Croatia is known worldwide as a destination that includes crystal blue sea, beautiful beaches, incredibly rich cultural and historical heritage, top gourmet delights, fantastic wines and much more. If you are looking for something special in the sea of typical tourist information - you are in the right place.
Read below about unique places and attractions that you will remember long after returning from a vacation in Croatia.
1. Visit the palace of the Roman emperor
Diocletian's Palace in Split is one of the main sights of Croatia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fascinating place to explore. If, however, you’re thinking of a palace like Versailles, think again because it’s actually more like a city within a city.
Emperor Diocletian was the most prominent contribution of Dalmatia to the Roman Empire. When he retired to his hometown (Salona, near Split), he decided to build this monumental fortified palace.
It began in 295 and for ten years hr supervised the extraction of stone from neighboring Brač and the construction of the palace. It measures 215 m from east to west and the walls are 26 m high. Located between classical and medieval Christian civilization, Diocletian's Palace contains all the styles that preceded it.
The palace is today a commercial and residential center, a development dating back to the 7th century when nearby residents fled to the walled palace to escape the barbarian invaders.
The symmetrical layout of the building with two intersecting streets is classic, but most of the palace reflects the eclecticism of late antiquity. Partly an imperial villa and partly a fortified camp, the palace is remarkable for its variety of shapes, which include an octagonal domed mausoleum (Cathedral of St. Domnius), the rectangular temple of Jupiter, the square lower level of the Vestibule and the circular temples dedicated to Cybele and Venus. The vast Roman Empire of late antiquity easily absorbed foreign influences, visible in Egyptian sphinxes in front of Jupiter’s temple and mausoleum, restored as the Cathedral of St. Domnius.
2. Hide in a World War II shelter
The city of Zagreb offers a handful of places to walk, but a walk through the Gric tunnel is one of the most special. The tunnel is located below the hill on which the Gornji Grad, a medieval settlement, is located. It was built during World War II, as a shelter during Allied attacks.
Of particular interest are the old inscriptions on the walls, written according to the rules of spelling at the time. Some of them are: "Warn the one who does not keep order", "Forbidden to spit on the floor" and "Leave the seat to those in need".
In the early 1990s, during the Homeland War, the tunnel again served as a shelter. In the late 1990s, the tunnel hosted "legendary" rave parties and occasional exhibitions.
The tunnel was opened to the public after a long time only a few years ago. Occasionally, exhibitions are still held in the tunnel, so if you are lucky, a visit to this tunnel rich in history and stories will be even more interesting.
3. Take a break with unique cocktails in the green garden of a medieval monastery
The first association with Sibenik is its magnificent stone cathedral and narrow stone streets. Many do not know that in the heart of Sibenik lies a green oasis - the monastery garden of St. Lawrence.
The monastery garden of St. Lawrence opened in 2007 after a period of neglect and has become one of the unavoidable attractions in Sibenik. It spreads over 600 square meters and is a beautiful green oasis in the city center.
More than 150 species of medicinal and spice plants have been planted in the garden, as well as many types of flowers and other plants. Each plant bears a label and has its own story. In the center of the garden is a fountain.
You can take a break in the café, which offers unique herbal cocktails, or enjoy Mediterranean dishes with garden spices in the restaurant.
4. Play on vintage computers and consoles
Every fan of computers and technology must visit the Peek&Poke Museum in Rijeka.
Over 2,000 exhibits of the world's and Croatian computer history, audio, video and photo technology are on display in the permanent exhibition. Located on an area of 300 square meters, in the center of Rijeka, it is one of the world's top 5 museums on this topic and is also the largest such exhibition in this part of Europe.
5. Sail to the Island of Love
If you are near the Pasman Channel, be sure to rent a boat and sail to the island of Galesnjak. Due to it being heart-shaped, it is also known as the Island of Lovers and the Island of Love.
The island is uninhabited and has no tourist facilities, but it is really a special experience to visit it. It is especially popular to visit the island on Valentine's Day, and it became known worldwide by the fact that singer Beyonce celebrated her 39th birthday right here with her husband Jay-Z.
6. Visit the stone 'igloo'
Kazuni have traditionally been used as shelters for farmers and shepherds in remote fields, and for storing tools. They were erected in areas where the stone had to be removed in order to obtain fertile land. The most interesting thing about it is its dimensions and a certain way of construction, the so-called drywall building - simply placing stones on top of each other without any connection.
In order to preserve this historical specificity, not far from the beautiful Vodnjan, Kazun Park was opened, which shows the four phases of building a kazun, from its foundations, walls and roofs to the final appearance. Kazun Park is an open-air museum that shows the Istrian tradition of construction.
7. Follow the paths of real dinosaurs
Brijuni National Park is a magical place, known for its flora and fauna. It is less known that there are footprints of real dinosaurs on Brijuni!
Dinosaur footprints could be preserved only if they moved over a soft surface and thus left traces. The prints then had to be covered with sediment (other than the substrate) and remain intact until diagenetic processes lithify the sediment and turn it into a consolidated rock. Imprints are therefore rare and extremely valuable.
So far, dinosaur footprints have been discovered in four localities of Veliki Brijun and on the islands of Vanga, Galija and in Vrsar.
8. Visit a place where witches and evil spirits gather
Klek Hill near Ogulin is 1182 meters high and is a favorite place of many mountaineers and lovers of untouched nature, but it is best known for its many legends. The most famous story is that witches meet on Klek, which over time became a symbol of Klek and the town of Ogulin. As early as 1689, the Slovenian travel writer Janez Vajkard Valvasor recorded a legend about Klek as the Witch's Hill, where witches and evil spirits hold their celebrations. In honor of the legend, one of the pits on the hill is called the Witch's Cave.
9. Walk the second longest walls in the world
The walls in the village of Ston on the Peljesac peninsula are a fortified stone historical complex dating back to the fourteenth century. It is special because of its length of as much as 5 and a half kilometers, monumental size, defensive structures and urban layout. The walls begin and end with the fortresses of Koruna in Mali Ston and Veliki Kastio in Ston. The largest fortress is Bartolomeo, which rises above Ston, and you can visit them every day.
The monumental walls, the longest in Europe, and the beautiful, untouched natural environment are harmoniously combined with the urban architecture of Mali and Veliki Ston. Tourists are especially attracted by the gastronomic delicacies of this region, which is reflected in the rich selection of shellfish from the Bay of Mali Ston, especially oysters, and the selection of top wines from the area of Dingac and Postup.
10. Search for the famous Motovun truffles
Motovun is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved old medieval hill settlements in Istria whose history dates back to the 12th century. Although today it is quite a small town with only five hundred inhabitants, it has retained its original form and traditional lifestyle that gives you a real experience of the original Istrian atmosphere.
What makes Motovun and the surrounding area unique in the world and very well known among gourmets, is the fact that the nearby forests are full of hidden treasures: black and white truffles.
The largest truffle in the world was found in the forests of Motovun Istria back in 1999. Founder Giancarlo Zigante still holds the world record in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest white truffle ever found in the world. The white truffle found was 19.5 cm long, 12.4 cm wide, 13.5 cm high and weighed 1.31 kg.
You can try to search on your own, with a guide and specially trained dogs. If, on the other hand, you would rather enjoy truffles without going to the woods, you can do so in local restaurants where a wide range of dishes with this magical ingredient is offered. In stores, you can buy fresh or canned truffles and many other delicacies with truffles.
11. Visit your Neanderthal ancestors
Husnjakovo hill near Krapina is the world's most famous Neanderthal site. Today, the Krapina Neanderthal Museum, one of the most modern museums in the world, is located next to the site. Rich in the latest technological advances with numerous visual, olfactory and other sensations, it brings us a fascinating world of Neanderthals, but also throws us back to the beginning of the world so visitors can enjoy the reconstruction of cosmic evolution and at least for a moment feel all the power of the beginning.
12. Discover a secret military tunnel and a chapel in the rock
St. Anthony Channel in Sibenik is an amazing place where beautiful nature and interesting historical stories intertwine. Navigating the channel, you would probably never have guessed that in one of the rocks there's a hidden tunnel for ships that had been constructed by the Nazis in World War II and a chapel.
In the rock of the St. Anthony Cave, the German army dug a tunnel during World War II. The tunnel is a few hundred meters long, and after the war it continued to be used by the army of socialist Yugoslavia. The tunnel has two entrances for warships and torpedo boats. The tunnel ceased to be used after newer types of torpedo boats began to be used.
Nearby is the cave of St. Anthony with a chapel. The cave is named after Saint Anthony the Hermit who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries in Egypt. Numerous hermits have lived in this cave for centuries. Among the most famous is the Zadar nobleman Jeronimo Detrico, who was buried in a cave in 1615.
13. Visit one of the deepest lakes in Europe
Red Lake is a sinkhole filled with water near the town of Imotski and Blue Lake. The name comes from the solid red cliffs at the edge of the lake.
It is believed to be one of the deepest lakes in Europe. The last depth measurement was made in 2013, when 255 m was measured. The lake is probably connected to other waters via a 280 m cave at its bottom. The lake was thought to have formed when the ceiling of the great cave hall collapsed.
Unlike Blue Lake, it cannot be reached, but it can be viewed from the top and does not dry out, so it can be visited all year round.
14. Volunteer for the Velebit bears
The shelter for young bears in Kuterevo was organized with the aim of preserving bears in the Velebit mountain area. It is open to visitors during spring, summer and autumn. Since bears are dormant during the winter, they shouldn't be disturbed and visits are only allowed if they are really necessary.
If you love animals and would like to volunteer, the shelter accepts volunteers. In the last few years, the Kuterevo Shelter for Young Bears has hosted an average of 15 volunteer groups, more than 50 individual volunteers and more than 20,000 visitors a year.
15. Celebrate the Sun in the Croatian Stonehenge
The site Mali Sveti Andeo near Porec is known as the Croatian Stonehenge. It is a hill on which stone blocks (megaliths) are arranged in a circle. There are no blocks on the north side, indicating cult purposes related to the Sun and other celestial bodies. It is assumed that the site originated around 2000-1000 BC, and is named after the hill on which it is located.
16. Visit one of the deepest karst springs in the world
Visit one of the most beautiful karst springs, which, fortunately, has not left any cave diver breathless, so we can enjoy their many fantastic photos!
At its source, the Una River has created a fairytale lake of blue and green color, surrounded by forests and steep cliffs. This lake is the deepest karst spring in Croatia and one of the five deepest karst springs in the world. The source of the Una River has been explored to a depth of 248 meters, but the bottom has not yet been reached.
Due to its stunning beauty and exceptional hydromorphological value, the lake, together with the canyon and 150 meters downstream, was declared a protected hydrological monument of nature in 1968.
17. Become a pirate in the hunt for the enemy
Mirabela Fortress is located at the top of the historic center of Omis and is one of the symbols of the city. It was built in the 13th century as a scout from the enemy. Here, the famous Omis pirates followed the enemy and could set off an alarm even before the enemy ships could approach Omis. The fortress offers a view of the entire city and the Brac Channel. The fortress consists of 4 floors, and at the top is a beautiful lookout.
18. Learn all the secrets of the Cres-Losinj area
The interesting Losinj themed lookout point - Providence connects the three-hundred-meter-long Apsyrtides educational trail and the lookout bar where you can enjoy local delicacies. Namely, according to the Greek name for the Cres-Losinj archipelago Apsyrtides, this educational trail shows each visitor these islands as they really are, unique and amazing on 28 interpretive boards with photographs and text.
The lookout bar offers a special experience, 18 handmade tables with benches bear the names of famous Losinj ships that were built in the 19th century in the famous Losinj shipyards.
The lookout point Providence is the place where you can best experience the beauties of these islands and enjoy the moments 'when the sun touches the sea'.
19. Visit the tallest lighthouse in Istria
The islet of Porer is so small that it will take you a little more than a minute to tour, but the walk could take much longer if you watch the sunsets that are among the best on the Adriatic. Namely, its longitudinal width is only 80 meters! A beautiful lighthouse was built in the middle of the islet in the shape of a round stone tower 35 meters high, making it the tallest lighthouse in all of Istria.
How did the Porer builders manage to build this lighthouse given the changing mood of the turbulent sea that surrounds it? Legends of Porer are hidden in the layers of sand in his waters, which hide many ancient remains. In the shallow waters surrounding Krsin, Fenoliga and Veliki Balkun are the remains of ships sunk in a storm that occurred around Porer.
The Porer lighthouse is also included in the Minimundus park of miniature buildings located near Klagenfurt in Austria. Believe it or not, more than 4,000 pieces of limestone bricks were used for the model, and construction took six months.
20. Take a walk on the skywalk at 1228 meters above sea level
Skywalk Biokovo is an amazing horseshoe-shaped platform located on the cliff of the mountain of the same name with a beautiful glass promenade. It is located at an incredible altitude of 1228 meters, where specific weather conditions prevail. In front of the info-center, there is a geological pillar - a three-dimensional view of the cross-section of the rocks that formed the area of Biokovo from its beginnings to the present day with a geological schedule and a description of the age and type of rocks.
21. Enjoy the music of the Sea Organ
The sea organ on the Zadar waterfront records the movement of waves and turns them into music. They were designed by architect Nikola Basic and opened in April 2005. It is an unusual sound that evokes the sea, wind and sky.
Even without music, the white marble stairs that descend into the sea are extraordinarily beautiful and make the perfect place to watch Zadar's beautiful sunsets.
22. Visit the romantic and mysterious sphinx
The story of the Zadar Sphinx is very romantic and very unusual. In one of the most elite parts of Zadar, where there are beautiful villas of old Italian owners with beautiful gardens and ponds, you will find the Sphinx. It is located in front of Villa Attilia, built in 1901.
It was the home of a local artist, Giovanni Simrich, and his wife Attila Spinede de Catneis, a Venetian who moved to Zadar out of love. The couple adored nature, so they built a beautiful garden with a small lake inhabited by goldfish and a cave. After Attila died, Giovanni commemorated the construction of the Sphinx to remember her.
It is built of concrete and, unlike other sphinxes, it is special in that instead of a paw it has toes, in which it holds a goldfish, which it seems to protect. There is also a relief of an eagle on the chest and an Egyptian hieroglyph that has never been deciphered.
The Sphinx has been devastated several times throughout history, but today it has been restored and stands proudly in Zadar, hiding the secret of one love and an interesting legend about the treasure buried beneath it.
23. Embark on a rafting adventure on the Zrmanja River
It is no wonder that Zrmanja is called a beauty - its biodiversity, springs, tributaries, canyon, waterfalls, endless sources of drinking water and magnificent landscapes justify its nickname.
For exploration, you can choose between rowing, cycling and hiking, but if you want to see the canyon, you have to embark on an adventure called kayaking or rafting. Zrmanja will show you its other face here - the beast. If the water level is high, it will allow you to experience one of the most exciting tours in this part of Europe. Whether you want to enjoy nature more relaxed or adventurous, Zrmanja will surely delight you.
24. Go birdwatching in Istria
Palud Bay is located 8 kilometers southwest of the town of Rovinj, and today is the only ornithological park in Istria. Water from neighboring hills and valleys, as well as northern side springs intertwine, thus turning this natural depression near the sea into a unique swamp.
The diversity of migratory bird species is the most important feature of this wetland. Ornithologists have recorded the stay of over 200 species of birds in the area. Numerous spring and autumn migrations are an excellent opportunity to observe them. As the park is forbidden to hunters, it is rich in pheasants, gray partridges and quail. The northern part of Palud is a primary forest, and seagulls nest on its small islands.
Along the arranged trail there is an observation point that facilitates the unobstructed observation of birds in their natural environment and their behavior during feeding, nesting or resting.
25. Witness the harvest of the 1600-year-old olive tree
The more than 1,600-year-old olive tree on the island of Veliki Brijun is probably one of the oldest olive trees in the Mediterranean, which is confirmed by a carbon analysis of age done on a sample of its wood tissue.
Not far from the oldest olive grove, an olive grove was planted in which the genetic base of all olive varieties on the island was created.
Every year in October, a traditional, hand-picked harvest is held with the aim of preserving the traditional heritage and educating visitors.
26. Play football at the bottom of the lake
Blue Lake is one of the most beautiful natural karst lakes in Croatia located near the town of Imotski. It lies in a deep pit that was probably formed by the collapse of a ventilated underground cave.
The total depth from the upper edge is 220 meters and it varies depending on the season. Water levels can reach more than 90 meters in early spring when snow from nearby mountains melts.
At the end of summer, the lake usually disappears mystically, but that is why there is a fascinating football field at its bottom. Football was first played here in 1943.
Blue Lake is a popular place for tourists and residents of the town of Imotski because it is generally very accessible. There are many caves inside the lake, which can be very difficult to reach.
27. Try the famous aphrodisiac from Mali Ston
Mali Ston Bay, sometimes known as the Mali Ston Channel, is a bay as long as 21 kilometers at the entrance to the beautiful Peljesac peninsula, named after the town of Mali Ston.
The bay is known for growing oysters and shellfish because the sea here is extremely clean. Therefore, in 1983, the bay of Mali Ston was declared a special nature reserve. Mali Ston oyster is a top gourmet delight and is renowned as the best sea aphrodisiac.
The well-known event "Day of the Mali Ston Oyster" is traditionally held on March 18, on the feast of St. Joseph. On that date in Ston and Mali Ston you can enjoy Mali Ston oysters and Peljesac wines, usually with an accompanying program such as concerts, raffle and folklore performances.