Croatia is known for its beautiful scenery, but some of the main destinations can get busy. Tamsin Wressell looks at some that are a bit more off the beaten track
This scenic peninsula in southern Dalmatia has tranquil towns, beaches and lush mountains, plus sweeping valleys, tree-fringed bays and idyllic coves – its terrain is greatly varied. The area is now becoming more known for its food scene, with oyster beds nearby and vineyards dotted in the hills.
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik and feel like a respite from some of the crowds, Ston is a great option that’s easy to reach. The stray cat population in this coastal village is high, but it’s mostly famed for its preserved stone walls and oyster restaurants. It’s a little difficult to reach by public transport, but is an hour’s drive from the city.
The Slunjčica River runs through this village, located in the town of Slunj. With its cascading waterfalls and fewer crowds than some of the country’s more popular destinations, this is a great spot for some tranquility. It is reachable in two hours from Zagreb and is a good stopping point on the way to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Almost entirely devoid of tourists, the island of Lastovo is a nature park, where the only activity is agriculture. It takes almost three hours to get there by ferry from Dubrovnik or Split, and there’s just one hotel. As such, it remains mostly verdant and unspoilt, holding up a more traditional way of life. This is a great destination for moving at a slower pace, taking long walks, swimming and scuba diving.
Close to Croatia’s border with Serbia, Kopački Rit is a nature park and one of Europe’s largest wetlands. The Danube and Drava rivers meet here, creating a vast floodplain that’s home to nearly 300 species of birds. There’s a huge array of lakes, backwaters and ponds that weave between grasslands and oak forests, creating an incredible scene of tranquility.
In eastern Istria, near the Slovenian border, Lovran is a village that’s held onto its historic origins while maintaining fewer crowds. One of the best things to do is stroll through the narrow alleyways of the Old Town, by the 14th century Church of St George. The coastal promenade, Lungomare, stretches for 12km from Lovran to Preluka, with beaches nearby on pebbly stretches.
Lovran is the gateway to Učka nature park – a great spot for hiking amid pine-covered hills. The park is spread out across 160 square kilometres and, because of its location, includes an interesting blend of continental and mediterranean flora – different from other coastal mountain ranges in Croatia. The hilly plateaus provide panoramic views with mostly quiet hiking trails.
Wedged in between Split and the seaside resort of Makarska, Brela is a great alternative for the same beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, just with fewer crowds than its famed neighbours. The hotels are more affordable and its beaches are award-winning. The municipality includes rocky outcrops, natural springs and Biokovo Mountain, which is home to an abundance of wildlife including wolves and eagles.
In the Zadar region, this compact town was where Croatia’s king resided in medieval times. Now, it has a residual fairytale element and while it remains lesser-known, is slowly becoming more popular for its romantic scenery. Its old town juts out on a tiny outlet with saltpans and beaches surrounding the little town. Swimming and kitesurfing are recommended activities here.
While Fažana is actually a pretty popular spot on the tourist route, it tends to be seen more as a departure point for boat trips to the Brijuni National Park and is often overlooked as a destination in its own right. This fishing port has a more relaxed approach and a calm atmosphere, with wonderfully fresh seafood, pebbly beaches and a medieval centre.