on the area’s pebble beaches or paddle your way to the outlying islands on a scenic sea-kayaking adventure.
Ready to plan your trip to Dubrovnik? Get started with these resources:
- One Day in Dubrovnik: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Dubrovnik: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Dubrovnik: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
Any trip to Croatia is incomplete without a little (okay, A LOT of) island-hopping. Among the most famous islands in the country is Hvar, a destination that’s become akin to a Croatian riviera where everyone from high-rollers parking their yachts in the harbour to budget backpackers want to get in on the action.
The island’s namesake, Hvar Town, features, not unlike many-a Croatian destination, a picturesque old town set on the edge of the Adriatic that’s earned quite a reputation for letting loose. If you’re looking for a more docile alternative to Hvar Town’s hard-partying ways, slink towards the island’s northern reaches to Stari Grad. The town roots back to 384 BC and makes for a quiet base for exploring the island’s wineries & olive groves.
Ready to plan your trip to Hvar? Get started with these resources:
- One Day in Hvar: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Hvar: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Hvar: The Best Hotels for Travellers
Don’t let the unsightly outskirts of Split scare you into thinking you’ve just made a massive mistake in adding this coastal city to your itinerary. Yes, the “striking” ex-communist blunders are strong as you approach. Give it time. As you step into the blissful city centre, all your fears will quickly turn to dust.
Like so many lovely Croatian cities, Split is a place where the magic just doesn’t let up. The city’s Old Town, folded into the ruins of an old Roman palace, is among one of Europe’s finest. Trotting through its narrow marble-laced alleyways as they open to cafe-laden piazzas will be one of your fondest urban memories on your Croatia trip.
Ready to plan your trip to Split? Get started with these resources:
- Best Things to Do in Split: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Split: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
As much as Croatia’s seaside delights take the brunt of the tourist traffic, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the graceful capital of Zagreb. Although it lacks the pomp & status of other Central European cities, Zagreb’s still a great place to while away a few days and to learn a little more about the heart of the Croatian nation.
Wandering through Zagreb, you’ll quickly see the influences of empires past. From the elegant architecture of the Austro-Hungarian period to the dreadful (yet super fascinating) communist era remnants, there’s a whole lot of “eye-candy” for the urban cultural traveller.
Ready to plan your trip to Zagreb? Get started with these resources:
- One Day in Zagreb: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Zagreb: Top Attractions & Best Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Zagreb: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
… and more awesome Croatia destinations to come!
Transportation in Croatia
By air: From most destinations in Europe, the best way to get to Croatia is by air. The busiest airports in the country include Zagreb (ZAG), Split (SPU), and Dubrovnik (DBV).
By land: Croatia is well-connected to its land neighbours by both bus and train. For destinations to the north (Slovenia, Hungary), trains are often quickest. For land borders the south and east (e.g. Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro), buses are usually your best bet.
By road: By far, the best way to get around Croatia is by road. Train services in the country are slow & limited. Travel by either bus, or even better, by renting a car is the quickest means of travelling between Croatia’s top destinations.