These three itineraries will give you a taste of Croatia’s variety and diversity. Our Grand Tour concentrates on the country’s historic cities and the most rewarding of its Adriatic locations. The other tours focus on aspects of Croatia that are increasingly important to the country’s appeal – get-away-from it all islands and quality culinary treats. The Grand Tour will easily take up two weeks, while the other two could each be squeezed into a ten-day trip – although you may well be tempted to lounge around for longer.
Every bit as beautiful as the brochures say it is, Dubrovnik is the obvious place to begin or end your travels. It’s choked with trippers during the day – save yourself for the evenings and early mornings and let the town work its magic.
An obvious next stop from Dubrovnik, Korčula is a green island studded with pebbly coves and sandy bays; a reputation for good wines and rustic cuisine ensures there’s lots to enjoy.
A rising jet-set reputation is yet to dent Hvar’s essential charm, and it remains southern Dalmatia’s all-round best-of-everything island. Get set for historic towns, unspoiled beaches and the Adriatic’s best nightlife.
A play-hard Riviera town built on top of a Roman palace, Split is more than just the main gateway to the south Dalmatian islands.
An obvious stopover on any coastal trip, the main city of northern Dalmatia is oozing with both history and contemporary style.
Scattered with Roman-era oddities, including one of the best-preserved amphitheatres in the Mediterranean, Istria’s self-possessed port city never feels like a resort.
A pretty peninsula town of sloping alleys, Venetian architecture and outstanding seafood, Rovinj is the most laid back and chic of the settlements along the tourist-thronged Istrian coast.
Croatia’s understated capital’s combination of café society, contemporary art and cultural energy more than merits the trip inland.
9 Plitvice Lakes
The sequence of lakes and waterfalls that make up Croatia’s most publicized national park is truly stunning; it’s an essential journey-breaker between Zagreb and the coast.
In the flatlands of eastern Croatia paprika is king; the region’s signature dish is fiš paprikaš – freshwater fish cooked up in a cauldron of spicy red liquid.
The capital is home to the best of Croatia’s new gastro-bistro culture, with a clutch of small, affordable and creative restaurants leading the way.
3 Inland Istria
Good home cooking is very much the rule in inland Istria. Local truffles grated sparingly over home-made pasta are the standard treat, and outstanding wines provide the icing on the cake.
Some of the Adriatic’s best restaurants are squeezed into this seaside village, with freshly caught fish and delicious local scampi the stand-out choices.
Located where the Krka river meets the Adriatic, Skradin offers the best of both coastal and inland Dalmatian cuisine, with a mouthwatering array of unique local recipes.
6 Mali Ston
There’s something special about eating oysters and mussels mere metres away from where they were harvested, and Mali Ston is the best place to do it. Red wines from nearby Pelješac vineyards are irresistible.
A ferry ride from Zadar, Silba has no cars and no hotels – just a sleepy village linked to scattered beaches by a network of country lanes.
2 Murter and the Kornati
Slow-paced Murter is a great place to chill out, and is the obvious departure point for the Kornati archipelago, a maritime national park that can only be visited by boat.
Despite being the nearest island to Split, Šolta remains totally absent from the package-tourist map. The cute harbour village of Maslinica is the place to wind down.
Hvar has a well-deserved reputation for hedonism but still provides plenty of places for a quiet getaway: head for Stari Grad for a taste of seaside life without the nightclubs.
A magnet for independent travellers and lotus-eating Zagreb folk, Vis combines unspoiled beauty with seriously good restaurants and a discreet beach-party vibe.
Most people visit this national-park island as a day-trip from Dubrovnik, and miss out on the benefits of a longer visit: village accommodation, nature walks and a multitude of quiet bays.