Waking up each morning surrounded by nature, to a fresh sea breeze or the scent of forest pine trees in the air, has got to be the very definition of a soul-soothing holiday.
A stay at Croatia’s campsites is a chance to get way off the beaten track; deep in the hills, on a tucked-away beach, or by peaceful lakes. But it’s not all about quiet time. Most sites also have adventure sports and city excursions on offer for those keen to stay close to the action.
Whether you’re on a cheap-and-cheerful or luxury budget, pricepoints tend to be very reasonable for camping holidays, especially when compared with hotel stays in similar surrounds.
1) Best for lakes: Camping Plitvice
Plitvice Lakes National Park is easily one of the most beautiful parts of central Croatia. The country’s oldest national park is home to a chain of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls, best viewed on a boat trip or from one of the walkways and trails that loop around it.
The dramatic environment makes the perfect setting for adventure sports, and it’s possible to arrange everything from ziplining to paragliding and wild river rafting from Camping Plitvice, which is based just 3km away.
2) Best for glamping: Plage Cachee
Leave behind any ideas about wrestling with tent poles or missing pegs – camping at Plage Cachee is more akin to staying in a five-star boutique hotel, albeit a very outdoorsy one.
This island retreat on Hvar has just six beautifully boho, furnished tents and its own private beach, so there’s the rare chance to soak in the Med undisturbed by crowds of holidaymakers. There’s little reason to do anything but lounge around and relax here, but if you want to stretch your legs, the nearby Pakleni Islands are an excellent day-trip option for swimming and snorkelling.
3) Best for families: Camping Park Umag
It doesn’t get much more family-friendly than Camping Park Umag, where kids will be thrilled to discover a pirate ship in one of the pools, slides, a Captain Hook snack bar, sandboxes, playgrounds and all sorts of activities with the camp’s Kids’ Club. Set right on the Adriatic Coast, the nearby beach is also obviously a major draw, with facilities for games and barbecues on hand.
If you can tear your kids away from all that, there’s plenty of exploring to do further afield. Day-trips could include discovering medieval forts on the mainland, following the coastline to hunt for new beaches and coves or even visiting Italy, taking the ferry from Umag to Venice and arriving in the ‘City of Water’ by sea.
4) Best for foodies: Camping Simuni
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to compromise on eating out – in fact delving into Croatian cuisine is a major part of the attraction of Pag Island.
Cheese and winemaking are celebrated traditions here, making it a lovely setting to sample paški sir, the sharp and salty local cheese, or a glass of a glass of plavac mali, malvazija or graševina wine.
Camping Simuni, which is perched on the island’s west coast, has a well-regarded restaurant where you can try these wines by the glass, along with traditional dishes. There’s also an onsite tavern specialising in seafood and grilled fish fresh from the Adriatic.
5) Best for city excursions: Camp Zagreb
Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Rakitje, Camp Zagreb is only 15km from the centre of Zagreb, so it’s just as easy to head off into nearby Medvednica Nature Park for cave tours and hiking as it is to pop into the Croatian capital for a spot of sightseeing.
Campsite staff can arrange activities for those who want to make the most of the stunning environment – think great trekking and cycling routes (bikes can be hired onsite), kayaking and fishing at Lake Rakitje, or exploring local trails on horseback.
6) Best for wellness: San Servolo Resort
Deep in the tranquil green hills of north-western Istria is the San Servolo Resort, which offers an unashamedly pampered way to camp. It’s all about wellness here, with luxury pitches coming equipped with a hydromassage bathtub.
For a quirky way to relax, there’s an onsite beer spa, as well as the more conventional saunas, massage and fitness room available. The wider area is known for great cycling routes, and a trip to nearby Kornarija Forest is a must for walkers, with both gentle and challenging trails running through the trees.
7) Best for naturists: Koversada
Croatia has a long-standing tradition of welcoming Europe’s naturists and there are a number of camps across the country where clothing is either optional or forbidden altogether. The sprawling campsite on Koversada island is one of the oldest and most popular, with a laid back atmosphere and space to accommodate 5,000 guests at a time. The secluded island has plenty of pebbly beaches with sunbathing platforms and sheltered bays.