Croatia is almost greedy when it comes to gorgeousness, so much so that it’s hard to know where to start. However, with eight national parks and over a thousand islands, our Croatia tours are crafted to introduce you to its finest walking and cycling trails, be it island or mainland, with guides or just with your good selves.
We also think that Croatia has something in the water as people keep coming back for more. Walking holidays in Croatia are a great starting point, particularly along the southern Dalmatia coast, opening up with its pearl, Dubrovnik. Then when you have found your footing, come back for more with our Croatia cycling holidays inviting you to sample some Istrian idylls.
Where to go
Dubrovnik is not only the pearl of the Adriatic and a deserved UNESCO site, it’s also the jumping off point for the Dalmatian islands. A medieval walled city that protects and prettifies this already stunning coast, it can get crowded when the cruise ships come in. But early mornings and evenings are quieter when you’ll have time to wander its ancient walls, take a cable car up to Mount Srd, and sip a local Lasina wine in the Old Town.
Heading up towards the Istrian Peninsula, the northern archipelago of Krk, Rab and Lošinj island, on the Kvarner Gulf, are favourite anchor dropping points on our bike and boat cycling holidays. Stay overnight on board a traditional sailing ship, and then pedal by day through the green and grapevine-rich landscapes of Krk, the chic boutiques and beaches of Rab or the aromatic pine forests of Lošinj, an island that is also home to over a thousand aromatic herbs.
It’s apt that Dalmatian dogs hail from Croatia, with the Dalmatian coast dotted with hundreds of beauty spots. Hike the Dalmatian island of Hvar for highlife mixed with very real fishing communities, or Korčula for its ancient walled town juxtaposed with pine forests and secret coves. Mljet’s natural marvels have merited national park status, such as its two seawater lakes enveloped by walking and cycling trails, while Brac boasts the Adriatic’s highest peak, Mount St. Vid (780m). Join the dots perfectly on one of our Croatia bike and boat holidays.
Istria, with its proximity to Italy, was ahead of the game in tourism, thanks mostly to the fact that it was also not too badly hit by the ravages of war. Rovinj is one of its sweet honeypots, another magnificent walled town just two hours by ferry from Venice. Istria has some of our best foodie walking holidays in Croatia, Italian-influenced goodies such as truffles and risotto, as well as local cured ham (prsut) and olives are two a penny, and so you won’t be short of picnic supplies for a hike up the likes of Učka mountain range, with Istria’s highest peak at 1400m.
Croatia’s national parks
You can escape some of Croatia’s more crowded hotspots not only by travelling out of season, but by exploring off the beaten track in its eight exquisite national parks. Mljet, for example, features on our Dalmatian Islands tours or Krka, named after the river that runs through it, is a memorable spot on our North Dalmatia bike and boat holiday, especially for its colossal waterfalls. While sailing on this trip, you will also see the marine magnificence of Kornati National Park, a collection of sun-bleached uninhabited islands that feel more Maldivian than Croatian.
Things to do
- Cross the borders because, although Croatia shares political frontiers with Bosnia and Herzogovina, Slovenia, Hungary, Montengro and a maritime one with Italy, its natural attractions don’t stop because of a line on a map. One of the best examples is a trek along a section of the Via Dinarica, a mammoth trail covering almost 2,000km of the Dinaric Alps’ high peaks, and the section between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina is one of our most popular Balkan walking holidays. You can also head south to combine coastal walking in Croatia with Montegro’s Lovćen National Park. Cyclists have a colossal combo on the Ciro Trail between Dubrovnik and Sarajevo, with our Venice to Istria and Trieste to Pula cycling tours both competing in its slipstream for sublime cycling.
- Explore Croatia’s vineyards, particularly on an Istrian cycling holiday that takes you not only through vine-strewn hills but also through some of its most ancient towns of Motovun, Poreč and Rovinj. Visit wineries en route and taste local Muscats and Malvazijas. You can also walk the Istrian wineries and add Livade into the heady mix, the truffle capital of the world. Clear the palette and the head with a hike the Učka mountains.
- Pedal your way to paradise on our Croatia bike and boat holidays, where you cycle around remote island trails by day, and embark your aqua-accommodation for nights under the Adriatic’s stars. Highlights of these trips include the almost ethereal Kornati National Park archipelago, the Dalmatian archipeligic gems of Mljet, Brac and Hvar or the historic island towns of the Kvarner Gulf. We also have the option to use e-bikes on all of these holidays.
Responsible travel tips
- If you can, try and travel out of peak season if your Croatia tour is taking in cruise liner ports of Dubrovnik or Split. Not only will you be avoiding crowds, you will also be directing your vital tourism income to small communities rather than multinationals with giant carbon and polluting footprints.
- Read up a little about Croatian history before you go as the wars were relatively recent. However, be very sensitive when discussing them as many local people still don’t want to talk about it. If you do engage in conversation about the wars, don’t call them a civil war. It was a collection of wars about territory and independence and calling it ‘civil’ will not go down well.
- Don’t be tempted to buy red coral gifts. They look pretty but, unless farmed sustainably, they are rightfully illegal, although a lot of them get through the net.
- As part of its independence, Croatians fought hard to preserve their language and so it goes down really well if you learn a few words. Hvala is thank you, živjeli is cheers, and is pronounced zhee-ve-lee, which means ‘life is beautiful’. Says it all, really.