Lee and I stayed in Tbilisi, Georgia over the winter and enjoyed the cooler weather, fewer crowds, local culture and New Years fireworks.
We stayed in Koh Lanta, Thailand in June and had our beachside resort almost to ourselves.
We even “hibernated’ in snowy Newfoundland, Canada during the autumn and winter months.
There are plenty of advantages to traveling in a beautiful part of the world during the time of year when most tourists aren’t there. You get a completely different experience than you would if you visited during the peak season. Depending on your style of travel – you might have an even better time.
We have spent the month of October slowly making our way through Croatia.
The peak tourist season for this country is July and August – when millions of visitors flock to the sunny coastal cities and shimmering blue water of the Adriatic. But we showed up just as the sun-seekers were leaving – and we discovered a different version of Croatia that we liked a lot more.
Visit Croatia in the Autumn: The Advantages
It’s Much Less Crowded
When we told our Airbnb host in Zagreb that we planned to visit Plitvice Lakes, he looked relieved that we would be going there in mid-October. He explained that during the peak tourist months of July and August, the wooden walkways around the scenic lakes get so crowded that tourists can barely move. They have to shuffle along in a human gridlock, the discomfort and claustrophobia of being in such close proximity to sweaty strangers distracting them from the beauty of the lakes.
I don’t know about you, but I find that dealing with large crowds of people makes sightseeing more stressful and leaves me feeling more tired and drained at the end of the day. It’s harder to take photos, you end up spending more time waiting in lines and it can take a lot longer to do simple things.
I’m so glad that we got to experience Plitvice Lakes, the Fortress of Klis and other beautiful Croatian spots without having to squeeze through crowds. (In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why I’m glad we decided to visit Croatia in the autumn.)
The Weather is Still Pretty Nice
Full Disclosure: if the most important part of your trip is sunbathing and swimming in the sea, you might find yourself disappointed.
During the day the weather will be around 18-25 degrees Celsius, and during the evening the temperature can dip down to 13-15 degrees. (So you’ll want to bring a jacket). In the early autumn it might still be warm enough to swim, but later in October the days get shorter and the sunlight gets weaker, so you might find it too chilly to hit the beach.
However, the good news is that there are so many fun things to do in Croatia besides swimming and sunbathing. The weather is ideal for hiking, bike riding, exploring ancient monuments, sightseeing, eating, boat rides and many other activities. Lee and I aren’t too bothered about having a lot of beach time, so this was a perfect fit for us.
Attractions Are Cheaper
Another perk of traveling in Croatia in the shoulder season is that the admission prices for attractions will be much cheaper.
If you plan to visit Plitvice Lakes during your travels in Croatia (and I highly recommend it, because they are gorgeous), you’ll pay much less for accommodation in the autumn. The ticket prices in September to October are 150 kuna for adults ($23), compared to 250 kuna ($38.35) in July and August.
Plus, the fact that there are fewer crowds means that exploring the attractions is much more enjoyable!
Flights Are Cheaper
As soon as the summer holidays end, flights to Croatia fall dramatically in price. I did a little experiment on Skyscanner where I searched for a flight from Manchester to Dubrovnik over two weeks in mid-July – the prices were around £200-£250 for a return flight.
Then, I performed the same search again but changes the dates to the first two weeks of October. The prices ranged from £135-£190.
Of course, many other factors go into the price of your flight – including the day of the week you fly, which airline you fly with, how many stops you have, etc. However, there is a good chance that if you plan to visit Croatia in the autumn – you will generally find lower prices.
Accommodation is Cheaper
We’ve been staying in Airbnb apartments all throughout Croatia – comfortable spaces with a full kitchen, separate bedroom and lounge space. These apartments have all been around £25-£35 per night. If we were traveling during the peak season, you can be sure that they would be at least twice (maybe even three times) that price.
This means that if you are on a tight travel budget you can visit Croatia in the autumn and stay for twice as long. (Or, you can spend the same amount you would in high season but stay in accommodations that are twice as luxurious.)
Since accomodation is a major part of your travel budget, this really makes a big difference.
You Can Be More Flexible
If you have been following Lee and I for a while, you know that we don’t like to have rigid plans and that we like to be as flexible as possible on our travels. That usually means not knowing exactly where we are going next, or deciding to extend a couple more nights because we really like a particular destination.
Traveling in Croatia in the summer would not allow us to do that, as our accommodation would be booked up weeks in advance and we would be forced to make solid plans. However, in the autumn there is a good chance that our Airbnb is available if we want to extend for another night. Just yesterday we decided that we wanted to stay in Split until Monday instead of leaving on Friday. With one click – the extension was sorted.
You’ll Get to Know the Locals More
When you arrive on somewhere like the Island of Vis in October, you might feel like you are one of the only few tourists there. This gives you a chance to talk to the locals more, and get to know what life is like on the island during the rest of the year.
The people you meet won’t be working hard to meet the demands of high tourist season, so they will have time for a chat and to get to know you. We went out for a beer with our host in Zagreb and it was really interesting to chat with him and get to know what growing up in Croatia was like.
You Can Enjoy the Fruits of the Harvest
Autumn is harvest season. Visit a local market and you’ll find the stalls piled high with seasonal produce. Tomatoes, pomegranates, figs, apples… they are all so fresh and delicious. (I’m addicted to the apples right now, they are so tender and sweet and I’ve been eating them for breakfast every morning!)
The wine cellars will be open for tastings and Dubrovnik will even be hosting the Good Food Festival – a celebration of local cuisine and wine. There will be workshops on preparing traditional Croatian dishes, gastro tours, themed dinners and more. This really is the season to celebrate food in Croatia!
The main highlight of the festival is the Dubrovačka Trpeza, or Dubrovnik Table. A long communal table is set up along the central street, where everyone can dine together on treats served up by the best hotels, caterers, restaurants and pastry makers in the city.
There are food and wine festivals all throughout the year – as well as excellent restaurants and food tours. (As well as plenty of delicious wine to pair it with!) So, if you’re a foodie there are many reasons to visit Croatia in the autumn!
Visit Croatia in the Autumn: The Disadvantages
Of course, I wouldn’t be telling you the whole story if I didn’t also highlight some of the downfalls of visiting Croatia at this time of year.
Boats Can Be Unreliable
Lee and I were supposed to travel from the Island of Vis to the Island of Hvar this week. However, we had to cancel our Airbnb in Hvar (and forfeit a fee) and travel back on the ferry to Split instead.
Due to thunderstorms causing dangerous sea conditions, the smaller catamarans that take passengers back and forth between the islands were all cancelled.
This is something that is more likely to happen if you visit Croatia in the autumn, because storms are more common in the off season. So, keep in mind that if you plan to visit the islands in the autumn, you may need to leave some flexibility in your schedule, keep an eye on the weather and anticipate the possibility of cancelled boat transportation.
The Smaller Destinations Can Be a Bit Too Quiet Sometimes
If you stick to the large cities such as Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, you’ll find plenty to see and do throughout the year. However, in the smaller destinations there really isn’t much choice, as many of the shops and restaurants close for the season.
One evening around the end of October, Lee and I were in the Island of Vis. We wanted to find somewhere to eat, but it was a Sunday night and there was only one (empty) restaurant open. The restaurant had terrible reviews, so we ended up going home to eat instead. (Which is not bad at all, because Lee is an awesome cook.)
If you’re looking for somewhere quiet where you can chill out, and you don’t mind not having much choice for dining and nightlife – it might be ideal for you to visit Croatia in the autumn. However, if you want more of a selection of things to do no matter where you are – then it might not be for you.
It Gets Dark Early
Daylight savings time took place on October 28th, which means that the sun sets at around 4:45pm. If you are an early bird, this is good news. (I’m glad that my morning run doesn’t start in the dark anymore.) However, if you are the type who likes to sleep in while you travel, you might find that you have precious few daylight hours to explore! When traveling at this time of year, it’s best to be on an earlier routine (if you can) so that you don’t miss out on the daylight.
Visiting Croatia in the Autumn Was Just Right for Us
Over this month, I’ve fallen in love with Croatia.
I love the elegant stone buildings clustered together in historic harbours, with tangles of sleek polished cobblestone streets winding between them. I’ll miss the sleepy cats in the plazas and the way the waves crash against the seawall. Oh, and not to mention the seafood pasta piled high with mussels and clams, the rich taste of raspberry chocolate gelato, a cold beer on a sunny afternoon.
Every morning I enjoyed the sunrise over the Adriatic, the masts of sailboats silhouetted against the pink glow of the sky. I love the smell of leaves and the way they crunch under my feet in the quiet parks – and the way the locals seem to take their dogs out everywhere they go. I couldn’t get enough of how peaceful it feels, and how nice a warm cup of tea tastes on a wet, autumn night.
I don’t know what this part of the world is like in the summer, as I’ve never experienced it. I’m sure it’s brighter, warmer, sunnier and maybe a bit more exciting.
But I’m also sure it’s sweatier, noisier, more hectic and a bit less relaxing. Now that the crowds are gone, the leaves are orange and the days are a bit chillier, I think this is the best time to really enjoy Croatia.
What do you think? Have you been to Croatia? What time of year did you visit and what was it like?