WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN CROATIA?
Years after a conflict that had disastrous effects on its economy and led to the destruction of many monuments, Croatia has again become one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe, whether for its beaches, ancient coastal cities, its Roman ruins or its many sites inscribed on the world heritage list.
The country is not very extensive but it has a great diversity of landscape and several national parks including the Plitvice Lakes, which is really worth seeing. The country is easily accessible by car, and as it is surrounded by five countries you can easily combine a trip to Croatia with a trip to neighboring Slovenia or Montenegro, for example.
If you are planning to travel to Croatia, try not to go there during the high season (in July and August) and prefer the month of September when the majority of tourists leave. You will also avoid the suffocating heat of summer.
Here are 10 things to do and see in Croatia:
1. PLITVICE LAKE NATIONAL PARK
One of the most beautiful natural sites in Europe, Plitvice has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. You can see a succession of sixteen lakes, which flow into each other through a series of magnificent waterfalls through a lush vegetation. Wooden walkways make it possible to approach the waterfalls as close as possible. This is the most touristy place in Croatia so do not expect to enjoy the serenity of the park if you come in summer, but the place is just as beautiful in autumn.
Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic‘, Dubrovnik is a magnificent fortified town in the south of Croatia which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Together with the lakes of Plitvice, it’s one of the most popular tourist destination in the country. A walk around the ancient city walls offers superb panoramas. Dubrovnik is a must see for the fans of Games of Throne since many places of the city served as a filming location for the series.
3. DISCOVER THE ISLANDS AND BEACHES
The Croatian coast extends for nearly 2,000 kilometers thus a trip on one of the 1185 islands that the country possesses is almost mandatory. Among the most beautiful are: Korcula, Mljet, Hvar, Pag and the archipelago of the Kornati Islands National Park. Beware, there are few sandy beaches in Croatia, more pebbly or rocky beaches, but the water is everywhere incredibly clear. The most famous beach of the country, Zlatni Rat, is located on the island of Brac. Some beaches are exclusively nudist.
4. THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE IN PULA
A well-preserved Roman amphitheater, built in the 1st century, at the same time as the Colosseum of Rome. It’s close to the historical center of the city of Pula. Very impressive to see, it’s made of 72 arches and it’s 35 meters high. It’s one of the largest amphitheatres built by the Romans. It can now accommodate about 5,000 spectators and is used for performances of plays, concerts or other events like the Pula Film Festival.
A very pleasant city to visit, which is best known for its St James Cathedral (Sv. Jakov), built between 1431 and 1535 by Italian and Dalmatian craftsmen and which is today classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As Šibenik is one of the oldest Croatian towns, there are also many other monuments spread throughout the city.
Another place that is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The small medieval city of Trogir has a well-preserved historical center with narrow streets lined with old stone houses, and stunning monuments including the St. Lawrence Cathedral, the city walls and the city gates. Here’s a tip: if you go there by car, try to park right before crossing the bridge that leads to the historic center, even if you need to walk a bit since it’s very difficult to park there.
7. DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE IN SPLIT
The former fortified imperial residence built by the emperor Diocletian in 305 and listed as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. The most remarkable place is the peristyle which was once the heart of the palace. The numerous vestiges of it are preserved in the historical center of Split, the second largest city of Croatia.
Very touristy, the town of Zadar is located on a peninsula and has a vast architectural heritage, including old monuments and religious buildings, such as the well preserved church of San Donato. Don’t miss the archaeological museum, which is very interesting to visit. Another modern curiosity of Zadar: the marine organ, which produces musical notes thanks to the swell.
An ancient fishing port founded by the Romans on an island, which was dominated by the Venetians from 1283 to 1797. You can see ancient fortifications and vestiges that date from this period. The city is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Euphemia and its 60 meters high bell tower. The town has a certain charm and the surrounding beaches are great (some are naturist).
10. KRKA NATIONAL PARK
Krka (pronounce Ker-ka) is about ten kilometers from Šibenik. This national park is home to beautiful waterfalls formed by the limestone deposited for thousands of years in a beautiful natural setting. Geologic formations similar to those of the Plitvice Lakes can be found there, but the park is a little smaller. However, it’s possible to swim there.
MORE THINGS TO DO NEAR CROATIA
If you have a little more time in Croatia, here are some places to visit in the neighboring countries that are worth the trip:
- In Montenegro: Dubrovnik is only about thirty kilometers from Montenegro, so it would be a shame not to visit the magnificent bay of Kotor.
- In Bosnia-Herzegovina: the Old Bridge of Mostar. Located at 130 km from Dubrovnik. On the way back, don’t miss the Kravice Falls.