One of the top tourist destinations in the Dalmatian coast, it is not always easy to recommend the best places to visit in Croatia. By booking a break in Croatia, a unique and varied travel experience awaits you, full of several activities and things to see tailored for travelers with different aims: from those looking for Croatian islands tours, nightlife and sea to those who prefer a relaxing holiday, immersed in history and culture of the Dalmatian coast.
Croatia travel highlights: unspoiled nature landscapes are perfectly combined with elegant centuries-old buildings and lively areas of the city popular with young people who hang out between pubs and cafes. Where to go on holiday in Croatia? Well, it depends on what you're looking for! A cultural break in the city, a food holiday coupled with natural hiking trails or a summer holiday in a seaside resort where to enjoy nightlife clubs and maybe boat trips? Here's a list of the best places to visit in Croatia, between historic old towns, Croatian islands and stunning places of the Dalmatian coast you may have never heard of.
- Split: From a visit to Diocletian's Palace to Game of Thrones tours
- Dubrovnik: Between the walls of the Old City and the Game of Thrones filming locations
- Elaphite Islands: Boat trips between Kolocep and Middle Island
- Zadar: The Sea Organ and the sunsets that bewitched Hitchcock
- Kornati Islands and National Park: A destination for the 'chosen few'
- Exploring other Croatian islands: What kind of holiday are you looking for?
- Where to go in Croatia for a budget summer holiday
We start our Dalmatian Coast travel guide with one of the best places to visit in Croatia from Zagreb, the capital city of the country. If compared to other European capitals, Zagreb may seem a small tourist destination: instead it is a vibrant getaway all year round. While coastal areas "shut down" in the winter season to light up in the summer.
So, if you are looking for Croatia holiday destinations in low season, it is good to know that Zagreb is worthwhile for a break throughout the year. Being alive 365 days, there is never the risk of finding a dead city.
The city is flat, perfect if you love to stroll around the city centre or take cycling tours. The city centre is the part where you'll spend the most time of your stay but one of the not-to-be-missed things in Zagreb is exploring the upper town. Old Zagreb is romantic and full of historic attractions such as the Church of St. Mark. A "must do" in Zagreb is to stop in a café in the city centre for an aperitif at rush hour. A ritual thing for locals.
- To chill out in a relaxed atmosphere, take a sit in any bar in the center but if you really want a tip, head to the area of Bogoviceva or Tkalciceva Street, near the main square Ban Jelačić. You will find a river of people!
While in Zagreb, add a visit to the Dolac market, situated in the main square of the city. Renting a bike is a great option to visit the capital. This way you can get around faster and reach also the beautiful parks surrounding the city centre.
The most famous park in Zagreb is Zrinjevac, very popular with Croatian citizens and tourists. With its large meadows it is a nice place for a break, lying on the grass and sunbathing.
Talking about parks, if you want to treat yourself to a relaxing day during your Croatia travel itinerary, why don't you organize a pic-nic in Maksimir Park? This garden is considered such a true monument for the Croatian capital.
If you are thinking of a trip out of town, plan a day in Samobor or a lunch in the characteristic villages between the hilly areas of Zagorje. Mount Sljeme is perfect for hikes or cycling tours. Consider a stop on the Jarun Lake.
Split: From a visit to Diocletian's Palace to Game of Thrones tours
One of the main ports of the Dalmatian coast, Split is a Croatia travel destination. In the past, it was considered only as a starting point to reach the nearby islands, whilst in recent years an increasing number of tourists spend at least a couple of days in Split. The reasons are various.. discover the best things to do in Split in the following short travel guide.
First of all its historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site with some must-see things such as the Diocletian's Palace and the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, the largest Croatian sculptor. Consider that Split is one of the best places in the whole of Croatia where you can taste the typical Dalmatian food. In the last years, gourmet restaurants have opened in every corner of the city so you will find plenty of dining options here.
- For food excellence I don't mean fish stew or grilled meat you can usually find in any restaurant, but true five-star gourmet itineraries between flavours and taste. You can experience tastings of DOC olive oil, fine hams, tuna steaks and white wine: all Dalmatian coast delicacies.
Icing on the cake is represented by the fame derived from 'Game of Thrones', popular TV series which had a high impact on tourism and led many people to choose Croatia as holiday destination to visit the film locations.
In addition to Dubrovnik, which hosted several scenes of the "Game of Thrones", you will recognize some locations where the popular series was shot, in the surroundings of Split. The Klis Fortress and the small and characteristic historic center of Trogir are real places and you can take themed tours which generally start from Diocletian's Palace.
Which other nice experiences should you do in Split? Have shopping in the morning in the lively Green Market and make a stop in the small beach of Bacvice, ten minutes walk from the main bus station and ferry terminal in Split. To spend the day in a pleasant way, enjoy nightlife in Split, like a "pirate": maybe with a pub crawl!
To enrich your Croatia travel, head to Bosnia another destination of the Dalmatian coast, for a day trip full of meditation and reflection. You can reach this destination from Split where the main day trips with destination in Medjugorje and Mostar depart.
Dubrovnik: Between the walls of the Old City and the Game of Thrones filming locations
Our Croatia travel guide continues in the pearl of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik the most popular tourist destination in Croatia and among the most beautiful places of the Dalmatian coast. Situated south of Split, Dubrovnik cannot be confused with other tourist destinations: the city is immediately recognizable by its orange roofed houses and historic city walls.
The "Ragusa of Dalmatia" has a double soul. To discover its medieval side, walk through the old town inside the walls, among beautiful churches such as the Cathedral, fortresses and stone houses, cobblestone streets and an atmosphere suspended in time. One not-to-be-missed thing to do in Dubrovnik: a guided walking tour within the city walls, the best way to catch a glimpse of the beauty of the place.
- You can book among different well organized Dubrovnik guided tours that will take you around the Old Town. You will see the beautiful landmarks of this city nestled in the Dalmatian Coast: the St. John Fortress, the city Bell Tower, the Fort Lovrijenac, the Church of St. Blaise
On a day trip to Dubrovnik you can see the whole historic area. So plan some time to visit the other side of Dubrovnik and the beauties outside the walls. What do you find beyond the walls? An elegant and youthful town, with fragrant gardens and colours explosion.
For a relaxing Croatia travel, we advice to reach two famous beaches of the city, like Banje and Lapad. The two nice seaside resorts will help you to beat the heat after a tour of the Old Town. The only drawback? You will find a bit of crowds, due to the high influx of tourists, especially in July and August. According to many, the best place of the Dalmatian Coast for swimming and sunbathing is Lokrum island, easily accessible by ferry from the port. In Lokrum, expect to find a deep green pine forest and charming trails leading to cliffs on the sea: perfect getaway for escaping the crowds of deckchairs and umbrellas.
The best scenic spot in Dubrovnik? No doubt, the top of Mount Srd from where the wonderful view over the Dalmatian Coast and some Croatian islands will left you speechless! You can reach it by cable car, in summer there are also late evening rides. You won't easily forget, the view of the towers and walls of the Old Town at sunset.
If you're a fan of Game of Thrones, you'll love Dubrovnik for one more reason: many scenes of the famous saga were shot right there. Just think that the Old Town is The King's Landing, the Fort Lovrijenac served as the main set of the Red Keep, while the cloister of the former Benedictine monastery on the island of Lokrum is no less than the garden where the feast of Xaro takes place, at Qarth. Are you about to book a Game of Thrones walking tour, aren't you?
Elaphite Islands: Boat trips between Kolocep and Middle Island
Our Croatia travel guide touches the beautiful Elaphite Islands - literally the Deer Islands - easily visible from the coast of Dubrovnik. An archipelago of 13 Croatian islands, 3 of which are populated - Kolocep (Kolocep, the most popular hiking destination in Croatia), Lopud (Middle) and Sipan (or Sipano).
The few hundred inhabitants that live in the island are quite indifferent to tourists, who are free to browse through buildings and green areas covering most of the islands. What to see on the Elaphites? Top things to do in this gem of the Dalmatian coast are peaceful strolls of the ruins of ancient churches and palaces, caves and rocks, admiring lush vegetation with vineyards, pines, olive trees and crops of all kinds.
- If you are on an independent Croatia travel, you could visit the Elaphite islands by taking a self-guided tour and stop to explore hidden paths and natural gems at your own pace. Many tourists, however, prefer to save time and book a guided tour that offer an overview of all the islands
Zadar: The Sea Organ and the sunsets that bewitched Hitchcock
Zadar is a somewhat neglected destination by the main Croatia travel routes. Such a big mistake! Among the best places to visit on the Dalmatian coast, Zadar is the least known but yet, full of things to see so get ready for a walk through fantastic architecture and "the most beautiful sunset in the world" - as said by Alfred Hitchcock.
There are a lot of things to do in Zadar but the must-do (and super romantic) experiences are: take your time and enjoy a break on the steps of the Sea Organ, then listen to the sea waves sound while watching the sunset from the Greeting to the Sun point. They are two artistic installations unique in the world, created by the architect Nikola Basic, which brought back lustre to the city's seafront.
The Sea Organ is located on the tip of the quay surrounding the old town and overlooking the Dalmatian coast. 35 organ pipes located under the waves of the sea releasing "natural" melodies: how wonderful! Sit on the marble steps and listen to the notes played by the waves. Then turn right and reach the other work of art so loved by visitors. The Greeting to the Sun is a platform made of 300 sheets of glass that comes to life at sunset, exploding into a series of lights and colours.
- The Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun are the two most sought after experiences to do in Zadar, so those sites are often crowded. We recommend to visit the place at sunset and, if you want to live it like a local, take an icecream at Slasticarna Donat, the best in town!
The other peculiarity of Zadar is its charming old town. If you are used to book guided tours, we suggest you to seriously consider include them in your Croatia travel itinerary. A guided walking tour is the fastest and most interesting way to explore the history that this Dalmatian city is full of. Best sightseeing on a tour of Zadar? You will see beautiful churches and cathedrals, the largest large Roman forum east of the Adriatic Sea and a defensive walled enclosure interrupted by two icons of Zadar, the Land Gate and the Sea Gate.
We leave you a last short list of great experiences to do on a trip to Zadar:
- Have a taste of maraschino, a typical liqueur of the city, and take a tour of the market stalls behind the Church of St. Chrysogonus.
- Spend a night at the outdoor lounge bar The Garden, take a seat in its panoramic terraces and views of the Dalmatian coast.
- Get an aperitif in the beach bars of Borik, the hub of the nightlife in the city of Zadar.
- Explore the croatian islands closest to Zadar (one of the most beautiful is the Croatian Island of Pag with international clubs popular with young people) or plan a trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Kornati Islands and National Park: A destination for the 'chosen few'
If you are looking for a holiday of pure relaxation on a Croatia travel, you must visit the Kornati Islands, a meditative and minimalist experience to discover a wild world just like Robinson Crusoe.
Forget mass summer tourism.... sailing to this archipelago of islands and islets off the Dalmatian coast, it's something completely different: the National Park is a destination for the 'chosen few', with virtually deserted landscapes where you can unplug and be pampered by pristine nature. The Kornati islands are generally visited with guided excursions by sailboat, motorboat or private yacht.
- This stunning Croatian island is not just about hiking in the nature, you can enjoy exciting water activities. In this corner of the Dalmatian coast, you can do some water activities. If the sea is not too rough, don't miss the opportunity to do snorkeling in some coves in the Kornati Islands or just a swim in fabulous waters. The Cove of Lopathic is particularly wonderful: it is definetely a corner of paradise for diving.
To live the ultimate Croatia travel experience, you may want to spend a night on this croatian island. It could be in the camp of Levrnaka or in one of the characteristic stone houses. An interesting option: sleeping offshore on your own boat.
Exploring other Croatian islands: What kind of holiday are you looking for?
In the end, what type of Croatian islands holiday are you looking for? An active and itinerant trip, made of nightlife and boat trips? Or something relaxing like a morning at the sea and a nice restaurant? Here are a few more small tips to enjoy the Dalmatian coast to the fullest:
- For a holiday in the most exclusive places of Croatia, the perfect destination is the Island of Hvar: in recent years, this Croatian island has become a Dalmatian coast luxury destination with bars, restaurant and shop. This part of your Croatia travel offers superb bays and coves, sandy beaches and a elegant nightlife clubs.
- If you are looking for the best place in Croatia offering unbridled fun, spirited revelry and young travellers then consider a stay on the Croatian island of Pag - in particular Novalja. You can enjoy the vibrant Dalmatian coast nightlife between the myriad of clubs in Zrce Beach and Plaza Zrce.
- Instead, if you have chosen a Croatia travel for a summer holiday with children, with days lulled by the rhythm of the sea and evening walks in the city: head to the Croatian island of Brac (known as Golden Cape), the largest in the Dalmatian coast! This destination is also famous among tourists because it is home to one of the most photographed beaches in the whole country, Zlatni Rat.
Where to go in Croatia for a budget summer holiday
As for all holidays organized in the middle of summer, the only solution to save money is to carefully plan how to get around during your Croatia travel and never stop at the first beach or the first restaurant found by chance in the Dalmatian Coast.
If you are on a Croatia travel with your family and children in August and you wish to avoid crowded places, a good strategy can be to avoid more chaotic and hypertouristic places of the Dalmatian coast like Zrce, Lopar, Krk and Makarska. It would be better to head to less crowded beaches of Croatia but that still offer spectacular sea and where prices for accommodation and facilities are lower. Examples? Rab, Bol, Losinj, Cres and small beaches in the vicinity of Novalja.
Depending on how much budget you have planned for your Croatia travel and a tour of the Croatian islands, you should consider how to save money when it comes to eat. Here are some tips to find cheap dining places in Croatia:
- An advice to spend less on wine, is to ask for local wine, rather than bottled wine: beside being cheap, the local wine of the Dalmatian coast is excellent
- Typical places where to eat in Croatia are called 'Restoran', and 'Gostionica' (similar to a restaurant) or in a 'Krcma' (similar to our taverns). You'll find less choice of menus than in restaurants but they are cheaper and always serve the daily menus with the freshest products.
- Shrimps and lobster are also very expensive in Croatia. Better to choose a good freshly caught tuna, or excellent sea bass and sea bream.
Which Croatia holiday destination are you going to visit this year? Let us know about your great Croatia travel and tour of the Dalmatian coast with a comment!