5 Famous Destinations In Croatia & Alternatives To Explore Instead

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

If you’re dreaming of turquoise Adriatic coastlines, fascinating historical sites, and mouthwatering local cuisine, Croatia should be at the top of your travel list. I have lived here since 2013 and have seen so much and can attest to its beauty. 

Croatia offers an abundance of beauty, culture, and adventure that will leave you in awe. While everyone knows about the famous sites that attract tourists from all over the world, there are also hidden gems tucked away in secret corners waiting to be discovered. Let me show you some.

Coastal Croatian town with boats and a cartoon dog holding the national flag.

Famous Vs Less-Known

After years of writing about Croatia, I realized that although the famous sites provide unforgettable experiences, there’s something special about exploring lesser-known places. That’s when the idea struck me—why not create a guide that showcases both famous and secret sites in Croatia?

Let me unveil the gems that often go unnoticed, allowing you to experience the true essence of this remarkable country.

In this travel guide, I’ll introduce you to the dazzling attractions that have put Croatia on the world map and then unveil the hidden treasures that lie off the beaten path. Get ready to explore sensational landscapes, taste traditional delicacies, and dive into Croatia’s proud history.

Whether you’re planning your first trip or returning for another adventure, this guide will ensure you embark on a journey filled with delightful surprises and unforgettable memories. So, grab your passport, and let’s unravel the treasures that Croatia has to offer!

Famous: Dubrovnik

Is Dubrovnik expensive - Dubrovnik landscape view over beach

Dubrovnik is hailed as the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and is always hailed a “must-visit destination in Croatia.” Stepping into this ancient city feels like stepping back in time, as it showcases its rich history through its well-preserved medieval walls, charming cobblestone streets, and baroque architecture. As you explore the city, you’ll be captivated by the blend of ornate buildings, quaint squares, and stunning views of the Adriatic Sea.

One of the highlights of Dubrovnik is its enchanting Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking through the imposing Pile Gate entrance, you’ll find yourself immersed in a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with bustling shops, inviting cafes, and delightful restaurants serving delicious local cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to visit the 14th-century Franciscan Monastery with its stunning cloister and Europe’s oldest functioning pharmacy.

Climbing the ancient city walls is an absolute must. From this vantage point, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the terracotta-roofed buildings, the picturesque harbor, and the breathtaking Adriatic coastline stretching out before you. As you stroll along the walls, you’ll be transported to another world filled with history and wonder.

To fully embrace the spirit of Dubrovnik, I always suggest people boat trip to the nearby island of Lokrum, where you can explore botanical gardens, visit a medieval monastery, and swim in secluded coves. Another iconic experience is taking the cable car up to Mount Srđ, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Dubrovnik and its surrounding landscapes.

But where else could you go to escape the crowds…?

Lesser Known: Cavtat

Coastal town in Croatia with Mediterranean architecture by a calm blue sea, yachts moored near tree-covered hills under clear skies.

If you’re seeking a more tranquil escape from the bustling crowds of Dubrovnik, look no further than the charming coastal town of Cavtat. Located just south of Dubrovnik, Cavtat offers a serene alternative that often goes unnoticed by tourists.

With its picturesque waterfront promenade, crystal-clear waters, and idyllic beaches, Cavtat is a paradise for relaxation and unwinding. Take a leisurely stroll along the palm-fringed promenade, lined with quaint cafes and seafood restaurants, and allow the gentle sea breeze to soothe your soul. If you’re a beach lover, there are several small beaches scattered along the coastline where you can bask in the sun and take refreshing dips in the Adriatic Sea.

Cavtat also boasts its fair share of historical landmarks. Visit the Račić Mausoleum, an architectural masterpiece overlooking the sea, and the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas, adorned with stunning artworks. For a deeper understanding of the town’s heritage, head to the Cavtat City Museum, where you can explore exhibitions showcasing the town’s rich cultural history.

So, if you’re looking for a more peaceful alternative to Dubrovnik, Cavtat is a hidden gem that promises a tranquil escape, stunning coastal beauty, and a glimpse into Croatian charm at its finest.

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Famous: Plitvice Lakes

A scenic view of Plitvice Lakes, featuring waterfalls with lush vegetation alongside a wooden boardwalk.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is renowned for its ethereal beauty. Its cascading waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and lush green landscapes enchant visitors. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a nature lover’s paradise, and its natural vistas have earned it the nickname “Land of the Falling Lakes.”

As you wander along the wooden boardwalks and meandering trails, you’ll be mesmerized by the abundance of waterfalls at every turn. The everchanging colors of the lakes, ranging from emerald green to azure blue, create a magical setting that will leave you in awe. The park boasts 16 interconnected lakes, connected by a series of cascades, creating a natural masterpiece that seems almost too picturesque to be real.

Exploring Plitvice Lakes is an adventure in itself. You can hike through the forested trails, take a boat ride across the lakes, or even embark on a panoramic train ride for a different perspective. With over 90 waterfalls to discover, including the magnificent Veliki Slap, the tallest waterfall in Croatia, you’ll be immersed in nature’s grandeur at every moment.

But What other place might offer solitude away from the masses..?

Lesser Known: Rastočki Slapovi – Slunj Rastoke Waterfalls

Waterfalls in Croatia - Waterfall in Rastoke, Croatia.

If you’re looking for a nature spot similar to Plitvice Lakes but with its own unique charm, consider visiting Rastočki Slapovi.

In the heart of the country, you will find picturesque Slunj, and not too far away from there, at a point where the Slunjcica and Korana rivers join, you’ll discover Rastočki Slapovi – quickly one of the most scenic falls in Croatia.

The force of the water creates several pools, smaller falls, and even rapids, making it a definite picture point. There are plenty of places to stay in and around the area, offering a unique experience to enjoy these stunning waterfalls and the natural beauty of Croatia. 

Famous: Hvar

Beautiful view of the town of Hvar on the island of Hvar in Croatia circa September 2016 in Hvar.

Hvar is famous for its nightlife, luxurious yachting scene, and glamorous atmosphere.

This stunning island attracts partygoers, celebrities, and those seeking a high-end getaway. Hvar Town, with its bustling waterfront, thriving bars, and exclusive clubs, has gained fame as one of Europe’s top party destinations. The town’s lively energy is contagious, and you’ll find an array of trendy restaurants, chic boutiques, and stylish cocktail bars to keep you entertained.

As the sun sets, Hvar’s famous nightlife truly comes to life. Be prepared for a night filled with live music, energetic crowds, and an electric atmosphere that will make you want to dance until the early hours. If you’re seeking a glamorous, see-and-be-seen kind of experience, Hvar is the place to be.

But if you do not want to be in the crowds, what other island escape exists?

Lesser Known: Vis

Boats moored in a serene harbor with a colorful hillside village in the background, reminiscent of Croatia.

If you’re searching for a more laid-back and authentic island experience away from the party scene, Vis is the answer. This hidden gem is known for its tranquility, unspoiled natural beauty, and untouched charm. Vis Town, the main settlement, is a picturesque fishing village where you can wander through narrow streets, soak in the relaxed vibe, and savor delicious local cuisine.

Rent a scooter or a bicycle to explore the island at your own pace. Vis offers a plethora of secluded beaches and hidden coves, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying the solitude of nature. Stroll through vineyards and olive groves, visit local wineries, and indulge in fresh seafood dishes at traditional konobas (taverns).

With its serene atmosphere, untouched landscapes, and authentic Dalmatian charm, Vis is the ideal alternative to the bustling energy of Hvar, providing a peaceful island haven where you can truly unwind and reconnect with nature.

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Famous: Split

Historical architecture with a bell tower in a Croatian old town setting.

Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends history, culture, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

The crown jewel of Split is the awe-inspiring Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most well-preserved examples of Roman architecture in the world. This sprawling palace complex serves as the heart of the city, with its labyrinthine alleys, ancient ruins, and an array of restaurants, shops, and galleries.

Beyond the palace, Split offers a lively waterfront promenade known as the Riva, where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll, sip on coffee, and soak in the charming Mediterranean ambiance. The city’s cultural scene is thriving, with numerous art galleries, museums, and theaters scattered throughout.

Split is also an excellent base for exploring the nearby islands. Take a ferry to the paradise of Brač, known for its iconic Zlatni Rat beach, or head to the tranquil island of Šolta, where you can discover secluded coves and enjoy the peaceful charm of traditional Mediterranean villages.

But if you want the old-world vibes without the hustle, where to go…?

Lesser Known: Šibenik

Aerial view of a historic cathedral surrounded by tightly packed buildings with red roofs in a Croatian old town.

For those seeking an equally historic but less crowded alternative to Split, Šibenik is a hidden gem that will captivate you with its architectural beauty and rich heritage.

What sets Šibenik apart is its magnificent Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO-listed masterpiece that showcases intricate Gothic and Renaissance details. Exploring this architectural wonder and witnessing the play of light upon its ancient stone is an experience that will leave you in awe.

Don’t miss a visit to the historic core of Šibenik, where narrow streets filled with charming shops and cafes invite you to wander and discover hidden delights. The city also serves as an ideal gateway to Krka National Park, where you can witness the spectacular Skradinski Buk waterfall and explore picturesque hiking trails that wind their way through unspoiled nature.

Šibenik is a fantastic alternative to Split, offering an equally rewarding experience without the usual crowds.

Famous: Zagreb

Aerial view of a city square and surrounding architecture in Croatia at dusk with vibrant sunset colors in the sky.

Zagreb, the dynamic capital of Croatia, is a sophisticated city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and a buzzing urban lifestyle. The city’s historic Upper Town, known as Gradec, is a delight to explore.

Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit the iconic St. Mark’s Square with its colorful tiled roof, and take in panoramic views from the Lotrščak Tower. Here, you’ll find a wealth of museums, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, a quirky and poignant collection of love memorabilia.

Zagreb also boasts delightful green spaces, such as the atmospheric Maksimir Park, perfect for leisurely walks or picnics. Take a leisurely stroll along Tkalčićeva Street, lined with charming cafes and boutique shops, and soak up the lively street atmosphere.

The city’s culinary scene is thriving, with an array of traditional cuisine, fusion dishes, and international flavors to satisfy any palate. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some local delicacies like štrukli, a traditional Croatian pastry filled with cheese or other savory ingredients.

But if you want big city vibes that are more low key where can you go…?


Lesser Known: Rijeka

Aerial view of a bustling coastal city in Croatia with marina and clear blue skies.

Rijeka, the European Capital of Culture for 2020, is a captivating destination on the Adriatic coast that offers a unique blend of maritime history, diverse architecture, and an emerging art scene. This energetic city is a melting pot of cultures, reflected in its diverse architecture, which ranges from grand Austro-Hungarian buildings to contemporary structures.

Rijeka’s maritime heritage is ingrained in its soul, and visiting the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral is a must for history enthusiasts. Explore the city’s historic center with its bustling Korzo promenade, filled with cafes, shops, and street performances.

Art lovers will appreciate the numerous galleries and cultural spaces scattered throughout the city, showcasing the creativity of local and international artists.

Rijeka’s emerging culinary scene is also worth discovering. From traditional taverns serving fresh seafood to modern bistros experimenting with innovative flavors, you’re sure to find something to tantalize your taste buds.

While Zagreb might be the capital, Rijeka’s lively cultural scene, rich history, and maritime charm make it an excellent alternative for those seeking something different and off the beaten path.

Final Word On Famous Vs. The Lesser Known

Croatia is a treasure trove of famous and lesser-known destinations, each providing a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re drawn to the dazzling allure of Dubrovnik or the tranquil beauty of Cavtat, Croatia has a plethora of attractions to captivate all.

Whether you choose to explore Croatia’s famous or hidden gems, Croatia guarantees an unforgettable journey. Here, the past intertwines with the present, and natural wonders are waiting to be discovered. Embark on your Croatian adventure and let this remarkable country cast its spell upon you – as it did me.

Comments (7)

  1. Your blog post on famous destinations in Croatia and alternatives to explore instead is a refreshing take on travel planning!

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