K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Croatia is quickly becoming one of the world’s top tourist destinations. From ancient fortified cities to alluring islands, the scenery, history and culture are unbeatable. Of course, it’s also been in the spotlight in recent years as a filming location for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” This travel destination is an absolute paradise for nature lovers, foodies, romantics, and even families with kids. While you’re there, be sure to put some of these things to do on your list.
Fantasy comes to life at the naturally stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is often named among the world’s most stunning places with its magnificent waterfalls and interconnected lakes with crystal-clear waters in varying shades of emerald and turquoise. The water flows over the chalk and limestone as it has for thousands of years, creating barriers that result in natural dams forming the cascading falls, rivers and caves.
Paddling the coast of Croatia is an incredible experience, gliding across the brilliant blue waters. One of the best places for sea kayaking is in Kornati Islands National Park, home to nearly 150 islands, rugged cliffs, hidden coves, caves and pristine beaches. For the best experience join a tour with an outfitter like Go Explore Croatia. You can camp and spend your days kayaking to islands that were used by herders for some 2,000 years.
Small ship cruising has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. These more intimate vessels have the ability to sail to destinations around the world, including Croatia, one of the most beautiful places on the planet for a cruise. Unforgettable Croatia takes small groups of passengers for an intimate experience on sleek luxury vessels that can reach smaller ports that large ships just can’t reach, while the exceptional crew to passenger ratio provides a much more personalized experience. You can take an island-hopping cruise visiting famous isles like glamorous Hvar, unspoiled Vis and lush Mljet, as well as visit captivating medieval cities like Split and Dubrovnik.
Speaking of “Game of Thrones,” you might want to spend a few days in this city exploring all of them if you’re a fan of the series. Its medieval Old Town has been used extensively as Kings Landing since the second season. You’ll recognize lots of places you’ve seen on screen, like the walls used for the battle of Blackwater, for tournaments, walking shots and the market. The entrance to the Old Town referred to as Pile Gate, appears frequently in the first few seasons, and the Jesuit Steps have become some of the world’s most iconic as the place where Cersei took her “walk of shame.”
Zadar is one of the best places to visit in Croatia and has become especially famous for its pair of light installations, the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun located along the waterfront. The Sea Organ is a mysterious installation created by artist Nikola Bašić made up of 35 pipes fitted into the pavement, emitting unworldly noises with its tones and strength powered by the waves. The Greeting to the Sun is a 72-foot-wide representation of the solar system driven by the sun. At sunrise, its cells beneath the glass panels create enough electricity for it to illuminate. At sunset, the cells have enough power to light up the waterfront. The city also hosts a glorious historic center with 16th-century Venetian city walls and marble streets.
Wine enthusiasts won’t want to miss visiting the Pelješac Peninsula, the country’s primary wine region. There are many wineries and wine cellars that can be toured, all including tastings, of course. You might want to embark on a wine tour to visit several, which often include the opportunity to enjoy local cheeses, parma hams and olive oils along with the local-produced wines.
Korcula is best-known for being the alleged birthplace of Marco Polo, but it offers many delights that make it well worth a visit, including just wandering through the fortified Old Town, nicknamed “Little Dubrovnik” for its medieval architecture and walls. Visit the cathedral and the Marco Polo gallery, and also take time to explore its picturesque hamlets and charming fishing villages dotted along the coast. It also produces famous white wine, considered the crispest in Croatia, made from the posip grape.
The tiny island of Bisevo offers an experience that’s truly an out-of-this-world natural phenomenon. Only accessible by boat tour, leaving from Split or the nearby island of Vis, it’s hidden beneath the limestone rocks that form the island. As you clear the dark corridor, the marvel of the Blue Cave presents itself, leaving most awed with the many shades of blue and silvery sea bottom, which can only be experienced when conditions are just right, typically late morning through early afternoon.
Hvar Island is known for many things as one of the most popular of the Croatian islands, from its superyacht-filled harbor to its high-end hotels and fine dining restaurants, alluring Old Town and fragrant organic lavender fields, among others. Here visitors can watch lavender demonstrations and purchase all sorts of lavender products that make for ideal gifts or souvenirs of your time in the country.
Croatia’s second-largest city lies along the Dalmatian Coast with its historic core filled with stunning Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Split was birthed when Emperor Diocletian chose the spot to build his ultimate retirement destination. His walled palace was constructed to his exacting standards between over the late 3rd and early 4th century, with the maze-like complex more like a small city itself. It features marble walkways and buildings that house cafes, shops, bars, lively markets and chic apartments, built from the barracks where the emperor’s soldiers once lived.
Zlatni Rat peninsula on Brac island is home to Croatia’s most beautiful beach – a stretch also frequently named among the world’s most stunning. The “Golden Cape” as its often referred to, is made up of fine white pebbles, moving and changing shape depending on the winds and the currents.
Whitewater rafting is a popular activity for Croatian tourists, and one of the best places to get an adrenaline rush is the River Mreznica. It’s near Zagreb and relatively easy for beginners. Most rafting trips here take about four hours and pass by waterfalls. A couple of other great places for rafting are the Cetina River in Central Dalmatia and the River Dobra about 70 kilometers from Zagreb.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a big “boat person,” sailing along the coast of Croatia is a must. There are more than a thousand postcard-perfect islands here, and there is no way to see them unless you get out on the water. It’s easy to find a local charter company to take you out or rent a boat to you.
It just doesn’t make sense to visit Croatia without spending a good portion of your time at the beach! The Makarska Riviera is one of the best beach areas if you love hidden coves, white pebble sands, and turquoise blue waters. One of the other most popular beaches is Zlatni Rat Beach, which is on Brac Island and nice and sandy for sunbathing.
Olives have a long history in Croatian culture, so why not go on an olive oil-tasting tour while you’re here? The Belic Family produces olive oil in Istria under the brand, Oleum Viride. This is a great place to do a tasting because there are nearly a dozen different varieties to try.
Anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to go through a breakup will get a kick out of visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships. This museum grew from a traveling exhibition that featured objects left behind after lovers parted ways. Today it’s located in Zagreb in the baroque Kulmer palace and takes visitors on an emotional journey with every exhibit. Exhibits here feature everything from wedding dresses to glass figurines, cell phones, and fuzzy handcuffs.