Croatia Photo by Bartlomiej Mostek via Flickr Creative Commons

Things to do in Croatia fall into two main categories, outdoor fun such as exploring national parks, offshore islands and beaches, and digging into impressive history dating back to Roman times. Even for visitors keen on total relaxation, the temptation to wander through medieval streets, past great cathedrals, palaces, and mansions, is irresistible. Also unmissable are the many Roman sites here, the picturesque coastal villages set on fishing harbors, and the glorious Adriatic islands with their deserted beaches.

Shopping is fun in the many Croatian street markets, especially when combined with people-watching and a leisurely wine lunch in a local eatery. Nightlife is all things to all visitors, from riotous dance clubs to pleasant evenings dining, watching the sunset and meeting new friends.

Set on the southern edge of the Istrian Peninsula on a spectacular bay, the city of Pula has been occupied since Roman times and was an important port and administration center for their empire. Highlights include the well-preserved amphitheater which regularly hosts concerts and events, the Temple of Augustus and the Triumphal Arch of Sergius. Pula City Tours offer English-speaking guides to make sure you don’t miss any of the city’s famous landmarks when touring Romans ruins.

Described by some as one of the most beautiful places in Europe, Plitvice Lakes National Park in the mountainous karst region of Croatia is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and 16 joint lakes separated by waterfalls, natural dams and rapids engulfed in forest. Each lake is a different dazzling color from azure blue to emerald green, depending on what minerals are present under the waters. Much of the flora and fauna is indigenous, and the park is home to brown bears, wolves, eagles, wildcats, and a plethora of breeding bird species. The National Park Authority provides guided tours, and transportation by boat and bus around the park is included in the ticket price.

Dubrovnik and its Old Town is a dream for history buffs, and one of Croatia’s loveliest cities. Once an independent trading republic rivaling Venice in power, the town has been famous since the 19th Grand Tours of Europe, including stunning churches, monasteries, and fountains. Offshore are Mljet and Korcula Islands, perfect for beaches, diving and snorkeling, while nearby Konavle Valley has great walking and horseback riding trails. Viator offers a variety of tours covering all the attractions in the area.

If self-driving is included in the vacation plans, the Dalmatian coast road from Dubrovnik to Zadar is one of the world’s most scenic routes. Sparkling Adriatic waters backed by wild mountains, hidden valleys with vineyards and olive groves, rearing cliffs, and spectacular views will keep you spellbound all the way to historic Zadar. Once there, a local boat to the islands or a trip to the Neretva River Delta marshlands through Croatia Tours showcase yet another side of Croatia’s natural beauty.

Seeing the length of Croatia’s magnificent and varied shore from the deck of a boat makes for an unforgettable vacation, with sailing one of the favorite pastimes. Whether you’d prefer a small boat with a flotilla or a large, fully-crewed vessel with like-minded travelers, many companies such as Sail Croatia or Sunsail are here to make your dreams come true. If you’re a wannabee captain, Activity Yachting will teach you all the necessary skills on one of their Learn to Sail vacations. Fishing is equally popular, whether deep-sea or inland on the rivers with water sports also available on many waterways.

Croatia’s first naturist beach opened in 1934. Getting a tan without swimsuit lines is easy on one of the 30 designated beach resorts along the coast and offshore islands. Many other unofficial beaches, secluded coves, and clothing-optional spots also flood the area. Don’t worry about offending the locals; they enjoy swimming in the nude as much as you will.

If you’re based in Zagreb and need an active day, the Jarun Sporting Center is the place to go. Here you can swim, rollerblade, stroll or cycle around the lakeshores, cable-ski, row or play tennis. For competitive types there’s soccer, basketball, and beach volleyball along with cafés, bars and a kids zone.

A 15-minute boat ride from Dubrovnik takes visitors through the heavily forested Lokrum Island alongside monastery ruins, a hilltop fort, and dozens of wild peacocks. Snorkeling and swimming here is first-class, with the water as clear as glass and a good variety of fish and sea urchins underneath. Wander the slopes and climb to the fort for spectacular views of the capital and surrounding Croatian coastline.

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