Below we share some of our best ideas for a low-cost Croatian getaway
Are you on the look-out for your next sunny, low-cost holiday destination... then Croatia is for you! While it's true that the low cost of living in Croatia attracts many tourists, this is certainly not the only reason. Croatia is a country that offers something for everyone, from natural parks and historic cities to culinary specialties that melt in your mouth, the list goes on... Below we have selected our top things to do for the ultimate low-cost Croatian vacation.
Explore the natural sites of Croatia
Croatia is full of many natural and national parks, each of them more beautiful than the other. Luckily, observing nature is priceless... well almost, but it certainly won't make a hole in your pocket!
The Plitvice lakes are of course at the top of the list. This 295km forest reserve will stun you with its chain of 16 terraced lakes connected by waterfalls. The combination of the blue waters and green forests blend together in such a way, that you'll feel as though you've arrived in paradise! We can't stress to you enough that you should take a break at the Plitvice lakes during your stay, however it's important to note that the entrance price ranges between €8-35 depending on the season.
The Plitvice lakes
The Krka National Park, located slightly further south, is also right up there with the Plitvice lakes. An area that stretches across 190km2, it includes a lake, river and several waterfalls. Entry costs between €2-20, again depending on the season.
A pathway scattered with pontoons and bridges allows you to get a very close look at the amazing Skradin Falls, the most famous in the park. However, there are a lot more waterfalls to be admired here, as well as a museum and archaeological ruins... swimming is only allowed in certain places.
Waterfalls of Krka Park @mblockk
If you're looking for somewhere that is still quite unknown to the masses, we recommend the Lonjsko Polje Park, only a 2 hour drive from Zagreb. It's ideal if you're a wildlife lover, as having been protected for many years, it's possible to see storks, wild boars, eagles and horses. Accessible on foot, bike, boat or even on horseback. The entrance costs about €2 which means it's a great cheap deal in Croatia. Events are also organised in the area if you want to discover more about the local culture.
Take a boat trip to Lonjsko Polje Park @marija_ruskovic
Where to sleep?
>>> Plitvice Bearpacker for the Plitvice lakes.
Perks: the garden, terrace and its prime location right in the heart of the park. Rooms from €13.
>>> Hostel 4 You for the Krka Park. Located in Zadar 1, it's only one hour from the park. The city is nice and you will definitely enjoy your stay here.
Perks: modern decor, central location. Rooms from €14.
>>> Zagreb Speeka Hostel for Lonjsko Polje Park. This hostel will charm you with its unique atmosphere, as its stone, monastery-style exterior perfectly contrasts with the modern decor.
Perks: found right in the heart of Zagreb. Private rooms from €22.
Discover the beaches of Croatia
Continuing with our theme of low-cost activities, you can't quite beat a day at the beach! However, a question often asked is where exactly are the best beaches in Croatia? This, of course, is because of the staggeringly high number of beautiful beaches covering the area.
Zlatni Rat beach: meaning 'golden horn' in Croatian, this beach has a rather surprising form as its point almost resembles a drop of water. Awarded several times as the best beach in Europe, it's located on the island of Brac, towards Bol. Kitesurfing and Windsurfing enthusiasts will definitely find themselves at home here.
Zlatni Rat beach @timotej
To the south of Split, on the coast leading to Makarska, you can find one of the most beautiful beaches in Croatia: Brela. Offering a mix between pebbles and fine sand, you can enjoy crystal clear waters with temperatures ranging between 22-27 degrees in the summer season.
Makarska, leading to Brela
Where to sleep?
>>> Villa Giardino Bol for Zlatni Rat beach. Located on the island itself, what do you say to enjoying a night of luxury? You can get to Bol very easily as it's located close to the city center.
Perks: you'll certainly enjoy its garden of Eden, complete with an outdoor kitchen where you can relax.
>>> Adriatic Hostel for Brela beach. Spend a night in Split and leisurely make your way down to Brela the next day. This hostel is located at the gates of the old town, just a few meters from the sea.
Perks: the staff are super friendly and the flat screen TV is great for a chilled movie night. Rooms from €17.
Where to go diving for a cheap price?
Croatia, with its coast full of places for diving enthusiasts, the islands certainly offer you a glimpse into heaven. Obviously, we strongly suggest that you find a diving school which will guide and supervise you. This activity is relatively inexpensive in Croatia, as prices start from about €25, depending on the type of diving you want to do.
The island of Hvar is often recognised as the queen that stands out above the rest. The city of Hvar is worth visiting, and you'll certainly appreciate its thirteenth century walls. You can reach the island by ferry from Split. Many diving spots can be found on the island, but we particularly recommend the cliff of the island of Stambedar, archipelago pakleni otoci, located just opposite Hvar. The underwater cliff is home to an incredible marine life: multicoloured fish, red and purple gorgonians, sea snails and urchins...truly dazzling!
@John Cahil Rom
For an island which boasts more deserted and natural beaches, head to Pag. Located between two parks; Velebit and Paklenica; the economy is mainly focused on olive growing and salt. Not only will you have the opportunity to dive into its crystal clear waters, but you can also discover the island by bike or foot. You can reach the island by bus from Zadar for less than €10.
If you want a unique diving experience, 45 minutes by bus from Vrsar for only €8 you'll find the wreck of Ferry Baron Gautsch. The ferry sank in 1914, and the shipwreck is still well preserved, so you have the opportunity to discover both outside and inside the boat.
Underwater shipwreck @Marek Okon
Where to sleep?
>>> Youth Hostel Villa Marija for the island of Hvar. Located 15 minutes from the city, its terrace overlooking the sea will put you in a good mood in the morning.
Perks: the pool and cocktail bar which are both found on the terrace! Rooms from €16.
>>> Big Yellow House for the island of Pag. We love the hippie atmosphere here as it relaxes you instantly.
Perks: Where to start? Its 1000m2 garden, the two private beaches nearby, or the many activities they organise? All this from €20.
>>> Hostel Vista Vrsar for unique diving. Vrsar is a small coastal village that you'll appreciate for its calm atmosphere. The hostel is located in the old town.
Perks: it's a charming family accommodation where you can relax on the terrace or in the garden. Private rooms from €60.
Which big city to choose for a low-cost stay in Croatia?
Let's start with one you've probably already heard about since it was used as a shooting location for Game of Thrones: Dubrovnik. Its cultural and historic wealth has made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander around the streets of the old town, walk along the enchanting streets at night, visit the cathedral (free entry), stroll along the ramparts for €9, and visit Fort Lovrijenac.
>>> For your stay we recommend Villa Micika. Located on the Lapad Peninsula, you can discover subtropical vegetation.
Perks: they organise boat trips to help you discover the surroundings. Rooms from €20.
Nicknamed the capital of the tie, Zagreb is the capital and the largest city in the country. Rich in museums and parks, we suggest you make a trip to Lotrščak Tower, the flea market at Britanski trg square, the square of flowers and of course the cathedral.
>>> The Funk Lounge Hostel is centrally located, found halfway between the Old Town and one of the most beautiful parks in Zagreb, "Maksimir".
Perks: close to public transport, it also has a bar / restaurant serving traditional Croatian cuisine. Rooms from €30.
The Sea Organ of Zadar @Ben Snooks Flickr licence
3000 years old, the city of Zadar is rich in historical heritage, as well as standing out for its more modern cultural work. What's more, there are many festivals and exhibitions that take place in the city over the summer. What are the must-sees of Zadar? The Sea Organ and Monument to the Sun! The first at first glance may seem like a simple staircase, but is in fact a giant instrument whose main musician is none other than the sea itself as the melody changes with the waves! The second you must see at night. In a circular form on the ground you'll find solar panels that recharge in the day, offering you a show of shapes and colours at night. This is a very nice attraction for a romantic rendezvouz... Add the Church of St. Donatus and St. Anastasia Cathedral on your list of things to see, both of which were built under Byzantine influence.
>>> Looking for a charming but cheap hostel in Zadar? Downtown Boutique Hostel is the one for you. In the heart of the city, it has its own bar, restaurant and even organises evening excursions around the town... you certainly won't be bored here! Rooms fom €21.
Monument to the Sun @EyeofJ Flickr licence
You're looking to party? Then head to Split! The city has a nightlife that will revive even the doziest person! Many international events are hosted here, including the UltraEurope festival which runs from mid-July to mid-August. Here you can dance to electronic music until the early hours of the morning! To discover more of Split, we recommend visiting Marjan Park, Diocletian's Palace, and St. Domnius Cathedral.
>>> Ćiri Biri Bela boutique hostel if your go-to if you're a fan of all things bougie. Found in downtown Split, a brunch is offered to you before you start your day. Rooms from €25.
Split Old Town @noseomundoblog
Pula, although smaller in size, is definitely not one to miss off the list! A town located in Istria, where both Italian and Croatian is spoken, offers a heritage of over 3000 years. Its arenas and ampitheatre are must-sees that are absolutely worth the visit. The latter hosts many events such as concerts, operas and sporting competitions... you can even attend gladiator fights in the bullring during the summer season. The entrance price is very reasonable at only €6.
>>> Crazy House Hostel is a multicoloured hostel located 3 minutes from the famous ampitheatre. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace with your feet in the sandbox. Rooms from €25.
Pula Ampitheatre @marinacomes
Croatian specialties to satisfy your stomach...
As we mentioned above, life in Croatia costs relatively little, and if there's one thing that's guaranteed to please, then it's the food! Here is a list of Croatian dishes you must have a taste of...
Prsut: dry ham to enjoy as an aperitif (about €12 per plate)
Čevapi: meat with onions and bread (between €5-10)
Sarma: stuffed cabbage that you'll find a lot of during religious holidays (around €7)
Brudet: fish soup depending on the catch of the day with peppers, tomatoes and white wine (between €6-13)
Rab Cake: originally from the island of Pag, it's shaped like a snail... the recipe is kept a secret!
Brudet, fish soup @restoranroko
Save your pennies whilst partying in Croatia!
In recent years, the country has come to host some of the biggest DJs and festivals in the world as thousands of party-people flock here to dance until dawn. "Sleep all day, and party all night" certainly is the case for many in Croatia! Here are some ideas to enjoy a good party without spending too much money...
Boat Party: many boat excursions are organised and they generally follow the simple 'all-inclusive' rule... you sail out to sea for a few hours where you can swim, eat, drink and of course party, all to your hearts delight! Prices are usually around €49.
In Split, two clubs attract the crowds: F-Caffe and Vanilla club. You can sip cocktails on the spacious terrace, and concerts are available for just €7.
You're a festival fan? For only €74 you can gain a 3-day entry pass for InMusic (24-26 June)... it's waiting for you!
Or if you just want to party on the beach? Zcre beach club is the one for you, as every summer it's without a doubt the place to dance under the stars (and also located very close to Big Yellow House hostel... ;-) !)
Getting to (and around) Croatia for less?
While it may surprise you, one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get to Croatia is still by plane! With flights leaving from major airports all over the world to many Croatian destinations, we're sure you'll find one well-suited to you! It's not impossible to find airline tickets for as low as €30 if you strike lucky!
If you are heading to Zagreb then there are many interrail lines which make it very easy to reach the capital city by train. If not, we suggest travelling by bus around Croatia as it's the best (and cheapest) way to get from one place to the next.
If you really want to get off the beaten track and try something new, you can even hop on board the seaplane to get to nearby islands (with a simple ride starting from as low as €26). By boat is your next best option, as ferries to several Croatian ports can be taken from Italy and from other surrounding countries.
Now you have all the information you need to travel around Croatia this summer (without spending all your money)!
If you think you may want to prolong your travels, why not head even further south to explore Saranda, one of the most beautiful cities in Albania.
All photos from Flickr are subject to this licence.