With stunning walled cities, delicious local cuisine, and an extraordinarily beautiful coastline, Croatia dazzles many visitors. Here are several tips on how to see the highlights of Croatia in just one week:
Begin with a stroll through the picturesque walled town of Trogir, which is located just 5km west of Split’s international airport. The World Heritage-listed town sits on a small island, connected to the mainland by a bridge. The town’s Venetian-style St Lawrence’s Cathedral is its must-see sight. It is adorned with fine sculpture inside and out, and the 47m-high bell tower offers great views over Trogir and its surroundings. In the evening, join locals and visitors on the bar-lined seafront promenade.
Make Split your base for a couple of days, taking in the city’s sights and enjoying its nightlife. Originally built in the 4th century as a magnificent retirement palace for the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Diocletian’s Palace is the lively heart of this coastal city, now home to around 3000 people and packed with hundreds of buildings added throughout the ages. At the centre of the World Heritage Site is a well-preserved colonnaded Roman Peristil (courtyard), and the octagonal Cathedral of St Domnius, which was originally Diocletian’s mausoleum. Below ground, the palace’s substructures are a wonderfully spooky place to explore, and will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the dungeon in Meereen where Daenerys keeps her dragons.
Packed with cafes, restaurants and bars, the palace is also a fun place to hang out in the evening, though locals also like to take an evening stroll or a drink of the city’s Riva waterfront promenade. If you decide to stay for a second day you should have time to hike in Marjan Forest Park, to the west of the city, or relax on Bačvice or Firule beaches, on the city’s eastern outskirts.
Take a fast catamaran from Split to Bol on Brač Island. This pretty little port is most famous for Zlatni Rat beach – a glorious spur of smooth white pebbles that extends 500m straight out into the Adriatic, reached by a 1.5km stroll along a pine-shaded waterfront promenade. The beach is popular with windsurfers thanks to its strong, steady maestrale winds. The direct catamarans that connect Bol with Split and Hvar Town only run from June to September, so outside the high season it’s advisable to skip Bol and head straight to Hvar Town from Split.
Catch a catamaran to Hvar Town, the glittering capital of Hvar Island. One of Croatia’s most glamorous towns, it offers a vibrant nightlife scene combined with historic architecture in a stunning setting. For a spectacular view over Hvar’s terracotta rooftops, rectangular harbour, and the green Pakleni Islands scattered in the sea just offshore, hike up to Fortica, the town’s hilltop medieval castle. Wander the narrow streets of the old town, past pretty churches and squares, then try a tasty hvarska gregada (traditional fish stew) at one of the many restaurants that flank the harbour.
In the afternoon it’s time for a swim, either taking a boat ride out to one of the Pakleni Islands or strolling west along the seafront promenade to one of the nearby rocky bays. On the promenade, west-facing Hula-Hula Hvar is the place to sip cocktails and watch the sun set, then dance on the tables if the mood takes you. Later on, the action moves to the bars that line the harbour and the party kicks on into the early hours.
Your first glimpse of Dubrovnik’s old town – its magnificent white limestone walls standing proud above the turquoise waters of the Adriatic sea – will take your breath away. You’ll want to spend at least two days exploring the city and its surroundings. The classic Dubrovnik experience is a walk around the top of the City Walls, checking out the various towers and gates, and taking in views of the old town rooftops and glittering Adriatic on the way. Next, wander the marble streets within the walls, stopping by at the city’s various palaces, churches and museums.
Finish your day off with a cable car ride up Mt Srđ, which rises directly behind the old town, to watch the sunset glint off the rooftops, then dip into the Adriatic sea. The next day you should have time to head out of town for a refreshing swim, either on Lokrum Island, a 10-minute ferry ride away, or at one of the local beaches. Bring your journey to a close with a sunset drink at one of the tiny bars on the rocks outside Dubrovnik’s city walls.