We had some fabulous trips this past year and we’ve already shared a lot of details about them. It’s not the case with Croatia, one of our new favorite countries! This time we decided to share our itinerary first. Party because we feel even months after the trip that is was the perfect itinerary for us (let’s hope it’s not just feeling nostalgic about those sunny summer days 😛 ). On the other hand it’s winter now and this is the time for dreaming about summer. And to make plans for the next one. At least this is what we do. And we hope you also find it useful.
So for now join us and let’s fly all around Croatia in this long post! We spent 10 days there last summer and we are sure we’ll be back soon.
Day 1: Arrival & sightseeing in Zagreb
This first day was probably different for us than most of yours would be. Because we drove from Budapest after leaving from work early afternoon. Unless you also live somewhere in the neighboring countries or visit Croatia as part of a longer Eastern European road trip by car it’s likely that you will land in Zagreb airport.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day it’s worth spending a couple of hours in Zagreb, Croatia’s small and lovely capital. Actually, Zagreb would worth more than just a couple of hours (see our weekend itinerary here) but 10 days are 10 days and there’s really a lot to see in Croatia!
|What to see in Zagreb if you only have a couple of hours|
A road trip is your best option to explore!
We recommend to explore the country by car. Public transport options and a lot of organized day tours to popular attractions are available especially in high season (June-August), but we are big fans of road trips. A road trip allows us to discover places in our own pace, make random stops at beaches and charming small towns or change our plans.
Of course, for us a road trip was straightforward, anyway, as we arrived to Croatia in our own car. But car rental is also affordable, and main roads are in good condition in general. Almost all the popular places could be reached on motorway.
Looking for car rental deals? Check them out here!
So once you are in your car it’s worth heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park and spend your first night somewhere close by. Plitvice is a popular place and it’s the most peaceful early in the morning. It’s 2 hours drive from Zagreb.
Day 2: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice is a magical park! Its 16 terraced lakes are joined by waterfalls and it’s one of the most impressive karst entities in the world. In our opinion it’s among the most beautiful national parks in Europe. It well deserves a whole day to explore. Different visiting programs are put together by the park stuff so everyone can choose a route based on their time and physical conditions.
Read more about how we explored Plitvice here!
Day 3: Sightseeing in Zadar & Nin
We drove to Zadar on the same day when we visited Plitvice Lakes. The drive is about 1.5 hours so you can do it on the same day or the next morning. Zadar was our first stop on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and it instantly made us fall for this region! The only thing Zadar doesn’t have is nice beaches. For that we drove to Nin in the afternoon. And once you are there the tiny historical town of Nin is also worth a walk.
|What to see in Zadar in 1 day|
Some parking advice
Nin is only about 20 minutes drive from Zadar. Our best advice for both places in terms of driving is to leave your car out of the old town. We parked for free near the harbor in Zadar and right by Nin Beach at Nin. In general we found free parking near the harbor in other cities, too (except Dubrovnik – before you ask 😀 ). By the way it’s better staying out of the city center / old town everywhere in Croatia. Those charming narrow streets are not built for cars. Even if you are allowed to drive parts of them they will only cause you headache. Luckily, they are lovely for a walk!
Day 4: Day trip to Kornati Islands National Park
The first thing we did after arriving to Zadar was to take a walk in the harbor and book a day trip to Kornati Islands. Kornati is the densest archipelago in the whole Mediterranean Sea with about 140 islands. It could only be accessed by boat. The easiest way to find a suitable trip is to take a walk in the harbor and talk with the organizers on the spot. We ended up with a 9 hours long trip and just made it back to Zadar for the Sun Salutation.
Read more about our trip to the Kornati Islands here!
Day 5: Krka National Park
Accommodation: Skradin (near Krka National Park)
Day 5 was all about nearby Krka National Park. It’s only an hour from Zadar by car and it’s another national park of stunning waterfalls! There are easy trails around the waterfall area and also some short and steep ones to get a view of Krka Canyon. And while it’s forbidden to go into the water in Plitvice, you are allowed to swim in the pools under Skradinski buk, the largest of the Krka waterfalls.
There are more entrances to the different areas of Krka National Park. We started the day at Entrance Lozovac (entrance to Skradinski buk) and then drove to Entrance Laskovica (entrance to Roski slap) in the afternoon.
Check out our video shot in Krka this past summer!
Day 6: Split & Makarska
Accommodation: Makarska (or smaller beach towns south of Makarska)
After spending our last night in Zadar we headed south on the next day. Our first stop was Split where we planned to spend only a couple of hours to look around in the Old Town. Well, we ended up leaving Split only late in the afternoon. And Split ended up to be one of our favorite cities in Croatia!
|What to see in Split if you only have a couple of hours|
We originally planned to drive along the coastline from Split on the Adriatic Highway (Jadranska magistrala in Croatian). But in the end we chose the motorway because we also wanted to visit Makarska on the same day. It’s the center of Makarska Riviera and its stunning beaches and we reached it just in time to have a swim and a stroll before sunset.
|What to do in Makarska if you only have a couple of hours|
Day 7: Scenic drive along the Adriatic coast & Dubrovnik
The Adriatic Highway runs along the Adriatic Sea giving access to all of its beauties. But until Makarska we mostly took the motorway (the fastest route). From Makarska to Dubrovnik we chose the more beautiful route though (btw, the motorway doesn’t go til Dubrovnik, it ends at Ploče before crossing the Bosnian border).
We stopped at several vista points and found a stunning hidden beach with crystal clear water. Then we crossed the Bosnian border and after driving a couple of kilometres in Bosnia, we got back to Croatia again (that’s the only way to access the southest part of Croatia). Dubrovnik was less than an hour from there.
Probably you heard about Dubrovnik. Or the Games Of Thrones which made this magical coastal city even more famous. It’s actually one of our favorite cities in the world! It was my second and Csaba’s first time there and we spent most of the day with exploring the lovely narrow streets of the Old Town. The next day, too.
Day 8: Dubrovnik & Lokrum Island
We planned to spend the next day in Dubrovnik, too. And we gladly did so. One day in Dubrovnik is not even enough to see everything without too much hurry in our opinion. And this second day was also a chance to visit the small island of Lokrum. It’s really close to Dubrovnik and there’s a regular boat service there from the Old Town’s harbor (at least in the summer months).
Lokrum is so small that you can walk around the whole island within half day. And it’s worth walking around! It’s all green, there’s a bunch of hidden coves along the coast and there’s a nice botanical garden. Oh, and a small salt lake, too. Oh, and countless rabbits and peacocks.
|What to see in Dubrovnik in 1 day|
Day 9: Mljet Island – West
Accommodation: Polače (Mljet)
We started the next day very early. I shouldn’t even call it morning, it was around 4 am because we wanted to catch the ferry to Mljet Island at 7 am. And we did. We drove from Dubrovnik to the small town of Prapratno on the Pelješac peninsula and took the 40 minutes ferry trip to Mljet.
Mljet, this tiny green island was our last stop on our first Croatian road trip. And it turned out to be our favorite stop, too! Most of the island is evergreen pine forest. Then there’s two salt lakes, high cliffs on the shore, azure and turquoise bays, perfectly sandy beaches, caves, tons of small islets, tiny villages… What not to love there?
We spent our first day in Mljet National Park in the western part of Mljet. It was a perfect combination of hiking and swimming. There’s a bunch of perfectly clear blue coves along the rocky coast and there are Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero, the pretty salt lakes.
Day 10: Mljet Island – East
Our last day was a lazy beach day in the eastern part of Mljet. We were almost alone at Blace Beach and we also explored a couple of beautiful deep coves nearby. A perfect ending to our Croatian trip.
So that was it. Our first timers’ itinerary. Though it was only Csaba’s first time because I had travelled a lot in Croatia with my parents earlier. And that helped me a lot when we put together our itinerary. In the end we had an amazing trip with wonderful Dalmatian beaches and towns and several national parks both on the mainland and on the islands.
I know, there’s a lot more to see in Croatia (for example we completely skipped its northern peninsula, Istria). And of course, it’s impossible to see all of it at once. But I think this itinerary can give a really good taste of the varied natural and cultural treasures of Croatia. Let’s just call it an appetizer and we can’t wait to experience what comes after…
Have you been to Croatia? What would be on your itinerary?
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