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Travel Tuesday: Croatia’s 10 Most Beautiful Destinations

by Ingrid Hale
Crotia's Best destinations

Look forward to exciting times ahead and the possibilities of an adventure through Croatia’s ever-inspiring landscapes.  Croatia is cited as one of the safest Mediterranean countries to visit. And with more than 1,200 islands and islets in Croatia, it’s perfect for a sailing trip and is known for some of the prettiest beaches in Europe. But head inland to find tumbling waterfalls, rolling vineyards and lush forests, not to mention towns packed with history. The coastal city of Rijeka, for example, was named one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture for 2020.

CNTraveller has highlighted 10 of the most beautiful destinations in Croatia – from secret golden shores to fortified citadels. Start planning your Croatia bucket list now.

Croatia's most beautiful

Hvar Ocean Side loungers. © Alex Holyoake

1. The Plitvice Lakes

Two hours from Zagreb, this national park – one of the oldest in the country – isn’t most people’s picture of Croatia. The UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of 16 crystalline lakes (genuinely turquoise in colour as a result of deposits of gypsum, a soft sulfate mineral) surrounded by deep green forest and spectacular waterfalls. Paths are well marked, making this a great trekking destination. Although it is worth noting that you can’t swim in the lakes. Find the best aerial views of the upper lakes from Veliki Slap lookout. Croatia has eight UNESCO sites yet this is one of the only ones that can’t be accessed by boat; the detour inland is a trip we recommend.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia. ©Ante Hamersmit

2. Zlatni Rat, Brac

This spit of land often referred to as the Golden Horn due to its striking colour and shape from above, is located on the island of Brac in Dalmatia. The tip of the Blue Flag beach is constantly moving – a result of the wind, waves and sea current – and is believed to be getting longer every year. Right now, it stretches two kilometres from the centre of Bol, the nearest village. Take a trip up Vidova Gora mountain, which towers over the beach, and then cool down with a dip in the sea.

Croatia's most beautiful

Zlatni Rat Beach. © Oliver Sjostrom

3. Rovinj

This pretty peninsula town on the Istrian coast isn’t exactly a secret but it feels like one in comparison to some of Croatia’s busier holiday hotspots. The bustling harbour is full of fishermen, boats and nets, which add to its image as one of the most picturesque on the coast. Stop for a drink at any of the outdoor terraces and watch locals jumping into the water. Look inland to see medieval chimneys, a tangle of narrow alleys and the beautiful Baroque church of St. Euphemia on the top of the hill – climb up the smooth steps for some of the best views of the Adriatic. The nicest places to stay are often set in historic buildings, such as a former 17th-century bishop’s palace which is strewn with antiques and has a lovely garden.

Croatia's most beautiful

Rovinj, Croatia. © Dimitry Anikin

4. Northern Velebit National Park
Some of the best-preserved wilderness in south-eastern Europe, the national park spans the north of the largest mountain range in Croatia, the Velebit, which runs parallel to the coast. It’s the start of the Premuzic Trail, one of the most amazing walks in the country. Dense forests and highland pastures are hidden behind the jagged grey peaks of the mountain and hikers may even spot bears, wolves and lynx. There are spectacular views of the sea from the peaks of Alan and Zavizan, and the alpine Velebit Botanical Garden nearby is a great spot from which to start a walking trail.

Credit: ALAN CAPLAR / VIA DINARICA

5. Mali Losinj

At the end of a long narrow bay on the island of Losinj in the north Adriatic Sea, Mali Losinj is known for its large harbour and pretty promenade. This relatively quiet island is rather picturesque with its now-muted but still colourful sea captains’ houses lining the seafront, as well as its amazing aromatic gardens and wellness offering. At the top of a hill is a white-brick church surrounded by a striking black-and-white-tiled terrace with views of the Kvarner gulf beyond. Straddling both coasts, the town is situated on the narrowest section of the island, which means the sea views are staggering in both directions. Herbs thrive here – there are 1,200 different varieties – and the waft of lavender, sage and rosemary will follow hikers along the many walking routes.

Croatia's most beautiful

Mali Losinj Promenade. Credit: IVO BIOCINA/CNTB\

6. Dubrovnik Old Town

The fortifications of this terracotta-toned baroque citadel make it one of the most striking cities in Europe. But it was made truly famous as a filming location for the Game of Thrones TV series. The old harbour is guarded by the Fort of St John – its first tower was erected in the 14th century – which defended the city from adverse sea conditions and from the eternal threat of attack. Inside the fort these days, find the Dubrovnik maritime museum and aquarium.

Dubrovnik Old Town – City Walls. ©Patricia Jekki

7. Kornati Islands

There are no permanent residents on the Kornati archipelago, which is made up of 140 islands. Due to karst-limestone terrain, these isles are covered in cracks and caves, and the scarcity of freshwater means that few trees remain. The craggy cliffs and startling rock formations are the draws here. The rocky islets and pristine waters are best explored by boat on a day excursion from Zadar, Sibenik or Split. Drop anchor in a sheltered bay of Kornati National Park, many of which have simple waterside restaurants.

Croatia's most beautiful

Kornati Islands, Croatia. Credit: ZORAN JELACA/CNTB

8. Zadar Waterfront

This romantic seaside spot, a former fortress of the Venetian Republic, is a holiday town which moves at a slower pace than the busier hubs of Dubrovnik and Split. The walled city is known for the ruins of the Old Town where Venetian gates and Italianate buildings sit alongside religious art dating from the 8th century. But these days there’s modern art too. On the beautiful Riva, the waterfront is the Sea Organ, which is played by the waves pushing air into its pipes. And beside it the Greeting to the Sun installation, which adds a rippling psychedelic light show powered by sunlight.

Croatia's Most Beautiful

Zadar Sea Organ at Zadar Waterfront. Credit: LUKA ESENKO/CNTB

9. Galebove Stijene Beach, Pula

Pula is a little city on the tip of the Istrian peninsula best known for its protected harbour and Roman ruins, including the Pula Arena, but also for its beaches. Nicknamed Seagull’s Rocks, the beach at Galebove Stijene is one of the most popular natural cliff-jumping spots in the country. The shore itself is pebbly, but people tend to visit for water sports and adventure; the underwater caves, as well as those on the surface, are perfect for snorkelers.

Croatia's most beautiful

Credit: ALEKSANDAR GOSPIC/CNTB

10. Krka National Park

Situated along the course of the Krka river, this national park is famous for its seven waterfalls. The longest is Skradinski Buk (when people talk about the Krka waterfalls this is what they are usually thinking of) but the widest, and perhaps the most spectacular, is Roski Slap, made up of a series of branches and islets that meet to become a 23-metre-high cascade. Inside the park, there’s also a Franciscan monastery, set on the little island of Visovac in the middle of the river, and several old ruins on higher ground – lots of the old mills have been transformed into mini museums.

Croatia's most beautiful

Krka National Park, Croatia © Maddie Leopardo

For more inspiration visit croatia.hr.

[Travel Tuesday: Croatia’s 10 Most Beautiful destinations]

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