Spring is full on come May. The days are longer, the rainy season is practically over, and the Adriatic might be warm enough to swim in by mid to late May. Though daily average temperatures are in the low to mid-sixties (degrees Fahrenheit) across the country, nightly temperatures drop 10 degrees, so be sure to pack accordingly, warm clothes for the evening and plenty of sunscreen.
Crowds & Costs
Though May begins to see an influx in tourism, natives still outnumber tourists and costs for accommodation and transportation are low. It remains important to bear in mind, it's not until the last weekend in May that the summer ferry schedule is announced, so up until this time you have to be sure to allow yourself plenty of flexibility with planning your itinerary to and from the islands.
Where to Go
May is a great time to explore Croatia's Dalmatian coast before the peak crowds arrive. A classic route option is to begin in the historic city of Split in central Dalmatia, taking a day excursion to tour the many waterfalls of Krka National Park and to the medieval city of Šibenik. Split also happens to be a great jumping off point to visit Hvar Island and its nearby, smaller, Pakleni islands. From Hvar, you can catch a ferry (check the ferry schedule in advance) to Korčula and cross the island to Korčula Town and then into the Pelješac peninsula to hike, bike, and tour extensive wine country and the ancient saltpans of Ston.
A typical next option is to continue further south to Dubrovnik to explore its 16th-century stone walls of Lovrijenac and Revelin fortresses.
What to Do
Nature lovers may wish to take advantage of the spring season, when the tributaries of the River Sava are overflowing, with a trip to the Lonjsko polje wetlands for a little birdwatching of the nesting storks and other marshland birds. The area proves a little rough to get to but the bucolic scenery is certainly rewarding. Alternatively, the sunken forests of Kopački rit along the Croatian and Serbian border are renowned for their wading birds as well.
Before the summer crowds flood the islands (though tourism remains relatively low-key) and the sun is at its worst, consider a trip to the Elafiti Islands for a little hiking, in particular, Šipan or Mljet. Another great option is to visit the Northern Velebit National Park and trek the Premužić Trail. A 35-mile long path that covers varied landscapes as it works its way from one side of the Velebit's central ridge to the other.
Foodies will appreciate the gastronomic related festivals taking place across the country. Try Losinj Cuisine Festival in Mali Losinj, a small island between Zadar and Pula on the mainland, or Urbanova in the Međimurje region, highlighting locally produced wines from over 200 winemakers. Or head to Istria for the Vinistra or the wine-olive oil and brandy event in Poreč and the Sardines/Cherries Week in Rijeka for a nod to traditional cuisine from days gone by (hint: regional dishes serving up sardines and cherries).
Events in May
Sudamja. Starting in early May, festivities including concerts, poetry readings, exhibitions, and a rowing regatta, commence celebrating Split's patron saint, St Domnius. On May 7, known as Split Day, there's a religious procession, mass and fair on the Riva, with fireworks filling the skies.
Cest is d’Best. For a few days in late May, Zagreb puts on a street festival that includes over 200 international performers with acts ranging from music, dance, theater and art to sports.
Subversive Festival. For two weeks in May, Zagreb welcomes Europe's activists and philosophers for film screenings and lectures.
Days of Asparagus. This food festival in northwestern Istria has its restaurants incorporating wild Istrian asparagus into their regional dishes.
Lighthouse Festival. Head to Poreč for Central Europe's season opener of underground electronic music.
Traveling to Croatia in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Best of the Dalmatian Coast - 8 Days. From the "Pearl of the Adriatic" of Dubrovnik, through the islands of Korcula and Hvar, to the 1600-year-old city of Split: this 7-day itinerary presents the highlights of the Dalmatian coast. Depending on your available time this trip can be made shorter (down to 4 or 5 days) or longer.
Highlights of Croatia: Zagreb to Dubrovnik - 8 Days: Cover the highlights of Croatia in this one-week itinerary. Starting in Zagreb, the capital, you'll make your way south to Dubrovnik, stopping at Plitvice National Park and the ancient port cities of Zadar and Split. Spend a few days relaxing on the beach on the island of Hvar then end your trip in the medieval town of Dubrovnik.