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Croatia Travel Guide

Teal waters, fresh seafood, marble palaces, hedonistic islands
With straight-out-of-a-fairytale towns, blue-green Adriatic seascapes, glorious summer sun, party islands, epicurean delights (oysters, squid risotto, drunk plums with ice cream), not to mention the laidback, welcoming locals, Croatia’s charms are indeed manifold.

The country is a fascinating juxtaposition of contrasts, and a beautiful amalgamation of a bit of everything. Venetian palaces, Byzantine churches, and Napoleonic fortresses tell stories of different eras, empires and rulers; on one side, the coastline glitters in sapphire glory while on the other, the invincible Dinaric Range dominates the skyline; from idling in lavender fields by day to partying with Hollywood celebrities at night, there’s no telling what a Croatia tour package will bring you.

  
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With straight-out-of-a-fairytale towns, blue-green Adriatic seascapes, glorious summer sun, party islands, epicurean delights (oysters, squid risotto, drunk plums with ice cream), not to mention the laidback, welcoming locals, Croatia’s charms are indeed manifold.

The country is a fascinating juxtaposition of contrasts, and a beautiful amalgamation of a bit of everything. Venetian palaces, Byzantine churches, and Napoleonic fortresses tell stories of different eras, empires and rulers; on one side, the coastline glitters in sapphire glory while on the other, the invincible Dinaric Range dominates the skyline; from idling in lavender fields by day to partying with Hollywood celebrities at night, there’s no telling what a Croatia tour package will bring you.

  
Location 
 
Located in Central and Southern Europe along the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is a beach-lover’s paradise, made of islands, islets and reefs, with a magnificent coastline that stretches for over 5000 kilometers. Officially named as Republic Of Croatia, Croats call their country Republika Hrvatska. It is bordered by Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia. With flights from Europe barely taking 4-5 hours, it is a popular destination for travellers from the mainland. Indeed, you can even take a ferry from Venice to Split in Croatia. For Indians, flights from India to Croatia take around 14 hours, factoring in time for layovers.
 
When to go 
 
The best time to visit Croatia is between May and June, or September and October when the weather is bright, sunny and generally perfect to whip out bathing suits and sunscreen. If you’re keen on island-hopping, then planning your Croatia vacation between July and August is ideal; this is high season, though, so crowds will be at their peak. Those looking to travel during winter holidays will be happy to hear that winters in the coast of Croatia are not as harsh as they are in Central Europe. Plus, Croatians love to really celebrate their festivals; travellers will be able to enjoy a side to the country that many do not get to experience.
 
Where to go 
 
Croatia is famous for its natural beauty, secluded beaches and coves, and cities with dramatic history, intriguing architecture, and fresh seafood. During your holiday, you can stroll through Split’s ancient palaces and boulevards or witness nature at its most beautiful in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. You can enjoy traditional cuisine in restaurants with views of the Adriatic Sea.  If you can squeeze in a whistle-stop tour of the islands, do make time for it as little-explored gems like Rab and Brač are what summer fantasies are made of.
 
From wooden walkways through untouched green forests to ancient fortresses and 50 shades of blue seascapes, no matter which Croatia travel packages you choose, your time spent in this country will leave you wanting to explore more.
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At a glance

Language

Croatian
Aside from Croatian, you’ll find that Russian is spoken by a smaller segment of the population. English is only prevalent in the bigger cities.

Weather

Croatia has three climatic regions. Istria and the islands on the Adriatic coast are generally mild and balmy year-round, while the Dinaric Range remains cool throughout the year, verging on snowy in the winters. The interiors enjoy a continental climate.

Currency

Croatian Kuna
The Croatian Kuna is used as currency across all islands. At the time of posting, 1 Croatian Kuna = 10.39 INR.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Listen to the Sea Organ in Zadar   

Recommended by Lessons Learned Abroad

“This was easily the coolest, most interesting part of Zadar...and one of the more unique things I've seen while travelling. The sea organ is located at the far tip of the Old City, along the coastal boardwalk. As the wind and waves roll in, a random but harmonic tune is created. It is very serene, mesmerizing even, which explains why so many people just like to sit on the stairs beside the organ and relax.”

This popular blog by Chris and Christine shares travel tips, budget advice and travel stories. Lessons Learned Abroad has been featured on Indie Traveller, Nomadic Matt, Who Needs Maps, and more.

Walk the city walls of Dubrovnik   

Recommended by A Little Adrift

“Dubrovnik is known for the city walls, among the finest in the world. You have to hike the city walls at least once—plus you’ll have stunning photos of the orange tiled rooftops set against the twinkling blue of the Adriatic.”

Shannon O’Donnell launched A Little Adrift as a way to share her journey. The site has become a resource spot for other round the world travelers. National Geographic named O’Donnell a 2013 Traveler of the Year, and her work has been featured on Canada’s Globe and Mail, BBC Travel, USA Today, Lonely Planet, and Cosmopolitan Italy magazine, among other places.

Holiday like Beyonce at Hvar   

Recommended by The Common Wanderer

“Hvar town is the dream...It's a town where stunning Venetian architecture, ancient fortresses, and winding old town lanes are illuminated each afternoon by outstanding sunsets. A town where incredible restaurants serve the day’s best catch, a town where world-class bars keep revellers coming back again and again; and where some truly down to earth locals exist.”

Mark and Miranda are an Australian couple who have explored over 30 countries together. On The Common Wanderer, they share their travel and adventure narratives, in-depth guides, interviews, and travel tips. They’ve worked with Intrepid Travel, Mail Online, The Telegraph, AirBnb, Herald Sun and more.

Eat all the seafood in Split   

Recommended by Goats On The Road

“Eating the amazing fish and seafood is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Split for foodies..You’ll find everything from huge steakfish and calamari stew, to fish soup and black cuttlefish risotto. The variety of fish-based dishes is endless and caters to every fish-lover’s palate.

Nick & Dariece are a 30-something couple from Canada who have been travelling for 8 years. They have visited more than 60 countries around the world. Goats On The Road is a very popular resource for travellers, and has been featured on CNN, National Geographic Traveler, NBC and more.

Take in the beauty of Plitvice National Park   

Recommended by The Blonde Abroad

“You can spend an entire day in the beauty of nature here. There are plenty of hiking trails as well as boardwalks that go over the lakes and waterways. Walking across these will take your breath away as you glance down and see all the way to the bottom through the clear azure water.”

Kiersten Rich created The Blonde Abroad to help women find the confidence to travel the world. She shares resources on everything from solo travel to packing guides to photography tips on her site. The Blonde Abroad is a Forbes Ranked "Top 10 Travel Influencer", and has been featured in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Marie Claire, Business Insider, AFAR, Times Now & more.

Incredible places to visit in Croatia

Zadar

The coastal city of Zadar, known for its rich history and natural beauty (there are five national parks nearby), is one of the hidden treasures of the country. Here you can explore marble churches and modern museums, enjoy cheaper prices than in Dubrovnik, sail to islands covered with olive and pine trees, or go scuba diving, swimming or laze on the beach at leisure.

Saint Domnius Cathedral

This  massive octagonal cathedral that was first built as a mausoleum remains one of the best-conserved Roman buildings till date. The façade of the building still retains the original 24 columns, but a bell tower was added to the mix between the 13th and 16th centuries. Visitor access is granted all year-round through different entryways. If you have a head for heights, do trek up the steep flight of stone stairs to the top of the bell tower for magnificent views of the city.

The Blue Cave

The famous Blue Cave or Modra Špilja is about an hour and a half by speedboat from Split.  It is only accessible if you take a boat through a small sea entrance. Inside, sunlight filters in through an underwater opening, lighting up the entire cave with an iridescent blue. The cave looks as though it glows with a mystical blue.

Diocletian’s Palace

The enormous Diocletian's Palace was built by the Emperor Diocletian as the ultimate retirement home, where he could relax and grow cabbages. It houses a military fortress, imperial residence and a fortified town, his mausoleum (which is now a church), all ornately decorated with everything from carved altars to black granite Egyptian sphinxes. It’s one of the most impressive Roman ruins in the world and today, it’s still inhabited with residents living in the quarters where Diocletian's soldiers once lived.

Monument to the sun

This futuristic-looking 22-metre disc on the Zadar waterfront is made of 300 glass plates by artist Nikola Basic. The glass plates house soak in solar energy during the daytime, which is converted to electrical energy during the night; the glass plates light up with different colour patterns mesmerizingly.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice Lakes National Park is about an hour and a half from Zadar. With green forests, 16 crystal-clear lakes famous for their bright turquoise to pale blue hues, and the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, it is the closest to the Garden of Eden you’ll get. You can walk over wooden plank walkways that wind through the park, stretch out over the lakes and wind around waterfalls. Every turn brings a new wonder, a new waterfall, another cascade, blue butterflies, fish swimming in the clear water; this is nature at its most beautiful.

The Sea Organ

Only in Zadar will you find a musical installation that is played by the sea. The Sea Organ looks like giant steps that have been cut into the seaside promenade. Under the steps, are organ pipes. As the waves and wind move through the pipe, musical notes are played. The sounds produced completely rely on the movement of the sea. It’s a fascinating experience to sit by the Organ, listen to the sea’s musical composition as the sun slips below the water.

The Museum of Ancient Glass

Who would’ve thought that glass could survive natural disasters and countless wars? This under the radar museum, housed within the confines of the 19th century Cosmacendi Palace, is dedicated entirely to thousands of glass artefacts- goblets, jars, jewellery, you name it - that showcase this point. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at being a glassmaker, you can attend workshops led by expert artists, and make your own glassware to take home.

St Mary’s Church

This Church for Benedictine nuns, founded in 1066 by a noblewoman, was all but destroyed during an Allied bombing and then restored to become what you see today. Today, the nuns serve as guardians of the city’s treasures; the magnificent Treasury next door holds gold and silver,
relics and chalices, sculptures, paintings, and embroideries (church tapestries threaded in gold) that narrate the lives and faith of the people of the region.

Hvar

Hvar is possibly the closest you’ll get to living life like Beyonce. This little island is one of the biggest hotspots on the Mediterranean for the rich and famous. Everyone from Bill Gates to Brad Pitt, no less than three James Bonds (Sean Connery, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan) and Beyonce & Jay-Z — all chose to holiday here and once you arrive, you’ll see why. You can soak up the sunshine as you visit the island’s famous lavender fields, eat an icecream as you admire medieval towers, or lounge near the water with a wine glass in hand, watching yachts glide over the turquoise sea. This is holiday bliss.

Split

Croatia’s second-largest city, Split is a wonderland of antiquity and modernity squeezed into the same lanes. The bustling city has been home to locals for thousands of years, but the lived-in feeling only amplifies the sense of belonging, in contrast to elegant Dubrovnik.

Diocletian’s Palace

The enormous Diocletian's Palace was built by the Emperor Diocletian as the ultimate retirement home, where he could relax and grow cabbages. It houses a military fortress, imperial residence and a fortified town, his mausoleum (which is now a church), all ornately decorated with everything from carved altars to black granite Egyptian sphinxes. It’s one of the most impressive Roman ruins in the world and today, it’s still inhabited with residents living in the quarters where Diocletian's soldiers once lived.

Saint Domnius Cathedral

This  massive octagonal cathedral that was first built as a mausoleum remains one of the best-conserved Roman buildings till date. The façade of the building still retains the original 24 columns, but a bell tower was added to the mix between the 13th and 16th centuries. Visitor access is granted all year-round through different entryways. If you have a head for heights, do trek up the steep flight of stone stairs to the top of the bell tower for magnificent views of the city.

Hvar

Hvar is possibly the closest you’ll get to living life like Beyonce. This little island is one of the biggest hotspots on the Mediterranean for the rich and famous. Everyone from Bill Gates to Brad Pitt, no less than three James Bonds (Sean Connery, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan) and Beyonce & Jay-Z — all chose to holiday here and once you arrive, you’ll see why. You can soak up the sunshine as you visit the island’s famous lavender fields, eat an icecream as you admire medieval towers, or lounge near the water with a wine glass in hand, watching yachts glide over the turquoise sea. This is holiday bliss.

The Blue Cave

The famous Blue Cave or Modra Špilja is about an hour and a half by speedboat from Split.  It is only accessible if you take a boat through a small sea entrance. Inside, sunlight filters in through an underwater opening, lighting up the entire cave with an iridescent blue. The cave looks as though it glows with a mystical blue.

Pula

On the tip of the Croatian peninsula lies Pula, a city known for its packed harbour, fascinating history and a sun-kissed beach. The city has been occupied, destroyed and remade several times, meaning that almost building or street has an intriguing story to tell.  Pula is a city that’s well worth the visit; it’s an intriguing experience of the past, in present tense.

Pula Arena

Pula Arena is a massive Roman amphitheatre preserved in near tip-top shape. It is one of the largest surviving amphitheatres in the world, which serves are explanation enough for the number of travellers it attracts every year.

Brijuni

Green-blue waves undulating softly against the sandy coast is what an ideal holiday spot would be for many travellers across the world - and this is what you’ll find in the Brijuni archipelago. This group of 14 islands lies about 2 kilometres off Istria’s coast. It is an ideal place to relax, rejuvenate and replenish your energy. The islands were declared a national park in 1983 because of the lush forests that secret away rare plants including wild cucumber and marine poppies.

Enoteca Istriana

Enoteca Istriana is known for the wines it stocks. The expert sommeliers and exceptional service will put a smile on your face that’s only broadened by the excellent wines served as samples. Set aside an evening in Pula solely for enjoying a glass of red wine in the winter or chilled champagne if you’ve travelled in the summer.

The Arch of the Sergii

This ancient triumphal arch in Pula is an old structure built in 29 BC.  The arch is dedicated to the three Sergii Brothers, and is a symbol of victory. The names carved into the walls, now slightly faded, show the history of the arch. Aside from the history, the Arch of Sergii also makes for a great photo spot.

Church and Monastery of St. Francis

The church and monastery of St. Francis is a small, lovely compound. Inside, you’ll find a gilded Gothic altar, statues of Mary and St. Francis, and the Stations of the Cross on the walls. Outside are various stone monuments, and in the cloister, you’ll find the resident turtles. If you’re visiting in the summer, take note that the church hosts classical music concerts during this period.

Zagreb

Croatia’s north-western capital, Zagreb, is one for the culture aficionados. The city is known for its bright red roofs and Gothic structures. It’s vibrant culture and passionate dedication to hosting the best of music, markets and food are the icing on the cake. Regardless of the time of day, Zagreb is continually thrumming with tangible excitement and a contagious zest for life.

Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships is an unusual but unique experience. Here, you’ll find displays of items donated by heartbroken lovers from all over the world. ’ The items range from the unusual (a pair of wooden hands from a mannequin) to the poignant (a fake watermelon) and come with notes explaining their significance. You can also buy broken-relationship stationery, including a pencil saying ‘Snap Here In Anger’, and a rubber bearing the words ‘Bad Memories Eraser’ – good for all situations.

St. Mark’s Church

St. Mark’s Church is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and easily recognizable by its colorful roof that looks like an elaborate Lego construction. Catch the guard-changing ceremony in St. Mark’s Square on weekends if you’re visiting between late April and October. The church is still functional, so pay a visit during Mass to glance at the interiors and be at one with the locals, if only for a while.

Zagreb Eye

The Zagreb Eye, also referred to as the Zagreb 360, is an observation deck plumb in the centre of town. From here, you’ll have a sweeping panoramic view of the city square, the Cathedral, Upper and Lower Towns and beyond. At night, the view turns from sun-kissed to sparkling city lights; small wonder, then, that the Eye is a must-do on quite a few Croatia honeymoon packages.

Dolac Market

When in Zagreb, shop as the locals do.  At Dolac market, you’ll see farmers from all over Croatia sell their produce - cheese, flowers, freshly-made bread, cured meats, nuts, honey, and all sorts of other homemade goodies - under a sea of bright red umbrellas. Fruits and vegetables are usually outdoors while meat, dairy and flowers are sold in indoor stalls. And on the northern side of the market, find sellers hawking fresh honey,  handicrafts and cheap street eats to devour while on a tour break.

Mirogoj cemetery

Sculptured green avenues, chapels crowned with cupolas, vine-covered crypts, beautiful sculptures, and elaborately carved marble tombstones celebrating the lives of Croatian poets and presidents, writers, composers, and the like - this cemetery is one of the most beautiful in Europe and certainly the grandest you’ll ever see. The Mirogoj cemetery is an under-the-radar attraction, not usually found on Croatia group travel packages, so do set some time aside to take a look.

Dubrovnik

This is a city which George Bernard Shaw called ‘Paradise on Earth’ and which Game of Thrones fans will recognize as the real-life King’s Landing. With cobblestone streets, marble pavements, arguably the finest medieval city walls in the world, and cafes and little shops tucked in every nook and corner, it’s very easy-on-the-eyes as well as an explorer’s delight.

Rector’s Palace

The Rector’s Palace is the administrative center of the Dubrovnik Republic. It houses the Rector’s office as well as private chambers, public halls, administrative offices and a dungeon. The exterior facade has huge arches that are perfect for an impromptu photo shoot.

Cathedral of the Assumption of The Virgin.

Its famous Treasury contains such a large collection of riches -icons, paintings (Titian's polyptych The Assumption hangs behind the main altar) and intricately made gold and silver reliquaries, some set with jewels or decorated with reliefs - that the door to the room was locked with three different keys! One was kept by the bishop, the second by the rector and the last by the Republic secretary, and all keys had to be used simultaneously for the door to open.

Top things to do & experience in Croatia

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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