With thousands of miles of seafront and more than a thousand islands, Croatia's coastline is the Riviera of Slavic Europe. Holiday makers love its pebbly beaches, balmy summer weather, and dramatic mountains. But there's history here as well: From ruined Roman arenas and Byzantine mosaics to Venetian bell towers, Habsburg villas, and even Yugoslav concrete, past rulers have left their mark. Most travelers 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 One of Europe's most breathtaking natural wonders — a forested canyon filled with crystal-clear lakes, stunning waterfalls, and easy-to-hike boardwalks and trails.
▲▲▲ Dubrovnik Giant Old City of narrow lanes lined with stone houses, wrapped in some of Europe's best-preserved medieval fortifications — with a scenic wall walk, tons of crowds, great beaches, modest but engaging museums, a exciting 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, with excellent museums (the best feature Naive Art and broken relationships), lush parks, and a lively urban bustle.
▲▲ Istria Croatia's most Italian-feeling corner, with the romantic, Venetian-flavored coastal town of Rovinj; remarkable Roman ruins in the city of Pula; and a rolling interior of vineyards and picturesque hill towns (most notably Motovun). Nearby is the genteel Habsburg beach resort of Opatija.
▲▲ Split Unofficial capital city and transit hub of the Dalmatian Coast, with a port-city urbanity, people-filled seaside promenade, and lived-in warren of twisting lanes sprouting out of a massive Roman palace. Nearby is the sweet, sleepy town of Trogir, the Plitvice-like waterfalls of Krka National Park, and the likewise Roman-ruin-studded midsize city of Zadar.
▲▲ Hvar Ritzy island and Old Town known for its fishing-town heritage, stout overhead castle, jet-set cachet, high prices, lavender-draped interior, fine beaches, and easy escapes to nearby islets.
▲▲ Korčula Low-key, charmingly rustic, relatively affordable island and walled peninsular Old Town facing craggy mountains, giving it the feel of a mini-Dubrovnik.
▲ Near Dubrovnik Boat excursions from Dubrovnik's Old Port, art-packed resort village of Cavtat, Trsteno Arboretum, walled town of Ston, vineyard-draped Pelješac Peninsula, and national park on the island of Mljet.