Travel

This Stunning Country on the Adriatic Sea Just Reopened to Vaxxed Travelers

And its national parks look like something out of a dream.

Everyone gets a waterfall at Krka National Park. | Matthew Baker/Getty Images News
Everyone gets a waterfall at Krka National Park. | Matthew Baker/Getty Images News
NOTE: We know COVID-19 is continuing to impact your travel plans. As of April 2021, official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk, though safety precautions are still required. Should you need to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the CDC's latest guidance as well as local requirements/protocols/restrictions for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.

You’ve heard of hygge, the Danish word for coziness and comfort. But Dalmatians—those who live along Croatia’s central coast—prefer fjaka: the state of languishing in sublime contentment.

Since becoming independent from Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatia has become a magnet for fjaka-seekers. With 4,000 miles of breathtaking Adriatic coastline, secret beaches, mysterious blue caves, Romanesque churches, historic old towns, and waterfall-riddled national parks, it’s easy to find your bliss here—and now that the country is open to vaccinated travelers, you can get a little slice of fjaka, too.

What’s open in Croatia and how to get there

Fully vaccinated people, look at you! You’re allowed to enter Croatia, no Covid test or quarantining necessary. However, you’ll need to complete an entry form, as well as provide either proof of receiving a final dose at least two weeks prior to travel, or proof of recovery from Covid within the past 180 days. More info here.

You’ll also need proof of accommodation, as well as evidence that it’s fully paid for. According to the US Embassy in Croatia, a reservation confirmation alone won’t cut it, though there’s some flexibility: “accommodation” can mean a hotel, campsite, private rental, or rented vessel. (Boat life!)

Right now, flights to Dubrovnik, Split, and Zagreb (with 1+ stops) average around $1,000... though you can sometimes snag a deal for less. Beaches, hotels, and national parks are open across the country, as are restaurants, cafes, and bars with outdoor seating. Casinos and betting shops are open, but alcohol sales stop at 10 pm, so stock up. 

From seaside Dubrovnik to mountaintop Motovun, medieval cities abound. | Unsplash/Spencer Davis

Visit Croatia’s medieval cities

Balkan beauty and medieval architecture abound in Croatia. The southern city of Dubrovnik is one of Croatia’s ten UNESCO World Heritage sites, and rose to international fame as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. At Buža Café, a bar built into the Old Town fortress walls, you can fling yourself into the water (or, more practically, catch a lovely sunset). Further inland there’s Zagreb, the old-world capital that’s quickly becoming a top European destination for nightlife (and for lonely hearts, thanks to the Museum of Broken Relationships). 

Towns-less-traveled include the handsome walled mountaintop village of Motovun, which rises out of dense, truffle-filled forests. And these are no ordinary tuffles: The Istrian peninsula’s white truffles rival their more famous (and way more expensive) Italian and French counterparts. 

Also on the Istrian peninsula, you’ll find the sixth-largest Roman colosseum in the world in Pula’s city center, right by the water. (Instead of epic gladiator battles, it’s now used for concerts and events.) The harbor town of Trogir sits on a small island connected to the mainland via bridge; the five minutes it takes to walk across is packed with scenic views, best seen from the tower of St. Lawrence Cathedral.  And the fortified town of Korcula, found on an island of the same name, is often called “Little Dubrovnik” for its similar terracotta rooftops, gothic architecture, and excellent bars and restaurants.

Float like a dead tree in Plitvice Lakes National Park. | Unsplash/Ante Hamersmit

Check out the country’s amazing national parks

Chances are you’ve never seen anything like Plitvice Lakes. The country's most celebrated national park is a wonderland of cascading waterfalls, aquamarine pools, and spectacular bridges that let you peer down at it all from above. Alternatively, you can splash about in seven different waterfalls at Krka National Park, or take a ferry to Brijuni Islands National Park, a collection of fourteen formerly-private islands off the northern coast. 

It’s also well worth figuring out how to reach Kornati National Park (a chartered boat is your best bet), where you’ll be rewarded with nearly 90 uninhabited islands ripe for pristine nautical adventures. The islands themselves are barren, so for a greener island escape, rent a bike and go explore Mljet National Park. (Be sure to stop by the Island of St. Mary, home to a church and Benedictine monastery.) Hikers will find their groove in Northern Velebit, Paklenica, and Risnjak National Parks, where they might spot bears, lynx, and wolves.

Don't drink too much wine in this vineyard, you might roll right into the sea. | GoranStimac/E+/Getty Images

And don’t forget to try the wine

Croatia has been producing wine for more than 2,400 years, thanks to their cool Mediterranean climate. Most of their fantastic product, which comes from over 300 wine-growing regions nationwide, is consumed locally—so it's only right for you to do as the locals do and sample as much as possible.

On the island of Hvar you’ll find Stari Grad Plain—the world’s longest continually-cultivated vineyard, first colonized in the 4th century BC. Try the reds in Istria and the whites in the Croatian Uplands near Zagreb. And if you venture closer to Slovenia and the Danube, you can't go wrong with Gewürztraminer. 

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She would give anything to be floating like a dead tree right now. 
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