Why visit Croatia: 10 reasons to go

written by Joanne Owen

updated 22.12.2023

Wondering why to visit Croatia? Let’s start with its bounty of beautiful beaches and idyllic islands that’ll have you swooning from morning coffee to sun-downer hour. Then there’s Croatia’s stack of national parks — the stunning stage for exhilarating outdoor adventures. And did we mention the charming cities, first-class food, and flock of festivals?

Interest piqued? Read on for ten reasons to go to Croatia and tips that’ll make your trip all the more extra — from finding the best places for peaceful romantic retreats, to finding peace of mind with the best insurance.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guide to Croatia — your essential guide for travelling to Croatia.

1. Dramatic Dubrovnik

Kicking off with Croatia’s most-visited destination (thanks, Game of Thrones!), Dubrovnik has undeniable allure and long-lingering impact. Bounded by mountains and the shimmering Adriatic Sea, this majestic stunner boasts one of the world’s best-preserved medieval cities.

In fact, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with plenty of places to eat, drink and splurge in chicly atmospheric style. One thing’s for sure, the city certainly merits Byron’s "Pearl of the Adriatic" soubriquet.

Top tip: Often seen as a great weekend break destination, being close to a wealth of beaches and islands, Dubrovnik is also a darn fine base for longer trips.

dubrovnik-croatia-shutterstock_138408938

Dubrovnik, Croatia © Shutterstock

2. Beautiful beaches

Spanning a gamut of glorious scenery — from swathes of golden sand, to rugged peninsulas — Croatia is home to some of the best beaches in Europe. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that Croatia’s finest coves give the Caribbean a run for its money.

Take Sakarun Beach, for example. Located on Dugi Otok, one of the most beautiful islands in Croatia’s Zadar archipelago, Sakarun’s azure sea really is the stuff of dreams.

Top tip: Based in Dubrovnik and looking for a family-friendly beach? Two miles west of Old Town, Lapad is a lovely option, with lifeguards, shallow water and plenty of places to refuel.

Sakarun beach on Dugi Otok island, Croatia © Shutterstock

Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok Island, Croatia © Shutterstock

3. Extraordinary islands

If reading about beautiful beaches has sparked dreams of sunny shorelines, consider staying on one of Croatia’s gorgeous islands. They offer hundreds of additional reasons to go to Croatia.

For old town ambience, fine wine, and family-friendly places to stay, Korčula might tick all your travel boxes.

Or, if you’re looking for glitz and glamour, head to Hvar. Though it has a rep for attracting celebs, this handsome island also has an appealingly rustic side. Think fishing villages and family-run bistros away from the buzzier bars and clubs.

Top tip: Love nature? Don’t pass up the chance to visit Mljet. Do-able on a day trip from Dubrovnik, this lake-speckled National Park island is a wonder to walk.

Yachts on anchor in Milna Bay photographed from the terrace of a restaurant - Hvar, Croatia © Ikonya/Shutterstock

Yachts on anchor in Milna Bay © Ikonya/Shutterstock

4. Sensational sailing

Ahoy there sailor! To go one better than visiting Croatia’s captivating islands, see an array of them by boat.

With its hands-down handsome Adriatic coast offering over 200km of brilliantly blue sea, Croatia is a dream destination for island-hopping adventures.

That said, if you’re a newbie navigator, you’ll want to get yourself a skippered yacht. Not only will you be in safe hands, but you’ll also benefit from your captain’s insider intel. They’re sure to know where to drop anchor for local food specialties, and that festival you’ll never forget.

Top tip: fancy captaining your own ship? Even if you have experience under your belt, be aware you’ll need full certification, such as the ICC (International Certificate of Competence).

Paklinski Islands in Hvar, Croatia © Shutterstock

Paklinski Islands in Hvar, Croatia © Shutterstock

5. Fabulous festivals

If we’ve given the impression Croatia is all about beaches and that iridescent Adriatic Sea, be assured that plenty of reasons to go to Croatia can be found on dry land.

In good news for culture vultures, Croatia is famed for its festivals. For instance, if you’re into music, food, fashion or film, visit Zagreb in June or July for festivals covering all that, and more.

If your tastes are more classical, July and August sees Dubrovnik’s Old Town transform into the stage for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Expect world-class opera, chamber music and symphonic concerts.

To the north, near the tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, Pula’s Roman amphitheatre (more on that later) plays host to a staggering array of summer events — film festivals, theatre, and more concerts than you can shake a drum stick at.

Top tip: fancy feasting on Croatia’s festivals? Be sure to bag comprehensive insurance cover ahead of your trip. The truth is, you never know when you might fall ill. So, sorting an insurance policy that covers illness and accidents will give you peace of mind, and leave you freer to focus on enjoying said festivals.

pula-croatia-amphitheater-shutterstock_123665449

Pula Amphitheater © Shutterstock

6. Awe-inspiring ancient attractions

Beyond Dubrovnik’s esteemed Old Town, Croatia has a host of historic attractions that give aficionados of ancient culture (and inquisitive kids) plenty of reasons to visit.

With a first-century Roman amphitheatre to rival Rome’s Colosseum, Pula lays bare fascinating layers of history. It’s a charming city that sees Roman ruins rub shoulders with Venetian townhouses and Byzantine buildings.

Meanwhile, Split, with its fabulous 4th-century Diocletian's Palace, is a terrific location for travellers who want to see architectural wonders while enjoying café culture and browsing boutiques.

Add to that ancient Porec on the Istrian Peninsula, Zadar’s Roman Forum, and the many historic attractions of Lokrum Island (to name but a few highlights), and Croatia’s cultural appeal is clear to see.

Top tip: Staying in Split? Head a little way south of the city to explore Roman city ruins in Salona.

diocletian-palace-split-croatia-shutterstock_1050541637

Diocletian Palace in Split, Croatia © Shutterstock

7. Unadulterated romance

Impossibly pretty, with plenty of places to find seclusion, Croatia is a dreamy destination for loved-up couples and honeymooners. It’s also the perfect place to rekindle romance!

Longing for luxury? It doesn’t get better than Lošinj, one of Croatia’s Kvarner islands. Higher-end resorts here offer spa packages that see lucky recipients reap the health-and-beauty rewards of native botanics.

Add to that the island’s Graeco-Roman statue of a naked athlete, and it’s easy to appreciate Lošinj’s barefaced (and bare-bummed!) romantic appeal.

All that considered, wherever you are in Croatia — from Dubrovnik, to Split, to Rovinj, to Zagreb — you’ll be able to bed down in a cute boutique hotel that might just fulfill all your romantic desires, and then some.

Top tip: Seeking seclusion? Visit Vis — an away-from-it-all Southern Dalmatian diamond beloved by indie travellers.

Losinj, Croatia © Shutterstock

Lošinj, Croatia © Shutterstock

8. Exhilarating adventure

From hiking and cycling, to river-rafting and quad-biking, opportunities to get your adventure on in epic style offer yet more reasons to go to Croatia.

The country’s national parks are nothing but beautiful, and provide a scenic backdrop for activities that are sure to set your heart racing.

Plitvice Lakes National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less — is an absolute must-visit for lovers of the great outdoors. Loaded with lakes and waterfalls, Plitvice has twelve walking routes to suit all ages and abilities.

Want to get wild on the water? No problem! Dive into rough-and-ready rafting experiences along the Cetina River, which is also a hotspot for tubing, canoeing and canyoning.

Top tip: Coming to Croatia for adventure? You’d be wise to arm yourself with comprehensive insurance cover that offers 24-7 access to medical assistance. As the Scout’s time-tested motto goes, be prepared! So, be sure to check whether you need an adventure sport add-on to enjoy the likes of white-water rafting and quad-biking.

Things not to miss: Plitvice lakes and waterfalls, Croatia.

Plitvice lakes and waterfalls, Croatia © Shutterstock

9. Fine food

‘Fess up — in all likelihood, when you think of Croatia, fine food is not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet due to its location, the country’s cuisine spans two very distinct — and distinctly tasty — culinary cultures.

Firstly, the sensational seafood and pasta you might expect from Mediterranean destinations. Secondly, the heartier fare associated with Central Europe.

As a result, when in Istria, Dalmatia and Croatia’s islands, you’ll get to devour some of the finest seafood that’s ever likely to pass your lips. Away from the coast, expect to enjoy the likes of spicy kobasica sausage and robust beef stews.

Croatia also creates incredible cheese. For example, Pag island is famed for its Paški sir, a hard sheep's cheese infused with wild sage. If that wasn’t enough variety, Istria is one of the world’s best truffle-hunting regions.

Top tip: If you see blitva on the menu, give it a try! The name for a spinach-like plant that’s native to Dalmatia, blitva is usually served as a side with fluffy boiled potatoes, olive oil and garlic.

dalmatia-croatia-food-squid-shutterstock_456189691

Dalmatian squid © Shutterstock

10. Finer wine!

We’re going to stick our necks out here and say you stand an excellent chance of discovering your new favourite wine in Croatia.

While wonderful wines are produced all over the country, some of Istria’s offerings deserve special mention. Top of the vine is Malvazija, a crisp white that’s produced throughout the region. Not a fan of white? Try Teran, a robust red with body and bite.

For something truly special, head to Lumbarda on the island of Korčula — the only region that produces Grk wine.

Dry in the extreme (“grk” means bitter), it’s well worth making the journey to taste it, and to get a taste of Korčula. Just don’t hang about – Grk is produced in limited numbers.

Top tip: We can personally vouch for the chef’s-kiss-quality of Korčula’s Pošip. A crisp, dry white that goes down easy. It’s also easier to come by than Grk.

Croatian vineyards with Dingac grapes. Cultivated only on this small part of Peljesac peninsula near the sea in Dubrovnik archipelago © Shutterstock

Croatian vineyards with Dingac grapes © Shutterstock

Feeling inspired to explore Croatia? See our Rough Guide to Croatia for insider knowledge and travel tips put together by our local experts.

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.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

This article was brought to you in sponsorship with Hey Mondo.

Joanne Owen

written by Joanne Owen

updated 22.12.2023

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to travel and discover
Croatia?

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍