Written by Anna Timbrook from Expert World Travel
It’s often said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. While that statement usually holds true, Croatia might be a rare exception to the rule. The country is full of breathtakingly beautiful places, and it is incredibly difficult to single out just a handful that are worth your time.
Especially since there are so many different types of stunning places to visit in Croatia, from the Istrian Peninsula up north, all the way along the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik down south.
From the exquisite nature parks to some of the most beautiful ancient buildings in the country, we bring you five breathtakingly beautiful places to visit in Croatia that you will undoubtedly enjoy. You will be snapping photos every couple seconds!
Krka National Park
There’s definitely no shortage of stunning nature in Croatia, especially with such a vast coastline. But some of its most stunning nature is hidden away from the coast – a great example of that is Krka National Park.
It’s just some 15-20 minutes away from Šibenik, another gorgeous town you should think about visiting. The national park is best known for its Roški Slap area, which features countless waterfalls in a forest setting. They are mesmerizing to observe, and the park even features an area where you can go for a swim!
But that’s just one area of the national park – there’s also a tiny island with an ancient Franciscan monastery in the middle of a lake in Krka, and you can only reach it by boat.
There’s even an ancient cave within the national park – Oziđana pećina. Archeologists have found evidence and records of human presence in the cave since the Bronze Age, which is just breathtaking.
In case you prefer to embark upon adventures, you will love the fact that this national park features an abundance of hiking and mountain biking trails. And with plenty of viewpoints and rest stops along the way, you get the perfect combination of a thrilling adventure and breathtaking views.
Korčula is another gorgeous Croatian island, which attracts a myriad of tourists each year. The best thing about this island is that it’s perfect for everyone, whether you’re looking for a secluded house right on the beach or an apartment in the center of the island’s biggest town.
The edges of the island are popular with vacationers who are seeking privacy – there are numerous houses that are located in the middle of nowhere, with direct access to the beach. The nature around them is breathtakingly beautiful, and the sea is so calm and clear it’s unreal.
But if you actually like the crowds and bigger beaches, you can just head to one of the island’s bigger towns or villages like Lumabrda, Vela Luka, Prižba or even the city of Korčula. Lumbarda is known for one of the largest sandy beaches on the island, Vela Pržina.
It’s a stunning beach, but you probably want to avoid it if your sole purpose of visiting isn’t tanning while taking in the stunning views, seeing as there’s not an inch of shade on the beach. Oh, and don’t forget to bring some water sandals either, because many of Croatia’s beaches are either partially or completely rocky. So, you will need them to protect your feet.
If you’re in the mood for a beautiful old town, head to the city of Korčula. It boasts one of Croatia’s most stunning old towns, with turrets and towers every few steps. The stone buildings are enchanting, the narrow cobblestone alleyways are like something out of a fairytale, and the restaurants serve delicious food with a side of spectacular views.
Mljet is one of Croatia’s most gorgeous islands and it’s perfect for everyone who wants to be far away from busy beaches and bustling city crowds. Although not the largest island, it is actually 70% forest, with only some 1,000 permanent residents. It never gets ridiculously crowded as is the case with most of the other popular seaside spots, and it is absolutely breathtaking.
The entire island is truly a peaceful oasis, with so many stunning areas you can explore. There are hidden bays along the coast where you can spend an entire day on your own – perfect for people who seek privacy. And there are also some bigger beaches like the Saplunara – the sandy beach is shaped like a crescent moon, and it can only be reached by foot or bike. It’s a massive beach but it is often deserted, because of its location at the very edge of the island.
Mljet is also famous for the Odysseus Cave, which is mentioned in legends as the spot where the nymph Calypso held Odysseus captive for years. You can visit the cave as part of the island’s nature park and even go swimming in it!
It’s highly recommended that you either bring or rent a bike on Mljet – it will allow you to explore the majority of the island, including the secluded places that aren’t really reachable by car. And you’ll enjoy some astonishing views while you’re riding around, considering you’re either surrounded by stunning forests or scenic views of the Adriatic sea.
Zadar is thought to be Croatia’s most beautiful city on the Adriatic coast, and we couldn’t agree more. Its old town lies on a peninsula that’s connected to the mainland with bridges, and it offers sweeping views of the sea no matter where you look.
It is actually quite a small, historic city, especially compared to Croatia’s largest city, Zagre. However, it boasts some exquisite monuments and buildings that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are also some astonishing examples of modern architecture that, surprisingly, blend right in with the ancient surroundings.
The Church of St. Donatus is perhaps the most popular such building in Zadar. It’s absolutely massive, and it dominates the surroundings. While it might not be extraordinarily beautiful, there’s definitely something breathtaking about a man-made building of that size.
Another spot you can’t miss in this city is the Sea Organ. And what’s interesting about this monument is that you can’t behold its beauty with your eyes.
The Sea Organ is actually a set of polyurethane tubes that are hidden beneath stone steps. Whenever the waves clash against the tubes, they create music – you can hear it when you’re walking down the promenade, before you even approach the steps. It is an eerily beautiful experience, which really makes you feel like nature is talking to you. And the panoramic sea sights let you enjoy this spot with your eyes as well, and not just your ears.
It’s virtually impossible to talk about Croatia’s stunning nature and not mention Plitvice Lakes National Park- the country’s best known and most popular national park. As its name suggests, the park features cascading lakes, which ironically enough only make up for 1% of the entire national park.
That’s because the entire park area sprawls over an area of more than 300 square kilometers – even with 16 large named lakes and multiple smaller unnamed ones, they’re just a drop in the ocean when you look at the entire size of the park.
The rest are hiking trails, mountain biking trails, gorgeous viewpoints, waterfalls, forests and underground caves. The subterranean caves were actually discovered only recently, and have yet to be sufficiently explored.
Another amazing thing about the Plitvice Lakes national park is the abundance of endangered and even indgineous species you might get to encounter. Due to Croatin traditional agricultural practices, the habitats of most of these animals were preserved, which is why the park is still their home. Perhaps the cutest such breed is the Lika Pramenka sheep – with more than 400 sheep throughout the park, it’s highly likely you’ll stumble upon one during your visit.
Other than that, the national park is home to hundreds of other different species, from gorgeous birds like owls and woodpeckers to some more majestic animals like the Eurasian bear and lynx.
Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.