The walled city of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s most easily recognised and iconic city, baptised by Byron as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. Surrounded by marbled streets that shine in the sunlight, Placa is the ancient heart of the city. Here, locals sit and watch the world go by from outside one of the many cafés that overlook the beautiful Adriatic, sipping fresh cups of coffee.
With a captivating enclosed car-free plaza, the breathtaking Sponza Palace is a spectacular place for a stroll – decorated with an intricate combination of Gothic and Renaissance-style architecture. If you enjoy photography, it’s well worth taking the cable car to the top of Mount Srd. Offering unparalleled views of the city, the mountains are the perfect place to capture the pretty terracotta-roofed buildings surrounded by the ancient city walls and shimmering sea.
With beaches a rarity around this famed coastal city, we recommend heading beyond the walls to Banje beach. Just a ten-minute walk from the Old Town, here you can top up your tan as you relax on the pebble-strewn sand. Whether you want to be just a short stroll from Old Town, or set amid the leafy forest of the peninsula, we have a variety of Dubrovnik hotels to choose from.
Bright, clean and welcoming, the ancient Dalmatian city of Split is a beautiful place to stroll around, taking in the historic buildings and green-shuttered houses, as well as the Roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace and the Cathedral of St. Domnius. Wander the winding cobbled alleyways filled with contemporary shops and restaurants and head below ground to explore the city’s ancient walkways. After a heavy dose of fascinating Greek, Venetian and Ottoman history, head to Bacvice beach and the stylish bars of the Old Town to watch the city come alive.
Found off the coast of Split and dubbed the St. Tropez of the Adriatic, the sunny island of Hvar is the most verdant of the Croatian islands and is often referred to as the ‘Croatian Madeira’. Here, you can discover the quaint medieval centre, stroll among lavender fields and vineyards, taste the famous pepper cakes, swim in warm cobalt waters around the Pakleni Islands and dive to explore the underwater canyon.
Heading north from Split another popular route takes you to the northern region of Istria. Reminiscent of Tuscan landscapes, this area is strewn with hilltop villages and its green rolling hills are dotted with vineyards.
A stunning replica of Venice’s St Mark’s campanile awaits in the coastal fishing port of Rovinj, sitting on its own peninsula in the Adriatic. Watch as local fishermen free their nets for the morning catch and haul them back again late in the day; dive into magnificent waters to see the wreck of Baron Gautsch; or hop aboard a boat to the bewitching Red Island, watching the sun go down on Rovinj’s most gorgeous archipelago as you cruise – there’s plenty to do here.
Croatia’s coastline is scattered with hundreds of strikingly beautiful islands, making this the ideal country for an enchanting island-hopping cruise. Step aboard and set sail for islands such as Brač which has a coast fringed with idyllic beaches and picturesque towns and villages as well as an interior covered with pine forests, olive groves and rock-strewn scrubland dotted with charming stone buildings.
With life on board at a constantly laid-back pace, your ship will make regular stops to allow for time to enjoy the superb beaches and beautiful waters of the Mediterranean. With visibility high, it is even possible to snorkel and spot the fascinating marine life in most places. The freedom of cruising presents the perfect opportunity to visit a number of different places in just a short space of time, making it the perfect way to explore the picturesque islands of Croatia’s beautiful coast.
Cloaked in fragrant pines, vineyards and olives groves, the rugged coast of this pretty Adriatic island is lined with traditional Croatian towns, picturesque fishing villages and quaint ports. Here, you can explore narrow winding streets and soak up the friendly atmosphere of the town that has been dubbed ‘Little Dubrovnik’.
Situated off the coast of Split, Brač is a large island home to rolling hills, isolated bays and crystal-clear seas. A highlight of the cruises, it can also be accessed by a ferry from Split or a catamaran from the island of Hvar and is well worth a visit with its two large towns of Bol and Supetar. A few must-sees include the village of Pučišća, Dragon’s Cave near the village of Murvica on the southern side of island, the Vidova Gora Mountain which is famed for its views, and the Dominican Monastery in Bol.
Head inland to the heart of rural Croatia to discover the hidden beauty amongst charming farmland and verdant landscapes and take the opportunity to make use of the many adventure activities available, including hiking, abseiling, paragliding and canoeing.
The tiny capital of Zagreb in the country’s north offers an endless list of exhilarating sports, as well as a delightful café culture, a number of remarkable historic sites and a new contemporary art museum.
Beyond Zagreb lies one of Croatia’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty; the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Here, the waters sparkle aquamarine in the distance, yet up close they offer views into the crystal-clear depths, cocooning ancient trees and suspending them in the shallows.
If you really want to explore beneath the skin of this beautiful country and visit more than just one of its delightful coastal resorts, we recommend that you hire a car and enjoy a magical self-drive holiday. Giving you the freedom to explore as you please, this is one of the best ways to experience the wonderful diversity that Croatia has to offer.
Travel at your own pace along the Adriatic coastal road and admire the dramatic Dalmatian coast, stopping wherever and whenever you wish for that perfect photo stop, sightseeing opportunity or relaxing picnic lunch in the country.
One of our favourite self-drive holidays is the combination of the famed coastal cities of Dubrovnik and Split. On the drive, the picturesque coastal road takes in pretty little villages and stunning views out across the sea to the many islands, while stops en route present the opportunity to explore deserted coves and swim in the crystal-clear waters. Whatever you choose to do, it’s the views that make this drive well worth the time.
GMT + 1 hour
2½-2¾ hours depending on the destination.
Visa not required for UK passport holders