When is the best time to visit Croatia?
The best time to visit Croatia is in the summer (June to September) when the weather is hot and sunny, the glittering coast is at its best and the festival season is in full swing. That being said, figuring out when to visit ultimately depends on what kind of holiday you want. Croatia's climate varies from continental to Mediterranean and there’s plenty to do throughout the year. You also need to factor in if you mind peak season crowds. Let’s break it down.
Best for: skiing and snowboarding, thermal spas
January is the coldest month with average highs of 5 to 10°C along the coast and -2 to 0°C inland. It's the best month for powder hounds looking to hit the slopes. Plus, popular ski resorts like Sljeme and Platak are usually quieter and more affordable than resorts in France and Switzerland. With little to no crowds, it's an ideal time to explore Plitvice National Park in solitude or gush over Krka's frozen waterfalls (if it’s cold enough). If you prefer R&R over adrenaline-pumping snow sports, the cold weather is the perfect excuse to relax in one of Croatia’s many thermal spas.
Best for: Mardi Gras, skiing and snowboarding
One word: carnival. Mardi Gras is a big thing in Croatia with vibrant celebrations all over the country. The biggest and boldest festivities take place on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday in the port city of Rijeka – think colourful float parades, dancers donning glitzy costumes and performers wearing animal head masks to ward off evil spirits. It’s a great opportunity to party with locals and eat traditional foods like krofne (Croatian doughnuts). February is the last month to hit the slopes, though the powder might not be as good as in January.
Best for: exploring with thinner crowds, the Mali Ston Oyster Festival
March kicks off the spring. The weather is unpredictable, but daylight savings means you can get out there and explore Croatia's natural beauty – just make sure you bring warm layers and a waterproof jacket. It’s not quite beach weather and many hotels, restaurants and ferry routes are still closed, but you’ll have Dubrovnik’s charming Old Town, Diocletian’s Palace and other major tourist attractions (almost) all to yourself. There’s also the annual Oyster Festival in the charming coastal village of Mali Ston – if you like seafood, this festival promises to be a treat.
Best for: getting active, the Weekend Food Festival
The weather can still be a bit iffy in April, though it’s usually warmer and sunnier. If you don’t mind the odd shower, it’s one of the prettiest times to go hiking or cycling with colourful wildflowers dotting the landscape. There’s more of a buzz in the air as ferries, bars and restaurants start opening up, and it’s a good time to strike up a conversation with locals who travel domestically around the Easter weekend. Foodies can head to the Weekend Food Festival held in the picturesque city of Rovinj to enjoy a smorgasbord of local produce, workshops and cooking demos.
Best for: enjoying the beaches and national parks before the summer rush
With more stable weather and warmer temperatures, beach days are back on (especially towards the end of the month). As May is considered a shoulder month, it’s a fantastic time to hit the trails and waterfalls in Krka and Plitvice, discover Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls or enjoy seafood along Split's promenade without the scorching summer sun and crowds. The cruising season starts mid-May, and while the conditions aren't as good as in June through September, it's a good time for seafarers who prefer cooler temperatures and quieter marinas.
Best for: enjoying Croatia’s beautiful beaches, cruising and sailing
Hello, summer! With hotter temperatures, it’s prime time to enjoy the sparkling Dalmatian and Adriatic coast, dive into Plitvice’s lakes or appreciate the cool water of Krka’s cascading falls. With a lively, upbeat atmosphere in the air, it’s a great time to set sail on an island-hopping adventure or listen to live music in Dubrovnik’s, Split’s and Zagreb’s squares. Despite an influx of tourists, it’s still not as busy as July and August. Accommodation gets booked up quickly from June, so you might want to plan ahead.
Best for: watersports, enjoying the summer buzz, festivals
July is one of the hottest and busiest months. It’s particularly hot and sticky in the cities, so sightseeing might be a no-no if you don’t cope well with the heat. Bars, restaurants and hotels along the coast are pumping, and the azure waters are at their most enticing with a wide range of watersports on offer. If you enjoy the summer buzz, it’s a great time to sip cocktails in Hvar, wander Zadar’s cobbled streets or enjoy balmy alfresco dinners – seafood plucked straight from the Adriatic, anyone? The festival calendar is also chockablock with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, the Split Summer Festival and the Full Moon Festival in Zadar to name a few.
Best for: enjoying the coast, cruising and sailing
August is the peak of summer. Temperatures soar and large crowds congregate at national parks and tourist attractions (our tip: wake up extra early to avoid long queues). If you want to lap up the beauty of the Croatian summer but without the crowds, get yourself on a small ship cruise or sailing boat to explore where the big ships can't go. With stunning coastal vistas and plenty of adventures waiting for you on and off the water, it’s the perfect way to balance adventure and relaxation.
Best for: enjoying the perks of summer without the crowds, Varaždin Baroque Evenings
Things settle down in September. You’ll still get to enjoy the balmy buzz of summer but with milder temperatures, more room to sprawl on the beach and shorter lines at popular sites. The sea is at its warmest which is great for watersports and it's the last month to enjoy a sailing trip. Plus, you'll benefit from thinner crowds once you drop anchor to explore islands, coastal towns and national parks. Music lovers will also love the Varaždin Baroque Evenings – a world-famous event that takes place in beautiful churches in the historic city of Varaždin.
Best for: hiking, the Zagreb Film Festival, the Good Food Festival
October weather is mild and the sea is still warm enough for swimming, but the days start drawing in earlier and there’s more rain – so you’ll need an umbrella and a hoodie for the evenings. With the changing foliage, it’s one of the best months to go hiking and swimming in Plitvice Lakes National Park. October is also a month for foodies with Dubrovnik’s much-anticipated Good Food Festival – a week-long extravaganza of workshops, cooking demos and tastings. There's also the annual Zagreb Film Festival which features a wide range of film and cultural events all over the city.
Best for: photography in Croatia’s national parks, feasting on local wine and produce
November marks the start of the low season, so bear in mind that ferry timetables may be limited and bars and restaurants along the coast may close. National parks like Krka are a photographer’s dream thanks to dramatic autumn foliage, and the turning weather also lends itself to exploring Croatia’s ancient castles. St Martin's Day, known locally as Martinje, is a highlight of November. Join locals to celebrate St Martin, the patron saint of wine and winegrowers, by indulging in local wine, olives and traditional Croatian dishes.
Best for: Dubrovnik Winter Festival, Zagreb Christmas Market
Winter in Croatia can get cold, but don't let that put you off. December is a magical month with the sight of snow-topped mountains and festive cheer flooding the streets. Winter is a time to explore Croatia's cities, enjoy hot beverages in cosy bars and learn about history and culture in galleries and museums. To soak up the seasonal vibes, head to Zagreb (voted one of the best Christmas markets in Europe) to shop, eat, drink and be merry. Or visit Dubrovnik for the lower-key Dubrovnik Winter Festival to experience more traditional festivities.
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