The question for many when trying to decide between Croatia or Greece, is what separates these Mediterranean 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 it’s own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
Below is our honest comparison as we pit Croatia vs Greece. 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 Greece: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both nations have fantastic sun-soaked beaches, and countless ancient towns and cities that are packed with history.
But the real allure of both are the many stunning islands that make up both of these countries – Greece has over 6000, whilst Croatia has around 700!
Where Greece really excels is that most Greek islands often have a real rustic regional charm to them. As the cradle of civilization, these islands have incredibly rich histories – arguably more so than their Croatian counterparts – and countless centuries-old architecture, some of which stretches back to Ancient Greece and beyond! For history and culture, very few places on earth can beat Greece.
However Croatia is one of those countries that does give Greece a run for its money. This country has a rich history and was formally part of the Roman and Byzantine empires. Spectacular medieval towns like Dubrovnik need to be seen to be believed, whilst the gorgeous islands that dot Croatia’s coastline are some of Europe’s best.
They’re also close to each other, which makes island hopping easy and quick in Croatia – in comparison to Greece where the islands are much further apart and require long, and sometimes expensive travel arrangements. Therefore more compact Croatia is probably a better destination for a shorter vacation, or for tourists looking to charter a sailing boat.
However whilst beautiful, Croatia’s islands, towns and cities, sometimes have the same ‘feel’ to them. In comparison, many islands in Greece really have their own unique vibe and even mini cultures. The Greek mainland – packed full of remnants of Ancient Greece and spectacular hiking trails – is worth exploring in its own right too. So if you have two or more weeks to spare, a vacation to Greece may be the better choice than Croatia.
It’s hard to say which country has the better beaches, but in our opinion Greece probably shades it. However Croatia probably has the better water for swimming – it’s warm, calm, and really unrivalled across Europe.
In terms of expenses, we’ve found that in general Croatia is a slightly cheaper destination than Greece in regards to holiday rentals, eating out and alcohol. Albeit entrance fees to the most popular national parks and ancient historical sites tend to be quite pricey.
Croatia or Greece: Alluring natural wonders
Both Croatia and Greece have some of Europe’s best beaches, 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.
With so many islands, it will come as no surprise to hear that Greece is packed with natural wonders.
The Ionian archipelago is a popular destination for tourists, and one of the best places to see nature’s greatest work. Visit the Melissani Lake Cave on Kefalonia for an other-worldly experience. Situated 20 meters underground, you can explore this magical cave by rowing boat.
The island of Zakynthos has some of Greece’s best beaches, and is a popular destination because of that. Also named Zante, this island has a lively nightlife scene so is perfect for tourists who want to sunbathe and swim in the day, but dance and drink at night. Zante is also home to the Blue Caves, a series of underground waterways that wind their way into the coastline.
Of course Greece is packed with many stunning islands, and one of the best things about this country is the ability to island hop and discover your own favourite. One of ours is Milos, which is where the Venus de Milo was found! This gorgeous little volcanic island has dozens of beaches, breathtaking turquoise waters, and a friendly local population.
Mainland Greece also has some spectacular scenery that has to be explored. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora in central Greece is well worth visiting. The atmospheric huge rock formations jut out of the ancient landscape, and on top are centuries-old monasteries. They used to be reached by ladders, but can now be reached by foot via stairs. It’s a place which transports you back in time.
In fact mainland Greece is full of fantastic hiking trails – many long distance – that take you between ancient villages that have existed for generations. One of our favourites is the Menalon Trail, a 45 mile hike in south Greece that takes you between the picturesque mountain villages of Stemnitsa and Lagkadia.
Croatia vs Greece: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Greece 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.
Greece excels when it comes to towns and cities with the ‘wow’ factor.
One of the islands which has that in abundance is Santorini. The two biggest towns here, Fira and Oia, hang on to the cliff-face of this volcanic island, and the buildings within them – whitewashed and often with blue-domed roofs – stand strikingly against the backdrop. It’s a must-visit place in Greece, but also one of the most popular places throughout the country being visited by around two million tourists per year!
The historic and ancient capital of Athens is well worth a night or two, and is home to iconic buildings such as the 5th century BC Acropolis and Parthenon. The museum at the Acropolis is full of artefacts from Ancient Greece and a must for any history buff.
Situated beside the Acropolis is our favorite area of Athens – Plaka. The quaint streets in this neighborhood wind their way up hilly slopes and are adorned with flower pots and tiny independent shops selling jewellery and clothes. With family-run taverns and boutique coffee shops, this is one of the best places in Athens – and Greece – to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by.
The title of Greece’s most picturesque town could go to Agios Nikolaos – a little port settlement on the island of Crete. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this town has several waterfronts which have a great selection of shopping and dining opportunities. The infamous ‘leper island’ of Spinalonga – which was in use up to 1957 as a quarantine center – is close by and can be visited from the town.
Croatia or Greece: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Croatia and Greece 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!
Like many Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food involves a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, grains, and a good dose of wine!
One of the most famous food exports from Greece is moussaka. This mincemeat and potato or eggplant dish is served everywhere in the country. It’s almost always guaranteed to be excellent in any family-run taverna.
Greece is famous for its dips, such as tzatziki – which is made up of garlic, yoghurt and cucumber – and fava, which is made from split peas.
To wash everything down, you must try Greece’s national drink, Ouzo. This strong liquor is made from aniseed, and is usually served with cold water which turns the clear drink a cloudy white.
Croatia vs Greece: Which one should you choose?
It’s hard to pinpoint which country is the better destination, as both are guaranteed to provide an unforgettable vacation.
However if you’re looking to visit a country which has a unique array of islands to visit – each with their own rustic vibe – then Greece could be the better holiday choice. Greece is also a popular destination with history buffs as the nation – known as the cradle of civilization – is littered with remnants of Ancient Greece.
That said, getting from island to island in Greece can take some time. In comparison the islands in Croatia are much closer together and hug the mainland. That makes touring Croatia and island hopping a much easier experience than in Greece, so it may be a better holiday destination for shorter vacations.
Croatia is also full of historic cities, has a stunning landscape, has some great beaches, and a diverse food scene. It’s typically a cheaper country to visit than Greece too.