Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Plitvice Lakes are the holy trinity of any Croatia trip. While each of these destinations is beautiful in their own right, there is much more to Croatia than this typical tourist route. If you want to get off the beaten path, you need to check out these 10 must-see hidden gems in Croatia.
Living in Croatia for nearly six years has allowed me to thoroughly explore all that this gorgeous country has to offer. While I haven’t seen it all, I definitely think that these ten destinations are worth a spot on any Croatia itinerary.
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10 Must-See Hidden Gems in Croatia
1) Island of Čiovo (South Side)
Near the town of Trogir, and just 20 minutes away from Split, lies the island of Čiovo. This island is well-known for its abundance of lavender, immortelle flowers, rosemary, and olive trees. If the Mediterranean had a perfume, it would surely smell of Čiovo.
While this particular island has become quite popular with tourists, in recent years, the south side of the island still provides a peaceful escape.
There are three locations worth visiting on Čiovo’s southern side. The first is the beach, Duboka Uvala (or Deep Cove). This pebble cove has the most crystal clear water you’ll ever dip your toes in and is perfect for a relaxing beach vacation.
Just a short walk away from Duboka Uvala lies Duga Uvala (Long Cove). This gorgeous beach has a slightly more rugged feel due to the large, natural stones that line the shore. Right above the beach, there is a restaurant that serves local Dalmatian delicacies for lunch – Konoba Django. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for some good food and views.
The third location worth visiting on Čiovo is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Prizidnica. Near the village of Slatine, this small sanctuary sits high above the sea on the cliffs of Čiovo. There is a pathway carved out that leads to a tiny church and old convent built in 1546.
However, the real showstopper is the view overlooking the islands of Šolta and Brač!
Imagine an island that is almost entirely covered by a lush Mediterranean forest, where waters dazzle, and pollution and destruction of nature have yet to make an appearance.
Lastovo is one of the most remote islands off the coast of Croatia. For many years, it was closed off to foreigners as it served as an army base under Yugoslavia. For this reason, and due to the amount of traveling needed to get there, Lastovo remains off the beaten track.
So if you’re looking for a place where you definitely won’t encounter hoards of vacation-goers, then Lastovo is the choice for you.
This enclave is part of a stunning archipelago of 13 islands that are officially recognized as a Croatian Nature Park, with forests making up 70% of the land. In addition to the dense forests, you can expect to swim in some of the clearest waters, enjoy sandy bays all to yourself, and experience true island life.
Similar to Lastovo, Mljet Island is overflowing with an abundance of greenery. It’s actually considered to be one of the most beautiful Croatian islands!
Mljet National Park makes up most of the island, along with several villages and two saltwater lakes. The lakes are favorite swimming spots for both locals and visitors.
Mljet is an island that is great for those seeking a slow holiday with plenty of time to sunbathe and explore the dense Mediterranean forest. If this isn’t your thing, a day or two will do the trick.
Mljet makes an easy day trip from Dubrovnik as it is only 23 miles away by ferry.
This untamed island is the perfect paradise for those looking to escape. Nature lovers will appreciate the miles of biking and hiking trails, untouched nature, olive groves, vineyards, and pristine waters.
It’s even said that Odysseus came to this lush island, and stayed for seven years! The island even has a cave named after him, Odysseus Cave, where the Greek hero was nursed back to health by Calypso!
The sweet town of Bale (or Valle, in Italian) lies halfway between Rovinj and Pula. Like many towns in Istria that were, at one time, under the influence of Italy, Bale officially has two languages: Croatian and Italian.
This historic village is located at 140m above sea level on a hill surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The narrow and cobblestoned streets of the town wind around a 15th-century castle, once owned by the Bembo Family.
Peer around nearly any picturesque corner in this town, and you’ll find ateliers selling beautifully handcrafted wares. You will also stumble upon a shop or two offering locally made olive oil, and you might even score a tasting! Be sure to stop into Bembo to sample some of their award-winning olive oils.
In addition to olive oil, the region of Istria also produces some of the best wine in Croatia! No trip to the Istrian peninsula is complete without sampling the local wine. There are two wineries close to Bale that are worth checking out: San Tomasso Winery and Meneghetti Winery. Salut!
With only 30 inhabitants, Hum is formally recognized as the smallest town in the world. This tiny village is only 100 meters long and 30 meters wide, but holds an incredible amount of history.
Legend has it that this miniature town was created by accident! The giants that built Istria happened to have a few stones left over, and decided to use them to build Hum!
Hum is the perfect place for admiring Istrian cultural heritage, with its stone streets, squares, church, and beautifully preserved fortress walls. The area surrounding Hum, and nearby villages, are heaven for explorers and nature lovers.
For those visiting Istria for their famous truffles, the neighboring city of Buzet is actually known as the “Town of Truffles”.
Vis is arguably one of the most beautiful islands off the Dalmatian coast. It is also one of the most fascinating islands as it spent much of its history as a military base for the Yugoslavian army.
Cut off from foreigners and visitors from 1950 to 1989, Vis was underpopulated for many years, leaving its natural beauty almost completely untouched.
For this reason, it has become a top choice for visitors searching for a glimpse of Croatia as it once was – before being overrun by tourists.
Vis remains far out from the major tourist destinations, therefore, it has been successful in preserving its authenticity.
While visiting Vis, you can expect to experience unspoiled nature, beautiful beaches, gourmet delicacies, and peace and quiet.
Fun Fact: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was filmed on the island of Vis!
Just about an hour’s drive from Dubrovnik, lie the two towns of Ston, and Mali Ston (literally “little” Ston). However, the main attraction is not the towns themselves, but rather the 4.5 kilometer-long wall that connects them – the Ston Walls! Complete with 3 fortresses and 31 towers, these walls are one of the longest fortification systems in Europe.
In fact, they are the second-longest defensive walls in the world, after the Great Wall of China!
The Ston Walls were last used for defense in the 19th century. Today, they serve as a magnificent monument that visitors come to marvel at. For a small entrance fee, you can climb the walls and enjoy breathtaking views of the valley, salt pans, and Adriatic Sea.
The Ston Walls are a great destination for foodies as well, as some of the best restaurants in the region can be found in Ston. Kapetanova Kuća and Konoba Bakus are two restaurants that are worth checking out, and if you visit, don’t forget to try the oysters!
Šolta (pronounced “sholta”) is an island that is famous for its olive trees and olive oil tradition.
Just a short ferry ride away from Split, the island of Šolta surprisingly doesn’t get as many tourists as you think it would. This island may be small (only 19 kilometers in length) but its deep blue bays and sheltered coves make it a beautiful destination for a boat outing.
The herbs and woody plants that carpet the island make it ideal for beekeeping pastures, which is why the island is famous for honey. For a truly unforgettable visit, I recommend visiting one of the island’s family-run farms. There, you can learn the art of making honey and extra-virgin olive oil, and sample wine made from indigenous island grapes.
While tourism is becoming more developed on Šolta, it is still not nearly as visited as Croatia’s main islands. For those looking to break away from the standard tourist trail for a glimpse into traditional island life, Šolta is a perfect choice!
Brijuni National Park is an archipelago of lush islands that once served as a retreat for the former president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito. This impressive mix of cultural heritage and rich landscapes is located just off the coast of Pula.
The series of islands can easily be reached by ferry, and make a great day trip from southern Istria. If you’re into history, then this could be the ultimate day trip for you. Brijuni is practically an open-air museum thanks to the Roman ruins and ancient artifacts cover the main island! Exploring is simple and can be done by foot, motorized scooters, train, or by bike.
There are even dinosaur footprints on the island, proving their existence on Brijuni millions of years ago! Today, however, hundreds of indigenous, and exotic animals (from Africa, Asia, and South America) roam freely around the island. Many of these species were given to Tito as gifts during his presidency.
The most famous of the flora and fauna on the island is the Old Olive Tree. It is said to be one of the oldest found in the Mediterranean! At 1600 years old, it still produces olives each year for making olive oil.
10) Beritnica Beach
Topping off the list of 10 must-see hidden gems in Croatia, is a beach that will literally make you feel like you are on another planet.
Beritnica Beach is located on the island of Pag. An island you may have heard of thanks to its famous party beach, Zrće. However, despite its popularity among loyal tourists from the region, many parts of Pag still remain untouched.
One of the island’s, and perhaps even Croatia’s, best-kept secret is Beritnica Beach.
Everything about this place is unique.
To reach the beach, you’ll be required to do a bit of hiking. The trail leading to the beach is not really marked but is still pretty easy to follow. As you walk along the path, the scenery gets quite interesting. Stone towers, a canyon, and even fossils are just a few of the things you can expect to see as you make your descent to the beach.
Beritnica is really out of this world! Check out this video for an amazing glimpse of this majestic landscape.
What did you think of these 10 must-see hidden gems in Croatia? Have you visited any of them?
Let me know in the comments!