One of the first steps in planning a trip to Croatia is deciding when to go. People often ask, “When is the best time to visit Croatia?” From my experience, late spring and early fall are the best times to visit since they offer the widest range of activities and draw fewer crowds.
That said, there is really no bad time to visit Croatia, and each part of the year has something unique to offer. Depending on your priorities, certain times will provide you with a better experience.
To help you figure out when to schedule your trip, I’d like to share a local perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of each season as well as some travel tips for that time of year.
Here’s a summary of what each season offers, with more details and ideas for your itinerary below.
- Summer is best for: beaches, watersports, festivals, and island hopping.
- Fall is best for: land and water-based outdoor activities, national parks, sightseeing, and food tourism.
- Winter is best for: holiday festivals, Carnival, winter sports, and spas.
- Spring is best for: land-based outdoor activities, whitewater rafting, national parks, and sightseeing.
Late June to Early September: Visiting Croatia in High Season
Many people consider the summer to be the best time to visit Croatia. If you’re dreaming of warm days next to sapphire waters, you should plan your trip between late June and early September. This is the perfect time to visit if your top priorities are enjoying Croatia’s stunning coastal areas and spending time in the Adriatic Sea, but it’s also the busiest, hottest, and most expensive time of year on the Croatian coast.
A summer visit is ideal for anyone interested in watersports. With more than 3,600 miles of coastline and 1200 islands, Croatia is rich with opportunities for snorkeling, diving, swimming, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing, spearfishing, and more. For more information about the best places to try these kinds of activities, check out my guide to snorkeling in Croatia on OutsiderView.
Days in July and August can easily reach 100°F, making land-based exploring, sightseeing, and outdoor activities less comfortable this time of year. Still, there are many opportunities for strolling through old town centers, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and zip-lining for those that don’t mind the heat.
Summer in Croatia also comes with tons of live music, ranging from local artists performing in town squares to international icons playing at large music festivals. Some of the most popular festivals include INmusic in Zagreb in late June and Ultra Europe in Split in early July. In a typical year, there are also numerous concerts and beach parties on islands like Hvar and Pag.
While visiting Croatia in the summer has many advantages, popular attractions like Plitvice Lakes and the Dubrovnik defense walls can become packed with tourists. To avoid the crowds and dodge the midday heat, try going early in the morning as soon as they open.
If you aren’t thrilled about the potential crowds but want to visit in the summer months, consider planning your trip with the help of a travel advisor and booking excursions with local guides. They can put together an itinerary for you that matches your interests and budget and provides you with your preferred combination of iconic sites and hidden gems.
Choose this time of year if: You want to spend as much time as possible enjoying the Adriatic coast and don’t mind the crowds and heat.
Mid-September to October: Visit Croatia in Fall Shoulder Season
September and October are, in my opinion, the best months in Croatia. By around the second week in September, the summer crowds have gone, and the temperatures aren’t as sweltering. As a result, this time of year is ideal for those in search of outdoor adventures, sightseeing excursions, historical sites, and gourmet food tours.
While the weather in the fall is not as consistent as it is during the summer, the sea remains swimmable through most of October with many warm, sunny days in a typical forecast. On an early fall visit, you’ll likely be able to enjoy the coast and watersports as well as land-based activities.
Adventurous travelers can choose from whitewater rafting down turquoise rivers, sea kayaking and snorkeling in hidden coves, hiking through dense forests to rugged peaks, rock climbing limestone cliffs, and biking on historic railroad beds.
Fall is also the best time for foodies to visit. No food tour to Croatia would be complete without a stop in Istria, which was voted the best olive oil-producing region in the world six years in a row. On this peninsula in northwestern Croatia, you can search for prized black and white truffles in the Motovun forest, harvest grapes and olives, taste the region’s award-winning wines and olive oils, and enjoy delicious, farm-to-table meals in the countryside.
Choose this time of year if: You want a mix of beach time and land activities like sightseeing, outdoor adventures, gourmet food tours, and national park visits.
November to Early April: Visit Croatia in Low Season
For most people, I don’t recommend visiting Croatia in the winter months, but there are some exceptions. A winter visit could be a great fit for you if you don’t mind cold, gray weather, want to experience frozen waterfalls and snow-covered castles, or celebrate Christmas, New Years’, or Carnival in Croatia.
Inland winters tend to be cold, cloudy, and foggy, with snowfall likely in higher elevation areas. While the coast generally sees milder winters with more sunshine, there are strong north winds called bura that can blow for days and shut down many highways, coastal roads, and ferries to the islands.
Coastal areas – especially in Dalmatia – are mostly deserted in the winter, with many shops, restaurants, cafes, resorts, tour companies, and other services out of operation until spring. You’re most likely to find things open in larger cities such as Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. If you decide to visit in the winter, stick to these areas or plan your trip further inland.
In a typical December, cities throughout Croatia are filled with Christmas markets and stands selling mulled wine and traditional holiday foods. The largest and most popular is Advent in Zagreb, which many people say is one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. If you want to spend the holidays in Croatia, I recommend waiting until 2021 since many of these events will be canceled this year due to the pandemic.
Carnival in February is another winter highlight in Croatia. The country’s largest and most famous celebration takes place in Rijeka, with Samobor, Split, and Dubrovnik also holding Carnival events. Whichever location you choose, you can expect parades, colorful decorations, costumes, traditional pastries, concerts, and partying.
Other winter activities include visiting historical sites and castles like Trakošćan, experiencing snow at Plitvice Lakes, going on a winter hike, and skiing at small resorts on Sljeme near Zagreb and Platak near Rijeka. The low season is also an excellent time to find great deals on luxury spa and wellness packages at various hotels, resorts, and wellness centers.
Choose this time of year if: You don’t mind the cold, want to experience the holidays or Carnival in Croatia, and plan on exploring inland areas rather than the coast.
Mid-April to Mid-June: Visit Croatia in Spring Shoulder Season
Spring is an excellent time to visit Croatia for those who are interested in outdoor activities and sightseeing and want a quieter getaway. The Easter holidays are generally considered to mark the beginning of the tourist season, but things don’t pick up on the coast until mid-May.
Croatia usually has very nice springs with plenty of sunshine, but the weather can be unpredictable in April and May. Make sure to pack plenty of layers and rain protection for a spring trip, especially if you’re planning to visit inland areas in addition to the coast.
Generally, April is still a bit chilly to swim and sunbathe, but activities like sailing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, and sightseeing are fantastic choices this time of year. Thanks to the high water levels, spring is ideal for whitewater rafting and is a great time to see the waterfalls in Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Parks.
Beach season typically begins in mid to late May, and by June, the sea is warm enough to swim and snorkel comfortably for longer periods.
Spring is also a wonderful time to explore Zagreb. With pleasant weather, numerous concerts and festivals, and a vibrant outdoor cafe scene, Croatia’s charming capital city has tons to experience from April to June.
Choose this time of year if: Sightseeing and outdoor activities are more important to you than soaking up the Mediterranean sun on a beach.
Conclusion: Are you ready to plan a trip to Croatia?
As you can see, Croatia offers travelers diverse experiences in every season. When you plan your visit will ultimately depend on your priorities and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a lively summer island hopping trip or a quiet winter getaway, there’s a vacation in Croatia to suit your tastes!
Looking for your own customized itinerary to Croatia? Let’s talk more! Find out about my services here or fill out a travel planning request form here.
This post authored by one of my partners in Croatia: Rebecca Jambrovic. Thank you Rebecca for sharing your valuable expertise!