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Credit: Shutterstock

Best places to visit in Croatia from Dubrovnik to Hvar as country now on green list

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Croatia received an exciting boost last week when the country was moved to the green list as part of the latest traffic light system update.

Croatia brims with ancient walled towns, clifftop forts and sapphire seas and boasts world-class seaside destinations like Dubrovnik, Zadar and Split.

A whole host of cruise lines sail Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline, from commercial mega-ships carriers to tiny, independent cruise lines.

With so many stunning spots to choose from, how do you know where to go when visiting this charming part of the world now it's on the green list?

These are the best place to visit in Croatia - and yes, you probably will recognise them from Game of Thrones.

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Best destinations to visit in Croatia

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is Croatia’s prized Adriatic town – an ancient citadel of narrow lanes, fortified walls and castles overlooking shimmering emerald seas. It’s hard to imagine that such a perfectly preserved beautiful city lay in ruins just three decades ago following a besiegement in the Yugoslavia Wars. However, it has since bounced back to be become graced by the likes of Beyoncé, Sir Roger Moore and Roman Abramovich.

Cruise here to wander its Unesco-protected old town encircled by massive stone walls, spot elegant Baroque churches and hidden palazzi cloaked in bougainvillaea. St. Blaise Church, the Renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace are must-sees. Come evening, make your way down limestone and terracotta streets and uncover trendy wine and rooftop bars as the sweet smell of orange dances on the warm Adriatic breeze.

Split

With a dramatic mountainous backdrop and lapped by the Adriatic, ancient Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, makes a fabulous port of call. Start in the UNESCO-listed Diocletian’s Palace, one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments, where you’ll find bars, restaurants and shops hidden within the old walls.

Nearby, the Pazar morning market sells fresh produce, clothes and all kinds of fascinating bric-a-brac and the Cathedral of St Domnius is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings.

Too hot? Head to the Marjan Forest Park with paths and trails through pine forests and scenic views over the city and nearby islands. Unlike fairy-tale Dubrovnik, lived-in Split offers a glimpse into real Croatian life, from the high-rise apartments of its suburbs to its local markets.

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Split: Start in the Unesco-listed Diocletian’s Palace. Credit: Shutterstock

Hvar

Cosmopolitan Hvar is an island on the Dalmatian coast, known for its stunning natural beauty, beaches, pine forests and nearby lavender fields. Hvar's eponymous port town, famed for its 13th-century walls, Venetian architecture citadel Spanjola Fortress and Renaissance St Stephen’s Cathedral – which can all easily be seen by strolling its marble lanes.

Daytime sees travellers lounge on beaches such as Dubovica Beach while evening sees the clink of wine glasses and hum of dance music from its countless beach bars take over the town. From Hvar it’s also possible to reach the nearby Pakleni Islands, hiding sandy coves and with a more laid-back vibe.

Zadar

Zadar is a historical and cultural city on the quieter northern Dalmatian coast, home to both Roman and Venetian ruins, a thriving café culture and quality museums. The city is truly lived in, worlds away from fantasy Dubrovnik, but still pretty stunning thanks to the surrounding Adriatic coastline.

Travellers come to see the city’s two most famous sights: the first Sea Organ in the world and the wacky Sun Salutation – described by film director Alfred Hitchcock as "the most beautiful sunset in the world". Zadar’s historical old town boasts Romain ruins and medieval churches, while its waterfront has pine-scented beaches and great seafood restaurants (cheaper than the south).

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Zadar is a historical and cultural city on the quieter northern Dalmatian coast. Credit: Shutterstock

Korčula

Korčula is a Croatian island that sits across the bay from Dubrovnik reached by ferry and certain pint-sized cruise ships. The island is all white wine and white beaches, cloaked in olive groves, pine forests and the vineyards of Lumbarda. These vineyards, such as Lovric Winery and Bire Winery, are open for tasting and tours.

Korčula is popular but not overrun with tourists like nearby islands. It has a bevvy of beaches and a Venetian Renaissance old town – a walled city jutting out into the Peljesac Channel. Make sure to drink lots of Grk – the island’s full-bodied white wine – washed down with Dalmatian meats and cheeses.

Sibenik

Charming Sibenik wouldn’t look out of place on the French Rivera, with cliff-side constructions tumbling down into the water and piles of forts and monasteries. Sibenik is the perfect low-key alternative to Dubrovnik and Hvar, being the gateway to the Krka National Park and the mostly uninhabited Kornati Islands archipelago.

Its magnificent white old town hides a maze of steep streets with top sights including the 15th-century stone Cathedral of St. James, a UNESCO site with 71 unique sculpted faces, and the Renaissance-era Count’s Palace. Try to time your visit with a show in the open-air theatre at St Michael’s Fortress and visit the nearby Dalmatian Ethno Village. Game of Thrones fans might recognise the city from three episodes of the show in season five.

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Croatia: Top sights in Sibenik include the 15th-century stone Cathedral of St. James. Credit: Shutterstock

Primosten

Primosten is a small town located on the Adriatic coast between Split and Sibenik, just a short bus ride from either. The town sits on an island connected to the mainland jutting out into the sparkling blue Adriatic, once heavily fortified and connected by a drawbridge – but now accessed by a thin causeway.

The town is a picture-perfect stop-off with cobbled streets and a vibrant main square lined by little boutiques, handicraft shops and al fresco bars. Most streets sit in the shadows of St George’s Church perched high on a hill, and it’s worth meandering up to take in the views or watch a sunset.

Krka National Park

A tapestry of forest slakes and waterfalls, the Krka National Park lies just 10km from Sibenik – and there are plenty of excursions and tours that run to the park. Krka is one of the most beautiful and serene places on the coast, covering an area of 142sq m and home to the Krka river itself and an array of tumbling waterfalls.

The most famous of these waterfalls is the famous Skradinski Buk falls, a picturesque tiered waterfall surrounded by lush forest. More than 800 species of plant life can be found in the park along with over 200 species of bird and 18 species of bat. Make sure to remember your swimming costume as there are plenty of swimming areas in the waterfalls and across the park.

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Dubrovnik

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