Croatia has captured my heart like no other country so far: without fail, if you ask me to name my favorite countries in the world, Croatia is on the tip of my tongue. I’m certainly not alone in that opinion: Croatia received a record 16.3 million tourists in 2016, and the numbers have been climbing year after year.
It would be easy to pass three, four, eight weeks or more taking in Croatia’s dramatic coastline, incredible waterfalls, and photogenic towns– but most of us aren’t so lucky. Only have a week and don’t want to miss out on the beauty of this Balkan gem?
Here are seven ways to rock a week in Croatia.
1. Explore all that Dubrovnik has to offer.
Virtually unknown in the tourism world twenty years ago and heavily damaged during the breakup of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik has quickly risen to fame and become one of the most popular tourism spots in the Balkans– for good reason.
The walled coastal city offers incredible views from the city walls, Srd Hill, and Lovrijenac Fortress. Whether you want to take a kayaking tour, relax on the beach, or visit the monastery on Lopud Island, Dubrovnik is always willing to turn on the charm.
2. Explore at least one of Croatia’s eight national parks.
Croatia’s most famous national park is, of course, the incomparable Plitvice Lakes National Park. Easily one of my favorite places on the planet, Plitvice Lakes is comprised of a series of 16 interconnected, turquoise lakes, and the trails surrounding them can entertain nature lovers for days on end.
The only downside? You can’t swim anywhere in Plitvice Lakes National Park. If you want to experience swimming in front of Croatian waterfalls, it’s time to head south to Krka National Park.
Krka National Park is extremely popular in part due to it’s fairly simple access from the city of Split, but you shouldn’t skip it. It is smaller than Plitvice Lakes National Park, the biggest attractions can be covered in one day: seeing the cascading waterfalls and swimming in front of them.
Haven’t had enough of Croatia’s nature yet? Try visiting one of the six national parks that are less known to outsiders. I personally have a hankering to explore Mljet National Park and the Kornati Islands National Park: both are located on islands in the Adriatic Sea!
3. Chill out in the coastal town of Zadar.
Zadar is a quiet, relaxed place– perfect for slowing down and taking a stroll or a swim rather than checking major sites off your list. It’s absolutely gorgeous: home to Roman ruins, delicious food (I still daydream about the bruschetta at Restaurant Bruschetta), and incredible sunsets, Zadar is a great place to go slow.
Zadar is also home to two strange and entertaining displays: the sea organ, which uses the motion of the Adriatic Sea to create music (it really does sound like an organ!) and the sun salutation, which is a 22 meter wide series of solar panels that light up beautifully at sunset.
4. Road trip through Istria.
The Croatian portion of Istria (the peninsula that Croatia shares with Slovenia and Italy) is the perfect place for a road trip: complete with sweeping views of the Adriatic and dotted with charming towns and cities, Istria is a great place to hit some Croatian highlights, as well as stumble slightly off the beaten path without feeling like you’ve gone too far.
Be sure to check out the rightfully famous towns of Rovinj and Pula while you are in the region — Pula is even home to a standing Roman colosseum!
5. Park yourself on an island.
Is there anything better than an island vacation? Find a nice, small town (or larger, more party-oriented town if that’s your thing), go swimming every day, take a snorkeling tour or a fishing tour if you like… or just spend your days soaking up the sun and munching on gelato.
Hvar, Brac and Korcula are some of Croatia’s most famous islands for tourism, but they’re by no means the only options.
If you do decide to head to one of these, don’t assume that you have to stay in the middle of all the action: we spent a week on the island of Hvar, but instead of staying in busy Hvar Town, we settled down in the village of Jelsa several miles away– and were rewarded with no crowds, a charming Old Town populated almost entirely by Croatian nationals, and slashed prices.
6. Enjoy the great city of Split.
Comprised partially of Diocletian’s Palace, Split’s Old Town was once home to the Roman Emperor Diocletian himself, who was said to be so charmed by Split’s coastline that he just had to make his home there.
What’s left of the palace now holds a museum, thriving restaurants, souvenir shops stuffed to the gills with Game of Thrones merchandise, and 21st century tourists. It’s a fantastic place to walk around, and is full of the twisting, tiny cobblestone streets that are so commonly associated with Europe.
Split is an easy jumping off point for day trips around Dalmatia, including to Hvar Island, Krka National Park, and the magical Blue Cave.
7. Take a sailing trip along the coast.
Having a hard time picking a destination, but don’t want to deal with the headaches of a rental car or bus schedules? Take to the sea!
Sailing trips are a very popular way to explore Croatia, and come in all price points and for all preferences, from family cruises to party boats.
When you’re sailing, the itinerary can float to the back of your mind– in exchange, of course, someone else will be running the show and decide how long you will stay in each destination. If you’re looking to quickly taste of different parts of Croatia while having plenty of up-close- and- personal time with the Adriatic Sea, sailing may be the perfect option.
Whether you’re looking to hike, to soak up some history, enjoy the beaches or to take in a little bit of everything, Croatia has something worth discovering. Mix and match a few destinations, or spend a whole week in one: either way, I can almost guarantee that when you spend a week in Croatia, you’ll leave desperate to get back.
Guest Post By Kate Storm…
Kate is busy traveling the world with her husband and documenting all the adventures (and how to pay for them) on her blog, Our Escape Clause. When she’s not writing, you can normally find her on a hike somewhere gorgeous, swimming in a beautiful sea, wandering around a city, or baking one of the thousands of dessert recipes she finds on Pinterest.
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