Croatia may be a small country but it has a rich culture and history and it boasts a total of ten UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some of the well known names like Old Towns of Split and Dubrovnik are the most visited UNESCO sites on this list, but let’s see what else is there to visit!
1) National Park Plitvice Lakes
National Park Plitvice Lakes is the largest, the oldest and the most visited national park in Croatia. And on top of that, it is the only one which made it to UNESCO World Heritage site list. How? Mostly because of its rich flora and fauna and magical 16 turquoise lakes with numerous cascades. The beauty of this national park is truly unique and that is why more than million people from all over the world come to visit Plitvice. I mean, who would say no to actually see the real bear? And although the entrance fee is a bit pricey, believe us, it is worth every penny.
- Check here how to get to Plitvice Lakes by bus (from Zagreb and Split)
2) Diocletian’s Palace, Split
Diocletian’s Palace is one of the best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in the world. The name may be confusing because when you actually come to Split, you won’t have a feeling that you’re inside of a palace, but rather in fortified part of Old Town. Interesting fact is that there was nothing around the palace during the rule of Emperor Diocletian. At that time, Split didn’t even exist – just the palace and residents inside it. The main parts of the palace are Peristyle Square (also the main city square) and the Substructures (popularly called “the basements”). And did you know that the oldest cathedral in the world is in Diocletian’s Palace? The Cathedral of St Domnius was built between 295-305 AD and it is as well the mausoleum of the Emperor Diocletian.
3) Old Town, Dubrovnik
The Old Town in Dubrovnik is the reason why the famous English poet, Lord Byron, gave this city the nickname “the pearl of the Adriatic”. The Old Town was listed as World Heritage in 1979 and since then it has been attracting more than million visitors each year. The historical city core is actually a fortification thanks to 2km-long City Walls which in the past served as a protection from invaders. The main street in the Old Town is called Stradun and it is favourite meeting place for both locals and tourists. At the end of Stradun you can see beautiful Gothic-Renaissance Sponza Palace and Rector’s Palace which was portrayed in world-famous TV series Game of Thrones.
- Coming to Dubrovnik by plane? See here how to reach Dubrovnik city centre. For an easier planning of visit to Dubrovnik, check out 5 top things to do in Dubrovnik.
4) St James Cathedral, Sibenik
Although as not as old as the one in Split (built in 16th century), the Cathedral of Saint James in Sibenik got its place among World Heritage sites for many other reasons. The cathedral was listed as a UNESCO site in 2000 due to its exceptional value and it is the most important Renaissance monument in the entire country. However, St James Cathedral gained its popularity after it was shown in Game of Thrones when it doubled as some parts of Braavos.
5) Stari Grad Plain, Island of Hvar
This UNESCO protected site is unlike any other on this list. Stari Grad Plain is actually an agricultural land built by Greeks which colonized the area in the 4th century BC. The thing that made this area part of world heritage is the fact that this land maintained its original form over the centuries. The plain also shows the system Greeks used to cultivate crops. The land was divided in so-called “chora” parcels separated by dry stone walls and that system remained in use ever since.
- See here how to get around on island Hvar and how to reach Stari Grad
6) The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica, Porec
Porec may be a small town, but it certainly can boast of the fact that it has a basilica listed as a UNESCO site. The Euphrasian Basilica was added to the list in 1997. The episcopal complex of the basilica includes basilica, sacristy, baptistery and the bell tower which is one of rare representations of Byzantine architecture in Croatia.
7) Medieval Tombstones Graveyards
Medieval tombstones are scattered across Bosnia and Herzegovina and some parts of Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro and they’re called “stećci”. These UNESCO protected monuments appeared in 12th century and were used until the end of 15th century. They were very common among Catholic and Orthodox followers, often written in old Bosnian Cyrillic alphabet. There are 2 necropolises in Croatia – in Cista Velika and in Konavle and they’re written in Glagolitic script.
8) Historic City of Trogir
Only 30 kilometres from Split is located another wonder of old Roman architecture. The whole town was listed as a World Heritage back in 1997. Visit Cathedral of St Lawrence, the main church in the city, one of the best architectural examples in Croatia. It is famous for its Romanesque portal carved by Master Radovan. Probably the most notable symbol of Trogir is Kamerlengo Fortress (at the end of city waterfront) from 15th century which was a governor’s palace during the rule of Venetians.
9) Defensive system of Zadar and St Nicholas Fortress in Sibenik
These two UNESCO sites actually belong to a group of six defensive walls built by the Republic of Venice between 15th and 17th century along the Adriatic coast. Other than Croatia, this kind of fortifications can be found in Italy and Montenegro. Defensive system of Zadar includes the monumental Land Gate built by Venetian architect Michele Sanmicheli and they served as a connection between old port and the town. On the other side, St Nicholas Fortress is isolated on islet Ljuljevac near Sibenik. The fortress had a defensive purpose, but interestingly, it never actually got attacked. Some legends say that no one ever dared to attack the fortress because it looked powerful and undefeatable – which was basically the main goal of constructing that kind of fortresses.
10) Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe
It would be wrong to call it a Croatian UNESCO site but some parts of it are located in Croatia. Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians is the largest UNESCO World Heritage site in Europe because it extends across 12 countries. The Carpathians cover a total area of 779 square kilometres and Croatian part of the Carpathians make National Park Paklenica and National Park Northern Velebit along with their strict reserves Hajducki and Rozanski kukovi. The main focus of UNESCO is to preserve beech forests in Europe and it that way make the European eco-system develop more easily.