From beautiful beaches to bucket-list boat trips, discover sun and sea in stunning Croatia

With more than a thousand sun-soaked beaches, untrodden secluded islands, and 1,800km of turquoise shorelines, Croatia is the coast with the most, making it a top choice for a sun-filled holiday for those who like to spend much of their time in or by the water. Here we explore just some of the natural highlights of this stunning country.

Idyllic islands and lush lakes

A catamaran trip from Zadar to Silba will make for a truly unforgettable experience

(Aleksandar Gospić)

Thanks to its unique geographic location on a peninsula surrounded by the Adriatic Sea on three sides, Zadar, the ancient capital of Dalmatia, makes for a perfect summer hotspot. While the northern islands, often called the Zadar archipelago, are chock full of rugged nature, beautiful bays and bountiful beaches.

Hop on a catamaran from Zadar to Silba for untouched islands where you’ll find no cars and a slower pace of life. The island is dotted with tiny beaches and bays for sunbathing and swimming, many where you’ll likely be the only one.

To experience the most out of these unspoilt islands, hop around the idyllic isles on a private boat tour with your own skipper. Setting off from Zadar, many tours will take you around Silba and Olib, another tiny car-free island with sandy lagoons and some of the most breathtaking beaches in the country, ideal for snorkelling, swimming and sightseeing.

While you’re in Zadar, you can also take a day trip to the nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park, the oldest and biggest national park in Croatia. It’s mountainous and filled with towering waterfalls formed on dolomites, glistening lakes and lush flora and fauna. Follow a hiking trail and take in all the nature, or hire a rowing boat to bask in the sunshine on the park’s largest lake, Kozjak.

Beaches and eateries

Foodies should head to Motovun, a scenic spot where truffles are a speciality

(Zoran Jelača)

For more knockout beaches and ancient history and heritage, Istria, a pretty peninsula shaped like a heart, ticks all the boxes. The region is peppered with olive groves and vineyards and boasts an excellent culinary scene paired with enchanting mediaeval old towns and sprawling nature. Visit Porec for its romantic old town, palm-lined waterfront promenade and to soak up the sunshine on its beaches, where 37 km of coastline includes 21 Blue Flag-rated beaches.

For truffle lovers, Motovun is famous for them, with many menus in the area serving dishes brimming with the delicacy. It’s also surrounded by a blanket of vineyards, so wine tasting here is a must. Take a walk along the ancient city walls at sunset when the temperatures are a little more bearable for a glimpse into the area’s history and 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside and truffle forest.

If you just want to spend your days switching off on the beach, Umag is home to some of the best in Istria. Kanegra Beach is one of the most picturesque, surrounded by trees for ample shade and restaurants serving all the delights of traditional Istrian cuisine. There’s also Savudrija beach, fringed by pine forest and overlooked by a magnificent 19th-century lighthouse.

Salt lakes and underwater caves

In Lokrum, you can enjoy taking in beautiful views and stunning nature

(Shutterstock)

Dubrovnik is often called the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ and is known for its magnificent, ancient architecture, including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town. When you aren’t wandering around Baroque cathedrals and Gothic-Renaissance palaces, you can take a short boat ride to the nearby island of Lokrum, a glorious uninhabited nature reserve just 15 minutes from Dubrovnik’s harbour. Take your time strolling around the botanical gardens and cool off with a dip in the island’s Dead Sea, a salt lake in the middle of the island encased by pine trees.

There are also regular boats running to the Elephati Islands, just off the coast of Dubrovnik. The archipelago offers quiet beaches, fresh Adriatic seafood and watersports activities. Kayak around the islands to discover secret beaches and underwater caves, or snorkel at Sipan Island, where the waters are teeming with tropical marine life.

To find out more about Croatia’s incredible natural wonders and to start planning your trip, click here