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.
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.
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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:
- 34 Things To Know Before Visiting Croatia
- 18 Tips For First-Time Travel To Croatia
- Getting Around Croatia
- Where To Go In Croatia
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.
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.