Croatia’s Top UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Of Croatia’s 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most fascinating range from the famed Old Town of Dubrovnik and Diocletian’s Palace in Split, to the historic core of Trogir, the Euphrasian Basilica in Istria, and the masterful Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik. On the nature front, there’s Plitvice Lakes National Park, a wonder so stunning it simply can’t be skipped.
Croatia’s oldest and biggest national park, Plitvice is a four-season playground known for its pristine forests, stunning waterfalls, and dozens of turquoise lakes. To see it all, trek along the wooden pathways that twist through bright-green vegetation and past water rushing down limestone and dolomite rock. Along the way, keep an eye out for the park’s signature blue butterflies and the trout that populate the shallow waters. Though you’re unlikely to encounter them, protected species like brown bears, gray wolves, and Eurasian lynx also roam the forests around Plitvice. If you need more than one day to explore, overnight at one of the many nearby lodgings such as Bear’s Log, with cozy wooden interiors, an outdoor Jacuzzi, and terraces overlooking the verdant landscape.
Trg Ivana Pavla II 7, 21220, Trogir, Croatia
Walk through Trogir’s north gate and you’ll find yourself in the historic heart of the city, where the octagonal street plan dates back to the Ancient Greek era. Roam around the maze of stone alleys and admire the Romanesque churches and Venetian-period buildings, mostly built from white stone. Then, step inside St. Lawrence Cathedral to discover the biblical scenes carved into the 13th-century Radovan Portal. When you’re done exploring, grab a seat on the terrace in front of the town loggia and order a drink. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch some free klapa—a traditional Dalmatian type of a cappella singing. End your visit with a stroll down the seafront promenade, lined with palm trees and various restaurants.
5 Poljana Grgura Ninskog
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this 1,700-year-old palace sits on the Adriatic seafront, serving as the focal point of Split. It was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian as a seaside retirement home and has served as a refuge for many a conqueror over the centuries. Today, some 2,000 locals reside within the compound’s thick walls, making it a lively urban quarter. Getting lost in the labyrinth of surrounding streets is the best way to explore downtown Split—as you meander around, you’ll stumble across lively cafés and shops tucked into millennia-old buildings. Be sure to check out the Peristil, an imperial square framed by two colonnades, where Diocletian used to address the public. Towering above the square is Split’s major landmark—a 187-foot-tall belfry that you can climb for panoramic views of town.
Ul. od Sigurate 7, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
A city of red-tiled rooftops, pine- and cypress-shaded hills, and sparkling turquoise waters, the Old Town of Dubrovnik stuns with both its architecture and scenery. Its surrounding stone walls, built between the 11th and 13th centuries to protect the city from war and epidemics, stretch for a full 1.3 miles, comprising an immense system of forts, bastions, and walkways that offer breathtaking views. Hike along them, then be sure to check out the Lovrijenac Fortress, built atop a 100-foot rock looking out toward Venice (Dubrovnik’s historic rival). The Old Town’s main street of Stradun, known locally as Placa, is also worth exploring. It’s especially nice in the late afternoon, when the sun shines off the historic buildings and swallows soar in the blue sky above.