Croatia was Europe’s hidden little secret for a long time where beachgoers and history lovers roamed through the streets of old towns and across the pebble beaches while overlooking mesmerizing waters to islands not far in the distance.
However, the rest of the world discovered Croatia and I’m happy to say that though there may be crowds, the country remains unspoiled and you can safely create your Croatia itinerary with these must-know Croatia travel tips.
Croatia is a country for everyone, the shores beckon the beach lovers and enthusiasts of water sports, the mountains call the people who crave nature and the old towns are where history lovers are compelled to visit.
Not to mention the fact that the food has a heavy Italian influence, wine is grown pretty much everywhere in the country, waterfalls are abundant and there are multiple national parks that offer jaw-dropping views.
Yes, Croatia really is that wonderful.
So let us get your Croatia vacation started with some planning and need to know details such as what to see in Croatia, where to visit in Croatia and the Croatia destinations that you just can’t miss.
Your Croatia guide starts here.
Croatia Fast Facts
Currency: Croatian Kuna (kn)
Languages: Croatian (English is widely spoken)
Population: 4.1 million
Religion: Majority Catholic
Best Time to Visit Croatia
Croatia has two climate patterns. On the coast it’s like the Mediterranean and inland experiences a continental climate, but even with both climates, you can certainly find the best time to travel to Croatia to see every thing you want.
For both parts of the country, the most popular time to visit is in the summer, July and August. However, these are also the peak travel months meaning that the old towns are packed, cruise ships are rolling in, the beaches are far from quiet and accommodation fills up fast (and prices rise too).
That being said, the weather is the hottest. Temperatures can be anywhere from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s C° (high 70’s to low 90’s °F). In the winter temperatures can be cool enough to see snow.
From October to May, especially along the coast and even more so on the islands, many accommodation options will shut as it gets too cold. This is a good time to visit inland Croatia, where the national parks will be a display of colours.
Zagreb also gets dressed up for Christmas and it’s a beautiful city to explore during any season. Inland temperatures reach below 0°C and snow is very likely (and heavy) but summers are the same temperatures as the coast.
Most people head to Croatia for the beaches, I personally recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons of May or September when temperatures are still warm (it could still even hit 30°C (86°F)!), there are fewer crowds and you save with off-season prices on accommodation.
Prices are quoted in Croatian Kuna, USD and Euro (because a lot of prices are quoted in Euro in Croatia). All prices were accurate at the time of writing, check up to date conversions here.
Due to Croatia’s popularity, it is not known as a budget destination. Travellers often pay more than locals and this is standard practice with prices typically going up every year.
Prices are accurate at the time of writing this Croatia travel guide in 2018 so expect to pay what you read or slightly more.
If you are backpacking Croatia aim to budget $75 per day, minimum. This is if you’re staying in hostels, 130-390 kuna, ($20-$60 a night (could be less or even more)), eating cheap food from bakeries, 15-40 kuna per meal, ($2.30-$6) and travelling by bus or ferries, 50-150 kuna ($7.60-$23). Activities will fit into this budget but not daily so plan the occasional day tour and lots of time chilling on the beach or roaming around old towns.
A mid-range budget of $150 per day would include accommodation in hotels or private rooms in hostels, €50-€100 ($57-$113), eating at lower end restaurants with the occasional splurge, 50-100 kuna ($7.60-$23) and doing activities daily. This budget also allows for a rental car if desired or a flight if needed.
A high-end luxury budget in Croatia of $300 a day could get you into the fanciest of hotels, €200+ per night, a private boat and eating at top end restaurants, 300 kuna, ($45) with as many activities as you want.
Getting Around Croatia
Getting around Croatia is very easy. You’ll have a number of options that include buses, ferries and planes, all of which have schedules that accommodate travel throughout the day. Train travel is limited and not recommended.
Getting Around Croatia by Bus
If you’re in Croatia for 2 weeks or longer or are only planning on sticking to cities that are close-by then travelling by bus is your best option. It’s affordable and comfortable enough to get from destination to destination.
There are a number of national bus companies, which all have similar routes that can be found on getbybus.com. I recommend booking your tickets online if you’re travelling in the high season (June-August) and you can book online or buy your ticket at the station if you’re travelling outside of the high season.
Buses usually depart from major destinations in Croatia every hour. Always have small cash on you as you’ll have to pay to put your baggage under the bus.
Getting Around Croatia by Ferry
If you visit any island you will need to take a ferry in Croatia. If you’re travelling without a car then ferries are cheap. In the peak season you’ll need to arrive early (around 2 hours early) because ferries are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Some companies you can buy a ferry ticket online and others you buy at booths by the port before boarding. You can find ferry schedules and more information at Croatia Ferries.
Getting Around Croatia by Car
Renting a car in Croatia is a great idea as it’s a beautiful country to road trip around. The roads are in good condition and you’ll be able to cover large distances faster and in the comfort of a car instead of sharing a bus.
Car is the cheapest transport if you’re a group renting a car. It can be used to explore the islands (though it’s not necessary) too and if you want to see a lot of places with limited time. You will just have to be aware of ferries that transport cards, not just people!
Getting Around Croatia by Plane
Travelling by plane in Croatia is only necessary if you plan on flying from one end to the other, which I don’t recommend but it’s great for people who don’t have a lot of time in Croatia and want to see the main highlights. One example is flying from Dubrovnik to Zagreb which is 1 hour and keeps you from driving through Bosnia.
Flying to Croatia from other parts of Europe can be very cheap. I recommend using Skyscanner’s tool to search for flights to everywhere in Croatia, there are more airports than you probably think and you could end up flying into somewhere for cheaper! I opted to fly into Zadar since it was the cheapest. Flying into Dubrovnik was almost €50 more!
Croatia Travel Insurance
Where to go in Croatia
These are the best places to go in Croatia that you should consider adding to your itinerary. There are, of course, more places to visit in Croatia but start with these options to help you get a good feel for the country.
Use these descriptions below to help you decide which places in Croatia are your vibe.
Dalmatian Coast Destinations
Dubrovnik is the main place to visit in all of Croatia, made famous because it’s a major Game of Thrones shooting location but known even before the TV series because of its beauty. The old city within the city walls are easily the best in Croatia, it’s a jumping-off point for some of the islands, there’s nightlife and beaches.
The downsides are that it’s very busy, it’s a cruise port and it’s the most expensive spot in Croatia.
Second only to Dubrovnik, Split is another popular destination in Croatia because of its old town Diocletian’s Palace ruins and coastal location. Split is also a jumping-off point for some of the islands, is one of the major cities in Croatia and has beaches.
Zadar is a great spot to start your trip along the Dalmatian Coast (it’s where I started) to make your way south. Zadar is another major city with lots of history from the Venetians, is home to beaches and a bustling old city.
Makarska is a lesser heard of coastal town that is the last jumping-off point to the islands before Dubrovnik. Makarska has everything, beaches, mountains, hiking, water sports, stunning sunsets, nightlife and a beautiful promenade.
Sibenik is often skipped over by people who don’t have much time but it’s a wonderful small city to visit for epic viewpoints from fortresses, a beach with one of the best views in all of Croatia, it’s less busy and it’s the closest major city to Krka National Park.
Pula along the Istrian Peninsula and is an ideal base for exploring the northern coastal region of Croatia. It’s home to ancient Roman ruins, a lively foodie scene and yet it still has a small-town feel.
Trogir is where you want to stay if you want to avoid the crowds but still be close by to the bustling city of Split. Trogir is a walled island that is connected to the mainland that is ever so charming along the Adriatic Coast.
Islands in the Adriatic Sea
Hvar is the most popular island in Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, known as where the stars go when they visit Croatia. Its popularity make it the most expensive island but it’s worth visiting if you love nightlife, beaches and wine.
There are other places to visit on Hvar to get away from it all too, smaller old towns other than Hvar Town itself.
Korcula is known as where Marco Polo was born (though it is up for debate), its the second-most populous island in Croatia and it has a lot of wine. The islands small old city is perhaps one of the most beautiful in all of Croatia and there are sand beaches on Korcula!
Brac is a large island with the most visited towns being Bol and Supetar. Bol is more of a resort area that overlooks Hvar, has lots of adventure and water activities and the most famous beach in Croatia, Zlatni Rat, a white pebble beach is here.
If you’ve seen Mamma Mia 2 then you’ve seen some of the beauty of Vis already. What draws people here is the islands lack of development, making it the perfect getaway. It’s small, quiet and the furthest island from the mainland.
Mljet is not a large island and is a good place to stop at for a day or to stay on if you like peace and quiet. Half of the island is a national park and you can spend your days biking across the island through the forested nature.
Zagreb is the capital city that is nicknamed “Little Vienna”. It’s beautiful and decked out in fabulous and some might say over the top architecture, much like Vienna. Parks line long streets, the upper town, the oldest part of the city overlooks the newer part and cafe culture is very much a way of life here.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes is the most popular national park in Croatia and is oftentimes the picture of the country. The emerald blue lakes and waterfalls are idyllic. Tourists can take boat rides, kayak, hike and walk across narrow planks to witness the beauty.
The downside is that it is very busy during peak season but can be even more beautiful to see in fall or winter with much fewer crowds.
Krka National Park
Another popular national park in Croatia is Krka, where visitors can actually go into the water. There’s not so much hiking here but more narrow planks that create paths for visitors throughout the waterways to pretty viewpoints.
How Long to Spend in Croatia?
My answer? As long as possible! There is seriously so much to see in Croatia that I recommend spending at a minimum of 10 days in Croatia. I personally stayed for 3 weeks and loved every minute of it so I’ve designed this itinerary as a build-your-own adventure style itinerary just in case you decide on staying in Croatia longer than 10 days!
If all you’re after is a beach holiday then one week in Croatia is fine, just pick a destination or two and you’re golden. If you want some beaches and some cities one week is fine as well but you’ll have to be more selective of where you go.
Recommended Croatia Tours
Skip planning your trip yourself with these top-rated tours around the country.
- Highlights of Dalmatia in 12 days (small group)
- Sailing Croatia in 8 days (small group)
- Croatia Sailing Adventure in 8 days
Now comes the tough part, deciding where to go! Pick which places call to you the most from the descriptions above and then see below how long I recommend in each destination. Below I also list recommended itineraries that will help you not pick destinations that are too far apart.
Of course, there are a million itinerary options and even more places that could be added!
Recommended Croatia Trip Itineraries
7-day Croatia Itinerary
- 1 mainland destination (ex. Dubvronik or Split)
- 2 island destinations (ex. Korcula and Hvar)
10 Days in Croatia
- 2-3 mainland destinations (ex. Dubrovnik, Split and Makarska)
- 2-3 island destinations (ex. Brac, Hvar and Korcula)
Sample 10 Day Croatia Itinerary
- Day 1: Fly into Split
- Day 2: Split
- Day 3: Hvar
- Day 4: Hvar
- Day 5: Korcula
- Day 6: Korcula
- Day 7: Dubrovnik
- Day 8: Dubrovnik
- Day 9: Dubrovnik (optional day tour or opt to spend more time in Hvar)
- Day 10: Fly out of Dubrovnik
14 Day Croatia Itinerary
Option #1 (Coastal and Islands)
- 2-3 mainland destinations (ex. Dubvronik, Makarska and Split)
- 2-3 island destinations (ex. Mljet, Korcula and Hvar)
Option #2 (Inland and Coastal)
- 1-2 inland destinations (ex. Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park)
- 2-3 coastal destinations (ex. Pula, Zadar and Sibenik)
21 Day Croatia Itinerary
I’m going to share the itinerary I did with one adjustment to make it more feasible which is Zagreb first (I did Zagreb as a stop when travelling from Bosnia to Slovenia).
Zagreb > Plitvice Lakes National Park > Zadar > Sibenik (day trip to Krka National Park) > Split > Makarska > Brac (Bol) > Hvar > Korcula > Dubrovnik
Recommended Time for Each Destination
There are Croatia tourist attractions throughout the country worth visiting and for each destination below I share a few of the best things to do in Croatia.
Some of these places could also serve as ideal Croatia holiday destinations if you wish to spend your time in one spot.
Dubrovnik: 2-4 Days
DAY ONE: On your first day in town find your way around by going on a walking tour of the old town in the city walls and learning about history and sights such as the bell tower. In the afternoon visit any museums that may interest you, check out a cliff bar and/or visit a beach.
Choose to either hike or take the cable car up to the best viewpoint of Dubrovnik for sunset where you truly see the magnificence of the city walls and old city.
DAY TWO: In the morning visit the Dubrovnik City Walls to avoid the crowds and then test your Game of Thrones knowledge on a Game of Thrones walking tour that visits shooting locations. Catch the sunset on a kayaking tour.
DAY THREE: Hop on a boat and spend a day exploring Lokrum Island, just 600 metres from Dubrovnik, where you’ll find hiking, more Game of Thrones filming shooting locations and excellent snorkelling. A second option is to visit the Elafiti Islands on a day trip.
DAY FOUR: Many day tours are possible from Dubrovnik which includes visiting islands such as Korcula or cities in other countries such as Mostar (Bosnia & Hercegovina) or Kotor and Budva (Montenegro). Pick one, spend the day relaxing or choose to explore Dubrovnik at a more leisurely pace.
Split: 2-3 Days
DAY ONE: A guided tour of the old town is necessary while in Split to understand all of the parts of Diocletian’s Palace that makes up a large area of the city centre.
You can then take a walk to Marjan Hill for views over the city and hit the beach for the rest of the afternoon and then have a night out on the town or along the promenade.
DAY THREE: There are a ton of day trip options from Split if you choose to use Split as your base. One of the most popular tours if you’re not going to the islands on your own is the Hvar and 5 Islands tour or a catamaran tour to Brac. On land, popular tours are to the Krka waterfalls and Cetina rafting.
Zadar: 2-3 Days
DAY ONE: Zadar is not very big, all of the best things to do are in the old town. Join a walking tour to learn about the history and architecture of sights such as the bell tower, and understand the once Venetian controlled city a little better.
Spend some time by the water at one of the beaches nearby. Don’t miss the sunset at the two sound and light installations just outside of the old town, the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun.
DAY TWO: Zadar is one of the best places (the other is Zagreb) to visit Plitvice Lakes National Parks from as it’s between the two cities. Buses are available from the main station or guided tours depart daily in the high season.
DAY THREE: Take another day to explore Zadar at a more leisurely pace or take another day tour to the beautiful and less visited Kornati National Park.
Makarska: 2-3 Days
DAY ONE: Get outdoors and active, hike a mountain, St. Jure (St. George) for epic viewpoints of Makarska. You don’t have to hike all the way up for good views. Then spend the afternoon chilling out on the beach or doing some watersports. Catch the sunset at the lighthouse.
DAY TWO: Do some more hiking (much easier this time) to the nude beach. You don’t have to actually go to the beach but the views along the way are jaw-dropping. Spend the afternoon relaxing once again before a night out on the town.
DAY THREE: A third day in Makarska is ideal for more relaxing or for a day trip if you’re basing yourself in the town. Some options are a day-trip to Krka National Park and Sibenik, a trip just to Krka, a trip to Split, or to Omis and Cetina.
READ MORE: 14 Amazing Things to do in Makarska, Croatia
Sibenik: 1-2 Days
DAY ONE: Take half the day to roam through the old town checking out Game of Thrones shooting locations, seeing the views from St. Michael’s Fortress and getting lost in the maze of streets.
Hit up the promenade for lunch on your way to Banji Beach for the best views of town. Finish up the day with sunset at Barone Fortress.
DAY TWO: Take a day trip to the Krka waterfalls in the national park for a day in the sun, outdoors and waterfalls. Tours are available from Sibenik or buses also leave from the main station.
READ MORE: 11 Charming Things to do in Sibenik
Pula: 1-2 Days
DAY ONE: Spend your first day exploring the city itself. Join a walking tour to see the highlights which are mostly architecture and history based for a better understanding of the city. In the afternoon get to know the region food-wise as it’s a major place for foodie lovers.
If you’re up for more walking there is a food walking tour or a full-day tour that takes you to all of the best flavours in the Istria region.
DAY TWO: Opt to do the full-day food tour today or visit Brijuni National Park.
Trogir: 1-2 Days
There isn’t much to do in Trogir other than see the old town and its highlights which include a castle, a cathedral, a farmers market and two beaches. While Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and very picturesque, plan to only spend a day here and two maximum for a more leisurely pace.
Hvar: 2-4 Days
DAY ONE: Rent a scooter and get out of town for the day to explore the island. You can explore abandoned towns, roam through other old towns and find beaches that are practically abandoned compared to the ones around Hvar Town. Some places to visit include Jelsa, Stari Grad and Humac.
DAY TWO: Spend the day around Hvar Town shopping, beaching, seeing the views from the Spanish fortress and catching sunset at Hula Hula Beach Bar. Then hit the town for a night out.
DAY THREE: Spend a day recovering from your night out at the beach or jump on a boat or tour to the islands surrounding Hvar, the Pakleni Islands. Getting to the Pakleni Islands can be done by boat or kayaking. Another option is to go wine tasting.
DAY FOUR: Take another day trip to the famous blue and green caves. Hvar is the closest island (other than Vis) to these caves so you’ll save time doing it from Hvar instead of Split.
Korcula: 1-2 Days
DAY ONE: Take a day to explore the island by hiring a scooter, driver or bike. There are vineyards to see, beaches and the old town deserves your time as well. Full-day tours are available from Dubrovnik for those who are limited on time.
DAY TWO: Do an excursion on your second day or rent a boat and spend a day hopping to the small islands surrounding Korcula or to some of Korcula’s beaches.
READ MORE: 10 of the Top Things to do in Korcula
Brac: 2-3 Days
In Brac you can opt to stay in Bol, which is mostly for beaches and water activities or in Supetar which has an old town.
DAY ONE: Explore anywhere on the island that isn’t Bol, including Supetar, visit some vineyards, check out how olive oil is made, stop by Skrip and more. There’s a tour to do the whole island in one day from Split if one day is all you have.
DAY TWO: Take a day to check out the beaches, including Zlatni Rat and others nearby, especially the beach by the monastery!
DAY THREE: Get going early to hike up to Vidova Gora, spend more time at the beach or join in on one of the many water activities.
READ MORE: 12 Cool Things to do in Brac
Vis: 1-3 Days
For 3 days you could easily fill your time hiking, seeing new beaches each day, drinking the islands local wine and eating great seafood.
Mljet: 1-2 Days
Mljet can be visited as a day tour from Dubrovnik or Korcula. Some tours focus just on seeing the national park part from Dubrovnik or Korcula of the island while others take travellers across the whole island.
If you’re staying on Mljet yourself then you could easily spend 2 days exploring the beaches, lakes and natural sights of Mljet island.
Zagreb: 1-3 Days
There’s not a whole lot to do in the capital city of Zagreb but if you love pretty cities or just want to relax for a day or two then Zagreb is a great place to do so. The food scene is great here and so is the cafe culture.
DAY ONE: Get yourself oriented on a walking tour of the city which takes you to some of the top sites. Spend the afternoon checking out one of the many museums such as The Museum of Broken Relationships, the Museum of Illusions or the Museum of Contemporary Art (seriously there are so many museums in Zagreb).
Plitvice Lakes National Park: 1-2 Days
But if you’re an outdoor lover there are options for places to stay just outside of the park so you can spend a second-day hiking or getting to the park earliest so you can see the top sites without the crowds.
Krka National Park: 1 Day
DAY ONE: Krka really doesn’t require more than a day to hit all of the basics. You can easily walk around the main sites and spend time soaking in the flowing waters by the main waterfall. I suggest visiting Krka from Sibenik, which is the closest city, or day trips are offered from Split or Zadar.
Enjoy your Croatia holidays!