Where to go in Croatia: Dubrovnik, Plitvice, Kornati…

The Croatian coast has undeniable star appeal. You will find a lot of glamor in Dubrovnik and Hvar, where legions of luxury yachts dock. Watching the nightlife with famous designer cocktail in hand is obligatory. For those who want peace and quiet, there are many places to see, such as remote islets crowned with lighthouses, beautiful fishing villages, secluded coves and atolls like those from Robinson Crusoe. All of this is available to you the moment you set sail in our Croatia Sailing Routes.

Along with more than a thousand islands, Croatia also has many wonders in its interior. Far from the coast, you can experience nature as you never expected it and take part in many other activities. The small capital of Zagreb also has a striking ambiance, a splendid contemporary art museum and ancient monuments.

Plitvice Lakes:

When people ask, “Where should we go in Croatia?” we cannot leave one of Europe’s most beautiful green spaces, the Plitvice Lakes, off the list. This majestic and picturesque park is located about halfway between Zagreb and Zadar. Wooded hills surround magnificent turquoise lakes that are connected by a series of waterfalls. Several trails and wooden walkways meander for 18 km along the banks of the lakes and above the raging waters. These are arguably the most beautiful lakes in Croatia. In 1979 UNESCO declared this World Heritage Site.

where-to-go-croatia-plitvice-lakesThe lush greenery of Plitvice Lakes Park is another of its many wonders; nature lovers will enjoy its forests. The northeastern section is covered with beech wood, while the rest is a mixture of beech, fir, spruce and white pines and in some areas it’s dotted with mostajos, hornbeam and ash flower, which change color in autumn.

The stars of Plitvice Lakes Park are the bears and wolves, as well as others such as boars, rabbits, fox and badgers, which we will spot on our visit to the lakes if we’re lucky. We have to be on the lookout for the birds such as hawks, owls, cuckoos, kingfishers, mallards and herons that abound; black storks and ospreys can also occasionally be spotted.

Walled City of Dubrovnik:

A must-visit in Croatia, Dubrovnik is undoubtedly Croatia’s most charming city. For Lord Byron, it was the “jewel of the Adriatic.” This Croatian city leaves many speechless: her beauty is captivating and her walled border, sublime. The old town of Dubrovnik is memorable. It is surrounded by strong defensive walls, which are the jewel of the city, a capsule that protects her Baroque buildings.

where-to-go-croatia-dubrovnik-cityWe will truly enjoy this visit to some of the most outstanding monuments of Dubrovnik: its monuments such as the city’s fabulous Pie Gate; the museum and Franciscan monastery with an extraordinary sculpted pieta at the entrance and a beautiful cloister from the mid-fourteenth century on the inside; and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin with its delicate shrine and altars full of relics of incalculable artistic value.

The beauty of the Stradun (the main street of Dubrovnik), whether visiting the city of Dubrovnik for the first or the tenth time, always has the same impact. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would ever tire of the marble streets, baroque buildings and the enduring brilliance of the Adriatic; or that they would feel indifference while walking along the walls of this ancient Croatian city that have protected this civilized and sophisticated republic for five centuries.

Krka (River) National Park:

If we want to alternate culture and nature, we should also visit the Krka River that is 72.5 km long, extending from the western part of the Dinaric mountain range to the sea near Sibenik. This place is full of nature, with the river and its magnificent waterfalls defining the landscape of the Sibenik-Knin region, constituting the center of the Krka National Park in Croatia. The entrance is located near the town of Skradin, accessible from the sea via the river Krka. From this point it’s just a nice one-hour walk to the falls.

where-to-go-croatiaThis landscape made of rocks, cliffs, caves and chasms is extraordinary, yet the national park also houses some major cultural attractions. Near its northernmost point there is an Orthodox monastery, the monastery of Krka, which was built and rebuilt until the end of the eighteenth century. The monastery offers a unique combination of Byzantine and Mediterranean elements.

Diocletian’s Palace and the medieval city of Split

Opposite the harbor, Diocletian’s Palace is one of the most important Roman ruins in Croatia, and one of the most awe inspiring that exists. This is the place visitors will spend most of their time while in the Croatian city of Split. It was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is not a palace or a museum; rather the beating heart of the city, a maze filled with people, bars, shops and restaurants. It has narrow streets, hidden alleyways and courtyards, some deserted and unsettling, others with loud music, bars and cafes. Neighbors hang clothes in the windows, the kids play soccer along the ancient walls and grandmothers look over the balconies to watch what’s going on down below.

where-to-go-croatia-splitAlthough the original structure was modified in the Middle Ages, these changes only added to its appeal. It took ten years to build the complex, made of the lustrous white stone from the island of Brac. Diocletian had no concerns about the expense; he imported marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. Military fortress, imperial residence and fortified town, the palace measures 215m east to west (including angular towers) and 181m wide at its southernmost point. The wall reaches 26m at its highest point, and the total complex occupies 31,000m2.

Each section of wall has a gate with the name of a metal: north is the Gold gate, on the south, the Bronze gate; the gate to the east is the Silver gate; and on the west, the Iron gate. Between the east and west gates is a straight street (Kresimirova; also called Decumanus) that separates the southern part, where the imperial residence with its halls and temples is, from the north, formerly destined for soldiers and servants.

Architectural art lovers will enjoy the beauty of the visit to this magnificent Roman palace in the Croatian city of Split.

Kornati Islands National Park:

where-to-go-croatia-kornatiSome of this archipelago’s 147 mostly-uninhabited islets and reefs form part of the Kornati Islands National Park. Kornati Islands National Park covers 69 km2 and is the largest and most compact archipelago in Croatia and in the Adriatic Sea. Many have dreamed of sailing through its desolate lands, an almost lunar landscape that we will see on our tour of Croatia. This is a place that is worth seeing at least once in life.

The Kornati Islands are divided into four groups ranging from northwest to southeast. The first two groups of islands are close to land, in the area known as Gornji Korant. The largest and most craggy island is Zut. The other two groups of islands, facing the open sea, are part of the Kornati Islands National Park. They are the most spectacular and rugged.

where-to-go-croatia-kornati-vruljeKornat Island is by far the largest in the park at 25 miles long, yet it’s only 2.5 km wide. Both the land and the sea around it are protected by the National Park. Fishing is strictly limited to allow fish stocks to replenish. Grouper, sea bass, eels, snappers, pike, cuttlefish, squid and octopus are among the marine life trying to recover in the region.

The largest town is Vrulje, though there are only 7 or 8 houses, a pier and, of course, a tavern. Reaching this village by navigating the waters in a sailboat gives you the feeling of being part of the maritime tradition that so strong here.

The historic heart of Trogir:

One must also visit the little town of Trogir. With its winding streets surrounded by medieval walls, its promenade lined with bars and cafes, and luxury yachts in summer, a visit to the tiny town of Trogir (formerly Trau) is essential to any route through Croatia. The city of Trogir stands out from other Croatian cities for its culture found in the abundance of Romanesque and Renaissance buildings from the Venetian period, as well as for its magnificent cathedral, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

where-to-go-croatia-trogir-medieval-cityThe Croatian town of Trogir has kept intact many other beautiful buildings from its heyday (the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries). Some that should not be missed are Kamerlengo Fortress, whose construction lasted through the fifteenth century and the town hall building from the same century, which was once attached to the walls of the city. It has a Gothic courtyard decorated with coats of arms and a monumental staircase. Another must-see is the Cipiko Palace, a group of buildings with an impressive Romanesque Gothic clerestory by Andrea Alesi.

Bordered by high hills to the north, the sea in the south and its close walls, the Croatian town of Trogir (Roman Tragurion) was very appealing. The first Croatian colonized this ancient Illyrian city in the seventeenth century.

Trogir is also easy to visit during the day when coming from Split. It’s an ideal location for a day of rest and for taking a couple of trips to nearby islands.

Šibenik City:

The Croatian town of Sibenik is starting to become popular and it’s easy to see why. Sibenik has fascinating attractions and new restaurants and bars opening up each year. Everything exudes the energy of life. Yet the real draw of the Croatian town of Sibenik has not changed for centuries: its magnificent medieval district composed of a labyrinth of steep stone streets, ancient chapels, and the spectacular Cathedral of Santiago. All of this plus the town hall, made up of beautiful Renaissance buildings built between 1533 and 1546 filled with columns and a magnificent balustrade, make a visit to this town indispensable.

where-to-go-croatia-sibenik-cityWe should not miss the churches of Sibenik – specifically the Franciscan Church inside of which there are well-preserved fourteenth and fifteenth-century frescoes; and the Church of St. Ivan, which is Gothic Renaissance from the fifteenth century like the town hall.

Yugoslav federal forces attacked Sibenik in 1991. The city suffered repeated bombing until the Croatian Army liberated it during Operation Storm in 1995. Today, while there is not a lot of visible damage, the city’s aluminum industry was totally destroyed.

Nevertheless, in recent years the Croatian town of Sibenik has begun to recover in a spectacular way with tourism becoming an essential part of its economy. This city deserves a marker on your map that says, “This place as must to visit in Croatia.”

Lastovo Natural Park:

The island of Lastovo is found on nearly open sea. It is a wonderful island formed by a group of 45 rocks in Southern Dalmatia.

This green island, along with its archipelago of islands, was designated a natural park. As a result, it has been able to keep all its natural wealth and ancestry in tact. We will visit the island’s town, located between the fertile valleys along the mountain that crosses the island. Its unique fireplaces, traditional dress and its highly original carnival characterize the town.

where-to-go-croatia-lastovoYou’ll see nature at its purest in Lastovo: beautiful deserted bays, rich turquoise waters. We’ll have a great time sailing past its beaches. Along with its gastronomic delights, this is the perfect place to forget everything and get away from the bustle of modern life. It’s a truly remote and wild place.

The majority of these islands’ most exceptional places are not accessible by land or by boat when travelling via the normal tourist routes. Hidden pristine nooks, beautiful beaches, and places you won’t want to leave: this is what sailing to these islands offers. It’s not to be taken for granted.

Telascica Natural Park:

The southeast end of Dugi Otok is divided in two by the rugged Telascica Bay, punctuated by five small islands and five even tinier islets. Telascica Natural Park with its magnificent protected azure-colored waters is one of the largest, most beautiful and least spoiled natural harbors in the Adriatic Sea. It is very popular among yachts. Anchoring in these waters at night, surrounded by pure nature, is a nice break after a day filled with activities.

where-to-go-croatia-telascicaLake Mir is close to Mir Bay. This lake’s underground channels within the limestone leading from the sea feed this saltwater lake. A visit with a dip in the lake is not too much to ask. The water is crystalline and much warmer than the sea. Pine trees surround it and the bottom of the lake is made of mud. As is the case when clay is found in unusual places, it’s presumed to be very good for the skin.

Zadar City:

The Croatian city of Zadar, thanks to its old Roman ruins and medieval churches, cafes, excellent cosmopolitan museums, is starting to gain notoriety. There are no large crowds and no tourist invasions. It offers two unique attractions: the light and sound shows of the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation, both works of Basic. Inside the Sea Organ, perforated stone stairs lead down to the sea. This system of pipes and whistles produces nostalgic sighs when the tide pushes air through it. The effect is hypnotic. On the other hand, the Sun Salutation produces a hallucinogenic light show that runs from sunrise to sunset. It is supposed to be a simulation of the solar system.

where-to-go-zadar

The Croatian city of Zadar is also noted for the famous Church of San Donato and its Roman ruins. Bishop Donato who ordered that it be built in the architectural style of the early Byzantine era erected the church in the ninth century. Its unusual circular path can especially be appreciated from the southern end. The church was built on the Roman forum dating back to I B.C. and III A.D. There are still several architectural fragments and two full columns joined to the church. The western end of the church has more Roman ruins, including columns with reliefs of mythical characters: Jupiter, Ammon and Medusa. Below you can see the remains of the altars that were used in bloody pagan sacrifices. Note also that there is a beautiful Romanesque church in the Croatian city of Zadar – the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, the Church of San Crisógono.

Pakleni Islands Archipelago:

Nearly everyone goes to the Pakleni Islands (Pakleni Otoci; “Devil’s Islands”), which owes its name to the resin that was once used for caulking boats. If you want to visit some of the best beaches in Croatia, don’t miss these beautiful beaches on the Croatian coast. This splendid string of 21 wooded islands, crystal sea, secluded beaches and deserted lagoons, are the perfect place for swimming and getting away from the bustling beaches of the coast.

where-to-go-croatia-pakleniThis group of islands consists of nudist beaches of sand and stones; its rock bottom is suitable for spearfishing.

The archipelago includes the nudist islands of Stipanska and Jerolim (not required), and the islands of Zdrilca and Palmizana, which have sandy beaches. Meneghello Place, a beautiful boutique resort of villas and bungalows scattered amongst lush tropical gardens, is also located here.

Korcula Village:

The Croatian village of Korcula is beautiful in itself. Surrounded by towering defensive battlements, this coastal citadel oozes history, with marble streets and many Renaissance and Gothic buildings. Its fascinating urban layout that forms a spine was intelligently designed for the comfort and safety of its inhabitants: the streets were built to open this western Croatian town to the refreshing mistral wind (a strong and constant wind coming from the west) of the summer, while eastern curves were planned to minimize the force of the bora wind (a cold wind from the east) in winter. The town of Korcula cradles a port. Round defensive towers guard it and it has a compact set of red-roofed houses.

where-to-go-croatia-korcula-townWhen coming from afar by sea, on the first approach to its majestic, one begins to get a feel for how surreal this beautiful city is. The towers of Korcula and the remains of the walls are impressive. Its mere presence deterred pirates who would try to approach the city. This idyllic place is a delight to visit.

Another site to visit is the magnificent cathedral of St. Mark’s from the fifteenth century. It is Gothic-Renaissance style and was constructed from Korcula’s limestone by Italian and local artisans. Works of great Italian painters such as Tintoretto, Jacopo Bassano and Mestrovic are kept within its rich interiors. A balustrade tops the steeple and it has an ornate dome exquisitely crafted by Marko Andrijic, an artist from Korcula. The modern baptistery sculptures should not be missed. The Croatian city of Korcula offers all this and much more.

Zagreb, the Croatian Capital:

The Croatian capital city of Zagreb has an interesting aesthetic. It is a mixture of traditional Austro-Hungarian architecture and crude socialist structures, two elements that give it its unique personality. This small Croatian capital is made to visit by walking the streets, sitting in a crowded cafe, visiting museums and galleries and enjoying the theaters and cinemas.

where-to-go-croatia-capital-zagrebAs the oldest part of the Croatian capital of Zagreb, the Upper Town (Gornji Grad), comprising the districts of Gradec and Kaptol, boasts iconic buildings and churches dating back to the city’s early history. Some of its most prominent attractions are the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral; the colorful Dolac Market with fruit, vegetables and local produce; the Lotrscak Tower, built in the middle of the eighteenth century to protect the southern entrance to the city, with beautiful views of the Croatian capital; and the wonderful study of Mestrovic, the most renowned Croatian. His old house, a building from the seventeenth century, contains a fine collection of sculptures, drawings and lithographs.

The Lower Town (Donji Grad), which starts at the Upper Town and leads to the train station, has the most interesting art museums and charming architecture of the fourteenth and twentieth centuries. Some other points of interest that one must visit in Zagreb are the Mimara Museum, with the private art collection of Ante Topic Mimara, and the painting section with works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Bosch, Velazquez, Goya, Delacroix, Manet, Renoir and Degas; the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters located in a beautiful building which houses an impressive collection of fine art donated to the city by Bishop Strossmayer in 1884. The museum includes Italian masters of the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, J. Brueghel, Proudhon, El Greco, and the Croats Medulic and Benkovic.

Skradin Village:

The Croatian village of Skradin is a picturesque tourist destination, which has a reputation due to its beautiful surroundings. The area holds great natural beauty such as Krka National Park, Skradinski buk Waterfalls and Roški Slap Falls.

where-to-go-skradinIn its outskirts, we find old wooden buildings, such as wheat mills and hydraulic mills, and the Franciscan Islet of Visovac with the devoted sanctuary, a rich library and an artistic-cultural treasure.

Skradin village is in the Krka river sanctuary, a couple of hours inland from the Sibenik River. The ACI marina, which has 220 berths, is a busy docking area for many sailors.

Skradin is also known for its gastronomic delights that can be found in its many restaurants and local taverns as well as traditional gatherings with klapa music.

Grotto of Bisevo or Blue Grotto (Modra Spilja):

The small island of Bisevo, 30 minutes from Vis, is rocky with some vines and pines. Its coastline is rugged and it has a series of caves with access from the sea that is very interesting to explore. The most famous and beautiful is the Blue Grotto of Capri, also called the Grotto of Bisevo or Blue Grotto. People heave been visiting this cave since 1884 for good reason.

where-to-go-croatia-bisevo-blue-caveIn this coastal cave, between 11:00am and 12:00pm, the sun slips through an underwater opening 1.5 m high by 2 m wide, bathing the interior with an otherworldly blue light. Under the clear water, reflections of silver and pink play on the rocks to a depth of 16 m. The only flaw is that the sea is too rough to enter the cave when in the summer or when the jugo wind (south wind) blows. Having the freedom to visit the grotto on our own boat at the time we want to mans we can avoid unnecessary crowds. This is definitely a place worth visiting on our tour of Croatia.

Village of Komiza:

Komiza is found on the west coast at the foot of Mount Hum. This charming little villa stands on a bay, which is made of sand on one side and pebble beaches on the eastern side. Many Croats love the atmosphere of this somewhat unsophisticated, Bohemian town.

where-to-go-croatia-vis-komizaIn the seventeenth century, fisherman used the narrow alleys with brown houses that snake up from the port in this town. To the east, there is a seventeenth-century church on the site of a Benedictine monastery, and at the tip of the main pier stands a Renaissance citadel from 1585, the Kastel. Inside is the Fishing Museum with great views from the town to the sea.

Village of Primosten:

Primosten, 20 km to the south, is certainly the most attractive town on the outskirts of Sibenik. This neat little city of medieval streets, home to a large bell, extends along a where-to-go-croatia-trogirpeninsula. Houses with tiles on top, basements full of old barrels that give off the scent of homeland wine, a cemetery facing west and a church on a hill, make Primosten a charming place to visit.

Another large peninsula with pine trees is located across the bay. Pebble beaches with discreetly-placed hotels that don’t threaten the landscape surround it. The two peninsulas seem to be two joined ears.