Sunny beaches, succulent seafood, and a taste of la dolce vita...in Eastern Europe? With thousands of miles of seafront and more than a thousand islands, Croatia’s coastline is Eastern Europe’s Riviera. Holiday-makers love its pebbly beaches, predictably balmy summer weather, and dramatic mountains. But there’s history here as well, and past rules have left their mark: from ruined Roman arenas and Byzantine mosaics to Venetian bell towers, Habsburg villas, and even communist concrete. Most people flock to the Dalmatian Coast, where dramatic cliffs rise from the deep and islands are scattered just offshore. But savvy travelers make time for more: the Venetian-flavored Kvarner Gulf and Istrian Peninsula, the stunning waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, and Zagreb, the nation’s engaging capital.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Plitvice Lakes National Park Arguably Europe’s most breathtaking natural wonder: a forested canyon filled with crystal-clear lakes, stunning waterfalls, and easy-to-hike boardwalks and trails.
▲▲▲ Dubrovnik The “Pearl of the Adriatic”: a giant walled Old Town with a scenic wall walk, tons of crowds, great beaches, modest but engaging museums, a stunning mountaintop viewpoint, an epic past and difficult but inspiring recent history, and a well-earned reputation as Croatia’s single best destination.
▲▲ Zagreb Croatia’s underrated capital city, with interesting museums (the best feature Naive Art and Broken Relationships), lush parks, and a lively urban bustle, plus the nearby town of Samobor.
▲▲ Istria Croatia’s most Italian-feeling corner, with the super-romantic, Venetian-flavored coastal town of Rovinj; top Roman ruins in the city of Pula; and a rolling interior of vineyards and picturesque hill towns (including Motovun). Nearby are the genteel Habsburg resort of Opatija and the port city of Rijeka.
▲▲ Split Unofficial capital city and transit hub of the Dalmatian Coast, with a bustling urban vibe, people-filled seaside promenade, and lived-in warren of twisting lanes sprouting out of a massive Roman palace, plus the nearby town of Trogir.
▲▲ Hvar Ritzy island and Old Town known for its jet-set appeal, high prices, rugged interior, seductively relaxing beaches, and easy escapes to nearby islets.
▲▲ Korčula Low-key island and walled peninsular Old Town with a fjord-like backdrop, a lush islandscape, fish-skeleton street plan, and quirky offbeat museums.
Near Dubrovnik Boat excursions from Dubrovnik’s Old Port, the art-packed resort village of Cavtat, the nearby Trsteno Arboretum, the walled town of Ston, the vineyard-draped Pelješac Peninsula, and the giant national park at Mljet Island.