Croatia is a small but beautiful country sometimes referred to as the “gem of the Adriatic Sea.” It is filled with modern towns and conveniences, but nearly every city also has a historical center where you can travel back to the Croatia of the past. Throw in stunning natural views, hiking areas, waterfalls, and delicious local food, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to visit Croatia on your summer holiday!
Here’s a look at the requirements to enter, as well as some of the best things to do there.
Entry Requirements to Visit Croatia
As an EU citizen, you can travel to Croatia for up to 90 days in every 180-day period without applying for a visa, even if it is not a Schengen country. However, you will need to show your passport and/or a valid ID issued by the European Union. For the latest information, visit Europe’s official travel website.
Best Things to Do in Croatia
Over the past few years, Croatia has slowly become the place to go for whitewater rafting. While some may prefer to lay out on the beach and watch the crystalline water from afar, others want to jump right in and go on an adventure. For beginners, a great choice is Cetina River, which offers gentle (but still thrilling) rapids with many places to stop and swim. The Mreznica River has more than 93 waterfalls on its 63-kilometer route, and the Kupa River offers options for both a gentle ride and a fast and furious one. Whether you are a novice or a pro, there is a great river rafting experience here waiting for you.
When we say that Croatia is famous for its waterfalls, we really mean it. The country has recently seen a huge surge in visitors thanks to a little show called Game of Thrones, which featured the falls at Krka National Park as a backdrop during many of its traveling scenes. But that’s not all. The water sources at Plitvice Lakes National Park have also been featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the “Waterfalls of Naboo,” inspiring visitors from all over the galaxy to stop by and take a look.
Island hopping may seem like something only the rich and famous can afford, but in Croatia, anyone can travel from island to island with ease — which just so happens to be the best way to see all the sights. Using a tour service or finding your own way with a water taxi, catamaran, or the public ferry, you can choose one of many different routes to visit some of the whopping 1,200 islands Croatia has to offer. You can, for instance, go from Dubrovik to Lokrum, an island with no human residents but lots of wild peacocks, or from Split to Hvar, the hippest island in the group with lots of clubs and terrace bars. You can also go from Zadar to Iž, from Dubrovnik to the Elafiti Islands, from Valbiska to Lopar, or any number of other combinations that will give you a taste of every unique thing these islands have to offer.
Best Places to Visit in Croatia
Croatia is full of natural and man-made wonders to see, but we recommend starting with these three.
Southwest of Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, Gorski Kotar is like something out of a fairy tale. It is a beautiful mix of forest and mountains and pure wilderness that is also home to stunning, crystal clear water features (you can also go whitewater rafting here, as we discussed above). If you want to sleep in the heart of nature, you can rent a cabin or a lodge, where you can also sample some delicious game meat. If you prefer to see live animals, you’re in luck with that too: Gorski Kotar is home to wolves, bears, and the rare, endangered Eurasian lynx.
Rovinj, located on the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria, is a lovely seaside town with a lot to offer. The ultra-luxurious Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, for instance, has an unique architectural style that features luxurious garden terraces and a step-like structure that makes it look like the whole hotel is cascading down into the sea. There is also Old Town Rovinj, where you can see cobblestone piazzas and baroque churches with copper statues as you take a stroll back into the past.
Are you looking for total seclusion? Then Zlarin is the island for you. Located off the coast of Šibenik, this island is completely devoid of any cars or hotels. This means that it is not on the map of most tourists, which means that you can have peace and solitude while you experience Croatia like a local. Zlarin is known for its jewelry, handmade from local red coral, and for being one of the first Croatian islands to take the plunge and go plastic-free, a great help for the environment. This is also a great island for families, as children can (and are encouraged) to run around without shoes, and without a care in the world.
Best Vacation Spots
With 1,200 islands, it is difficult to decide where to start your Croatian vacation! But we suggest you add these five spots to your itinerary.
Love art and architecture? Then your first stop should be Cavtat, a coastal town located not far from Dubrovnik. It is home to great beaches and inspiring nature scenes, but is best known for its ancient necropolises and other structures, some of which date back to the Ancient Roman Empire. It is also known for its artwork, and is home to paintings by famous painters from all over the Mediterranean, including Cavtat’s own Vlaho Bukovac, whose childhood home (and famous paintings and frescoes) you can visit. Do check out our list of best things to do in Cavtat for more info.
Island of Hvar
The Island of Hvar is an interesting mix of ancient structures, unique natural features, and a resort-town vibe. History lovers will be pulled toward the Venetian-style Spanjola Fortress, built in the 1500s and still in amazingly good condition, while those who prefer nature will enjoy natural springs, dolomite and Mesozoic limestone mountain ridges, and beaches with water so clear it looks like the boats on it are just hanging there, suspended in the air. And those who love a good party won’t be disappointed by Hula Hula Hvar, which offers a bar and a dance floor right on the beach. You can find more recommendations in our main list on best things to do on Hvar.
Pula is like a phoenix: no matter how many times it was conquered and destroyed over its history, it never failed to rise again. With roots dating back to Prehistoric times, Pula has been influenced by such groups as the Venetians, the Ostrogoths, and even the Allied Forces during World War II. No culture has left as big of a legacy in Pula as the Romans, though, who left behind multiple ancient Roman archways as well as theaters, a forum, and an amphitheater that rivals the famous Roman Colosseum itself. The city has so much to offer that we also created a list of best things to do in Pula, do check it out.
You may already be familiar with Dubrovnik, you just don’t know it yet. This picturesque city’s skyline, gardens, and high, defensive stone walls were featured prominently in the Game of Thrones series, bringing it to the world’s attention. You can also find Croatia’s most important (and most impenetrable) fort here, as well as multiple historical monuments spanning several different eras of history. Some of these have been rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1667, but some, like St. Saviour Church, are seen as a miracle because they are still standing after their construction centuries before. Throw in the white limestone streets on Dubrovnik’s famous Stradun, and it’s not hard to see why this town was chosen to be featured in such an epic, aesthetically beautiful television show. You can check out our full overview here: best things to do in Dubrovnik.
Although it is not named for this reason, Split is a perfect moniker for this city, as it has quite a split personality. With remnants of Roman, Venetian, Yugoslavian, and other ruling countries spread out all across its map, you can walk through several periods in history in just a few hours. Like Dubrovnik, it also has some sites that were featured in Game of Thrones (you may recognize its Klis Fortress from the city-state of Meereen), but the real history of these sites is even more interesting than its fictional counterpart. Explore centuries of epic battles won and lost and see the plaza where Emperor Diocletian spoke to his subjects (not to mention the palace he lived in), all without leaving town. More info about the city can be found here: best things to do in Split.
What is the Best Time to Visit Croatia?
Like every country in the Mediterranean, the best time to visit Croatia is generally in the “off-seasons.” During May and June and September and October, temperatures are still warm and sunny enough to swim and lay out on the beach, but there are no summer crowds to get in the way of your good time.
What Currency Does Croatia Use?
In Croatia, the official currency is the Croatian Kuna (HRK), which has been in use since 1994. In some places, you may be able to pay using euros, but this is not the norm. To find out what the current exchange rate is, you can compare HRK to EUR using a tool like xe.com.
Croatia is a beautiful country filled with natural and ancient, man-made marvels you won’t be able to see anywhere else. Well, except for maybe in Westeros and Essos, or perhaps the planet Naboo. Bring your walking shoes, though, because the best way to see most of the sights on this list is on foot.