For a long time Croatia has been a jealously kept secret, shaded by other more prominent travel destinations such as Italy and Greece.
Thanks to the exquisite crystal-clear Adriatic, thousands of years old cultural heritage and untouched nature Croatia attracts the attention of world travellers who are more than eager to explore its vast beauties. What is more, owing to the immense success of the popular HBO TV series Game of Thrones, Croatia was catapulted to fame and soared to the very top of many bucket lists. Once quiet coastal towns now throb with visitors and finding a secret getaway is proving to be a challenge.
If you would like to experience the appeal of the most popular destinations in Croatia, but prefer escaping to secret getaways not many know about – read on. Just for you we compiled a list of the best alternatives to some of the most visited places in Croatia.
Alternatives to Dubrovnik
You have most likely heard of the popular saying – “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.
Here’s the trouble: when George Bernard Shaw made this famous statement, he didn’t have to deal with hundreds of cruisers flooding the narrow streets of Dubrovnik, nor did he have his photos of the Dubrovnik Walls photobombed by overly enthusiastic Game of Thrones fans.
What is the best way to avoid the crowds? Aside from exploring Dubrovnik in spring or early autumn, there are a few other places in Croatia you could visit.
If the fascinating Dubrovnik Walls is what you are after, travel to Ston. Located in Dubrovnik-Neretva County on Peljesac Peninsula, Ston is home to the unique historical site generously dubbed the Great Wall Of Europe. The Walls of Stone were originally over 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) long and protected the valuable salt pans the Republic of Ragusa depended on. Even though the walls have experienced significant damage throughout the centuries, they are still a breathtaking site.
If on the other hand it is the quiet charm of south Dalmatia what you are seeking, head to Elaphiti Islands.
This small archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik consists of eight islands, five islets and a multitude of reefs and rocks. Once a popular summer destination for the aristocracy of the Dubrovnik Republic, Elaphiti offer all one needs for a perfect summer escape. Go snorkelling on the coast of Šipan, unwind at Lopud’s sandy beaches or explore the hiking trails of Koločep.
Alternatives to Plitvice Lakes
We’ve recently called Plitvice Lakes Croatia’s crown jewel, and many of our readers seemed to agree. It took thousands of years for the travertine barriers to form the exquisite lakes, and it is difficult not to feel in awe of this magnificent place.
Exploring Plitvice is a true adventure and definitely worthy of a several hours long hike. However, similarly to Dubrovnik the crowds in the summer can be too much even for the most patient.
Have you heard of Krka National park? Only a few miles northwest of Šibenik the Krka River created a series of picture-perfect waterfalls perfectly complementing the lush nature surrounding it. Not only is this national park close to popular south Dalmatian destinations, but its visitors particularly enjoy swimming at the foot of the Krka’s most stunning waterfall – Skradinski buk. Swimming at Plitvice National park is not allowed.
If by any chance there still seems to be too many visitors for your taste, then we have a perfect alternative for you – Rastoke! Often referred to as small Plitvice, Rastoke Waterfalls are located only half an hour away from the national park. They exude an idyllic atmosphere with stunning waterfalls and old wooden watermills portraying the authentic life of central Croatia.
If you wish to escape the crowds, you simply won’t find a better place!
Alternatives to Split
How can you not love the city of Split? This UNESCO protected place lives and breathes the authentic Dalmatian traditions. Split attracts both history and culture enthusiasts with its 2,000 years old history, as well as young travellers in search of a good time at the popular Ultra Europe music festival.
But when wandering the cobbled streets at the peak of the season without accidentally brushing against other people every few feet turns into mission impossible, escape the crowds at Šolta Island.
You have probably heard of the story how the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split in order to retire there after being the only emperor in the history of the Roman Empire to abdicate willingly (if not, you can learn more about it here). But what you might not have known is that to get away from his palace in Split (because being a retired Roman Emperor is hard work), he would escape to the nearby Šolta.
This charming island remains hidden in plain sight, guarding that authentic mellow Mediterranean feel. It is fascinating how Šolta managed to remain almost intact in people-packed Dalmatia. Diocletian hung out in Grohota, the oldest settlement on the island which still holds the remains of his fish pond; sailors like Rogač as it is the only place on the island with a petrol station, whilst Maslinica has the most spectacular sunsets.
Alternatives to Hvar Island
Known as the sunniest Croatian Island, Hvar is the ultimate place for sun worshipers. It has more sunny days than Dubrovnik! The most popular destinations on Hvar are the town bearing the same name as the island, and the town of Jelsa. So what do we suggest? Stay away from these two places and you will be perfectly fine.
You may not know this, but Hvar is very popular with celebrities. So far it has been visited by Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Eva Longoria, George Clooney, Beyonce and many others. And how many photos have you seen of them splashing around the waters of Hvar? Exactly.
We suggest visiting Zavala. This small village on the southern coast of Hvar guarantees a peaceful holiday marked by the ultimate beach delights. Engage all your senses as Hvar’s trademark scent of lavender wafts through the air while you sip on Zavala’s exquisite white wine. The closest you’ll get to living like Beyonce!
Alternatives to Korčula Island
What happens when a Trojan hero founds an island? It becomes one of the most popular summer destinations. Alright, perhaps thousands of year old cultural heritage, spectacular nature and great connection with all major Dalmatian cities and islands have something to do with it as well.
Korčula is the second most populated island in Croatia, offering a perfect backdrop for a sun-infused beach holiday. Unfortunately, similarly to other popular destinations on this list, the perpetuate flow of tourists invading Korčula at the peak of the summer season may prove to be slightly overwhelming for the crowd phobic.
So where should I go you may ask? Our dear friend, you need to sail to Vis.
Just like Korčula, Vis was also a Greek colony. But unlike Korčula, Vis was closed for tourists until 1989.
Vis was once the military base for the National Army of Yugoslavia; in fact, in both World War I and World War II Vis was the location of several important battles on the Adriatic. The lack of tourists has led to the perfect conservation of the authentic Vis culture and it is the main reason why so few people have recognised the allure of this hidden paradise.
Vis abounds in picture-perfect beaches, the most spectacular being the Stiniva Cove. Reserved only for the most determined as reaching the cove includes miles of walking, Stiniva is a magical place truly away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Travel blogger Crazy Travelista has recently shared with us her story on how she fell in love with Vis. Be warned though, as the story will fill you with the overwhelming feeling of wanderlust!
Author: Petra Škofić
Photo Credit: (1) Sergiu Bacioiu, Flickr, (2) Ivan Ivankovic, Flickr, (3) Alchen_x, Flickr, (4) Tamires Minuk, Flickr, (5) Dennis Jarvis, Flickr, (6) Sergiu Bacioiu, Flickr, (7) Chris, Flickr, (8) Dennis Jarvis, Flickr, (9) Albar, Flickr, (10) Ramon, Flickr, (11) Alessiodl, Flickr, (12) Andrija Carli, Photonet, (13) Jid3y, Flickr
Are there any destinations you think should be on the list? Let us know!