Travel to Croatia and discover a true treasure full of beautiful and charming places. Its rich history and pristine natural wanders attract tourists from all over the world. And for a good reason. The value of Croatian cultural and natural heritage has been also recognised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which has selected ten attractions for their honourable list. Below we present all UNESCO sites in Croatia which can be added to your personalised tour of Croatia.
As a local travel agency specialised in preparing tailor-made trips all over the Balkan, we know that UNESCO sites play a very important part when designing an itinerary. Since 1979, when first introduced, the list has extended to over a thousand locations all over the world and has become an important reference for must-see attractions.
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all UNESCO sites in Croatia
Let’s first take a look at the six historical UNESCO sites in Croatia, which are dotted all along the long coast of this Mediterranean country. They can be found in the coastal towns of Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, Sibenik, Porec and on the island of Hvar.
OLD CITY OF DUBROVNIK
Without a doubt, Dubrovnik is the most beautiful town in the whole of Croatia, and it is all thanks to its magnificent historic centre. No wander it has been the very first Croatian (and Yugoslavian) site added to UNESCO World Heritage List back in 1979. The city surrounded by imposing walls at its core preserves a large number of palaces, churches and fountains, which make strolling through its streets a real visual pleasure. It is like an open air museum and visited by millions of travellers from all over the globe. Its fame has incised even more after Dubrovnik got the part of “King’s Landing” in HBO hit series Game of Thrones. Whether you are a fan of this TV show or just a regular traveller, Dubrovnik will definitely not leave you indifferent. To explore the rich history of the old town which goes back all the way to the 7th century, as well as the gougers surroundings, we invite you to take a personalised trip to Dubrovnik with us. As local experts we know all the secrets and will make sure you get the most of your visit.
DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE IN SPLIT
Another one of the most visited UNESCO sites in Croatia is the famous Diocletian’s Palace in Split, which as been added to the list the same year as Dubrovnik’s old town. As its name suggests, the foundation of the palace has been laid by the Roman emperor Diocletian who chose Split as his place of retirement in the 4th century. As one of the most powerful people of that era, he really didn’t spared no expense while building this monstrosity in a long period of ten years. The glossy white stone was transported from the island of Brač, while marble came from Italy and Greece. In the medieval times the place has been turned into a Split’s actual city centre and still remains its living heart, full of stores, cafes and boutique hotels. Our guides will definitely point out the most important sights within the palace’s walls such as the Cathedral of St. Domnius (originally built as Diocletian’s mausoleum, today it is one of the best preserved still standing Roman structures), Temple of Jupiter and palace basement. Split certainly is wonderful place to stay for a nigh or two and a great starting point to explore the dalmatian island on a small ship Adriatic cruise.
HISTORIC CITY OF TROGIR
A short drive from Split lies Trogir, one of the most picturesque coastal towns in the whole Croatia. It is set on a tiny island, between mainland and much larger Čiovo Island. Regarded as one of the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in Europe, Trogir’s medieval core features gorgeous architecture resembles strong Greek, Roman and Venetian influence. UNESCO recognised its beauty and enlisted Trogir as World Heritage in 1997. Since than the town has became an obligatory stop in basically any serious Balkan itinerary and its small port even welcomes some of the small cruise ships from Split. Our guides will be happy to show you all the details of this “open-air museum”, including its prime jewel – The Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
STARI GRAD PLAIN ON HVAR ISLAND
Island of Hvar, probably the most famous of all Croatian islands, is a popular daily excursion from Split. Most people visit the historic town of the same name on the southern side, but it the site located on the northern part, close to Stari Grad that made it to the UNESCO list in 2008. This agricultural landscape covered by vineyards and olive and citrus trees might not seem impressive at first sight, but it is indeed of great historical value, set up 24 centuries ago. The Stari Grad Plain that covers an area of 1377 hectares was set up by the ancient Greek colonists in the 4th century BC and remains in use in its original form. Beside the layout, which has been preserved all this time, this UNESCO site is also an important demonstrate of the comprehensive system of agriculture as used by the ancient Greeks. Walking, cycling or driving through what is considered to be one of the best preserved Greek settlements is an amazing experience knowing it is still being used the same way it was intended thousands of years ago.
CATHEDRAL OF SAINT JAMES IN SIBENIK
Driving along the Adriatic coast, many travellers simply miss Sibenik. However, this medieval seaside town should be on the itinerary of every art history enthusiast. It is the home place of a gougers Cathedral of St. James, one of the most important Renaissance architectural monuments in the region. This triple-nave basilica with three apses and a 32-meter dome was completed in three phases, from 1433 to 1441 by various Italian and local artists. Perhaps most notable among them is Giorgio da Sebenico (Juraj Dalmatinac, as he is called in Croatia) who combined architectural and decorative elements to create a unified entity. But it is not just the design that helped the cathedral of Sibenik make one of the top UNESCO sites in Croatia, it was also its unique architectural technique used for its construction. It is believed to be the world’s largest church built completely from stone without any brick or wood supports. To get the most of your visit, we recommend exploring the cathedral and other notable buildings of Sibenik with a professional guide.
THE EUFRASIAN BASILICA IN POREC
If you visit the peninsula of Istria on the northern part of Croatia, you will immediately feel the great mixture of gastronomy excellence and rich history that this region has to offer. Besides the great amphitheatre of Pula and the picturesque fishing village of Rovinj, the grand jewel in Istria’s crown is definitely the Euphrasian Basilica in the historic old town of Poreč. More than the buildings itself, the episcopal complex is famous for its amazing mosaics dating back to the 6th century. They are considered one of the best examples of early Byzantine art and architecture in the world. In 1997 the UNESCO board decided to honour the whole complex (which beside the basilica also includes a sacristy, a baptistery and the bell tower of the nearby archbishop’s palace) by putting it on a its Cultural World Heritage list.
PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK
Besides the six cultural heritage sites listed above, Croatia also has one gorgeous natural attraction that was enlisted by UNESCO already back in 1979. The Plitvice National Park is easily among the most popular national parks of Croatia and the whole Balkan region. No wonder, its beauty is fascinating, thanks in part to its 16 lakes that have been formed throughout history by their limestone geology. Its forests with a very diverse fauna and flora, coexist together with the visitors who stroll among the wooden walkways. Summers are usually packed, so we recommend visiting in summer or fall when the crowds are gone, the colours are more vivid and the water levels are higher. Plitvice Lakes can also make a great excursion if you are visiting Croatia in winter.
Visit UNESCO sites in Croatia with a professional guide
In addition to the list of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Croatia listed above, there are three more that are shared with other countries as well.
MEDIEVAL TOMBSTONE GRAVEYARDS ➨ Stećci (sing. stećak) are a group of more than 70 thousands medieval tombstones scattered in the Balkan region. They first appeared in the 12th century and reached their peak in the 14th and 15th century. They are renown for great carving techniques and wide range of motifs: from religious drawings, to warriors, animals or hunting men. Most of them (over 60 thousands) were found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the rest in parts of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. The two main sites in Croatia where you can see these magnificent monoliths are Dubravka and Cista Velika.
VENETIAN DEFENSIVE SYSTEMS ➨ After a major development in gunpowder production in 14th century Europe, significant shifts in military techniques and architecture were required. The Venetians, as one of the great world powers of that era, were leading the field in building comprehensive defence systems throughout their dominions in today’s Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro. The two Croatian sites featured in this UNESCO listing are the defensive system of Zadar and St. Nicholas Fortress in Sibenik. Those of you also visiting Montenegro, will most probably stop in Kotor where you can admire its walls, also part of this listing.
PRIMEVAL BEECH FORESTS ➨ In 2017 UNESCO decided to protect a huge area of primeval forests all over the Europe. Alongside Croatia 13 more counties are included: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Ukraine. The protected areas mark places from which the European beech has spread across the continent since the end of the last Ice Age. In Croatia these areas can be found in the national parks of Paklenica and Northern Velebit.
Before we finish our journey through the amazing UNESCO sites in Croatia, lets have a look at the country’s tentative list which features other sites of high cultural or natural value that are considered for the UNESCO nomination in the future. All of them can already be included into your personalised trip to Croatia.
➨ The episcopal complex of Zadar which among other buildings encompasses the Romanesque Zadar Cathedral, Church of St. Donatus from the 9th century and the archbishop’s palace.
➨ The historic towns of Ston and Mali Ston with one of the longest stone walls in the world. Your driver guide will be happy to make a pit stop on the way from Split to Dubrovnik so you can climb the “the Chinese wall of Europe” as it is often nicknamed.
➨ In the less visited part of Croatia, in the region of Slavonija near Osjek lies Tvrđa, a Habsburg fort described as a unique example of an 18th-century baroque military, administrative, and commercial urban center. You can visit the place on your way from Zagreb to Belgrade.
➨ The pretty town of Varaždin, known for its medieval-renaissance-baroque buildings, can be a pleasant daily excursion from Zagreb. Did you know that for a brief period in the 18th century, Varaždin was the capital of Croatia?
➨ Another great day trip from Zagreb is the region of Zagorje where you can visit the fairy-tale castle of Veliki Tabor, built in the 15th and 16th centuries. It combines features of late Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
➨ The vast Kornati archipelago near Zadar is the largest and densest archipelago in the Mediterranean. Part of the archipelago are Kornati National Park and Telašćica Nature Park, two promising candidates for UNESCO natural heritage list.
➨ A popular daily trip from Dubrovnik is the pretty historic fortified town of Korčula which can also be visited during most of our Adriatic cruises. You can spend a night there and taste the fresh Mediterranean sea food, along with the prime wines of Pelješac peninsula.
Impressed? Do you want to visit them all? Get in touch with our friendly agents at ➨ firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to put together a personalised itinerary to Croatia just for you. Let us know which UNESCO-protected sites to you want us to show you and we will make it happen. We will find flights, hotels and organise transfers. Our professional guides will take you around this great Mediterranean country and explain you all the details about these incredible World Heritage sites.
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