A Beginners’ Guide to Croatia-1
A Beginners’ Guide to Croatia-2
A Beginners’ Guide to Croatia-3

A Beginners’ Guide to Croatia

First time on the Dalmatian Coast? Start here.

From rich history and stunning architecture to fresh seafood and long days on the beach, it’s no wonder Croatia is on the wish list of many travelers. If you’re planning your first getaway to the coastal country, we’ve got you covered. The good news? With water taxis, ferries and boat charters aplenty, you can make your way to each of these spots in the course of a week or two. The bad news? Once you’re there, you won’t want to leave.


croatia_dubrovGo for: A trip back in time
Enter the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported right back to medieval times. And these walls would have much to say: they’ve encountered several sieges, earthquakes, fires and wars, and what remains are some of the most treasured examples of gothic renaissance architecture in the world. While you wander, you’ll encounter sites like the Sponza Palace, the Franciscan Monastery and the Church of St. Blaise. When it’s time to give your walking shoes and SLR a rest, take a seat at one of the many cafes that line Stardun street, or grab a gelato and people watch near the Onforio fountain.


Go for: Sandy beaches
The 279 km² kilometre island of Korcula is peppered with charming little villages, but the hub of action is Korcula town, occupying the eastern tip. The island lies right in between Dubrovnik and Split, and it’s perfect for those looking for a quieter option, especially during high season in the summer. Though Croatia is known for its rocky coasts, Korcula’s coastline offers a few sandy options, such as Luka Korculanska beach with lovely calm waters or Vela Prznia beach with Caribbean-style white sands.


croatia_hvarshutterstock_172255169Go for: Food and wine
Droves of travelers flock to Hvar during the summer months–and for good reason: Hvar epitomizes the fun-loving flair of the sunniest season. Lavender is in bloom and the scent fills the air, and the rocky coastline shimmers, making the perfect backdrop for those who love to eat, drink and be merry. By day, hike Hvar’s southern cliff towards the Zlatan Otok winery (about 2 hours), offering stunning views of the village and the sea, then treat yourself to a well-deserved glass of the winery’s rich and oaky vintages. The town is filled with top-notch restaurant options with menus inspired from both Balkan and Mediterranean influences and a dedicated appreciation for the abundant seafood; some of our favorites are the super-chic Divino that boasts beautiful terrace views and an extensive wine list, and Teraca along the town’s main square that makes a perfect place for sunset cocktails. And those who love to put their dancing shoes on should check out Carpe Diem, Hvar’s most famous place for a memorable night (or day?) of cutting loose.


Go for: A bit of everything
As the largest city on the Adriatic coast with influences from French to Austrian to Italian, whether you’re a history lover, culture junkie, food and wine fanatic, or aquatic adventurer, there’s an experience you’ll enjoy here. The Dioceltian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see. Right in downtown Split, it’s free of charge and the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll already know the show is filmed here. You can take a specialized tour that walks through many of the show’s central filming sites, such as Khaleesi’s bedroom in the Palace, and the Klis Fortress, seen many times throughout the series; your expert guide will explain the history of the site and their role in the show throughout the tour. When you’re all historied-out, spend a day walking through the impossibly charming and narrow streets of the Varos neighborhood. For a total change of pace, you can charter yourself a boat (and captain!) from the harbor, which will take you to nearby islands and the best snorkeling spots. When it’s time to refuel, Split’s cuisine – dominated mostly by Italian influences – is sure to satisfy. Don’t leave without trying local favorite pašticada s njokama – fresh gnocchi topped with olive oil. Our favorite spot for fresh pasta, seafood and local wines (and a view to match) is Zrno Soli, right near the marina.

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Colleen McNamara