Croatia is a diverse destination, there’s no doubt about it, bringing together eastern and western culture to create a country that’s truly unique. In fact, there’s so much choice that it’s hard to know where to begin. To get you started, though, here are five of the most essential places that should have you scribbling ‘Croatia’ immediately on your bucket list.
Croatia at its most dramatic in Dubrovnik
The country’s most popular tourist destination doesn’t disappoint, and you can visit with First Choice, Dubrovnik doesn’t disappoint. As you take the cable car to the Mount Srd peak, you’ll enjoy a complete view across Dubrovnik’s sea walls, cliff edges and terracotta rooftops.
But Dubrovnik isn’t all landscape — the city also offers a listed Old Town with striking 16th century architecture and impressive marble streets.
Get out of the city at Kornati Islands National Park
While Dubrovnik’s historical architecture is attractive, Croatia’s national parks give you the chance to get away from it all in more natural surroundings.
The Kornati Islands National Park is a particular favorite, drawing together more than 140 islands on the Adriatic coast. You’ll find everything from colorful reefs brimming with tropical fish to sparse, uninhabited land — Croatia in its most natural form.
And when it’s time to pick up the pace, the national park offers a range of activities from scuba diving to other water sports.
See a show at Pula Arena
Pula Arena is one of the largest remaining Roman arenas in the world, a 1st Century AD amphitheater that is an historic site. By day, you can walk the perimeter of this huge structure, which has been largely well-preserved over the years.
Meanwhile, the arena is still fully-functioning and used regularly for large-scale events. So once you’ve explored the history, you can bring things up to date with the annual film festival or your choice of concert.
Don’t forget about Zagreb
With so much to see across Croatia, the capital is often forgotten. But Zagreb is a delightful city whether you’re looking for history or looking for a great night out.
Gradec, the Upper Town, is the medieval heart of the city. Largely pedestrianized, there’s no better place to walk the streets and get a taste of historic Croatia, including the famous St. Mark’s Church.
Back in the center of Zagreb, boutique retailers and restaurants make it a great shopping destination and, with clubs that stay open until 4 am and numerous bars with live music, it’s worth staying into the night.
Soak up the sun on the Makarska Coast
Most tourists rush to the islands in search of sun, sea and sand, but the mainland coast offers some outstanding coastal resorts. The Makarska coast has 60 km of beaches with clear, warm water and is ideal for family days out.
Meanwhile, the palm-lined promenade keeps all the amenities you might need close by, from cafes and restaurants to hire shops with all the equipment you need to take to the sea.
These five places are five gorgeous reasons to visit Croatia, but there are a whole lot more. The best way to discover them is to explore the country yourself and take in everything the country has to offer.
Marina Fry is a traveler with a passion for Eastern European countries and cultures. She speaks four languages and also enjoys trying local delicacies while abroad.