Croatia Travel Guide

In the past decade or so, Croatia has increased monumentally in popularity for international visitors so much so that it is now very well-cemented on a southern European tourist trail. And while tourists the world over are flocking to the city walls of Dubrovnik or the vibrant streets of Zagreb, there is still a lot to know about visiting this beautiful Balkan nation. If you’re planning a visit, this Croatia travel guide will give you all of the best information and knowledge about how to plan the best trip possible.

Boasting everything from a beautiful coastline, charming cities, fantastic gastronomy and fascinating history, Croatia is a truly dynamic destination that really deserves to be explored beyond the typical tourist trail. There is so much to see in this incredible country and, hopefully, this guide will help you get the most out of your trip, visit all of the highlights and take you by a few “hidden gems,” as well!

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Planning a Croatia Route

One of the biggest considerations that needs to be addressed first is planning out the ideal route for your trip.

Though it can look like a small country, Croatia has a lot to offer visitors and you can easily spend many weeks or months and still not be able to see everything you would like to see. That’s why planning the perfect itinerary early on is essential to ensuring you have the best trip to this Balkan nation possible.

Whether you’re looking to explore the highlights of Dalmatia, island-hop in the Adriatic, explore the coast or enjoy the hill towns and gastronomy of Istria, there are numerous different routes in Croatia that can appeal to any travel style or personality. With so much to see and do in this beautiful country, figuring out the most efficient and ideal route for you is of the utmost importance.

If you’re wondering where to go in Croatia and how to get there, make sure to browse the articles below to help kick-start your planning!

Choosing Where to Go

Another major consideration when planning your trip to Croatia is choosing exactly where to go. As mentioned already, there are a lot of options for places to visit and see in the country and most everyone visiting only has a limited amount of time to spend.

As we always advocate spending longer in fewer places on any trip rather than trying to pack a bunch of destinations into a short time span, we have written a number of destination comparisons to help you make a decision about where to go if you’re short on time.

So if you’re trying to narrow down some cities or sites in Croatia, make sure to browse the articles below to make your life a little bit easier!

Places to Visit in Croatia

Travellers are really spoilt for choice in Croatia as this seemingly small county packs a lot into its area. From endless coastline to thousands of islands, from vibrant cities to incredible natural sites, Croatia really has it all and we have written a number of guides on it.

If you’ve finally narrowed down where you plan to visit in Croatia or you simply want to get some inspiration for all of the wonderful cities and towns there are in the country, make sure to take the time to look through the articles and guides linked below!

Best Time to Visit Croatia

One of the most pressing issues that needs to be addressed is what time of year to visit in. If you’re not familiar with the average weather in the country or are a bit more flexible when you can travel, you really have all the freedom in the world to visit Croatia at the absolute best time of year.

We’ll start with the most popular time to visit Croatia — summer. The summer season in Croatia spans from June through August and this is when the country sees the vast majority of visitors begin to descend, especially in the more popular coastal areas in Dalmatia and the islands.

Cities like Dubrovnik and Split can feel absolutely congested with international tourists and prices for things like accommodation and various attractions can be at their peak.

Temperatures in the summer months can also be quite high, however, if you stick to the coastal areas, they aren’t oppressively hot, especially if you plan to spend a good amount of time splashing around in the Adriatic! For instance, in Split, expect the average high in the height of summer to be around 30°C (86°), with temperatures hovering within a few degrees of that depending on where you are.

Conversely, winter in Croatia isn’t as full of sunshine and warmth as many may assume. Also, due to the reliance on tourism that a number of coastal towns have, many institutions including restaurants and tours can close up shop for the season, so if you visit in winter you may not have the opportunity to do as many things as you would outside of the low season.

Temperatures can drop to as low as about 10-12°C (50-54°F) in the coastal regions of Dalmatia, with temperatures dropping a bit lower the further north you go. If you head inland to places like Plitvice Lakes or the capital of Zagreb, expect to find yourself in a winter wonderland with snow and freezing temperatures!

If the cold doesn’t daunt you, winter may be the best time of year to visit those two places, as the capital puts on one of Europe’s largest and best Christmas markets and the winter crowds and prices at the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park are greatly reduced. Just make sure to bundle up!

Now, arguably, the best time of year to visit Croatia is in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, the latter being slightly more preferable if you intend to do a lot of water-based activities. These seasons are where you will get the mildest temperatures — think between 20-25°C (68-77°F) — and plenty of sunshine.

You will see some reduced prices for things like accommodation and attractions compared to the summer months, however, the mass closures don’t tend to hit until November-March. So if you plan to visit in the months of April and May or September and October, you really are finding the best time of year to come to Croatia.

More beautiful waterfalls in the Lower Lakes
Plitvice Lakes can get especially cold in winter

Cost of Travelling to Croatia

Whether you’re wondering if you can visit Croatia on a shoestring or are simply wondering how much various items will cost, figuring out a basic budget is essential to having a smooth and hassle-free trip with no unwarranted surprises!

Though Croatia is often heralded as a budget traveller’s dream destination, it is important to understand that it isn’t exactly the most affordable country to travel to in Europe. That being said, if you’re smart about how and where you spend your money, a trip to Croatia doesn’t have to break the bank, either.

Outside of places like Dubrovnik, Croatia can be a fairly affordable destination to visit for a good portion of travellers.

If you’re interested in understanding more about what prices in Croatia are like, check out the articles below.

Croatian Cuisine

Another major thing that potential travellers to Croatia wonder about is the food and drink of the country. Croatian cuisine is varied, diverse and quite regional, however, you’re sure to find something that you enjoy eating in this lovely country!

Croatia is located at a crossroads of culinary influences and draws many flavours and styles from its neighbours, including Italy, Slovenia and the nearby Balkan countries. You will see a lot of different things available that are considered to be traditionally Croatian fare and it really is an underrated culinary destination.

For instance, especially in areas closer to Italy, you will find a lot of pasta and risotto dishes. In Istria, truffles reign supreme and you will find lots of dishes with this pungent fungus featuring heavily! Istria is also quite well-known for its olive oil production and you can find some of the best oil in Europe in this region.

Of course, on the coast, you can expect to see lots of seafood. Often, it is simply prepared to truly highlight the freshness of the produce. You can also often find shellfish like mussels or clams in a delicious garlic and white wine sauce called “buzzarra.”

Further inland, you can find some central Balkan favourite dishes like ćevapi or burek, grilled caseless sausages and a flaky, phyllo pie respectively.

When it comes to drinking, the Croatians have a few specialities that they’re particularly proud of. Throughout the country, there is an abundance of vineyards and you will find wine produced in most regions of Croatia. The most famous wines hail from Istria and Dalmatia, however, there is also plenty of wine country in the northeastern region of Slavonia, as well.

Aside from wine, Croatia doesn’t shy away from the favourite spirit of the Balkans, rakija! This is a fruit brandy that is often produced at home and can have an excess of 60% alcohol by volume. Rakija can be made from any number of different fruits, however, the most common is often plum and, closer to Italy, grape.

If you want to find out a bit more about general Balkan cuisine or all about the deadly drink of rakija, then make sure to have a look at the articles below!

Transportation in Croatia

Another important factor to cover is transportation and how you plan to get around this beautiful country. Getting around Croatia isn’t all that difficult, however, you do have a couple of options available to you depending on your travel style and preferences.

One thing that is essential to mention is that Croatia does not have a rail network so if you plan to get around the country using public transportation (which is a totally viable option!), then you’re going to be taking the bus.

Buses in Croatia are comfortable, safe and reliable and there are numerous routes available throughout the country, especially between major destinations.

If you plan on taking the bus frequently in Croatia, we recommend booking in advance, especially if you’re travelling in busier months. You can book your seats online via FlixBus or Omio and you will often get a better price than by simply purchasing a ticket at the station.

Alternatively, another great way to get around Croatia is by driving. Going on a Croatia road trip gives you a lot more flexibility on your itinerary and will allow you to easily visit some smaller villages or make some great stops along longer drives.

We highly recommend renting a car in Croatia if it’s within your budget for all of the above reasons. If you want to find a great deal for car hire, then make sure to book through which aggregates prices from major brands available.

All in all, getting around Croatia is relatively straightforward and quite easy and there is an option that will suit most kinds of travellers.

Accommodation in Croatia

If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, you’re going to need to ensure that you find the perfect place to stay in the country, and there is ample option available for all kinds of travellers and all kinds of budgets in the country. Whether you’re travelling on a teeny tiny budget and want to cheapest option available or you’re looking to stay solely in luxury hotels, Croatia has it all on offer.

Because Croatia is no stranger to international visitors, most towns and cities in this Adriatic nation have a number of different accommodation options available. For instance, if you’re planning on backpacking in Croatia or simply are travelling on a budget or want a social atmosphere, there are lots of hostels in most major towns and cities to choose from.

If you’re after more privacy but still want to keep costs low, you will find ample choices for budget hotels and guesthouses, as well, regardless of where you are. Like everywhere else in the world, prices for a room can be more expensive in more popular areas (Dubrovnik in particular), however, it is still very much possible to save some cash on accommodation without sacrificing much.

You also can be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a luxury hotel or a chic boutique hotel. Especially in more popular tourist hotspots like Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Pula or Rovinj, you’re sure to find something that suits your needs and budget.

Airbnb is also a great accommodation option in Croatia, with lots of properties available depending on where you end up visiting. Whether you’re looking to save some cash by staying in a private room in a local’s home or you would like to find your own private apartment to rest your head, you will likely be able to find numerous great options on Airbnb.

Historic Streets of Split
Historic Streets of Split

Language in Croatia

Another important thing to cover when planning a trip to Croatia is language, as many potential visitors will wonder how far English will get them in the country. As one would expect, the official language in Croatia is, unsurprisingly, Croatian.

This is a Slavic language that is incredibly closely related to the languages of Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia except with a few dialectic and alphabetic differences. In fact, when Croatia and all of these countries were a part of Yugoslavia, the national language was simply called Serbo-Croatian.

One of the great things about Croatia is that a vast number of people in the country, especially the younger generation and those who work in tourism and hospitality, tend to speak English at quite a high level. Getting around in Croatia using English is not a difficult task at all and you will almost always find someone (or numerous people) who speak English well. You will also almost always find English-language restaurant menus.

Of course, it is always a great idea to learn a few words in Croatian before going on your trip. A simple “hello” or “thank you” in the native language (dobar dan and hvala respectively) can go a long way amongst locals and it is always polite to at least show a bit of effort in this regard.

The beautiful town of Trogir
The beautiful town of Trogir

Religion in Croatia

And finally, we discuss a drought topic in this area of the world: religion. While religion itself is not necessarily a major source of concern for everyday Croatians with only 24% of the population attending religious services regularly, it is still a point that needs to be discussed, especially when travelling to the Balkans.

The vast majority of Croatians (about 86% of them) identify as Roman Catholic. This is evident in the countless beautiful churches and religious sites to see in the country. The largest religious minority in Croatia is Orthodox Christian (mostly Serb), at about 5% of the population. The other major religious minority in Croatia is Muslim, at about 2% of the total population.

St Mark's Church in Zagreb
St Mark’s Church in Zagreb

Visiting Croatia is one of the best decisions you can make when planning a trip to Europe. This beautiful nation on the Adriatic sea has so much to offer travellers and it is impossible to get bored while visiting. Hopefully, this Croatia travel guide was able to help you plan the best trip possible to this incredible nation.