The most worth-while places to visit in this gorgeous eastern European country.
As originally published on The College Tourist
As a relatively small nation in southeast Europe, Croatia is often overshadowed by more well known Mediterranean destinations like Italy or Greece. But the breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural history of this country has started to attract more and more curious travelers, causing Croatia to become the 25th most visited country in the world (according to the UN World Tourism Organization).
So why is everyone flocking to Croatia? Aside from its role as the backdrop for many scenes in the ever so popular TV series, Game of Thrones, its location at the crossroads of central, southern, and eastern Europe creates a cultural fusion that makes for a truly unique experience. Croatia combines the cheap prices and traditional cuisines of eastern Europe with the gorgeous seaside towns and relaxed pace of life found in Mediterranean cities.
Travelers may also find themselves attracted to Croatia for its thriving natural scenery. From the warm climate, to the peaks of the Dinaric Alps, to the beaches of the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia offers so much biodiversity that its hard to believe so much beauty fits into a single country. With 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered throughout the landscape, and thousands of islands lining the coastline, the incredible expressions of nature never end in Croatia.
In order to navigate this amazing country with ease, here is a list of the 10 best things to see in Croatia.
1. Plitvice Lakes National Park
Because Plitvice is the largest national park in the country, and a world renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, cheap buses travel frequently to and from major surrounding cities to the park. A nice student discount reduces the entry fee, so college travelers should definitely remember to bring their student ID. This massive park is filled with smooth turquoise lakes, winding forest trails, and countless tumbling waterfalls, making it a perfect day trip for hiking, relaxing, and marveling at natural beauty.
2. Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb
While Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia, Ban Jelačić Square is the heart and soul of Zagreb. This historic square has been a pedestrian-only zone since the end of WWII, and is framed with welcoming cafes and shops where locals like to sit, drink coffee, and watch the world go by.
3. Lokrum Island
When in Croatia, a day trip to one of the many surrounding islands is a must. Lokrum is a particularly popular spot off the coast of Dubrovnik, where a 15 minute ferry ride can transport you to a little oasis filled with forests, wildlife, a botanical garden, a historic fort, numerous swimming areas, and a lovely coastline where rocky cliffs meet the refreshing waters of the Adriatic Sea.
4. Old Town, Split
Full of narrow alleyways, hidden local restaurants and historical sights, wandering through the maze that is the Old Town of Split can entertain for hours. The Old Town is also home to another UNESCO World Heritage Sight: the ancient Palace of Diocletian. Be sure to climb the bell tower of the nearby Cathedral of Saint Domnius, where you can witness panoramic views of the quaint city and the neighboring ocean.
5. Krka National Park
Though Krka is much smaller than Plitvice, this park is also worth a trip as its only a 1.5 hour bus ride from Split. After enjoying a peaceful boat ride up the Krka River, you can spend the day meandering through the winding wooden walkways that arch over crystal clear streams and curl around powerful waterfalls.
6. European Avenue, Osijek
Osijek is the largest city in Croatia’s eastern Slavonia region, and European Avenue clearly embodies the city’s eastern European influences. This main road represents a showcase for Art Nouveau architecture, with huge, aging buildings sporting incredible ornamentation and artistic decoration.
7. Dolac Market, Zagreb
As the most popular marketplace in Zagreb, Dolac Market is perfect for early risers who want to try fresh, authentic food at cheap prices. Spend a morning wandering through the seemingly endless rows of tables piled with fresh fruits and vegetables, aromatic herbs, and dried fruits and nuts. Fig jam is also a Croatian specialty, and vendors often sell jars infused with flavors like lavender and rosemary.
8. City Walls, Dubrovnik
Used to protect the seaside city since the Middle Ages, the fortress walls that wind around the Old Town of Dubrovnik are an incredible piece of history. Walking along the 2km pathway provides sweeping views of the rugged coastline and clustered city, and a huge student discount makes the experience much more affordable.
9. Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb
While traditional art and history museums exist in most major cities, this creative and funny museum displays unique objects that have been donated over time. From strange trinkets to heartfelt letters, every piece reveals an interesting story about broken hearts and failed relationships from all over the world.
10. Marjan Forest Park, Split
Within walking distance from the Split city center, Marjan Forest Park provides loads of opportunities for outdoor activities including renting bikes, hiking through the woodland paths, cliff-jumping, or relaxing at one of the surrounding beaches. The park resides on an elevated peninsula, so while one side towers over the city and offers a gorgeous view, the other side looks out over the ocean and represents a perfect spot to watch the sunset.