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A Local’s Guide: Things To Do In Croatia
I’m often asked what there is to do in Croatia. And after almost a decade of living in Croatia, I can tell you that there are so many ways to experience the magic of Croatia; it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do in Croatia.
Meander the warrens of centuries-old cobbled streets, discovering UNESCO Croatia sites as you go. Spend a day or even weeks mesmerized by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea as you sail the many islands of Croatia – we love Korcula Island.
Alternatively, perhaps you’d like to go for an adventure and hike, cycle, or raft in one of the eight stunning national parks. Or maybe the newest fad of dental tourism in Croatia or life as a digital nomad intrigues you.
And that’s just for starters. Creating a list of the top things to do in Croatia is a virtually never-ending task.
As someone who lives in Croatia, here are my tips for Croatia and the must-see things! Consider working some into your itinerary!
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Visit Croatia’s Best Beaches
The most well know one would have to be Zlatni Rat Beach on the island of Brač, which has a long golden pebble tip stretching out to the Adriatic Sea like a hand reaching out for more wine (or beer, you choose).
The shape of the half-kilometer beach continually changes (albeit ever so slightly), forming the most unusual shape. Zlatni Rat is sometimes referred to as the Golden Horn or Golden Cape beach and is regularly named one of the most beautiful (and strangest) beaches globally. Zlatni Rat beach is on Brač Island, just four kilometers from the attractive town of Bol, Croatia. This is a phenomenal option if you’re after a unique beach destination and researching things to do in Croatia in July or August.
Truffle Hunting In Istria
My truffle hunting experience in Motovun was one of the best days I traveled in Croatia in my five years of living in Croatia. I suggest you go truffle hunting with Miro, the owner of Miro Tartufi. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do, though. He and his dogs do all the real work!
Miro offers guided tours through the Motovun forest, taking you through stunning scenery on the hunt for those famous black and white truffles. Do not stress, though, if you do not find many truffles in your search – the Miro family has plenty back at the house.
Truffles are famous worldwide, and the Istrian truffle is renowned for fetching some of the highest world prices. But, those little fungi are not easy to find – but oh-so-fun!
You can combine truffles and the magic of cycling on a tour like this, where you’ll get a unique experience and truffle hunt simultaneously.
Tick Off UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Are you not sure what to see in Croatia? Well, for a small country of just over 56,000 square kilometers, you may be surprised to know that there are ten (yes, that’s right, ten!) Croatian UNESCO World Heritage sites you can experience and explore.
There used to be eight Croatia UNESCO World Heritage Sites until 2017, when two more were added to the list, bringing the total to ten. In the meantime, another ten sites are currently considered world heritage. For now, however, they remain on the “Tentative List.” We included a handful of the most interesting ones at the end of this post, too, as they may well become actual UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia shortly.
These world-class heritage sights in Croatia make great places to visit in fall and spring when the summer crowds have dissipated.
- The historic city of Trogir
- Old City of Dubrovnik
- Stari Grad Plain, Hvar
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Stećci – Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
- The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik
- Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
- Venetian Works Of Defense Between The 16th And 17th Centuries
- Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
- Ancient And Primeval Beech Forests Of The Carpathians And Other Regions Of Europe
If you’re coming to Croatia in summer and would rather not brave the masses in peak season, you could also visit some of the lesser-known sites to see in Croatia that have been submitted to the tentative UNESCO list. These include:
- The fortified walls and salt pans in Ston and Mali Ston’s towns are less than an hour from Dubrovnik by car.
- The Istrian hilltop town of Motovun.
- The historical nucleus of Varazdin, north of Zagreb, which the New York Times named one of the top places to visit in Croatia
Sail The High Seas
When a country has over 1,000 islands and one of the wealthiest archipelagos in the world, don’t miss your chance to sail along the coast. Island exploration is one of the best – and arguably the single greatest – things to do in Croatia.
Spending time at sea is one of those epic Croatia tourist attractions. I’d dare say that a Croatian vacation without sea action would be sacrilege. Even if you can only spare a day, it’s blissfully worth it. Recommended islands to visit are Korcula, Hvar, Brac, Cres, Krk, and Mljet, and the family-friendly islands of the Zadar Archipelago.
You can combine the best of Croatia, sea, and land by spending time sailing the Adriatic Coast and making stops along your way to explore the mainland. For help choosing a sailing route, we compiled this guide to sailing Croatia. You can also take advantage of ready-made water tours. For example, this Five Island Speedboat Tour features the Blue Cave and Hvar. It will allow you to see a lot of the coast in one day, stopping at five islands while leaving time for swimming and exploring charming island towns.
While sailing, we recommend you try Konoba Opat, a restaurant that only serves fresh fish caught by local fishermen. Once you anchor your vessel and take a seat, your eyes will be drawn out to the blue bay that seems to go forever. Mr. Chasing the Donkey claims it to be one of his best food experiences in Croatia.
Explore Croatia’s 8 National Parks
You’ll draw in an abundance of fresh, crisp, or sea mountain air as you breathe in. You’ll hear the crunching of leaves underfoot, coupled with the sound of waterfalls in the distance. Birds will be chirping, and you’ll be relaxed and without a care in the world. Of all the ‘must-visit places in Croatia,’ the national parks are sure to satisfy the whole family.
I can’t single out any ONE of the national parks as being the best – but the most popular is Plitvice Lakes, National Park. If you like being outdoors and in nature, a national park is one of the most incredible Croatia places you could visit.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Many agree that the most stunning of all of the national parks in Croatia is Plitvice Lakes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plitvice Lakes is often one of those top 5 places to visit in Croatia lists yearly.
I’d recommend traveling from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes as it’s the most straightforward. It’s only two hours by bus from Zagreb. Getting from Dubrovnik to Plitvice National Park is also possible – although long.
Meander along Plitvice’s wooden plank trails and admire the glistening waterfalls crashing into the ever-changing colors of the sixteen interconnected lakes below. Just be sure to bring your camera; it’s a genuinely spectacular park and among the most popular destinations in Croatia.
As this park is one of the most visited attractions in Croatia, it makes sense to take a guided tour to be sure not to miss a thing!
Krka National Park
The Plitvice Lakes vs. Krka discussion is an ongoing debate, and there is never one clear winner. Others might consider Krka National Park more fun to visit. We have this post to help you choose which one might suit you.
Not far from the Dalmatian port city of Split is the best place to take a day trip to Krka National Park. Krka is complete with medieval fortresses, waterfalls, and boat excursions.
The other Croatian national parks also make great additions to your what to see and do in Croatia. Especially Paklenica National Park, just 40 kilometers from the low-cost carrier airport, Zadar, is well worth going to. Paklenica National Park is home to Croatia’s largest mountain, the Velebit, which rises sharply from the sea’s edge and is a mountain climbers’ paradise.
You can make many day trips, from Dubrovnik to one of the parks. If you want to see them all, four of the eight parks are best reached from the Zadar region. So, use that as a base. You might want to consider private transfer companies that can arrange transport for much less than you think.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park
- Mljet National Park – book a Mljet tour here!
- Krka National Park – book a Krka tour here!
- Risnjak National Park
- Paklenica National Park
- Sjeverni Velebit National Park
- Kornati Islands National Park – book a Kornati tour here!
- Brijuni National Park – book a Brijuni tour here!
Take In The Amazing View At Sljeme (Mount Medvednica)
For those looking for a more active holiday, we encourage you to check out the view atop Sljeme. Just twenty miles from the center of Zagreb, it is a great adventure to get away from the hustle and bustle of beautiful nature.
It is an excellent place for hiking in summer, and in winter, the mountains are filled with skiers and snowboarders and a heaping of fresh snow.
Walk Tito’s Secret Tunnels
Did you know tunnels were built on the side of the Velebit Mountains during the 1950s as a secret place of refuge had the USSR attacked Croatia via air? These fantastic, mysterious bunkers have been excavated and are available for tourists to wander through, providing a unique Dalmatia experience.
If you’re heading to Paklenica National Park, don’t miss your chance to experience the history beneath the mountain’s strong facade at the same time.
Get Outdoors (& We Don’t Mean The Beach)
Croatia has some magnificent beaches and makes for an ideal place to kick back and relax. But why not mix it up with fun outdoor adventure sports, too? Add two things to your list: zip lining and rafting on the Cetina River. The zip line in Omiš is the fastest one in Croatia and goes a whopping 65 km/h. Now that will get your vacation started.
Party At Carnival
Croatia Carnival or Maškare season hits each February. Visiting some astounding Carnival destinations in Croatia has to be one of the best things to do in the low season, one of the top Croatia attractions in winter.
Croatians are known to take their carnival very seriously, as people in every region, city, and village in Croatia, regardless of their age, participate in the spirit of Maškare. According to ancient legends, this is a centuries-old tradition that goes back to ancient times when ferocious masks kept away the forces of evil.
In each city, the organizers spend an entire year putting together an exciting program with various events and performances for visitors from all over Croatia and abroad.
Go On A Road Trip In Croatia
If you are not sailing on the Adriatic, the best way to travel to Croatia is by car. It makes sense that you want to hit the road with so many magical hilltop towns in Istria and rustic villages across the country, only accessible by car.
Hiring a car in Croatia is much easier than you think, and with panoramic views hugging roads along the coast, you’ll explore Croatia in ways you can’t by bus or train.
Hire A Car
Our rental car company of choice is RentalCars.com. They have an easy-to-use search system (as seen below) and excellent customer service.
A private transfer is a superb option if you don’t want to drive. It will cost you a little more than renting a car, but that little extra will allow you to have a stress-free journey. If you book with Octopus Transfer Croatia, your English-speaking professional driver will pick you up from your accommodation and take you anywhere you need to go. Intercity transfers are often popular, for instance, Zadar to Split.
Hike To Fabulous Heights
Aside from beaches and extreme sports opportunities, Croatia also boasts excellent options for hiking. Mainly inland Dalmatia, with its beautiful karst landscape.
Part of the Dinaric Alps, it boasts a priceless wealth of flora and fauna. It is one of the last sanctuaries of wildlife in Europe. These unspoiled natural beauties and all their secrets are yet to be discovered.
Climb magnificent mountains and enjoy their scents, sounds, colors, and unforgettable panoramic views. Hiking in Croatia allows you to enjoy the freedom of its wildlife: a flying falcon, the howling of wolves, and rock climbing chamois (a type of goat). The blend of sea, islands, shores, and wildlife inland Dalmatia makes it a unique, small region of great opportunity and diversity.
Come To Croatia For A Medical Vacation
Most people visit Croatia to enjoy the stunning natural beauties and relax; some come for the fantastic food, and some want to experience an adventure or do sports, but what if there is more? Did you know that medical tourism in Croatia is on the rise?
You can enjoy many things in Croatia, and while you are here, you can also do something good for yourself and your health. Dental tourism in Croatia is one area within the medical tourism industry that offers many options in Croatia.
Discover Off-The-Beaten-Path Places
Traveling to Croatia guarantees you a unique and memorable holiday experience, and everyone has now heard of Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, and a stack of our beautiful islands, but how many of these have you heard about?
Kayaking The Turquoise Waters Of The Adriatic
For half a day (or more or less if you wish), you can paddle leisurely around the small peninsula of Split, learn about the city’s history and the country, dip in the water to swim and cool off.
If you’re unsure about kayaking alone, we suggest you try this adventure on a small group tour with friendly guides who arrange the kayaks for you. And it’s not just in Split – you can kayak almost anywhere along the Adriatic in Croatia, and it’s a great way to spend the day as a family in Croatia.
Sample All Types Of Food & Wine In Croatia
Okay, that’s a given. But where? Food in Croatia is diverse and glorious and sampling; is one of the most fun things to do in Croatia during any vacation. Croatian cuisine is exquisite and varied, from fish and seafood in Dalmatia to lamb in Kvarner and Zagreb steaks. Foodies should head to Istria because that’s where it’s at! We have a list of the top places to eat in Croatia here.
Croatia offers plenty of delicious dishes to try, so do not pass up the fresh seafood along the coast. Freshly caught squid, octopus, sardines, or prawns are all grilled to perfection, lightly fried, or added to mouth-watering soups and pasta dishes, making it nearly impossible to push oneself away from the table.
Pair any meal with a chilled local beer, such as the Osječko or Karlovačko, on a sunny patio for the perfect Croatian afternoon.
- Traditional Croatian Food To Look For On Menus
- Here Is What To Eat (And Where) In Istria
- Here Is What To Eat (And Where) In Slavonia
- Must Not Miss Wines & Wineries In Croatia
Do you love wine? One of Croatia’s best places to enjoy wine is the Pelješac Peninsula. Though it is only home to about 8,000 people, the Pelješac peninsula is now coming into its stride as a travel destination.
This region has long been known for its delicious shellfish, dry red wines, and gorgeous beaches and is the key place to take an actual adult holiday. Wine enthusiasts should stop at Korta Katarina Winery in Orebić and check out this list of things to do in Pelješac for more ideas.
The peninsula lies conveniently between Split and Dubrovnik, making it a fantastic day trip from both coastal cities.
Sample Sparkling Wines in Plešivica
Although smaller and arguably less known than other Croatian wine regions, Plešivica stands out because of its outstanding sparkling wines. Located in the gently rolling Samobor mountain range, merely 30 kilometers from Zagreb, this area produces the best sparkling wines in Croatia. Some people even call it the “Champagne of Croatia.”
A visit to this underrated Croatian wine region is one of the best things to do in Croatia for wine enthusiasts. However, it’s not just sparkling wines in Plešivica. You can also find various other wines here, from chardonnay, riesling, and Pinot Gris to Gewurztraminer and sauvignon.
Find A Konoba
While on holiday in Croatia, you’ll find something to treat your taste buds no matter where you are. (make sure to read the point above if you skipped it!). So, what is a konoba?
A konoba is a traditional restaurant and is often much cheaper than a restaurant. Konobas will offer you traditional specialties. For example, when in Dalmatia, ensure you order any fresh fish you see on offer. Trust us, a Dalmatian chef knows how to grill fish to perfection, so it’s something well worth sampling.
You’ll want to try a unique Croatian dish, a black risotto made from cuttlefish called crni rižot. If you are not a fan of seafood, be sure to order pašticada, a traditional beef dish marinated for 24 hours in garlic, wine, and herbs. Pašticada has a rich dark sauce served with homemade gnocchi and is best enjoyed with a glass of Dalmatian Plavac Mali red wine.
Local tip: don’t let the abundance of pizza ovens seduce you. Although the pizza in Croatia is indeed fantastic, you also need to be on the lookout for small, often family-run local restaurants or go to one of Croatia’s best restaurants.
Attend A Festival
Whenever we travel to new places (and we’ve been to 25 countries and have lost count of the cities now!), we love to find and plan our trips around local festivals. At festivals, you experience what a place is about, especially when it’s a food festival. Food is an essential part – some would even say the very core – of a particular culture.
Have A Full Family Adventure In Croatia
You can find family fun across Croatia, and many great family hotels can choose from. With my two small boys in tow, I have been on a mission to find the best things to see in Croatia that please the smallest to the oldest. Here is just the beginning of what a Croatia to-do list with kids would look like.
- Make a Sandcastle & Then Play Beach Volleyball
- Swim Under a Waterfall
- Travel Scavenger Hunt
- Get Your Teenagers Off Their Smartphones
- Photo Jeep Safari
- Take a Ferry Ride or go Sailing in Croatia
- Skip the Beach, and Hit a Water Park
- Snorkeling in Croatia
- Water Activities on The River Zrmanja
- Dance in The Dark
- Let The Kids Roam Free
- Discover 24 Stunning Waterfalls
Croatia With Kids
Now that you know what to visit in Croatia with the kids, you’ll need to decide if Croatia is the right choice for your family using our guide to Croatia for families. You may also like these top things for kids to do in Croatia.
Traveling to Croatia with children is a no-brainer. There are loads of family resorts & hotels for family holidays in Croatia that’ll accommodate your family without any problems.
What? I know that sounds odd, but do you know how close you are to other parts of the Balkans that make for excellent day trips?
Surrounded by Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro, Croatia is an excellent base for exploring the rest of the western Balkan peninsula. Day trips from Zagreb include fabulous destinations like Ljubljana and Lake Bled, both in Slovenia. In contrast, day trips from Dubrovnik take you to magnificent places like Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro.
The latter two are UNESCO World Heritage Sites are among the Balkans’ most fabulous places to visit.
Another recommended excursion is to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Medjugorje, a renowned Catholic pilgrimage site.
Join A Cooking Class
There are several cooking classes to undertake while in Croatia. If you have a soft spot for fantastic food and wine and want to learn how to make the most delicious, tasty meat using a traditional method, head to Zadar. You’ll find a bespoke, hands-on cooking class and wine tour, perfect for mid-size groups (kids included).
Discover Unique Things To Do In Croatia
If you’re looking for unique Croatia points of interest or alternatives to the more famous places in Croatia for your upcoming vacation, this next part is for you!
There are dozens of unique experiences in Croatia that you’ve never had – or maybe even heard of. What about:
- The Sinjska Alka: a knights tournament
- Rub Gregory of nin’s big toe – Grgur Ninski
- Enjoy an electric car ride in Kunjevci
- Track down dinosaur footprints in the Brijuni Islands
- Cycle the Parenzana
- Town of hum celebrating the election of the mayor
- Walk the second-longest wall on the planet, Mali Ston
- Cross the hanging bridge at Kriznica
- Watch a donkey race at Sali
- Milk a donkey
Horse-Riding / Ranch Visit
Every kid loves animals and the great outdoors in my experience – and most of us, big kids, too! There is no need to keep shushing the kids to be quiet and use an indoor voice at a ranch. There are many ranches around Slavonia. I give you my parent seal of approval on these:
- Ranč Ramarin
- State Stud Farm Đakovo
- Ranč Čondić
Get Spiritual In Croatia
I’ve never heard anyone outside Croatia tell me they plan to go to Marija Bistrica. Never has anyone asked me how to get there or what to do there. But if you like religious stops of the Catholic kind, head to Marija Bistrica. One of the top tourist destinations in Croatia for Catholics, this city holds a unique charm and sense of divine healing that I’ve not yet felt anywhere else in Croatia. Be sure to take a look for yourself.
Absolute Must-Do Things In Croatia: Local Tips
Come In The Off-Season
Prices drop at least 30%, there are fewer people, and you’ll get to meet the locals. Winter in Croatia is by far the least busy time of year and is always overlooked.
Granted, the Dalmatian Coast is all but a ghost town, and the Adriatic Sea is freezing cold, but you have skiing, spas, and many festivals to keep you busy. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but Croatia in September is impressive.
You’ll just fall in love with Croatia’s old cities and the raw coastline on your visit, and I guess you’ll need two more trips (at least!) to experience all that is on offer for your family.
Or, consider coming in the spring when temperatures warm up and check out all Croatia’s Easter traditions.
How To Get Around Croatia
Type in your to and from destinations below to see what options are available. You can then book online if you’re ready:
Accommodation In Croatia
There are numerous options for where to sleep while on your vacation in Croatia. There are many hotels, motels, camping grounds, and apartments. We keep updating our guides with the best ones here. Once you’ve decided what to see in Croatia, use that guide to find a great deal.
- Best Glamping In Croatia
- Where To Stay In Split
- Where To Stay In Dubrovnik
- Where To Stay In Zadar
- Where To Stay In Sibenik
- Where To Stay With Kids
- Where To Stay In Rovinj
Currency In Croatia?
The official currency in Croatia is the euro. You can find foreign currency exchange centers throughout all cities and towns. Currency exchange is also provided in banks, post offices, and tourist agencies.
Are there other top things to do in Croatia that you loved that we missed off this list? Are there any critical places of interest in Croatia that we need to add? Let us know.