Croatia is one of the Mediterranean’s most visited tourist destinations, and in 2022 it became the most sought-after destination across Europe. And it’s easy to see why!
But with 3.8 million tourists visiting Dubrovnik and 3.1 million tourists visiting Split each year, it can also be incredibly crowded, particularly during the summer months.
Despite this, Croatia is still home to many hidden treasures, particularly if you visit one of the 78 islands in the Croatian archipelago.
With that in mind, here are six of the best places to visit in Croatia if you want to get off the beaten path and avoid the massive crowds:
Zlarin is a small island with a big personality. It is located close to the mainland city of Šibenik, making it easy to access. And at just 6km long, it is small but perfectly formed.
Visitors to Zlarin are attracted to its stone and pebble beaches, which are ideal for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or exploring on a stand-up paddleboard.
Zlarin’s main harbor is incredibly picturesque, and the bars lining the harbor offer excellent views while watching the small fishing vessels return to shore or the larger yachts and catamarans dock.
Zlarin boasts four fortresses, but the most impressive of these is the St. Nicholas fortress, which is the only one located at sea.
Constructed in 1525 to keep the Ottomans from landing on the mainland, you would need to take a boat or kayak to reach and explore the fortress.
Sibenik is a city book-ended by Split and Dubrovnik, which means many tourists simply ignore this picturesque coastal city. But that would be a huge mistake. Sibenik has all the same charm and vibrancy as Split and Dubrovnik but without the crowds.
Sibenik is a city that has a rich history and boasts original cobblestone streets and Medieval architecture.
History buffs should head straight to St. James Cathedral, a magnificent and imposing building that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Other attractions worth exploring in Sibenik include the beautifully preserved national parks that surround the city and the Renaissance architecture of the city’s Town Hall.
3. Stari Grad
Stari Grad is situated on the northern side of the popular island of Hvar.
While Hvar attracts plenty of tourists, many of these head to Hvar town and its well-publicized party scene rather than exploring the slightly further afield Stari Grad.
This makes Stari Grad less crowded and easier to explore.
As well as being the oldest town on the island, Stari Grad is also one of the oldest in Europe, and it has a rich cultural history. Some of the streets and cobbled lanes in Stari Grad’s Old Town date back to 384 BC.
Stari Grad is home to two world heritage sites, and for the insta-inclined, the picture-perfect ancient Skor square is a must-visit location.
If you’ve always fancied flying into space and taking your next vacation on the moon, then Pag could be a great alternative.
People visit Pag for its lunar-like landscapes, which feature vast expanses of barren rock, but the island also has so much more to offer.
This large island is the second-longest in the Adriatic and boasts a mix of sand and pebble beaches perfect for sunbathers. Head into Old Town Pag to explore the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, and be sure to sample Pag’s largest and most famous export: its delicious cheese.
If you’re looking to party and are prepared to brave the crowds, then head to Zrce Beach in the town of Novalja. Home to the most popular nightlife on the island, Zrce Beach has an Ibiza-like atmosphere, but this can be easily avoided by staying elsewhere on this picturesque and eclectic island.
Spending time on Silba is like stepping back in time. Not only is the island car-free, but it also doesn’t have a hotel, meaning that the only way to stay here is to rent an apartment or holiday let.
This means that the island never attracts big crowds, and has a laid-back, bohemian feel.
Silba is best known for its bright, hot summer days and for boasting an impressive 2570 hours of sunshine every year. But when you’re done with lounging in the sun and paddling in the sea, you’ll also find plenty to explore in Silba.
Climb the winding staircase to the top of the Tower of Love, which was built in 1872 as a symbol of love and loyalty.
Explore small fishing villages and unspoiled harbors. There are also a range of excellent diving and snorkeling spots on the southwestern coast that are well worth exploring.
Finally, whilst Zagreb is Croatia’s capital city, it doesn’t receive the same number of visitors as the more popular cities of Split and Dubrovnik.
Zagreb is popular during the winter months, thanks to its Christmas markets and festivities; however, visitor numbers dwindle in the summer.
But this large city boasts much to attract tourists year-round. Here you’ll find shops, museums, parks and restaurants at every turn.
Notable attractions include Zagreb Cathedral with its twin spires and St Marks Church, which was constructed in the 13th century.
Boasting more museums per square foot than any other city in the world, Zagreb is known as a city of museums, so taking time to explore as many of these are possible is a great way to spend the day in this fascinating city.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com