The Ultimate Croatia Itinerary
This summer I tacked a week onto a business trip and spent an incredible few days exploring Croatia with a friend. If you’re wondering whether Croatia is worth the trip — stop wondering, book your ticket, and start planning! To say I was blown away by the beauty, history, and culture of Croatia is an understatement. If there was any downside, it was figuring out how to explore as much as possible in a short period of time. But of course that didn’t stop us! If you’re facing the same challenge, I highly recommend our Croatia itinerary. Here’s how it went down:
Croatia Itinerary for Exploring in One Week
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- Fly to Zagreb
- Drive (or fly) to Dubrovnik
My friend and I flew into Zagreb, arriving mid-morning. Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is likely to offer the most affordable flight options and has a modern international airport. After grabbing your bags, buy a local SIM card, pick up a rental car, and set your google maps directions to Dubrovnik. While you can fly down to Dubrovnik in about an hour, we opted to drive (about 6.5 hours) so that we could make our way back up through Croatia, ultimately ending back in Zagreb for our return flight. Plus, I’m a big fan of driving through countries — you get to see the countryside and you’re on your own schedule.
- Explore Old Town Dubrovnik
- Do the Wall Walk (tickets are required, but it’s worth it!)
Dubrovnik is a dream. It is truly incredible. Famous for being the setting of many Game of Thrones scenes, and perfectly situated on the coast of the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea, Old Town Dubrovnik is the main attraction. If you’re not staying within the Old Town walls, leave the rental car parked and grab the city bus to Old Town in the morning. It’s the easiest and most affordable way to get around, but you can also grab an Uber if you prefer. Pro Tip: if you buy your bus ticket from a kiosk (there are several near Old Town) or other vendor, the tickets are cheaper (12 Kuna instead of 15 Kuna).
Old Town Dubrovnik is enclosed by massive stone walls that were completed in the 16th century, and is a pedestrian only zone. The walls themselves run almost 1.2 miles around the city, and are 13-20 feet thick on the landward side. One of the highlights of our trip was the Dubrovnik Wall Walk. It’s 150 Kuna (about $24) per person, and can be paid only by credit card or Kuna. Amazingly, you can walk around the entirety of the Old Town walls, which obviously provides the most incredible views!
Once you’re done marveling from above, stroll throughout the maze of cobblestone streets, stairs, cafes, and shops that are Old Town Dubrovnik. Filled with options for incredible Mediterranean cuisine, you won’t have trouble finding places to eat!
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Day 3 (optional)
- Explore Dubrovnik some more
If you didn’t get enough of Old Town, I recommend heading over in the morning and finding a quaint cafe for breakfast and coffee. It’s also cooler and slightly less busy as everyone is out on morning tours or still making their way out for the day. In the afternoon, check out the rest of Dubrovnik or take a swim (if you’re traveling in summer). At the very end of the port at the north end of the city, you can swim in the cool, salty bay or take a stroll along the port.
For dinner, try out the best restaurant we discovered in Dubrovnik (outside Old Town): Atlantic Kitchen!
- Drive to Split
- Stop for lunch in Omiš
After you come to terms with parting Dubrovnik, hop in the car and make your way to Split. You can drive on the tollway or along the coast — opt for the coast! It’s not much longer, and the views are incredible. The drive itself is about 3.5 hours, but if you’re like we were, you’ll be stopping off here and there to marvel at the beauty of the Adriatic Sea and the dramatic backdrop of the Croatian coastline. While we stopped prematurely for lunch, I’d recommend stopping off in the picturesque little town of Omiš!
Once you get to Split, check in to your accommodation and venture out to Diocletian’s Palace, a fortresslike ruin in the city center. (P.S. If you’re following our Croatia itinerary, stop off at the ferry port and buy your tickets to Hvar first!) Filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants, you’re sure to find a cool spot for drinks and dinner.
- Catch a ferry to Hvar Town
It’s hard to say I enjoyed one place over another in Croatia, but Hvar Town might take the cake! Situated on the island of Hvar, with it’s beautiful little harbor, winding cobblestone footpaths, and historic architecture, Hvar Town is the perfect little getaway. With daily fast and slow ferries from Split (1-2 hours one way), it’s easy to get to Hvar Town. The ticket office will let you know what’s available and help you book your tickets. We chose the Jadrolinija ferry, which was recommended by our apartment host. We also opted to travel without the rental car (though you can take the car on the ferry if you really want to), and left it overnight in the lots near the ferry port in Split.
Once you get to Hvar Town and check in to your accommodation, change into your swimsuit and head for the marina. After a few days of traveling, you’re probably ready to relax by the water and soak up some sun. Grab a sandwich and some drinks for a picnic by the marina and then spend the afternoon working on your tan and taking dips in the surprisingly cool water.
After you get enough sun, grab a quick shower and change of clothes and explore a little more of Hvar Town before you find a place to grab dinner. Climb the winding staircases and venture down the cobblestone streets to find the town cemetery (if you’re fascinated, like me), or visit the many shops around the town square. Then head to Adriana Rooftop Bar for sunset. The sprawling views of the marina and town are hard to beat.
Psst! If you have an extra day to fill, I’d spend it in Hvar (especially if you’re traveling in the summer), and take a boat excursion to one of the nearby secluded islands or the Blue Caves. I had this on my list, but had to cut it, so do it for me! 😉
- Get the ferry back to Split
- Drive to Krka National Park
If you want a little more time in Hvar Town, take the midday ferry back to Split so you can spend the morning enjoying breakfast or exploring more. Once you get back to Split, hop in the car and head for Krka National Park, which is only about an hour drive (although may be longer with traffic getting out of Split). While we thoroughly enjoyed staying in apartments for most of our trip, I’d highly recommend the Vrata Krke Hotel for your overnight stay near Krka National Park. Not only is it across the street from one of the park’s main entrances, but it has spacious rooms and free parking!
While you might be tempted to head into the park right away, it’ll be easier to ensure you get to see everything you want if you go as soon as the park opens the next morning. Instead, head to the nearby town of Skradin to explore and grab some dinner.
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- Explore Krka National Park
- Drive back to Zagreb
Be sure to grab breakfast and be ready to head into Krka National Park by the time it opens (check their website for up to date opening hours). Not only will you be able to maximize your park ticket, but you’ll likely beat the crowds!
Known for a series of seven waterfalls, Krka National Park is situated around the Krka River in southern Croatia. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by the striking beauty and fun hikes through the jungle-like surroundings of the river and falls. I don’t know about you, but I had never walked through a park on a wooden boardwalk — it made for a really neat experience (see pics below!). In the south of the park, Skradinski Buk waterfall is flanked by traditional watermills, and in the summer months is open for swimming (if you plan to swim, there are changing rooms, so bring a dry pair of clothes)! Admittedly a bit chilly on the day we went, it was worth it to say we swam at the foot of Skradinski Buk, and of course snap an epic photo!
After exploring as much as the park as you’d like, head back for the car and make your way back to Zagreb. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive, but once again is flanked by the unsuspecting beauty of Croatian countryside. We opted to stay overnight in Zagreb and fly out the next day, which afforded us the evening to check out downtown Zagreb and ensure we got one last scrumptious dinner in Croatia.
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