Tiny Croatia villages and towns you have to see
Croatia is no longer a well-kept secret. Throngs of visitors hit the Adriatic coast every year to enjoy the food, nightlife and beauty of this bountiful little country. But you can escape the growing crowds for a more enriching and authentic Croatian experience by heading straight for the best small towns in Croatia.
Sitting nine miles from Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea is Cavtat. Founded by the Greeks in 6th Century BC, ruled by the Romans in 228 BC, and then the Avars and Slavs in the 7th century, Cavtat has had a turbulent history. But when multiple cultures rule a city through time, they all leave an indelible stamp on the area. You can see architecture and ruins from each period of this city’s violent history. Cavtat is a great escape from the busier Dubrovnik, is situated on a harbor with beautiful beaches and crowned by a series of lush hills. Come here to escape the tourist crowds.
This beautiful riverside town’s biggest attraction is the nearby Krka National Park. This stunning park features a valley full of travertine rock formations that make for stunning waterfalls. The crystal clear water of the river that feeds the waterfalls invites summer travellers to cool off. Admission to the park includes a boat ride to the park’s seventh, largest and final travertine formation and its most brilliant waterfall — Skradinski Buk. After enjoying the park, return to town to explore a ruined fortress and to refuel on some local cuisine.
Less than 2,000 residents call Pučišća on the island of Brač home. This little village, with its stunning bay and beautiful white limestone buildings, is often listed as one of the prettiest towns in Europe. The island of Brač itself is pretty surreal. You’ll travel through fields of boulders to get to Pučišća due to decades of backbreaking work by the women of Brač to clear land for vineyards, figs and olives. It was once a privilege of aristocrats and artists to live here, and you can see why. The island rises quickly from the sheltering bay to make the town look as though it sits in an amphitheatre.
Just off the coast, in the Adriatic Sea, sits beautiful little Primošten. The Turks threatened the city back in the 16th century so the citizens of Primošten made this little inlet and island connected to the mainland with a drawbridge. Fortified walls went up and the small city survived. The island was returned to being an inlet with a causeway but the walls remained. Unfortunately, you’ll have to visit this little tourist gem during the high season in the summer months as the place hibernates in winter. The cobblestone streets come alive during warm weather with music, festivities and local vendors.
“The smaller places offer a different view on life in Croatia, and visitors can experience a more authentic lifestyle often undisturbed by tourism”
Slow down in Veli Lošinj. This tiny little community on the island of Lošinj in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County in western Croatia is a collection of authentic houses, restaurants, hotels, shops and bars on a scenic harbor. Rovenska, another beautiful bay, is just a 10-minute walk from here. The biggest attractions in Veli Losinj are the old sea captain’s houses that were adorned with exotic plants collected as prizes from long voyages. The houses line the main road to the bay. Be sure to look for dolphins playing in the harbor in April and May.
White buildings with salmon-color roofs seem to spiral up a hill to a double-walled castle in the town of Motovun. Sitting inland in Istria, this medieval town may remind you of scenes from Game of Thrones. Modern homes and shops lead you up to the gates of the old town. Fortified in the 14th century by the Venetians, the old town has now been turned into a cloister of artist studios, restaurants and shops. This is a popular destination where tour buses routinely drop off throngs of visitors at the base of the 275-meter (900-foot) hill.
Rastoke looks like it came to life off the pages of a fairytale book. Old wooden bridges traverse rivers alive with waterfalls that are ripe for kayaking and rafting. About 100 permanent residents maintain over 22 mills on the thatch of rivers that criss-cross the landscape. Locals are all too happy to help you with river and waterfall adventures. For the daring, there are class-three rapids. For the sporty, there is a single kayak. And you can even link rafts for a family expedition. One hotel with about 100 rooms awaits those who stop here on their way to the Plitvice Lakes.
Moscenice is a typical hilltop medieval town sitting high above the Istrian Peninsula. The outer walls of the outer ring of houses serve as fortified walls for the enclosed town. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of space inside creating a tight-knit community, literally. The narrow streets and enclosed walkways on the inside of the castle provide the small town with charm. Get a peak above the walls as Moscenice stands 170 meters (570 feet) above sea level to give you a beautiful view of the sea and nearby islands.
While Hvar Island may be one of the most-visited islands in Dalmatia, you can still escape the crowds. This tiny town is located in the middle of the island’s north coast, neighbored by the two highest mountains on the island—Hum and St. Nikola. Surrounded entirely by hills and pine forests, this sheltered—almost hidden—coastal town features a welcoming atmosphere and oozes historic charm.
Although there may not be any impressive Renaissance architecture like in the town of Hvar, it makes up for that with its cosy squares, lush parks, and narrow alleyways. Nearby, a number of sweet swimming spots offer refuge from the hot summer sun.