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Travel highlights of Croatia - 25 things to see

Updated on February 5, 2017

Croatia, a pearl in the Balkans. Charming villages, clear water beaches, amazing natural parks, archaeological sites and more. A great country in Europe with many different interesting and beautiful places. This article offers 25 travel highlights in Croatia, to help you plan your road trip.

Istria

1) Roman arena of Pula: In Pula, a town in the south of Istria, you will find a large Roman amfitheatre, the Pula Arena. It was built over 2000 years ago and it’s in pretty good shape. In fact it's the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia.

2) Fishermans village Rovinj: Rovinj is a charming coastal village, with a nice harbour and small cosy streets. Nice exterior views of the town as well.

3) Fjord Lim: Yes, even Croatia has a fjord, 35km long. But, it's not a real fjord, as it is not created by glacier erosion but erosion by a river. In fact it's called a ria, but many people refer to it as a fjord.

4) Dinosaur footprints on Veliki Brijun Island: Veliki is one of the 14 small islands in the protected Brijuni National Park. Here you can find several sites revealing some 200 dinosaur footprints.

5) Hum, the smallest town in the world: a medieval town, known to be the smallest village in the world, with a population of between 15 and 30.

Central Croatia

6) Lakes and waterfalls of Plitvice: this is one of the most famous travel highlights of Croatia, and probably also one of the most beautiful natural places in Europe. Plitvička Jezera truly is an amazing park, filled with many clear water lakes and waterfalls. One of the most popular parts of the park is Veliki Slap. When you look online for images of Plitvice, you'll often find some amazing idyllic pictures of Veliki Slap. However beautiful, realize that it does not always look like that, sometimes there's much less water flowing there. Getting around the park can be done in different ways. You can walk the park, or do parts by boat or bus. Either way, it's best to plan at least a day for this great location.

7) Waterfall village Rastoke: people sometimes refer to this place as the small lakes of Plitvice, because you will find several waterfalls here. Both places are connected by the Korana river and are a little more than 30km apart. Rastoke is the old center of the town of Slunj.

8) Devil's Passage: a narrow gorge in the north of Croatia. Its official name is Vražji Prolaz. You can visit the area on a hiking path, mostly consisting of bridges and steps.

9) Country capital Zagreb: a sightseeing highlights list can not be without a countries capital. A beautiful city landinwards, and probably not always overrun by tourists, as many tourists decide to skip the city because they focus on the coastal part of the country (which is also the focus of this list with things to see).

North Dalmatia

10) Paklenica National Park: a mountainous area with karst rock with several hiking routes (some more difficult than others). Parts of this park have been used as filming location for the sixties Winnetou movies. If you're interested, don't forget to visit the Winnetou museum, located on the grounds of the BlueSun Camping Paklenica. It's got limited opening hours, so check these beforehand. Part of Paklenica National Park has paid entrance, another part is free. In the paid part, you are in the area of filming locations, in the free part, you will find some of the sights you often see in photos online, like the Jagin Kuk rock, or the little kamenica (lake) in the rocks. These are reachable from one of the hiking routes in the Bojinac area. If you have reached Jagin Kuk, look around for some kind of open area. There's a rock with Voda written on it. Follow the arrow, and you will find the little lake. Take a hiking map with you for this hiking area. Parking as starting point of hiking the Bojinac: 44.330565, 15.444940. In this area you have to beware of the strong Bora winds. But that goes for other areas as well.

11) Clear water beach Sakarun on island Dugi Otok: the island of Dugi Otok (80 minutes by ferry from Zadar) is host to what some people believe to be the most beautiful beach in Croatia: Sakarun. The water is crystal clear. The sea floor consists of very bright sand, although the sea bed is not perfectly clear. The beach itself is not very pretty, it's a bit of a natural mess. Close to the waterline there's a small strip of sandy beach though. Remember that when the winds and currents are not right, the water might not be so clear. But when it's clear, it's crystal clear. Some people go here for a day trip. If you want to stay overnight, then check out some other parts of the island as well, like the islands main town of Sali, and nature park Telascica. If you're a camper: there's only one camp site on the island: Kargita. It's got a pebble beach with crystal clear water, and it's only a few kilometers away from Sakarun.

12) Krka National Park: another beautiful national park, with many waterfalls. One of the major highlights of the park are the Skradinski Buk waterfalls, 43.805584, 15.963430. Use the Lozovac entry if you want to visit this part. Even though it's prohibited, people do swim there. When you're roaming the park, don’t forget to try and spot the gorgeous blue dragonflies. From the main car park, where you can buy your tickets, you can either walk to the park or take a bus. Photo tip for Skradinski Buk: later in the day is better if you don't want the sun in your eyes.

Central Dalmatia

13) Roman ruins in Salona/Solin: if you like historic sites, then Salona might be interesting for you. A large area with several locations with Roman archaeological findings. A highlight here is the amfitheatre area, which, by the way, is nowhere near as in tact as the one in Pula. Entrance of the (paid) park is at the Tusculum. The car park is near, next to the main road. The amfitheatre is located a bit off centre compared to the main area of the park: 43.538562, 16.474609.

14) Deep source of Cetina river: a very deep clear water pool, and when you look at it from above, and the circumstances are ok (quiet water, good light) you can see the pool cave walls disappearing into the deep. Some people like to deep water dive here. There is a small parking space on the side of the road, close to a little church: 43.976691, 16.429305.

15) Clear water beach Punta Rata in Brela: Brela's Punta Rata beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's indeed a beautiful area, not just that one beach but also the bays around. A postcard famous image from the area is the Brela Rock (Kamen Brela), a small island near the coast. Location of the Brela Rock: 43.372483, 16.922399.

16) Fortress ruins and panoramics in Omis: a coastal town where the Cetina river reaches the Adriatic See. Dramatic carst rock mountains shape the panorama, it's beautiful. And keep your eyes open in and around Omis for beautiful plants and flowers. When you visit the ruins of the small castle, fortress Mirabela/Peovica, which is located within the village, you have great views of the river, the sea and the rocks. From the ruins of the larger castle, Fortress Starigrad/Fortica, the views are also nice, but you see less of the river area. For the panoramic views the Mirabela fort is better, which is also easier to reach. From the town center it's quite a hike to the large castle. If you want a shorter hike, than drive up through the village and park your car somewhere along the road where you believe it's safe and allowed. There's no official parking area. From your parking place, walk to this point: 43.443182, 16.700186 and follow the signs.

17) Sink holes near Imotski: near Imotski you can find two major sink holes. They usually are filled with water, forming lake Modro Jezero and lake Crveno Jezero, the blue and red lake. The water level varies, and sometimes there's no water at all. When the blue lake is dry, sometimes football matches are played there. From a parking in the town of Imotski, Modro Jezero is easily accessible. Crveno Jezero is also easy to reach, it's located right next to the road, but there's little parking space. You can try to park your car in one of the few inlets there. Parking near Modro Jezero: 43.449169, 17.211792. Large part of the town is one way direction, so if you take a wrong turn, it might take a while before you're back where you started.

18) Diocletian's palace in Split: a coastal town with a beautiful harbour and a lot of history. When walking through the village you will see remnants of Diocletian's palace entwined in the village. The entrance to the palace area is very modest so keep your eyes open. A nice attraction is the KLAPA-choir, that will treat you to some great a capella singing with beautiful harmonies. They really sound very good. You might find choirs like these in other cities throughout Croatia too. There's both paid and free parking in and near the town. One of the free parking areas is located close to the harbour. From there you can make a nice stroll along the water to the city center with a nice view of the town. Location of this parking area: 43.502034, 16.426216.

19) Fortress ruins of Klis: a medieval fortress, with a nice view on the sea and the city of Split. This site has also been a filming location of Game of Thrones.

South Dalmatia

20) Dubrovnik: a holiday to Croatia can not be without a visit to the historic medieval walled town of Dubrovnik, in the south of the country. A parking garage within walking distance from the historic center is located here: 42.645048, 18.103434. Besides a stroll through the old city center and harbour, some other sights to consider are: the fortress of Lovrijenac, the nearby isle of Lokrum, and, not to miss, the amazing panoramic viewpoints. There's a few locations where you can see the town from above. There's one on top of the hill, where there's also a cable car running, but a ride is not cheap. You can reach it by car as well. Location: 42.649345, 18.111867. If you're lucky you'll be met by loads of friendly goats. If you stop on the way up to this viewpoint you get better views, in my opinion. Be careful though with parking your car on the side of the road. A viewpoint along the main road is: 42.633234, 18.137420. This is also where the occasional bus loads stop. Photo tip: when you make a photo from one of the panoramic points mentioned above, the morning is best; then the sun shines nicely on the harbour.

21) Hotel ruins in Kupari: a coast town just below Dubrovnik, where the hotel ruins are a silent witness to the Balkan war. Several hotels next to each other, all destroyed by the war and abandoned ever since. It's a weird contrast to see vivid beach life against the backdrop of this ghostly area. Visiting the hotels is at your own risk. You can park near the beach and the hotels: 42.620497, 18.191540.

22) The wall of Ston, the european wall of China: built in the 14th and 15th century as defence for the city of Ston on the peninsula of Peljesac. For a small fee you can walk certain parts of the wall between Ston and Mali-Ston, a few kilometers. The walk gives you a nice view of both towns. If you don't want to make the climb back, there's a regular footpath along the main road connecting Mali-Ston with Ston.

23) Clear water sand beach of Prapratno: located in the south of the peninsula of Peljesac and one of the best beaches in Croatia. A beautiful bay with a sandy beach and clear water. Sand beaches are pretty scarce in Croatia, more often you will find pebble beaches. It's located next to camp site Prapratno.

24) Ghost town Nakovanj: a small ghost town in the north of the Peljesac peninsula. It's an abandoned town except for one house. When roaming this village, be careful, it's not an official tourist site, so you visit at your own risk.

25) Arboretum of Trsteno: this park shows trees that are hundreds of years old, pretty amazing. A highlight of the park are two Platanus Orientalis trees. They are unique specimens of their kind in Europe, are more than 500 years old and about 5 meters wide.

These 25 things to see are just part of what the country has to offer. Hopefully this list with travel highlights in Croatia has given you an impression of the versatile character of this beautiful country, and has given you some ideas about where to go when you decide to make a Croatia road trip.

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