The Charming Towns of Croatia

PHOTO: Colorful cobblestone street in Hum, Croatia. (photo courtesy of xbrchx / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Michelle Rae Uy
by Michelle Rae Uy
Last updated: 9:00 AM ET, Wed May 2, 2018


Enchanting small towns and villages pepper Croatia's islands, hills and coastlines, endearing the popular Balkan destination to travelers even more with their narrow cobbled streets, red-roofed houses and go-slow lifestyle. Wander beyond Dubrovnik, the national parks and the beaches. These 25 towns are idyllic venues for an unforgettable getaway. They will charm your sandals right off.


Marco Polo's rumored birthplace on the island of the same name is more than just a stunning sight in the Adriatic Sea. It's also a great base for Croatian wine tastings and lazy beach outings, as well as a wonderful little place to meander streets lined with medieval houses, churches, squares and a fortress.


Renaissance, Romanesque and Baroque architecture blend together in this historic coastal town, making it an excellent place to visit for architecture lovers and history hounds. Take a day trip from Split or stay for a night or two to wander its World Heritage-designated streets and people-watch at one of its outdoor cafes.


Photos can hardly do Rastoke's storybook charm justice. Nestled on the fertile banks of Slunjcica River, Rastoke's small houses and historic mills sit atop the river's cascades while wooden bridges connect its small streets and alleys. Adopt a languid pace and breathe in the fairytale vibe, but also take on a river adventure, as it's the perfect place for it.


Set on the island of Hvar, Hvar Town's appeal is in its car-free marble streets, Gothic architecture and sparkling beaches, which adorn the westernmost part of the island. Come to rub elbows with the thousands of visitors that explore the city, but stay for the pumping parties that the town is known for.


Known for its old town set atop a small hill, Primosten was originally established on an islet that connected to the mainland by a drawbridge. A causeway has since replaced that bridge, and today the town extends to the mainland. Still, the cobblestone-paved islet is a main draw, as are the town's vineyards and festivals.


The busiest town on fertile Rab Island, Rab is more than just a jumping off point for many of the island's outdoor thrills. This historic, church-sprinkled town has its share of Gothic and Renaissance quarters waiting to be explored and watering holes that welcome visitors until a little past midnight.


There's little not to love about the port town of Omis. Part of the Split-Dalmatia county, it's nestled between the base of some rocky hills and the mouth of the Cetina River where it pours into the Adriatic. That means not only will you be treated to amazing panoramas legends, but also many opportunities for intrepid adventures.


Often name-dropped as one of Croatia's prettiest villages, Pucisca is more than just a day trip or a short stop. Set in northern Brac on the slopes of verdant hills that roll into the open sea, the town is a venue for laidback activities, from learning stone works to watching a klapa perform while enjoying delicious, freshly baked donuts on the beach.


It's hard to miss Skradin, as it's the main jumping off point for the famous Krka National Park and its spectacular Skradinski Buk waterfalls and terraces. Before heading off to the park, carve out a bit of time to walk its narrow streets. Visit its medieval fortress, old clock tower, Baroque church and the Bibich Winery.


Not too far from Dubrovnik, this picturesque town in southern Croatia possesses Dubrovnik's charm but typically not its crowds. Kick off your shoes and spend some time at one of its sparkling beaches, see some of the Illyrian necropoleis peppering the area, see the old architecture, and find some of painter Vlaho Bukovac's work.


Red-roofed medieval towns sitting prettily on lush hilltops and sun-drenched coasts that jut out to sea seem to be Istria Penninsula's expertise, and the hill town of Groznjan is no different. Its narrow.,cobbled streets are paved with lovely stone houses and buildings, best for meandering on a lazy day. Visit the Church of St. Vitus and have a glass of wine at a local joint.


Scenes of colorful fruit stands, idyllic streets and lovely views of neighboring vineyards await in the medieval village of Motovun, set on the lofty site of ancient Castellieri. Walk along its cobbles and immerse in the local, Italian-influenced culture. Then visit the vineyards and even go hunting for incredible truffles.


Another Istria gem is Labin, a hill town like Groznjan and Motovun. Labin, however, is bigger, with a few thousand residents in its main town. Not that it's less scenic; Labin's Old Town is still the stuff of fairytales, as are the panoramas it boasts. Explore its mining history, discover its interesting mix of architecture and photograph its many brightly colored houses.


With less than 2,000 residents, the town of Vis on the island of Vis is undoubtedly small. But being the island's main town, it's also one of the most-visited places in Croatia. Spend a bit of time here to see its mix of architecture and churches, then use it as your base for exploring the popular island. Outdoor and water adventures await, as do small wineries.


The self-proclaimed smallest town in the world might not be exactly that-it's just a local legend, but this beautiful hill town, also in Istria, is so many other things. For one, it's beautiful with old structures, frescoes and signs with Glagolitic alphabet serving as reminders of its ancient past, and quiet alleyways that look even more romantic at sundown.


Because Rovinj is the Istrian Peninsula's pride and joy, it can't help being inundated with tourists. With great resorts and excellent restaurants coupled with its old-fashioned charm, the fishing port town makes for a great base for vacationing in the region. While in town, visit the Church of St. Euphemia and the Old Town.


Less than an hour's drive north of Rovinj is the Roman coastal town of Porec. It's slightly bigger than Rovinj, but just as stunning and also with resorts tracing its coast. A trip to this town means a combination of old architecture and modern parties. Visit the stunning Basilica of St. Euphrasius, which boasts a combination of Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque styles.


Right on the very tip of the Istrian Peninsula is the small city of Pula, famous the world over for its ancient Roman ruins including the Pula Arena, considered one of the best-preserved amphitheaters today. The arena is, of course, its centerpiece; however, there are other great places to see here including the Temple of Augustus and the Arch of the Sergii.

Mali Losinj

Set in the Cres-Losinj archipelago, Mali Losinj is popular for its pastel-colored Hapsburg-era buildings and its beautiful bay, drawing tourists from neighboring countries. During your visit, take some time to meander around town and its boutique-lined harbor. Also visit Veli Losinj, a small village less than two miles away.


Zadar has been dubbed one of Croatia's coolest cities, and for a reason. The historic port city on the Dalmatian coast not only boasts unforgettable sunsets, an exquisite gastronomy scene and beautiful beaches. It also hosts a number of funky oddities including the Sea Organ and an attraction called the Monument to the Sun.


The fishing village of Valun on the island of Ceres is home to lovely pebble beaches, Glagolithic stone fragments and inscriptions, and one of the oldest Glagolithic monuments that exists today, the Valun Table. Go for a day trip or stay overnight and soak in its history.


On Hvar's central northern coast sits Jelsa, a small town that's famous for its charm and old-world sites as well as its nightlife. It's been a popular destination since the Roman times, and today, travelers come from many parts of the world to experience its parties, shows and festivals.


Discover Skrip's long and interesting history during your short visit. It is the oldest village on the island of Brac. There are many places to see, including Radojkovic Tower, which has been converted into a museum to house the artifacts found in the area.


The glistening island of Cres is a popular venue for outdoor adventures, making the town of Cres the perfect jumping off point for them. Tucked in a protected bay, it's also a lovely place for historical explorations, what with its monasteries, old walls and monuments. The main sights to visit are the Venetian Tower, Church of St. Mary and the Municipal Loggia.


Not too far from Split, the coastal town of Brela is a great setting for a relaxing stop along the Makarska Riviera. Spend your days here just lazing about on its sparkling beaches or visit the nature park of Biokovo.

Enchanting small towns and villages pepper Croatia's islands, hills and coastline.

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Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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