Like a majority of cruise travelers, our introduction to Croatia came via a cruise stop in Dubrovnik.
This beautiful town on the Adriatic Sea has been one of the busiest cruise ports on Mediterranean itineraries for more than a decade. The Old Town area is a stunning walled city and is referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Dubrovnik's iconic orange rooftops situated along the coastline stand in contrast to the beautiful blue waters. Visitors love to stroll the historic district, wandering the alleyways and cobbled streets that are home to shops and restaurants.
You can also tour the ramparts, getting a view from atop the walls.
Dubrovnik was the country's first big tourist destination after the nation emerged from a war for independence from the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s. It especially grew in popularity and visibility because it was the main filming location for King's Landing in the smash HBO series "Game of Thrones."
Yes, Dubrovnik is a magical must-see place for avid travelers with an eye on Croatia. But the country is much more than this popular destination. We've found seven more great places to visit in Croatia.
This historic city in the middle of Croatia's Dalmation Coast is one of the country's coolest destinations. Zadar owns an easy-going vibe, offering refreshing sea breezes as well as plenty of interesting cultural and historical attractions.
The city is surrounded by water and filled with intimate public squares and fascinating stone architecture. Historians will enjoy the Roman ruins. The city's promenade draws visitors who want to relax and people watch with views of the Zadar Channel.
Zadar's signature attraction is the quirky Sea Organ. This piece of landscape art was designed by architect Nikola Basic and uses the wave action of the sea to create a unique symphony as the water undulates and pushes air into tubes below the promenade.
Zadar also features wonderful restaurants, cafes, museums, a couple beaches and outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking and canoeing.
A series of stunning islands sit in the Adriatic Sea -- off the coast of Croatia between Dubrovnik in the south and Split to the north. Among these islands is Korcula, which is 20 miles long and averages 4 to 5 miles wide throughout.
Korcula Town, or Old Town, which some call "Little Dubrovnik" is notable for its medieval town squares, orange-roofed buildings and historic churches.
You get to Korcula by ferry, and other top attractions include:
- Lumbarda, a pretty village with sandy beaches, a marina and vineyards.
- Defora, a remote area in the southern part of Korcula that offers pebble beaches, vineyards, hiking and biking.
- Vela Luka, a small town located in a cove at the western side of Korcula. This sun-splashed destination offers a laid-back appeal for people seeking wellness vacations or simple relaxation. Check out Vela Spila, the Great Cave, a rocky hideaway from the Neolithic period.
This island hot spot in the Adriatic has steadily been gaining popularity for more than a decade. Hvar Town is a large and scenic piazza with walls dating to the 13th century. It also features marble streets, an immense fortress, Gothic palaces and attractive churches.
Hvar is known as a party island, and tourists flock for the beaches, boating, water sports and nightlife.
This is the second most-populous city (178,000 people) in Croatia (trailing the capital Zagreb's 800,000 residents), and this mainland destination sits along the coast midway between Dubrovnik and Zadar.
Split offers a pleasant mix of history and modernity. Outdoors types and history lovers relish the city's location on the lively waterfront of the Dalmatian Coast. You can enjoy beaches, swimming, boating and the bustling promenade.
The Old Town and surrounding area feature Roman ruins, palaces and historic cathedrals. Check out Diocletian's Palace (a large 4th century fortress complex) and St. Domnius Cathedral (dates to the 7th century).
This stunning national park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Plitvice Lakes is an astounding natural wonder, with more than 1 million visitors coming each year to explore the lakes, lush forest and waterfalls spread throughout its 73,000 acres of protected area.
The geology of the lakes system is fascinating because of its system of 16 cascading lakes. This means there are clusters of lakes of higher elevation and those at lower elevations. They are formed by the confluence of small rivers and subterranean river systems, and the lakes are separated by a mix of natural dams formed from the natural travertine and plants.
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a fantastic place for photographers to get truly memorable images.
This city sits at the tip of Croatia's Istrian Peninsula, jutting into the Adriatic.
Pula is a stunning gem, a small town known for its scenic location, delicious food offerings and beautiful Roman coliseum. In fact, the city's Pula Arena is the best-preserved amphitheater outside of Italy. It is the sixth-largest coliseum in the world and the lone one with a four-sided tower. The site dates to the first century and is one of numerous ancient Roman ruins and structures you can see throughout Pula.
Pula is also a wonderful place to visit for its festivals during the summer and an array of fine wines and regional cuisine available any time.
Outdoors enthusiasts will enjoy the chance to explore by hiking, biking and swimming at Brijuni National Park or south along the peninsula at Cape Kamenjak.
Croatia's capital city deserves mention, of course. It's the only destination in our group that is not on the water, but this city of more than 800,000 features a range of attractions for travelers.
Zagreb offers a cosmopolitan and laid-back vibe. There is plenty to do but does not possess an overly touristed feel. You can easily slip into the environment as if you are a resident -- savoring the architecture, exploring shops and sipping beverages at sidewalk cafes.
A wander through Zagreb reveals narrow streets, tree-filled courtyards and city parks and town squares that are often the sites of festivals. The city also is home to numerous museums and more than 20 farmers markets.
Top attractions in Zagreb include: Ban Jelacic Square (the city's main square), Zagreb Cathedral, Dolac Market and Lotrscak Tower (you can climb it for a unique view of the city).
Thanks for reading,