If you've been dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and atmospheric Roman ruins, Croatia might be the perfect place for your next vacation. The country has been receiving an abnormal amount of attention lately thanks to its connection to the popular Game of Thrones TV show, but that hasn't affected the prices, which are still some of the cheapest to be found anywhere in Europe. The country is home to eight stunning national parks, but it also offers excellent wine, mouth-watering cuisine, and a fascinating recent history. It's hard to go wrong with a visit to Croatia, but here are the best places to visit.
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The capital of Croatia, Zagreb boasts a beautiful medieval old town and plenty of museums, galleries, theaters, and historical sights. The nearby Jarun Lake is a popular place for swimming, sailing, and dancing in lakeside discos, but Zagreb's many beautiful parks mean that you don't even have to leave the city to spend some time in nature. The city is also a great winter destination; the many restaurants, bars, and cafes make it easy to stay warm, and good skiing can be had at Mt. Medvednica, which offers great views of the city and is easily accessible by tram or by bus.
2.Plitvice National Park
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Located in central Croatia, Plitvice National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty that has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. The park is home to 16 crystalline lakes, which are connected to each other by a series of waterfalls and cascades. A ticket is required to enter the park, and visitors should note that swimming in the lakes is not permitted. Exploring the park on foot takes at least 6 hours, but visitors can also take advantage of the free boats and buses offered by the park, which depart every half hour between April and October.
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Opatija was one of the most popular retreats for the wealthy during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and today it remains one of the chicest destinations in Croatia. Spectacular mansions left over from this period line the coast, lending the city a certain air of grandeur. The weather is excellent all year round, and tourists are well catered to, with plenty of spas, restaurants, and upscale hotels. The city is fronted by a 12-km-long coastal promenade, and visitors wishing to jump in the warm waters of the Adriatic can do so in one of the area’s beautiful sheltered bays.
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Nestled around a small marina, Bol is a charming old town made up of historical stone houses connected by meandering streets. The town is an especially good place to visit during the summer, and the most popular attraction here by far is the Zlatni Rat beach. This stunning pebble beach protrudes into the Adriatic Sea, shifting with the tides and providing plenty of space for swimmers, sunbathers, and the many windsurfers that the area attracts. A charming tree-lined promenade runs between the beach and the town, and plenty of bars and restaurants can be found along the harbor.
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Set against the stunning backdrop of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is an awe-inspiring walled city that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Tourism is the principal industry here, so there is no shortage of restaurants, bars, and hotels. Many visitors enjoy simply strolling through the city's marble streets or along the ancient city walls, but other popular activities include chartered yacht tours, kayaking, and swimming in the beautiful blue waters of the sea. There are also excellent views to be had from the top of Mount Srd, which can be reached either by foot or by cable car.
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As the sunniest spot in Croatia, the island of Hvar draws tourists from all over the world. There's something for everyone here, whether you're looking for an exciting night out on the town or hoping to get close to nature. Hvar Town is the capital of the island, and it offers beautiful architecture, jam-packed beach bars, and plenty of elegant restaurants. Beautiful coves can be found on the isolated southern end of the island; these make for a great day trip. Hvar is also known for its lavender, olives, and wine, so head inland to admire ancient olive trees, beautiful craggy peaks, and rolling lavender fields.
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The sixth-largest Croatian island, Korcula is known for its dense forests, quiet coves, and secluded sandy beaches. Korcula Town charms visitors with its medieval squares and churches, but the island is also dotted with plenty of small towns and villages perfect for anyone looking for a quieter holiday. History and tradition are alive and well on the island; visitors can enjoy watching the Moreška sword dance, age-old religious ceremonies, and live performances of traditional folk music. Korcula also produces some excellent wine, including white wine made from pošip grapes, which are grown only here and on the Pelješac Peninsula.
8.Kornati National Park
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Encompassing 89 of the 140 islands that make up the Kornati archipelago, Kornati National Park is often described as a nautical paradise. The islands are uninhabited, and most are made of karst limestone, which forms dramatic cliffs, caves, and grottoes. The tightly knit islands provide an excellent challenge for even experienced sailors; anyone who wishes to sail through the National Park must purchase a ticket. It is also possible to visit the islands on a guided day trip from Zadar, Sibenik, or Split. Visitors can hike on the islands, swim and snorkel in the many beautiful bays, or join an organized diving excursion.
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Connected to the mainland of Croatia by a toll bridge, Krk is the largest island in the country. The island is well developed and boasts plenty of infrastructure for tourism as well as an airport that is open between April and October. Most tourists base themselves out of Krk Town, a medieval walled city with a bustling seaside promenade and historical attractions such as the 12th-century St. Mary’s Cathedral and Frankopan Castle. Visitors can also explore the island's many secluded beaches and authentic Mediterranean fishing villages or indulge in the wine and olives the region is known for.
10.Krka National Park
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Encompassing 142 square km along the Krka River, the Krka National Park is best known for being home to a number of stunning waterfalls. The most popular of these are the Skradinski Buk falls, which are one of the most famous sights in the entire country. However, the park is home to plenty of other worthwhile sights as well, including secluded monasteries, diverse wildlife, and the 200-meter-deep karstic canyon through which the river runs. The park can be accessed by car through any of the five main entrances, which are found at Skradin, Lozovac, Roški Slap, the Krka Monastery, and Burnum.
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Tucked between the Makarska Riviera and the stunning Biokovo mountain range, Makarska has plenty of appeal for nature lovers and beach bums alike. Adrenaline junkies can take advantage of the opportunity to go paragliding or windsurfing, while anyone looking for a more relaxing vacation can take a stroll along the waterfront promenade or kick back on the beautiful pebbly beach. The area surrounding the city lends itself perfectly to activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking. A good number of bars and restaurants can be found along the beach, and the city boasts a vibrant nightlife scene during the high season.
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According to ancient legend, the tranquil beauty of the island of Mljet impressed the hero Odysseus so much that he stayed here for 7 years. Considering everything there is to do on the island, visitors today might be tempted to stay just as long. Most of the island is taken up by Mljet National Park, which offers spectacular pine forests, two saltwater lakes, and a secluded seaside cave. There are plenty of man-made attractions here as well, including a Benedictine monastery, tombs that date back to the Illyrian period, and the ruins of a large 5th-century Roman palace.
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The largest city in Eastern Croatia, Osijek is an elegant university town with plenty of history. The 18th-century Hapsburg defensive fortress is a big draw for many visitors, but there are also a good number of beautiful and historic cathedrals, castles, and other neoclassical buildings. Strolling along the promenade on the banks of the Drava River makes for an enjoyable afternoon; plenty of restaurants and cafes can be found here. There's more than enough to do in the city itself, but it's also a great place to base yourself if you're interested in visiting the surrounding countryside or the Kopacki Rit Nature Park.
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Known for its dramatic, barren landscape, the island of Pag is home to 270 km of beautiful pebbly beaches. A surprising number of vineyards can be found here, and the region is known for its wine as well as for its unique sheep's milk cheese and intricate Pag lace. Historic Pag Town offers interesting architecture and culture, while Zrce Beach in the north boasts a buzzing nightlife scene during the summer months. The island is easily accessible thanks to a bridge that connects it to the mainland, and it hosts a popular summer carnival every July.
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Encompassing 95 square km of the Velebit mountain range, the Paklenica National Park boasts some of the most dramatic mountain views in Croatia. There are plenty of excellent opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and cycling here, and visitors might even be lucky enough to spot animals like eagles, bears, lynx, and chamois. The park is also home to two stunning gorges: The 14-km-long Velika Paklenica and the 12-km-long Mala Paklenica. Several basic lodges are available for anyone wishing to spend the night in the park, and there is also a campsite that is open from March to November.
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With a history dating back to the time of the ancient Romans, the small town of Porec is now the most popular holiday destination in Istria. The oldest parts of the town are from the 4th century, but Porec is most famous for being home to a 6th-century basilica, which features gem-studded Byzantine mosaics and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, many visitors are drawn here by the beaches; Porec boasts more than 10 km of coastline, with beaches ranging from rocky to pebbly to sandy. The area also offers more than 250 km of cycling trails of various lengths and difficulties.
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Despite being the largest city in Istria, Pula has managed to retain a friendly small-town charm. The city is jam-packed with well-preserved Roman architecture, the highlight of which is the large amphitheater located right in the middle of the city. The three-story structure towers over the nearby buildings, and is often used to host concerts, mock gladiator fights, film screenings, and other special events. Other notable sights include the Temple of Augustus, the 1st-century Hercules Gate, and the Triumphal Arch of the Sergii; these can easily be seen by taking one of the hop-on/hop-off bus tours offered in the summer months.
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Known to many as the "Happy Island," Rab is an island with diverse landscapes, plenty of history, and a tradition of cultivating olives, grapes, and vegetables. The southwest portion of the island offers enchanting pine forests and sandy beaches, while the more barren northwest coast is characterized by high cliffs and windswept rocks. The cultural epicenter of the island is Rab Town, which is full of medieval buildings that date as far back as the 11th century, including a beautiful 26-meter-high bell tower that can be climbed for excellent views of the city and the sea.
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Home to Croatia's largest port, Rijeka is often treated as a point of transit rather than as a destination. However, the city has plenty to offer visitors who plan to spend longer than a day here. Visitors can admire the historical monuments of the downtown core, head to one of the beaches on the outskirts of the city, check out the city's vibrant nightlife scene, or indulge in a bit of shopping in the city center or at the main market. The city also hosts the Rijeka Carnival every year before Lent, known as Croatia's largest carnival. Things to Do in Croatia
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Located only 32 km away from the city of Rijeka, Risnjak National Park encompasses some of the most mountainous terrain in all of Croatia. The majority of the park consists of thick beech and pine forest, and there are ample opportunities for hiking, mountaineering, and mountain biking. Recreational fishing is permitted during the months of April and October, and the forest is home to a diverse range of animals including brown bears, wild boars, chamois, and wolves. There are currently no campsites in the park, but the park offers a guesthouse and a mountain hut for anyone wishing to spend the night.
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Perched on a hilly peninsula overlooking the sea, Rovinj is often referred to as the most picturesque town in Croatia. The steep cobblestone streets of the old town are lined with charming art galleries and bustling bars, and the city's many restaurants offer delicious food and sublime views. There are plenty of rocky and pebbly beaches for anyone looking to swim or sunbathe, and if you're interested in experiencing some nature, it's quite easy to get out of the city; the islands of the Rovinj archipelago make for an excellent day trip, as does the nearby Punta Corrente Forest Park.
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Nestled against the beautiful waters of the Adriatic, Sibenik is steeped in history. The city is particularly famous for being home to the Saint James Cathedral, which dates back to the 15th century and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The medieval monastery garden is also worth a visit, as are the city's four fortresses, each of which provides magnificent views of the sea and the nearby islands. Although Sibenik is a worthwhile destination in and of itself, visitors should know that it's also an important gateway to Krka National Park and the Kornati Islands.
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Positioned on a peninsula that juts out into the turquoise waters of the Adriatic, Split offers the perfect blend of impressive history and convenient modernity. The historic city center has been on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979; this is where visitors can find the sprawling Diocletian’s Palace, which is recognized as one of the best-preserved pieces of Roman architecture in the world. Visitors should also make time for a stroll along the waterfront promenade known as the Riva, which is lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes, and regularly hosts cultural events and other forms of entertainment.
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Located on a tiny island, the charming walled town of Trogir is connected by bridge to both the mainland and the larger Ciovo Island. It's one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, and a pleasant afternoon can be spent strolling through the narrow marble streets of the old town and admiring the beautiful Romanesque and Renaissance buildings. A wide seaside promenade lined with bars and restaurants encompasses the town; this is an excellent place to gather with friends on warm summer evenings. There are also plenty of boats here waiting to take visitors to the beautiful beaches and coves of the nearby islands.
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Known for its many amazing Roman and Venetian ruins, Zadar is set on a small peninsula on the Dalmatian coast. Medieval churches and other ancient relics line the streets, but there are also plenty of modern cafes and restaurants. Two unique artistic installations can be found here: The Sea Organ, which plays music generated by the movement of the waves, and the Sun Salutation, a multi-layered solar panel that illuminated the waterfront with a series of colorful lights in the evenings. There are also plenty of excellent museums in the city, and the port offers many ferry connections to the surrounding islands.
25 Best Places to Visit in Croatia
- Zagreb, Photo: Courtesy of dreamer4787 - Fotolia.com
- Plitvice National Park, Photo: Courtesy of RuslanKphoto - Fotolia.com
- Opatija, Photo: Courtesy of xbrchx - Fotolia.com
- Bol, Photo: Courtesy of LianeM - Fotolia.com
- Dubrovnik, Photo: Courtesy of monticellllo - Fotolia.com
- Hvar, Photo: Courtesy of Rostislav Sedlacek - Fotolia.com
- Korcula, Photo: Courtesy of Dario Bajurin - Fotolia.com
- Kornati National Park, Photo: Courtesy of vvoe - Fotolia.com
- Krk, Photo: Courtesy of travelpeter - Fotolia.com
- Krka National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Carina - Fotolia.com
- Makarska, Photo: Courtesy of egon999 - Fotolia.com
- Mljet, Photo: Courtesy of paul prescott - Fotolia.com
- Osijek, Photo: Courtesy of nevenm - Fotolia.com
- Pag, Photo: Courtesy of and.one - Fotolia.com
- Paklenica, Photo: Courtesy of Anna - Fotolia.com
- Porec, Photo: Courtesy of motorolka - Fotolia.com
- Pula, Photo: Courtesy of Artur - Fotolia.com
- Rab, Photo: Courtesy of Zechal - Fotolia.com
- Rijeka, Photo: Courtesy of xbrchx - Fotolia.com
- Risnjak, Photo: Courtesy of travelcaesar - Fotolia.com
- Rovinj, Photo: Courtesy of lukaszimilena - Fotolia.com
- Sibenik, Photo: Courtesy of andras csontos - Fotolia.com
- Split, Photo: Courtesy of dreamer4787 - Fotolia.com
- Trogir, Photo: Courtesy of Emi Cristea - Fotolia.com
- Zadar, Photo: Courtesy of U. Gernhoefer. - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of twindesigner - Fotolia.com