Croatia: A Completely Honest Travel Guide

With piercing turquoise seas and fairytale-like architecture, there is no denying Croatia is breathtakingly beautiful.

Spanning most of the Adriatic Sea, you’re never too far away from the coast when traveling in Croatia. And even if it’s not pretty beaches you seek, stone castles and magnificent waterfalls await travelers of all kinds.

Whether you are backpacking through Croatia or are wanting to splurge on Yacht Week, these travel tips will help you plan your next adventure to the Land of a Thousand Islands.

What we really thought about Croatia

We do our best to give our honest opinions about all the destinations we travel to and the products we recommend through Two Wandering Soles. That is why we are going to be honest about our thoughts on traveling in Croatia, so brace yourself because ours an unpopular opinion. What we’re about to say may come as a surprise, but it has to be said: We didn’t love Croatia.

That doesn't mean we didn't like Croatia. We just didn't fall in love like we so often do with places we visit.

There's no denying Croatia’s beauty. The aquamarine waters and craggy beaches are what dreams are made of.

And Plitvice Lakes National Park is out-of-this-world gorgeous!

But frankly, it takes more than beautiful landscapes to make us fall in love. Just like with people: a pretty face is nice, but we crave more. 

The thing is, we made some big mistakes when traveling to Croatia. So make sure to read until the end of this article so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. If you follow our advice we think you will enjoy your time in Croatia much more than we did.


Croatia Article Contents

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Places to Visit in Croatia

This tall slice of Adriatic coastline in the Balkans is packed full of charming towns and ancient cities, each with their own unique draw. From the walled city of Dubrovnik to the party-heavy islands, the surprisingly welcoming capital and the famous truffle region, we’ve broken down all the best places to visit in Croatia in this handy guide.

Dubrovnik

An ancient walled city on the coast that is as beautiful as it is popular

One of the most famous cities in all of Croatia, Dubrovnik is popular for many reasons. First, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and deservingly so. And we can’t ignore the fact that HBO has put Dubrovnik on the map for a lot of people who may not have otherwise heard of it when they used Dubrovnik Old Town as the backdrop for King’s Landing and filmed many scenes there for their hit show Game of Thrones.

You can even take a Game of Thrones walking tour. Guides dressed in costume will bring you to various filming locations and play the scene on an iPad for a group of about 20 people to see. The tour didn’t look like something we were personally interested in taking. But if you're a diehard G.O.T. fan, it might be right up your alley.

The medieval stone buildings and churches in Dubrovnik Old Town are fascinating; but now some of them are turned into bars, restaurants, and pirate-theme candy stores, which we found to take away from the authenticity of the Old Town.

You can still have a good time getting lost among the city's narrow alleyways and finding yourself among hidden nooks and crannies.

Best views in Dubrovnik

1. The most popular view: Walk along the Dubrovnik City Wall for 2 km and get a unique view of the city (Entrance: 150 kuna / $24.25 USD).

2. An interesting alternative: An alternative to the city wall walk is to stroll along inside the city to the western side where you'll find the restaurant Buza Bar. We read about Buza Bar in Lonely Planet, and were intrigued by their description of a "hidden gem bar" where you had to walk beneath an unmarked archway to enter.

We were disappointed to find it was packed with people and no longer "secret" at all. That said, the view of the Adriatic Sea is spectacular, and if you climb down the steps you can find a perfect spot for cliff jumping. 

3. The highest viewpoint: Take the cable car up Mt. Srd for some epic views of the walled city, seas and surrounding islands. It’s especially spectacular at sunset (but also especially crowded, so get there early to get a spot in line!). The cable car cost 170 kn (about $25 USD) for a return ticket. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or Uber to the viewpoint at the top. 

4. Our favorite view: Walk uphill through neighborhoods until you get a good view of the city. We packed a picnic (and a bottle of wine!) and enjoyed the view from a small patch of grass as the sun set over Old Town. This was our favorite view and we had it all to ourselves!

Day trip from Dubrovnik: Hop across the border to Bosnia. Mostar is a stunning town with an interesting history just a 2.5-hour bus ride away, and some people visit as a day trip. If you have time, we would highly recommend spending more time exploring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Related Reading: Check out our complete Dubrovnik travel guide for plenty of things to do plus 4 things you should know before traveling to the ancient walled city.

Hotels in Dubrovnik


Luxury Hotel: Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik

Location: 1.2 km from Old Town

  • Sea views from every room

  • On-site amenities including spa, fitness center and restaurant

  • Steps away from the beach

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Apartments Franka Old Town 

Location: Dubrovnik Old Town

  • Beautifully decorated apartments

  • Small kitchens

  • 2 min walk from the beach

Budget-Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel Free Bird

Location: 2 km from Dubrovnik Old Town

  • Excellent reviews

  • Clean and spacious dorm rooms 

  • Near a bus stop that will take you straight into Old Town


Korčula

A charming island without the crowds

Getting off mainland Croatia and visiting some of the country’s most beautiful islands like Hvar, Vis, Brač and Mljet, is one way to avoid the huge crowds of Dubrovnik and Split. 

If you're looking for a laid-back island in Croatia that is bursting with old-time charm, Korčula may just be the Croatian island for you!

We enjoyed Korčula a lot more than Dubrovnik. The walled cities look strikingly similar, but Korčula was lacking the crowds that made our visit to Dubrovnik a bit of a disappointment. We saw a good chunk of this island via bicycle, and think it is a perfect way to explore this Croatian gem.

How to get to Korčula from Dubrovnik

There are regular buses running between Dubrovnik and Korčula that take approximately 3 hours and will cost you about 100 kn ($16 USD). 

Another option is to take a ferry from Dubrovnik, which is both faster and more scenic. The Nona Ana Ferry runs this route only during the months (July - September) and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. You can purchase tickets in Dubrovnik at Petka Pier or in Korčula at the Korkyra Tourist Agency.

Things to do in Korčula

1. Rent a bike in town for around 100 kn ($16 USD) for the day, pack a picnic lunch, a map, and head out on your way! We discovered hidden beaches and small villages along the way, making this one of our favorite memories in Croatia. Stop along the way in Lumbarda, a small village on the eastern side of Korčula island where the hills are filled with vineyards and the beaches have crystal clear water.

2. Visit a winery and try the famous white wines. There are lots of wineries on the island of Korčula. Just be sure to check the hours they are open to the public, as some of the wineries have certain hours when they are only open for tour groups.  

3. Have a beach day. The beaches in Croatia are world-renowned for their turquoise Mediterranean waters, but don't expect powdery sand that you can bury your toes in while drift to sleep. Instead, most Croatian beaches are pretty rugged, and powdery sand is replaced with small stones. But don’t let that deter you from taking a refreshing dip in the water.

4. Rent a scooter. If we had more time in Korčula, we would have loved to explore the western part of the island.

5. Explore the Old Town which is surrounded on all sides by water. The old churches are gorgeous and the restaurants on the water look delicious. Walk up and down the alleyways and get lost. 

6. Get a view of the Old Town. Take a short hike up the hill opposite the city and find the lookout point to get a great view of the city.

Want to go island hopping in Croatia? Korčula was one of our favorite spots in Croatia and we wish we would have had time to see more islands. This article is a good guide to island hopping in Croatia so you can choose the island(s) that best suit your travel style!

Where to Stay in Korčula

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Apartments Galerija 

Location: Right next to Old Town

  • Private bathroom with bathtub

  • Kitchenette

  • 4-min walk to beach

Budget-Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Apartments & Room Nina 

Location: Old Town of Korčula

  • Restaurants and bars within walking distance

  • Perfect location for meeting other travelers


Split

A modern city with plenty of nightlife and beaches

The nightlife, beautiful beaches, historic center and proximity to some of the country's most famous islands makes Split a popular destination on most Croatia itineraries. Its location on the Adriatic coast makes it a popular stop for cruise ships as well.

Can’t-Miss Highlights of Split

1. Explore the Old Town city center. Remnants from the former Roman Emperor, Diocletian’s Palace makes up the majority of the city center of Split known as “Old Town”. Make your way through the narrow alleyways, shop around, grab a bite to eat or climb the old bell tower for some seriously epic views of the city.

2. Make your way to the beach. There are plenty of beaches to choose from in this coastal town. Some of the best include Bačvice Beach, which is right near Old Town and by far the most popular, and Trstenik Beach which is more of a local secret and not nearly as crowded.

3. Indulge in the food at Bokeria Kitchen & Wine Bar. Whether you’re going for a boozy brunch on the weekend or a fancy night out, Bokeria was hands-down my favorite restaurant in Split and worth checking out for the decor alone. 

4. Climb Marjan Hill for sunset. To escape the city, head west and enter the Park Šuma Marjan. It's a bit of a climb up hundreds of steps but if you go later in the afternoon, you will be rewarded with great sunset views of the Old Town and the sea.

5. Get into nature in Krka National Park. It may not get as much hype as it’s larger sister park, Plitvice, but Krka is most-definitely worth a visit just 1.5 hours outside of Split. With a single loop around the park, it’s easy to walk the park on your own and there is no need for a tour. And while swimming is supposedly forbidden in national parks, it is “tolerated” in a single area of Krka so don’t forget to bring your suit!

Check out our complete Split travel guide for all the things to do, including all of the best restaurants in Split and tips for getting around.

Where to Stay in Split

Luxury Hotel: Time Boutique Hotel

Location: Old Town city center

  • 5 min walk to Bačvice Beach

  • Free parking

  • Bar and garden lounge

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Villa Domina

Location: 5 minute walk to Old Town Split 

  • 10 minute walk to the beach

  • Exposed-brick yet modern style

  • Perfect stay for a couple

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Downtown Hostel

Location: Old Town city center

  • One of the cheapest options in Old Town

  • Free WiFi throughout the property 

  • Perfect location for exploring


Hvar

The resort island known for epic parties

Hvar is an island off the Croatian coast near Split which is best known as a boujee resort destination with lots of partying. While there are some luxurious resorts on Hvar, it is also possible to experience Hvar on a budget. And there are plenty of things to do on the island that aren’t party-hopping. 

How to get to Hvar from Split

The easiest way to get to Hvar Island is by ferry from Split. The Jadrolinija ferry operates year-round and runs daily from Split to Hvar and back. The 1 hour journey will cost a reasonable 110 kn for adults (about $16 USD) and there are plenty of times to catch the ferry throughout the day.

1. Find a hidden beach. There are plenty of beaches on the island of Hvar to get your tan on or take a dip. One of favorites for a day full of relaxation is Pokonji dol Beach. You can also walk along the road between the Hvar marina and Pokonji dol Beach to find some hidden spots to take a plunge and have a bit more privacy - that is if no one else sees you and decides to join. 

2. Visit Stari Grad. Literally translated to “Old Town,” Stari Grad has been settled since prehistoric times and is the oldest town in all of Croatia and one of the oldest in Europe. Rent a scooter and drive the stunning 15 mile stretch along the coast on the Old Road from Hvar Town to Stari Grad and go exploring. 

3. Indulge in good food and local wine. Hvar has lots of wineries, each creating their own special blend of local Croatian wine that is begging to be taste tested at one of Hvar Town’s many delicious restaurants. Some of our favorites include Black Pepper Restaurant, Fig Cafe and Lungo Mare.

4. Hike to the Spanish Fortress. Sitting high above Hvar Town is Tvrdava Fortica, an elevated fortress which can be accessed via the scenic walkway, with sweeping panoramic views of the sea and surrounding islands. We recommend packing a picnic and heading up there for the sunset with a bottle of local wine!

5. Rent a boat to explore the Pakelni Islands. For a reasonable price you can rent a speedboat for a half or full day to explore the neighboring island archipelago, the Pakelni Islands. With crystal clear waters, untouched beaches and hidden lagoons, you can easily spend the day in this undeveloped paradise. 

6. Climb Sveti Nikola. With just over 2,000 ft in elevation gain, Sveti Nikola is the island’s highest peak and makes for an active day’s climb. 

7. Hit up a beacless beach club. Hula-Hula is one of Hvar’s most popular beach clubs, but you won’t find a beach here. Head here for an afternoon of sunning, seafood, cocktails and dancing. There are ladders to drop into the water for a dip, but nothing resembling a beach. It’s a younger crowd here too, and the party is at its peak for sunset, but dies down shortly after that and closes by 10 pm.

Where to Stay in Hvar

Hvar Town is the largest town on Hvar and is very walkable with plenty of restaurants, bars and beaches, making it the most convenient place to stay on the island.

Luxury Hotel: Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort

Location: 0.7 km from Hvar Town marina

  • Beachfront property

  • Incredible pool

  • Comfortable quiet rooms

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Villa Fio

Location: 1.1 km from Hvar Town marina

  • Beautiful views

  • Helpful staff

  • Exceptionally clean property

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Hostel Villa Zorana

Location: Hvar Town city center

  • Great location

  • Modern & charming rooms

  • Social events


Plitvice Lakes National Parks

National park with spectacular waterfalls and turquoise lakes

We couldn't make a list of highlights of Croatia without including this otherworldly beauty: It literally looks like you are walking in a fairytale land. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a stunner, and it's popular for good reason. So popular, in fact, that if you're visiting during peak season, you'll likely be walking behind lines of other tourists in parts of this national park.

Tip for avoiding crowds in Plitvice

Getting there early will help you avoid the crowds. Visit the most popular spots early in the day or in the later afternoon when the lighting is better and the crowds have thinned. In the meantime, venture off the well-trodden path a bit for a better chance of (semi) solitude.

Suggested Route for Plitvice Lakes 

There are 7 popular hiking routes around Plitvice Lakes, all with varying degree of difficulty and time. To avoid the crowds in Plitvice and see all the major sights, this is the route that we would recommend:

Do the H hiking route in reverse. Starting at Entrance 1, go down to the Lower Falls, see the Great Waterfall, (which is spectacular) but then follow the reverse of the H hiking route (similar to K route). This way you won't feel like cattle moving on walkways with the rest of the crowds. You can either walk around the big lake or take the ferry across. 

The Upper Falls were our favorite part, because there were less people and the way the water flows off all the rocks is unlike anything we have ever seen. Continue to follow the H hiking route in reverse, twisting through the upper falls, until you reach Station 3. Then, take the free shuttle to Station 1 so you don't have to walk the entire way back.

Insider tips for Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • Pack a picnic lunch because a) it's a beautiful spot for picnics, and b) the choices inside the park are limited and expensive.

  • Stay in a hotel near Plitvice instead of doing a day trip from Split or Zadar (if your timing allows!). You'll get there bright and early and will be able to stay after the last buses leave. This is how we would do it next time. (Find some recommended hotel options below!)

If you're traveling to Plitvice as a day trip, read this first!

We departed from Split and were going to Zagreb that night, so we had all our stuff. There is a free storage room at Plitvice Lakes in which you can leave your belongings. Do know that the storage room is locked, but it's not secure.

People will be going in all day long to drop off and pick up their belongings, so lock up your valuables. A trick we often use is locking our bags together with these wire locks. Nobody will steal your bag when it's locked to another bag. It's just too awkward!

Admission Cost for Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • High Season: July 1 - Aug 31: Adults: 180 Kuna ($28 USD) Students: 110 Kuna ($17 USD)

  • Shoulder Seasons: April 1 - June 30 & Sept 1 to Oct 31: Adults: 110 Kuna ($17 USD) Students 80 Kuna ($12.50 USD)

  • Low Season: Nov 1 - March 31: Adults: 55 Kuna ($8.50 USD) Students: 45 Kuna ($7 USD)

More information on Plitvice Lakes website.

Hotels near Plitvice Lakes

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Apartmani Burić

Location: 5.7 km from Plitvice Lakes National Park

  • Fully equipped kitchens and flat-screen TVs

  • Beautiful property

  • Stunning views

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: House Nina

Location: 2 km from Plitvice

  • Cute & cozy house 

  • Beautifully decorated garden

  • Great reviews

Tip: Renting a car is very affordable in Croatia and a great way to allow yourself some flexibility in getting around.


Istria Peninsula

Where continental Croatia meets the Sea

The northern part of Croatia that juts out into the Adriatic sea is known as the Istria Peninsula. This peninsula has a unique history – first it was considered part of Italy after WWI, then it was part of Yugoslavia following WWII and is now a slice of Croatia where the locals are of both Italian and Croatian descent. 

The Istria region of Croatia is not as well traveled as its lower, coastal half and the towns and historical charm are much more preserved. Istria is also the region known for growing truffles – the rare fungi considered a delicacy in most of the world due to its intense flavor. But more on that below...

Places to Visit in Istria Croatia

 Pula

This seaside town on the southern tip of the Istria peninsula is known for its beach-lined coast and Roman ruins. Pula is the largest city in the Istria region and has a history of being occupied, destroyed and rebuilt. 

The most prominent marker of its history is the Pula Arena, which bears a striking resemblance to Rome’s Colosseum. It is also the only remaining roman amphitheater on earth that has all four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. 

Pula is a great starting off point to discover the rest of the Istria peninsula. 

Where to Stay in Pula

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Adrion Aparthotel

Location: 3.5 km to city center

  • Indoor pool

  • Friendly staff

  • Fully fitted apartments with AC and kitchen

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Pula City Center Accommodations 

Location: Pula city center

  • Great value for the money

  • Breakfast included

  • Offer triple and quadruple rooms

Rovinj

If there’s one thing Croatia seems to do exceedingly well, it’s charming historical towns on the coast and Rovinj may just be the underrated crowning glory. A fishing port on the west coast of the peninsula, the enchanting old town of Rovinj is built up on a hill. The narrow cobblestone streets all lead to the church at the top, who’s steeple dominates the horizon. 

Things to do in Rovinj

1. Get lost in the tangled web of streets as you make your way through the town, ducking into alleyways to reveal turquoise blue waters framed by the outer walls of the town.

2. Discover the local market, filled with fresh produce, spices and all the truffle you can get your hands on. 

3. Take a dip at Lone Bay, one of the area’s pebble beaches, just south of Old Town. 

4. Have a cliff-side snack or drink at La Puntulina. With only a few tables on their outside terrace, you’ll want to be sure to get a spot to take in the views as you indulge in a glass of wine or some Italian-inspired bites.

Where to Stay in Rovinj


Couple Stay/Mid-range: Rooms Villa Duketis

Location: Old Town city center

  • Warm welcoming atmosphere

  • Beautifully decorated rooms

  • Quiet location right in the historic center

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Studio Apartment Lily

Location: Old Town city center

  • Clean and comfortable rooms

  • Steps from Rovinj Market

  • Free WiFi and AC

Truffle Hunting in Croatia

We mentioned that Istria is known as the truffle region of Croatia and Croatia happens to be the best (and one of the only!) place to find truffles in the world. So it’s no wonder that truffle hunting has become a bit of an experience to be had in the region. If you are visiting during the months of April - November, it is a great time to experience the thrill of the “hunt”! 

Karlic Tartufi, a local family business of 3 generations, offers a truffle hunting experience that we highly recommend. They were friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about all things truffle. You’ll come away from the experience filled with knowledge about truffle hunting, the process and how they train their dogs. 

...And before you ask, the answer is YES! The animals are treated very well. In fact, once the dogs have been trained to hunt truffles, they are considered extremely valuable and are given the doggy equivalent of the royal treatment. Plus they absolutely love the hunt! Their tails were wagging the entire time as they were free to roam about the forest and sniff everything in sight.

Take a Ferry to Venice

Did you know you can get to Italy from Croatia in just 3 hours!? There are 2 ferries that run between Pula and Venice, Italy 8 times every week. The price varies by season but the trip takes just 3 hours and is well-worth it if your travel schedule allows. You can check the ferry schedules and buy your tickets online at Direct Ferries.

You might just find a lot more similarities than you’d guess between Venice and the Istria region of Croatia.


Zagreb

A totally different side of Croatia…

While we've already told you why we weren't blown away with the rest of Croatia, the city of Zagreb actually really surprised us. It feels worlds different than the coastal towns, and actually has a very welcoming and accessible vibe.

Things to do in Zagreb

1. Wander Tkalčićeva Street: This pedestrian walking street is packed with restaurants and bars serving good happy hour deals. 

2. Pop into one of the many cute coffee shops. There are hundreds throughout this city so find one in a busy square, relax and people watch. 

3. Visit St. Mark's Church. This church built in the 13th century, has colorful roof tiles showing the Croatian, Dalmatian and Slavonian coats-of-arms. 

4. Visit Dolac Market: Be sure to walk through the massive Dolac Market to pick up fresh fruit. 

5. Gaze at street art: Get lost in alleyways in search of the city's street art. During our free walking tour, our guide brought us to some pretty cool art. 

6. Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships. This quirky museum is a collection of personal items people received from former lovers, and is complete with stories.

7. Free walking tour in Zagreb: Always a good way to see the city and its major sites while getting a little history lesson too. 

Free Walking tour Zagreb Croatia Travel

Hotels in Zagreb


Luxury Hotel: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel

Location: In the city center district

  • Luxury to the max on a lower budget

  • Terrace restaurant and bar

  • Walking distances to attractions, shops & restaurants

Couple Stay/Mid-range: Rooms Zagreb 17 

Location: In the city center district

  • Spacious beautifully decorated rooms 

  • Beautifully decorated

  • Welcoming hosts

Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Main Square Hostel

Location: In the city center district

  • Modern hostel

  • Offers both private and dorm rooms

  • Free wifi + common area to meet other travelers


Don't make these Mistakes when traveling to Croatia

We're not writing this to discourage anyone from visiting this Mediterranean beauty. We tend to shy away from sharing when we don't like a place. But I think we've pinpointed what it was that turned us off to Croatia.

We hope by sharing our disappointment, it may help others come with more realistic expectations and avoid the mistakes that we made while traveling in Croatia.

There are a few things that affected our feelings about Croatia, and we made some big mistakes when we traveled there. Once you understand the mistakes we made, you will enjoy Croatia so much more!

1. Our expectations were high

For one thing, we had super high expectations. Back in 2009, Ben and I studied abroad in Italy. That was the first time I remember hearing about Croatia. A friend of mine went there and raved about the beaches, the lack of other tourists compared to neighboring Italy. She said it was cheap, “off the beaten path”, beautiful. I’ve been dreaming about visiting Croatia ever since. You can probably guess where I’m going with this…

Have you ever visited a place that was so hyped up that even though you had a good time, you left feeling underwhelmed? That’s how we felt about Croatia. We had allotted 2 and a half weeks to visit Croatia, but ended up leaving early – something we rarely do when traveling (in fact, it’s almost always the opposite!).

2. It was PEAK tourist season

When we visited Croatia in July, it was packed with tourists everywhere you looked. Places that were described online as "hidden gems" had lines around the block.

The famed Plitvice Lakes that grace your Instagram feed are magical, yes, but some of that magic is diminished when you have to walk the wooden boardwalks behind long lines of people carrying selfie sticks.

And in Dubrovnik, you couldn't walk a few minutes in the Old City without seeing one of the many corny "Game of Thrones" tours (complete with a guide dressed in chainmail and holding an iPad that was playing a scene from the show). Historic buildings had been turned into overpriced pirate-themed candy shops. It felt a bit like Disney World. And not in a good way.

I think a few years ago, these crowds didn't exist to the extent that we experienced. But with photos of Croatia being an Instagram staple (I'm guilty of posting these too!) and with the exploding popularity of "Game of Thrones" (King's Landing was famously filmed in Dubrovnik), people are flocking to this Mediterranean country in hordes. Especially during the summer months. Yet, I wonder what will happen to tourism now that the show has wrapped up?

3. We didn't budget correctly

Prices were much higher than any of the neighboring countries we visited (and with all the tourists there, I totally understand why). This is more on us than anything else, but we just didn't have the right budget expectations to fully appreciate Croatia. If we raised our budget, we probably would have been able to enjoy ourselves a little more.

4. The people weren't as friendly as the neighbors

On top of everything else, we'd just come from Bosnia where the people were incredibly friendly, funny and excited to talk with us. Many of the people we met in Croatia were lacking in this department.

This isn't to say we didn't meet friendly Croatians – just the opposite. We had a few lovely guesthouse owners that were very kind, but the overall vibe just wasn't as friendly as many of the countries we visited during our round-the-world trip – especially the neighboring countries.

5. Our feelings are relative

Our travels were bookended with visits in two countries that seriously surprised us: Bosnia and Slovenia. And it just so happened that Croatia fell in between.

Think of it this way: You go to a dinner party and speak with 3 people. The first (Bosnia) and the last (Slovenia) are humble and surprisingly interesting. You laugh, you cry. You listen to their stories and they listen to yours.

That person you speak with in between is perfectly nice. A little cocky, maybe. They are beautiful, but they know they are. Everyone in the party wants to talk to them, so you kind of just feel like you scratch the surface of really getting to know who they are. 

And when it comes time to leave the party, you reflect on the two fantastic conversations you just had. The one in the middle kind of fades away. Maybe if you hadn't spoken with the other two party-goers, you would have really appreciated that middle convo a bit more. 

For better or worse, our opinions of people or places are heavily impacted by where we've just come from or where we're going (literally and metaphorically). We just weren't in a place to fully and wholeheartedly appreciate what Croatia had to offer.

6. We may have gone to the wrong places

This is a lesson we learn over and over again. 

The most popular destinations almost always leave us a bit disappointed. I'm sure anyone who has ever gone to the Leaning Tower of Pisa can relate. Cool tower, but that's about it for Pisa. 

Maybe it was our route: Dubrovnik - Korčula - Split - Plitvice Lakes - Zagreb. We started off with a city that we really didn't enjoy, and that sour taste lasted in our mouths for the rest of the country. 

We probably should have done some more research and found more off-the-beaten-path areas, but we were traveling so fast that we just defaulted to the easiest route. 

Would we go back to Croatia?

Yes, without a doubt. We would return in a heartbeat. 

We already have a few places in mind that we’d like to visit the second time around, including some that our editor has visited and wrote about in this guide. We won't deny that Croatia is absolutely breathtaking. Dubrovnik is as touristy as it is beautiful and Plitvice Lakes are a natural treasure.

Our advice to others visiting Croatia:

Avoid peak tourist season. Period. Go somewhere else.

Budget quite a bit more money than you would for the rest of Eastern Europe. We knew Croatia would be one of the more expensive countries on our trip. But we didn’t think it would be the same prices as Western Europe. Don’t make the mistake we did. You'll enjoy yourself more if your budget has some wiggle room.

Have realistic expectations about crowds. Unless you visit during a totally off-peak time, Plitvice Lakes will be crowded. Dubrovnik may feel a bit like Disney World. If you go in knowing that there will be long lines and selfie sticks, you won't be as disappointed as we were.


A Personal Note from Katie and Ben: I'm sure there will be a few people who read this and think we're crazy because they had a fantastic time in Croatia. And I know we rave about places that others may not like. Travel is personal. 

We try not to highly publicize when we don't like a place because we truly believe that there are so many factors that can affect how much you like a particular city or country. But we also believe in honesty, and think that it's okay not to fall in love with every place we visit. 

Our intention is not to discourage anyone from visiting Croatia, but instead to help set expectations and give you advice so you avoid some of our mistakes. We would definitely go back to Croatia; and knowing what we know now, we would most likely enjoy it much more.


Before you book your trip, think about this:

Travel Insurance

We never travel without travel insurance. It’s never fun to think about losing your stuff or the possibility of a delayed flight, missing a connection, or heaven forbid you get injured while traveling. It’s best to know that you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong.

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European Train Travel

How are you traveling around Eastern Europe? One way to travel around Europe is by train and the best way to save money on trains is to buy Eurail Pass.

Now to be honest, we didn’t take any trains in Croatia because the buses and ride-sharing were cheaper. However, if you are traveling to multiple countries fairly quickly or traveling to Western Europe, purchasing a train pass might be your cheapest bet. Check out the Eurail Pass prices here.

European Air Travel

Another great thing about traveling in Europe is airfare is so much cheaper than in North America. One of our favorite sites to book flight is Skyscanner.

It’s so easy to use and we found some our cheapest flights using their “Show Whole Month” feature, where you can select your route and it tells you the cheapest days of the month to fly.


We want to hear from you!

Have you traveled to Croatia? Tell us about your additional travel tips in the comments below.

Are you planning a trip to Croatia now? Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. We are happy to answer them.