At the northern edge of the Adriatic Sea, just east of the Italian coast sits an unspoiled coastline, beaches and bright blue waters home to the country of Croatia. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, this country has been independent for almost 25 years and has grown into a modern European destination not to be missed. With a thousand islands, delicious cuisine, stunning nature and a mild Mediterranean climate, this country has recently made its way to the top of many traveler’s bucket list.

In fact, within just the past decade, Croatia has become one of the most popular and trendy European summer destinations. The country recently joined the European Union and has become more accessible with a variety of direct flights from within Europe and beyond. The tourism infrastructure has grown significantly over the years and it is a top spot for taking a small gay cruise or sailing trip as the ports have excellent facilities and touristic offerings. The amazing landscape, crystal clear waters and calm weather make Croatia an ideal destination for island hopping and exploring the coastline by boat. Besides the coast, Croatia also boasts a number of historic cities with well preserved old towns dating back to ancient Roman times. At the beginning of 2023 Croatia became the 27th country to join the Schengen zone and adopted the euro as its currency. 

You won’t find a large gay Croatian scene or mega gay parties like those in Barcelona or Berlin, nor will you find massive gay pride festivals like those in Madrid, Stockholm or Amsterdam. But while Croatia isn’t known for having a big LGBTQ+ scene in the traditional scene, it doesn’t make it any less appealing as a destination. In fact, it might even be a good reason to add some variety to your travels and explore a new destination you might not have considered before. So if you’ve never thought about visiting before, here is a rundown of 7 reasons why you might want to add Croatia to your gay travel bucket list.

Amazing Islands and Beautiful Waters

Croatia is well known for having more than 1,000 islands and amazingly blue waters perfect for swimming, boating or enjoying a relaxing day at the beach. Sail along the coast or island-hop to fun destinations like Hvar and enjoy the laid-back island life. You can enjoy an island-hopping vacation around the beautiful Croatian coastline by joining a group sailing trip with gay guests from around the world. You’ll stop at the ports to explore as well as great beaches for an afternoon dip. On a sailing trip you typically arrive in port with enough time to explore the island, relax on your private yacht or find a nice cocktail sunset bar and enjoy dinner. ​Did somebody say Mediterranean vacation?

Photo by Alessandro Caproni via Flickr / CC BY

Well Preserved History & Ancient Cities

You’ll be amazed by some of Croatia’s best old cities like Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik or Korucla – known as the birthplace of the famous merchant Marco Polo. Many of these coastal cities were major maritime ports and commercial centers on the Adriatic Sea and they have been well preserved and make for great visits almost any time of the year. The city of Split for example has an incredible old town with narrow, cobblestone streets and a variety of Roman ruins throughout the town. Split is one of the major ports of Croatia and is a great jumping-off point for visiting other islands or taking a sailing trip or catching a ferry to other nearby islands.

Photo by Andrey via Flickr / CC BY

The Underrated Capital City

Zagreb is probably one of the more underrated cities worth visiting in Croatia. In fact, one-sixth of the country’s population lives here and it’s hardly overrun with tourists. You’ll get a great sense of modern Croatia and how the locals live with some optional visits to the gay Croatia nightlife scene. As a relatively small capital city, the options are still somewhat limited but this is really the only place in the country where you’ll find dedicated LGBTQ+ venues. In Zagreb, you’ll also find an old-world experience with a well-preserved old town, interesting museums and a thriving café culture.

Impressive National Parks

Croatia is full of national parks spanning the country that offer a diverse look into the natural beauty of the country and its landscape. One of the most famous parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Plitvice Park. This park is famous for 16 different lakes that cascade into each other through a network of picturesque waterfalls. Pack your selfie stick, snap a few shots and make all your friends at home jealous!

Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr / CC BY

The Stunning City of Dubrovnik

Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik is probably Croatia’s most famous city. This medieval seaside town is well preserved and it’s surrounded by massive old city walls from the 16th century that guard its inner town and narrow, cobblestone streets. The old city of Dubrovnik has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a ton of attractions. It’s worth staying here at least a couple of days to get a good feel for the city and see all the sites. In recent years, Dubrovnik has become famous for being one of the main filming sets for Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of this blockbuster HBO series, you’ll recognize (among other things) the port of King’s Landing as well as the famous walk of shame that’s featured in several episodes.

Photo by Ivan IvanKovnic via Flickr/ CC BY

Beaches Galore

You don’t have to go far to find relaxing beaches in Croatia. From the isolated and deserted beaches on the tiny islands and coastal cities to some of the more popular beaches, this country offers great beach weather for nearly half the year. There are plenty of options across the country though some of the best are in the south. The tiny island of Susak offers deserted sandy beaches great for those wanting to getaway. Or for the partier and social beachgoer, head to the island of Hvar and sunbathe with plenty of fellow island visitors. It’s important to point out that while Croatia is known for spectacular turquoise waters, many of the beaches are rocky or pebble-style beaches rather than fine sand. For this reason, it’s a good idea to pack water shoes or similar footwear for your beach visits.

Rich Mediterranean Food

Croatian food embodies a fresh Mediterranean cuisine and has had a mix of influences over the centuries from the Italians, Turkish, Hungarians and more. You’ll find plenty of fresh fish, pastas and risottos, cured meats and cheeses as well as hearty stews. Croatia also has a strong wine culture and you’ll find more than 300 vineyards across the countryside, peninsulas and islands. And much like many of the southern European countries, café culture is huge in Croatia and won’t have problems finding alfresco dining full of people relaxing with a nice drink or meal, hardly eager to rush this enjoyable culinary experience.