Croatia is beautiful. And I’m not saying that only because I am Croatian, it’s just it really is a beautiful country. It’s a rather small comparing it to other European countries but it has everything one might need. Mountains, sea, beaches, islands. Lots of historical places, lots of vineyards, lots of adventure, lots of national parks. Considering how small the country actually is, in comparison with everything it offers, it really is astonishing.
So you decided to finally visit Croatia? Well, I’m glad to hear that. And you’re certainly not the only one since Croatia has been one of the most visited countries in Europe. And that’s not without the reason. You’ll see when you get there. But before you get there, you need to have a little plan. Not much planning but still, enough to get you going and not miss some of the important places you should definitely visit first time being in Croatia.
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Here are my recommendations of places you shouldn’t miss:
First I’ll start with my favourite region, Istria. Also, called a Crotian Tuscany, it’s been the most desirable region for Croatians to live in but also tourists to visit it. Most visited region in Croatia offers beautiful landscape, nice beaches, picturesque little towns, amazing food and the great wine. Whole Istra is beautiful, but if I had to choose one place, it would be Rovinj. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful place in Croatia. Besides it’s beauty, it has a great charm and such a good energy.
Climb up to the Church of Saint Euphemia, then have a glass of wine in one of the bars on the rocks watching the sunset and finish the day in one of the restaurants along the riva (seafront) that offers authentic Istrian food. My recommendation would be restaurant Kantinon. From Rovinj you can have day trips to Umag (my hometown), city known for the ATP Tournament, or Poreč, known for Euphrasian Basilica, or Pula, and see the Colosseum. Or you can just drive around the inland, to Motovun or Grožnjan, both very nice, artistic little towns and find some agrotourism taverns to try some of the best food you’ll ever taste. I guarantee you. My recommendation: restaurant Stari Podrum in Momjan.
From Istria go south either by plane from Pula or by a car or even by a ship. Next stop is Split. Vibrant city, lots of tourists, palm trees along the riva, Diocletian’s Palace, feel good energy; that all is Split. Spend a morning wandering through the old streets, and find some good fish restaurants (for example, I found a rather cheap fish restaurant on TripAdvisor steps away from riva and the buzzling city center) while waiting for boat to the next destination – Hvar. Btw from Split you can go to almost every Dalmatian island. So if you need a boat or ferry, you’re at the right place.
The first thing that cross my mind when someone mentions Hvar is a hella good party. Every time I was in Hvar, I was partying really hard. And you do have some good party spots on Hvar, I can tell you. Carpe Diem club and Carpe Diem beach on the small island called Marinkovac across Hvar, are awesome. Carpe Diem works till 2am if I’m right, and then the small boat takes you to the party island. And you are there until the morning.
But Hvar is more than just parties. Some of the most beautiful bays I’ve seen are situated on the island. Rent a scooter or a car and go to Zavala. Gorgeous bay. Not a big one and not many people are there and the water is crystal clear. Btw I forgot to tell you the second thing that cross my mind when someone mentions Hvar. It’s expensive. Yep. Small bottle of water, 3 Euros. Just an example. I think even a slice of Pizza was 4 Euros or something like that. So definitely on expensive side. That said, after you’ve done with Hvar, take a catamaran to the next island.
Korčula and Mljet
Korčula is love at first sight. At least it was for me. The city of Korčula is so beautiful. Explore the old town, visit the Marco Polo’s house, and then go to Lumbarda’s sandy beaches for a swim. Come back on time so you don’t miss the catamaran to Mljet. (Find the timetable here). Half an hour ride to one of the most amazing National parks in Croatia. Take a good shoes with you or at least sneakers as you will be walking a lot. But also bring your swimwear as you can swim while there.
The water is green coloured, the landscape is also green as it is the greenest island of all in Croatia and when you’re done swimming, hop on to a small boat taking you to a little island called Saint Mary island. Yes, it’s the island on an island. There you’ll find a Monastery, donkeys and a restaurant. But most of all you’ll find peace of mind. I can tell you that. It is so quiet there. You’ll feel so disconnected. I can’t remember feeling so relaxed anywhere else I’ve been. Read more about my visit to Korčula here, and to Mljet here.
From Mljet you can continue with the same catamaran to, you guess where, Dubrovnik. The pearl of Adriatic. No trip to Croatia would be complete if there’s no Dubrovnik on the list, right?! You already know everything about it. Yes, the GOT filmed there. And so many other movies including new Robin Hood and Star Wars. Yes, it is as beautiful and romantic as they’re saying. Yes, it’s on the expensive side, too.
Don’t miss a walk on the Walls of the city and take a stroll through the Stradun, the main street of the Old town. There’s plenty of things to do while in Dubrovnik. One of them is to go to Elaphiti islands, just accross the Dubrovnik city. I haven’t been there, but they’re on my bucket list. I love islands, what can I say?! If you go there first, let me know how it is. Read more about my visit to Dubrovnik here.
If you have time, don’t miss it. Croatian no.1 National park. Plitvice lakes are not close to any of this destinations but if you travelling from the capital Zagreb, then they’re on your way. And you definitely have to see them. I am writing in plural as there are so many lakes and waterfalls and small creeks, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of nature there. It’s a whole day or at least whole afternoon/morning visit so make sure you have time. Or you can always run through them like I did. It took me an hour or an hour and a half. It was my second visit and I didn’t have time but didn’t want to miss it since I was near. Yes, they’re that beautiful.
There are lots of other places to visit in Croatia. After all it is a country of thousands islands, islets and reefs. There are so many interesting places to visit along the coast, but don’t forget that Croatia is also a home of the beautiful region called Slavonia on the east and Gorski Kotar situated in the middle of the country. Be sure to visit it all. There’s so much diversity in such a small country. So, just so you know the next time you come. And I’m sure you’ll be coming back. Many times.