Best time to visit Croatia

Now that you finally decided to visit Croatia, you must ask yourself when is the best time to visit Croatia? In this post, we will share information and our thoughts on the best time to go to Croatia based on weather, costs, crowds, and more.

Best time to visit Croatia, Illustration

Before I tell you the best time to visit Croatia, I am gonna tell you the worst time to visit. It’s easier to pinpoint bad times because they are fewer and because they apply to everybody traveling to Croatia.

The worst time to visit Croatia is wintertime, from November through February, and the peak travel time from the last week of July to mid-August. These two periods are the worst time to visit but for all the different reasons.

Winter because it’s cold and rainy, the majority of activities, restaurants, bars, and commerces are closed, and there is almost nobody to see around. On the other hand, in peak time, the days are too hot, there are too many people around, and while all businesses are open, the prices are sky-high.

All other times are good times for your Croatian trip. And when to visit Croatia depends a lot on your personal preferences and situation. If you travel with school-age children, you will perhaps only be able to come during the school holidays.

When is the best time to visit Croatia?

If you are completely flexible, then the best times to visit Croatia are June and September. September is the single best month to visit Croatia.

Croatia seasons

You'll notice three distinctive seasons in Croatia.  A low season in Croatia is from November through April. A shoulder-season includes a period from May to mid-June, and from mid-September through October, while a high season runs from mid-June to mid-September.

A majority of tourists visit Croatia during the high season. The peak travel time lasts three weeks including the last week of July and the two first weeks of August. This is, along with the low season, the worst time to visit Croatia.

Low season – November through April

Rovinj buildings boarded up for winter
Streets of Rovinj in winter | Photo credit: Baloncici via Depositphotos

Visiting Croatia over the winter, from November to April? No worries, below we explain what you can expect regarding the weather, activities, prices, and more.

But, before we go in detail, let me tell you something (shhh!). I would never recommend you to visit Croatia from November to March.

In a low or winter season, Croatia goes very quiet. Many hotels, restaurants, and activities are closed for business. Beaches are completely empty and unattended. Coastal towns, bustled with people and life during the summer, go dead in winter. The daylight is also extremely short. In winter it already gets dark around 4.30 pm.

We live in a small coastal town, and believe us when we say, when we go for a walk after dinner (6 pm) we can count on the fingers of one hand the people we will eventually pass by.

Before moving here I have many misconceptions about Croatia, and the climate was just one of them. I imagined climate in Croatia like in Costa Blanca or cote d’Azur. Unfortunately, while similar in some ways, it’s not the same. Zagreb gets really cold, foggy and humid. It can also snow. Istria gets lots of gray rainy days. Weather-wise, Dalmatia it's the best area of Croatia to visit in the low season. However, Dalmatia can also get very cold, especially when the northeast wind bura blows. It brings bright sunny but cold days.

If this is the only time you have available, then you better make it the best time to travel to Croatia for you. And our tips below will help you to do so! Visiting Croatia in winter has its charm and advantages.

Tips for visiting Croatia in the low season?

Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Rovinj, and Dubrovnik are good places in Croatia to base yourself during the wintertime. Although to be honest, only Zagreb is really buzzing in winter. The other four destinations are ok because they have enough attractions to explore; they are centrally located to make day trips; they have a good choice of hotels open in winter and enough restaurants where you can have a good lunch or diner.

Have a car! A car gives you so much flexibility to go where you want and when you want. Besides, the cost of car rental is so low in winter. This way you can do many day trips and visit many beautiful places in Croatia.

You will be able to capture some awesome photos since your photo shooting won't be disrupted by other people walking by.

Benefit from the amazing discounts that hotels offer during the low season. You can stay in a 5star hotel for as little as 100€ a night for two persons with breakfast included. The same room will cost you at least 350€ in the high season. And you can even pay less if:

  • you travel during the working week (Mon-Fri)
  • you book your stay in advance, and
  • and if you stay longer in one hotel (at this time of the year, a stay of 3 to 4-nights is considered long stay)

If you prefer to stay in apartments, just contact the owners and negotiate the price down. The demand is very low in winter and you should normally be able to get yourself a great deal.

Take some downtime with spa and wellness promotions that hotels also run during the winter. That room rate mentioned above sometimes also includes a 30-minute neck and shoulder massage. Try to beat that!

Events in low season

There are a couple of events taking place in the low season that you might want to take note of.

Olive Oil Fair in Vodnjan, takes place in early November. It is a celebration and a showcase of the young olive oils of that year’s harvest. Harvest in Istria is really early, in late September or early October,
so in November the young oil is ready to be consumed. You can sample oils from various local producers as well as other local and homemade products like fig cakes, prosciutto, honey, cheese, wines, grappa, and alike.

Advent in Zagreb is an annual event taking place in Zagreb from the end of November until the 7th of January. The entire town turns into a Christmas fairytale with tons of fun, concerts, workshops, exciting street food, mulled wine, craft beers, and Christmas markets.

Rijeka Carnival is the best and most popular carnival in Croatia. It takes place in February.

In February, you can also partake in St. Blaise Festivities taking place in Dubrovnik.

Final thoughts on visiting Croatia in winter

Winter is definitely not the best time of the year to visit Croatia. But, it is ok if you would like to experience Advent in Zagreb (it's only at Christmas time!) 0r if you have no other choice, but to visit in winter. Hey, you might even get lucky, and if it snows, you can go skiing on Sljeme Mount near Zagreb, or Platak near Rijeka.

If you have no choice but to visit Croatia in winter, then December is the best month to visit Croatia. At least all towns have Christmas markets and something going on.

Also, before we forget, Plitvice Lakes are beautiful in winter. Yes, they are not completely accessible due to the high levels of water, but you will have peace and quiet. You won't need to battle your way in this amazing park through groups of other people and their selfie sticks.

Winter can be the best time to travel to Croatia for foodies. Restaurants are at their best at this time of the year. Fish and seafood are in abundance. In early August, at the heart of high season in Croatia, many fish species in Adriatic can't be fished. Shhh, we have never told you this!

Shoulder season – May to mid-June, mid-September through October

Stradun in Dubrovnik, people
Dubrovnik isn't so crowded in shoulder season like in high season | Photo credit: Zoooom via Depositphotos

Shoulder season, from May to mid-June, and from mid-September through October, is the best time of year to go to Croatia. Especially if you do so in late September or early June.

All activities, restaurants, and hotels are already open and receiving guests. The weather is generally ok although it can be unpredictable at times especially through May and late October. You can expect the temperatures in low to mid 20C, with nights a bit chiller.

Beaches are attended, clean and neat, already receiving some swimmers, although not too many. You will have all space you need for yourself on the beach. The sea temperature still isn’t optimal for swimming. However, early June and late September can be ok. At least, it is for us. We always swim late into September.

Since it isn’t too hot nor too rainy, it’s a perfect time in Croatia for sightseeing.

The rates are more expensive than in winter, but they are still super-discounted if compared with summer. So you can still secure great holiday deals on accommodation in Croatia.

Shoulder season is the best time to visit Croatia for foodies. There are so many awesome food and wine events taking place throughout the country at this time of year.

Tips for visiting Croatia in the shoulder season

Whether you prefer small coastal villages for your base, changing destinations every day, or staying in big towns, all the itineraries will work fine. All businesses are open and running. You will already see a fair share of tourists all over the country.

Since the weather in May and late October can be unreliable and temperatures can suddenly drop, pack a wind jacket, long sleeves t-shirt, and long pants.

It's great to have a car during your visit in the shoulder season. Weather is perfect for day trips. Driving is easy and the traffic on Croatian roads is still low at this time of the year.

Also, you can take advantage of coach tours if you are not comfortable driving.

We also recommend that you add at least one island to your shoulder season itinerary. At this time of the year, almost all ferry lines are operational, and the prices are still not as high as in the high season.

Germans are the number one visitors in Croatia. This is why many hotels adjust their rates to the German school holidays. Anyways, Germans have main school holidays between the Whitsunday and Corpus Christi weekend. They are sometimes in May and sometimes in June, depending on the time of Easter. If these holidays are in May, then hotels will run special deals for stays in June. If these holidays are in June, then you can expect to secure a good discount in May. If you are flexible, it's good to shop around.

The same is true for the 1st of May. Hotels always get full on the weekend or a week around the 1st of May. So if you are trying to save, avoid traveling on the 1st of May.

Hotel rates also drop significantly in mid-September. You can find a nice seafront apartment for as little as 40 € a day in mid-September and October.

Events in the shoulder season

Another great reason to visit Croatia in the shoulder season is an abundance of all kinds of food events and festivals. Below we list just some of them to give you an idea of what to expect.

Zagreb Beer Fest takes place at the end of May in the center of town, in the park, at the Trg Franje Tudmana Square. Lots of live concerts, good music throughout, a great choice of Croatian beer, free admission, and a nice vibe make Zagreb Beer Fest one of the most sought after beer events in the country.

The last Sunday in May in Istria is reserved for the Open Cellars Day. Participating wineries open their cellars for free wine tasting.

If you are visiting Croatia in fall you will like to know that white truffles, the most precious and most expensive fragrant fungi are in season from late September to January. If you like this rare delicacy, head to Istria during your time in Croatia.

Good Food Festival in Dubrovnik takes place at the end of October. You can taste traditional Croatian food,  participate in a culinary tour, or learn to prepare some of Dubrovnik delicacies. The highlight of the festival is continuous food stands that spread the entire length of Stradun, Dubrovnik's main pedestrian street in the old town.

Final thoughts on visiting Croatia in late spring and early fall

The shoulder season is the best time to go to Croatia. If you are flexible with your travel dates, then try to visit Croatia in the second half of September, or early June.

You can visit all landmarks, even the most popular destinations, without running into too many people. Sure, in Dubrovnik or Split, even in the shoulder season, you will still see lots of cruise ship passengers. However, there will be fewer of other visitors, making the overall number of tourists much more acceptable.

Also, the weather plays a big part in making the shoulder season the best time of year to visit Croatia. When it is very hot like it gets in July and August, then it is as uncomfortable to do sightseeing as it is when it's raining or snowing. But in the shoulder season, temperatures are just perfect for sightseeing and exploring Croatia.

If you decide to go to the beach you won't need to fight for your space at the beach. Or, God forbid, wake up at 5 am to secure your beach spot with a towel. No, this you will do in summer (just kidding! NOT).

High season: mid-June to mid-September

People swimming in Komarna
Beaches in Croatia are full of people in summer

A majority of tourists visit Croatia during the high season. The high season lasts from mid-June to mid-September. And the peak travel time is from the last week of July until mid-August. The high season is one of the best times to visit Croatia, as long as you avoid these three peak weeks.

At this time, Croatia is in full swing. All activities, restaurants, hotels, and day tours are running.

It is the best time to go to Croatia for the beaches. The weather is hot and sunny. You can expect temperatures in high 20C to mid 30C. The sea is warm and perfect for swimming. The sea temperatures are around 24C.

The high season is also a great time for Croatia if you look for partying, clubbing, and music festivals. There are many festivals taking place all along the Adriatic coast and Zagreb at this time of year.

So, in short, the high season is the best time to travel to Croatia if you are interested in beaches, partying, and in hot weather.

But, the high season also has its downsides.

Prices are sky high! Expect to pay at least 90€ per day for two-person accommodation. And this is on a budget end. If you stay in a 4star hotel, you'll pay around 220 € for a double room with breakfast, and that same room in a 5star hotel will set you back at least 350 € a night.

There are people everywhere and queuing is a common sight. Even more so in top destinations like Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar Town, Rovinj, Porec, etc.. And on a rainy day, when everybody goes sightseeing instead of lounging at the beach, the traffic congestions are unbearable.

Access to the main attractions gets completely blocked. And to find parking is a real adventure.

We live in a small village 3 km away from Porec. But can you believe that in July and August we don’t even go to the town? Because there are so many people and cars everywhere that we don’t even want to bother going there. It is that bad!

The most popular beaches in Croatia, you know those that you saw on all promotional material for Croatia, are jam-packed. People wake up like at 5 am and then go to the beach to put their towels. These people are the worst! (If you are one of them, please stop doing it!). In some beach towns, the municipality even started removing and confiscating those towels.

Tips for visiting Croatia in the high season

If you are planning to visit Croatia in high season, we recommend that you try to avoid the peak three weeks of the high season: last week of July and two first weeks of August.

If you come in late June to mid-July or late August to mid-September, you might get the best of both seasons, shoulder, and high season. There are still lots of tourists around, but less than in the peak period. The weather is still hot, but a little bit less burning hot than in peak times. And the sea is warm and perfect for swimming.

In Croatia, July and August are extremely hot. Make sunscreen, hat, and a bottle of water your permanent daypack items.

If you plan to swim in Croatia, pack water shoes. You’ll walk easier on Croatian pebbly and rocky beaches.

You know those popular beaches you've seen all over Instagram. Yeah, forget them in high season. Instead, ask locals for their favorite beach (not the most beautiful beach, everybody and their mother is already there!). This way you might end at less crowded beaches and enjoy your time there much more.

Or, rent a boat and make your way to some of small islands and islets within an easy reach from your destination. In Croatia, islets are a common sight.

Beat the crowds and the heat by waking up early.  Try to do all your sightseeing as early in the morning as possible. This usually means until 9 am for must-do sights, and before 10.00 am for other sights.

Events in the high season

The high season is full of events and festivals. We have a separate post on Best festivals in Croatia if you want to read that. Here we shortlist just some of them to give you an idea.

INmusic Festival is Croatia’s largest open-air festival. It takes place in Zagreb, at the Lake Jarun, in late June already for the 15 years. Previous lineups included Massive Attack, Florence + The Machine, Jamiroquai, Franz Ferdinand, and many more. Since 2107, NME lists InMusic one of the world's best festivals.

Fresh Island Festival takes place yearly for a week in the first half of July, on Pag, Croatia's popular party island. The exact location of this hip hop festival is Novalja Beach, and Rock's Beach Club, Papaya, Aquarius, and Kalypso clubs. The previous lineups included Snoop Dogg, Iggy Azalea, Wiz Khalifa, French Montana, Chris Brown, and many more.

Outlook Origins takes place at the end of July, beginning of August. Relocated for 2021 from Fort Monte Christo and Pula Arena to Garden Tisno and St Michael’s Fortress in Sibenik, the Outlook festival brings the best dubstep, reggae, jungle, and drum & bass lineup. The festival's renowned opening festival included names like Bonobo, Jurassic 5, The Gentleman’s Dub Club, Grandmaster Flash, etc..

Ultra Europe takes place in Split at the beginning of July. It is the biggest and the most visited summer music festival in Croatia. Stadium Park Mladezi plays the main stage for three days, but there are many pre- and after-parties on popular Croatian islands. The previous lineups included Armin van Buuren, DJ Snake, Tiësto, Carl Cox, Dubfire, Afrojack and many more.

There are many more festivals in Croatia taking place during the high season, like Hideout, Love International, SunceBeat, Dimensions, etc..

We hope this post help you get a better idea about the best times to visit Croatia! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below.

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