From its awe-inspiring coastline, mountains and lakes, to all those atmospheric Old Towns, Croatia is a hugely rewarding destination for every kind of traveller. There are plenty of reasons you voted it one of your most beautiful countries in the world, while our experts hailed Dubrovnik one of the best places on earth for 2022.
The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Croatia, your essential guide for visiting Croatia.
Given the richness of its offerings, deciding where to go in Croatia is no easy task. The same is true when it comes to deciding what to do, which is why we've compiled this list of things not to miss in Croatia.
For a snapshot, check out this video before diving into our ultimate list of things to do in Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia's top natural attraction — an emerald expanse of lakes and forests with 12 hiking trails and more fairy tale enchantment that you can shake a walking stick at.
One of the reasons Croatia earned a spot in our round-up of the world's best adventure holidays for 2022, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that rewards solo ramblers, families, and travellers looking to take guided hiking tours. And, while you can’t cycle within the park, a fantastic network of bike trails is marked on its northern edge.
Top tip: looking to experience a range of exhilarating outdoor activities in Croatia? Consider booking our tailor-made 9-day Ultimate Croatian Adventure trip.
The incredible amphitheatre in Pula is Ancient Rome’s greatest gift to the eastern Adriatic. Built towards the end of the first century BC, it’s the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheatre in the world, with space for 22,000 spectators.
While it's unclear why such a massive theatre was built in a small Roman town of only five thousand inhabitants, today its size serves locals and visitors well. With stadium-style concerts typically sold-out through the summer months, and a major film festival held in the last weeks of July, you'd do well to check the schedule and book tickets ahead of your visit.
But the amphitheatre isn't the only thing this gem has to offer visitors — find out why Pula should be your next Croatian city break.
Top tip: book a guided walking tour of Pula's historic sites.
Alfred Hitchcock raved about Zadar sunsets and you'll be bowled over by them too — not least because the natural beauty of the setting sun now comes with sound and light effects created by the Greeting to the Sun and Sea Organ art installations.
Sunsets aside, Dalmatia's ancient capital blends its medieval heritage with bustling café culture, fab bars, and a stylish seafront — find out why you need to visit Zadar.
Zadar also hosts several celebrated summer arts festivals, among them the St Donat’s Musical Evenings, and the Zadar Theatrical Summer.
Top tip: discover the beauty of the Zadar archipelago on a boat trip.
Boasting over 200km of azure waters and more than 1000 islands, Croatia's Adriatic coast is a beautiful destination beloved by couples, families and sailors alike.
if you've never sailed before, read our in-depth guide to sailing Croatia as a first-timer. Alternatively, if you'd prefer to keep your feet on dry land, discover the top ten Croatian island getaways. Also read our practical guide about island-hopping in Croatia and find some useful tips.
From handsome, hedonistic Hvar to lovely Lošinj on Croatia's Kvarner Gulf, to Mljet's unspoiled nature reserve, your main problem will be deciding where to go first.
Top tip:fancy taking to the sea, but don't know where to start? Take a look at our customisable Sailing across Dalmatia trip
Featured in our round-up of unusual things to do in Croatia — unexpected highlights that might just get you off the beaten track — the mould-breaking Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb explores human emotions from a very personal perspective.
At once moving, witty and philosophical, the exhibition began life as a travelling art installation and became a permanent museum in 2010. Comprising donated mementoes, exhibits range from garden gnomes to prosthetic limbs, with each item accompanied by explanatory text that explains its significance to the donor.
Interested in urban culture? Find out why Zagreb is Croatia's capital of cool .
Top tip:discover Zagreb from a different perspective with a Zagreb City Tour Hop On Hop Off panoramic bus.
It's said that Croatia's Dalmatian coast is best enjoyed from the water, and sea kayaking is the perfect outdoor activity in Croatia to put that theory to the test.
It’s also extremely easy to organize, with several Dubrovnik and Hvar-based travel agents arranging half- or full-day tours. Kayakers are led in a small flotilla by the tour leader. Apart from the few short minutes required to learn how to use a paddle, no training or previous experience is required.
Top tip: mix exploring Dubrovnik's historic sites with water-based fun and island idyll on a kayaking trip to Lokrum island
Located in the centre of Croatia, within Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, Cigoc is home to just over 100 people and 200 storks that nest in the village's charming wooden houses. Known as Cigoc Stork Village, this unique place is one of a clutch of specially-designated European stork villages.
While the area is beautiful year-round, you'll want to visit from mid-March to see the arrival of the storks. On the last Saturday in June, Stork Day is celebrated with a host of cultural and culinary events. The storks leave in mid-August.
Discover more about what to expect at different times of the year in our guide to when to go to Croatia.
Cigoc also affords visitors opportunities to step back in time through exhibitions of traditional tools and village households, with a handful of restaurants serving traditional Croatian food.
Top tip: Midway through the village, the park information point sells tickets for the park on an honour-based system (many people simply drive through), along with a park map. The team can also advise on trails leading east from Čigoč, and the other villages, out into the countryside, parts of which might be under water depending on the time of year.
A common Croatian conundrum is whether to visit Split or Dubrovnik first for a weekend break. Somewhat complicating things further, there are plenty of reasons Sibenik should be added to your wish-list.
Boasting magnificent Mediterranean architecture, island beaches and festivals cities like Split and Dubrovnik are famed for, Sibenik is far less-visited, which means all the more space to enjoy its maze-like medieval centre.
Love beautiful buildings? Sibenik's cathedral is one of the finest architectural monuments in southeastern Europe.
Meanwhile, the islands of Zlarin and Prvić can be visited on easy day-trips, and the waterfalls of the Krka National Park lie just inland.
Top tip: explore the idyllic islands and beaches of Kornati National Park on a private boat tour from Šibenik.
The briefest of strolls around Dubrovnik's mighty city walls serves as a reminder as to why the ancient city played a starring role in Game of Thrones. If that's grabbed your attention, read our guide to going on a real Game of Thrones adventure in Dubrovnik.
It really is the ideal city to explore on foot, with the Explore Guide to Dubrovnik on hand to help you plan your romantic rambles. Talking of which, Dubrovnik also bagged a spot in our overview of Croatia's best honeymoon destinations.
Beyond those walls, the city offers easy access to stunning islands, among them the nature reserve of Mljet, and historic, wooded Lokrum. In the unlikely event you need more convincing to visit, discover lots of things to do in Dubrovnik
Top tip: if you're into Game of Thrones in a big way, check-out our tailor-made Game of Thrones-themed trip.
If you're seeking off-the-beaten track isolation and unspoiled beauty, the Kornati islands could be your dream Croatian destination. Presenting the Adriatic at its most untouched, this group of largely uninhabited islands is one of Croatia's national parks.
With a sparse covering of shrubs and sage exuding an unearthly palette of grey, green and purple shades, the islands tend to be visited by yachting folk, or on day-excursions from the mainland.
Into nature? Read up on Croatia's national parks.
Top tip: from Zadar, experience the double delights of Kornati and Telascica Nature Park on a sightseeing cruise with food.
With its opulent squares, palaces, and Baroque charm, it's clear to see why Varazdin is often called Croatia's Little Vienna.
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Drava River in northern Croatia, Varazdin's Stari Grad (Old Town) castle is a fairytale charmer, and home to a museum that glitters with art treasures. Then there's Sermage Palace, with its distinctive orange-and-white Rococo exterior.
Varazdin's architectural beauty greets visitors at every turn, with gorgeous gardens to stroll, and plenty of places to enjoy kremšnita cake. In Varazdin, this fluffy custard and vanilla slice is served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
Top tip: Walk down the city’s streets with numerous palaces, villas and the oldest city hall in Europe with the tour to Varazdin Baroque Town.
From the mainland, Pag presents itself as a desolate island that looks as if it could barely support any form of life. In fact, around 8000 people live here, along with three times as many sheep that are responsbile for the island's tasty claim to fame — piquant Pag cheese.
Pag Town boasts an attractive historic centre, while Zrće beach near the modern settlement of Novalja is something of a centre for Adriatic clubbing.
As for that cheese, its distinctive taste — somewhere between mature cheddar and Parmesan — comes courtesy of the sheep's diet of wild herbs, and a unique production process. It's rubbed with olive oil and ash before being left to mature. That's why visiting Pag is a thing to do in Croatia for an avid cheese lovers for sure.
Top tip: book a sea kayaking trip to see Pag's non-cheese attractions — Gače Cave will take your breath away.
Unspoiled and blessed with beautiful bays and coves, the island of Hvar has something of a reputation as a glam celebrity haunt. Undoubtedly the swankiest resort town in the Adriatic, Hvar Town offers Renaissance architecture, chic bars, and glossy yachts. Appropriate enough for an island that's known as the Queen of the Dalmatian Islands.
Lively town experiences aside, Hvar also provides plenty of opportunities to find seclusion in calm coves and unspoiled countryside.
Fancy seeing a clutch of Croatia's Adriatic island gems? Read our practical guide to island-hopping in Croatia.
Top tip: Visit the highlights of the Adriatic Sea on this small-group speedboat tour. Stop by natural landmarks like the Blue Cave, Vis, Stiniva Bay, Budikovac Island, Hvar, and Pakleni Islands.
Located in Krka National Park, Skradinski buk presents itself as a series of seventeen mini-cascades over a 500m stretch. Backed by semi-submerged forests, it's another of Croatia's top nature attractions, with added enchantment, and opportunities for hikers and swimmers to satisfy their hunger for adventure.
The most impressive spot can be found up from the boat landing, where several tiers of falls tumble into a pool.
Elsewhere, Krka National Park is home to tiny Visovac island, which was settled by Franciscan monks in the 15th-century, Roski Slap falls, and over 200 species of bird.
Top tip: into nature and fine flavours? Take a tour of Krka with cheese and wine tastings.
Across the Pelješac channel from the island of Korčula, the Pelješac peninsula — a mountainous finger of land — stretches from Lovište in the west, to the mainland in the east.
Characterised by tiny villages, sheltered coves, and rugged mountains, development here remains low-key — for the time being at least. The area is also renowned for its robust red wines and seafood. The village of Mali Ston, for example, is especially known for its kamenice (European flat oysters) and dagnji (mussels).
It's also a top spot to windsurf, with a great range of shore-side campsites beloved by independent travellers. Discover the best places for beachside camping in Croatia. Naturally, the Peljesac penninsula features.
Top tip: visit the birthplace of Marco Polo and other famous monuments on this tour to Peljesac Peninsula & Korcula Island
For history buffs, visiting Diocletian's Palace in Split should pretty high on lists of things to do in Croatia. Built by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 295AD, this former imperial pied-à-terre now forms the chaotic core of an intoxicating modern city.
While the palace remains the city’s central ingredient, beyond the tangled Roman-medieval mash-up of houses, tenements, churches and chapels, Spilt is one of the Med's most compelling cities.
It's a place of seafront cafés and ancient alleyways, of stately socialist-era housing blocks that look like something from a modernist architectural stylebook. The shopping's not bad, either, especially for shoe-lovers.
Top tip: discover the highlights of Split on a 1.5-hour walking tour through the historic city center, and see sights such as the Golden Gate, Diocletian's Palace, Jewish Ghetto, and much more.
One of eastern Croatia’s most compelling destinations, Vukovar combines contemporary museum attractions with sites commemorating the 1991, 87-day Siege of Vukovar that saw 2000 Croatian civilians defend the town for three months.
Located at the confluence of the Vuka and the Danube rivers, on the border between Croatia and Serbia, the town's history has a haunting, moving presence.
Prior to the 20th-century, Vukovar was best known for having Croatia's largest river port. It's also home to the magnificent Vukovar Municipal Museum, located in the Baroque Palace of Eltz.
Top tip: if you're interested in the region's history, explore our tailor-made 10-day best of the Balkans trip.
if you've ever had the pleasure of sampling a hearty Croatian stew, chances are it will have been slow-cooked beneath an ember-covered metal lid known as a peka — the traditional Croatian way to create deliciously succulent meals.
Strictly speaking, peka can mean one of two things. It's either a meal of roasted meat — perhaps lamb or veal — served with potatoes and a colourful array of vegetables. Or it refers to the magic bell-shaped lid.
Either way, anything involving peka is a very good thing indeed. Look out for ispod peke — meaning "under the lid” or "under the bell” — on menus.
Hungry? Feast on more info about Croatia's top foodie experiences.
Top tip: gourmands might want to take our tailor-made feel and taste Dalmatia trip to enjoy authentic food against spectacular backdrops of idyllic islands and historic cities.
A beautiful medieval port and an upmarket tourist resort, Rovinj (Rovigno) sees Riviera town-chic rub stylish shoulders with old world allure.
Known for its Venetian-style houses and elegant piazza, Rovinj is the most Italian of Istria’s coastal resorts — even the street signs are bilingual.
It's also been a magnet for artists since the 1950s, with studios speckling the Old Town's atmospheric streets to this day. Art-lovers will want to visit on the second Sunday in August, when the main street, Grisia, is transformed into an open-air art exhibition.
Top tip:discover how the city of Rovinj was born out of a historic coincidence on a guided walking tour of the historic Old Town
The largest peninsula of the Adriatic Sea, Istria has long been popular with sun-seeking tourists, with a host of hotel developments to show for it.
That said, this stretch of coast, and the region's inland medieval hill settlements and stone villages, have retained a whole lot of charm.
For the past 80 years or so, Istria's place on the map has been further firmed-up by the truffles that were uncovered in the dense oak forests of the north. These so-called "black diamonds of Istria" draw gourmands from far and wide, with truffle-hunting season marked by festivities throughout September.
For the ultimate foodie experience, head to Buzet in mid-September for Buzet Saturday, when the world’s largest truffle omelette is scoffed by an army of celebrants. Discover how to join the truffle trail in Buzet.
Top tip: wander between three stunning places. Pula, a Roman amphitheater, Poreč, a UNESCO protected Euphrasian basilica, and Rovinj, the Pearl of the Adriatic with this Istria day tour from Zagreb.
13km northwest of Dubrovnik, the coastal village of Trsteno is a must-visit destination if you’re interested in horticulure. Even if you're not at all green-fingered, it's anyway one of the best things to do in Croatia.
Trsteno's gardening glory days began back in 1502 when Dubrovnik noble Ivan Gučetić built his summer villa here. Maintained by generations of the Gučetić family, the villa and its gardens were confiscated in 1948 by a communist regime eager to destroy any prestige enjoyed by the Dubrovnik nobility.
Soon afterwards the Yugoslav (now Croatian) Academy of Sciences reclaimed the villa and created the awe-inspiring arboretum you'll adore visiting today.
Top tip: don't overlook the shore at the northwestern end of the gardens. It looks like a ruined palace but it is in fact a purpose-built nineteenth-century folly – commanding a superb view of the surrounding coastline, with the islands of Lopud and Koločep roughly opposite.
From here a staircase adorned with weird stone cactus sculptures descends towards a rocky beach and tiny harbour perfect for restful sunbathing.
An easy ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Gruž harbour, the lush Elaphite Islands present excellent opportunities to experience the Croatian Adriatic at its get-away-from-it-all best.
Meaning "the deer islands", and named by Pliny the Elder, only three of the islands are inhabited today — Koločep, Šipan and Lopud — the latter of which features in our overview of the best beaches in Croatia.
Despite all the day-trippers from Dubrovnik, tourism on the Elaphites remains low key, with an almost total absence of cars adding to that glorious stepped-back-in-time vibe.
Top tip:in Dubrovnik for a long weekend? Explore the Elaphite Islands on a full-day, three-island tour from Dubrovnik.
There’s nothing like a shot of rakija to oil the wheels of an evening. While the term covers all indigenous fruit-derived firewaters, most rakijas are made from grapes.
For a truly heart-and-soul-warming experience, try herb-infused travarica or carob-flavoured rogačica. Common non-grape flavours include medica (honey brandy) and orahovača (walnut brandy).
Find out more about eating and drinking in Croatia.
Top tip: Into Croatian spirits? 30km from Split, Holiday Home Rustic comes with a swimmimg pool, plus a wine and rakija cellar guests are free to sample.
While walking can be one of the easiest and most rewarding things to do in Croatia, the Premuzic Trail is a more serious hike.
Taking in mountain ridges and dense forests as it winds through Northern Velebit National Park, this is one of Croatia's most exhilarating long distance routes.
It offers a lesser-crowded experience than, for example, the trails around Plitvice Lakes — pretty essential for those seeking a true back-to-nature experience. What's more, walkers' efforts are handsomely rewarded by awesome views that recharge the soul while flexing the muscles.
Top tip:Admire the scenic natural beauty of Northern Velebit National Park on the River Canyon kayaking tour
There’s no official entrance point to the Mljet National Park and by the time you arrive in Polače or Pomena you’re already well inside it. The park’s main attractions are its two forest-shrouded “lakes” (actually inlets connected to the sea by narrow channels), Malo jezero (Small Lake) and Veliko jezero (Big Lake), which together form a stretch of water some 4km long.
Both are encircled by foot- and cycle paths, and the clear, blue-green waters are perfect for bathing. If Polače is your point of arrival, it’s possible to walk over to the lakes by road or by a well-signed forest path (via the 253m Montokuc hill) in about 45 minutes. From Pomena, Malo jezero is ten minutes’ walk south, by way of a stone-paved footpath that heads over a wooded ridge just up from the port.
Once you hit the shore of Malo jezero, it’s another ten-minute walk to Mali most (Little Bridge), spanning the channel feeding into Veliko jezero, edged by magnificently soothing, tree-shaded pathways. Continuing along the bank of Veliko jezero takes you through fragrant mixed woodland before arriving at Soline, a cluster of houses presiding over a flat valley floor.
Top tip: discover the south Dalmatian islands of Mljet National Park on an adventurous day tour filled with biking, snorkeling, kayaking, walking, cave exploring, and a lot of fun.
With its beautiful surroundings and plenty of activities to suit all tastes, Croatia is a real treat for honeymooners. Explore our guide to the best Croatian honeymoon destinations and find your perfect option.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Croatia without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
Ready for a trip to Croatia? Check out the snapshot of The Rough Guide to Croatia. If you travel further in Croatia, read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in Croatia. For inspiration use the itineraries from The Rough Guide to Croatia and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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