20 Fantastic Places to Visit in Croatia – By a Local

As a local expert, I’m thrilled to share with you the 20 most fantastic places to visit in Croatia.

This comprehensive guide will take you on a journey through the country’s diverse natural wonders, historic cities, charming islands, and unique regional highlights – all from an insider’s perspective.

Whether you’re planning a relaxing beach vacation, an adventure-filled exploration, or a cultural immersion, Croatia has something to captivate every type of traveler.

From the mesmerizing Plitvice Lakes to the glitzy Hvar Island, and from the baroque splendor of Varaždin to the remote allure of Lastovo, this guide will unlock the hidden gems that make Croatia such a beloved destination.

So, let’s dive in and uncover the 20 places that have stolen the hearts of locals and visitors alike:

1. Plitvice Lakes

Croatia’s Natural Masterpiece Plitvice Lakes National Park is a true natural wonder, renowned for its 16 interconnected, vibrantly colored lakes and cascading waterfalls.

As Croatia’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Plitvice is a must-visit destination for any traveler to the country.

The park’s unique geology, with its dolomite and limestone formations, is responsible for the stunningly vivid hues of the lakes, which range from emerald green to deep, azure blue.

Visitors can explore the Upper Lakes and Lower Lakes, each with its own distinct charm and character.

To make the most of your visit, I recommend arriving early or late in the day to avoid the peak summer crowds.

While a quick stop to see a few of the lakes is tempting, I encourage you to set aside enough time to delve deeper into the park and experience its full beauty, away from the main tourist trails.

2. Dubrovnik


Jewel of the Adriatic Often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved cities in Croatia.

With its remarkable medieval architecture, imposing city walls, and stunning seaside location, it’s no wonder Dubrovnik consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Mediterranean.

As you wander through the charming Old Town, you’ll be captivated by the rich history and cultural heritage that permeates every cobblestone street and historic building.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take the Dubrovnik Cable Car up to the Srđ Mountain for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the surrounding Adriatic Sea.

While Dubrovnik is an expensive destination, with a wide selection of luxury hotels and resorts, it also offers a wealth of dining and cultural experiences to suit a range of budgets.

Be sure to check out my Dubrovnik restaurant guide for some of the city’s best culinary offerings.

3. Hvar Town & Island

A Glitzy Adriatic Gem Hvar Island is a world-famous destination known for its stunning natural beauty, historic towns, and posh atmosphere.

Located off the Dalmatian coast, Hvar is easily accessible from both Brač and Split, making it a popular choice for travelers.

The island’s coast is dotted with ancient towns, while the interior is a tapestry of small villages, lavender fields, olive groves, and vineyards.

The town of Hvar, in particular, has a trendy, upscale vibe, with its beautiful medieval architecture, lively marina, and celebrity-studded yachts.

For a more budget-friendly and low-key experience, consider basing yourself in the charming old towns of Stari Grad, Jelsa, or Vrboska, which offer easy access to the island’s stunning beaches and natural attractions.

Be sure to sample the local delicacies, such as lavender, olive oil, and the excellent local wines, during your time on Hvar.

4. Zagreb


Croatia’s Vibrant Capital Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a city that defies easy categorization. It is elegant and grand, yet also bustling and diverse, offering something for every type of traveler.

Visitors should start their exploration in Gornji Grad (Upper Town), where they can immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and architecture.

Highlights include the picturesque St. Mark’s Church, the Croatian Parliament, and the iconic Lotrščak Tower, which has a cannon that fires every day at noon.

As you wander through the city center, you’ll be captivated by the charming squares, parks, and historic buildings that make up Lenuci’s Horseshoe.

Don’t miss the lively Dolac Market and the impressive Zagreb Cathedral, both of which offer a glimpse into the city’s vibrant culture.

With its blend of old-world elegance and modern vibrancy, Zagreb is a city that rewards deeper exploration. Whether you’re interested in art, music, cuisine, or simply soaking up the local atmosphere, there’s no shortage of enriching experiences to be had.

5. Central Istria Region

Idyllic Inland Escape While the Istrian coast is renowned for its stunning beaches, the heart of the region lies in its central green hills and charming medieval towns.

This is the agricultural heartland of Croatia, where ancient traditions and a slower pace of life have persisted for centuries.

Explore the picturesque hilltop towns, like Motovun and Grožnjan, and discover the local farms, vineyards, and olive groves that dot the landscape.

Indulge in the region’s culinary delights, from truffles and homemade pasta to award-winning wines and artisanal honey.

For an adrenaline-fueled adventure, try your hand at paragliding, mountain biking, or even exploring the underground Pazinska Jama canyon on a zipline.

The region’s well-maintained rail-to-trail networks also offer excellent hiking and cycling opportunities.

Above all, the true charm of Central Istria lies in the warmth and hospitality of the locals, who will eagerly welcome you into their homes and share the secrets of their ancient land.

6. Bol


Iconic Golden Horn Beach The town of Bol, on the island of Brač, is home to one of Croatia’s most iconic natural wonders: Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) Beach.

This unique, triangular promontory of powdery white sand is constantly shifting in shape due to the interplay of wind and sea, making each visit a unique experience.

Beyond the famous beach, Bol offers a wealth of natural beauty, from the lush cypress forests and hidden coves to the Vidova Gora peak, the highest point on the Croatian islands.

Visitors can also explore the nearby Blaca Hermitage, an ancient monastery hidden beneath the cliffs.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the stunning beaches, hike through the island’s scenic interior, or simply soak up the local atmosphere, Bol is a must-visit destination on any Croatia itinerary.

7. Krka National Park

Waterfalls and Monasteries Krka National Park is a true natural wonder, boasting a series of seven magnificent waterfalls that cascade along the Krka River.

While the famous Skradinski Buk waterfall is the park’s main draw, I encourage you to explore beyond the main tourist trails and discover the park’s other breathtaking waterfalls and historic sites.

Start your visit at the Ethno Village, where you can learn about traditional crafts and see a 19th-century stone watermill.

Then, hop on a boat to reach the Skradinski Buk waterfall, and continue upstream to explore the Roški slap waterfall and the serene Visovac Lake, home to a Franciscan monastery.

By venturing beyond the most popular spots, you’ll be rewarded with a more intimate and rewarding experience of this stunning natural paradise.

Whether you visit in summer or any other season, Krka National Park is sure to leave a lasting impression.

8. Velebit Mountains & National Park

Velebit Mountains & National Park

Croatia’s Wild Heart The Velebit Mountains and the surrounding Velebit Nature Park represent one of Croatia’s last great wildernesses, a place of rugged beauty and untamed natural splendor.

Covering an area of over 2,270 square kilometers, this is the country’s largest mountain range and a true haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Encompassing two national parks – Paklenica and Northern Velebit – the Velebit region offers a wealth of hiking trails, rock climbing routes, and opportunities for activities like rafting, canoeing, and mountain biking.

The diverse terrain, ranging from limestone peaks to dense forests, is home to a rich array of flora and fauna, including the endangered Eurasian brown bear and the golden eagle.

While the Velebit Mountains can be visited year-round, the winter months are best left to experienced adventurers with the proper equipment.

For a more accessible and comfortable introduction to this wild landscape, I recommend planning your visit for the spring or summer seasons.

9. Kopački Rit Park

Croatia’s European Amazon Often referred to as the “European Amazon,” Kopački Rit Nature Park is a vast, biodiverse wetland located near the eastern city of Osijek.

This sprawling network of lakes, canals, ponds, streams, and rivers is a true haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Covering an area of 177 square kilometers, with 80 square kilometers designated as a Special Zoological Reserve, Kopački Rit is home to over 2,000 species, including 140 different bird species that nest here each year.

Visitors can explore the park’s intricate network of waterways by boat, canoe, or on foot, taking in the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife.

While the park is a true natural wonder, it’s important to be prepared for your visit, as the changing water levels and abundance of insects can present some challenges. Be sure to pack plenty of bug spray and be mindful of the park’s ever-evolving conditions.

10. Lastovo Island

Lastovo Island

Croatia’s Remote Gem Lastovo Island, located far in the southern Adriatic Sea, is one of Croatia’s most remote and unspoiled destinations.

This 46-island archipelago is a true paradise for those seeking a peaceful, natural escape, with its rugged coastline, pristine waters, and charming small towns.

According to Greek mythology, Lastovo was known as Zeus’ island, and the island’s rich history is evident in its ancient Roman villas and unique cultural traditions, such as the vibrant Lastovo Carnival festival held each year.

Exploring the archipelago by boat is the best way to discover Lastovo’s hidden coves, secluded beaches, and diverse marine life.

When you’re not out on the water, be sure to indulge in the local delicacies, including the island’s famous spiny lobsters and the crisp, refreshing Maraština white wine.

11. Hrvatsko Zagorje Region

Croatia’s Green Heart The Hrvatsko Zagorje region in northern Croatia is a true idyll, offering visitors a glimpse into the country’s rural charm and rich cultural heritage.

This bucolic landscape of rolling hills, medieval castles, and charming villages is a delightful contrast to the coastal regions.

Explore the region’s Trakošćan Castle, a stunning Gothic-Renaissance fortress set against a backdrop of lush forests, or immerse yourself in the history of the Krapina Neanderthals at the excellent museum in Krapina.

In the town of Kumrovec, you can step back in time and experience life in a traditional Croatian village at the “Staro Selo” open-air museum.

Beyond the historic attractions, Hrvatsko Zagorje is also renowned for its excellent food and wine, as well as its abundance of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to horseback riding.

It’s the perfect destination for those seeking a glimpse into Croatia’s rural heart and a more authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience.

12. Zadar


A Coastal Gem with Ancient Allure Zadar, a city with a rich history and natural beauty, is a must-visit destination on Croatia’s Adriatic coast.

This ancient city blends its well-preserved medieval architecture, Roman ruins, and modern attractions to create a truly unique and captivating experience.

Stroll through Zadar’s charming Old Town, explore the impressive Cathedral of St. Anastasia and the cylindrical Church of St. Donatus, and marvel at the innovative Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun light installations.

Beyond the city limits, Zadar also serves as a fantastic base for exploring the nearby Telašćica, Vrana Lake, and Kornati National Park.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or the great outdoors, Zadar offers a well-rounded and enriching visit.

Don’t forget to catch one of the city’s famous sunsets, which have been praised by renowned filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

13. Šibenik

Croatia’s Oldest Native City Šibenik, the oldest native Croatian city on the Adriatic coast, is a hidden gem that often flies under the radar of many tourists.

This historic city is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Cathedral of St. Jacob and the Fortress of St. Nicholas, making it a must-visit destination for those interested in Croatia’s rich cultural heritage.

As you explore Šibenik’s charming Old Town, you’ll be struck by the city’s well-preserved medieval architecture and its strategic location, nestled within a large, protected bay where the Krka River meets the sea.

Use Šibenik as a base to visit the nearby Krka National Park and the stunning Kornati Islands, ensuring you get the most out of your time in this underrated coastal gem.

14. Cres Island

Cres Island

A Serene, Undiscovered Paradise Cres Island, located in the Kvarner region, is a true hidden gem that offers a peaceful and authentic Croatian experience.

With its rugged natural beauty, secluded beaches, and charming small towns, Cres is the perfect destination for those seeking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in the local way of life.

Explore the island’s diverse landscapes, from the freshwater Vrana Lake to the dramatic Blue Grotto sea cave and the picturesque St. John’s Beach (Sveti Ivan).

Discover the island’s unique wildlife, including the Griffon Vulture, and savor the local culinary specialties, such as the renowned Cres lamb and olive oil.

While Cres may not have the glitz and glamour of some of Croatia’s more famous islands, it more than makes up for it with its serene charm and authentic atmosphere.

Slow down, connect with nature, and experience the true essence of Croatian island life on Cres.

15. Varaždin

Croatia’s Baroque Gem Varaždin, located in northern Croatia, is a veritable gem of baroque architecture and history.

Serving as the country’s capital in the 18th century, the city has retained much of its regal charm and elegance, making it a must-visit destination for those interested in Croatia’s cultural heritage.

Explore the well-preserved Varaždin Fortress, which now houses the Varaždin City Museum, and marvel at the grand Croatian National Theater and the stunning Varaždin Cemetery, an outstanding example of park architecture.

As you wander the city’s charming streets, you’ll be struck by the abundance of baroque buildings and the overall sense of historical grandeur.

Beyond its architectural delights, Varaždin is also known for its vibrant cultural scene, hosting numerous events and festivals throughout the year.

With the city’s extensive network of bike paths, you can explore Varaždin’s landmarks and hidden gems on two wheels, like a true local.

16. Kornati Archipelago

Kornati Archipelago

A Sailor’s Paradise The Kornati Islands are a true sailor’s paradise, with over 140 islands and islets scattered across the crystal-clear waters of the central Adriatic.

Designated as a National Park, this stunning archipelago is a must-visit destination for those seeking unspoiled natural beauty and a sense of adventure.

Explore the islands by boat, discovering hidden coves, secluded beaches, and the ruins of ancient settlements that dot the landscape.

Marvel at the striking white limestone formations and the contrast of the karst seabed against the deep blue hues of the sea.

While many day-trippers from the mainland or nearby islands only visit a few of the most popular Kornati spots, I recommend renting your own boat or hiring a captain to fully immerse yourself in the archipelago’s serene and untouched charm.

By venturing beyond the main tourist trails, you’ll uncover the true essence of this maritime paradise.

17. Pag Island

A Lunar Landscape with Culinary Delights (continued) Venture beyond the island’s popular party scene and discover the historic town of Pag, with its well-preserved medieval architecture.

Explore the island’s rugged northern region, where you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of the wild olive groves that have persisted for over 2,000 years.

Pag’s unique geography and climate, shaped by the relentless Bura wind, the salt, and the abundant sunshine, have given rise to some of Croatia’s most renowned culinary specialties.

Be sure to sample the island’s famous sheep cheese and lamb, as well as the locally harvested salt, which has been produced here for centuries.

Whether you’re seeking sun-drenched beaches, historic charm, or a deep dive into traditional Croatian cuisine, Pag Island offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

18. Baranja Region

Croatia’s Overlooked Heartland While Croatia’s coastal regions often steal the spotlight, the Baranja region in the country’s northeast offers a glimpse into a more rural and overlooked side of the country.

This bucolic heartland, situated around the confluence of the Drava and Danube rivers, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

Explore the lush Kopački Rit wetlands, a vast and biodiverse natural wonder often referred to as the “European Amazon.” Venture into the charming city of Osijek, with its vibrant city squares, historic architecture, and thriving cultural scene.

Beyond the natural attractions, Baranja is also renowned for its excellent wine and culinary offerings, as well as its wealth of outdoor activities, from boating and canoeing to cycling and hiking.

This is a region where you can truly immerse yourself in the authentic Croatian way of life, away from the crowds and bustle of the coast.

19. Rovinj

Istria’s Picturesque Coastal Town Rovinj, located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, is a charming and picturesque coastal town that offers visitors a quintessential Adriatic experience.

With its well-preserved medieval core, scenic harbor, and stunning natural setting, Rovinj is a must-visit destination for those exploring the Istrian region.

Wander through the town’s narrow, winding streets, admiring the colorful houses and historic architecture.

Take a boat tour around the peninsula for a unique perspective on Rovinj’s coastal charm, or venture out into the surrounding Istrian countryside to discover the region’s renowned vineyards and olive groves.

Back in town, immerse yourself in Rovinj’s vibrant food, wine, and cultural scene, sampling the local specialties and soaking up the lively atmosphere.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a family-friendly vacation, or an active outdoor adventure, Rovinj has something to captivate every type of traveler.

20. Pelješac Peninsula

Croatia’s Multifaceted Marvel The Pelješac Peninsula is a true gem of Croatia, offering visitors a diverse array of experiences, from history and culture to outdoor adventures and world-class vineyards.

Situated in the southern Dalmatia region, Pelješac is a must-visit destination for those seeking to explore the country’s hidden treasures.

Discover the charming seaside town of Viganj, which offers panoramic views of the sparkling Adriatic and easy access to the peninsula’s renowned plavac mali vineyards.

Venture inland to explore the region’s medieval fortresses, picturesque villages, and opportunities for activities like hiking, biking, and even cave exploration.

No visit to Pelješac would be complete without indulging in the local culinary delights, from the freshest seafood to the award-winning wines that have put this region on the map.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a passionate foodie, the Pelješac Peninsula has something to captivate every type of traveler.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Croatia is a country that offers an extraordinary diversity of destinations, each with its own unique charm and allure.

From the natural wonders of Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park to the historic splendor of Dubrovnik and Zagreb, and from the remote beauty of Lastovo Island to the culinary delights of the Pelješac Peninsula, this guide has unveiled 20 of the most fantastic places to visit in Croatia.

Whether you’re planning a relaxing beach vacation, an adventure-filled exploration, or a cultural immersion, this comprehensive guide will help you uncover the hidden gems that make Croatia such a beloved destination for travelers from the USA and around the world.

So, start planning your Croatian adventure today, and get ready to be captivated by the country’s endless charms.

Leave a Comment