While you are visiting Croatia, there are a few famous sites which are doubtless going to be on your itinerary, like Diocletian’s Palace or Plitvice Lakes National Park. But did you know that a lot of the most exciting destinations in Croatia are off the beaten path? Indeed, when you get away from the crowds, you can discover some amazingly unique locations and activities which are every bit as remarkable as Croatia’s more well-known destinations. Here are 10 hidden gems along the Dalmatian Coast that need to be on every traveller’s bucket list.
If you sail your Croatia charter yacht up into the northern Adriatic, stop at the foot of the Velebit Mountains, where you can drop anchor in a long, narrow inlet called Zavratnica. Protected since 1964, this inlet has steep sides and is similar in its appearance to a fjord, though it formed in a different manner, and is therefore not classified as one.
This cove features clear, tranquil waters, beautiful scenery, and relaxing shores. Most fascinating however is the wreck of a German ship from World War II. Thanks to the incredible visibility of the water, you can see the sunken ship clearly from the shore. Indeed, the ship is only a few metres down, so if you bring your gear with you, you can dive easily and check it out.
2. Galešnjak Island
Look this island up on Google Maps and you will immediately see what is fascinating about it, which is its almost perfect heart shape as seen from overhead. See it by boat or by air; it is a fun and romantic destination for any couple taking a honeymoon to Croatia this summer.
3. Walls of Ston
Heading to Dubrovnik? It is actually surprising how many people seem to miss this incredible historical destination. Following the Great Wall of China, it is the second longest preserved fortification wall on the planet. For this reason, it is sometimes called the “European Wall of China.”
The Walls of Ston were constructed to defend against the invading Ottomans. For around 500 years, they successfully did just that. Walking along the Walls today, you will behold forty defensive turrets and some unforgettable views of the Adriatic. Anyone who has an interest in history or just loves beautiful scenery will not want to miss this off-the-beaten-path adventure.
One of the benefits of chartering a yacht in Croatia is that you can explore some of the more remote destinations along the coast which you would miss if you were on an organized tour which only hit the major spots.
One far-flung island to add to your itinerary is Lastovo. Lastovo will get you away from the crowds, but you will find there are still plenty of cultural attractions. Indeed, the island features some stunning Venetian architecture dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. If you are visiting off-season, you might even be in Lastovo in time for the Poklad (Carnival). During this festival, residents garb themselves in traditional costumes and participate in an annual ritual abounding with symbolism.
While visiting Lastovo, also make sure you take some time to enjoy the serene beaches, and consider staying in one of the most unique accommodations in all of Croatia—the Adriatic’s oldest lighthouse.
5. See the house inside a house.
While visiting Brač, one fascinating sight is the “house within a house” in Bol. Here you will see a smaller completed house inside a larger uncompleted house which has walls but no roof and no interior. From the street, it is not at all obvious that the larger house contains a smaller house inside of it, but from the air it is quite clear.
What happened here? It’s an amazing story. Apparently a guy named Marko used to live in the smaller house. Behind his home was a piece of land owned by the Vuković family, who wanted to build a palace. To do so, they would need Marko’s land.
Marko didn’t want to sell. The wealthy family turned to their influential connections to force Marko out of the house. After he was gone, they started building around Marko’s house. Three brothers in the family drowned at sea, however, and construction was never completed. Marko then returned to live in his house again, where he remained for the rest of his life. As Marko has passed, the house is vacant and open to visitors.
6. Konoba Rozario
If you are looking for a place to eat in Dubrovnik, you will quickly discover that while there is a lot of amazing cuisine here, there are also a lot of crowds. If you want to get away from them and enjoy a great bite, then look for Konoba Rozario. This is a small restaurant which the locals enjoy, located near the Bratovstine Svetog Roazarija church.
Rozario is actually very hard to find, which is why most tourists never do. You may end up having to ask a local for directions. Don’t shy away from doing so. Once you have a quiet table at this award-winning eatery and partake of its mouth-watering seafood delicacies and local wines, you will fall in love. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back for lunch or dinner again the next day.
7. Drvenik Mali
Sail 10 nautical miles from Trogir and you will find one of the most tranquil, pristine islands off the coast of Croatia. There are only around 80 people who live here, and not many tourists even know about it. That means that you can easily have a spot on the beach all to yourself. As a bonus, if you like to fish, you will find that this is the perfect place to hook a delicious fresh catch.
8. Blue Cave
Near Vis is the island of Biševo, where you will find one of the most unique geological attractions in all of Croatia: the famous Blue Cave. Despite the fact that the Blue Cave is fairly iconic, a lot of tourists miss it because it is hard to get to. You can only reach it by boat (perfect if you are on a charter vacation in Croatia), and once you arrive, you need to dive in order to get inside.
Once you do, you will have the opportunity to observe an unusual and stunning visual effect. Try and get there between 11 in the morning and noon. The sun’s reflections through the water cause it to glow a vibrant blue. You can see this effect clearly in photographs, but there is nothing quite like seeing it in person.
9. Goli Otok
This site isn’t for the faint of heart, which is why not a lot of tourists venture here. Goli Otok is an abandoned prison, the only gulag which was part of Yugoslavia. The name means “barren island,” which is a pretty good description of it. Currently, the former prison is in a state of disrepair, but you can take a tour—and you are also free to roam at will. Those who have an interest in history and are not afraid to see its dark side will find it instructive and fascinating.
10. Kornati Archipelago
Make the most of your Croatia charter yacht and head to the Kornati Islands. This national park is very popular, but it consists of around 150 islands, many of which are just a few kilometres in length. Needless to say, it is easy to find many hidden coves, reefs, beaches and caves where you can explore and relax in seclusion.
Conclusion: Venture Beyond the Beaten Track to See Croatia At Its Most Authentic
While famous sites like Diocletian’s Palace call out to tourists who charter a sailing boat in Croatia, many of the most incredible destinations are those which your average traveller has never even heard of. So plan an expedition to Zavratnica or the Walls of Ston. Eat at Rozario or another hidden restaurant in Dubrovnik, or visit Lastovo or one of the remote islands of the Kornati Archipelago. Wherever you sail in Croatia, adventure awaits.