Croatia sits at a crossroads between central and southeastern Europe. Bordering the Adriatic Sea offers Croatia incredible stretches of coastline and a Mediterranean atmosphere close to the water’s edge. There are many incredible natural landmarks in Croatia, a country of spectacular lakes, waterfalls and coves. But Croatia is also dotted with ancient ruins from the Roman Empire, quaint medieval towns and trendy city centres that effortlessly mix old-world culture with youthful vibes.
The country is becoming increasingly popular as a location for music festivals and is a frequent docking location for cruise ships. Aside from its cities’ hustle and bustle and the intrigue of its rich history, Croatia has spectacular and varied natural landscapes. Within its eight national parks are mountain ranges, blue lakes, and plenty of wildlife.
Croatia certainly has something for everyone, so here are 21 famous landmarks in Croatia to add to your bucket list.
- Landmarks in Croatia
- Natural Landmarks
- Historical Landmarks
Landmarks in Croatia
1- Plitvice Lakes
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, Plitvice Lakes forms an incredible national park in Croatia.
Sixteen lakes connected by waterfalls allow the lakes to cascade from a height.
The highest point is 1230m (4035ft), falling to the lowest at 380m (1246ft).
The landscape around the lakes of dense woodland is home to bears, wolves and wild boars.
The sight of a series of lakes and cascading waterfalls is magical.
The park’s highest waterfall is the Veliki Slap, with a 70m (229ft) drop.
The landscape of the park changes drastically with the seasons.
Visit in summer for warmer temperatures and aquamarine waters, or winter for snow-dusted trees and a possible glimpse of a deer.
Plitvice Lakes is at Plitvice Lakes National Park Parking Lot, 53231, Rastovača and is a top spot to visit on a Balkan tour.
2- Zlatni Rat Beach
Known as the Golden Horn of Croatia, Zlatni Rat Beach is a stretch of golden sands and pebble beach next to deep blue waters.
The beach has long been a tourist favourite when visiting Croatia. However, there is more to this spectacular beach than sunbathing and sailing.
The beach sits below pine trees, adding a more natural touch to this incredible landmark.
The trees break up the beach, with restaurants, bars and hidden beaches dotted along the coastline.
The beach is very unusual in its formation as it changes shape with the tides and wind.
Zlatni Rat Beach is at Put Zlatnog Rata, Bol, Brac Island 21420.
3- Odysseus Cave
Another of Croatia’s breathtaking natural landmarks is Odysseus Cave, a sea-level cave hidden among the rocks.
The cave is a collapsed vault, meaning it can be viewed in its entirety from above, giving the impression of a hidden pool or lake in the rocks below.
Visitors can access Odysseus cave on smaller boats or swimming, which is popular in the summer months.
The cave gets its name from Greek legend. Odysseus was journeying back to Mljet when his boat ran aground.
Fearful he would be attacked, Odysseus hid inside the entrance to a nearby cave.
Odysseus Cave is at 20225, Babino Polje.
4- Imotski Blue Lake
Located in Southern Croatia and neighbouring the Red Lake is Imotski Blue Lake.
The lake fills a sinkhole that was formed when a cave collapsed, and melting ice filled the new crater with blue waters.
The lake’s depth varies depending on the amount of meltwater feeding it increases during the spring.
The lake is a popular wild swimming destination as it is easily accessible by foot.
Leading to the lake are several pathways, which have now been cast in concrete to increase the accessibility to the deep blue waters.
Imotski Blue Lake is at 21260, Imotski.
5- Galešnjak Island
Gaining international fame as recently as 2009 when Google Earth captured its heart-shaped landscape, Galešnjak Island is one of Croatia’s most famous natural landmarks.
Napoleon’s cartographer first charted the island in the early 19th century. Due to its unique shape and title of the ‘most heart-shaped island in the world’, Galesnjak Island earned the name ‘Lovers Island’.
The island is entirely uninhabited and wild, but lovers worldwide are still drawn to its rocky beaches and blue waters for a romantic getaway.
The island is privately owned however with permission, it is possible to camp on the island overnight.
Galešnjak Island is at Pašman Canal, Turanj.
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6- Velebit Mountain Range
The Velebit Mountain Range is the most extensive in Croatia, stretching across 2000 square kilometres (772 square miles).
The range is protected by the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, which offers protection for the plant and wildlife in the area.
Within the mountain range are Balkan chamois, brown bears and wolves, which roam freely.
Due to its location along the Adriatic coast, the mountain range has a very diverse natural landscape.
At sea level, the climate is Mediterranean, with sparse trees and often high temperatures.
Further, towards the mountains, the landscape becomes more alpine with vast grassland and pine forests.
Velebit Mountain Range is at 96, 53274, Krasno Polje.
7- Cetina River Source
Sometimes referred to as Glavas Source or Glavas Wellspring, the Cetina River source is a beautiful natural landmark in Croatia and a hidden gem.
The source is a reservoir more than 150m (490ft) deep.
The waters move through varying tones of blue, from delicate turquoise at the shore to deep and dark blues in its centre as the depth of the cavern below changes the hues.
The source is surrounded by Mediterranean landscapes of dry soil dotted with olive trees.
As it is a little known natural landmark, Cetina River Source is often quiet, with only a few visitors swimming and relaxing in its waters.
Cetina River Source is at Milasevo, Cetina.
8- Blue Cave
The Blue Cave is a unique Croatian natural phenomenon on the Adriatic coast, stretching deep into the limestone cliffs.
The cave was, for many years, only accessible by diving. Baron Eugen con Ransonnet built the first accessible entrance to the cave, where the public could walk inside and sail by boat on its waters, in 1884.
The blue cave gets its name from a natural occurrence.
As the sunlight hits the sea’s surface beyond the cave, it is reflected from the limestone walls, illuminating the waters and the cave in varying shades of sapphire blue.
Blue Cave is at Biševo.
9- Zavratnica Cove
Overlooked by 100m (328ft) high cliffs dotted with trees and wildflowers is Zavratnica Cove, one of Croatia’s most beautiful stretches of landscape.
The cove is approximately 900m (2952ft) long and dates back to the Cretaceous period.
Within the cove are 129 plant species.
In the early 20th century, a walkway with multiple viewpoints leading to the sea was constructed, opening the cove’s beauty up to more visitors who would previously access the cove by the water.
Zavratnica Cove is at 53287, Jablanac.
10- Mount Biokovo
Mount Biokovo is the highest mountain in Croatia, with its summit at 1762m (5780ft) above sea level.
The mountain is a popular hiking location with many accessible and challenging trails leading up to the summit.
The mountain is surrounded by the Biokovo Nature Reserve, which is open from April to November.
Many companies organise tailored walks or hikes in nearby towns through the reserve and up the mountain led by experienced guides who have a wealth of knowledge about the mountain and wildlife.
Mount Biokovo is at 21300 Makarska.
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11- Saint Domnius Bell Tower
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius has a rather unusual location.
It is seated inside the mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Diocletian; the oldest building in Split.
Within the cathedral are relics of Saint Domnius and Saint Anastasius, who were executed in nearby Solin.
The bell tower is the biggest draw to the cathedral.
Standing as a key landmark in Split since the 13th century, the bell tower is 57m (187ft) tall.
Renovations were carried out on the bell tower in the early 20th century.
It is possible to climb to the top of the bell tower for incredible views over the city.
Saint Domnius Bell Tower is at Peristil ul. 2, 21000, Split.
12- Salona Roman Ruins
The Salona Roman Ruins are a hidden landmark in Croatia.
The ruins are part of a more extensive archeological park, which allows the ruins to be well conserved and protected.
The ruins consist of many Roman history elements, including a necropolis built in the 2nd century, old city walls, public baths and an Amphitheatre.
Scattered amongst the pagan remains of Ancient Rome are glimpses of early Christianity through the ruins of basilicas, two of which were dedicated to Christian martyrs in the 5th century.
The parkland is pleasant to stroll through and is dotted with cypress trees and olive groves.
Salona Roman Ruins is at 21210, Solin.
13- Varaždin Castle
Verazdin Castle in Salona is an impressive structure.
It is a mass of chalk-white walls dotted with limestone detailing and adorned with terracotta red roof tiles.
The castle is surrounded by a water-filled moat built in the 15th century to aid the castle’s defences.
The castle was designed as a stronghold and palace and has two circular towers that date back to the 14th century.
Within the castle walls are the town museum, which showcases many historical documents, weapons and rooms furnished in varying design styles, including Renaissance and Rococo.
Varaždin Castle is at Šetalište Josipa Jurja Strossmayera 1, 42000, Varaždin.
14- St James’ Cathedral
Juraj Dalmatinac designed the St James Cathedral in 1431, with construction continuing until 1536.
The cathedral follows several different design styles, including Gothic-Renaissance and a true Renaissance-style facade.
Within the cathedral is an unusual frieze featuring 71 heads carved on the building’s exterior rear walls.
The faces are believed to be citizens of the town from the 15th century.
Head through the Lions Portal on the north side of the cathedral to see two lions supporting columns carved with Adam and Eve’s likeness.
St James’ Cathedral is at Trg Republike Hrvatske 1, 22000, Šibenik.
15- St Mark’s Church
Perhaps one of the most famous religious landmarks in Croatia is St Marks’s Church in Zagreb.
The main building of the church was built in the 13th century but its dramatic roof design was constructed in 1880.
The churches’ recognisable roof features many mosaic-style colourful tiles depicting the crests of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on its left side, and the City of Zagreb crest on the right.
Within the church are sculptures by Ivan Meštrović.
The church is only open for Mass, so visitors wanting to see inside this medieval marvel will have to attend a sermon if they wish to see more.
St Mark’s Church is at Trg Sv. Marka 5, 10000, Zagreb.
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16- Klis Fortress
Klis Fortress is a fortified building in the village of Klis. Illyrians built the Fortress in the 2nd century, and it became the residence of the Croatian Prince in the 9th century.
The castle was built in a strategic location with views over the bay and the surrounding areas.
Due to this location, the castle was frequently attacked as invaders such as the Goths and Avars wanted the castle for their own.
More recently, the castle has been used as a set for Game of Thrones, featuring as the town of Meeren.
Klis Fortress is at 7 Megdan, Klis, Split 21231.
17- Spanish Fortress
The northern slopes of the town of Hvar is home to the Spanish Fortress, an impressive construction dating to 8th century BC.
Pottery found at the Spanish Fortress from between 1000 and 500 BC shows that the location was crucial for long-distance trade.
Because of its strategic location, the Fortress has been attacked numerous times, including a particularly vicious attack by the Turks in 1571, who set Hvar ablaze.
From the top of the Fortress’s walls, the entire bay can be seen, including the 16 island archipelago and, on a clear day, the island of Vis.
Spanish Fortress is at Ul. Higijeničkog Društva 19, 21450, Hvar.
18- Pula Arena
Another spectacular historical landmark left from the Roman Empire is Pula Arena, a vast amphitheatre in the city of Pula.
Emperor Vespasian, the emperor behind the Colosseum creation and design in Rome, had the arena built during the first century.
The arena could seat 20,000 spectators and would have been host to gladiator battles and, later in its history, medieval knights’ tournaments.
Today, the arena has undergone varying preservation and reconstruction levels and has a new smaller capacity of 5000.
Gladiator battles and tournaments have been replaced with more civilised opera performances and film festivals.
Pula Arena is at Ulica Orbanin 25, Pula 52100.
19- Dubrovnik City Walls
The fortified walls of Dubrovnik follow 1.24 miles (2 kilometres) of protective walls along the seashore, with six fortresses for added reinforcement and defence.
The walls were built continuously between the 12th and 17th centuries to protect the inhabitants of Dubrovnik from pirates.
The walls were made famous as a filming location for Game of Thrones as part of King’s Landing.
Visitors can walk the length of the walls, and as there are incredible views from numerous points, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular tourism destination.
Dubrovnik City Walls is at Placa Ulica 32, Dubrovnik 20000.
20- Diocletian’s Palace
An imposing and popular attraction in Split is Diocletian’s Palace.
The palace is one of the most spectacular and important surviving monuments of the Roman era from their rule over the Adriatic.
Emperor Diocletian unusually retired from his position as ruler of the Roman empire and built the palace following this in 305.
The palace was immense at the time, covering 30,000 square meters (98425 square kilometres) and featured housing and a military garrison.
The palace today forms part of the old town, with shops, cafes, and apartments located on the palace’s narrow streets.
Look carefully for remnants of the palace, such as archways and columns amongst the modern touches.
Diocletian’s Palace is at Dioklecijanova ul. 1, 21000, Split.
21- Zagreb Cathedral
Admire the Neo-Gothic architecture within Zagreb Cathedrial, its chandeliers and don’t miss the altar painting of Goglotha by Albercht Durer.
The cathedral is where several heroes and martyrs of Croatia are buried and it’s also home to one of the most impressive church organs in the world. Zagreb Cathedral’s organ has 6000 pipes, 78 registers and is registered as a cultural monument of Croatia.
Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the tallest building in Croatia and one of the most famous landmarks in Zagreb.
The cathedral has graced the skyline of Zagreb since the 11th century when it was constructed in honour of St Stephen, St Ladislaus and the Assumption of Mary.
Nestled within the Archbishop’s Palace, the cathedral’s twin spires are 108 m (354 ft) high and can be seen from everywhere.
Throughout the years, the cathedral has been reconstructed as it was damaged during a Tartar attack, a fire in the 13th century and an earthquake in 1880.