Croatia is not only filled with a wealth of remarkable ancient ruins, historic monuments and UNESCO world heritage sites, but it’s become one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, known as Eastern Europe’s ‘Riviera,’ with endless miles of sun-drenched beaches and island jewels, magnificent waterfalls and mountains. It also boasts a laid-back atmosphere and hospitable people along with mouthwatering food and outstanding wine.
With such a long list of fabulous places to visit, it can be to hard to decide how to make the most on your vacation Croatian. Many travelers find the best way to experience the country is via a small-ship cruise or a mixed cruise/land excursion, but no matter what your choice, you won’t want to miss experiencing some of these highlights.
The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ as it’s often referred to, is famous as the city Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor often escaped to for romantic liaisons, and more recently, for its starring role in HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones.” It’s incredibly exotic, with narrow streets to stroll while catching glimpses of the azure Adriatic, with the beautiful pedestrian-only Old Town jam-packed with Baroque churches and aristocratic palazzi, all contained within medieval fortifications, complete with bastions, towers, forts and casemates. Fans of “GoT” may want to search out filming sites they’ll recognize from King’s Landing scenes, like the city’s entrance, the Pile Gate, as well as Fort Lovrijenac, where the name day celebration for Prince Joffrey was held and a spectacular view can be enjoyed. Find out more about our Game of Thrones Tours here>
The city center also hosts flower-filled gardens, fine dining restaurants, charming cafes and tiny bars with private nooks that are ideal for sipping Croatian wine or cocktails while enjoying quiet conversation. Nearby are pristine white sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue waters for swimming, while many exciting day trips can easily be enjoyed, perhaps to one of the sparsely populated isles like Sipan in the Elaphiti Islands with its citrus groves, fig and olive trees, and vineyards – it’s famous for its tasty wine and wonderfully relaxed ambiance.
The “Mediterranean Flower,” is filled with fascinating history, not to mention being home to beautiful beaches for swimming, a picturesque palm-lined seaside promenade as well as a top-notch shopping and dining scene. As you explore the enticing narrow streets, you’ll be able to gaze up at some of the world’s most well-preserved Roman architecture. The ancient palace built for Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th-century AD, with its Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture, is a remarkable maze-like complex that resembles a large fortress – it takes up nearly half the historic center. More like a small city itself, it was birthed when Diocletian decided it would be ideal for a retirement destination.
Stroll the marble pathways and discover medieval buildings that have been converted into bars, cafes, interesting shops, bustling markets, and sleek apartments that were made from the barracks where Diocletian’s soldiers once resided. In the heart of the complex is Cathedral Sveti Duji, which was once the site of the mausoleum for the Roman emperor himself. By climbing to the top of the bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring panorama of the palace, city and the sea beyond.
This 3,000-year-old walled city remains relatively undiscovered compared to some of the country’s more famous destinations, set along the seafront with a gorgeous promenade. It has become a bit more well-known in recent years thanks to its unique art installations. The Sea Organ plays harmonious sounds using sea waves through tubes beneath the marble steps, while the nearby “Greeting to the Sun” light installation is a display of lights produced from the rhythm of the waves. There are also unspoiled beaches for soaking up the sun and the sand, and if you’re here at dusk, you can marvel at the same sunset Alfred Hitchcock called one of the world’s most stunning. In Zadar’s historic heart, discover impressive medieval architecture, Roman ruins and Romanesque churches.
One of the most popular islands in Croatia, Hvar is a dazzling cosmopolitan island that’s become famous for its yacht-filled marina, and a scene that caters to the rich and famous, with lots of fine dining restaurants, high-end resorts and vibrant nightlife. But it’s also a place filled with history and striking beauty. Stand in the town square and you’ll be surrounded by historic delights like the majestic Cathedral of St. Stephen, built on the site of an early 6th-century Christian church and later, Benedictine convent. Visit the oldest community theater in Europe, which opened its doors in 1612, and the medieval hilltop fortress, which provides a fabulous panoramic vista over the harbor. The natural scenery is striking too, with many postcard-perfect beaches and secluded coves for swimming, endless lavender fields and picturesque vineyards producing delicious island wines.
As you gaze out from Hvar Town, you’ll see the beautiful chain of wooded islands known as the Paklenis stretched out before you. Home to hidden beaches and deserted lagoons, they make for a popular sailing or sea kayaking excursion from Hvar. St. Clement is the largest isle, though all are famous for their wild natural beauty that can only be accessed by watercraft. Whether you join a tour, rent a boat or hop on a taxi boat from Hvar, you surely won’t be disappointed. Vinogradisce Bay with its surreal aquamarine shade is surrounded by green pines for shade, making it especially popular as well as being a great base for taking advantage of some of the island’s outstanding restaurants.
The island of Brac is famous worldwide for Zlatni Rat beach (also known as the Golden Horn). This unusual stretch is constantly changing shape depending on the tide, currents and wind. Considered one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, if not the world, it’s surrounded by crystal-clear waters in a myriad of hues, from turquoise to deep blue, framed by mature shady pines.
Brac is also home to one of Croatia’s prettiest villages, Pucisca, a small town on its northern coast known for its quarries and stone. The glistening white stone is indigenous to the island, with not only the local homes made from it, sitting alongside impressive Baroque buildings and Renaissance palaces, but some have even been used to build ancient Roman palaces and many notable landmarks like the White House in Washington, DC. The island hosts the only stonemasonry school in the country, with students here specializing in sculptures carved from the local limestone using traditional tools.
Korčula may be a small island but it makes a big impression with its unspoiled sand beaches, charming villages, olive groves, vineyards and emerald forests, all surrounded by some of the most vivid blue waters you’ve ever seen. Not only is its scenery jaw-dropping, but it’s allegedly the birthplace of intrepid explorer Marco Polo. The especially captivating historic core of Korčula Town is sometimes called a “mini-Dubrovnik” with its countless medieval delights. It was once controlled by the Venetians, with plenty of glimpses of the past that can be witnessed by strolling its maze of atmospheric streets, laid out in a fishbone pattern to help protect residents from the elements. Along the outer wall, now a promenade, visitors can take in especially beautiful views. In the summer, watch impressive Moreska sword dance performers, and anytime of the year, enjoy dining at one of the many outstanding eateries serving traditional Dalmatian cuisine followed by nightlife in the lively bars and clubs.
Known as the greenest and one of the most enchanting of all the Croatian isles, the majority of Mljet is covered by dense forest, with the remainder made up of quaint villages, vineyards, fields, sandy shoreline and saltwater lakes. While its national park, established in 1960, put it on the map among tourists, it’s managed to remain practically untouched, with nearly all visitors heading to the area around touristy Pomena. The rest retains a magical air of tranquility, something said to have seduced Odysseus for seven years. It has a rich history, with tombs, fortifications and a grand Roman palace, the largest after only Diocletian’s Palace, too. Visitors can enjoy the two salted lakes that are popular for swimming, and the islet in the middle of Great Lake that hosts a 12th-century monastery.
The furthest island from Croatia’s central coast, for nearly four decades, Vis served as a Yugoslav Army base and was deserted by many of the locals while being closed off to outside visitors. The result today is an especially peaceful destination that’s ideal for travelers seeking an unspoiled, authentic Croatian island. Some of the most exclusive wines are made here, while restaurant menus often serve fresh, local seafood that pair perfectly with the tasty vino like Vugava and Plavac. Discover secluded bays and beautiful beaches ideal for a relaxing afternoon on our luxury cruises to Vis. Stop by Stiniva Cove where you can snorkel in the clear aquamarine waters and swim alongside loggerhead turtles or even bottlenose dolphins.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
One of Croatia’s most famous, most photographed and impressive natural wonders, Plitvice Lakes National Park has become an iconic symbol of its enchanting beauty. A maze of waterfalls and lakes that range in shades from brilliant emerald to deep blue, all surrounded by lush greenery, it’s a true fantasy-like scene. It’s also abundant in flora and fauna, home to 126 recorded bird species, along with brown bears, wolves, red deer and lynx. Visitors can immerse themselves among the lakes and cascades by strolling the wooden walkways and bridges, hop on a boat for a tranquil ride across, or board a train that circles the park for another dazzling perspective. You can visit the Plitvice Lakes with us on our 10 day Cruise & Land Package.
Located on the west coast of the Istrian Peninsula, rising up dramatically in the hills above the Adriatic, Rovinj has a particularly alluring, romantic feel, perhaps in part due to the strong Venetian influence. The most Italian town in Croatia, the St. Euphemia Church tower marks its highest point, while the cobbled streets below are delightfully winding, with something to discover around early every corner, from art galleries, lively bars and eateries to ancient crumbling houses and colorful facades.
Located at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula, the seaside city of Pula is home to one of Croatia’s most famous sights, a well-preserved 1st-century Roman amphitheater that’s among the world’s largest surviving Roman arenas. In ancient times, it drew many to watch gladiator flights, and today, it’s the only one that remains with four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. Visitors can explore many other ancient sites, like the 1st-century BC Hercules Gate, the oldest standing Roman monument; the Triumphal Arch of the Sergii and the Forum, where in Roman times it served as the main square. Today it’s a bustling piazza with a host of cafes.
Situated off the northern coast in Kvaner Bay, Rab is known as the “island of love” as well as being one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic. Enclosed within ancient city walls, this is the place where King Edward VIII famously took his new wife Wallis Simpson, casting off his regal attire and jumping right into the sea, taking part in the isle’s nudist-friendly tradition. That same, let-loose, laid-back ambiance stretches to the gorgeous beaches, with the small town itself filled with historic charms, a landscape of church towers and terracotta roofs. It’s fun to simply wander the stone streets, discovering medieval palaces, Romanesque churches, ancient facades, and the 16th-century monastery. Join our deluxe cruise to Opatija and stop off at Rab along the way to try the island’s traditional sweet: Rab cakes.
Croatia’s least developed island, Cres has a very small population, wowing visitors with its incredible beauty that includes remote wilderness terrain with hills covered in oak forests, majestic cliffs, olive groves, vineyards and pristine beaches. There are abandoned hamlets, crumbling hilltop towns and fantastic bird watching opportunities, with the island known for its griffon population. Cres town brings visitors on a walk through the past, having been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, touched by Romans, Byzantines, the first independent Croatians, and Venetians.
Sibenik and Krka National Park
Sibenik is an enchanting walled city on the coastal mainland, established more than 1,000 years ago. It’s famous as the home of one of the region’s largest and most important cathedrals, the Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral of St. James as well as serving as a popular base for exploring nearby Krka National Park. The park is filled with mesmerizing waterfalls like Skradinski Buk with its tranquil pool below ideal for a refreshing swim.
Why not come and discover Croatia for yourself? Call our travel experts on +1 (844) 879 7838 to start planning your Croatian Cruise today.
Lydia July 2nd, 2019
Posted In: Blog