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Winter in Croatia - best tips for a perfect visit


Croatia winter

Located on the Adriatic coast, Croatia is a country filled with beautiful cities, charming towns, breathtaking islands, and stunning national parks. One of my favorite countries, it has something to offer every visitor, at all times of the year. While it is a popular summer holiday destination, Croatia can be a great option for a winter visit. But before you book your trip, you need to know all the facts, good and bad. In this article I will go over the benefits and drawbacks of traveling to Croatia during the winter season so you can decide if it is right for you.


Winter Weather in Croatia

First, let's talk about the obvious...the weather. Croatia is a long skinny country with both coastal and inland areas, making winter temperatures varied. Along the Dalmatian coast, the average temperatures are around 54 degrees Fahrenheit for the high and 42 degrees for the low in December, January and February. In Istria, which is located in the North of Croatia, temperatures are slightly cooler with average highs for the winter months around 50 degrees and lows around 35. The interior of Croatia has temperatures that are even colder. In the capital city of Zagreb, the average highs are 42 and lows are 32. 


Rainy days can be an issue when traveling to Croatia in the winter. Most cities in the country experience rain an average of 10-12 days in December and January. Snowfall is less common, especially on the coast. Although higher elevations and inland areas certainly do get snow, it usually doesn't stay around for long. 


Dubrovnik storm

Strong winds, called Bura, especially in the coastal regions can also be a factor. These winds can be intense and biting making it difficult to be outside. Storms along the Adriatic sea can quickly turn a nice day unpleasant. 


A word of warning: Many of Croatia's accommodations are not made for colder weather. Most have tile floors, no insulation and single pane windows. Some don't have a heating system either. When booking your accommodations it is a good idea to make sure there is heating and ask about things such as insulation. 


Tips for dealing with cold weather

These are all the worst case scenarios. I am making it sound miserable, which is not the case. The fact is, winter weather in Croatia, like many places, is unpredictable. You could have rainy, windy days or sunny days with milder temperatures. Sometimes you will have both in the same day as the weather forecast seems to be ever changing.  The trick is to be realistic, prepared and flexible. Realize that you probably won't be sitting on the beach in your bathing suit. Instead, plan ahead and you will end up having a wonderful time.


Split Croatia

Bring a heavy coat, gloves, hat, scarf and maybe some hot hands to put in your shoes and in your gloves. Also bring clothes that are good for layering so you will be comfortable in warm temperatures as well. Have plenty of options for activities, some indoor (like museums, art galleries and tours of historic buildings) and some outdoor. Just make sure to have a flexible schedule so you can do the outdoor activities whenever you get warm weather.  


Zagreb in particular has many worthwhile museums and art galleries to choose from. The Nicholas Tesla Technical museum, with its planetarium and replica of Tesla's laboratory is a great option. The museum of broken relationships houses stories and memorabilia from lost loves all over the world. If galleries are more your style the Mimara museum has thousands of paintings, sculptures and other artifacts from all over the world. Touring the National theater is another great option where you get a behind the scenes look at the stage, costume workshops and ballet studios. 


National theater Zagreb

Dubrovnik also has many museums worth a look. The Cultural History Museum is a great option for a cooler day. Housed in the stunning rector's palace, it covers the city's history and culture with artifacts such as ceramics, printing and textiles. Dubrovnik also has a modern art museum that is located in a gorgeous mansion. The Red History museum takes a look at everyday life under communism as well as real-life memories of people who experienced life in Yugoslavia and the War Photo Limited museum features photos from Croatia's war of independence as well as other conflicts throughout the world.


Rector's palace Dubrovnik

Of course, if the weather is cold, one of the best things to do is find a cafe or restaurant and enjoy the local cuisine. Delicious food always warms you up. Because there have been so many foreign influences throughout its history, Croatian cuisine is a delightful fusion of Mediterranean, Hungarian, Turkish, and Austrian flavors. One iconic Croatian dish is "Pasticada," a rich beef stew marinated in wine and spices, often served with gnocchi or homemade pasta. Seafood plays a prominent role in the coastal regions, with dishes like "Brudet," which is a hearty fish stew brimming with the fresh catch of the day and tomatoes. Pasta is popular in all its forms as well. "Sarma," cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of minced meat and rice, is a cherished comfort food also enjoyed across the country and completing any Croatian feast is "Strukli," which is a delicate pastry filled with cottage cheese and baked to golden perfection.


Croatian food

Benefits of visiting in the winter

There are many benefits of traveling to Croatia during the winter period. 


Beat the heat

The cooler weather can also have an up-side. The hot summers of Croatia can be very uncomfortable. Summer season temperatures in the coastal areas are usually in the upper 80s. Cooler temperatures can make exploring more enjoyable. 


Crowds

Croatia's main tourist destinations and popular attractions can get extremely busy during the peak tourist season of July and August, and for good reason. They are full of history, beautiful architecture and gorgeous scenery. One of the biggest perks of visiting Croatia in winter is fewer tourists and fewer crowds. Coastal cities like Dubrovnik, which can feel overrun with tourists for much of the peak season, are delightfully uncrowded once winter arrives. You'll be able to explore the ancient city walls, winding alleyways, and impressive fortresses without battling throngs of people. The main attractions will be much more accessible and enjoyable without the huge crowds. You are also able to experience a much more authentic Croatia, getting a more intimate picture and taste of what the country is like without the tourists. You do need to be aware however that there may be some restaurants that may close down for the winter and hours of operation can change. Bus and train schedules may also change so check ahead of time for opening hours and schedules. 


Dubrovnik in winter

Prices

Prices in Croatia during the summer months shoot up. As winter is the low season for tourism, you'll be able to take advantage of significantly lower prices on hotels, flights, tours, activities, and more. Many accommodation providers offer discounted rates, while airlines often have incredible deals for travel to Croatia during the winter months. You can also find exceptional values on experiences like winery tours, cooking classes, guided sightseeing excursions, and more without the inflated summer prices. The lower costs that go along with winter travel in Croatia is a definite bonus. 


Christmas Markets & Festivities

If you time your winter trip to hit the period in late November through early January, you'll be able to immerse yourself in Croatia's wonderful festive season which is full of Christmas markets and holiday celebrations. All the major cities in Croatia such a as Dubrovnik, Split, Osijek, Rijeka and Zagreb will have celebrations including markets, decorations, outdoor ice rinks, parades, performances and great street food. In fact Christmas time is the perfect time to visit Zagreb as this city is world-renowned for having one of Europe's most incredible Christmas markets, with the entire old town transforming into a twinkling winter wonderland. 


Christmas in Zagreb

During the Dubrovnik winter festival visitors can enjoy traditional folk dancing, exhibits and other cultural events. On January 6th, the Winter Carnival takes place where you will see locals dressed in traditional costumes and there is a parade with musicians, floats and dancers. 


New Year's Eve is also a great time to be in any of the major cities as it is typically celebrated in the town squares with fireworks, live music and other entertainment.  


Skiing & Winter Sports

Croatia may not be the first destination that comes to mind for winter sports, but the country actually has several nice ski resorts tucked into its mountainous regions. Markuška on the slopes of Mount Čvrsnica near Sarajevo offers incredible skiing and snowboarding with gorgeous alpine vistas. Other popular ski areas include Bjelolasica near the Plitvice Lakes and Sljeme Ski resort just outside Zagreb. For a true winter adventure, you can even go husky sledding, snowshoeing through Croatia's stunning backcountry, or do other fun snow activities. 


skiing in Croatia

Plitvice Lakes in Winter

One of Croatia's absolute must-see attractions is the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park, renowned for its natural beauty with a series of 16 terraced lakes joined by waterfalls and surrounded by lush forests. While it's famously beautiful in warmer months, Plitvice takes on an almost otherworldly magic when the waterfalls freeze over and snow blankets the surrounding landscapes. It's far less crowded, providing a serene and peaceful experience of this natural wonder. Be sure to dress warmly and wear proper ice traction footwear to safely explore the frozen wonderland.


Plitvice in winter

Truffle hunting

A unique experience available in Croatia during winter is truffle hunting. Truffles are hunted in the winters using trained truffle hunting dogs (pigs are good truffle hunters as well). Joining a truffle hunt is a fun way to experience some local culture. After your hunt you can enjoy a meal featuring your finds. (My personal experience with truffles is not great as I do not like the flavor but many people disagree).


Thermal Spas

Croatia has many thermal Spas or natural hot springs called toplice. These are popular destinations year round but are the perfect destination for your winter vacation. The mineral waters are said to have healing properties for main ailments. There is usually a bathing area with a treatment center next to it. A wide range of services and activities are offered. Saunas, massages, both indoor and outdoor pools, scuba training, restaurants and even hospitals are all available. This is one of the best places to relax and rejuvenate. 


While I still believe the shoulder season is the best time of year to visit Croatia, winter can be a wonderful time for a trip. With fewer crowds, lower prices and seasonal activities such as truffle hunting and Christmas markets, the colder months bring wonderful opportunities to experience Croatia in a unique and meaningful way. 


Ready to travel to Croatia? Contact us at eurotravelsbydesign@gmail.com and we will custom design the perfect itinerary for you.





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