5 places you absolutely must visit when in Croatia Last Updated: February 7, 2022

Me in Hvar
Hvar, Croatia

Croatia is a stunning destination for a holiday! I spent three weeks in this gorgeous coastal country and fell in love with the mesmerizing beauty of this place. 

While there is a lot to see in Croatia, you need to shortlist places based on your interests. There are things to do for all kinds of travellers. From treks to diving to cliff jumping to sailing to history to parties, you have it all. 

I planned my time in Croatia while I was on the move. This country took me by surprise in a lot of ways. For example, I volunteered on an island in the country and it was paradise. I mean it when I say this. I was surrounded by the sea and witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life for 10 days while I was there. It truly felt like heaven on earth. 

Croatia is one of the most popular Balkan countries to visit and it’s great for budget travellers. 

Zagreb was my first stop, followed by Zadar, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. 

In this article, I want to tell you why each of the above-mentioned places is worth adding to your bucket list. Keep reading!

1. Zagreb

This city is the capital of Croatia and is an absolute must-do if you want to experience the non-coastal side of the country. It is one of the smallest capital cities I have visited but there is quite a bit to do in and around Zagreb. 

There’s history, GREAT local Croatian food and overall has a more authentic / less touristy vibe to it. 

Oh, did I mention? The nightlife is rocking too!

Zagreb is the closest city in Croatia connecting Central Europe to the Balkans. 

It is less than three hours away by bus from Ljubljana, Slovenia and the views en route are very scenic. Definitely take the bus if you are on a budget. 

There are a few day trips you can do from Zagreb if you are not tight on budget. One of the most popular places is Plitvice Lakes. It is Croatia’s largest national park known for the waterfalls and lakes. The transportation and tickets to enter the park can be slightly pricey which is why I decided to skip it but if you have more than two days in Zagreb, taking a day trip to Plitvice is highly recommended.

Zagreb City Centre
Zagreb, Croatia
2. Zadar

It was a very spontaneous call to stop over in Zadar for a day while I was on my way to Split from Zagreb. 

Zadar falls in the middle of Split and Zagreb. In my opinion, it is quite an underrated city in Croatia. 

While a day to explore this small city is enough, I would still suggest staying for at least one day here if you have the time. 

Some of the interesting things to do in Zadar include – visiting the Old Town which has an interesting combination of Venetian and Roman ruins. Besides this, two things that you must absolutely not miss out on are the two installations – The Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun.

The Sea Organ is a giant musical instrument installed on the seafront in 2005 which is played by the action of the waves. There are steps for tourists to sit on and observe the music played by this installation as and when there are waves on the seafront. It is really fascinating to experience the beauty of science and nature in this way!

The Greeting to the Sun is another art installation with 300 multi-layered glass cells and solar cells that naturally light up when the sun goes down. This particular installation should be witnessed post-sunset. Unfortunately, I had a bus to catch to Split before sunset so I missed watching the installation light up. This is probably why a one night stay in Zadar would be worth it. 

The Old Town has nice places to eat. You can visit cathedrals and other historical places in the Old Town as well.

For me, another highlight was Kolovare Beach. Great place to relax and soak in the beauty of the Dalmation Coast.

Zadar Greeting to the Sun
Zadar, Croatia (Greeting to the Sun)
3. Split

Party animals, where are you at? Travellers come to Split to enjoy the buzzing nightlife apart from the history and the beaches. 

Travellers of every age group can enjoy this vibrant city. 

It is Croatia’s second-largest city and also one of the prime locations for Game of Thrones.

You can take day trips to several beaches, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diocletian’s Palace, hike up the Klis Fortress for panoramic views of the city and hit one of the popular bars at night. 

There are several free walking tours that you can take to learn about the culture and history of Split.  

Split is also a port city. You can take a ferry to Hvar and other islands from here. The ferry cost is reasonable and the sea views are beautiful!

Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia
4. Hvar

There are several islands only a short ferry ride away from Split. The most popular of them all is Hvar. This island in the Adriatic Sea is a common summer resort for international travellers. It is also well located from other small islands in the vicinity like Brac and Vis. 

I spent 10 days volunteering on this island. I took a ferry from Split to Jelsa which is a small town in the middle of Hvar. From there, I was picked up by the host and transported in a speed boat to this paradise that you see below. 

You can go diving, climbing, hiking, snorkelling etc. 

The Hvar town has some insane nightlife in the summer months and so do other small islands like Brac. 

Explore the Stari Grad (Old Town) in Hvar, go island hopping, and party the night away! 

If you want to experience authentic island life, then Hvar is the place to be. 

Hvar, Croatia
Hvar, Croatia
5. Dubrovnik

This is one of my favourite cities to visit in Croatia. It is beyond beautiful. 

The Old Town (Stari Grad) of Dubrovnik is one of the shooting locations for Game of Thrones. It is the best Old Town in the country in my opinion. 

You need at least one entire day to explore it. You will find all the amazing restaurants, history and views in the Old Town. 

That is pretty much the highlight of Dubrovnik as a city. 

It is also close to countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. 

There are frequent buses going to these countries from Dubrovnik. 

There are many other towns and cities in Croatia that you can explore, of course. I visited some offbeat and some commercial places but I would recommend them all. You can visit Mostar in Bosnia as a day trip from the city. 

If you are keen on exploring islands, then you must check out Lokrum and Lopud Islands from Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Visiting Croatia in the peak summer months may not be the best ideal for a budget traveller as you will end up shelling a lot of money in this country. 

My best advice is to visit Croatia towards the end of summer so you get some Sun but also the trip is not too heavy on your pocket. September end should be ideal. 

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Trip map created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

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