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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Croatia

Annie Gabillet

Croatia might be a trendy destination, but that’s not why you should visit. The European country’s charm goes well beyond the hype, according to Erina Pindar Chamberlain, the managing director of full-service travel agency SmartFlyer. “The Dalmatian Coast has it all,” she told us. And by all she means: private luxury villas, yachts, adventure outdoor activities, party beach clubs, and cultural happenings. SmartFlyer’s team of experts helps travelers book memorable trips. Here’s why they think you should make a journey to Croatia your next one. 

Courtesy SmartFlyer

Croatia has been gaining in popularity. Is it still an underrated destination?

“Cities like Split and Dubrovnik have become big draws in part thanks to the beloved Game of Thrones series filming here, but there are so many other parts of the country to explore and discover. While it comes as no surprise that Croatia has gorgeous scenery and interesting history, it’s lesser known that the destination offers rich gastronomy and wine culture. There are tons of family-owned wineries that cultivate masterpiece wines which make for the perfect afternoon tasting spots.” — SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Katie Lee

“The destination offers rich gastronomy and wine culture.”

Courtesy SmartFlyer

What time of year is best to visit Croatia?

“As with most Mediterranean destinations, Croatia’s high season is June, July and August. These are wonderful months to visit, so long as visitors keep in mind that crowds and temperatures climb as the summer progresses. Pro tip? This is a wonderful time to do a week-long boat charter to stay cool on the water. A well-connected travel advisor can secure guests luxurious options that come complete with dedicated chefs, skippers and an attentive staff to look after activities both on and off shore. 

For those who want to visit Croatia when temperatures and crowds are more moderate, what’s considered “shoulder season,” or the months just surrounding high season, are ideal. Travelers could either hit the destination in April and May for more spring-like weather or visit in September and October when the crystal-clear blue waters are a bit more warmed up. Either way, city touring is much more comfortable thanks to more walkable streets, so it’s the perfect recipe for a relaxing European vacation!

Courtesy SmartFlyer

Visiting during off-season is always an option for a completely different Croatia experience. National parks are open year-round, and entrance fees drop in the winter time. It’s also beautiful to see places like Plitvice Lakes in during this time when instead of flowing waterfalls, you’ll see frozen streams of water and massive icicles. The coastal towns and islands do slow down significantly in the winter, with many resorts closing, but the ones that remain open offer special pricing, which will help your pocketbook.

That being said, winter is a beautiful time in Croatia and worth considering for the holidays or a spa retreat! All the popular coastal towns have wonderful Christmas markets, and Zagreb is known for their holiday season throughout Europe. The holiday time in Croatia is quite special, and New Year’s Eve in Dubrovnik and Zagreb is sure to kick off the year with a bang! Carnival is lively celebrated in February along with a few other winter festivals, too. If travelers are looking to pair with Croatia some fantastic winter skiing, then neighboring Slovenia would be the perfect match!” — SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Michelle Manas

Courtesy SmartFlyer

What cities or towns are a must-see?  

“Working with a travel advisor is really the best way to determine which parts of the country are best aligned with your specific tastes. On my recent visit, we hit a lot of the top spots, but visitors can lean into certain aspects of the destination depending on what they want to experience. 

We love the island of Losinj for a wellness retreat, Hum for a look at the self-proclaimed “smallest town in the world,” Rovinj for a beautiful seaside Venetian city, and Sibenik for a non-touristy alternative to Split (though the city does offer a historic mélange of cultures), Hvar for a great party, Korcula for a charming little island, Dubrovnik for GoT diehards, Ston and the Peljesac peninsula for oysters, wine, and Croatia’s very own Great Wall.” — SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Liana Kraushaar Merriman

Courtesy SmartFlyer

What are your top hotels /accommodation recommendations? 

“There are so many incredible smaller, boutique properties throughout Croatia. Meneghetti Wine Hotel is a fabulous hotel in the wine country of Croatia. It offers guests lovely rooms, a gorgeous spa, delicious food, and even a private beach club to make the experience extra special. On the island of Hvar, I absolutely love Little Green Bay, a boutique property with endless charm. It’s set on a stunning private beach with a lot of water activities available for guests. With a stay here, guests can easily reach everything else on the island including beach clubs, great restaurants, wineries, and biking trails. 

On the island of Korcula, Lesic Dimitri Palace is a really special, intimate hotel with unique rooms and a restaurant that serves unbelievably delicious food. Then there’s Villa Dubrovnik, the perfect place to end a trip to Croatia. Every room has a balcony to admire the stunning views of the water and nearby town of Dubrovnik. Don’t miss their private beach club or rooftop prosciutto and wine bar!” — SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Katie Frederick

Courtesy SmartFlyer

Any practical or logistical details to share?

Getting to Croatia from the states has never been easier thanks to non-stop (seasonal) flights between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik, as well as nonstops from New York and Chicago to Venice. 

You may be thinking, wait, Venice? Yep, ferries run routes from Venice to several Istrian ports including Rovinj and Pula and other cities on the peninsula, which makes it a great jumping off point!

Of course, there are many stopover options to Croatia from the US, with Munich and Frankfurt offering great connectivity on major routes. You can also begin your adventure with a unique arrival to the island of Lošinj with a panoramic flight via private jet.

“Getting to Croatia from the states has never been easier thanks to nonstop flights between Philadelphia and Dubrovnik.”

Once travelers have arrived, catamaran is arguably the best way to explore Croatia. Catamarans are available in all sizes, include a captain and a chef, and can be a great value. Itineraries are custom-designed and can be flexible. If you fall in love with Korcula, stay an extra night. If you opt for Trogir over Split, no problem! Or, if boats aren’t your thing, driving down the Dalmatian Coast is easy, and there are plenty of highlights and hidden gems along the coast where you can stop and explore for a few hours or a few days.” SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Amy Zebala

Courtesy SmartFlyer

What may surprise visitors about Croatia? 

“Besides the picturesque landscapes and stunning architecture, the biggest surprise to the group of travel advisors I visited Croatia alongside this past spring was the food and wine. While we are so accustomed to jumping straight to destinations like Italy or France for culinary experiences, in Croatia, each region has a little something different to offer. A favorite was Istria, considered the Tuscany of Croatia. Every meal was sprinkled with white truffles and accompanied by some of the most delicious varietals. What more could you ask for?” 

Fun fact: The Michelin Guide has 63 restaurants in Croatia listed, five of which are Michelin starred. If Croatia is on your bucket list, be sure to include plenty of time to eat all the things!” — SmartFlyer Travel Advisor Melissa Gulotta