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5 Bucket List Day Trips in Croatia


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Croatia has long been on many traveller’s bucket lists, and with good reason! Teeming with National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it has countless cultural and natural riches to discover. A beautiful balmy climate and blissful beaches to boot – here’s 5 bucket list day trips that’ll get you up close and personal with this Mediterranean marvel.

A day in Dazzling Dubrovnik

Narrow honey-stoned alley way in Old Town, Dubrovnik

It’ll be love at first sight with this stand out city! Duly dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, the perfectly preserved medieval maze of narrow alleyways, Baroque churches and picturesque palaces are all encircled within Dubrovnik’s iconic walls. One of the leading locations for the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, fans will undoubtedly recognise much of the city’s amazing architecture as the iconic King’s Landing.  

Stretch your legs on the 2km trail of the iconic city walls and immerse yourself in Dubrovnik’s cultural and natural beauty for a couple of hours. Cameras at the ready – views here are the very definition of ‘picture perfect’! Unparalleled sights sprawl out in every direction, across striking red roofs and historical wonders. Everywhere you look you’ll be treated to beautiful examples of extraordinary monuments, cathedrals and bustling squares. As if admiring all that amazing architecture wasn’t reward enough for your walking efforts – the panoramas over the glistening Adriatic Sea are spectacularly spellbinding.

Orange cable car travelling to the top of Mount Srđ, with Dubrovnik's Old Town below.

Once you’re done wandering the walls, take to the skies (sort of)! Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the infamous red-roofed, honey-stoned structures from the bright orange cable car that scales the side of Mount Srđ. Boasting breathtaking views over the Old Town and its limestone-paved pedestrian streets, as well as the nearby Elaphiti islands, the whole scene is surrounded by stunning sapphire waters. If those electric blue hues are just too tempting to resist, ready those sea legs and explore by kayak! Something a little different for adventuresome travellers, glide along the crystal-clear Adriatic and gaze upon the gorgeous city away from the crowds. Lap up the peace and quiet as you paddle through sea caves and out to Lokrum Island.

Your only problem might be getting to see all that Dubrovnik has to offer in one day! As the sun begins to set, make the most of beautiful, balmy climes and feast on sumptuous seafood dishes in the heart of this heavenly holiday honeypot.

Where to stay: Villa Loza

A relaxing hideaway nestled high above Dubrovnik, Villa Loza is just a twenty minute drive from the beautiful Old Town. The perfect base to make the most of Dubrovnik’s countless cultural sites – you’ll be able to explore the town’s delights day after day.

Island Hopping Dalmatia

The golden arc of Zlatni Rat

Life moves at its own pace in delightful Dalmatia. Croatia’s captivating coastline boasts over a whopping 1,000 islands, most of which can handily be reached by ferry from the mainland. Here you’ll find tradition lives on in timeless towns, while others transform into summer holiday hotspots for yacht-travellers and celebrities. One thing’s for sure – there’s an island for every kind of traveller in this amazing archipelago, and they’re made for daytripping!

Dalmatia’s distinguishing natural beauty comes courtesy of its craggy limestone ridges and crystal-clear waters. Rock formations jut out of the sea in fabulous fashion, punctuating the landscape with picturesque coves and unspoiled island speckles. Countless pebble and sandy beaches line the shores, bordered by pine trees leading into verdant forests. The archetypal Adriatic offering lies on beautiful Brač, where you’ll find the iconic Zlatni Rat Beach. A small 500 metre tongue of pebble sediment stretches into the sea, creating the famous strip that quickly became the quintessential Croatian postcard scene. Whether you simply want to roll out your towel and bask on the blissful beach, or throw caution to the wind and try your hand at a selection of wonderful watersports – there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

Harbour of Hvar town

Heavenly Hvar sits to the south of blissful Brač, a boat ride across iridescent shades of blue and green – it’s a luxurious beach destination with a reputation for buzzing nightlife and elegant eateries. Enjoy the hum of lively bars on balmy evenings with a spot of cocktail sipping and sunset swooning, or make the most of its 2724 hours of sunshine with mind-blowingly delicious ice-cream and a harbour stroll. Watch as local fishing boats dance mesmerisingly on top of the gentle waves and wander the romantic Venetian streets of Hvar town. For an authentic slice of island paradise, swap Hvar for the hidden beaches of The Pakleni Islands and sail the labyrinth of little islands that accessorize the Adriatic.

Where to Stay: Villa Vicina

A rustic treasure nestled on Brač’s west coast in a quiet fishing village, Villa Vicina is a beautiful and quaint holiday base in the heart of Milna. The marina treats visitors to countless restaurants and bars, as well as boat taxis to explore nearby islands and islets. There’s plenty of watersports in the area too!

National Park Adventures

Waterfalls of Krka National Park

Croatia’s National Parks are always a full proof itinerary addition! With eight spectacular parks dotted across the luscious landscape, each offers something different – from mighty mountains to isolated islands. One thing’s for sure though, they’re all as alluring as the next.

Plitvice Lakes is hailed as the most heavenly of all the parks, and with good reason. A listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, this one is pure gold when it comes to getting back to nature. You’ll find these water filled wonders roughly halfway between Croatia’s capital Zagreb and the coastal resort of Zadar. Famed for its 16 terraced lakes and series of showstopping waterfalls, the peacock-azure colours cascading down the limestone canyon are a true see it to believe it moment.

Number two for days out in Croatia are the blissful pools and rumbling rapids of Krka National Park. Only just bested by Plitvice, this national park lies along the Krka River just 10km inland from stunning Šibenik. Another wonderful waterland of lakes and waterfalls, it’s perfectly positioned for travellers staying in Split and surrounding regions. Skdradinski Buk in the south, and Roski Slap in the north are firm favourites of visitors, as is the chance to swim in the startling blue pools. Plitvice Lakes don’t allow you to take a dip, so if you’re after a day of bathing and sun-basking – Krka is the one for you!

Panoramic views over Kamenjak National Park

Kamenjak National Park is a short car ride from Istria’s capital, Pula. Nestled on the southernmost tip of the heart shaped peninsula, the park boasts 30km of stunning coastline just waiting to be explored. Rolling hills are dressed up in wild flowers, cascading down to meet the craggy cliff terraces that overlook crystal clear waters. Pick your perch and watch the waves in search of dancing dolphins and if you’re lucky, the rare monk seal. Lovers of the great outdoors will adore the trails that criss-cross the rugged landscape, leading to hidden treasures like the ‘dinosaur path’ – complete with fossilised steps! The celebrated collection of coves at the cape has become somewhat of a cult destination, with cliff-jumpers plunging from the natural terraces into the pristine waters. You’ll find shallow paddling areas on the western side. Ideal for family fun in the sun!

As if that wasn’t enough, Brijuni Archipelago, Risnjak, Northern Velebit, Paklenica, Kornati Archipelago and Mljet National Parks all abound in oodles of natural beauty too!

The Sites of Split

The Diocletian Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Split

Croatians seem to have a developed a soft spot for UNESCO titles, and Split is definitely doing all it can to keep up with that tradition – claiming one of the coveted accolades all for itself. Soak up historical highlights with some of the must-see sights Split has to offer. Starting with the otherworldly Old Town, some visitors have even claimed it rivals that of Dubrovnik…

Teeming with medieval alleyways, majestic monuments and amazing architecture, the defining feature is the Diocletian Palace. A stunning citadel which acts like a city-within-a-city, this piece of prime Roman real-estate is a seafront gem. Constructed from local limestone and marble, the ornate columns, gargantuan gates, Peristyle courtyard, military camp and octagonal mausoleum are all unmissable. Encircled by atmospheric old walls – the palace was built as a retirement home by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Quite the retreat!

Outside of the palace walls, there’s countless cobbled streets and charming hideaways to explore. As well as a whole host of museums – perfect for both history hunters and culture vultures. Cafes and restaurants line the Split promenade proudly, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to grab a seat in time for sunset. After a long day of wandering the wonderful Old Town, you can’t beat watching the golden ball plunge into the glittering Adriatic. Bucket list bliss!

Where to Stay: Villa Sarina

Holiday at the heart of the action in Villa Sarina. Boasting a heavenly harbour front position, just a 12 minute meander to the centre of Split – you’re a stone’s throw from the beach and only a short drive from the infamous Old Town itself.

City Swooning in Istria

Coastal town of Rovinj, Istria

Star attractions of the craggy coastline and crowning glories of the captivating countryside – Istria’s iconic towns and cities are a must-see when visiting the heart-shaped peninsula. Built in old stone, both bustling summer resorts and rural hilltop hamlets are accessorized with baroque churches, wonderful walls, venetian-style houses and cobbled streets.

Romantic Rovinj regularly lands on the top of most people’s bucket lists, and with good reason. The picture-perfect Old Town sits on a small headland, with houses neatly packed in all the way to the shoreline. Navigate the charming interior through a web of steep cobbled streets, making your way from small squares to heavenly harbours. For the best view in the house, climb the towering church that dominates the skyline and bag yourself a bird’s-eye view. Rovinj is seaside bliss at its best.

Speaking of charming coastal towns, pretty Porec is the centrepiece for beach getaways and summer escapes. Ideally located for exploring the entire peninsula, most of the holiday highlights are no more than an hour’s drive away. Although there’s plenty of reasons to stay put. With its very own UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Euphrasian Basilica is Porec’s most famous landmark. Dating all the way back to the 4th Century, the complex includes a church, memorial chapel, atrium and episcopal palace. After a long day of wandering through narrow streets and climbing medieval towers, head to the waterfront for a mouth-watering medley of local flavours. Grilled meats and fish dishes are top of the menu!

The cobbled streets of traditional Groznjan

Adventure inland to gorgeous Grožnjan and feel like you’re stepping back in time. Another walled wonder, this medieval town is teeming with tightly packed honey-stoned houses that line narrow alleyways. Oozing with historical heritage, this hilltop hamlet was of huge strategic importance to 14th Century Venetians. It inevitably fell to ruin, until a sculptor discovered it with a group of artist friends. They quickly set up shop and used abandoned buildings as studios, attracting the attention of several musicians. Grožnjan is now revered as the go-to place for artisans and creatives, with classical concerts, galleries, jazz festivals and open-ait concerts bringing the town to life from July to September. If you’d rather look at picturesque landscapes over pictures, there’s a huge choice of outdoor activities in the region – from cycling to hiking, and even horse riding.

Istria is punctuated with plenty more picturesque villages, towns and communities – if you get time, bucket list beauties include Buje, Pula, Motovun, Vrsar and Hum.

Where to Stay

With villas sprinkled along Istria’s breathtaking coast, as well as a generous helping of inland hideaways – you’re sure to find a blissful holiday base. From Pula to Novigrad, fishing villages meet humming hotspots.

If Croatia’s allure is too much to resist, take a look at our holiday villas and find the perfect place to set up your bucket list base camp!  

Emma Mackey

Emma Mackey is a Content Executive at James Villa Holidays.

To say I have an obsession with travel would be an understatement. Adventuring with my...

See all articles by Emma Mackey

See all articles by Emma Mackey


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