Croatia holidays are becoming more and more popular. Thanks to the Game of Thrones, Robin Hood and Star Wars, many travellers have now been to or at least heard of the tiny Republic of Croatia. Every year more and more tourists choose Croatia as their summer holiday destination, often choosing the islands of Hvar and Brač over Tenerife and Ibiza. Find out more about Croatia holidays with this fantastic Croatia holiday guide today!
Croatia is a very young country, having gained its independence from Former Yugoslavia in 1991. Although it went through the horrors of the Homeland War, the Republic of Croatia and its people are determined to become a world-class destination for holidays all year round.
Croatia has a population of 4,284,889 people (according to the 2011 census) and occupies the area of only 56,594 km2. Although very small, Croatia is geographically and culturally diverse. The main regions of Croatia are the Eastern, Continental region of Slavonia, Zagreb and its surroundings, the Istrian peninsula, Kvarner Islands in the north-west of Croatia, the mountainous Gorski Kotor region and Dalmatia, which is the southernmost part of Croatia and the country’s most popular tourist destination.
Situated between Italy and Slovenia on one side and Hungary, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia on the other, Croatia is at the crossroads between East and West. Although generally considered an Eastern European country, it would perhaps be more accurate to place it in Central or Southeastern Europe.
Because of its unusual shape (which resembles a bird, with Istria being its head and Slavonia and Dalmatia its two wings), Croatia is both Mediterranean and Continental. The coastal parts are very Italian and Venetian-influenced, while the continental parts had historically always been more tied to the Austria-Hungary Empire and, in some cases, to the Ottomans.
We’ve created this Croatia holidays guide to present both the well-known and the lesser-known parts of Croatia holidays to travellers and holidaymakers. Because of its geographical diversity, Croatia has so much to offer all year round. However, most visitors to Croatia holiday travellers travel to the south of the country on their holidays, and many parts of Croatia remain undiscovered.
Over six chapters we’ll take you to different regions of Croatia, starting from its capital city of Zagreb – the best European city break destination for 2017, according to Lonely Planet. So keep reading and you’ll find the best places for your Croatia holidays.
Situated in the north-west of Croatia on the Sava river, Zagreb (with its wider metropolitan area) counts over a million inhabitants and is the Croatia’s largest city. Zagreb Airport is well connected with other European centres, including London, Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen.
A half hour taxi ride from the Airport and you’re already in Zagreb centre! Here’s a list of the best things to do in on your holiday in Zagreb:
It’s formal name being the Ban Jelačić Square (after the Croatian hero from the 19th century), this large square is a bloodline of the Croatian capital. This is the best place to meet your friends before hitting the bars and restaurants around the square. Across the street is the popular “Zagreb Eye”, an observation deck providing stunning views over Zagreb Lower and Upper Town.
The Tkalčićeva street or, as it’s often lovingly dubbed, “Tkalča”, is one of the most popular places to go out in Zagreb. With its historic buildings and small cafes, bars and restaurants, Tkalča is never empty and there’s always something going on. Many good restaurants are situated here, one of them being the beautiful “Agava” Restaurant and the less pricey but charming “Nocturno” Restaurant. If you want to taste Croatian craft beer, be sure to stop by “Mali Medo” beer place.
The famous Ilica is the largest street in Zagreb. Lined with countless shops, boutiques and a home to Zagreb funicular, this is one of the most iconic streets in the city. On your way from Zagreb Main Square towards the Zagreb funicular, you’ll pass by the cake shop called “Vincek”. This is the best cake and ice cream shop in the city! Make sure to stop here for a cup of coffee and a dessert.
Just a short walk away from the Ban Jelačić square, the famous Flower square got its name after the many stands with – flowers! If you’re on your way to meet your date, make sure to stop by a buy a rose or a nice bouquet. If you’re not looking to shop, you can always take a break from all the sightseeing you’ve done and have a drink in one of the cafes.
Easily accessed by funicular or by foot, the remains of the historic Upper Town date back to the 13th century. The famous Lotrščak tower served as one of the city entrances; today a cannon is fired from here every day at noon as a part of Zagreb’s tradition. Visit the St Mark’s Church with a remarkable multicoloured roof, the Stone Gate and the newly-renovated Grič Tunnel, about 350 meters long, featuring different exhibitions and events.
In the very centre of Zagreb is a small green oasis – the Botanical Garden. Maintained by the students from Zagreb University, this beautiful garden features different plants and trees, a charming pond and a fountain. Come here to relax after a busy day, or for a romantic stroll through the park with your better half.
Of all the cities in Croatia, Zagreb is probably the best for day trips. From here you can reach different parts of Croatia very quickly and you can even go on an exciting day trip to neighbouring Slovenia, Austria or Italy. If you’re spending more than three days in Zagreb, you’ll probably want to leave the city at some point and see its surroundings. So, once you’ve spent a day or two exploring Zagreb’s Upper Town and its churches, did some shopping in Ilica Street and tasted the best cake in town at “Vincek” cake shop, you’re ready to leave the capital and explore the region. We’ve come up with a list of best day trips from Zagreb for all types of travellers – history lovers, nature lovers, adventurous and “lazy” travellers. Most of these listed destinations are reachable within 2 hours by car or coach from Zagreb.
Probably the most beautiful castle in Croatia is situated in the greenest part of Croatia – Hrvatsko Zagorje, a region north from Zagreb. On your way to the castle, you’ll enjoy the spectacular views over the green hills and the picturesque countryside. The Trakošćan Castle is located on a hill, surrounded by a vast lake and a park. It was originally built as a Medieval fortification in the 13th century but it was reconstructed since then. It used to belong to the famous Croatian noble family – the Drašković family, who took care of the castle. Today it is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Inside the castle, you can see the 19th century furniture, tools and weapons, as well as a small art gallery. After a guided tour of the castle, enjoy a walk around the lake and grab something to eat in a restaurant.
The popular Plitvice Lakes is one of Croatia’s most visited attractions and day trip destinations. This UNESCO-protected National Park is situated in Gorski Kotar, the mountainous part of Croatia, only about 2 hours away from Zagreb. Even if you’re not a huge nature lover, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of emerald lakes and spectacular waterfalls. The park consists of sixteen lakes, often called “the sixteen silver steps”, and rightly so. You can book a guided tour of Plitvice or just wander around the park on your own. In any case, make sure you have your camera with you! While it’s always nice to visit in spring and summer while it’s warm, the Plitvice Lakes are equally, if not more beautiful in winter, when the surrounding forests are covered with layers of snow and the lakes are frozen, perfect for winter Croatia holidays.
“The Queen of Croatian Tourism”, Opatija is one of the oldest Croatia holidays destinations. Home to the oldest hotel in Croatia, Opatija was a favourite summer retreat for the Austro-Hungarian nobility and their guests. Today, Opatija is proud of its elegant villas and lush parks. Overlooking the Adriatic Sea and the Kvarner Bay, a symbol of Opatija is a statue of Maiden with the Seagull. The girl is standing next to the popular Lungomare promenade, the long footpath connecting Opatija with neighbouring towns of Lovran and Volosko. Its official name is Franz Joseph I Promenade after the Austro-Hungarian Emperor from the 19th century. Opatija is a great choice for your day trip from Zagreb, especially if you’re looking to go somewhere peaceful and historic.
Bled Lake in Slovenia is a popular holiday and day trip destination. With a small island featuring a historic church in the middle of the lake, Bled has always been a popular venue for political events in Former Yugoslavia. Above the lake, situated on a cliff is the 12th-century Bled Castle, today a wonderful wedding venue. The castle features an extensive museum collection; among other things, you can visit the castle wine cellars and learn about wine production.
Take a walk around the lake or you can even take a ride in a carriage. On your way, you’ll enjoy amazing views over the lake and the small island in the middle. A boat will take you to the island and the church situated on it. According to legend, the church bell was a gift from the Pope himself and dates back to the 16th century.
During Christmas time, a festive promenade is set up by Bled Lake and here you can taste different local dishes and mulled wine while enjoying the wonderful winter scenery.
This picturesque Austrian city is so charming you will not want to leave. Perfect for a day trip from Zagreb, it is some 3-4 hours away if you’re going by coach. Surrounded by hills, Klagenfurt is situated by the vast lake – Wörthersee, a popular Austrian summer destination. With its picturesque Old Town and many interesting stories from the city’s long history, Klagenfurt is a great choice for couples and families looking to see something new and different. According to legend, the area where the city of Klagenfurt lays today was once a home to a scary dragon (Lindwurm) who wouldn’t let the local people live in peace but would often attack, taking young girls with him and slaughtering them. Klagenfurt was founded after the local men finally managed to defeat the dragon and save the community.
A statue of a large dragon dominates the Klagenfurt main square in remembrance to this (fictional) event.
Just outside Klagenfurt is another tourist attraction – Minimundus. Literally meaning “small world” in Latin, Minimundus is an interesting theme park, taking you around the world in a single walk around the park. Here you can see small versions of pretty much any popular tourist attraction: the Hollywood sign, the Eiffel Tower, the Neuschwanstein Castle and the Tower of London.
While rivers of tourists pour towards Dubrovnik and Dalmatia every year, the north-western region of Kvarner Bay and the County of Primorje-Gorski Kotar remain undiscovered. However, the beautiful cities of Crikvenica, Opatija and Rijeka and the historic islands of Krk, Cres and Lošinj are definitely worth visiting.
The Kvarner Bay is situated between the Istrian peninsula and the northern Croatian coast. The administrative and cultural centre of the region is the city of Rijeka, the main Croatian port. Today, half the population of the entire County of Primorje-Gorski Kotar lives in Rijeka.
Croatian holidaymakers from Zagreb and the continental parts of the country tend to travel to the city of Crikvenica with the Crikvenica Riviera, Krk Island and charming Opatija. The Island of Pag had become famous among younger people for the trendy Zrće Beach and exciting festivals.
Here is our guide to Kvarner Bay and its most beautiful cities and islands:
Fiume in Italian, Reka in Slovene and Rijeka in Croatian, the literal translation of the city’s name is “river”. The city of Rijeka is Croatia’s third largest city and its biggest seaport as well as the industrial, university and cultural centre.
Rijeka was chosen to be European Capital of Culture in 2020, thus being a part of the project promoting the international dialogue among the European nations and their countries. The project is more relevant today than ever before, and Rijeka was a great choice because of the city’s long multicultural tradition. Looking at the city’s rich history, one can notice Rijeka belonged to the Kingdom of Croatia, the Habsburg Empire, the Austria-Hungary Empire, the Republic of Italy, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the contemporary Republic of Croatia.
Established back in 1982, Rijeka’s International Carnival is one of the most interesting tourist attractions. The festival takes place each year between late January and early March, with many interesting events. One of them is the Carnival charity ball which takes place in the Governor’s Palace in Rijeka.
When in Rijeka, visit the beautiful Korzo promenade and enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the café bars. The citizens of Rijeka and tourists on their Croatia holidays alike come here to meet their friends, business partners, colleagues and dates; this is where all the social life happens and this is also where you go shopping!
When entering the Rijeka Old Town, you’ll notice the Ancient Roman arch, reminding the visitors of the city’s long and rich history. About 135 meters above the sea level is the historic Trsat castle, which is also a popular Christian pilgrimage centre. Built in the 13th century, Trsat castle is a good choice for a day trip from Rijeka.
Situated some 30 km south-east from Rijeka, this charming coastal city got its name from the Croatian word for church (crkva), reflecting the fact that a church was built here in the 14th century.
Due to the mild climate, Crikvenica was first developed as a health and wellness resort for people on their Croatia holidays at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Easily accessed from Rijeka or Zagreb Airport, Crikvenica is a perfect destination for those looking to have a relaxing holiday next to beautiful, clean beaches and enjoy warm evenings tasting fresh seafood in numerous restaurants on the seaside promenade.
In the centre of Crikvenica, you’ll stumble upon the Crikvenica Aquarium. It counts 30 pools in total, a home to more than 100 different fish species from the Adriatic Sea and about 50 tropical species.
One of the oldest and most visited festivals in Crikvenica is the Fishermen’s Week, including various workshops, gastro events and live music in the town centre.
The beautiful Opatija is the oldest Croatia holidays destination, at least when it comes to organised tourism. It was the favourite summer destination among Austrian noble families and their guests. Today it is a rather pricey but elegant and charming coastal retreat for those looking to relax by the sea and enjoy wonderful scenic views, food and wine.
When in Opatija, stroll the historic Lungomare Promenade and enjoy scenic views over the Adriatic. Take a picture next to the statue of a girl holding a seagull, one of the most recognisable symbols of Opatija and attend an event in Opatija’s Open Air Theatre. The city boasts many wonderful parks, one of them being the Park Angiolina, surrounding Villa Angiolina. The villa and the park date back to the 19th century and feature many exotic plants brought from Australia and South America.
Opatija is also a home to the Croatian Walk of Fame, a tribute to all those whose contributions in the field of science, culture, art and sport helped to promote Croatia around the world, helping people to choose Croatia holidays for their yearly break. Among them are the world-famous physicist Nikola Tesla and Rade Šerbedžija, the Croatian actor known for playing various Russian and Eastern European characters in Hollywood films (Taken 2, Mission: Impossible 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1).
Located in the northern part of the Croatian coast, the Island of Krk is Croatia’s largest island (sharing the title with Cres Island!). Connected to the mainland by a bridge, Krk is easily accessible from Zagreb or Rijeka Airport. A paradise for those looking to stay active while on holiday, Krk is popular for extreme water sports such as parasailing and wakeboarding.
If you’d rather enjoy cocktails by the beach, however, or explore the historic old towns, Krk has a lot to offer in this area as well. The town of Baška on Krk Island holds a special place in the history of Croatia, for it was here that one of the oldest monuments containing a text in Old Croatian and in the Glagolitic script was found. The monument is called the Baška Tablet and dates from 1100 AD. Today, the Baška Tablet is kept at the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb.
If you’re interested in geology and nature, why not visit the Biserujka Cave or Klimno Cove on Krk Island. Klimno Cove is known for the medicinal mud in its purest form, used for stress relief and for treating bone pains! Families will enjoy a visit to Aquarium-Terrarium in Krk Town, with over 70 fish species from the Adriatic Sea and the largest exhibition of snails and shells in the region.
The island has Mediterranean climate, which means pleasant, mild winters and warm summer. This is why many travellers choose to return to Krk in autumn in winter months for a wellness & spa retreat, followed by lots and lots of delicious food and wine – perfect for someone on their late-year Croatia holidays.
Dubbed “the island of vitality” by the Croatian tourist board, the beautiful Lošinj island is often overlooked by travellers on their Croatia holidays. With a health tourism tradition for over 100 years, mild Mediterranean climate, over 250 kilometres of interesting walking trails and the exciting Lošinj Jazz Festivals, there is no reason why Lošinj shouldn’t be on your travel list!
In April 1999, the 192-cm tall bronze statue of an athlete was taken from the Adriatic Sea in an event that made headlines of all major newspapers in Croatia. The statue’s name is Apoxyomenos and is exhibited in the Museum of Apoxyomenos in Mali Lošinj. The name means “the Scraper” in Greek and it represents and Athlete cleaning himself by scraping the dust and sweat off his body with a small, curved tool – a strigil. The statue dates between 2nd and 1st century BC; archaeologists assumed it was thrown into the sea during the storm. The Ancient Romans believed this sacrifice would please the Gods and help the ship survive the bad weather.
Easily accessed from Rijeka or Zagreb Airport, Lošinj is well-connected with Croatia’s mainland and other islands. It is also well connected with Italy, with a direct ferry line from the town of Mali Lošinj to Venice so worth considering for your Croatia holidays.
Visit wonderful Venice from Istria and Kvarner region. You can either take a ferry from Mali Lošnj which takes around 4 hours or book a coach day trip from Rijeka. A city built on water, the beautiful Venice is situated across a group of 118 small islands. These islands are linked by bridges. Venice boasts wonderful, romantic canals, with the magnificent Doge’s Palace, a remainder from the city’s rich history and St Mark’s Square in its centre.
Explore the beautiful Istrian Peninsula, only a short drive away from Kvarner region! Visit Pula, famous for the Roman Amphitheatre in its centre and picturesque cities of Rovinj, Medulin or Motovun. Explore the UNESCO-protected Euphrasian basilica in Poreč, a major landmark and a valuable example of early Byzantine architecture.
Created by the Pivka River, the Postojna cave is a karst cave system in the neighbouring Slovenia, over 24000 meters long. One of the most interesting Croatia holidays destination in the region is the Postojna cave, a home to endemic olm, also known as “human fish” because of its colour.
This tiny island, with only about 300 meters in diameter, is situated in Puntarska Draga just off the coast of Krk. The only inhabitants of Košljun island are Franciscan monks in St Mary’s monastery on the island. Košljun boasts a vast library counting over 300,000 books and four museums.
Slavonia is situated in the East of Croatia, bordering Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. With endless farmland everywhere you look, charming Baroque cities and cultural heritage, Slavonia is a land of difficult history and rich tradition. The region was named after the Slav inhabitants who settled here in the Early Middle Ages.
Slavonia suffered greatly from Ottoman invasions during the 16th and 17th century. After the 1526 Battle of Mohács in Hungary, the cities and towns of Slavonia which joined the Habsburg Empire in the following year, fell one by one under the Ottoman power. The Ottomans held Slavonia in their possession for over 150 years, leaving a huge cultural mark on the region, its people and their traditions.
The Habsburg rulers freed Slavonia from the Ottomans and established three different administrative regions in the territory of the present-day Croatia: The Kingdom of Croatia, Kingdom of Dalmatia and Kingdom of Slavonia. The southern parts of Kingdom of Slavonia formed the Slavonian Military Frontier, created to defend the Empire from the future invasions. The notion of keeping their lands safe from the foreign, particularly Ottoman invasion, became a popular theme of traditional songs and stories in Slavonia. A type of traditional singing – bećarac – originated in Slavonia and is listed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.
The region is well known for the diverse cuisine and quality wine. Thanks to the many cultural influences over the history, the Slavonian cuisine is an extraordinary mix of Hungarian, Austrian, Ottoman and local dishes. The most popular dish is kulen, a type of spicy sausage protected by the EU as indigenous products.
The best-known winegrowing regions of Slavonia are around Đakovo, Kutjevo and Ilok, where the Graševina grapes grow. Oak from Slavonian forests is used for the production of wine barrels.
The largest city of this region is Osijek, situated by the Drava river, with beautiful Baroque buildings, the 18th-century fortress, parks and relaxed lifestyle. Following are Slavonski Brod, a charming city by the River Sava, Vinkovci, Vukovar, Požega and Đakovo. Županja, a small town counting only 12000 inhabitants, is where the first football was played in Croatia; the tradition which was brought here by the English industrialists who then taught the locals to play this popular sport. Here is an overview of Slavonia, its cities and most interesting sights.
This city’s name literally means “the Slavonian ship” in Croatian; this comes from an older meaning of the same word: “the water crossing”. Situated by the Sava River some 200 km southeast of Zagreb, this city’s Roman name was Marsonia and it was possibly a postal station in the Roman times. Following the long and exhausting war against the Ottomans, the Habsburgs built several fortified towns in Slavonia, the Brod Fortress on Sava River being one of them. This 18th-century fortress was built in a rectangular form with the star-like layout. Slavonski Brod is a home to one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in the region – the Franciscan Monastery.
One of the most popular cultural events takes place in Slavonski Brod – Brodsko Kolo, an annual festival of Croatian folklore. Guests from all parts of Croatia and from abroad travel to Slavonski Brod to participate in the festival.
Situated on the river Drava close to the borders with Serbia and Hungary, Osijek is the fourth largest city in Croatia and the economic, cultural and university centre of Slavonia.
With its beautiful art nouveau buildings, romantic riverside promenade, Copacabana beach and floating bars and clubs, Osijek has something for everyone. Being a University centre, Osijek is always lively, offering different music, cultural and other events all year round.
The 18th-century Fortress, popularly called “Tvrđa”, was built as a part of the defence system against the Ottoman Empire. Today, many nightclubs, bars and cafes are situated within its walls, especially around the Holy Trinity Square in the centre of Tvrđa. The popular Copacabana beach (called “Kopika” by locals) is situated by the Drava river, providing stunning views over the city. Head there for a day of relaxation and refreshment during the hot summer days.
Ilok is the easternmost Croatian town, situated by the Danube and famous for its extraordinary wine and Ilok Castle. With endless vineyards on the surrounding hills, Ilok is a town dedicated to wine and wine-making. Tourists enjoy exciting wine route and visits to wine cellars, the most interesting among them being the Old cellars, situated in the medieval centre of Ilok. These cellars are famous for traminac wine, which was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Ilok castle was originally built by Croatian viceroy Nicolas in the 15th century and reconstructed by the powerful Italian noble family of Odescalchi three hundred years later. The castle is today a home to the Museum of Ilok and the wine cellars. Ilok is very lively in September during the grape picking festival. During this festival, guests can enjoy excellent food, world-class wine, traditional music and wonderful views over the castle and the Danube.
Boasting the wonderful 19th-century Cathedral Basilica of St Peter, built under the famous bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, Đakovo is a charming Slavonian town, some 40 km away from Osijek. With charming Korzo promenade in its centre, lined with café bars and shops, Đakovo is famous for the traditional event called Đakovački vezovi (Đakovo Embroidery), which is organized every year in the beginning of July. The guests come here from all parts of Croatia and the region to enjoy exciting pop and rock concerts, folklore dances performances and delicious food and wine.
Đakovo boasts a long horse-breeding tradition that dates back to the early 16th century. The most attractive are the beautiful Lipizzaner horses which can often be seen on the racecourse during sports events.
Situated in the heart of the Eastern Croatian region of Slavonija by the river Bosut, the city of Vinkovci is, allegedly, the oldest European city! Different prehistoric cultures inhabited this area over time, resulting in over 8000 years of continuous inhabitation.
During the Ancient Roman period, the city was called Cibalae and it eventually developed into a valuable trading centre. The modern name of the city – Vinkovci – allegedly comes from the Croatian male name, Vinko.
When in Vinkovci, take a stroll down the pedestrian area in the city centre featuring motifs of Orion – the oldest Indo-European calendar. The calendar is carved into one of the ceramic vessels found by a team of archaeologists in Vinkovci in the 1970s.
We also recommend a visit to the City Museum of Vinkovci, where you can learn more about this historic city. The Sopot Archeological Park is connected to the city centre via a 3-kilometres long biking trail. Here you can spend a relaxing day in nature and see the prehistoric model houses.
Vinkovci is known for the popular Vinkovačke jeseni (the Vinkovci Autumn) manifestation, a 10-day festival of Croatian folklore and traditions. During this festival many concerts, fairs and exhibitions can be seen and attended. Another interesting manifestation is dedicated to the city’s Ancient past; it’s called Rimski Dani (the Roman Days). During this manifestation, guests can learn about the everyday life in Ancient Roman times or how to make pottery and Roman jewellery. Various workshops and battle reenactments take place as well.
Only a few minutes’ drive away from Ilok medieval town, the picturesque Principovac mansion is situated on a hill, overlooking the Danube River. Principovac was built in the 19th century as a summer residence of the aristocratic Odescalchi family. The Odescalchi and their guests would spend grape harvesting and hunting period here, enjoy the beautiful nature and wine.
Today Principovac is a popular wedding venue, featuring a beautiful restaurant and luxurious suites and rooms. Other facilities include a tennis court, a volleyball court and a golf practice court. Guests can enjoy long wine roads, ideal for walking, cycling or running.
Karanac is a tiny village situated in the heart of Baranya region just a short drive away from Osijek. Many tourists come here to visit Baranjska Kuća, the charming family restaurant serving extraordinary local dishes such as čobanac, a thick and spicy stew and the popular kulen sausage followed by a cheese plate and home-made bread.
Here you can also visit the interesting “Street of the Forgotten Time”, created by the owners of Baranjska Kuća restaurant to present old arts and crafts of Slavonia. Here you can see what an old Slavonian house or a blacksmith’s workshop looked like a hundred years ago.
Located on the right side of Danube river close to the city of Vukovar, Vučedol is one of the most important prehistoric archaeological sites in the region, about 5000 years old. Archaeologists assert it dates from the Bronze Age, from the period between 3350 and 2300 BC. This means that the prehistoric culture of Vučedol was contemporary with the earliest settlements of Troy and the Sumer period of the Ancient Mesopotamia.
In 2013 a museum was opened at the archaeological site of Vučedol, presenting the material culture of the prehistoric people of Vučedol. The visitors can see the oldest prehistoric cart on four wheels, the Indo-European Vučedol house and the oldest Indo-European calendar based on observation of the winter sky.
The most popular artefact from Vučedol however, and the symbol of the city of Vukovar, is the so-called Vučedol Dove or, as some archaeologists argue, the Vučedol Partridge. This is a ceramic vessel shaped in the form of a bird; it was used during religious rituals as a censer.
Perfect for a family day trip, Kopački rit is a nature park in eastern Croatia, close to the border with Serbia. It is one of the largest preserved wetlands in Europe. Walk the wooden trails around the park or take a boat ride across the river to explore the nature around you. Around 260 different bird species nests here, some of them being the white and black stork, white-tailed eagle and European green woodpecker. Kopački rit is also a home to around 40 different fish species and over 140 species of plants.
Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea and in Croatia, situated south of Trieste in Italy. With picturesque hill-top Medieval villages boasting old stone houses in its inland and wonderful resorts along the coast, Istria attracts rivers of tourists from Slovenia, Germany, Austria and other countries.
Istria was named after the Histri tribes, who lived here in the Ancient times and were described by the Romans as skilled pirates. After two fruitless attempts, the region was finally conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, when Istria became a part of the Roman province of “Venetia et Histria”.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century AD, the region of Istria was invaded by different tribes, kingdoms and empires. It was annexed to the Lombard Kingdom in Italy, and then to the Frankish Kingdom in the end of the 8th century AD. After a few centuries of being ruled by different dukedoms such as Bavaria and Carantania, Istria finally became a part of the rising Venetian Republic in the 13th century.
After Venetians came the Habsburgs, then the short Napoleonic period which lasted for only eleven years. Austrian Empire regained Istria after Napoleon’s defeat but the territory was handed to Italy a hundred years later – in 1920, Italy gained parts of Slovenia, Istria, Zadar and several Croatian islands after signing of the Rapallo agreement. This was a result of the 1915 London agreement, in which Italy was promised some of these territories after the First World War was over. In return, Italy had to switch sides and join the Allies. The new Yugoslav state decided to compromise in the end and ceded the aforementioned territories to Italy.
These diplomatic games meant that Istria, among other territories, had to adjust to the new regime, which was far from pleasant. Mussolini’s Italy sought to implement forced Italianisation in Istria, by banning the use of Croatian language. Istria became a part of Second Yugoslavia in the end of the Second World War, which resulted in massive migrations of the Italian inhabitants from Istria back to Italy.
Because of its geographical distance from the Homeland War that crippled the economy and life-quality of the rest of Croatia, Istria is today more cosmopolitan and, arguably, more progressive than the rest of the country. With Pula as its administrative centre, Istria is indeed the world for itself, with the characteristic cuisine, excellent wine and fascinating history and culture.
Famous for the spectacular Roman Amphitheatre (popularly called the Pula Arena) in its centre, Pula is situated in the south of Istrian Peninsula and is the largest city in Istria County. With a long history going back to Roman times, Pula (Pola in Latin) is Istria’s administrative centre.
The Pula Arena was built in the 1st century AD and is among the six largest Roman amphitheatres in the world. The first amphitheatre at this spot was built in timber during the rule of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. The original building was later replaced by a small stone amphitheatre during Emperor Claudius. It was later enlarged and finally completed in 81 AD. The amphitheatre was used for gladiator combats in the Roman times. Today, it is a place where many interesting events take place during warm summer nights: concerts, festivals, film screenings and so on.
Another trace of Roman rule in Pula is the Temple of Augustus, constructed in the beginning of the 1st century AD. The temple was hit by a bomb during the Second World War and reconstructed a few years later. Today it is a museum with a collection of ancient sculptures.
Other attractions in Pula include the Pula Aquarium and the Underwater Park Verudela, where the visitors can walk under the sea and explore the wonderful surroundings. For those who prefer to stay active whilst on holiday, there are many interesting hiking trails around Pula, some of them passing through the famous Kaiserwald or Imperial Forest.
Poreč (Parentium in Latin) is situated on the western coast of Istria. The main tourist attraction of this charming coastal city is the 6th-century UNESCO-protected Euphrasian Basilica, one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, different kingdoms, empires and dukedoms ruled Istria. Among them were the Ostrogoths and the Byzantine Empire under the famous Emperor Justinian I. The Euphrasian basilica was built on the site of the older basilica during the period of Bishop Euphrasius. Parts of the older church were used in the construction of the basilica, while the marble blocks were imported from the coast of the Sea of Marmara. The beautiful mosaics were made by Byzantine masters.
Today, Poreč is a lively coastal city attracting foreign and domestic tourists to its hotels and sunny beaches. One of the main summer events is Poreč Open Air Festival, featuring exciting streets performances, theatre and cinema events as well as music evenings.
Rovinj (Rovigno in Italian) is probably one the most charming little towns you’ll ever visit. Situated on a small peninsula in the west of Istria, Rovinj has a circular, egg-like shape with the tall church tower rising from its centre. The town is bilingual, with Italian and Croatian as official languages.
Much like the rest of Istria, in the early centuries following the decline of the Western Roman Empire Rovinj often changed its rulers, from the Byzantine Empire to the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Frankish Empire. In the 13th century, Rovinj became a part of the Venetian Republic. Venice ruled over Rovinj until the end of the 18th century, when the Republic ceased to exist. The Venetians built a lot in Rovinj: three town gates were constructed during this time, along with the defensive walls, remains of which can be seen today. The Baroque church dominating the town’s skyline is the Church of St. Euphemia. It was built in the 18th century over the older structures. The bell tower is similar to that of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and was probably inspired by it.
Tourists enjoy climbing the church tower to enjoy the wonderful view over Rovinj, strolling the romantic narrow streets of Rovinj Old Town and relaxing by the sea.
Umag (Citta di Umago in Italian) is the westernmost city of Croatia, popular for hosting the men’s ATP tennis tournament every year in July. However, apart from tennis, Umag also boasts the charming Old town with narrow streets and a wonderful seaside promenade lined with restaurants and cafés. There are many bays with pebble beaches around Umag and several Blue Flag beaches to relax on.
Not far from Umag is Savudrija, the small town with the oldest lighthouse on the Adriatic coast. The lighthouse was built in the beginning of the 19th century. Legend has it that the lighthouse was built by Count Metternich, the Austrian statesman. Allegedly, Metternich fell in love with the local girl named Gisselle when he saw her at Franz Joseph’s court in Vienna. He decided to build this 36-meter-high lighthouse in the name of his love for her.
Motovun and Grožnjan are two of Istria’s beautiful inland towns. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the green surroundings, Motovun is a home to the world-class film festival. The Motovun walls date from the 13th and 14th centuries, while the townhouses are mostly built in Gothic and Renaissance style. According to legend, giants used to live in Istria in the past, building the small hilltop towns such as Motovun.
Like Motovun, Grožnjan is also situated on a hilltop, with defensive walls built by the Venetian Republic in the 14th century. Grožnjan is the town of culture and art, featuring many galleries and studios.
Only 6 kilometres away from Pula, the beautiful Brijuni National Park consists of a group of islands off the Istrian coast. Here you can visit two larger islands – Veliki and Mali Brijun and twelve smaller islands. These beautiful islands are also a popular holiday resort with excellent hotels and tourist service.
History lovers will enjoy a visit to the 13th-century Templar church of St Mary. There are two ancient Roman villas on Brijuni Islands as well as several natural history and art exhibitions.
Open for tourists in 1995 and situated 6 kilometres away from Poreč, the Beredine Cave was once a home to prehistoric men. This spectacular cave features many stalactites and stalagmites and is a home to the endemic cave olm, also known as the human fish.
The guided tour of Beredine Cave will take you along a 300 meters long pathway 60 meters below the ground. Visit the beautiful chambers and explore the underworld of Istria!
Lim Fiord is a part of the 35-kilometers long Lim Valley, set among very steep hills, in some places over 200 meters high. The Lim Fiord or Lim Channel got its name from the Latin word “Limes” which means “border”. This is because during the Roman rule over this area the valley divided two of the Roman provinces.
The fiord boasts numerous small coves, beautiful beaches and valleys. This area is a home to over thirty varieties of orchids and other interesting plant species. Tourists come here to enjoy the spectacular views or embark on an exciting hiking trip.
With Split as its administrative and cultural centre, this region has a lot to offer to any type of traveler – whether you enjoy nature, history, nightlife or you prefer relaxing on the beach, the Split region, together with the beautiful islands lying in front of it, is the right choice for your Croatia holidays!
With the magnificent Ancient Roman palace built by Emperor Diocletian in its centre, Split is a must-see destination in this part of Croatia. Spend at least one day here, exploring the romantic streets inside the palace or strolling the long Riva promenade, lined with chic bars and restaurants.
The islands of Brač, Hvar and Vis are easily accessible from Split, with Vis tucked a bit further away and not as “infected” with tourism as Brač and Hvar. The remarkable Zlatni Rat Beach is situated in Bol Town on Brač Island, a place you must visit if you’re heading for Brač.
Don’t miss out on the popular Hvar Island, a place where many film stars and even members of the royal family have enjoyed their holidays over the past several years! Offering world-class fine dining at some of the best restaurants in Croatia, excellent nightlife, luxurious hotels and sunny beaches, Hvar is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia, even if it is just for a day.
If you’re looking to spend a lazy, relaxing holiday by the beach, Makarska Riviera is your best choice: about 60 kilometres long and situated below the Biokovo Mountain, the small towns of Makarska Riviera offer excellent tourist service, beautiful historic streets and squares, as well as long pebbly beaches.
Over two thousand years old and world-known for the Ancient Roman palace situated in its very centre, Split is one of Croatia’s most beautiful and most visited destinations. Even though many bloggers and travellers state that it’s “not as fantastic as Dubrovnik”, we believe this to be a huge misinformation: Split is every bit as fantastic and beautiful as Dubrovnik, if not even more beautiful.
The second largest city in Croatia and a home to many successful Croats. Split is a modern city that lives very comfortably and in synergy with its magnificent past. The Diocletian’s Palace boasts Split’s most amazing restaurants, chic cafés and bars. With countless little shops, bookshops and boutiques right next to the Prokurative square and the Ancient Peristil, Split’s modern life takes place within the Ancient walls of Diocletian’s Palace.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian was born around Salona, the Ancient Roman city in the vicinity of Split. He set out to build this magnificent palace on the site of the city of Spalatum, which was the Roman name from Split, and retire here. The construction of this new palace was completed in 305 AD.
The nearby Jadro Spring provided the Palace with water by an aqueduct. The walls of this massive palace are up to 200 meters long and 20 meters high. The nearby Marjan Hill area served as a recreational ground for the ever-growing population of Ancient Split.
Featuring many interesting walking and running trails and tennis courts, Marjan Hill is covered in pine forest and surrounded by the city of Split and the Adriatic Sea. Even today, this is a popular recreational centre and a weekend getaway for those looking to spend a day in nature.
Apart from visiting the Diocletian’s Palace and Marjan Park, you should also visit one of the Split’s museums and galleries. Split Archaeological Museum is the oldest museum in Croatia, with the extensive exhibition of artefacts from Prehistory all the way to the Early Middle Ages.
There are several beaches in Split and around Split, but the most popular among them in the Blue Flag Bačvice Beach, with numerous bars, restaurants and shops. Beach clubs are opened until early morning hours in summer months!
Take a catamaran or a ferry from Split and within an hour you’ll reach the beautiful Island of Brač. The most visited place on Brač is the Bol Town, world-known for the remarkable Zlatni rat (Golden Horn) beach. This beautiful white pebbled beach extends into the Adriatic Sea, its shape changing every few years due to tide and currents.
Brač is the third largest island in the Adriatic, its landscape dominated mostly by karst limestone. The limestone quarries on Brač had been in use for hundreds of years. The Ancient Romans used it to build cities, palaces and various buildings in Dalmatia. Rumor has it even the White House was built in Brač limestone!
The largest settlement in Brač is charming Supetar, with serene beaches, restaurants and excellent hotels. When in Supetar, apart from beautiful beaches make sure to visit the 18th-century church of St Mary Annunciation. The symbol of Supetar is the famous Petrinović mausoleum, built by the Croatian sculptor Toma Rosandić in the 1920s.
Probably the most luxurious destination in Croatia (apart from Dubrovnik), this beautiful island boasts historic cobble-stoned streets, Renaissance churches, and Ancient ruins. In summer, Hvar Town is overflown with rivers of tourists enjoying the sun on the beaches on their Hvar holidays or socializing in its chic bars in one of the narrow alleys.
Hvar Old Town is dominated by a large square (popularly called “Pjaca”) with small cafés around it and the historic St Stephen’s Cathedral on its eastern side. The cathedral was built on the site of an earlier church from the 6th century. It is a combination of the Renaissance and early Baroque elements.
With fields of lavender, olive trees and vineyards, Hvar Island boasts beautiful nature. If you wish to escape the hubbub of Hvar Town, join the hiking and walking excursions and visit the hidden villages of this Dalmatian island or enjoy a boat excursion to the nearby Pakleni Islands.
Further down south from Split is the popular Makarska Riviera, with several charming little towns, offering excellent tourist service. It is situated under the Biokovo Mountain, boasting long pebbly beaches, romantic seaside promenades and exciting nightlife.
Some of the most popular tourist destinations along Makarska Riviera are Makarska, Brela, Baška Voda and Tučepi.
The city of Makarska boasts the historic old town with narrow alleys and a promenade lined with palm trees. Tourist offer here is very rich: choose between numerous cafés, pizzerias, restaurants serving local seafood and ice cream parlours. This is a perfect destination for a relaxing holiday, where everything is a short walk away and you’re never too far from the beach!
Trogir was founded by Greek colonists in the 3rd century BC and was then called Tragurion. When the nearby Roman centre of Salona was destroyed in attacks by Avars, its citizens settled in Trogir.
Later, Trogir came under the Venetian rule together with the rest of Dalmatia. Its Medieval town with buildings, churches and palaces is probably the best-preserved Romanesque & Gothic complex in the Adriatic. The Cathedral of St Lawrence is the most remarkable building in Trogir Old Town, important for its portal, a masterpiece by Radovan, the famous sculptor of Croatian medieval art.
The town of Omiš is situated by the emerald Cetina River, surrounded by gorges and boasting wonderful nature and breathtaking sceneries.
Throughout history, Omiš was notorious among foreigners because of the Omiš pirates whose ships enabled them to defend the city from foreign invasions. The Omiš pirates famously used the rowing boats, sometimes called the Omiš arrows, manoeuvring down the Cetina river. Finally, the city was captured by Venice in the mid-15th century.
Today, tourists from Split, Makarska and Šibenik come here to experience free-climbing, scuba diving, windsurfing, white-water rafting or exciting zip lining.
The ancient city of Salona in the modern-day Solin is about 30-minute drive away from Split, situated by the Jadro River.
Salona was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, with the Roman forum and amphitheatre within its ancient walls. It took several centuries to complete the construction of the city walls, the earliest parts dating from the 2nd century BC.
The remains of the Roman amphitheatre can be found in the north west of Salona. Although not as well preserved as the one in Pula, it is possible to reconstruct the original appearance of the amphitheatre. It had over 13 000 seats and could receive up to 20 000 spectators, seating and standing. The gladiator fights took place here during the Roman rule.
Situated about 5 kilometres from the Island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea, the Blue Cave is a major tourist attraction. It is popular for the glowing blue light that appears within the cave. An opening on the cave ceiling allows the sunlight to get inside, creating the wonderful light show, bathing the cave in a blue glow. It is best to visit the cave between 11 AM and 12 AM, because the light inside the cave is the most beautiful at these times.
The Blue Cave, or Blue Grotto as it’s sometimes called, is 24 meters long and up to 12 meters deep. At first, the cave could only be accessed by diving, but the artificial entrance was built in the 19th century. The cave itself was created by erosion of the limestone rock, created by waves.
Croatia’s star attraction – the city of Dubrovnik – is situated in the southernmost region of Dalmatia and is a part of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. With the majority of guests coming from the United Kingdom, in 2016 Dubrovnik had over 1 million tourist arrivals.
Historically called Ragusa, this UNESCO-protected Medieval city is famous for its ability to maintain its freedom at times of wars and trouble. Today, the Old town of Dubrovnik is one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in the Adriatic and is becoming very popular among filmmakers. Probably the most popular TV show that was filmed in Dubrovnik is the Game of Thrones HBO series. The new Star Wars was also filmed here.
Dubrovnik boasts beautiful restaurants and luxurious hotels and resorts. If you’re looking to spend your holiday relaxing on the beach in the morning and exploring historic streets, buildings, churches and museums in the afternoon, this is a place to go.
Just a short drive away from Dubrovnik lies the sleepy town of Cavtat, with many excellent hotels and private apartments. If you’re looking for a quiet holiday close to Dubrovnik, Cavtat is your best choice.
Take a catamaran from Dubrovnik and in about an hour you’ll arrive in Korčula Town on beautiful Korčula Island. With centuries-old tradition of Moreška sword dancing and historic Medieval town, Korčula is one of the most beautiful islands in Croatia, yet not as overrun by tourists as Hvar.
The serene Elafiti Islands are situated northwest of Dubrovnik. This is a small archipelago, with three main islands: Šipan, Lopud and Koločep. Each of these islands counts less than 500 inhabitants. Šipan is probably the most visited among them, with several excellent hotels, offering absolute peace and quiet to those looking to get away from the troubles of everyday life and hubbub of the city.
Historically, the Republic of Dubrovnik owes its remarkable success to its people’s skilful diplomacy and maritime trade. The Republic ships used to sale all over the world under the white flag with the Latin word for freedom (“Libertas”) written on it.
Dubrovnik became an autonomous city-state in the 14th century, although paying an annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan. This was a clever diplomatic move because the Ottomans were the enemies of the Venetian Republic. By paying an annual tribute to the Ottomans, Dubrovnik gained Ottoman protection in case of Venetian invasion.
During its Golden age, Dubrovnik flourished into a respected cultural centre, gathering best Croatian writers, poets and artists. The first pharmacy was opened in the early 14th century and is still operating today. In the mid-15th century, the Italian architect Onofrio della Cava constructed a water supply system in Dubrovnik. He also built an aqueduct and two public fountains.
The white-stone walls encompassing Dubrovnik are almost 2 kilometres long and up to 25 meters high, with four fortresses.
Inside the Dubrovnik Old Town, several beautiful Renaissance buildings can be visited. One of them is the 16th-century Sponza Palace, a building that served all sorts of functions throughout history. In the 16th century, it became a home to the literary academy of Dubrovnik and served as a business centre, a place where merchants would meet. Today, Sponza Palace houses the Dubrovnik city archive.
The Rector Palace was built in the 13th century and was a home to the Rector of Dubrovnik Republic. Entering the city through Pile Gate, visitors will notice the beautiful Onofrio Fountain, named after the Italian architect who constructed the Dubrovnik water supply.
The main street in the Old Town is the beautiful Stradun Promenade, a long street lined with cafés and restaurants. Walking down Stradun, you’ll reach the 17th century Dubrovnik Cathedral, built on the location of an earlier cathedral after the devastating earthquake in 1667.
The most popular beach in Dubrovnik is Banje Beach, very close to the Ploče Gate, one of the entrances to Dubrovnik Old Town. The Lapad area in Dubrovnik boasts the pebbly Copacabana beach and the Lapad beach situated in Lapad Bay.
Only about 15 kilometres away from Dubrovnik, Cavtat is a great choice for families with children or couples looking for a relaxing beach holiday. The first settlement was founded here by the Ancient Greeks and was called Epidaurus. When the Avars and Slavs invaded Epidaurus in the 7th century, the inhabitants took refuge on the nearby island of Laus which later became the city of Dubrovnik.
The city was re-established later and was under the rule of the Republic of Dubrovnik. The name for Cavtat comes from Civitas Vetus, which is Latin for Old City.
With excellent hotels, restaurants and beaches, Cavtat is a great choice for those looking to escape busy Dubrovnik. Epidaurus Festival of arts takes place every year in Cavtat.
In the 6th century BC the Ancient Greeks from Corcyra, the Island of Corfu, founded a colony here. They called the new settlement after their homeland – Melaina Korkyra, which means “Black Corfu”. Allegedly, they called it black due to the dense pine forests on the Korčula Island.
After the Byzantine rule over the island in the Early Middle Ages, Korčula eventually became the part of the Republic of Venice. The defensive walls surrounding the Korčula Old Town were built in the 13th and 14th centuries and had been improved several times since then. The most popular sights in Korčula Old Town are the Cathedral of St Mark, the Town Hall, the Revelin Town and Marco Polo’s House.
When in Korčula, make sure to attend the centuries-old Moreška performance, the traditional sword dance, where two groups of dancers fight over the young woman.
Korčula has some of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia, including the sandy Vela Pržina Beach in the town of Lumbarda and the pebbly Banje Beach in the town of Korčula.
Elafiti Islands is a name of a small archipelago west from Dubrovnik, consisting of several islands, most of them uninhabited. The three main islands are Šipan, Lopud and Koločep, easily accessed from Dubrovnik by catamaran.
Each of these islands counts less than 500 inhabitants and can make perfect destinations on an island hopping tour, boasting wonderful unspoiled nature, spectacular views over the Adriatic and serenity for those looking to spend their holidays relaxing in the sun.
The largest of all Elafiti islands in Šipan, with two settlements: Šipanska Luka and Suđurađ. Šipan has quiet, secluded beaches and many historic buildings and summer residence that used to belong to Dubrovnik nobility.
There are several luxurious hotels with excellent tourist service on Elafiti islands, as well as beautiful private accommodation units.
Situated in the scenic Gulf of Kotor in neighbouring Montenegro, Kotor is one of the most beautiful walled cities in the region. This UNESCO-protected Old Town boasts Venetian fortifications and the 12th-century Cathedral of St Tryphon. Inside the walls of Kotor, many historic churches, buildings and charming narrow streets can be found.
The nearby town of Perast is very popular among tourists as a day trip destination, with a small island in front of it, featuring the 12th century St George’s Church and the 17th century Our Lady of the Rock Church are situated.
With the famous Old Bridge as its symbol, the city of Mostar boasts immense beauty everywhere you look. Situated by the emerald Neretva River and surrounded by mountains, Mostar is the mixture of eastern and western cultures.
Walk the historic streets of Mostar Old Town, visit the Old Bazaar and the mosques. Take a picture on the Old Bridge and don’t forget to have lunch in one of the restaurants, where you can taste the local specialities.
A day trip to Mostar is often combined with a stop at Kravica Waterfalls, with beautiful nature and scenery.
Situated on Mljet, often called the greenest island in Croatia, the Mljet National Park has two salt lakes: Large and Small Lake. Visitors to the park like kayaking, swimming or hiking, enjoying the wonderful scenery around them.
Apart from the two lakes, the Mljet National Park features a Benedictine Monastery on the St Mary Island, along with archaeological remains from the prehistoric times. The Odysseus’ Cave is located near the village of Babino Polje on Mljet Island. According to legend, the Greek hero Odysseus came here to find a shelter after he survived the shipwreck.
The charming Lokrum Island, only a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik, boasts wonderful botanical gardens from the 19th century with various exotic plants and trees. Austrian Archduke Maximilian, who had a summer residence on the Island, brought peacocks from his travels to the Canary Islands. Families of peacocks still can be seen on Lokrum Island.
According to legend, King Richard the Lionheart found a shelter on Lokrum island after the shipwreck on his way home from the Crusades in the 12th century. Grateful for having escaped the death, Richard financed the construction of a monastery on the island.
There are several interesting tourist destinations to visit on the way from Zagreb towards the southern coast of Dalmatia. Your first stop should be the wonderful Plitvice Lakes.
From here, head towards Zadar, the city situated on a small peninsula, and widely known as one of Croatia’s “coolest” destinations. While Zadar doesn’t exactly have the glamour of Dubrovnik, it does boast other qualities: it’s generally less crowded, vibrant and cosmopolitan, with wonderful cafés and restaurants, as well as pretty beaches.
Zadar is situated in the region of Northern Dalmatia, with serene islands of Ugljan, Murter, Pašman and Kornati National Park in its vicinity. The popular Krka National Park with scenic waterfalls and nature is only a short drive away.
Further down south from Zadar is the historic city of Šibenik, once the royal city where Croatian kings ruled the Medieval Croat Kingdom from. Šibenik boasts wonderful Medieval walls and Old Town.
Established under the name of Iader in the 4th century BC, Zadar was a settlement of the prehistoric tribe of Liburnians. The city was known under many different names throughout history: Idassa in Greek, Iadera in Latin according to Ancient Roman sources and Diadora during the Venetian rule.
In the 1st century BC, Zadar came under Roman rule and became a Roman colony. Today visitors can see the remains of the Roman forum in the centre of Zadar. In the early Middle Ages, Zadar came under the Byzantine rule and became the centre of Byzantine administration over the province of Dalmatia. The symbol of Zadar is the curious 9th-century church of St Donatus. With an unusual round layout, this church is one of the best examples of Pre-Romanesque architecture in Europe.
In the beginning of the 13th century, Zadar was invaded by the Crusaders. In this, the not very noble episode of the Fourth Crusades, the Crusaders struck a deal with the Venetian Republic: because they couldn’t afford to pay for the ships made for them by the Venetians, they agreed to invade and recapture Zadar on Venice’s behalf. This way the debt would be repaid and Venice would get hold of Zadar once more. Zadar fell in November 1202, despite the Pope’s protests against the invasion.
Archaeological artefacts, tools and jewellery are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Zadar, situated across the street from the Church of St Donat. The main street in Zadar is popular Kalelarga, a large longitudinal street in the centre of Zadar Old Town. Lined with café, beautiful old square and churches, this is a place to be in summer evenings, having a lovely dinner or grabbing a few cocktails.
One of Zadar’s most popular modern attractions is the remarkable sea organ; come here to listen to the sounds of the sea! Another interesting installation in the centre of Zadar is the popular “Greeting to the Sun”, producing an impressive show of light in the rhythm of the waves.
Murter island, a part of the Šibenik Riviera and situated between Zadar and Šibenik boasts serene beaches and beautiful small towns. Murter had been known for its high-quality olive oil production throughout history. In the beginning of the 20th century, the olive oil produced on Murter was awarded a Gold Medal at the international oil exhibition in France.
Remains of the ancient town of Colentum were found during excavations and archaeological research on Murter Island. Colentum was very prosperous during the rule of Emperor Nero in the 1st century BC. Archaeologists believe the town of Colentum was destroyed by pirates some hundred years later, although some researchers think it was destroyed in a powerful earthquake.
One of the most beautiful beaches on Murter island is the Slanica beach. This is arguably the most beautiful beach of the whole Šibenik Riviera. The beach is situated in Murter town and has both sandy and rocky parts.
Biograd na Moru used to be the crowning site of the Croatian rulers in the Middle Ages. The literal translation of the name is “Biograd by the sea”, with Biograd meaning White City in the old form of Croatian language.
Biograd is situated on a small peninsula overlooking the Pašman channel and numerous islets. Today this is a popular tourist resort with excellent hotels, wonderful beaches and numerous restaurants lined by the sea. With the beautiful Kornati National Park in front of it and Zadar only a short drive away, Biograd is a great family holiday destination with many interesting things to do and places to visit. The city boasts many sporting, cultural and music events.
With the wonderful UNESCO-protected St James’ Church in its very centre and the charming old town, Šibenik is the must-visit destination in the Central Dalmatia. Very close to the beautiful Krka Waterfalls National Park and not far from Split, Šibenik is a city of rich, royal history and excellent tourist offer.
Šibenik was founded by Croats and was a seat of Croatian King Petar Krešimir in the 11th century. It is therefore widely known as Krešimir’s city. In the turbulent period between the 11th and 15th century, Šibenik was ruled by Venice, Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. In the 15th century, it was recaptured by the Venetian Republic. Due to the Ottoman threat, St Nicholas Fortress was built a century later to help defend the city. After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797 Šibenik became a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.
St Nicholas Fortress has recently been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian works of defence between 15th and 17th centuries. Designed by one of the Venetian architects in the 16th century, the fortress was armed with over thirty cannons ready to attack should the Ottoman boats attempt to reach the harbour.
The Šibenik International Children’s Festival takes place every summer, featuring different children’s plays and workshops. Šibenik also hosts the Super Uho music festival.
Boasting 89 islands, islets and reefs, the Kornati National Park is situated between Zadar and Šibenik. Kornati Islands is the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, stretching over the sea area of 320 square kilometres.
The biggest of the islands is the Kornat Island, managed from the town of Murter on Murter Island. Remains of the prehistoric Illyrian settlements were found on the island of Kornat, along with some Ancient Roman villas featuring beautiful mosaics.
Kornati National Park day trip is an excellent choice if you’re based in Zadar, Šibenik or Biograd na Moru. Enjoy a boat trip to Kornati, explore the beautiful flora and fauna of these remarkable islands and spend an unforgettable day in nature.
Remarkable for tufa limestone and beautiful waterfalls, the Krka National Park was founded in the 1980s and is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Croatia.
The area around Krka river boasts beautiful landscapes and semi-caves where various rare plant and animal species can be seen. It is also a very valuable archaeological site, with the ancient site of Burnum, medieval forts and old churches situated here.
The longest waterfall is the Skradinski buk waterfall, located at the end of the water flow of Krka river. It is 800 meters long, consisting of seventeen barriers. This is the most visited waterfall in the national park. Apart from Skradinski buk, tourists enjoy a visit to Roški waterfall, Krka monastery and Burnum archaeological site.
Don’t forget to take a boat trip to the small island of Visovac, situated in the lower flow of Krka river. You can reach Visovac from Skradinski buk Waterfall, joining an organized group tour and accompanied by a guide.
The Vrana Lake is the largest natural lake in Croatia, situated half-way between Zadar and Šibenik. Vrana Lake and the surroundings have been declared a nature park in 1999, stretching across nearly 60 square meters. The lake is unique because it’s a rare example of cryptodepression, meaning that a part of the lake lies below sea level.
Birdwatching is a popular activity here; Vrana Lake Nature Park is home to one of the greatest bird reserves in the area. Over 100 000 waterbirds fly here to spend the winter period. The area has a very rich history, its oldest archaeological finds up to 2000 years old.
Nin is a small town with great history and heritage: it was an important centre in the Middle Ages, the seat of dukes and kings of Dalmatia and the centre of a Christian Bishopric. Situated in a lagoon and surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches, Nin was the first Croatian royal town.
The remarkable Church of the Holy Cross can be visited in Nin, originating from the 9th century and allegedly the world’s smallest cathedral! Another church dating from the Early Middle Ages in the Church of St Nicholas. Both churches are built in the Pre-Romanesque style. One of the most important archaeological finds from the early history of Croats also originates from Nin- it is the baptismal front of Duke Višeslav from the early 9th century.
The popular Queen’s Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia. According to legend, whenever the Croatian King Tomislav would come to Nin, his queen would spend all her leisure time on this wonderful sandy beach, which is why it was later named the Queen’s Beach.
We hope you enjoyed this guide. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to see anything added, have any feedback or have visited any of these wonderful places and want to tell the world about it!