The question for many when trying to decide between Croatia or Cyprus, is what separates these holiday destinations from each other? The beaches beckon in both, and the crystal blue waters glisten in anticipation.
Yet while both nations have similar climates and are fantastic coastal destinations, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
Below is our honest comparison as we pit Croatia vs Cyprus. We compare both before looking at the sights to explore, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
Croatia or Cyprus: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both nations have fantastic sun-soaked coastlines, and countless ancient towns and cities that are packed with history.
Croatia has over 800 islands, and most tend to be less touristy and far less commercialized than Cyprus – which effectively packs its tourist sector onto one island. In terms of beaches though, both have great options. However not all islands and areas of Croatia have beaches that are perfect for a day’s sunbathing and swimming. In contrast, much smaller Cyprus has many beaches within close driving distance of each other that are perfect for beach lovers.
However you will find that most Croatian islands – as well as regions on the mainland – have a rustic and unique charm to them. This is often seen in the cuisine (as we explain later) which differs depending on what region of Croatia you visit.
Therefore Croatia is probably the better holiday choice if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation that involves island hopping with a rustic and remote feel. Mainland Croatia is also a great hiking destination, and has some of Europe’s most beautiful cities – such as medieval Dubrovnik.
Cyprus has many upsides too.
As an island nation that sits close to the Middle East and Africa, the weather in Cyprus is some of the best in Europe, and temperatures tend to be hotter than Croatia. Therefore if you’re looking for a beach holiday during spring or autumn, Cyprus may be a better choice due to that favorable weather.
Also, as a much smaller nation than Croatia, Cyprus is compact and therefore its natural and cultural sites are all within close reach. That makes it the better choice for a shorter holiday as you can easily and cheaply tour the island with a rental car.
That gives you the option to enjoy the beach in the morning, drive inland and visit centuries-old villages and their friendly inhabitants in the afternoon, then have dinner in the capital in the evening. That’s the biggest advantage to Cyprus, how easy and accessible it is to enjoy all aspects of this country.
Croatia or Cyprus: Alluring natural wonders
Both Croatia and Cyprus have a stunning coastline, but these nations also have much more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand.
For some of the best beaches in Croatia, head to the island of Susak. This gorgeous small island is ringed by golden beaches and fantastic warm swimming water. Our favourite beach there is Spiaza.
If you’re dreaming of stunning turquoise water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling, and a place where you can take pictures to make your friends back home envious, then head to Brač Island. The hues of blue that are layered across the sea in places such as Lovrečina Bay are breathtakingly beautiful. Whilst the backdrop of olive groves among ancient buildings makes this island a real gem in Croatia’s crown.
On the mainland, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must visit for any tourist to Croatia. This mountainous region is famous for its chain of 16 terraced lakes which are joined together by gushing waterfalls. One of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, this area is also full of hiking trails of varying difficulties.
Staying on the mainland, head south towards Klis, near the seaside city of Split. The landscape here – rocky and mountainous – was fought over for centuries, with many fortresses built to help defend the region from marauding armies. Klis Fortress is one of the most impressive ancient structures throughout Croatia, and despite being over 2000 years old has become increasingly popular in recent years after featuring in Game of Thrones!
Back out to sea, take a visit to the pristine Elaphiti Islands. The lush vegetation in this small archipelago and its unspoiled beaches and water make it a perfect place for a romantic walk or picnic. With the islands being small and easy to navigate, it’s a great place to hire a kayak and enjoy the calm water.
Cyprus gives nature lovers a lot of choice, from active breaks to tranquil beach escapes. This National Geographic map which highlights many places of interest is well worth bringing along to help navigate the country, especially if renting a car.
In Limassol, explore hidden sand dunes before heading over to the Salt Lakes of Limassol and Larnaca to visit the flamingos.
The Adonis Baths in Paphos are perfect for swimming in. At the same time, the Avakas Gorge offers unusual rock formations – a favourite with hikers.
Between Agia Napa and Protaras is a gorgeous national park called Cape Greco. There are two natural rock bridges, caves, and excellent diving spots.
Meanwhile, Cedar Valley is an idyllic pine forest with hiking trails where you can see Cypriot Cedar trees.
Up in the Troodos Mountains are the Millomeri Waterfalls that are really worth a visit. If you’re wanting to walk in the mountains – or elsewhere in Cyprus – this walking in Cyprus book could be a good buy.
Or if you’re craving white sandy beaches head to Nissi Beach which is arguably Europe’s best beach.
Croatia vs Cyprus: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Cyprus and Croatia will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Croatia oozes with ancient history, and with the cities and towns in this nation fought over for centuries by different civilizations, that tumultuous past has left its fascinating mark up and down the country.
The awe-inspiring city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its iconic Old City – which is ringed by huge stone walls that jut out into the ocean – make it one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s no wonder then that the TV series Game of Thrones chose Dubrovnik to represent King’s Landing – the capital city in the series.
Pula is another city that deserves every tourist’s attention, mainly due to the incredible Roman ruins that are scattered throughout this coastal settlement. Visit the huge Pula Arena – one of the world’s six largest remaining amphitheatres – which was built 2000 years ago. In our opinion it rivals the one in Rome, and is also far less busy – a big bonus!
Beautiful Šibenik is another of Croatia’s stunning coastal towns and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Cathedral of St James and the St. Nicholas Fortress. Steeped in history, take half a day to wander this pretty town and enjoy a coffee beside buildings that have stood for hundreds of years.
Starting near Limassol is the town of Omodos/’Ομοδος, best known for its wine production, and the Timios Stavros Monastery. In Limassol there’s an attractive marina, 16th-century castle, and an opportunity to do some boutique shopping.
While the port city of Paphos/Pafos is a tourist hotspot with lively bars and souvenir shops, it has another side. Paphos is full of historical gems, including medieval baths and churches. In the north is Ktima (Upper Pafos) where you’ll find locals going about their daily business, colonial buildings, and museums.
The capital of Nicosia/Lefkosia is a ‘divided city’. It is where you’ll find the Green Line (the UN Buffer Zone). Across the city, a labyrinth of streets, tree-lined avenues and a vibrant street life await travelers.
Finally, the city of Larnaca provides long stretches of golden sands, historic religious sites, and chic cafes.
Croatia or Cyprus: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Croatia and Cyprus is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
Croatia is a foodie’s paradise as each region of the country typically has its own delicacies and traditional dishes.
The Croatian region of Dalmatia is particularly famous for its seafood centered dishes, and Octopus Salad is one of the areas most iconic meals.
Black risotto – found throughout the country – is another seafood speciality and is a squid ink rice dish that is often accompanied with shellfish.
Away from the coast, the region of Slavonia is known for its spicy sausages. Slavonian kulen, made up of pork, spices, paprika and garlic, is a must try.
Rakija is the national drink of Croatia, and the perfect way to start or end your holiday! The alcohol is distilled from locally grown fruit – usually plum – and is drunk straight up. Just remember to say Živjeli! – pronounced: zhivyelee – as you pick up your glass. That’s ‘cheers’ in Croatian!
Indulge in some meze dining. From kebabs to hummus, you’ll find all kinds of tantalizing delights that are a mix of Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern food cultures.
The stars of Cypriot cuisine are halloumi and the grilled sausage sheftalia kebab (şeftali kebap).
Cyprus is also home to the sweet treat Loukoumi, and prominent flavors include rose water, pistachio, and almonds.
If you fall in love with Cypriot cuisine and want to try it at home, then check out this award-winning Cypriot recipe book!
Croatia vs Cyprus: Which one should you choose?
Croatia and Cyprus make fantastic holiday destinations, and if time and money were limitless we would recommend both!
However if you’re looking for country packed with history, and an island hopping adventure alongside breathtaking beauty, then Croatia is the better choice. With over 800 islands, Croatia is an adventure lovers paradise and is also the better destination for hiking.
Cyprus also has its charm, with a well developed coastline – and great beaches – giving way to centuries-old villages inland. With favorable weather for most of the year, Cyprus is also one of Europe’s best beach destinations. Furthermore, Cyprus is probably the better vacation destination if you’re looking for a holiday where you can reach all the main sights and towns quickly and easily.
Whichever nation you decide on, you will be guaranteed a Mediterranean climate, handsome coastlines, delicious food, and unique culture.