Guide to Croatia’s Regions

Croatia boasts five major, diverse regions: Dalmatia, Istria, Kvarner, Central Croatia, and Slavonia, each with their own fascinating towns and cities, beautiful natural scenery, and exquisite cuisine. From island hopping in Dalmatia to truffle hunting in Istria, each region offers diverse experiences that will create lasting memories. This guide to Croatia's regions will help you plan your next Croatia holiday, whether you’re looking for picturesque villages, secluded coves, or spectacular national parks.
Korcula Old Town

Dalmatia

Dalmatia is the most popular region in Croatia and for good reason, boasting beautiful islands with secluded bays, magnificent medieval cities, and idyllic Adriatic beaches. The inland area is no less picturesque with vineyards, olive groves, and charming villages, whilst dramatic mountains, waterfalls, and pristine lakes also await. The region is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Old Town of Dubrovnik, the Diocletian’s Palace in Split, the Stari Grad Plain on Hvar Island, the historical core of Trogir, and St. James Cathedral in Sibenik. No matter how you explore, look forward to lots of fresh fish and seafood like fresh mussels and oysters from the Peljesac Peninsula. Dalmatia is also home to some of the best wines, produced from indigenous grape varieties.

Top Tip

The easiest way to explore Dalmatia is by small ship cruise, as routes often feature Split and Dubrovnik along with islands like Korcula, Hvar, Brac, Vis, and Mljet, taking away the hassle of organising your accommodation, transport, and guides.

Motovun village

Istria

Hop on a boat from Venice to cross the Adriatic and you’ll reach Istria. Located in the northwest of Croatia near the borders of Slovenia and Italy, it’s somewhat of a crossroads in Europe. It offers a picturesque coastline with beautiful beaches and crystal-clear turquoise water, backed by serene countryside with medieval hilltop towns, dense forests home to the region’s famous truffles, and lush rolling hills covered with vineyards and olive groves. A green oasis, it’s often compared to Tuscany without the crowds. Nature lovers, history buffs, foodies, and wine enthusiasts will all enjoy it here. The most populous city in Istria is Pula, home to a 1st century AD Roman amphitheatre, one of Croatia’s most famous attractions, whilst coastal Rovinj boasts a meticulously preserved Old Town with atmospheric cobbled streets and colourful Venetian-style architecture. 

Top Tip

With fast catamaran ferry crossings from Venice to Pula, Rovinj and Porec over the summer season, you can easily combine your holiday in Istria with Italy. Alternatively, cross the border into Slovenia and make your way to the beautiful Lake Bled.

Kvarner

One of the most diverse regions in this Croatia region guide, Kvarner is filled with dramatic natural beauty, sheltered by soaring mountains with the Adriatic Sea meeting the towering peaks of the Dinaric Alps. It’s long been a popular destination with its cobalt waters and mild climate, with many wealthy visitors building holiday homes here in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The region covers the coastal area of Kvarner Bay, numerous islands, and the mountainous Gorski Kotar area. It includes many well-known islands like Rab, Krk, Losinj, and Cres, which offer a variety of recreational activities, including swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, and other water sports. Kvarner is also home to elegant towns like Opatija and Rijeka which have a rich legacy of Habsburg-era architecture. Beyond the beautiful beaches, both provide easy access to hiking trails that wind through protected forests in Risnjak National Park and Ucka Nature Park. 

Did you know?

Opatija was one of the first beach resorts in central Europe and once the main seaside resort for the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Renowned for wellness getaways, today it still hosts renowned wellness facilities that include thalassotherapy, which harnesses the soothing properties of the sea. 

Plitvice Lakes

Central Croatia

Our Croatia region guide brings us to the heart of the country: Central Croatia. It combines historic sites and modern attractions with rugged natural beauty. The rivers of Sava, Drava, and Mura are here along with lush hills dotted with castles and medieval towns. Thermal springs await as well, providing the perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring. Most visitors to the region stay in Zagreb, the cosmopolitan capital, where you can enjoy the vibrant cultural scene which includes numerous galleries and museums. It also hosts one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. In the Upper Town, you’ll find two of Zagreb’s most iconic landmarks, the Gothic-style Zagreb Cathedral and St. Mark’s Church. An hour’s drive north of Zagreb, Varazdin offers plenty, from its Baroque-style cathedral to a 14th-century castle and multiple museums. One of the most famous national parks is in this region: Plitvice Lakes. It features an array of brilliant turquoise and emerald lakes with countless waterfalls laced in between whilst surrounded by lush forest.

Top Tip

When visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, it is best to go in the early morning to avoid the high temperatures and larger crowds

Daruvar church in Slavonia

Slavonia

Slavonia is located in the northeastern part of Croatia, ideal for those seeking an authentic Croatian experience away from the big tourist crowds. It was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, featuring magnificent castles and historic cities on the Danube River, including Vukovar. The city revolves around its port, Croatia’s largest river port, where the Danube and Vuka rivers meet. Much of the historic architecture here was damaged during the Croatian War of Independence but it boasts numerous Baroque buildings. Some of the most notable landmarks have been rebuilt, like the Franciscan monastery. Dakovo is another city well worth a visit, home to the red-brick Cathedral of St. Peter, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. There are lovely squares, Baroque buildings, and an 18th-century fortress too.

Top Tip

If you visit Slavonia in September, you can visit the annual Vinkovci Autumn Festival, where you can witness Croatian traditions including music, dance, and folklore. 

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