Don’t go thinking that just because the summer’s over that the glinting waters of the Adriatic Sea and the resorts of Dalmatia are no longer a-go. Not so. There are oodles of cracking spots in this corner of Europe to visit for a late-season trip. But where are the best places to visit in Croatia in September?
This guide has you covered on that count. It lists seven fantastic locales that continue to shine once the bulk of the vacation crowds return home. From castle-topped cities to waterfall-carved nature reserves, there’s a fantastic mix of choices that we think should suit a whole bunch of different types of travelers.
Yep, the best places to visit in Croatia in September run the gamut from Dubrovnik of Game of Thrones fame all the way to olive-clad Istria in the north, a lesser-known region that’s tailor-made for foodies. Tempted? We thought so. Let’s get exploring…
Dubrovnik isn’t just one of the best places to visit in Croatia in September – it’s one of the best places to visit in Croatia full stop. Yep, the town is one that’s set to take the breath away. And we don’t just mean because you’ll be hiking miles of medieval fortification walls! We mean because it’s a true stunner.
Sadly, there’s been a bit of bad press here in recent years due to over tourism, with locals leading a backlash against incoming cruise ships and swelling numbers of short-term rentals in the Old Town area. Whatever your opinion on that, it’s a nod to the fact that Dubrovnik is PACKED in the summer months. Like, seriously, packed!
The upshot? Dodge the booming numbers by jetting in just after the main European holidays have finished. That should help you get the Stradun walking path and the 12-century churches to yourself. It should also relieve the number of tanning bodies out on the nearby Lapad Peninsula, where idyllic pebble coves topped by sea-view hotels await by the bucket load.
Just as the crowds disperse a little from Dubrovnik come September, so they disperse from Split. However, the seasonal flights that make this city on the cusp of the Dalmatian riviera so darn accessible in the summer months don’t really stop until later in the fall. That means you should still have oodles of low-cost airfare options into Split Airport to pick from even after August’s in the dust.
The joys of Split are many. Let’s begin in the UNESCO-tagged old town. It’s called Diocletian’s Palace because it began life as a retreat for the great Roman emperor. Since then, it’s had Byzantine temples and Ottoman bathhouses added, resulting in a patchwork of ruins and relics that you simply have to see to believe.
Now let’s move to the seas. For yachters looking to explore the shores and archipelagos of Croatia, there’s hardly a better start point than Split. The port here has links to Hvar, Brac, Korcula, and many more of the most famous islands. You can also cruise the nearby sounds to spy out lovely resort towns like Omis and Trogir.
If you’re chasing the sun in the fall and want to all but guarantee you’ll get some rays on your Croatian jaunt in September, then you can do a whole load worse than Hvar. One of the warmest places in the country, the island sees upwards of 2,800 hours of the good stuff every year. What’s more, daily highs in the early fall can still crank up to a bikini-worthy 29 C (80 F).
The other good thing here is that the parties that Hvar Town is mainly known for tend to curtail just a smidgen in September. They’re not gone. There’s still champagne being clinked in the caviar bars and beers being glugged in Hula Hula. It’s just that the vibe is a touch more chill; a touch more easy-going.
Then there’s the fact that the Hvar backcountry looks nothing short of stunning in the autumn months. After a scorching summer season, the Aleppo pines are dusty brown and fragrant, the lavender fields sultry in the dry air. Cycling around is a good way to go, especially as the midday sun will be a whole load more forgiving than it was only a month before.
As the student crowds return to Zagreb after the long summer break, new life and energy flows back into the Croatian capital. It’s a cool place to be at the start of the university term. I mean, it’s a cool place to be any time. It’s just that the beginning of the year arguably sees the best parties and the best vibes – we’re talking open-air beer terraces in the Upper Town and music fests in the Lower Town parks.
Zagreb is always a class act for culture vultures. You’ve got some of the quirkiest museums in the whole nation, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, a strange homage to past loves lost. On top of that: The sightseeing. Come here to wonder up at medieval churches and wander cobbled lanes to squares watched over by proud equestrian statues.
The final thing that we love about Zagreb in the fall is actually on the outskirts of the town. Look up – that’s the mountain of Medvednica looming on the northwest side. It’s a cracking place to hike and to mountain bike, with old-school fortresses and groves of hemlock and oak to get lost in. September is cool enough to do that for a whole day but warm enough to ensure there’s no snow to boot.
The Makarska Riviera is a 60km stretch of some of the most glorious shoreline in the whole of Europe – not just the Balkans. The beaches are simply idyllic; the sort of things you spot in the travel brochures, page after page after page. The region begins south of Split and runs to the small town of Gradac even further south.
The summer months are the peak period, just as they are for the whole rest of the country. Sadly, the riviera is so darn lovely looking that June, July, and August can prove nigh on impossible for finding affordable hotel rooms within striking distance of the beaches. And don’t even get us started on space on the beaches themselves!
September sees a sudden drop in demand as people are recalled to school and work across Western Europe. However, the thermometers don’t take the same hit. So, it’s still relatively balmy but much less busy. That means it’s the prime chance to check off the once-in-a-lifetime bays of Garma Beach, Nugal, Ramova – the list goes on and on and on.
Istria is the northernmost part of coastal Croatia. Now, that might ring bells for would-be sunbathers looking for late-season weather, since this is one of the first places in the country to feel the chillier airs of fall. But mercury levels are still at a relatively balmy 23 C (73 F) at their peak and there’s a bit of a dip in the summertime thunderstorms that can cruise through in August, so it’s not endgame for beachgoers.
There’s a trump card here, too: September is harvest season. Istria produces two of the top culinary draws in the Balkans. There are truffles, which begin to ripen just after August. And there’s olive oil, which is traditionally picked from the last week of September throughout October.
We recommend trying the first in the lovely hilltop town of Motovun. It’s surrounded by some of the most fertile truffle forests in Europe and comes with taverns that churn out truffle bruschetta and tagliatelle topped with white truffle. The latter can be sampled all over. In September it’s likely to be fresh-press olive oil, which is greener, cloudier, and nuttier to the taste.
Krka National Park
The final pick on our list of the best places to visit in Croatia in September comes in the form of the wild Krka National Park. This reserve straddling the Krka River is located just behind the handsome town of Šibenik roughly midway along the southern coast of the country. It’s considered one of the natural jewels of the Balkans, offering a whopping seven waterfalls and stunning nature trails alike.
There are two things that make it a must of a pitstop for adventurers coming once the warm weather of August is done. First, the colors of the surrounding hornbeam and oak forests start to change, putting shades of ochre, orange, and yellow on the boughs as the season progresses. Second, the crowds disperse, so you’ll find it easier to appreciate the sheer beauty of the cataracts.
The Krka River wiggles its way towards the coast at Šibenik, which sits less than 20 minutes’ drive down from the entrance to the national reserve. That’s a great place to base your holiday. The town has a handsome medieval core, a UNESCO-tagged cathedral, and some stunning people-watching piazzas to cap it all off.
The best places to visit in Croatia in September – our conclusion
You won’t be short of choices when it comes to the best places to visit in Croatia in September. Why? Well…because September might just be the single best time of year to visit this backbone of the Balkan Peninsula. The weather remains hot, the tourist crowds ebb away, and prices for hotels and flights begin to dip. Pretty much everywhere is still beckoning, too, all the way from the citadels of Dubrovnik in the south to the buzzy streets of Zagreb in the north.