Top 10 Reasons to Visit Croatia
The year was 2018... I was a month away from turning 30 and I wanted to celebrate in a big way. The only problem was I was going through an "Eat, Pray, Love" moment and decided I wanted to find myself, BY MYSELF. So what was my priority when deciding on a destination? Safety of course! I wanted to make sure I visited a place that was safe for a woman traveling solo.
After scouring the many "Safest Places for Women to Visit" lists Google offered me I found that Croatia kept popping up and I was intrigued. I knew very little about it right off the bat so I decided to do some research and was blown away. Croatia offers something for every type of traveler. In fact, I was surprised I had NOT visited yet.
Read below to find the top 10 reasons you should consider Croatia, or Hrvatska as the locals call it, for your next vacation.
1. Game of Thrones was filmed in various locations
Ok, ok. I'll admit this quickly became my #1 reason to visit Croatia, I was pretty excited to be able to visit several filming locations on one trip. They will always try to sell you tours but honestly I visited all these places by walking or taking a bus (Klis Fortress). A few examples include:
2. The food is unbelievably delicious
I'm a self-proclaimed foodie, and I can honestly say Croatia had some of the best food I've ever tried. There's a mix of European and middle eastern influences the seasonings and ingredients. From pastries to pasta every single dish I tried there was unique and very tasty.
3. Wine, wine, wine
I love tasting the local spirits in every destination I go to. I honestly did not know a lot about Croatian wine but I left an expert! I learned cool facts like the local grape Plavac Mali was actually the foundation for world-reknowned wines like Zinfandel and Primitivo from Italy.
Many years ago there was a plague killing the grapes in Croatia and the healthy grapes were shipped across the Adriatic to their Italian neighbors. This effectively saved the grape from extinction. I found this fascinating. Wine tours are very common in this country but I was feeling pretty adventurous and once again found ways to visit a few without being tied down to a tour. I rented a bike on the island of Korčula and rode through the spectacular countryside to different wineries. My favorite was Vitis Winery (formerly GRK Winery) where I ordered a sampling of 4 local wines with olives, crackers, and cheese for €10!
That was a big concern for me, I saw the pictures and said: "This place must cost an arm and a leg." It's actually surprisingly affordable. I averaged $50/night on my 9 day trip. Since I was traveling solo I looked up rooms on Airbnb ($28-45/night) but later on realized I could've stayed at a hostel and met more people. You can find some hostels for as low as kn85 a night, that's about $13 USD. I think what I spent the most money on was food but I never ate a bad meal (see #3) and it was pretty standard prices.
*Keep in mind the local currency is the Kuna, not the euro.
5. National Parks galore
Croatia is a natural wonder. I knew I wanted to visit at least 1 but was lucky enough to see 2, and one of them is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! There are 6 others I want to go back and visit.
Plitvice Lakes National Park - This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site
Here is where saving money almost got me in trouble...I did not want to pay full price for a guided tour so I originally paid $40 for a tour that basically only included the 3 hour ride to the park. Thanks to the hospitality of Sugaman Tours I was upgraded to the guided tour, and I'm so glad they did! Our tour guide Bariša was fabulous and actually did the tour backwards, so we avoided most of the crowds. I loved hearing facts about the park. The pictures just don't do this park justice.
Krka National Park - also impressive and easier to hike than Plitvice Lakes
It's closer to Split than Plitvice and it's a beautiful waterfall surrounded by watermills. I definitely recommend it! Usually tours will add in a visit to the city of Trogir (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), which made for a fun day trip.
6. The views
I want to admit, some of them made me cry. Like I said before, I was going through a "Eat, Pray, Love" moment in my life, but it really made me grateful to be able to witness such natural beauty.
Croatia is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites. It was part of the Roman and Byzantine Empire and was even a part of Yugoslavia before it gained independence in 1991. As a history buff I loved reading all about Diocletian's Palace and its Roman beginnings to the siege of Dubrovnik and its historical significance through the centuries.
8. Easy to get around
I loved the fact that Croatia was so easy to navigate. Despite the fact that I don't speak Croatian, most people spoke English. I opted to take ferries everywhere, and unlike the Greek Islands, these trips are much shorter. My longest ferry ride was about 2.5 hours from Korčula to Dubrovnik and the views made it seem even shorter. Each ferry ride was the equivalent of $25USD. You can also take a bus between cities (this would the cheaper option). I got to see a lot of Croatia in a short amount of time since it's so easy to get from place to place. I visited Split, Korčula, and Dubrovnik with day trips in between to the national parks and even Bosnia & Herzegovina. Consider day trips to surrounding countries as well!
I went in the month of May. It was extremely pleasant. The temperatures ranged between 60-78 degrees Fahrenheit. It does get hotter and drier during the summer months, and the winters are rainy. For the most part I recommend going between April and late May for the best climate. It made walking very easy as I wasn't exhausted from heat.
10. The friendly locals
Remember I said I went alone? I never once felt lonely, and that's what has left Croatia so high on my list even years after having visited. The people were so eager to show their culture, their beautiful home. Locals on the street will give you suggestions on best restaurants in the area, people smile at you in the streets, and Airbnb owners will check up on you days after you've checked out to make sure you've arrived safely at the next destination. I even had one give me a handmade bookmark to remember my time in Dubrovnik. Most of the things I did were because locals gave me awesome tips. It's the little details that left me impressed.
Overall I'd say Croatia is still one of my favorite destinations. In today's world it might not be so easy to go between countries but the history and beauty remains. Americans have been welcome in Croatia since late last year and while entry requirements have changed we are still welcome with a negative COVID-19 test performed within 48 hours of departure. More airlines are starting to offer direct routes from main U.S. cities which is why I say: why wait to explore such a marvelous place?