Learn Why You Should Visit Croatia + Travel Tips to make your Croatian vacation amazing!
Plitvice Lakes National Park
After returning home from Croatia I felt so inspired by its beauty and culture, it was hard to fit all my thoughts (and photos) in one post. I’ve already shared posts on two my favorite places in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Dubrovnik.
However the entire country of Croatia is bounding with wonders that beg to be explored!
Caves outside Rovinj
If Croatia has yet to make your travel bucket list, today I what to share my thoughts on Why You Should Visit Croatia… Why everyone should visit!
Walking the Double-Sided Beach of Golden Horn, Brac Island
Why You Should Visit Croatia
Natural Beauty in Excess. Some countries and travel destinations draw attention for one single element like illustrious architecture, popular cuisine, or a monumental point of interest. Yet people flock to these places and dish out exorbitant amounts of money to partake in the attractions.
Croatia is chockfull of natural wonders… It boasts not one, but multiple majestic mountain ranges, miles of coastline kissed by crystal-blue Mediterranean waters, over 1000 picturesque islands, pristine rivers and lakes, and of course charming villages speckled throughout the countryside.
Outside the village of Bol, Brac Island
We drove from the northern border of Croatia all the way down to the southern tip, so we were able to experience much of the terrain.
Every day, I was awestruck by the natural beauty. The drives to reach our destinations were a feast for the eyes and a true joy, instead of a chore. I would go back in a heartbeat!
Cruising the coast around Pula
History Heaven. Croatia’s history is like a long turbulent love affair. Multiple suitors. Power struggles. Humility. Break ups. Devotion. Nesting, Times of peace… It’s all part of the journey.
Not only are there fantastic stories in Croatia’s rich history, there are remnants left behind.
The Roman Arena in Pula
You’ll find evidence of roman rule like the arena in Pula. Cities hodge-podged together over centuries, such as Split, where various types of architecture are visually layered on top of each other. You’ll also find places where history has been so well preserved, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time 800 years.
With a little googling, or a good tour guide, you’ll be amazed at what you discover!
Strolling the streets of Pula
Affordability. In comparison to many popular European destinations, Croatia is inexpensive. From hotels and meals to tickets and attraction prices, you get a lot of bang for your buck in Croatia.
You could realistically plan a trip to Croatia for close to half the price of a trip to France, Italy, or Spain.
The beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik
Modern Amenities. For some reason, most Americans I’ve talked with about my trip think of Croatia as a developing nation. That could not be further from the truth!
In general, Croatia offers the same modern conveniences we have at home, including more cell towers than many other European countries.
Outdoor markets in Zagreb
Safe and Friendly. Croatia is one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever visited! Overall, the people we met seemed genuine, honest, and willing to help a confused traveler.
As two females traveling together, we never felt in danger anywhere we went. I also never felt as if shop owners, drivers, or waiters were trying to take advantage of exchange rates. The service was very good in most establishments.
As a bonus, everywhere we went we bumped into english-speaking Croatians.
Dynamic Driving. As mentioned above, we drove all the way across Croatia. As the designated driver, I was a little nervous about road conditions, navigating, and driving culture before leaving home.
Thankfully I had nothing to fear.
Village of Primosten at Dusk
Driving in Croatia is just as easy and straight-forward as driving in the United States. Roads and turn-offs were clearly marked, and thanks to ample cell towers, my google maps app worked everywhere we went. You might encounter an aggressive driver here and there, yet no more than in any American city.
Best of all, much of Croatia’s natural beauty can be experienced as you drive!
Coastline south of Split
Croatia Travel Tips
This is my list of Yays and Nays for the American traveler in Croatia.
Get in the Water. The Adriatic Sea, cool mountain streams, and spring-fed lakes are so inviting, make sure to pack a swimsuit.
We white water rafted with Rafting Pinta down the Cetina River, just south of Split. It was a magical day floating through quiet canyons. The rapids were mild, yet had just enough diversity to make the trip exciting. Our guide Stefan was a wealth of knowledge on Croatian flora and fauna.
It was a fabulous excursion to explore Croatia’s natural beauty.
Krka National Park
Do Island Hop. Croatia is known as “The Land of a Thousand Islands.” Actually there are over one thousand islands along its magnificent 1100 miles of mainland coast.
To fully experience Croatia, you’ve got to get out on at least one of those islands. There are public ferries and water taxis from many coastal towns to the nearby islands. You can visit an island for the day, or book a longer stay at an island beach resort.
Looking down on Golden Horn Beach, Brac Island
Do Go to National Parks. Two of my most memorable days in Croatia were at Plitvice Lakes National Park and Krka National Park. These parks conserve and maintain Croatia’s natural wonders, and make them easy for visitors to explore.
Plitvice Lakes is a must-experience destination, when in Croatia.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Do Visit Villages. There are countless charming villages scattered all along the Croatian coast and countryside. These small towns are less crowded than the cities, yet are heavy on charm. Allow time to stop and meander through little villages that might not be on your official itinerary.
Some of our unexpected stops were the best part of the day!
Do Eat the Local Cuisine. Croatia’s traditional dishes are comforting and inviting. As with many parts of the world, recipes tend to have flexible borders and it’s often difficult to determine where the dishes actually originated. Some Croatians will argue that certain foods are distinctly Croatian, while others might say they have Bosnian, Turkish, or Italian roots.
Istrian Truffle Ravioli
Nevertheless, make sure to sample: Istrian truffles, Dalmatian Prosciutto, a rich pasta dish called Struckli, Burek and Kremsnita pastries, Octopus Salad, Squid Ink Risotto, a slow cooked meat and veggie dish called Peka, beef and gnocchi called Pasticada, kebab-style sausages called Cevapi, and local cheeses and wines.
Plus, eat all the bread you can get your hands on. Croatia bread is amazing!
Chicken and veggies on local bread
Do Tip Your Servers. Europe can be confusing when it comes to tipping. Some European travelers say they never tip anyone in Europe. Some leave just a handful of change on the table. Yet some European destinations have adopted American tipping standards due to the influx of travelers from the US.
So what should American travelers do in Croatia?
Streets of Dubrovnik
We learned that tipping in restaurants is definitely welcomed if the service is good. Most people tip up to 10% for exceptional service. Others leave small change. However, when paying with a credit card, you are never given the option to add a tip. It’s a good idea to have some cash on hand.
Tips for tour guides are never required, but again, welcomed for good service.
Do Drive. In some European countries I might recommend relying on trains to get around. Yet in Croatia, definitely drive. Rental cars are affordable and road conditions are great. You will get the best experience and have the most freedom to explore with a car.
Along the road to Dubrovnik
Spend All Your Time in Cities. There are some lovely cities in Croatia that have a lot to offer… I don’t want to give a false impression that there is no noteworthy architecture in Croatia. Of course there is!
Old Town Split
Yet the wild unscathed beauty so far outshines the cities, it’s best to have the right mindset when traveling through Croatia. To truly encounter the best of Croatia, you need to get out in the natural surroundings.
Plan day trips to parks, hike, or schedule guided outdoor adventures!
On the mountain above Dubrovnik
Do Not Waste Your Calories. Travel destinations always have ice cream shops, and Croatia is no different. You might be tempted to think that because Croatia is close to Italy, the ice cream is exceptional. Sadly, no.
Croatia ice cream is nothing special… But the bread and pastries are extraordinary! Skip the ice cream, and eat all the bread you can find.
(The one place we found fabulous ice cream was Luka ice cream shop in Split. Marvelous!)
Kremsnita with Chocolate
Did I convince you to add Croatia to your travel short-list??
There is so much to see and do in Croatia, it’s a shame to miss it!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Croatia Tourism. All opinions are my own.