Croatia has become one of the highlights of the European summer travel season – with its rich history, beautiful architecture, and abundant islands. But where are the best places in Croatia for solo travellers?
The Croatian coast is a popular, safe and easy place to visit solo thanks to its well-developed tourist infrastructure. Transport links, excursions and English-speakers easy to find. It an undaunting proposition for solo travellers. It’s fun, too! You’ll find party towns and islands popular with backpackers and solo travellers.
But it’s also easy to get off the beaten path in Croatia – just head inland or to one of the smaller lesser-known islands. In fact, you could spend a whole summer exploring Croatia and still not have seen half of it
If you’re apprehensive about solo travel in Croatia though, there are some go-to destinations where you’ll find everything you need for a stress free solo trip – including hostels, cheap rooms/dorms, easy flight or ferry connections, friendly beach bars, a youthful nightlife scene, good public transport, and a range of activities and tours suitable for solo travellers.
The hostel scene is getting better year by year, although many hostels in historic areas lack proper communal areas and/or kitchens so do check before booking if this is important to you.
Thanks to its seaside setting and immaculately restored UNESCO-listed medieval old town, Kings Landing – sorry, Dubrovnik, is arguably Croatia’s unmissable destination. A day or two is enough for Dubrovnik – the old town itself is fairly small and quietens down in the evening once the cruise ship and day trip crowds have dissipated (Dubrovnik is not a party town). But it’s worth tagging on a few days if you can as the day trip options are excellent – island hop the Elaphiti islands, taste wine and oysters on the Pelješac Peninsula, kayak around the coast, or visit Mostar or Kotor by bus.
Food and accommodation in Dubrovnik don’t come cheap though, and you’ll pay a premium to stay in the old town. Old Town Hostel and City Walls Hostel are the best hostels within the old town and both feature some quirky decor.
Croatia’s second city of tourism is the beautiful Split, which you are likely to pass through as Split has an international airport and is the gateway to Croatia’s most popular islands. Split is an attractive destination in its own right though, with beaches nearby and the Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman palace which is inhabited and forms part of the fabric of the city rather than being a preserved monument.
There’s a bit more of a buzz here than Dubrovnik, and it’s the main ferry port for the central Dalmatian islands (Hvar, Vis, Brac). Flashpackers will want to check out minimalist Gravitas or Book’n’Hook hostel which is close to the beach.
The inviting coastal city of Zadar was overlooked by tourists for a long time but has come into its own recently as an alternative to Split and Dubrovnik. An alternative which is slightly more chilled, less busy, with a slice of local life (and some decent nightlife to boot). Buzzing bars, art installations (such as the Sea Organ) and a regeneration success story. It’s the main ferry port for the northern Dalmatian islands, which are a great choice for off-the-beaten-track island hopping.
Missed off many itineraries due to its inland position, make a break for capital city Zagreb if you want to switch things up a bit. As well as cafe culture and beautiful streets with a Central European feel, you’ll also find Croatia’s edgiest urban scene. Expect creativity, clubs, great coffee, and a cool alternative streak. A hipster haven, essentially. Zagreb is blissfully free of the kind of crowds that descend upon Dubrovnik and Split in the summer, but bear in mind it does become a ghost town in August when most of its population heads to the coast.
There are plenty of great hostels in Zagreb – Swanky Mint was one of the original boutique hostels in the region and it has everything you could want in a hostel, including a pool, welcome drink and free walking tours.
Croatia’s premier summer destination is the stylish island of Hvar – think beautiful people, superyachts and upmarket nightlife. It’s swiftly becoming a party destination to rival the Med’s most glamorous: Mykonos and Ibiza. It’s also an obscenely pretty island, with the beautifully preserved Hvar Town providing the focal point. The interior of the island is dotted with lavender fields and rustic vineyards.
Hvar has the best range of hostel accommodation out of all the islands. Top choices are the centrally located White Rabbit, and The Shaka with its surfer vibes and ocean views. For something a bit more off-grid check out the beachside Castaway Eco Village.
Up in the north of Croatia is Istria and its gateway city, Pula. There’s an international airport in Pula which is well served by Europe’s budget airlines. Pula’s distinctive feature is the Roman amphitheatre which is one of the best-preserved examples in the world (imagine the Colosseum but with no crowds).
The city is lively and a great base for exploring Istria region, highlights include its Italian-esque medieval hilltop towns, gorgeous beaches, uninhabited Brijuni Islands, and the colourful seaside towns Rovinj and Poreč. It’s a top foodie and slow travel area. Truffles and SUP are big here. And some of Croatia’s biggest festivals (Outlook and Dimensions) are held at nearby Fort Punta Christo.
Pag is where the young and the wild and the free come for all-night beach parties rather than historic sites. Specifically, they come to Novalja Town and nearby Zrće beach. Over the summer it hosts numerous electronic music festivals including Sonus and Hideout.
The rest of the island is quiet and undiscovered, with a barren lunar landscape, mysterious light, and empty beaches with crystal clear water. It produces some amazing cheese too.
Get the party started early at lively Hostel Zrće, which has a resort feel with its pool and plenty of open space (perfect for recovery time).
Šibenik is not as well known as some of the other destinations. But it’s beautiful harbourfront was used as a filming location for Braavos in Game of Thrones (my personal favourite of all the kingdoms for its Mediterranean vibe). Sibenik is the perfect base for taking lots of day trips on the mainland: Zadar, Split, Primosten, and the waterfalls at Krk National Park and islands of Kornati are only a short trip away. If you’re looking for a hidden gem but still somewhere big enough to keep you entertained then Šibenik is for you.
There are also a disproportionate number of great hostels with a fresh clean design in Šibenik. Hostel Scala has a pool and private rooms.
The Dalmatian island of Korčula is known as Croatia’s wine island (as well as the home of Marco Polo, or so the story goes). One of the southern Dalmatian islands, it’s best accessed from Dubrovnik and can be visited as a day trip but if you’re a foodie then you’re going to want to stay longer because this whole area is one giant treat. Hire a bike and cycle around the island’s easy-going vineyards, or take a day trip to nearbyPelješac Peninsula for oysters.
Stay at the relaxed Hostel Korčula which is right by the harbour and in close proximity of several excellent gelaterias.
It’s a toss-up between northern city Pula and coastal secret Omiš for the final place on this list. Omiš is somehow still under the radar despite its stunning scenery – which is reminiscent of Montenegro’s Kotor Bay – at the mouth of the River Cetina. Huge limestone karst cliffs provide the town’s backdrop – once a hiding place for pirates, these days it’s a fun playground for adventure activities. You can try white water rafting, canyoning and rock climbing and even paragliding. Omiš is also great value compared to many of Croatia’s more popular destinations.
Hostel Omis is run by the same friendly management who run Hostel Korčula. There are also several campsites on the outskirts of town if you want to continue the outdoors vibe.
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