How to choose your destination in Croatia | Croatia Travel Tips

Top 7 Tips To Help You Choose Your Destination in Croatia

In this post, we will show you how to choose your destination in Croatia. If you have already decided to visit Croatia but you aren't sure what place in Croatia is right for you, kick back and relax. These simple steps will help you to narrow down your choices and ensure that you have the best travel experience in Croatia.

How to choose your destination in Croatia, Illustration

How to choose your destination in Croatia | Croatia Travel Tips

You've probably heard about Croatia either from friends who have already visited or from a guy next door who's going this year. Or from an eye-catching commercial on your local TV. Anyways, now you are determined you want to visit Croatia too.  And you start planning your travel to Croatia. But, travel planning isn't always easy.

7 tips to help you choose your destination in Croatia

You first start reading about the country, and you feel an absolute excitement (vacation planning is in a way as exciting as vacation itself). Then you get an influx of information, some reliable others not, and you feel overwhelmed, lost, and tired. In the end, there are so many places you’d like to see and experience and so little time.

Here is our checklist that will help you to choose your destination in Croatia!

Get to know Croatia

We rent a villa in Istria and we can’t even count how many times the renters would contact us saying that they would love to use our villa as a base to visit Dubrovnik and Hvar. Our house is over 700 km away from Dubrovnik. So, we don’t think so!

With a surface of 56.594 km2, Croatia is the size of Iowa or the State of New York. It is almost 5 times smaller than the UK. But this doesn’t mean that you can just hop from one place to another in a matter of a few hours.

Before you decide on your destination in Croatia, get yourself familiar with the country.

To help you do just that, start with these articles:

How long do you plan to stay in Croatia?

You obviously cannot visit as many places in Croatia on a weekend as you can in two-weeks. I know that you’d like to see as much as possible, but you cannot see the entire country and its highlights over the weekend. Even if Croatia is a relatively small country.

For a weekend break, just choose one destination and stick to it. No need to be jumping around like crazy just so you can say you’ve been here and there. Or just to simply check the things off your list. Stay in one place (make sure it’s an awesome place!) and get to know it well. Opatija, Rovinj, Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb are all great places for a weekend break in Croatia.

If you plan to stay in Croatia just a bit longer, for up to one week, decide on a centrally located destination in Croatia. This can be your base to explore the surrounding area. I know you’d like to see so many places, but spending your week in Croatia on a bus, or in a car, isn’t going to cut it.

Focus on a smaller area, and enjoy exploring it. Below are suggested places for each region of Croatia.

Stay in PorecRovinj, or Pula if you would like to explore IstriaWe rent a nice villa in Porec, you might want to check it out. 

Zadar is a great choice for those who would like to explore both coastal and continental Croatia. It's less than three hours from Zagreb, two hours from Plitvice Lakes, just minutes away from Velebit and Paklenica National Park, and a short boat ride from Kornati Islands.

Split is a great base to explore the highlights of Dalmatia: islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis, and Solta, the coastal towns Trogir, Sibenik, Omis, and Makarska, or natural sights like Biokovo mountain and Krka National Park.

Southern Dalmatia is best explored from small villages along Dubrovnik Riviera, like for example Komarna. Komarna is a small village located 70 km north of Dubrovnik. It's a perfect place for day trips to Dubrovnik, Peljesac peninsula, islands of Korcula, and Mljet, and even some awesome sights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, like Mostar, or Kravica Waterfalls. Vera's parents rent nice seafront apartments in Komarna.

If you plan to stay at least one week or longer, you can travel from north to south, stay at various destinations, and explore the broader area. The most popular tour includes a visit to Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Split, the island of Hvar, and Dubrovnik. You can check this interesting tour provided by the G Adventures.  They also have a similar 12 days tour that also includes a visit to neighboring Bosnia & Herzegovina (Sarajevo & Mostar), and Montenegro (Kotor).

How do you travel?

How do you plan to travel around Croatia? Your mode of transportation, to a certain extent, will influence your decision on a destination in Croatia.

Traveling by car is definitely the fastest way to travel around Croatia. So, yes, if you cannot stay still and you just love to see as much as possible no matter how short your visit to Croatia is, consider traveling by car.

Bus connectivity in Croatia is very good (with the exemption of Istria and the islands). Exploring Istria on a bus can be a bit of a hustle. If you still plan to do it, you’ll probably want to stay near the center of a town, preferably in Pula. Island hopping by bus is a joke (it can be done if you are traveling slowly, really slowly). If you still want to do it, then choose a town that is an island's main ferry port to put all chances on your side.

Unlike the rest of Europe, train connectivity in Croatia is limited. Only a few destinations can be reached by train (Split, Rijeka, Zagreb, Zadar, …). Your destination choice will be determined by train connectivity. Don’t forget that trains are slow in Croatia. and also completely unreliable.

In short, if you travel by car you will have flexibility and speed, so you can really go wherever you go. If you decide to travel by bus, then we suggest you visit Zagreb and/or Dalmatia. If you travel by train (although we don't understand why would you want to do that?!), Split, Rijeka, or Zagreb would be your destination of choice.

What are your interests?

This is maybe the most important factor to consider when you choose your destination in Croatia. What kind of holidays are you looking for?

Do you enjoy the cities or the countryside? Are you an adventure traveler in search of adrenaline-filled activities or you just want to relax by the beach. Are you into culture and history, good food and wine, or you want to avoid crowds and find a place away from it all? Answering this question will narrow a lot your choice of destinations in Croatia.

If you like adventure, you’ll probably choose Zadar for its proximity to the Paklenica National Park, Split or Omis.

If you like to party the island Murter, Pag or Hvar will be right up your alley.

For foodies, Istria will be an obvious choice.

If you enjoy cities, then Split, or Zagreb will keep you happy.

What's your budget?

We have to come to your travel budget. Maybe you would like to stay in Dubrovnik for a week, in a 5-star hotel overlooking the old town, and eat out every night. This might be your dream vacation, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you’ll probably have to adjust. You’ll get an apartment rental out of the old town instead. You’ll shop at the local market, and cook your own meals. Or you’ll choose another destination altogether.

And although you can pretty much visit any destination in Croatia on any budget, the budget does matter. Simply put – the more popular a destination is, the more expensive it is.

Here are a few examples of this rule:

  • Admission to the Risnjak National Park in August is a 45 Kn per person for a 2-day ticket, a one-day entrance ticket to Plitvice National Park costs 300 Kn per person.
  • You’ll pay a half-board for two in any hotel in Rovinj at least 20% more than in Porec.
  • A simple burger in Hvat Town will cost you 90 Kn, the same burger in Jelsa you'll pay 35 Kn.
  • A beer in Dubrovnik Old town will set you back 40 Kn when the same beer in Pula you'll pay 25 Kn.

We’ve written a post on how much money you’ll need in Croatia.

Time of travel – off-season vs. high season

Croatia is small. The towns and villages along the cost go very quiet during the winter (January and February being the quietest months). Restaurants close down, shops are empty, locals go skiing to the neighboring countries, or simply stay in their houses.

Town’s bustling streets you experience in summer, are deserted during the winter, and you only encounter stray cats. Unless you are really looking into a peaceful (too peaceful, we might add) retreat, you’ll probably avoid Croatian small coastal towns during the winter (and islands even more).

But Split, although quieter than during the summer, is still very much alive. Zagreb too. On the positive side, everything is cheaper (especially accommodation). So you might trade activities for cheaper vacation, and fewer crowds (no lines, people!).

What's your travel style?

Are you traveling solo, as a family with kids, or a couple? This is very important when it comes to choosing your destination in Croatia (and maybe even more when you choose your accommodation in Croatia). If I was traveling solo, I would like to stay in bigger towns where I can easily meet fellow travelers, or where locals are more open-minded and easier to make contact. This is just me. You might be totally different, and take solo travel as a self-discovery. Thus, searching for a totally remote place with very few people.

As a family with kids, maybe you dream of visiting historical and cultural sites all day long, but we know that your kids won’t be happy. You’ll be looking into destinations that have a balance between the two. Porec, for example, can be a great choice for family holidays.

Check our post on the best destinations in Croatia for couples.

What does affect your decision the most when choosing your destination in Croatia? Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below.

19 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Can you go from Split to Dubrovnik (roundtrip) in one day and really enjoy Dubrovnik? If so what’s the best way to get there? Rent a car? Ferry? Do you need a tour guide?

    Reply
  2. victoria may
    victoria may says:

    Hello, I love your information. I will be visiting Croatia in early May, 2019 with a friend. We plan to fly from Rome to Dubrovnik, rent a car and see what happens!! Is it possible to rent a car in Dubrovnik and return it in Zagreb? And, is it a reasonable idea to travel from Zagreb to Venice, Italy by bus? Other ideas, especially about Zabreb to Venice are appreciated.
    Vicki

    Reply
  3. Simran Tantia
    Simran Tantia says:

    Hi Frank! Great post. I will be travelling to Croatia in mid may for about 7-8 days. Would love it if I could get your help in planning an itinerary, specially choosing the cities since there are so many options. I will be travelling with my friends and am looking for a party trip along with a couple of quiet or scenic places to squeeze in between. Let me know if you can help!

    Reply
  4. Pallavi Singh
    Pallavi Singh says:

    Hi Frank
    We are a couple in our 50’s and plan to visit Croatia and Slovenia for a week at the end of Oct. Can you suggest places we could visit ?We dont want to rush around too much, preferring to do one city in each country. We dont want a beach holiday, and we enjoy exploring the city, cafes , stopping for a drink here and there and the odd shopping ( something to take back as souvenirs, no brands). We will be flying in from New Delhi.
    Thanks,
    Pallavi

    Reply
  5. Vivienne Doyle
    Vivienne Doyle says:

    Hi I’m planning our 1st trip to Croatia, 2 adults & a 16yr & 11yr, was thinking of flying into Dubrovnik for a few days then traveling by bus up to Split & Zadar where we can fly home from, we are fairly active & would like to see some islands & maybe kayak hike cycle, we have 10/12 days , any advice would be welcome, thanks in advance

    Reply
  6. Neema
    Neema says:

    Hi Frank, Am planning to do a female solo road trip in Croatia from sept 20th-sept 30th and I have put this as my travel plans – any thoughts on if this is workable or too much? I will rent a car and drive through –

    Land Wednesday Sept 20th in Zagreb – rent a car from thursday
    Thursday 21st
    Zagreb – 1 day – Thursday the whole day-
    Friday –
    Leave for Zadar – spend a night – 2 nights
    Day trip to either Pag Town?
    Sunday –
    Leave early morning for Split – Spend the day in Split
    Monday –
    Day trip to Hvar from Split
    Tuesday –
    Leave for Dubrovnik –
    Dubronvik – 4 days – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday
    Thursday – Day trip to either Mostar – bosnia, Gulf of Kotor
    Saturday morning fly to London

    Thank you
    Neema

    Reply
  7. Yulia
    Yulia says:

    Hi Frank!
    What would be a best spot to go for camping, somewhere near the sea and a national park?
    Thank you for your tips!

    Reply
  8. Karen Cunningham
    Karen Cunningham says:

    Hi Frank,
    Thanks for the tips! I am planning a 5 week holiday in Croatia for this September and every little bit of advice helps. I like to plan my trip to see a lot of a little instead of a little bit of a lot of places. Croatia has so many beautiful places to see, it makes it hard to choose! I feel 5 weeks is plenty of time to hit the highlights and spend some time living like a local as well. This is my plan so far: fly into Zagreb 3 nights, hire car drive to Lake Bled 4 nights visit caves, Ljubljana 3, Rovinj 4 and do day trips to Pulla & Motovun, Plitvice Lakes 2, Zadar 2 and Split 2 or stay 4 at one of them and do a day visit perhaps by ferry? Gradac 5 and day trip to Mostar and Peljesac wine region, Dubrovnik 3 and finish up in Bol on the island of Brac for about 5 days before getting a ferry from Split to Ancona. I would love some feedback from you on my plan so far, do you think it sounds do able? I will continue to read all of your web site in the mean time! Thanks Karen.

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Hi Karen,
      sounds great to me. The only thing I would change is staying two nights on Plitvice. I think a night there will suffice. The rest sounds perfect. Have a nice holidays in Croatia and Slovenia.

    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Hi Hamilton, thanks for reading! I’d say Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik
      and Zadar (in that order). Zagreb is nice in summer, as it goes a bit empty (just enough), Split is a town, and you’ll always find something to do and explore. Dubrovnik has lots of tourists, and many solo travellers as well. Are you planning to stay in hostels or elsewhere?

  9. Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal
    Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal says:

    These are great tips! We spent almost three weeks in Italy and I’ve been so anxious to go back because there is still much I have to experience. It’s always hard to fit in all of what you want to do and see when traveling but you did a great job reminding us of some important things to think about no matter where we’re going. I can’t wait to visit Croatia and now I’ll have your tips to reference. THANKS!

    Reply
  10. Elena
    Elena says:

    Great tips! I am looking forward to making it back to Croatia in the coming years after having just gotten a glimpse cruising along the coast.

    Reply
  11. Sand In My Suitcase
    Sand In My Suitcase says:

    Croatia is such a delightful country! We’ve now visited many of the little places like Korcula and Trogir one two different small cruise ships. And Mali Losinj holds a special place in our hearts. Split, though a larger city, is great for catching a classical music concert, especially in the summer during the summer music festival. You might like our recent post on Diocletian’s Palace: http://www.sandinmysuitcase.com/diocletians-palace-in-split/

    Reply
  12. Jon Dunn
    Jon Dunn says:

    As a solo traveller, I’ve always found Croatia’s bus network to be excellent. Fast, frequent and comfortable, they give me the freedom to gaze in wonderment as the constantly changing scenery all around and I always have my mp3 player with me.
    The other thing I like is that on a long journey, the driver will make ten minute ‘comfort’ stops, so people can use the loo, grab a macchiato or just stretch their lags.
    Having said that, I’ve always travelled on or near the Adriatic coast, I’m sure things get a bit more ‘hairy’ in more remote, inland parts.

    Reply
  13. Corinne
    Corinne says:

    I think driving is really the best way to get around. Croatia is so gorgeous; I wanted to stop and take pictures every five minutes. I would love to do a weekend in Zagreb! And maybe next time, Istria…too much to do!

    Reply

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