Croatia has quickly become one of the top destinations for travelers in the world, thanks in part to the hit show “Game of Thrones,” which used a number of its enticing spots as filming locations. It’s filled with everything from ancient fortified cities to island gems with beautiful beaches, wineries and vineyards for tasting and tours, countless eateries serving delicious Dalmatian cuisine and especially friendly, welcoming people.
But we probably don’t have to tell you why to go, by now, the word is out. The real question is when to go. The general answer is any time from early May through late September, as there is very little available in the off season, other then Zagreb’s famous Christmas market – of course, if that’s what you’re looking for it may be worth planning around as it’s been named the best and most beautiful in all of Europe for the past three years. Obviously, it will be too chilly for swimming in those brilliant turquoise waters or soaking up the sun on the beach, and cruises don’t run in this region between November and April. Sailing along the Adriatic coast, island-hopping through its crown jewels on a small-ship cruise is one of the best ways to experience Croatia. You’ll be able to take in a lot more without having to continually pack and unpack with the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in each destination, getting to know the history and the culture. That means if you do decide to go in the winter, you’ll definitely want to plan another trip.
Those who prefer to take in the many delights that the “on” season has to offer have six months of the year to choose from. This guide is sure to help your decision as to when to visit Croatia a least somewhat easier and we break down the best time to go based on the type of vacation you’re looking for followed by a month-to-month analysis.
When to Visit Croatia for Sightseeing
If your primary reason for visiting Croatia is to enjoy the sights, including those “GoT” filming locations, you’ll want to avoid the peak summer months of July and August when tourist crowds are thick and the weather is hot, averaging in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, though the mercury can and often does climb up into the 90s. That typically means anywhere from about mid-April through the month of May or mid-September through mid-October. If you arrive in late spring, a 10-night Zadar, Plitvice Lakes & Split Luxury Cruise & Land Package makes it easy to combine a land tour where you’ll explore top sights like Lake Plitvice National Parks when the waterfalls will really be rushing, with a cruise to popular destinations like Split and Dubrovnik as well as some of the island gems. By booking this same tour for early autumn, you can experience the park when it’s splashed with the vibrant colors of fall, while enjoying pleasantly warm weather for sightseeing. As the sea temperatures are often idyllic through much of September and into early October, swimming will feel wonderful in between all your other exploits.
When to Visit Croatia to Experience Local Festivals
Attending a local festival is not only fun, it’s a great way to delve into the culture, enjoying an authentic side of daily life in Croatia. Plan to visit Split in May, perhaps as part of the 7-night Luxury Split Return Cruise, and you might be able to attend the Festival of Flowers. The top attraction in this medieval city is the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace and you’ll be able to see its basement halls filled with flowers as florists compete to find out who has the most beautiful, artistic display.
One of Croatia’s most popular islands, glamorous Hvar, famous for its yacht-filled harbor and upscale eateries, becomes especially aromatic in June as it marks the lavender harvest. The Lavender Festival is hosted toward the end of the month, bringing the opportunity to participate in harvesting, and follow the entire process through to distilling and production of lavender oil. There will be concerts, workshops and a variety of exhibitions, while the fields of endless purple make for especially photogenic shots. With Hvar on many island-hopping cruise itineraries, it’s easy to visit as part as one of these unforgettable trips like the 7-night Superior Dubrovnik to Split Cruise which also stops on Mljet, Korcula, Vis, Bisevo, Brac and Omis.
Dubrovnik host its popular summer festival from mid-July through much of August every year – the country’s largest cultural festival, international musicians and actors take to the stage on open-air venues within the city’s ancient walls. If you hope to attend, you might plan to spend some time here first and then embark on the 7-night Deluxe Dubrovnik to Split Cruise.
October is peak season for white truffles, the most valuable type, on the beautiful Istrian peninsula. This month brings Istrian Truffle Days, a time when multiple events will be held every weekend, celebrating the region’s famous gastronomic treat, including the chance to indulge in all sorts of dishes featuring truffles and purchase items like truffle oil and other products. We suggest combining it with a mid- to late-September cruise that culminates in Opatija, taking advantage of the wonderful early fall weather with perfect timing for the event.
When to Visit Croatia for Swimming and the Beaches
Croatia is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, like Zlatni Rat on the island of Bol, a unique stretch that continuously changes shape depending on the tide, currents and wind. It’s surrounded by crystal-clear waters in a myriad of hues, from turquoise to deep blue, framed by mature shady pines. May, June and September may be especially enjoyable for sunbathing with the weather warm but not as hot as it will be during the peak summer months. No matter where you go, the sea is sure to entice you for a swim. Earlier in the season, it will probably be a bit too chilly to enjoy, but by July when the weather has really warmed up the sea temperatures will begin to climb too, and it can make for an ideal time to hop in and cool off. It continues to warm through August, with September often ideal for swimming with tourist crowds starting to diminish and the water still quite pleasant.
An island-hopping tour is one of the best ways to not only experience multiple islands and their beautiful beaches, like the 7-night Luxury Split Return Cruise, but you’ll have lots of swim stops along the way. The good news is that if you book a trip during the hottest months of the year, July and August, there’s a/c on the ship if the heat gets to be too much.
When to Visit Croatia for Parties and Nightlife
Croatia offers famously fantastic nightlife that includes cheap beer, outstanding Croatian wines and creative cocktails, while DJs spin the latest tunes. There are plenty of crawls after dark too that will bring you to everything from Irish pubs to swanky cocktail bas, nightclubs, discos and raves. The summer nightlife really takes off on islands like Hvar, Pula and the Pag islands, with internationally renowned music festivals attracting big-name recording artists and DJs. The island of Obonjan near Sibenik hosts the popular Obonjan Electronic Festival each year beginning in late June, featuring electronic music, DJs, workshops, wellness events and more. Hvar attracts jetsetters from across the globe who come to enjoy some of the chicest parties, day and night.
Summer is definitely the “hot” season not only when it comes to weather, but for anyone who wants to join a party or live concert with something happening on any given weekend, or even any day, throughout Croatia. In the islands and along the Adriatic coast where the warm nights are perfect for outdoor events after dark, you’ll typically have a wealth of options to choose from.
When to Visit Croatia to Avoid the Crowds
Generally, the summer months, including July, August and much of September, bring the biggest number of tourists. Most families with children come when the kids are out of school, and September is popular due to the warm sea for swimming and slightly cooler land temperatures, as well as among those who want to avoid the younger crowd. That means if you want to come at a more tranquil time when you won’t have to bump elbows while making your way through those narrow cobbled streets while enjoying pleasant weather, having flights and ferry services readily available, and cruises are running, plan to come in May, June or late September/early October.
What to Expect Each Month During the ‘On’ Season
May. The cruise season gets started in May and it can be a fabulous time to be in Croatia when the temperatures warm but not too hot. The average high is around 70°F now, and the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet. If you plan to visit this month, you may be taking a bit of a risk with the weather, so you’ll want to plan on bringing clothing that can be layered and a light jacket. The sea is unlikely to be warm enough for an enjoyable swim, but you may want to pack a bathing suit to enjoy a hotel swimming pool or for sunbathing on the beach. If you plan to visit Split, you may be able to catch the beautiful Festival of Flowers.
June. One of the best months to visit Croatia for a cruise, the days are now much warmer, typically hovering around the upper 70s along the coast. The sea is likely be pleasant enough for a refreshing swim, and you’re unlikely to need a jacket or sweater now but bring plenty of sunscreen. Hvar will be blanketed in purple with this month bringing the lavender harvest, and if you happen to be on the island in late June you may be able to attend the Lavender Festival.
July. One of the peak summer months, July will be hot, with the average high temperature along the coast climbing to the mid-80s, though it can get quite a bit hotter. This is the time to come to enjoy your days at the beach, cooling off in the sea with water temperatures comfortable now at around 75°F, as well as for hopping nightlife, beach parties and live concerts. Dubrovnik’s summer festival begins around the middle of the month, bringing the opportunity to attend the largest cultural festival in Croatia, complete with performances by actors and musicians from around the world.
August. August is much like July, continuing the hot, dry weather, while bringing some of the biggest crowds of the year. The good news if you plan to come for a cruise during this period, is that those elegant small-cruise ships come equipped with a/c when you need a break from the heat. Plan to bring your summery clothing and a couple of bathing suits, keeping cool in the crystal-clear blue waters of the Adriatic.
September. The hot weather continues in early September, but as the month progresses, it will gradually start to cool while the sea is especially pleasant for swimming and snorkeling. The average high temperature along the coast dips back into the upper 70s, with days often idyllic. This is another one of the best times for a cruise, and if you come late in the month, it could be perfect timing for enjoying Truffle Days on the Istrian peninsula in early October, just plan to pack a light jacket for cooler days and evenings.
October. Many places in Croatia start to shut down in early October, but this month can be ideal for those who want to enjoy sightseeing in the cities. There will be some cruises running during the first half of the month, though like May, it comes with a bit of a risk for some inclement weather. There is a chance it might rain, while afternoon temperatures tend to be around 70°F along the coast. If you plan to visit now, you’ll want to pack a mix of clothing for both warm and cooler days along with a light rain jacket.
Call our travel experts on +1 844 879 7838 or visit our website to start planning your dream vacation to Croatia!
Lydia July 18th, 2019
Posted In: Blog
One of the world’s top vacation destinations, the things you hope to do while in Croatia can shape your trip into one that’s especially unforgettable. Whether you’re looking to spend your days chilling out on beautiful beaches and enjoying water sports, strolling medieval streets with their grand centuries-old architecture, embarking on an adventure-filled trip that brings canyoning, biking, kayaking, swimming or even off-road experiences, or perhaps indulge in a foodie-focused excursion complete with winery visits, you’ll find what you’re looking for in this spectacular country.
Learn to Cook Authentic Dalmatian Cuisine
The wide range of culinary experiences available in Croatia provide the opportunity to learn about the country’s traditional foods and recreate authentic Dalmatian dishes while getting a glimpse of authentic daily life. There are multiple destinations where this is possible, including Split, featured on the Taste of Dalmatia Tour. A private gourmet food tour in this magnificent city that dates back some 1,700 years, starts with a trip to its Green Market to buy ingredients that will be part of a meal you’ll put together, led by an expert guide. Learn about the foods on offer and then after your ingredients are gathered, you’ll get a cooking lesson from one of the talented local chefs, putting together your very own delicious traditional Dalmatian meal, accompanied with tasty Croatian wine.
Join a Truffle Hunting and Tasting Tour, Motovun Forest
The Istrian Peninsula is famous for its wine and food, including truffles, particularly in the city of Motovun. This enchanting little walled town sits on a hill in the Mirna Valley, while the Motovun Forest at its base has a fairytale-like quality that’s known for its abundance of truffles. You’ll find this delicacy on many menus in the area, often combined in creative dishes like mini-cheese cakes with shaved truffles and a variety of pastas – but searching for your own is something that’s really a must here. In fact, the world’s largest white truffle was found in the forest of Istria. While it isn’t something you can just go out and find in an afternoon, truffle hunting excursions provide the opportunity to head out with the experts and their specially trained dogs, who have secret spots in the dense forest for discovering these treasures that are said to be an aphrodisiac. Some of the tours available even include the chance to learn how to prepare truffles and sample a dish made with them too.
Capture the Stunning Lakes and Falls of Plitvice Lakes National Park from Land, Water and Rail
One of the most photographed and most visited destinations in all of Croatian, Plitvice Lakes National Park is regularly found on travel bucket lists. Filled with striking natural beauty so remarkable it looks as if it was somehow Photoshopped, it boasts 16 interconnected terraced lakes and cascading waterfalls in a myriad of vivid blue and green shades, all framed by lush greenery. The Highlights of Croatia Tour features this UNESCO World Heritage Site, allowing visitors to stroll the wooden walkways and cross bridges to capture their own postcard-perfect photos up close before taking in a variety of other perspectives, including a panorama of the scenery from the train that circles the park or by gliding across the water on an electric boat.
Fans of “Game of Thrones” are probably well aware that Croatia was often used as a filming site for scenes in the hit HBO series, making a visit to this country a perfect excuse to explore them while experiencing its long list of other delights on a Game of Thrones Tour. Dubrovnik’s medieval Old Town was used extensively as King’s Landing, and you can visit the City of Qarth on guided trip to the stunning locations and historic sites as you walk the charming cobbled streets. You’ll recognize many places you’ve seen on screen, like Pile Gate and the Jesuit Steps, now infamous worldwide as the spot where Cersei took her “walk of fame.” In the ancient city of Split, wander through majestic fortresses that formed the city of Meereen which is where many interior shots were filmed, and then head to the small town of Klis where exteriors were shot of its fortress, a medieval castle that towers above.
Marvel at Zadar’s Unique Light Installations
The 3,000-year-old walled city of Zagreb, featured on the Highlights of Croatia Tour, is one of Croatia’s less-visited cities, but it boasts many delights, including lovely cobbled streets, a rich history and a remarkable mix of classical Viennese secessionist architecture and Austro-Hungarian heritage, along with a ton of offerings for art lovers. It’s especially well-known for its seafront promenade where locals and visitors enjoy gathering to watch one of the world’s most glorious sunsets, and experience the unique light installations created by artist Nikola Bašić. The Sea Organ is made up of about three dozen pipes, fitted into the pavement, creating music with the power of the waves. The Greeting to the Sun is a 72-foot-wide work of art that represents the solar system. Driven by the sun, at sunrise, the cells beneath its glass panels generate enough electricity for it to illuminate. By sunset, those cells have enough power to light up the waterfront – truly a sight to behold.
Swim Under Waterfalls
Krka Waterfalls National Park sits just outside of the historic city of Sibenik and boasts some of the most jaw-dropping beauty in all of Croatia. The Passion on the Adriatic Tour will bring you here where you can walk meandering pathways and across wooden bridges through this natural wonder to admire the Skradinski Buk falls. And, you’ll even be able to swim beneath and alongside the stunning cascades, immersing yourself in the enticing emerald waters of the Roski Slap area, a place that looks like a dream.
The Blue Cave is one of the world’s most extraordinary natural phenomena. Often listed among Croatia’s must-experiences, when visiting this cave on the island of Bisevo under the right conditions, you’ll see it illuminated in a surreal blue glow that’s created by light refraction with the sun’s rays enter through a crack in the rock. It can only be visited by boat, an excursion that’s part of tours like the Highlights of Croatia which even includes the opportunity to jump from the cliffs, diving into the crystal-clear aquamarine waters in hidden coves, as well as explore other caves nearby.
Croatia’s turquoise waters are ideal for sea kayaking excursions. If you like to paddle, you’ll have multiple options, including the Croatia Lakes & Cities Vacation which features this adventure that travels to the charming seaside town of Brela. Located about an hour south along the coast from Split, it faces the island of Brac with its crystalline, tranquil waters not only ideal for kayaking, but for swimming and snorkeling, while pristine beaches that stretch for nearly four miles, linked together like a necklace, are wonderful for a peaceful soak Mediterranean sun, surrounded by the breathtaking scenery.
If you want to get a different perspective of Dubrovnik’s magnificent medieval walls from the outside, you may want to join the Passion on the Adriatic Tour which includes a guided sea kayaking trip from the old port. You’ll paddle alongside the imposing city walls before heading to remote beaches that can only be reached by small watercraft, enjoying a break to snorkel or swim. Paddling on to Lokrum Island, there you’ll be able to experience a lush nature reserve where colorful peacocks and adorable bunnies roam around before heading to a hidden beach cave that can only be accessed by sea.
Cycle Through the Scenic Konavle Region
The scenic Konavle region is ideal for exploring on two wheels. Located just outside Dubrovnik, this enchanting hidden area lies between the borders of Bosnia and Montenegro. Especially popular among wine enthusiasts, a cycling tour available via the Croatia Lakes & Cities Vacation, travels by lush herb gardens, picturesque vineyards and rushing rivers. Along the way, you’ll learn about the region’s history, cultural and wine production, including its endemic grape known as malvazija that produces a wonderful white wine. At the end of your bike tour, you’ll be able to sample some of the tasty locally produced wines.
Climb and Swim Through Cetina River Canyon
One of the most heart-pounding adventures you can have in Croatia is to embark on a canyoning experience in Cetina Canyon near Split. The Dalmatian Family Adventure offers this exhilarating day guided by professionals who provide expert instruction, giving you everything you need to make the most of the excursion in this remarkable historic and archaeological site. You’ll go deep underground into tunnels and to the ledges of cliffs, climbing and swimming while surrounded by stunning rugged landscapes, cascading falls, calm pools and crystal-clear lakes.
Zip Lining Over the Breathtaking Plitvice Lakes Region
In Croatia you can also enjoy what’s become one of the world’s favorite adventure sports: zip lining. And here, you’ll be able to do it while taking in a bird’s-eye view of the awe-inspiring Plitvice Lakes landscape. Included on the Croatia Lakes & Cities Vacation, the fun begins with a thrilling ride across the Korana River and canyon which lie adjacent to the national park. Don’t worry if you’ve never embarked on this unforgettable thrill before as expert instructors will teach you all you need to know before soaring across the nearly 1,000-foot-long zip line at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more.
Swim the Shores of One of the World’s Most Beautiful Beaches: Zlatni Rat
Zlatni Rat is often named among the world’s most beautiful beaches. Also referred to as the Golden Cape or Golden Horn for its unique and ever-changing shape that’s transformed by the waves and the wind, the long strip created by deposits of fine pebbles that spread like a small tongue as far as a third of a mile into the sea, is popular for boat excursions and small-ship cruise stops. Edged by glistening blue-green waters, you won’t want to miss taking a refreshing dip along the shore.
Cruise Across Mljet Island’s Great Salt Lake to an Ancient Monastery
Visit densely forested Mljet Island on a cruise or another kind of excursion and you can experience its famous salt lakes along with lush scenery and an especially tranquil ambiance. Much of this virtually car-free island is protected by national park to preserve it as it was since the dawn of time. By taking the short boat ride across the waters of Great Lake, the largest of the two, you can visit the tiny islet of St. Mary in the middle that hosts a historic church and 12th-century Benedictine monastery.
Climb to the Top of Hvar Town’s Fortress
There are many island-hopping tours, including the Passion on the Adriatic, that will bring you to the sunny island of Hvar, a favorite among Croatian travelers. Hvar Town enjoys a backdrop of the sparkling Adriatic and glistening white homes, providing Old World Mediterranean charms. For the very best view over it all, climb to the top of Fortica Fortress. Towering above all the mega-yachts in the harbor is this Spanish fortress, built in the early 16th-century, saving the local population when much of the island was destroyed by the Turkish in 1571. Worth the effort, your ascent will be rewarded with a panorama of the island-dotted sea and the maze of winding streets lined with fine dining restaurants, enticing cafes and shops selling unique artisan crafts.
Embark on a Jeep Safari Tour on Hvar
Hvar is worth exploring more in-depth, including its more remote, hidden towns and villages that are dotted around the island. You can do just that by joining a Jeep Safari Tour, enjoying the ride while gazing out at ancient stone walls, vineyards and endless lavender fields that reveal the reason why shops on the island carry a wide range of lavender products.
Wine Tasting, Oyster Harvesting and Feasting on the Peljesac Peninsula
There’s no doubt that Croatia was made for food and wine lovers, and if you’re among them, you won’t want to miss the opportunity for wine tasting, oyster harvesting and feasting on the Peljesac Peninsula. Join the Taste of Dalmatia Tour and you’ll be led by one of the most sought-after sommelier wine guides for an unforgettable excursion to the country’s primary wine region. It includes visits to two top wineries and sipping locally-produced wines complemented by cheeses, olive oils and parma hams. Afterward, you’ll learn how to harvest oysters and then indulge in the delicacies straight from the sea.
Give our Croatia travel experts a call on (844) 879 7838 to start planning your dream vacation today!
Lydia June 28th, 2019
Posted In: Blog
Tags: Cetina River, Croatia, Croatia Cruise, Croatian lakes, Dalmatian meal, Food, Game of Thrones, Kayaking, Krka Waterfalls, Plitvice Lakes National Park, The Blue Cave, traditional Croatian food, truffle hunting, Zlatni Rat