The Best 10 Places to Visit in Croatia

Croatia has one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen. If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, then the stunning National Parks and ancient cities full of history surely are.

Here are the best 10 places to visit throughout Croatia

 

1. Plitvice Lakes

This National Park contains some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve ever beheld. The water is crystal clear, incredibly green and woven with wooden paths to explore the network of lakes.

For more photos and information on visiting the lakes as an independent day tour, see this post.

Emerald green color of Plitvice Lakes

Tourists walking across duckboards at Plitvice Lakes

 

2. Dubrovnik

Famed as the set of King’s Landing from Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik has an amazing yet touristy old town. To walk the length of the town walls you’ll need to fork out around 30€. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or of enchanting old towns, then the high ticket price is worth it. Otherwise I’d recommend exploring the less busy parts of the town.

A (free) highlight for me was finding a small gate in the southern wall of the city near Svetog Petra. This led a rocky area outside the city walls with stunning views of the bay below and towers of the wall. You can grab a drink at the cliff-side bar or clamber onto the rocky cliff and watch the sun set with you own drinks. 

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A bar nestles into the cliff of Dubrovnik's Old Town

 

3. Korcula

Known as ‘mini Dubrovnik’ the old town of this island truly did feel like a smaller, quieter version of Dubrovnik. The beaches are also stunning and you can take water taxis to other nearby islands.

Crystal clear water of one of Korcula's beachesA boat bobs in a clear blue bay of the island of Korcula

 

 

4. Vis

Vis is the oldest town in Croatia, dating back to the 4th century BC. While not much remains of that period, the island is a beautiful and peaceful break from busier islands and the mainland.

There are two main towns; Vis town and Komiza, both with a relaxed feel and a charming combination of beautiful old buildings and crystal clear water. The island is also dotted with local vineyards, open for tastings and lunch. Hire a pushbike, car or boat to explore.

A church across the water on the island of Vis at sunset

 

 

5. Split

With the perfect mix of authentic local atmosphere, interesting old town, local beaches and great day trips options, Split was one of my favorite places in Croatia.

The heart of the tourist area is the beautiful waterfront promenade, lined with restaurants and leading into an ancient underground bazaar- full of local art, crafts and trinkets.

The old town of Split at night

 

 

6. Zagreb

Croatia’s capital is full of beautiful gardens, interesting museums (don’t miss the Museum of Broken Relationships) and much local history and culture to soak up. For the best places to explore Zagreb, see this post.

Vines climb the stone walls of Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb

 

7. Pula

Famous for the ancient Roman amphitheater and ruins, Pula also has a great camping ground and beautiful poppy-lined beaches. For activities on offer in Pula, see this post.

Ancient Roman ruins in Pula

Red poppies line the foreshore of a rocky beach in Pula

 

8. Rovinj

An extremely picturesque town on the north coast of Croatia, Rovinj is also unfortunately quite expensive. I recommend staying in nearby Pula and visiting for the day.

Stone cobbled ancient streets of Rovinj

 

9. Krka National Park

An easy day tour from Split, this National Park is a must-visit for any nature lover. I found it a tiny bit less enchanting than Plitvice, but the upside is that you can swim in the lower lake.

Emerald green lakes and waterfalls of Krka National Park

 

10. Hvar

This was simultaneously the biggest ‘party island’ and the most upmarket habour I visited in Croatia. There are some nice beaches a 30 minute walk from the main port as well as plenty of boat trips on offer.

Busy Hvar beach wit clear green water and rocky edges

Pula: top 5 things to do in Croatia’s ancient beach town

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The town of Pula is over three millennia old, and the history of the place is evident everywhere you look. From the wonderfully preserved Roman Amphitheater and Temple of Augustus to the Arch of the Sergii and 17th-century baroque castle, the old town is the perfect place for a lazy stroll.

As Pula is also a coastal town, there are beautiful swimming spots nearby. In summer this means the town becomes incredibly busy with tourists, so I’d definitely recommend visiting in shoulder season (late April to May) when the weather is lovely and the crowds are yet to arrive.

 

Here are five unmissable things to do in Pula

 

1. Swim at Uvala Valovine and Cyclon’s Beach

Perfectly clear blue/green water accessed by large rocks or pebble beaches. There’s also a camping ground here and shops with ice cream, bakery items and a seafood restaurant.

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2. Sunset Drinks at the Amphitheater

There’s a perfect little local bar on the northern side of the amphitheater that serves local Istra Bitters for 1.5€ and has outdoor seats looking out to the ruins and sea beyond.

3. Walk the Foreshore and Explore Abandoned Areas

To the north-west of the train station a patchwork bridge leads over the river to a path along the foreshore where abandoned buildings, jetties and boats abound. My favourite kind of place to explore.

4. Enjoy a Seafood Dinner in the Old Town

For 20€ at one of the many restaurants near the Forum area of the old town you can get a whole grilled fish with vegetables, a glass of wine, delicious tiramisu and espresso to finish off the meal.

5. Take a Day Trip or Evening Cruise to Brijun National Park

In the end I didn’t visit this island but it’s something I’d love to do on a return trip. You can take a local bus to Fazana for around 2€ and then a boat to the island (around 20€ for the boat and entrance fee) or take one of the many excursion boats directly from Pula. I saw a 3 hour evening cruise around the national park from 5-8pm where they point out the main sites and hope to see dolphins. The cruise is around 25€ including all the wine and beer you can drink in 3 hours.

Plitvice Lakes: one of the best day trips in Croatia

It’s easy to see why Plitvice Lakes National Park is World Heritage Listed.

The 16 terraced lakes, linked by waterfalls have the clearest, greenest, and most inviting water I’ve ever seen. And I come from Tasmania.

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The lakes are located in central Croatia, a few hours bus ride from Zagreb and are accessible by wooden foot bridges and clifftop paths. The beauty of the area can be somewhat overwhelming, everywhere you look there’s a stunning view of water, trees or cliffs. Below are some photos from my day trip to the area, followed by some practical information about how to do the trip as an independent day tour.

 

Analog Photos

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Digital Photos

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Practical Information

You can do an organised tour from Zagreb (between 45-70€ excluding the entrance fee) or get there yourself for half the price. I opted to take an early local bus with a lovely Norwegian girl I met at my hostel and we had an amazing day exploring on our own. The benefit of getting the local bus is that you can arrive as soon as the park opens (8am) before it gets too busy, have the freedom to explore the park at your leisure and also save a chunk of money. By the time we were ready to head home in the afternoon the park was incredibly busy, so I can only imagine how packed the place is in summer. Definitely recommend visiting in shoulder/off season and going early in the morning!

We booked our bus through GetByBus which was 164Kn (22€) for return tickets. The first bus is at 5.45am (early but worth it!) and there are several options for returning in the afternoon/evening, with the trip in each direction 2.5 hours.

Entrance to the park is 100Kn (14€) if you book online (at least 2 days prior) and slightly more if you pay at the gate. Entrance includes a ride across the largest lake in an electric boat and a train ride. The ‘train’ is more of a bus with connected carriages but a welcome rest after a day of walking. At busier times you could be waiting awhile for the boat, so factor this into your day.

There are cafes at either end of the park with sandwiches, ice cream and drinks but definitely bring water and snacks as a lot of walking is involved.

I’d recommend spending a full day exploring, or stay in the nearby town so you can visit over several days. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed in the lakes- but this is completely understandable when you think about the ecological impact of so many tourists (>1.5mil a day) swimming in the pristine water.

 

Enjoy exploring!

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Travel Budgeting: Croatia- Zagreb, Pula & Rovinji

Coming from Vienna, Croatia was a welcome return to budget travel. Here is what you can expect to pay in shoulder season (late April/early May).

City: Zagreb, Pula and Rovinj

Travel Style: Budget

Currency: Croatian Kuna (Kn): 1€ = 7.5Kn

Daily Spend: 43.5€ / 320Kn

 

Cost Breakdown

Accommodation:

11 nights = 145€

12€ per night for one nights a 8 bed dorm at World Wide Hostel. This place is amazing if you’re in your early 20s and still love to play beer pong every night. If not then head to Swanky Mint or similar.

15€ per night for three nights a 8 bed dorm at the Swanky Mint in Zagreb. This hostel is touted as the best in Croatia and while the bar, common areas and bedroom facilities definitely lived up to that, I had the worst night sleep during my stay because of noise out the courtyard window and squeaky wooden beds.

11€ per night for six nights a 6 bed dorm room at Riva Hostel in Pula. This hostel is in a great location, a little run down but good value for money and run by a local with a big heart. Romano has recently bought the place and plans to renovate it soon.

22€ for one night in a 4 bed dorm at Roubdabout Hostel in Rovinji. This was the cheapest option I could find but also highly recommended.

Transport:

11 days = 63.5€ 

-Flexibus from Vienna to Zagreb: 15€

-Tram to the centre: a ticket is cheap but in Zagreb tourists can often get away with not having one- unlike Budapest!!

-Walking around Zagreb- it’s small and manageable by foot

-Flixbus from Zagreb to Pula: 21€

-Pula is also small and you can walk. To get to the beach is around an hour walk from the old town, bikes can be rented for around 13€ a day. A local bus in the region costs around 2€.

-Flixbus from Pula to Rovinj: 4.5€

-Again walking around Rovinj is the way to go.

-Flixbus from Rovinj to Venice: 23€

Food & Drink:

11 days = 260€ / 23.6 day

Breakfast: 15kn (2€) for a cappuccino and large savory pastry at a local bakery

Lunch: 10Kn (1.3€) for a huge salad roll

Ice cream: 8kn (1€)

Dinner: 130Kn (18€) for whole grilled fish with vegetables, glass of white wine, amazing tiramisu and espresso at a restaurant near the Forum.

Aperitif: 10kn (1.3€) for the local Istra Bitters at the outdoor bar overlooking the Amphitheater

Activities:

11€

7€ (50kn) entrance to the amphitheater

4€ ticket to the local cinema

 

Total spent:

497.5€ / 11 nights = 43.5€ per day

 

 

Zagreb: my favourite 5 things to see in Croatia’s capital

Bursting with history, culture, science, politics and vibrant life, Zagreb is truly the heart of Croatia.

Before arriving, I knew very little about Croatia’s capital but within no time I was filled with awe for the layers of history and sheer beauty of the city. Complementing the striking buildings are many tree filled parks and green areas, with outdoor festivals and street musicians adding extra allure and life to Zagreb.

These are my top five recommendations of things to explore in Zagreb.

 

1. Wander the Old Town- Gornji Grad

In my opinion, the perfect way to experience a new city is to go for an early morning run or walk before other tourists wake up. You see locals on the way to work and the morning light makes everything a little more beautiful.

Places to look out for in the Old Town include the Bloody BridgeStone Gate, Zagreb Cathedral (the tallest and most sacred building in Croatia), St. Mark’s Church with it’s colourful tiled roof, and the firing of the cannon at midday from the 13th century Lotrscak Tower.

Later in the day I also loved hearing a local perspective on the city and it’s history during the Free Spirit Free Walking Tour. The tours leaves from the large horse statue in the middle of the main square (Ban Jelačić) at 11am everyday and provides the perfect combination of history, humor and local insight.

 

2. Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships

I heard about this place on the walking tour and was intrigued. Entry is around 5€ (40kn) and well worth it. The museum contains hundreds of items of symbolic value from people around the world, with a story about each item and how it relates to the ‘broken’ relationship. Some items are funny, some bizarre and many truly heartbreaking. You can find more info here.

I’d also been recommended the Illusion Museum but found this to be the most disappointing museum I’ve ever been to and extremely overpriced at 50kn.

 

3. See Mirogoj Cemetery

A 4km walk from the old town or a quick tram ride north (get tram 14 from the main square), this tree-filled cemetery park is huge and beautiful. The cemetery is owned by the city and inters deceased from all religions. The entrance has a stunning church and arcade with ivy covered columns and walls. A truly regal sight in the afternoon sun.

4. Enjoy Local Food

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Velvet Cafe
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Cevapcici with Kajmak

Croatian cuisine varies a great deal from region to region. While coastal areas enjoy a plethora of seafood, the inland capital is famous for hearty food with many meat and cottage cheese dishes. The places below were my favourites, with most recommended on the walking tour.

  • Kitchen and Grill PLAC: for meat dishes this places is unbeatable. For true local style try the Cevapcici with Kajmak- small pieces of grilled beef served with onions, flat bread and a delicious cream sauce. I got this “small” portion pictured above for under 4€.
  • La Struk: for the traditional Zagreb dish Strukli, a cottage cheese filled pastry that can be either sweet or savory and is famously made by grandmas.
  • Food Heritage: for street food. The place is small and doesn’t do take away so you may be waiting a little while but it’s worth it- they have tasting size dishes from all around Croatia. And it’s run by Croatia’s first Masterchef!
  • Velvet: for stunning decor, cakes, coffee and cocktails
  • The Central Market: for delicious fresh fruit every day (best to go in the morning)

 

5. Grič Tunnel

It’s not in every city that you can wander down an long underground World War II tunnel and see a photo exhibit! I loved these pictures the most.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’re done exploring the city take a day trip to the stunning Plitvice Lakes. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the world.

The stunning green water at Plitvice Lake, captured on my analog Canon AE-1