Quite possibly my favorite destination on Earth contains a cluster of islands along the Dalmatian coast known as Croatia. The Eastern European country, previously known as Yugoslavia prior to its relatively recent split from Serbia in 1991, is a delightful place comprised of culture, historic architecture, and crystal clear water. Think gray cobblestone alleyways leading you through castle-like fortresses along the bright blue Adriatic. You can’t help but be mesmerized by this enchanting place.
Similar to Greece, Croatia’s beaches are full of pebbles and rocks rather than sand, one reason the water is so clear. I recommend old school jelly sandals (yep, the ones from grade school) that stay on your feet when entering water.
Croatia is still sort of undiscovered, evident in its considerably low tourism compared to that of Greece. I think of it as my secret getaway that is quickly becoming not be so secret anymore. I suggest getting there ASAP before prices and tourism skyrocket and it turns into another Greece! Truthfully parts of Croatia already have but some hidden gems still remain hidden. Between the three times I have visited the country over the last 7 years, I have seen a huge influx in people already.
You may recognize the more popular walled-city of Dubrovnik where Game of Thrones has been filmed. Which brings me to my first reason why you should visit Croatia...
The ancient city of Dubrovnik, otherwise known as King's Landing, is a site to be seen. The lively city is enclosed by cobblestone walls. Inside you will find a full city with tons of people, restaurants, bars, a church, and even a well that you can drink from directly.
2. Island hopping:
The city of Dubrovnik alone is worth visiting but part of the beauty of Croatia is its collection of unique islands. These islands are easy to hop via inexpensive ferries that run often every day or by sailing the ocean blue. Each island is special with its own unique character.
For example, Vis is known for its wineries complimented by its vast rolling hills of vineyards. The old town in the island of Korcula is not only charming but where Marco Polo was born. The cluster of islands lie just southwest of the mainland. Check out this more in depth post on island hopping through Croatia that gives a detailed map and route!
3. Glowing blue cave:
This glowing grotto on the island of Bisevo is a quick boat ride off the coast of Vis. It glows fluorescent blue at certain hours of the day when the sun hits the limestone of the interior walls. It glows so bright it looks fake in person - one of the crazier things my eyes have seen. Tours leave from Vis frequently to visit the cave and require little planning.
4. Party in Hvar:
The island of Hvar has the best nightlife as the charming marina glows magically in the evening against the water. The quaint island is a few hours via ferry from the Capital/mainland city, Split. There are great restaurants all around on the water along with fun bars hidden through the cobblestone alleyways.
For late night partiers Carpe Diem Beach Club is a big scene that requires a water taxi from the main Marina. Even if you are not into the club scene, the restaurants in this adorable city are even better than the bars including the lesser known Panorama - a restaurant sitting on top of a mountain with a 360 view of the Adriatic and views as far as the eyes can see.
5. Mo-ped through Vis at sunset:
You can't feel more alive than making your way via mo-ped through the islands of Croatia. Take a scooter through the island of Vis from the town Komiza to "old" Vis. The two cities are on opposite sides of the small island - about 30 minutes apart. You get a mix of majestic coastal views on the outskirts to vast green vineyards on the inland roads. A sunset drive is breathtaking and extremely romantic.
6. Plitvice Lakes:
One of the more famous destinations of Croatia are the Plitvice lakes. Part of the oldest national park in southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia, these cascading lakes are natural wonders formed by several small rivers. The Plitvice Lakes National Park in on the mainland nearly 6 hours north of Split via bus. The best option would be to fly into Zagreb and take a shorter 2 hour and 20 minute bus ride from there. Quite a trek but a must see and definitely on my bucket list!