Whilst Croatia has made a lot of ground in shaking off the tag as a summer destination, thanks largely to the award-winning Christmas Markets, most tourists still associate Croatia with stunning beaches, a pristine sea, and endless sun.
Croatia still gets the majority of its 20 million-plus annual tourists during the warmer seasons, but there are loads of reasons why a winter visit makes sense.
Here are just 10 reasons why a winter visit to Croatia is worthwhile.
1. Christmas Markets
Get into the Christmas atmosphere and celebrate the festivities of the season at the award-winning Advent in Zagreb. The Croatian capital’s main Ban Jelacic Square and surrounding areas become festivities HQ with traditional markets, craft stalls, Christmas decorations, concerts, traditional winter delicacies and more. Adults and kids can also enjoy the open-air skating rink at Ice Park in Zagreb.
There are also fantastic Christmas Markets all over the country, including on the Dalmatian coast like in Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik.
2. Winter Cuisine
Winter in Croatia is a great chance to enjoy some of the traditional winter foods. Sarma, Grah (bean soup), kupus, bakalar, and various stews cooked over the fire. Christmas is a great time to also enjoy the number of sweets and desserts on offer.
There is a certain romance about tucking into some great cuisine and wine around a fire-place.
3. Dubrovnik Winter Festival
The 40-day long Dubrovnik Winter Festival will see a host of events for everyone’s taste take place in southern Dalmatian city. Concerts, ice skating, Christmas plays, live music, theatre, museum and gallery events, and loads more will be going on in Dubrovnik over the winter.
4. Beach Time
Yes, it might be winter but the coast can still produce stunning clear, sunny days. You can enjoy a beautiful walk and soak in the smells of the Adriatic sea and enjoy the fresh air. Most times you will have the beach entirely to yourself.
5. Visit Stunning National Parks
Winter is one of the most spectacular times to visit Croatia’s famous National Parks. Apart from avoiding the crowds, you will be treated to some wonderful sights.
Plitvice Lakes’ falls frozen over and glistening icicles is one of the most magical sites you can see. A stunning walk through Plitivica or Krka national parks will not disappoint.
Whilst Croatia is famous for its coast and beaches, there is generally a fair dumping of snow in the winter to enjoy some skiing on the country’s mountains. Mèdvednica mountain, located just north of Zagreb, has the highest peak of 1,035 metres (Sljeme – which also hosts a World Cup Skiing event).
Platak, a ski resort located north of Rijeka, and Velika, on the southern slopes of Papuk Mountain, are also places you can visit.
7. Culture & Festivities
For the more culturally minded there is always plenty to do in winter. Concerts, exhibitions, plays, and performances run all year in the major cities. Every winter for the last decade Night of Museums has been held where more than 200 museums and galleries in over 100 Croatian towns their doors free of charge. Winter is also carnival time across the country.
Every February more than 20,000 performers take to the streets to parade with street parties, masquerade balls and other happenings going on all over Croatia. The Rijeka Carnival is probably the most famous of them all.
8. Hot Springs
No better season to enjoy Croatia’s natural hot springs. There are plenty of excellent thermal spas located around the country where you can soak your body. Some of the better ones around the country include Stubičke Toplice, Sveti Martin na Muri, Tuhelj, Varaždinske Toplice, Daruvarske Toplice and Krapinske Toplice.
Check out our recommendations here.
9. Save Money
A chance to get even more bang for your buck as a lot of prices, such as airfares, hotels, and transport become cheaper outside of the main tourist summer season. Obviously around Christmas and New Years is an exception.
If you have travelled to Croatia in the summer months you will know that some places can get pretty crowded. Imagine enjoying Dubrovnik’s walls to yourself, an empty ferry ride to the islands, a peaceful stroll around Plitvice Lakes or the table of your choice at that restaurant.
Croatia is a very tranquil, relaxing destination, but none more so when the crowds are gone.