Another question I get a lot is “. . . what should I do if I really want to experience the essence of Croatia in just a couple of weeks”. A very hard question to answer! But if I were to create an itinerary and had to pick the “Top 10 Things Not to Miss in Croatia”, I would say the following (actually 10 +1 because I failed to reduce it to 10):
Sail – world class sailing rivals anywhere else in the world
Spend at least a day sailing. Sailing among the 1,000 islands in the clean, clear waters of the Adriatic is a unique experience, whether you are a seasoned sailor or want to try it for the first time. If you are limited in time, choose the Split Archipelago. If you have a week or more, sail between Split & Dubrovnik. It is the best way to experience the diversity of Croatian culture, history & lifestyles. Each island is different, from the beautiful national park, Mljet, to the buzz of Hvar and everything in between. For people who like active holidays, you can enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking and water sports on the islands along the way. And the sailing is wonderful – with great winds, few obstacles and lots of choices for anchoring in deserted bays, mooring on a buoy near a seaside restaurant or staying in full service marinas.
Discover Croatian Wine – journey through the heart & soul of Croatia
I would not miss a chance to visit some wineries while you are here. Not only because there is a wine renaissance happening & Croatian wine makers are making interesting and unusual wines. But also because visits to the wineries take you through the heart and soul of Croatia – its geography, people, history and culture. The winemakers are happy to share their stories, they are hospitable & you get a glimpse into local life.
Drive the coast from Istria to Dubrovnik – quaint trip to a bygone century
If you have time, a slow drive along the coast is spectacular – beautiful sea and a string of quaint towns makes you feel like you have gone back 75 years in time.
Wander Istria – bucolic slice of the best Croatia has to offer
Istria is beautiful – with rolling hills, tiny villages and beautiful ports. The cuisine & wines are taking their place with world distinction. Don’t miss:
- Rovinj, Motovun & Pula
- Wine, truffles & cheeses
- Tour of wineries – these 3 will give you a diverse experience and you will see a experience quintessential Istria along the way:
Hike in Plitvica National Park – breathtaking even to the seasoned traveler
Truly a natural wonder, it earns its place as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend a quiet day wandering the pathways, lakes & waterfalls, you will be glad you did.
Stroll the Split Esplanade – one of Europe’s most beautiful & historic port towns
Split is truly a romantic city and the emerging epicenter of the Croatian Renaissance – a living example of the blending of old and new, city sophistication and island casual, European fashion and tradition. Split is the key to the Adriatic – gateway to Dalmatia, the islands & the sea. Don’t miss:
- Wander the old town, its markets, the underbelly of Diocletian’s palace & the palace walls – you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time a couple of thousand years
- Sit along the promenade for morning coffee and watch the yachts and ferries come and go. This is a local Split pastime
- Dine in an open air restaurant and bask in the warm summer evenings
- Visit the fish market (before 10:00) and of course the open air market on the east end of the Promenade
Brac island – unspoiled island where they say “. . . they came for a moment and stayed for a lifetime.”
Brac is dotted with small villages, each with its own character and dialect. People from one village claim not to understand those from another. Scattered with hidden bays and unspoiled coastline, the water is clear and pure & the swimming some of the best anywhere. The beautiful Brac limestone has been used in palaces around the world, including Vienna and the White House. Brac was voted second in the world’s best islands to live on. I am going to guess because it is easy to get to, yet remains clean, beautiful and unspoiled. No high rises or big hotels.
Hvar island – Hvar is glamorous & trendy but behind the glitter – charming, old-world, unspoiled
Hvar town is the glamour spot of the Dalmatian coast and definitely work the visit. Hvar Town harbor is a charming mix of lifestyles – traditional local lifestyle, glitterati and international trend setters.
We also love the other side of the island – especially Jelsa, Stari Grad & Vrboska – all charming, all different, all well worth a visit. In the middle of the island are the famous lavender fields – an amazing site with the purple flowers contrasting with the white stone. The steep slopes of seaside vineyards are also stunning – they say the sun shines 3 times on the vines on Hvar – directly from above, the reflection from the sea and the reflection from the white rocks.
Pakleni Islands – where pirates chased merchant ships headed for Venice
Just off the coast of Hvar, the Pakleni Islands (literally hell’s islands) are where pirates hid to attack passing merchant ships and where merchant ships hid to escape pursuing pirates. The many hidden bays, inlets, coves and passages were perfect for hiding. Today the water, the sun, the unspoiled string of islands make for heavenly sailing.
Korcula Island – the spirit of Dalmatia
If Dubrovnik is the heart of Dalmatia, Kocula is the spirit. Claiming to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, whether it is or is not, it still should not be missed. The spirit of the explorer lives on and charming cafes line the fortress, port and waterfront – perfect spot to while away a clear morning, sleepy afternoon or romantic evening. With its narrow cobbled streets glimmering from the bright sun and reflection from the sea, Korcula town just might be my favorite Dalmatian village.
Wander Iconic Dubrovnik – there is a reason Dubrovnik is called the Pearl of the Adriatic
Dubrovnik has been a vital commercial center for centuries, shuttling goods between Byzantium and the east and Venice and the west. Today the city is a graceful testament to its past greatness and wealth, and the influences of east and west – the medieval architecture, the cobbled streets, the fully preserved fortress and city walls, even the newer parts, sloping elegantly to the sea, are in keeping with the ambience of the ancient city. In summer the city sparkles, from its broad ancient promenade to the original narrow streets. The cobbled squares host cultural events, theatre, music and open air cafes and restaurants. On summer evenings the sound of classical music and jazz waft over the walls and infuse the town with the magical feeling that you have gone back in time to the days of the Venetian empire.
Dubrovnik lives up to its reputation as an international hot spot and lively cultural center.