Croatia first time visitors will get immense help from the tips and recommendations shared. Croatia is an emerging tourist destination known as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, natural landscapes, hilltop towns, pristine islands, waterfalls, excellent beaches, friendly and warm people. The country boasts over 1000 islands (1244 islands, islets and crags, to be exact). Just 48 inhabited and only 15 with a population greater than 1.000. Croatia has eight national parks, including the UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes and Krka, both famous for their stunning lakes and waterfalls.
Croatia First Time Visitors
Best Time to Visit
If looking to escape the crowds yet enjoy pleasant weather, you should consider visiting in May or September, arguably the best time to visit. July and August are the busiest months the high season, with humid weather and crowds, while several attractions, entrance fees to the National Park, ferries and accommodation are more expensive those months. Inland has a more extreme version of coastal climate with cold winters and scorching summers, and likely to experience some snowfall in winter. From November through April, the chilly season the majority of hotels and coastal attractions close down.
Croatian currency is Kuna (Kn) however you can use the Euro for accommodation and meals in restaurants, but usually, you get the change in Kuna. In this case, the exchange rate can be less favourable than at the exchange offices. To sum up, it is preferable to pay in local currency.
Tips for Croatia First-time Visitors
- Naturally, the inland destinations except Zagreb are cheaper than the coast and islands which are more expensive.
- Book a centrally-located hotel to make the most of your time and taking day trips from base camp.
- Split makes an excellent base if visiting Dalmatia with easy access to the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Krka Waterfalls and several more.
- Porec is another centrally located city with easy access to Istria.
Four Popular Cities
Dubrovnik is Croatia’s number one tourist attraction, a major coastal city that boasts of its iconic historical sites and well-known as the filming location of the ‘Game of Thrones’. For several years it is the setting for some famous movies and TV shows. Apart from the familiar scenery, the city is beautiful in every way. The best way to see Dubrovnik is by walking along the city walls, affording a bird’s eye view of the labyrinthine alleys and streets of the old city.
Croatia First Time Visitors
Zagreb its capital is known for its medieval town and unique museums. It has the charm of a medieval ‘old city’ look with cobbled stones and architecture. Although Zagreb is far from the coastline, undoubtedly you will be amazed by its multi-cultural charm. While in Zagreb, tour the neighbourhood of Gornji Grad. Walk along its narrow little streets and cobbled alleys. For an enjoyable walk, it is recommended to take the funicular to the top and walk back through the historic stone gates. For a marvellous view and photo opportunity over the capital, pop into the Lotrscak Tower. At midday, the canon is fired!
The gorgeous city of Split is the second-largest in Croatia. The rustic nature of this city is the biggest appeal. Beneath the ‘rustic-ness’ lies this startling history of the marvellous people of Dalmatia.
Croatia First Time Visitors
A visit to Diocletian’s Palace a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must. The narrow side streets and back alleys, as well as the Palace grounds, are perfect for somebody getting lost. People’s houses are surprisingly within the palace ground. How amazing it is that the Palace is integral to the city. Thus, the people not only get to appreciate their history but actively use and live in it.
Zadar is a much cheaper destination compared to Dubrovnik, with pine-scented beaches on remote islands. Enjoy Zadar’s famous sunsets, above the “Monument to the Sun” found on the edge of the waterfront, a 22-metre disc, representing in a way the sun. It soaks up solar rays and as night falls, dazzle in the form of coloured light patterns on people. Zadar in a way is the gateway to one of the best Croatia’s beaches with just a short ferry ride to the Saharan beach with white sand, turquoise waters and not particularly crowded beach.
Croatia First Time Visitors
Croatia Island Hvar
Hvar Island is a well-known summer resort with a hilltop fortress, 13th-century walls, and its Cathedral from the Renaissance-era. Explore the island by bike, get to its pristine beaches with their vibrant beach bars. The Zlatni-rat is a white pebble beach extending southward into the Hvar Channel between the islands of Brač and Hvar, home to strong currents. Finally, visit a couple of local wineries to sample the local Grk Bijeli.
The Plitvice Lakes National Parks
The Plitvice Lakes easily described as a paradise and this, without exaggeration! One of Croatia’s most popular and an ultimate fairytale destination. The rushing waterfalls seem as if coming out of a postcard, surrounded by picture-perfect woodlands. An irrefutable physical wonder, images of these cascading lakes are the stuff of travel dreams for millions. Visitors anticipate the experience to provide feelings of emotional intensity, but it might turn to be disappointing with the sheer crush of tourists that can eliminate from any chance of quiet introspection expected.
Best Time to Visit the Plitvice Lakes
A good time to visit the National Parks is early summer to avoid the heat and crowds. July and August are the busiest months and the high season. That time, the National Park entrance fee, several attractions and ferries are more expensive. Spring and autumn, is the rainy season here, so try to keep your trip flexible if possible. With lots of rain, there are times the lower lakes are closing due to flooding over the footpaths.
How to get to the Lakes
Located halfway between Zagreb and Zadar, driving to the lakes from either of these cities will take almost an hour. There are buses, fully air-conditioned providing comfortable rides from Zagreb and Zadar going directly to the lakes.
One day adult tickets prices are as follows: 55 kuna (8 USD) almost €7.0 in winter; 110 kuna (16 USD) almost €14.0 in Apr-June and Sep-Oct; and 180 kuna (26 USD) almost €23.0 in July and August. All buses and ferries within the park are included in the ticket price.
Make sure you have sufficient money to by some snacks from a café through the day while looking at the stunning lakes and enjoying the blazing bright Croatian sun.
How much time to spend?
With birds chirping and the water flowing around you, time goes so quickly out here. The real question is ‘how much time do you want to spend in paradise?’ There are plenty of hiking trails as well as boardwalks that go over the lakes and waterways. It will take your breath away walking across as you glance down and see all the way the bottom through the clear turquoise water. You can spend an entire day in the beauty of nature. Swimming is prohibited here due to its UNESCO World Heritage listing. The Krka National Park though allows visitors to swim and is another major destination in Croatia that you will love.
Croatia First Time Visitors
Ferries are one of the most popular means of transport to see much of the country and get to the islands. Ferry ports include Zadar, Rijeka and Split, but ferries depart from coastal towns like Makarska, Drvenik, Brsecine, Ploce, Orebić and Prapratno.
Buses seem to be the fastest and most popular, with more daily departures.
Trains can be remarkably cheaper but can take anywhere from 1 – 3 hours longer, e.g. from Split to Zagreb. However, if you like to move around and find a schedule with a shorter route, the train is by far more relaxing and worth the extra hour of travel time.
The ideal thing to do instead of taking day trips from Dubrovnik or Split is going from one island to another. There is always something new to see on each island. Shared water taxis and ferries will take you to your destination without having to head back to the mainland.
Safety Solo Traveling Tips for Men and Women
No trip is entirely risk-free of course, but Croatia is generally a safe destination. The majority of solo travellers visiting Croatia report that they felt safe and will gladly repeat their visit. In many ways, Croatia is an easygoing country to travel solo as the people are friendly and outgoing.
- Independent travellers need to be more guarded. In large cities, men are subject to ‘bar scams’ while women can be bothered. Guys, watch out for ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ where a beautiful lady cosies you up for a drink, later she drifts off leaving you to pay a huge bar bill.
- Ladies ignore remarks by pesterers or give a very firm ‘no’. Such a reaction will usually do the trick.
- Have at least two credit cards, leaving one in your room, just as with cash and traveller’s checks. Don’t carry much on you.
- Nightlife in summer in Croatia’s coastal towns is part of the culture with plenty of people around the popular waterfront areas which are well lit. In the old cities though like Split and Dubrovnik, stick to the main streets after dark as it is easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.
- Keep your wits about yourself and don’t drink much.
From the hearty stews and meat dishes of the inland regions to the seafood and Italian influenced cuisines found along the coast, the food in Croatia is varied, fresh and delicious. The local cuisine is tasty, although not easy to distinguish dishes that are exclusive to Croatia. The food differs from one region to another and influenced by flavours from neighbouring countries.
- The Pag cheese originating from the island of Pag, near Zadar, is a popular delicacy.
- On the islands and the Dalmatian coast, the cuisine is the typical Mediterranean based on fresh fish, vegetables and olive oil.
- Zagreb is popular for its meat dishes accompanied with all any kind of vegetables.
Crni Rizot (Black Risotto from squid ink) or ‘fisherman’s risotto contains seafood like clams, cuttlefish, mussels and shellfish. It is an Istrian staple, a risotto you must try if you visit Istria and you can find it in almost all seafood restaurants. Prosciutto stands out for its quality here. If you are fond of prosciutto, join the hordes of visitors who flock to the town of Tinjan to sample more than 30 different types of this delicacy.
The pasta (Fuzi or Fusi and Pljukanci) stands out for its mild flavour and is the most popular homemade and hand-rolled pasta in Istria. This pasta is served mostly with truffle sauce, a domestic chicken stew or asparagus.
Croatian Sour Cherry Strudel
The sour cherry strudel is one of the authentically Croatian desserts you should try. You will find it served in several restaurants.
The great thing about going anywhere in Croatia is that it won’t break the budget. Croatia’s first-time visitors can have a beautiful and unforgettable experience while staying on the cheaper side or a hotel of their choice depending on their budget. If your Mediterranean fantasies feature balmy days by turquoise waters in the shade of ancient walled towns, Croatia is the place to get to and turn your fantasy into reality.