Croatia is considered one of Europe’s most enjoyable backpacking locations, providing a mixture of cultural and historic highlights with loads of enjoyable within the solar.
Beware: the coast does get crowded in summer time, particularly August. Fortunately, Croatia hasn’t seen the type of large-scale vacationer improvement that has ruined different Mediterranean coastlines (reminiscent of in Spain), so whereas it may be busy in summer time it’s additionally very charming.
Should you love cute Medieval cities, lovely islands and waterfalls, and historic cities, then Croatia might be simply your jam.
Why go backpacking Croatia?
There are a number of key causes to go backpacking in Croatia:
- Venetian and Roman-era historic sights. As soon as the center of the Ragusan republic, the Dalmatian coast is dotted with previous forts, monasteries, church buildings, and metropolis partitions. Effectively-preserved Roman ruins may be present in Break up and Pula.
- Seashores & island hopping. Croatia is a perfect summer time vacation spot with heat Mediterranean waters, nice pebble seashores, and the most effective areas in Europe for island hopping excursions.
- Nationwide parks & waterfalls. Don’t miss Plitvice, considered one of Europe’s most lovely waterfalls, although Krka has quite a bit going for it as properly.
- Nice journey circuit. Numerous enjoyable backpacker hostels and straightforward transportation hyperlinks make winding down the coast a breeze.
- Music festivals. Croatia has made a reputation for itself with quite a few (principally digital) music festivals
Should you’re from Europe, it’s a no brainer to journey in Croatia a minimum of as soon as. Low cost funds flights go to Break up, Dubrovnik, and (to a lesser extent) Zagreb from everywhere in the continent.
Should you’re from additional away, then Croatia makes for a extra authentic southern European vacation spot than the standard Italy or France.
What are the hostels like?
Should you’re a backpacker who likes to remain in hostels you then’ll be spoiled for selection in Croatia.
The vibe within the hostels is simply as anyplace in Europe, although in Croatia you’ll usually have a mixture of ‘traveller’ sorts and people who find themselves on a vacation to a selected place on the coast.
For instance, within the seaside metropolis of Break up, I’ve discovered the hostels to have many friends carrying backpacks who’re travelling by means of Croatia but additionally fairly a number of with rolling baggage who’re there on a seashore vacation and who’re solely staying in Break up.
Some hostels in Croatia are a bit like occasion hostels in the summertime; examine descriptions to verify the hostels have the environment you favor.
Beneficial hostels in Croatia
Greatest time to go to Croatia
Croatia is massively seasonal. As I rapidly found when travelling in Croatia in March, the coast may be just about 100% lifeless within the winter and is simply barely returning to life even in early-to-mid spring.
Not like another international locations, I might not suggest travelling within the low season in Croatia, a minimum of for those who’re going to the coast. Other than the capital and the hinterlands, it’ll be a little bit of a ghost city throughout this time of yr.
Within the August excessive season, it turns into a madhouse with vacationers concentrated particularly in Break up and Dubrovnik, so this era has its personal disadvantages.
Arguably the perfect time to go to is September. The waters will nonetheless be heat however the loopy August crowds have dissipated by now. The second greatest time to go to is late spring in Could or June.
Plan your Croatia backpacking journey
Croatia backpacking map
Croatia is blessed with a 2000km lengthy rocky shoreline with a great deal of coves and islands, in addition to a number of Venetian-era historic cities alongside the Mediterranean.
Whereas less-visited, I additionally appreciated what I noticed of the nation inland. The extra Central European really feel makes these elements much less glamorous in a way, however not any much less fascinating. Should you like travelling for the journey and to get an entire image of Croatia, it’s value together with a few of the inside.
The map under reveals you a few of the key locations to go to in Croatia:
Locations to go to in Croatia
I’ve had the pleasure of touring in Croatia not simply as soon as however thrice. The next are my notes on a few of the highlights in Croatia, protecting them in roughly a south-to-north order.
As for the most well-liked backpacking locations in Croatia, I discover that Zadar all the time will get nice opinions, and the island of Hvar is one other backpacker favourite. You would possibly wish to give an additional evening or two in these locations.
The previous metropolis of Dubrovnik was as soon as a maritime city-state with a wealth and affect rivalling that of Venice. At the moment, with its nonetheless intact Medieval metropolis partitions and its many church buildings, monasteries and palaces, it’s fairly probably essentially the most picturesque place in Croatia.
Whereas Dubrovnik could be very fascinating I additionally wish to warn you: it may be murderously costly.
It’s additionally insanely busy in the summertime, particularly in July and August. Many travellers arrive in Dubrovnik with sky-high expectations earlier than getting slapped by the crowds and excessive costs.
Go within the low season for those who can. I’ve been in Dubrovnik each in early spring and in mid-August and the distinction was large. You would possibly discover Dubrovnik considerably tedious and hectic in season or very nice exterior of it.
The town is clearly of main historic curiosity. Identified within the Center Ages as Ragusa, it functioned as a key hub for commerce from the East, first underneath Venetian vassalage and later as an unbiased maritime republic.
At a minimal, you’ll want to stroll the traditional outer partitions and go to the world’s oldest working pharmacy on the Franciscan Monastery. A Dubrovnik Card provides you with entrance to 9 main cultural-historical points of interest.
The right spot to observe the sundown over the shimmering azure sea is the marginally hidden Buza Bar [map], on the southern fringe of the Outdated Metropolis simply exterior its partitions.
Dubrovnik’s maze of little aspect streets can be enjoyable to discover, although don’t count on any grand discoveries right here aside from perhaps some stray cats and some extra vacationer eating places. Take into account a strolling tour by means of the Outdated City to achieve a a lot better appreciation past simply seeing the previous facades.
The town is used commonly for location shoots for TV reveals and flicks, most famously starring as King’s Touchdown in Sport of Thrones.
Unusually, not even a single enterprising Croatian has considered capitalizing on town’s affiliation with this as soon as wildly well-liked TV present, so it’s all as much as you to seek out a few of the acquainted areas.
I’m joking… there are Sport of Thrones excursions freaking in every single place! They’re good enjoyable for those who’re a fan, even when the final season was such a letdown. This final Sport of Thrones tour is by far the most well-liked and best-reviewed and can take you to all essentially the most well-known websites.
I truly as soon as occurred to go to Dubrovnik in the course of the capturing of scenes for Star Wars: The Final Jedi and ended up having drinks with a few of the digicam crew and costume designers. Undoubtedly not one thing I had anticipated!
In fact, Dubrovnik doesn’t want its popular culture fame to captivate you, as it’s lovely and fascinating in its personal proper.
A cable automotive [map] can take you up Mount Srđ, from the place you’ll have an excellent view of the orange-roofed metropolis. Climbing up there may be additionally good, although the hills are absolutely uncovered so the warmth may be intense on a summer time day.
Subsequent to the cable automotive station, you’ll discover a fortress and the Museum of Croatian Warfare of Independence, which is very informative in regards to the struggle of 1991 and properly value a go to.
By the best way, my favourite hostel is certainly Dubrovnik Backpackers Membership. It’s fairly exterior the previous city however has an actual traveler vibe. For a extra fashionable hostel within the previous city, try Hostel Angelina.
Price range journey tip for Dubrovnik: lodging costs skyrocket within the excessive season. In August, even a lowly hostel dorm mattress within the suburbs will value round 40 to 60 euro an evening (up from round 10 Euros in off-season). An fascinating cost-saving tactic is to remain in tremendous low cost Trebinje, simply throughout the border in Bosnia, and take a day journey to Dubrovnik.
You might keep in Dubrovnik for a number of nights (I did this within the low season), although the consensus amongst travellers appears to be that one full day in Dubrovnik is sufficient to see the foremost sights.
The very first thing I observed about Hvar was the handfuls of superyachts docked within the harbor, a few of them even guarded by personal safety. It made me really feel like I had arrived in some jetsettey place like Saint Tropez.
It seems Hvar is the truth is a preferred port of name for the wealthy who come right here to see and be seen. The island city is thought for its nightlife, a few of it expectedly well-heeled.
However regardless of the presence of some millionaires, Hvar doesn’t require you to be one. Many eating places serve nice seafood at a still-reasonable value and the nightlife can mainly be as high- or as low-brow as you need.
Hvar is slightly flashy however nonetheless slightly cute as properly. The wealthy principally hand around in their luxurious resorts and unique personal coves, leaving the city itself to a extra various combine of holiday makers.
It’s value climbing as much as the fortifications above the city, and Hvar can be an ideal base from which to take day journeys to smaller surrounding islands.
As essentially the most populated island within the Adriatic, Korčula has loads of services for actions like biking, kayaking, snorkelling, wine-tasting excursions, and extra.
Cute Korčula City is certainly value a stroll. I additionally visited a home that was claimed to be the birthplace of famed explorer Marco Polo, although inside it was simply an empty home with none type of perception or data. I later realized it’s extraordinarily uncertain Marco Polo ever lived right here not to mention set foot inside. I might give this so-called Marco Polo home a tough cross…
Sadly, there isn’t rather more I received to see in Korčula as I made a short cease right here on my island hopping cruise. I might have appreciated to discover the inside of the island as properly!
Hmmm, properly, I’m slightly break up on Break up.
It is very fairly with its palm-lined boulevard alongside the harbor and its small historic centre constructed across the stays of a Roman palace.
Standing surrounded by the Diocletian’s Palace’s remarkably intact Roman arches offers you actual sense of historic historical past. It’s value springing for a information right here to present you some historic context and tales that can deliver the place to life.
I like to recommend this particular 1.5 hour strolling tour in Break up which provides you with plenty of insights you received’t in any other case get for those who discover by yourself.
Whereas it’s a charming place, the sights in Break up may be seen in simply a day, after which I truthfully was left wanting extra. As quickly as you allow the harbor enclave, you notice it’s a not too terribly fascinating metropolis for essentially the most half.
I visited when there was a music competition happening which made me lengthen my keep by one other day, however I could not have achieved this in any other case.
Should you’re for need of a objective, I can suggest going to the pine forest peninsula of Park Šuma Marjan [map] and climbing its hill for some nice views of the bay.
Whereas I appreciated Break up fairly a bit (hey, that rhymes!), there have been different locations I appreciated much more. Nonetheless, it’s a key journey hub (with its personal airport) and might make for a very good launching level for journeys to Hvar and Krka Nationwide Park. Staying a minimum of an evening or two is value it.
I’ve visited Break up on three totally different Croatia journeys. My favourite hostel is the Gravitas Hostel which is simply off the previous city streets within the heart. You’ll be able to examine availability for Gravitas Hostel at Hostelworld.
It doesn’t function in lots of itineraries, however I got here throughout Sibenik whereas highway tripping alongside the coast of Croatia. Positioned proper between Break up and Zadar, it’s an ideal place to remain the evening.
It’s cute, not so crowded, and conveniently positioned close to Krka Nationwide Park. I feel it’s a beautiful different to a few of the extra well-known cities, and I extremely suggest a keep there for those who’re into locations that might not be within the regular high 5 however have their very own understated charms.
You’ll discover an attractive UNESCO-listed cathedral, some remaining metropolis partitions from the Venetian period, in addition to two hilltop forts from the place you get an ideal view of Šibenik and its bay. There are additionally half a dozen good pebble seashores within the surrounding space.
Krka Nationwide Park
The waterfalls at Plitvice are Croatia’s most well-known, however I feel the smaller ones at Krka are equally value a go to.
From the great city of Skradin it’s about an hour’s hike alongside the river to the waterfalls. In season you can even take a shuttle boat up the river, and a few personal yachts are available right here from the Mediterranean in summer time as properly.
Finally you’ll get to Skradinski Buk, a large cascade of small lakes and waterfalls, and with quite a lot of paths snaking by means of the realm. You might be allowed to take a swim within the decrease lake.
You’ll be able to hike additional onwards to Visovac lake, which options an island monastery. Getting there by foot can take a number of hours, however those that don’t like strolling may take a shuttle boat through the river.
Zadar just isn’t as large as Break up or Dubrovnik, however I feel it’s an exquisite place simply to be for some time. You’ll discover the historic major city on slightly peninsula bounded by Venetian metropolis partitions, and it’s sufficiently small to cowl simply by foot.
It’s a favorite amongst backpackers as Zadar has loads of appeal and isn’t as hectic or costly as Dubrovnik. You’ll be able to stroll the atmospheric previous streets, have a drink on the river entrance, and luxuriate in some good seafood.
Apart from a slew of cathedrals and Venetian-era buildings, a really fascinating factor to see is the Sea Organ. Inbuilt 2005, it’s mainly a set of steps alongside the seafront the place strategically positioned holes create a continuously altering melody from the waves flowing into them. It’s an exquisite place to observe the sundown.
A sight I don’t suggest is the native hospital, the place I needed to take my journey buddy after he drunkenly tried to make spaghetti on the hostel and slammed his palm flat-out onto the range to ‘examine if it’s sizzling’. The workers understandably couldn’t disguise their amusement at these fool vacationers, although they did deal with my buddy’s burns very properly. On second thought, I give the native hospital in Zadar 5 stars.
A number of seashores close by present some alternatives to calm down, and I suppose they’re additionally an ideal place to cross the time whereas your burn wounds are therapeutic.
Zadar won’t have so many points of interest (on paper a minimum of), however I feel this humble metropolis is a good place to remain, and probably my favourite of Croatia’s main coastal cities.
Plitvice Lakes Nationwide Park
Likelihood is, you’ve already seen Plitvice. Perhaps not in individual, however I wager you’ve seen it cross by on Pinterest or Instagram. The waterfalls are tremendous photogenic and, I feel, deserving of the hype.
Paths and a few little boardwalks take you alongside all of the moss- and fern-covered cascades. You can even stroll up the hills for some overview pictures of the waterfalls.
The azure waters are crystal clear and simply jogged my memory of some tropical waterfalls I’ve seen in Asia or South America.
The park isn’t close to any cities so it wants a devoted day journey. There are a number of primary guesthouses and resorts that allow you to keep in a single day within the park, however most individuals simply go to Plitvice and return. As a result of it’s not close to a metropolis or city, it’s value reserving a guided tour with transportation from Break up.
By the best way, because it’s a protected space you may’t swim within the waters. For that, it is advisable to go to Krka.
Most individuals go to Croatia to see Instagram-worthy historic cities alongside the Mediterranean coast, not an unassuming city within the mainland. Away from the attract of Venetian historical past, Karlovac locations you in a decidedly lumpier Jap Europe.
And but you might discover it value stopping right here for those who’re not solely targeted on a sun-and-sea vacation.
In Karlovac, you’ll get to see a distinct slice of Croatia, as it’s a place with out a main tourism business the place you may extra simply rub shoulders with the locals. The town itself just isn’t all the time the prettiest in a superficial sense, however it’s low cost and surrounded by some less-known points of interest, forest trails, and a number of rivers inviting kayaking and swimming excursions.
I wasn’t actually gorging on grilled seafood in Karlovac, because it’s primarily sausage-and-mash kind meals right here as an alternative. I additionally wasn’t having drinks in stylish cocktails bars, simply having a pint in an 80ies rock bar the place I met some guys who had been hitchhiking throughout Europe. I appreciated it quite a bit in a down-to-Earth manner and for the distinction it provided to the coast.
I extremely suggest staying in Hostel Na Putu in Karlovac, which is run by an area couple and which has a real backpacker environment. They do an ideal job telling you about all of the issues to do in Karlovac as properly. You’ll be able to examine Hostel Na Putu on Hostelworld right here.
Island hopping in Croatia
The southern Dalmatian islands are among the many hottest locations to go to in Croatia and many individuals go on an island hopping tour right here. A typical itinerary takes you from Break up to Dubrovnik through Brač, Hvar and Korčula, with normally a number of totally different smaller stops throw in as properly.
To see the islands you could have primarily two decisions: do-it-yourself by taking catamaran ferries to a few of the largest islands, or taking an organized 1-week mini cruise. Quite a few corporations run island hopping cruises utilizing motorized yachts, they usually’re a enjoyable technique to have a lazy summer time vacation across the Adriatic coast.
The benefits of a cruise are that you simply’ll sleep on the boat, see a few of the major islands plus normally some tiny ones (not serviced by ferries), and you may bounce into the Mediterranean waters out of your boat on daily basis.
I did a Croatian mini cruise a bunch of years in the past once I was slightly youthful. It was good for some unpretentious enjoyable within the solar. Should you e-book by means of well-liked operators like High Deck, Busabout or Contiki, know that you simply’ll mainly be placed on a backpacker booze cruise. Should you don’t thoughts a little bit of partying, you’ll absolutely get pleasure from it!
One draw back to the cruises is that you simply’ll spend solely a short time in every place. Don’t e-book the cheaper decrease quarters except you wish to sleep subsequent to a working engine.
The place to go after Croatia
In case your journey just isn’t restricted to solely Croatia, then there are some wonderful different locations close by which can be extremely value trying out.
Being so near the border of Bosnia, a visit into this neighboring nation is properly definitely worth the minor effort of getting there. Visiting the Medieval city of Mostar from both Break up or Dubrovnik barely provides any journey time and might be extremely rewarding.
I additionally love the laidback and off-the-beaten-path city of Trebinje, simply over the border in Bosnia from Dubrovnik. (Should you suppose Dubrovnik is just too costly, take into account staying in Trebinje and go to on a day journey.)
You’ll be able to learn extra about backpacking Bosnia in my different information. By the best way, the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo is considered one of my favorites in the entire area and is pretty simply reached from southern Croatia.
Just a bit past Dubrovnik additionally lies Montenegro with its beautiful Bay of Kotor. It’s an epic place and takes simply 2 ½ hours by bus from Dubrovnik.
Are you planning a visit by means of your entire Balkans, the area of southeastern Europe that Croatia is part of? Then don’t miss my ideas for backpacking the Balkans.
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Posted SEP 14, 2022 (Up to date Sep 15, 2022)