Top 4 Destinations to Avoid in Croatia

Croatia is easily one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe and I’ve visited each year for the last 4 years. I absolutely love Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Rovinj and many other destinations in Croatia. But let’s face it, every country has its bad spots and there are some places so awful I wouldn’t recommend them to my worst enemy.

Totally Missable Destinations in Croatia

Opatija

In the 19th century, Opatija was an exclusive holiday resort built for wealthy members of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The coast is lined with hotels, restaurants and villas designed solely to cater to tourists visiting from colder climates. There is no history, culture or even a proper beach.

This is what passes for a beach in Opatija and unfortunately is quite a typical scene along the Istrian peninsula all the way up to Trieste in Italy. Concrete ‘beaches’ which are often extensions of the overpriced hotels which line the coast.

Opatija Concrete Beach Croatia

Photo credit: lostajy

Opatija survives on package tourism. It’s for tourists who want to remain within a couple of hundred metres of their hotel. Who want to sip on insipid cocktails and eat generic food. It’s a hideous place.

Rijeka

Rijeka is Croatia’s main industrial port city. Port cities can be dynamic, interesting places. Rijeka is not.

Bakar

For whatever reason, when we visited Rijeka the entire city was fully booked so we had to move on to find a hotel for the night. A couple of very friendly petrol station attendants rang around and found a hotel for us at nearby Bakar. It was late so we were grateful for the help. The next morning we awoke to one of the most peaceful locations in Croatia. Not a tourist in sight and a cute village almost to ourselves.

Bakar Coastal Village

Weird Door in Croatia Worst Destinations in Croatia

We were staying in a former nautical school which had clearly seen better days but to which I was completely drawn. I imagined setting up my typewriter laptop on the balcony of the hotel and writing away for a month or two without distractions and the Bay of Bakar as my inspiration. It was a romantic notion but it seemed like the ideal setting for a writer’s retreat.

Bakar Hotel Croatia

But…

Bakar has long been associated with heavy industry. The now-closed coke factory caused major pollution which the town is yet to fully recover from. When I asked some of the locals about swimming in the bay they all reacted with a similar look of horror on their faces. While not the worst destination in Croatia, Bakar is a town to be avoided.

Makarska

What’s not to love about Makarska? The clear water calmly washes over the long pebbly beach and the mountains make a magnificent backdrop.

Makarska Beach Resort Town

It’s a beautiful spot and I’ve witnessed some of the most stunning sunsets in this part of Europe.

Croatian Sunset at Makarska Beach Resort

The only problem is, everyone else loves Makarska too. It’s a great spot if you don’t mind being elbow to elbow with other tourists as you sun yourself on the beach. Squeezing between heavy smoking Frenchies and loud Russians to claim a tiny piece of rocky beach for myself isn’t my idea of fun. There’s the option of a beach lounge but those pesky Germans always get up at some ungodly hour each morning to ‘save’ the best spots with their towels.

Saving Lounge Chairs in Makarska

The hordes of tourists descending on the beach at once also results in the crystal clear water turning into something rather nasty. That’s not a problem if you don’t mind swimming with rubbish but I won’t be returning to Makarska.

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. I’ve had this idea that Opatija was a town with fabulously crumbling grand buildings and an air of times gone by, in a good sense. Faded grandeur, early 20th century feeling, all that. Just an illusion, I guess…

    • In a way it is like that, faded grandeur and beautiful old buildings. But that is mixed with more recent buildings and the concrete waterfront plus everything is catered to mass tourism. Obviously there is mass tourism throughout Croatia but at least places like Dubrovnik have a fascinating history and beautiful old town. Opatija might have a different feel to it in the off season though, so you don’t have to write it off completely. 😉

  2. I’m happy to say I missed every one of these places (except Rijeka, just passing through en route somewhere else), but I was so happy with Croatia that I expect I’ll go again, but I kind of want to see what’s like if I were to visit only the places I missed the first time. There are so many great little towns or small cities that are perfectly picturesque that it would certainly be unfortunate for anyone to find themselves stuck in these places.

    • I’ll go again too, for sure. I love Croatia and agree there are so many picturesque towns worth visiting. 🙂

  3. Yikes, is that a cement “beach” on the first photo? Not too attractive. Other than that great photos! Thanks for the tips.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  4. David Bubble says:

    Croatia is great… You think a concrete beach is awful, there is a small seaside resort in South Wales (UK) called Porthcawl, their beach is made of tarmacadam! I kid you not!

  5. Jesus Christ says:

    Well, you ain’t much away from the truth mate 😉 And believe ME, I’m living in Opatija for my entire life! Opatija was on of the most beautiful cities in Europe, yes … but 100 years ago ….. it was THE first Monte Carlo! But now unfortunately it’s a dead city, that in a way, (for me anyway) suits good, ’cause there ain’t a lot of tourists around, you have the most beautiful Lungomare in the world (14 km long), so that concrete beach isn’t definitely something to be proud of, but the rest is 😉 The architecture is wonderful, the surroundings are great, if you want Tuscuny go to Istra, if you want Americas wild nature, go to Gorski Kotar, if you want the most beautiful islands in the world go to Cres & Losinj, and all that not even one hour away! 😉 This is just a bit of the iceberg, other wonderful stuff you have to discover yourself! 😉

    • Admittedly I was probably a bit harsh on Opatija. The older, historic buildings were beautiful for sure but when I visited there were definitely a lot of tourists although obviously not like it was in the past. I might give Opatija another go next time I’m in Croatia. 🙂

  6. Hayden Brown says:

    Hey Andrea, fellow Perthy here – discovered your blog through reading Nate’s YOMADIC posts and have been excitedly trawling through your pages thanks to a sudden interest in the region due to the fact my girlfriend is originally from Croatia. Amazing stuff, can’t wait to go to dip into some of the places you’ve documented on your site here! We recently did a scuba diving trip on Korcula, and then traveled north to see Plitvice Lakes and flew out of Rijeka as we booked quite last minute and was by far the cheapest airport to fly back to London from. I know what you mean about it not being a great tourist destination but I found it to be perfect for a one night stopover en route to the airport, we woke up early the day of our flight and hiked up to the castle for the view. The bus to the airport zig zags its way around scenic (if sometimes industrial) peninsula towards the island where the airport is, and on a sunny day was a really picturesque way to say farewell to Croatia until next time. So yeah I agree I certainly wouldn’t spend any length of time there but it’s airport is a good cheap option when all the flights out of Split or Zadar are already heavily booked. Looking forward to future posts!

    • Hey Hayden, thanks for stopping by! Korcula and Plitvice are two of my favourite destinations in Croatia. Glad you got to experience them. I can totally understand visiting Rijeka for the cheap flights, can’t argue with that and of course the city has it’s scenic points. Enjoy your future travels, there’s so much to see in the region, it’s an amazing part of the world.