12 Best Hidden Gems in Croatia: Underrated Croatian Destinations

by Flora Backup
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Are you looking for hidden gems in Croatia? Here’s a selection of beautiful Croatian places that promise unforgettable adventures. Get ready to uncover the most underrated destinations in Croatia!

Croatia, with its shimmering coastline and historic towns, has long been on the radar of global travelers. But beyond its well-trodden paths lies a world less explored, a world filled with hidden wonders and untold stories. It’s a side of Croatia that remains elusive to many, yet offers the most authentic experiences to those who seek it.

Imagine wandering through quaint villages, untouched by time, where local fishermen still haul in the day’s catch by hand. Picture yourself discovering secluded beaches, where the only footprints in the sand are your own. These aren’t just daydreams; they’re the hidden gems in Croatia that await your discovery.

This guide is your passport to that lesser-known Croatia. It’s a curated collection of secret spots in the Balkans, places that offer a refreshing departure from the usual tourist haunts. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or setting foot in Croatia for the first time, there’s something here for everyone.

If you’ve ever wondered about underrated Croatian destinations or yearned to venture off the beaten path in Croatia, you’re in the right place. Let’s embark on a journey that promises not just sights, but memories that last a lifetime. Here are all the hidden gems in Croatia that you simply can’t miss.

This article on the hidden gems in Croatia contains affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Hidden Gems in Croatia: 12 Beautiful Places to Visit in Croatia

Are you ready to explore some of Croatia’s best hidden gems? As mentioned earlier, there’s a plethora of off-the-beaten-path Croatian destinations that will appeal to all travelers. Keep reading to discover Croatia’s most underrated places.

Are you looking for tranquil coastal retreats? Or would you prefer historic towns untouched by time? Whatever you’re planning, Croatia can accommodate your needs. Dive into this guide to discover the best hidden gems in Croatia.

1. Otok Sipan, Elafiti Islands

Imagine a place where the sea is so clear you feel like you’re floating in mid-air. Welcome to Otok Sipan, the largest of the Elafiti Islands. This untouched paradise is a world away from the bustling tourist hubs of Croatia. The island boasts untouched beaches, ancient olive groves, and sleepy villages where time seems to stand still.

The waters surrounding Sipan are a diver’s dream. Dive in, and you’ll be greeted by a vibrant underwater world, teeming with marine life. On land, take a stroll through the island’s citrus orchards and vineyards, or explore its historic churches and palaces. The island’s tranquility is its biggest allure, offering a serene escape where you can truly disconnect and immerse yourself in nature.

Otok Sipan fulfills dreams with its crystal-clear waters, historical sites, and captivating serenity, creating an enchanting island experience.
Otok Sipan fulfills dreams with its crystal-clear waters, historical sites, and captivating serenity, creating an enchanting island experience.

Otok Sipan is easily accessible by ferry from Dubrovnik. While you can explore the island in a day, consider spending a night or two to truly soak in its beauty. The island has a few charming guesthouses and local eateries where you can savor fresh seafood and local wines.

For those seeking beautiful Croatian destinations that remain untouched by mass tourism, Otok Sipan is a dream come true. Enjoy its clear waters, wander through its historic sites, and let the island’s serene beauty captivate you.

2. Ombla River and Spring

Just a hop away from the buzz of Dubrovnik, the Ombla River is like stepping into another world. Imagine a place where the water is so vital it’s the main source for the entire region. Now, picture locals diving into this spring’s cool embrace on a hot day, laughing and enjoying pure refreshment. It remains relatively untouched by tourists, making it a serene spot for those looking to experience a different side of Dubrovnik.

Ombla offers more than just a refreshing dip. Wander along the riverbank paths, and you’ll find spots perfect for daydreaming or sketching. And if you’re in the mood for a laid-back evening, grab a drink at Vapor, a local coffee bar that boasts some of the best sunset views around. Feeling a bit more energetic? Lace up those hiking boots and head to Golubov Kamen. Trust me, the views from the top are worth every step!

Ombla River immerses you in a different realm, where nature's beauty and tranquility create a captivating escape from everyday life.
Ombla River immerses you in a different realm, where nature’s beauty and tranquility create a captivating escape from everyday life.

The Ombla River offers more than scenic views; it’s a genuine experience. For those planning a visit, bring along a picnic basket and enjoy a meal by the riverbank. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Croatia where you can truly connect with nature and local culture.

3. Mljet

Mljet, often hailed as one of Croatia’s best hidden gems, is a canvas painted with nature’s most vibrant colors. This verdant paradise, located in the heart of the Dalmatian archipelago, is a harmonious blend of dense forests, crystal-clear lakes, and a rich tapestry of myths and legends.

As you explore Mljet, you’ll stumble upon tales of the legendary Greek hero, Odysseus. It’s said that he was captivated by the island’s beauty, spending seven years in the embrace of the nymph Calypso. And who could blame him? With attractions like the Odysseus Cave, where shimmering blue waters beckon for a refreshing swim, it’s easy to see why one might be tempted to linger.

Mljet is the perfect destination, harmonizing natural splendor with rich folklore, satisfying your yearning for a unique experience.
Mljet is the perfect destination, harmonizing natural splendor with rich folklore, satisfying your yearning for a unique experience.

Moreover, the island boasts two saltwater lakes, Veliko and Malo Jezero, surrounded by lush forests that seem to whisper tales of old. For those seeking tranquility, the Benedictine monastery on St. Mary’s Island, located in the middle of Veliko Jezero, offers a serene retreat.

If you’re yearning for a destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty with rich folklore, Mljet is the place to be. It’s one of those unique places to visit in Croatia where every path leads to a new discovery, and every moment feels like a step back in time.

4. Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park, nestled in Croatia’s mountainous region, is a mesmerizing showcase of nature at its finest. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the park is home to 16 terraced lakes that are interconnected by cascading waterfalls flowing gracefully into a limestone canyon.

Meandering through wooden pathways weaving around the shimmering waters, you’re treated to incredible views at every turn. The lakes’ vibrant hues, ranging from azure to green, owe their brilliance to the unique minerals and organisms present. Beyond the waters, the park is alive with diverse wildlife, from playful butterflies to fish darting beneath the surface.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, nestled in Croatia's mountainous region, is a captivating display of nature's grandeur.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, nestled in Croatia’s mountainous region, is a captivating display of nature’s grandeur.

While Plitvice’s allure is undeniable throughout the year, consider visiting during off-peak seasons for a more intimate experience. Whether it’s the bloom of spring or the tranquil snowfall of winter, each visit offers a fresh perspective on this hidden gem in Croatia. Dive in and let nature’s wonders envelop you.

5. Jelsa

Jelsa, tucked away on Hvar Island, is a delightful escape from the more frequented spots in Croatia. This quaint town offers a serene harbor surrounded by verdant pine forests, creating a picturesque setting that’s hard to resist. Along the harbor, local restaurants and cocktail bars beckon, offering fresh seafood, Croatian wines, and a taste of authentic island life.

For beach enthusiasts, the town boasts a rare sandy beach, a gem in a country known for its pebbled shores. Wander a bit, and hidden pathways reveal themselves, leading to secluded rocky spots perfect for sunbathing and swimming. And for those with a keen sense of adventure, the secret beach of Mala Stiniva is a must-visit. However, it’s one of the best hidden gems in Croatia that we’d love to keep under wraps!

Jelsa provides a tranquil harbor enveloped by lush pine forests, forming an irresistible, picturesque backdrop.
Jelsa provides a tranquil harbor enveloped by lush pine forests, forming an irresistible, picturesque backdrop.

If you’re visiting Jelsa during the summer months, consider renting a bicycle. It’s a fantastic way to explore the surrounding vineyards and olive groves, and you’ll get a unique perspective of the island’s stunning landscapes.

Though Jelsa can be explored quickly, its allure lingers long after. With easy connections to Hvar town and Stari Grad, it’s an underrated Croatian destination that seamlessly blends convenience with charm.

6. Korčula Town

Korčula Town, often referred to as “Little Dubrovnik,” is a gem nestled on the island of Korčula. This medieval town captivates with its star-shaped layout, streets radiating from the main square designed to shield against strong winds. As you explore its narrow lanes, the stone buildings and ancient walls whisper tales from ages past.

The town proudly claims to be the birthplace of the famed explorer Marco Polo. While exploring, don’t miss the Marco Polo Museum. Climbing its tower rewards you with sweeping views of the Adriatic Sea, where the horizon is dotted with sailboats and framed by terracotta rooftops.

Exploring Korčula is among Croatia's finest experiences, particularly for those who cherish a fusion of history and exquisite wine.
Exploring Korčula is among Croatia’s finest experiences, particularly for those who cherish a fusion of history and exquisite wine.

But there’s more to Korčula than history. It’s a haven for wine lovers, renowned for its white wines, particularly the indigenous Grk and Pošip varieties. A visit to Korčula is one of the best things to do in Croatia, especially for those who appreciate a blend of history, culture, and fine wine.

If you’re visiting during the summer, try to align your trip with the Moreska Sword Dance Festival. This traditional dance, depicting a battle between two kings, is a cultural experience you won’t want to miss!

7. Vis Island

Away from the usual tourist trails, Vis Island is a haven of pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rich history. Once a military base and closed to tourism, Vis has preserved its authentic charm, making it a dream destination for those seeking tranquility. Hands down, it’s one of the most underrated places in Croatia.

Stiniva Cove, with its narrow sea entrance and secluded beach, is a must-visit. It’s like stepping into a postcard, with towering cliffs on either side and the azure Adriatic Sea in front. For history lovers, the island is dotted with remnants from its past, from ancient Greek settlements to British military fortifications.

For those seeking hidden gems in Croatia, Vis Island is a top contender.
For those seeking hidden gems in Croatia, Vis Island is a top contender.

The local cuisine is a delightful experience, with fresh seafood, locally-produced wines, and traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. Don’t leave without trying “Pogača,” a savory pie unique to Vis.

Consider renting a scooter to explore the island at your own pace. It’s a fun way to discover hidden coves, vineyards, and picturesque villages. And for those wondering about hidden gems in Croatia, Vis Island is a top contender.

8. Pijana Pruga

Ever heard of a “Drunken Railroad”? Well, Croatia has one, and it’s not what you might think. Pijana Pruga, translating to “Drunken Railroad,” is a forgotten railway line reborn as a captivating hiking and biking trail. Located away from Croatia’s bustling tourist hubs, this trail showcases nature’s ability to reclaim and beautify.

Traversing this path, you’ll journey through historic tunnels, cross bridges with views of verdant valleys, and witness panoramic vistas of the untouched Croatian countryside. The tranquility of Pijana Pruga is its standout feature. Here, the predominant sounds are the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves, and the gentle crunch of gravel underfoot.

Pijana Pruga stands as one of Croatia's most extraordinary destinations, offering serenity and unparalleled beauty.
Pijana Pruga stands as one of Croatia’s most extraordinary destinations, offering serenity and unparalleled beauty.

It’s a place of reflection, where you can disconnect and immerse yourself in nature’s embrace.

Pijana Pruga is near the city of Split. To get there, you can take a local bus or rent a car, with the journey taking roughly an hour. While you can explore the trail in a day, consider spending two days to fully immerse yourself in the experience and explore the surrounding areas.

If you’re seeking a memorable experience, Pijana Pruga is one of the most unique places to visit in Croatia that promises serenity and unmatched beauty.

9. Zavratnica Bay

Zavratnica Bay, a stunning inlet located on the northern coast of Croatia, is coined by many as one of the most underrated places in Croatia. This hidden gem offers turquoise waters, steep cliffs, and lush greenery. The bay, part of the Velebit Nature Park, offers a tranquil escape from the usual tourist spots.

As you explore Zavratnica, you might stumble upon the remains of a sunken German ship from World War II, visible just below the water’s surface. Snorkeling here provides a unique opportunity to see this piece of history up close.

Zavratnica Bay combines natural beauty and history, making it a must-see hidden gem in Croatia.
Zavratnica Bay combines natural beauty and history, making it a must-see hidden gem in Croatia.

The bay is also home to various species of marine life, making it a paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The contrast of the blue waters against the greenery of the surrounding hills creates a picturesque setting that’s perfect for relaxation and photography.

Zavratnica Bay is accessible from the village of Jablanac. It’s a short hike down to the bay, so wear comfortable shoes. The best time to visit is during the spring or early summer when the weather is pleasant, and the bay is less crowded.

Zavratnica Bay boasts a blend of natural beauty and history. For those seeking hidden gems in Croatia destination, this bay is a must-visit.

10. Pakleni Island Group

Just off the coast of Hvar lies the Pakleni Island Group, a cluster of islets that are a dream come true for those seeking tranquility. The largest island, Sveti Klement, is home to the enchanting resort of Palmižana. Established in 1906 by Professor Eugen Meneghello, the gardens of Palmižana are a botanical wonder, filled with exotic plants from around the world. Today, the Meneghello family continues to maintain this lush paradise and runs the acclaimed Meneghello Restaurant.

The pristine beaches of Palmižana beckon sun-seekers, while the surrounding waters are a diver’s delight, hiding ancient shipwrecks waiting to be explored. And if you’re a foodie, the Meneghello Restaurant offers delicious Mediterranean cuisine, with dishes inspired by the island’s botanical heritage.

Just off Hvar's coast lies the Pakleni Island Group, a cluster of islets, a tranquil paradise for seekers of serenity.
Just off Hvar’s coast lies the Pakleni Island Group, a cluster of islets, a tranquil paradise for seekers of serenity.

Palmižana is an ideal destination for an extended stay. Consider spending a night or two to fully experience its beauty. The island is a short boat ride from Hvar, which makes it easily accessible. And while you’re there, make sure to visit the Meneghello Restaurant to sample their seafood specialties!

The Pakleni Island Group, with Palmižana at its heart, offers an experience that’s truly off the beaten path in Croatia, blending natural beauty, history, and culinary delights.

11. Motovun, Istria

Perched in the heart of the Istria region, Motovun is a romantic medieval hilltop town that radiates charm and history. Its name translates to “a town in the hills,” and from its vantage point, you can soak in panoramic views of surrounding vineyards filling the valleys.

The town’s past traces back to the ancient Greek era, showcasing incredible architecture that stands as a silent witness to former times. The ancient walls that encircle Motovun offer incredible views, making it a paradise for photographers.

Motovun, among Croatia's hidden gems, offers a peaceful getaway from crowded tourist areas.
Motovun, among Croatia’s hidden gems, offers a peaceful getaway from crowded tourist areas.

Beyond the views, Motovun is renowned for its truffle-rich forests. The town attracts both locals and tourists eager for truffle hunting and to savor the unique flavors of this prized fungus. Additionally, Motovun hosts an annual film festival, earning it the nickname “a Woodstock of film festivals.” This event draws a diverse crowd, from Croatian youth to foreign backpackers.

Motovun is about an hour’s drive from the popular tourist city of Rovinj. While in the region, consider exploring other attractions like the Brijuni National Park and the ancient Roman ruins in Pula. If you aim to visit during the film festival, booking your accommodation in advance is a smart move due to the influx of visitors.

As one of the most scenic places in Croatia, Motovun provides a tranquil escape from crowded tourist locales. The blend of natural beauty and the allure of the Istrian landscape makes it a must-visit. From nature enthusiasts to film aficionados, Motovun promises a memorable experience.

12. Sakarun Beach

Sakarun Beach, located on Dugi Otok (Long Island), is one of Croatia’s most pristine and untouched beaches. This hidden gem offers powdery white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Unlike many other beaches in Croatia, Sakarun remains relatively undiscovered by the masses, ensuring a tranquil experience for its visitors.

The beach stretches for nearly 800 meters, offering ample space to find a secluded spot and bask in the sun. The shallow waters are perfect for families with children, and the pine trees lining the beach provide natural shade. It’s an ideal spot for a full-day outing. The beach is also surrounded by traditional Dalmatian taverns where you can savor fresh seafood and local delicacies.

Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok ranks as one of Croatia's finest hidden gems, where turquoise waters meet pristine shores.
Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok ranks as one of Croatia’s finest hidden gems, where turquoise waters meet pristine shores.

Sakarun Beach is in the northern part of Dugi Otok. The nearest city is Zadar, from where you can take a ferry to the island. Once on Dugi Otok, it’s a short drive or bike ride to the beach. To truly experience the beauty and tranquility of Sakarun, I recommend spending at least two days on the island. This allows you to explore other hidden spots and enjoy the laid-back island vibe.

Ready to dive into a world where turquoise waters meet pristine shores? Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok is one of the best hidden gems in Croatia. Escape the usual tourist traps and let this untouched paradise captivate your heart and soul!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Hidden Gems in Croatia

Are you looking for more information about where to go in Croatia? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about the most underrated places in Croatia.

Where is the prettiest place in Croatia?

Croatia is a treasure trove of beautiful destinations, making it hard to pick just one. However, many travelers and locals alike often rave about the pristine beauty of Sakarun Beach on Dugi Otok. With its powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, it’s a slice of paradise that captures the essence of Croatia’s coastal allure. Additionally, places like Motovun in Istria and the Elafiti Islands, particularly Otok Sipan, are also some of the most picturesque spots in the country.

What are 3 things Croatia is known for?

Croatia is renowned for its:

1)     Stunning coastline: With over a thousand islands, Croatia boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and clear waters in Europe.

2)     Rich history: From ancient Roman ruins in Split and Pula to the UNESCO-listed Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia’s historical sites tell tales of its storied past.

3)     Delicious cuisine: Croatia offers a delightful culinary journey, with influences from Mediterranean and Slavic traditions. Dishes like “čevapi” (grilled meat sausages), truffle-infused dishes in Istria, and fresh seafood along the coast are just a few of the country’s gastronomic highlights.

What is the nicest part of Croatia to visit?

The answer to this largely depends on what you’re seeking. For beach lovers and those looking for hidden gems in Croatia, the Dalmatian Coast, including spots like Sakarun Beach, is a must-visit. Istria offers a blend of beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and charming medieval towns like Motovun. Meanwhile, cities like Dubrovnik and Split provide a mix of history, culture, and coastal beauty.

Croatia is teeming with hidden gems, eager to be unearthed.
Croatia is teeming with hidden gems.

How many days in Croatia is enough?

Ideally, a trip of 10-14 days allows you to explore a mix of Croatia’s coastal cities, islands, and some inland attractions. However, if you’re focusing on secret spots in Croatia or specific regions, a week can provide a fulfilling experience. For a more relaxed pace and a deeper dive into the country’s diverse offerings, consider extending your stay to two weeks or more.

Is Croatia a hidden gem?

Croatia was once considered a hidden gem in Europe, especially before the 1990s. However, in recent years, it has gained significant popularity among travelers and is no longer as “hidden” as it once was. Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Natural Beauty: Croatia boasts a stunning coastline with over a thousand islands, crystal-clear waters, and pristine beaches. The Plitvice Lakes National Park and Krka National Park are famous for their cascading waterfalls and lush greenery.
  2. Historical Significance: Cities like Dubrovnik, Split, and Pula have rich histories that date back to ancient times. Dubrovnik’s Old Town, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  3. Cultural Impact: The popularity of TV shows like “Game of Thrones,” which had several filming locations in Croatia, has contributed to its surge in tourism.
  4. Affordability: Compared to some Western European destinations, Croatia offers a more affordable travel experience without compromising on beauty or cultural richness.
  5. Diverse Offerings: From sailing and island-hopping to exploring Roman ruins and enjoying local festivals, Croatia offers a wide range of activities for tourists.

Are there any underrated destinations in Croatia?

Absolutely! While places like Dubrovnik and Split receive a lot of attention, there are numerous underrated Croatian destinations as well. Towns like Sibenik, with its UNESCO-listed cathedral, and the natural beauty of Slavonia’s countryside are often overlooked but offer authentic experiences.

What’s the best time to explore Croatia off the beaten path?

To truly experience Croatia off the beaten path, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). The weather is pleasant, and you’ll encounter fewer tourists, making it easier to explore hidden gems and secret spots.

Is Croatia a good destination for foodies?

Definitely! Croatia is rapidly gaining recognition as a foodie destination. With its mix of Mediterranean and Central European cuisines, there are plenty of unique places to eat in Croatia for culinary delights. From truffle hunting in Istria to savoring fresh oysters in Ston, the country offers a rich gastronomic journey.

Concluding Croatia’s Hidden Gems

Croatia has long been a sought-after destination for travelers worldwide. Yet, beyond the well-trodden paths of its famous cities and landmarks, lies a treasure trove of hidden gems that offer a more intimate and authentic experience of this magnificent country. From the pristine shores of Sakarun Beach to the ancient mysteries of the Dragon Lines in Istria, these lesser-known destinations provide a glimpse into the heart and soul of Croatia.

In wrapping up this journey, it’s essential to remember that while Croatia’s famed landmarks are undoubtedly breathtaking, it’s the hidden gems in Croatia that offer the most authentic and memorable experiences. These tucked-away treasures, away from the bustling tourist trails, are where you’ll find the heart of the nation, waiting to share its stories, beauty, and charm.

As you plan your next adventure, let the allure of Croatia’s secret spots guide your way, promising experiences that linger long after the journey ends. Dive deep, embrace the unexpected, and let the magic of Croatia’s lesser-known wonders enchant you!

Dive into this guide to discover the best hidden gems in Croatia for all travelers
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