7 Must-do’s in Croatia (That Have Nothing to do With Game of Thrones)
Game of Thrones may have made Croatia a travel hot spot after it used the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik as a filming location for King’s Landing, but this idyllic country is much more than just pretty architecture. Situated along the Adriatic Sea in the northern stretches of the Mediterranean, a trip to Croatia offers more than a hundred separate Blue Flag-certified beaches perfect for sunbathing, sea kayaking, diving, kite-surfing or paragliding. Beyond the spectacular Dalmatian Coast, Croatia’s eight different national parks are primed with incredible hiking opportunities, enchanting lakes and even underground caves open for exploration. Here are just a few of Croatia’s best active adventures…
Adventure Beyond the Game of Thrones Sights in Croatia
1) Summit a peak at Northern Velebit National Park
Right in the middle of Croatia’s coastline, Northern Velebit National Park encompasses the northern side of the largest mountain in the country, Velebit Mountain. Whether you want to spend two hours or a full day, numerous hikes lead to spectacular vantage points from some of the peaks within the park. There are also fascinating deserted houses left behind by former inhabitants of the area, surreal rock formations and a colorful abundance of local flora to see.
2) Go Caving at Festinsko Kraljevstvo
Also known as the Kingdom of Festini Caves, this underworld cave system has you hearing the hypnotic sound of delicate water drops that over the centuries have formed stunning stalagmite and stalactite creations. Explore the cave on a short guided tour and the knowledgeable staff will share a plethora of fascinating information and stories about this natural wonder.
3) Wander through Paradise at Plitvice National Park
Plitvice is a verdant wonderland of 16 cascading turquoise lakes, lush woods and over 100 plant species all explored by a series of walkways. The oldest national park in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes is also regarded as one of the most beautiful natural spots in the world, gaining UNESCO World Heritage status in 1979. A day spent here feels right out of a fairy tale.
If you can’t make it inland to Plitvice Lakes, the waterfalls at Krka National Park, just a one-hour drive outside of Split, are also spectacular and some would argue less-crowded. You can also swim at Krka, which isn’t allowed at Plitvice.
4) Raft the Zrmanja River
Hidden in the remote area in the Zadar hinterland, rafting the Zrmanja River is peaceful, with its clean emerald-colored water and abundant wildlife. It’s a very relaxed river so even children can go along for the ride. Serious rafters may want to look into also rafting the nearby Tara River in Montenegro (easily accessible because many tours start right from Dubrovnik, Croatia). It’s the second deepest canyon in the world and offers some unforgettable rapids and scenery.
5) Paddle to the Blue Cave
Accessible only by boat or kayak, the Blue Cave on the small island of Bisevo is a natural wonder that gets its name because of a strange phenomenon that occurs as the sun gains full height in summer. An underwater opening lets in the sun’s rays which bathe the cave in an intense blue light, creating an eerie and magical blue grotto. While you can’t swim or snorkel in the cave, there are other nearby opportunities to hop out of your boat and enjoy some of the secluded coves and beaches Croatia’s known for.
6) Dive to Croatia’s version of Titanic
Croatia’s waters are teeming with marine life, but also fascinating historical and archaeological treasures, including notable shipwrecks. 40 meters down off the Brijuni Islands there is an elegant passenger ship that sank in 1914, just two years after the Titanic disaster. Carrying refugees, tourists and military personnel, it was making one last journey from Kotor in Montenegro back to port in Trieste when it sank. Parts of the ship remains intact and are available to explore by diving. Even if you’re not a diver, Brijuni offers some of Croatia’s best snorkeling.
7) Wind- and Kite-surf Zlatni Rat
Zlatni Rat or ‘The Golden Cape’, is by the popular resort town of Bol on the southern coast of Brač. Windsurfers and kitesurfers flock here in the afternoons to take advantage of the gentle westerly Maestral wind. There are a handful of windsurfing and kitesurfing schools around Bol, making it easy to show up, rent equipment and sign up for a class or two. Two alternative places for kite and windsurfing are Premantura on the edge of the Istrian Peninsula, and the beautiful island of Korcula.
So, go ahead, check out a few Game of Thrones attractions, but don’t miss out on the incredible biodiversity and adventure Croatia really has to offer.
Photos: Dubrovnik – Herbert Frank (CC BY 2.0); Plitvice Lakes National Park – Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA 2.0); Croatia’s Blue Cave & Zlatni Rat – dronepicr (CC BY 2.0)