Croatia’s got so many great things to see that it’s a tough task to pick a top ten and when we discussed our top ten list amongst the team members here everyone had a slightly different list but here’s the result of our narrowing it down to this final selection of the JayWay Top 10 Croatia attractions. There’s plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites among them too.
Instead of putting them in an order of must-see-ness we’ve decided to go South to North, as this is often how we plan our guests’ trips for them.
We start our hit parade in the far south of the country, with Dubrovnik and finish up north of Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia.
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1. Dubrovnik City Walls
Dubrovnik‘s magnificent stone wall surrounds its historic Old Town. While it’s a joy to admire from afar, such as from the top of Mount Srd’ (take the cable car to the top from just outside the Old Town) or perhaps from your hotel or apartment balcony, you can get up close and personal with the wall in a couple of different ways. The simplest is to take a walk along the top of the wall and the full uninterrupted length of it is an impressive 1940 meters. For a somewhat different view of the walls you could take a sea-kayak out and go all the way around the seaward part of the walls.
Video: Sea Kayaking From Dubrovnik to Lokrum Island…
Often referred to as ‘Little Dubrovnik’, Marco Polo’s hometown is one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of the Mediterranean with red roofed houses, beautiful architecture and city walls surrounding its narrow streets. But Korcula‘s not just an Old Town, the island itself is one of the greenest in the Adriatic and around its coast you’ll find a variety of pebble, rock and even sandy beaches to enjoy.
Video: Korcula Island Private Tour…
With traces of its Roman past still visible, Vis is a place with a substantial history. As the furthest-out Croatian island it has long played an important part in military plans, as you can experience on our Top Secret Military Tour. More into wine? Not a problem, there’s a millennia old tradition of wine-making here too and those abandoned military tunnels have been put to good use by several vineyards, as cellars. Tourism is less developed here than on nearby Hvar and we hope it keeps its charms just as they are now.
Hvar is an island of contrasts. There’s the main harbor in Hvar town, packed with millionaires yachts, lined with clubs, bars and restaurants, then just round the coast or inland a few hundred yards and you wouldn’t know about it. Climb up to the Spanish Fortress above the town to get great views out over the intriguingly shaped Pakleni archipelago. Experience the true taste of Hvar on the Off Road tour we offer, which gives you the chance to try the local wine, visit olive groves and vineyards and meet some real locals.
Video: Hvar Off-Road Tour…
5. Diocletian’s Palace, Split
Split is Croatia’s second largest city and quite industrial once you’re away from the Old Town area, which is where we recommend staying in Split. Diocletian’s Palace, built in the 4th Century AD, forms the bulk of the Old Town, with its exterior and interior walls still providing part of the structure for many buildings. A walking tour of Split’s old town is a must for any fans of Roman history and Split itself is a good stop on any tour of Croatia, if nightlife is your thing.
Ever wanted to spend a night in a museum? Now you can – the city-museum of Trogir. Its pedestrianised walled old town, on a bit of land connected to the mainland by a short road bridge, dates back over 2,300 years. A little quieter than Split, we often recommend Trogir over its near neighbour for its small-town charm. Packed with lovely atmospheric little restaurants, its narrow alleyways are fun to get lost in.
Need more help deciding whether to stay in Split or Trogir?
Zadar is another Croatian coastal city with a significant Roman past. Walled cities on land jutting out into the sea seem to have been all the rage in these parts and Zadar mixes this historical feel with such interesting modern art installations as the Greeting to the Sun and the Sea Organ. If that’s not enough, maybe gazing upon what Hitchcock described as the most beautiful sunset in the world will tip the scales.
8. Plitvice Lakes
Guidebook writer Rick Steves described the Plitvice Lakes National Park as “Niagara Falls diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon”. We just think it’s spectacular and well worth a day and maybe even an overnight stop, to make the most of it. The park is highlighted by a series of 16 lakes with unique and distinctive colors ranging from azure, turquoise, green, blue and gray. It is 200 miles in total area and a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.
9. Pula Arena
While the town of Pula itself is not worth staying in, the Roman era amphitheatre, which looks almost like someone has deliberately arranged it as a cross-section of an amphitheatre to how it was built, is absolutely worth your time. If you’re staying in an apartment in nearby Rovinj (a much lovelier town about half an hour away) and feel like cooking up a seafood storm for yourself, get to Pula early, park near the amphitheatre then walk into the center and go to the market first – it’s much cheaper than the market in Rovinj and you’ll find some excellent fish and seafood for sale in the refrigerated indoor part.
10. Trakoscan and Varazdin
If you’re staying in Zagreb for a couple of days then a day trip out to see the fairy-tale pretty Trakoscan Castle and the nearby town of Varazdin is not to be missed. One of the best preserved castles in Europe, there has been a castle here since the 13th century. Originally built in the Romanesque style, its current look dates from a mid 19th century renovation in Neo-Gothic style, when its purpose as part of Croatia’s fortifications ceased. A dam was built and the valley turned into a lake, forming part of a large English style park. Nearby Varazdin is often referred to as ‘Little Vienna’ because of the Baroque architecture which dates from its time as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and provides quite a contrast, if you’ve spent time in the south of the country already.
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Charlie is head of marketing at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and of course, travel.