Its football team might have recently placed Croatia in the headlines but this country should be on your radar post-World Cup too. Easy to reach from the majority of European countries, Croatia offers affordable food, drink and accommodation despite it’s rising popularity with tourists; and it’s appeal is universal. Whether you’re looking for picturesque mountains to hike in, unrivalled beaches to relax on or movie-worthy backdrops for your selfies (both the Mamma Mia sequel and tv show Game of Thrones have been filmed here), Croatia has it all. Here’s ten of the best places to visit.
The Croatian capital, Zagreb is often overlooked for the scenic appeal of Split and Dubrovnik, but it’s got plenty of culture on offer. Its thriving street art and foodie scene makes it the perfect city break destination. The Museum of Broken Relationships (a curated exhibition of leftover items from real relationships) should be on your list, as should many visits to city’s littering of affordable yet upmarket street-food joints. Many airlines offer direct flights but it’s also a five hour train ride from Split, should you be looking to embark on a multi-destination break.
If you’re after scenic spots then Croatia’s second-largest city certainly has the wow factor. Diolectian’s Palace, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site and past filming spot for TV’S Game of Thrones, transports you straight back to roman times; whilst the views from the top of Marjan Hill’s viewing platform need to be seen to be believed. Its beaches are famous too, Bacvice (Sandy Split Beach) is known for its beach discos and festivals. Split is one for history lovers and nature lovers alike.
Croatia’s film credentials don’t stop at Game of Thrones, much of the recent Mamma Mia sequel was filmed in the breathtakingly Croatian island of Vis. A tiny island, Vis is relatively untouched (although we anticipate that will soon change!), and is a reasonable 2 hour ferry ride from the more popular city of Split. It’s frequented for its beaches (Stinva beach won best European beach in 2016) and vineyards. Go before the tourists descend….
One of Croatia’s most popular tourist cities is Dubrovnik. It offers everything: mindblowing history, adventure, and unmissable landscapes. For a blast from the past, visit the majestic city walls or Rector’s Palace, which dates back to the 14th century. Hop on the cable car or take on kayaking if adventure is your thing, and take a short boat trip to Lokrum Island to witness the picturesque landscapes. TV fans will also love the many Game of Thrones walking tours on offer, which take you through iconic show locations in Dubrovnik’s old town.
This peninsula lies close to the Italian border and has recently become even more accessible to Brits as EasyJet has announced direct routes from Southend and Liverpool. Its location means the Italian influence doesn’t go unnoticed; it’s simply a foodies paradise, offering everything from olive oil and truffle festivals to winery visits. It’s also home to Brijuni National Park, but more on that Croatian gem in a moment!
6. Brac Island
An easy 50-minute ferry ride from Split lies Brat Island, a worthy detour on your itinerary should you want to get off the beaten path. Small villages Bol (also one of Europe’s best windsurfing destinations) and Splitska (which only has 400 inhabitants) offer a perfect respite of tranquillity, whilst Skrip’s medieval town centre is full of history.
7. Brijuni National Park
This national park is actually a group of Islands close to port city Pula in Istria. Depending on the month, entry costs are anywhere from 125-210 Croatian Kuna (between £17-28 pounds), so it’s not exactly cheap; however, it may be worth it as it offers the chance to explore roman ruins, stunning scenery and visit animals that inhabit the island. Jurassic Park fans will love the fact you can hire your own golf cart and view real dinosaur footprints too!
8. Plitvice Lakes
Another of Croatia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites is National Park Plitvice Lakes. It is a 300 square kilometer area of natural beauty; consisting of woodlands, sixteen different lakes, waterfalls, and animal inhabitants (including deer and bears). In other words: it’s a hikers paradise.
There’s a variety of hiking trails looping around the park that vary from 2-8 hours, so there’s plenty of options depending on how energetic you’re feeling! Many visit Plitvice Lake as a day trip from Zagreb, but there’s tons of nearby accommodation that makes an overnight stay in the area feasible. Depending on the month and length of your visit, tickets range from 55 Kuna to 250 Kuna (£6 to £30)
Rijeka is Croatia’s third largest city and has recently been announced as 2020’s European Capital of Culture, and for good reason too. Not only is the city home to Croatia’s National Theatre (which hosts many theatre and opera performance), but it’s also known for its alternative rock scene. Zagreb airport offers a shuttle bus to Rijeka, and Split is around a four hour car journey.
Bisevo is another gorgeous Croatian Island. The Blue Cave has sees tourists flocking to it in the summer months, and you really can’t blame them. The ancient 24-meters long cave is located near Mezuporat cove, what makes it so special is that the water lights up into a magical, electric blue when the sunlight hits its limestone. Unfortunetly, this remarkable site has become increasingly busy and the admission fees have been rising. Many boat trips from Split combine it with a visit to Green Cave on the island of Vis, which is another stunning site.
About the author:
Jenna Farmer is a freelance journalist from Warwickshire. Having spent several years working in China and travelling across South Asia, she’s now back in the UK. Jenna also runs a blog all about living, eating and travelling with food intolerances.