Croatia is the not-so-secret sparkling Mediterranean destination that offers a stunning coastline, gorgeous ancient cities and lush national parks. Perfect for history buffs, keen foodies, outdoor adventurers and sun worshipping beach lovers, it has everything you could ask for from a seaside European destination. If you’re planning a holiday to Croatia, keep reading for our top 10 things to do in this gorgeous country.
Explore the Elafiti Islands on foot
The Elafiti islands are a small collection of islands just off the coast of Dubrovnik. Three of these islands are inhabited – they are Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep. Regular ferries depart from Dubrovnik making them ideal day trips if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The latter two islands are completely car free, which means once you hop off the ferry you are faced with a beautifully calm landscape where you can walk amongst nature with some spectacular ocean views. There are a few guest houses and restaurants scattered throughout the islands, but we recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy at one of the various viewpoints.
Sit and listen to the Sea Organ in Zadar
Stroll down to the end of the peninsula where the historic centre of Zadar is nestled, and you’ll start to hear the calming sounds of the famous Sea Organ. This architectural piece of art consists of tubes and holes carved into the harbour wall. When the waves gently crash into these holes, it creates a wonderful musical sound similar to an organ. Make your way here at sunset and take a seat near the musical object to enjoy a free performance as the sun goes down – sunsets in Zadar are famous in Croatia for being some of the best!
Walk the Dubrovnik City Walls
Of course no list of the best things to do in Croatia would be complete without speaking about the medieval city walls of Dubrovnik. This magnificent fortification encompasses the gorgeous terracotta hued houses of the old town, and offers some of the best views of the Adriatic Sea. Dating back to around the 7th century, the city walls have been restored to their former glory and can be walked in around one hour. We highly recommend arriving as soon as they open, which in high season can be as early as 7am, to beat the crowds.
Hike up Mount Srd
If you want to see Dubrovnik from a new perspective, take on the short hike up Mount Srd. At only 1.4 miles, it can take anything from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how often you stop, and offers a fantastic vantage point once you reach the top. If you’re not so keen on walking up, hop in the cable car which will get you up in a matter of minutes. Standing on the peak, you’ll realise just how small, compact and beautiful the old town is.
Take a day trip into Bosnia and Herzegovina
The beauty of Europe is that it’s pretty small, meaning navigating your way between countries is pretty easy. And in the case of Croatia, sometimes you’ll find yourself so close to neighbouring countries that a day trip is more than possible. Mostar, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a mere 2 hour drive from Dubrovnik and provides a wonderful insight into this lesser visited destination. Explore the bazaar, watch locals make the jump from the Stari Most Bridge or dine in one of the many authentic river-side restaurants for a fraction of the cost of food in Dubrovnik. And if you have the time, detour to the charming monastery of Blagaj Tekke to see traditional Dervish architecture in a fairy tale setting.
Party the day & night away on the island of Hvar
Peppered with luxury yachts, Hvar is popular with the rich and famous. While the island is quite large and inhabited by over 10,000 people, most travellers flock to Hvar Town where you’ll find a range of seaside bars, cool clubs and swanky restaurants. Venture further afield and you’ll find charming vineyards and picturesque cycling trails in much quieter areas of the island. Another great option? Book a local boat tour that takes you out to the glistening blue cave near the island of Vis. The sunlight dances off the water and bounces off the walls of the cave, creating a beautiful sea of blue and green colours which light up the interior.
Absorb the history of Diocletian’s Palace in Split
Nestled in the heart of Split, Diocletian’s Palace makes up around half of the old town in the city. The impressive Roman structure dates back to the 4th century AD and was constructed for the Roman emperor Diocletian, his family, guards and servants. It was built with the intention of being the emperor’s retirement seaside retreat, and served this purpose until his death in 311. It was later abandoned and left in ruins. It’s now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular areas to explore on a trip to Croatia.
Get back to nature in Brijuni National Park
Brijuni National Park is a small cluster of islands off the coast of Croatia, accessible by boat from the small town of Fazana, near Pula. The ferry takes around 15 minutes so it’s possible to enjoy a day trip on the island but there are also decent accommodation options if you wish to stay for a few days of R&R. The most popular activities are walking around the island to enjoy the views or biking along the various trails, but it’s also possible to play golf or go swimming in the ocean. The national park is also known for its dinosaur footprints – over 200 have been discovered on the islands!
Swim in Krka National Park’s waterfalls
Unlike Plitvice National Park which is protected and therefore swimming is banned, travellers are free to enjoy the water in Krka which is a wonderful experience on a hot summer day. The park encompasses over 142 square kilometres of lush forest, the Krka river, walking trails and various flora and fauna. While it’s possible to reach the national park on a day trip from Split, if you wish to travel slow and really enjoy all it has to offer then we recommend booking a local guesthouse in the town of Skradin.
If you want to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities in the hot sun, read our guide on the best time to visit Croatia for top tips before you book.
Explore the walkways of Plitvice National Park
There are not many places that showcase Croatia’s natural beauty quite like Plitvice National Park. A scene straight from a fairy tale, it’s a great destination in both summer and winter, although summer is significantly more crowded. The park consists of sparkling blue and green lakes, cascading waterfalls and verdant forest surroundings. As the most popular national park in the country, it’s also the best setup for tourists with wooden walkways and flat trails bringing you to the best viewpoints of the lakes. While it’s possible to reach the park on a day trip from Zadar, Zagreb or Split, we highly recommend booking accommodation in or near the park to enjoy a full day exploring the area. It can get crowded around lunchtime when guided tours arrive, so get up early and get in the park as soon as it opens to enjoy the walkways in peace.
Emma is on the marketing team at Tucan Travel and has extensively travelled through Croatia. In fact it’s one of her favourite European destinations!