Croatia has been a favorite destination of ours for years, so much so that Andrew Villone abandoned his life in Seattle to move closer and develop our Croatia tours. But, if you’re planning to go, when is the best time to visit Croatia? Early March? Late September? Another time entirely? When there are warmer temperatures for swimming? Or perhaps when it’s a little cooler and the summer crowds have gone? Well, let’s take a closer look…
Trogir from clock tower. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
Zadar in Northern Dalmatian. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
If you want to visit Croatia, you’ll probably want to time your visit so that you get the best weather for whatever you have planned. So what sort of weather can you expect in this part of Europe?
The coastal towns of Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar have a Mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers that are perfect seaside adventures and enjoying little nibbles of Croatia’s paprika-infused cured meats, washed down with a glass or two of Pošip.
For those looking to explore more of the Adriatic Sea, experience cruising with Sail Croatia—an option that allows you to island-hop and discover hidden coves while enjoying the Mediterranean climate. Not only will you enjoy the luxury of moving from one beautiful locale to another, but cruising will also help you discover coastal towns—such as Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar—where you can go ashore and immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine.
The hottest month of the year can reach the mid 90s F, with average temperatures usually hovering around 75 F.
The winter months on the coast offer milder weather than you’ll find inland. Even the coldest month is unlikely to drop below 40 F, although a light dusting of snow can happen at times.
The fall months on the Adriatic coast can be lovely, too. However, while Croatia doesn’t technically have a ‘rainy season’, spring and fall can sometimes be a bit wetter than the summer.
Inland Croatia is a bit different. Inland towns like Ilok, known for its Graševina wine, and the capital city of Zagreb, experience a continental climate. Freezing winters are common, and they’re the perfect opportunity to sample the hearty, warming stews the country is famous for. However, from early June it can be sweltering. With no coastal breeze, summers here are frequently hot hot hot!
Summer in Croatia
Hvar island from Spanish fortress. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
Perhaps the most popular time to visit Croatia is during the country’s hot summers. These blissful periods can last for months, but the peak season generally starts from late July or early August. This is considered to be ‘festival season’, where there’s always plenty going on.
The summer months are when outdoor venues really get going, with live music echoing around the cities. It’s also the time when many cultural festivals take place, such as the Love International Festival in July, and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival with its music and theater performances.
High Season and Low Season in Croatia
In terms of tourism, Croatia has a high and low tourist period, and two shoulder seasons…
Low Season (November – April)
This runs between November and April (March for most of Dalmatian) and can be a great time to visit if you want to avoid the main tourist season. There are fewer people traveling to Croatia at this time of year, and it can be the cheapest time for booking flights, hotels, and tours.
While there are cooler temperatures, the mild winters on the coast mean you’re still able to sightsee without having to pack your snow boots!
Although there are generally fewer tourists at this time of year, the holiday season can bring a wave of people looking to enjoy the cultural events.
There’s a busy festival calendar over winter, beginning with St. Martin’s Day on November 11th. St. Martin is the protector of vineyards and winegrowers, and legend has it that this is the day when grape must turns to wine. If you’re in Croatia at this time, it’s customary to enjoy a glass of locally produced wine, like Plavac Mali with its deep blackberry notes, or perhaps a macerated Grk (yes, some words here have no vowels).
After that comes the local Christmas markets with their food stalls selling all sorts of Croatian delicacies, from freshly made goat’s cheese to craft beers. During the Dubrovnik Winter Festival the city is adorned with lights and decorations, and restaurants prepare traditional cod dishes.
The winter events come to an end on February 3rd, with the Festivity of St. Blaise, Dubrovnik’s patron saint. Locals and visitors alike come together in traditional costumes to celebrate, with folk singing, arts performances, and crafting. The saint was known for healing the sick, so this is also a time when locals ask for good health and protection.
High Season (Mid-June – August)
Evening Dubrovnik. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
This is the peak season, which starts from middle of June – and in Dalmatia it is seemingly getting earlier and earlier every year. This is the most popular time to visit, with the most tourists. Temperatures soar at this time of year, and everything is in full swing. Of course, it can be very hot, and quite crowded in the main tourist areas, but the atmosphere is incredible.
Between the high and low seasons you have the shoulder seasons, running from April to mid June, and from mid September to late October. Shoulder season weather can be a little more unpredictable than in the summer, but it can be a great choice. Flights and accommodation will usually be more affordable, and if you want to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or sightseeing, the temperatures are often a bit more comfortable.
How many days in Croatia is enough?
Plitvice Lakes National Park. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
It depends on what you want to see and do! If you just want to visit Dubrovnik and do the main tourist attractions like the old town and the cable car, you could spend as little as one day in the city. In fact, many people do just that when they visit as part of an Adriatic cruise. But if you want to explore other historic centers, sample a wide variety of local cuisine – from roasted pork to truffle pasta to lamb cooked under a metal bell (this dish is called peka and should not be missed) – or visit spots outside Dalmatia such as Istria region or Plitvice Lakes, I really think you need more time.
If you do have the time, I recommend a day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, especially if you want to try out a few of the walking routes there, but only if you have dry weather. This is not the place for rainy days with flooded walking paths and slippery stairs. And remember: Plitvice National Park is just one of a number of national parks in Croatia. Allow yourself more time if you want to take in the sights of Krka National Park, the mountainous Risnjak National Park in Gorski Kotar or the Kornati archipelago which is a nautical paradise as well as a national park.
We think ten days is good for getting a feel of what Croatia has to offer.
Best Time to Visit Croatia for a Beach Holiday
Lamb cooked PEKA style. Photo credit: Luka Esenko
If you want to visit Croatia to make the most of the country’s glorious beaches, summer weather starts by early June, and can last until late September or mid October even. This is when the water temperature off the coast is at its highest, and you can enjoy truly unforgettable beach days. However, it’s not unusual to spot people swimming in the sea from May until October, especially on sunny days.
Your best bet for swimming outside of the peak season is to visit the Croatian islands and partake in a little island hopping. Hvar and Brac are both known for their super sunny shoulder seasons, and taking a dip in November certainly isn’t unheard of!
So… When Should You Visit?
When it comes to visiting Croatia, we really don’t think there’s a bad time. Croatia is beautiful year-round. But if you want us to share some of our hard-earned travel advice, we will say that we love Croatia in May and October. There are fewer crowds at this time of year, and the weather is still lovely and warm, without being too hot. You’ll find we do a lot of Croatia tours at these points of the year, so why not check them out?
Join us on an adventure in Hungary & Northern Croatia!
Experience, taste and discover the wine and culinary traditions from two Central European countries that should be high on any foodies’ list’ Hungary and Croatia. This is a 10 day small-group tour starts in Hungary before heading to Croatia. Along the way we will experience a variety of terroirs, taste dozens of different wines, nosh on an array of local dishes and flavors and meet the hospitable and passionate people who make all of this happen.