MY IDEAL 10-DAY CROATIA ITINERARY
I knew I wanted to go to Croatia, and I knew I had only 10 days to see the entire country. That probably isn’t the best philosophy to have, but personally, if I am going somewhere that has been on the bucket list for years, I better see everything there is to see. That being said, I did lots of research prior to my trip and had difficulty finding a complete itinerary that was less than two weeks long. There are so many different cities to see in Croatia, transportation isn’t the easiest, and each city is at least two hours away from the other. So now, about two months after my wonderful trip with my boyfriend, I am creating my ideal itinerary for visiting Croatia in 10 days. Now, of course, I have an entirely new list of places that I want to visit in Croatia like the city of Rovinj and Krka National Park, both of which I think are perfect spots for a return trip.
Fly into Zagreb. Have your hotel or hostel prepare a taxi pickup for you ahead of time. Visit the city center and have drinks and food on the main thoroughfare named Tkalciceva. We had the best truffle pasta of the trip on this street so even if its touristy, the food is delicious. Afterwards, I would suggest a tour of the Museum of Broken Relationships. It’s small and simple; however, I challenge you to not find one story that doesn’t relate to you in some way.
Drive to Plitvice Lakes. I would suggest figuring out a rental car in advance. Also, while everything else is cheap in Croatia, rental cars are not. My boyfriend and I rented a stick shift because that was the only car that was reasonably priced. We probably stalled the car at least 37 times since he had not driven one in 10 years and I, well, never have. Somehow we made it…yay! There is ample paid parking at the lakes. Please refer to TripAdvisor or the Plitvice Lakes website for the route you wish to take. We chose route C which I thought was the right amount of hiking while still being able to see the park in its entirety. It was about 4-6 hours and we were able to see a good portion of both the upper and lower lakes. The routes are determined by which parking lot you are at, many recommend to park at lot 2 as it is supposedly less crowded; however, we parked at lot 1. If you are going in the offseason, timing shouldn’t be an issue; however, head the warnings for the summer season and make sure you go bright and early! Afterwards, drive three hours down to the coast and city of Zadar and spend the evening.
Spend the day in Zadar. The highlights include walking around the old city with its beautiful tiled floors and having a nice, relaxing meal at one of the many restaurants. I would then take a stroll down to the water and with a bottle of wine, enjoy the soothing sounds of the sea organ and marvel at the beautiful artwork “greeting of the sun,” especially at night when the colors are spectacular. We drove to Zadar kind of by accident, but I was so overwhelmed by the city’s beauty, that I would recommend everyone to visit. Drive to Split.
Spend the day in Split and visit Diocletian’s Palace, imposing Roman ruins found on the reverse of the 500 Kuna banknote as well as a filming site for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, my trip did not allow us time to explore Split and visit the ruins at the Palace; however, I would absolutely include this day in Split in my ideal itinerary and see what this city has to offer.
I have 2 different options for today: extreme sports day or ferry to Hvar Island. The first would be for those more inclined to do something very adventurous on your Croatian adventure. We went extreme canyoning down the Cetina river with Adventure Dalmatia tours. The river is less than an hour away from Split. After the fact, you are pretty in awe of yourself that you just climbed down a canyon and repelled through a river, but this activity is strenuous to say the least! If climbing mountains and gliding down rapids is just not your thing, I suggest taking the ferry to Hvar Island and enjoying your day at the beach or exploring the other main town, Stari Grad. An important thing to note: the beaches in Croatia are all super rocky! Bring cheap flip flops that you can wear into the water; I wish I had known that before I scratched every part of my feet running from the lounge chair into the ocean. If you decided to go canyoning, take the last ferry of the night. There will be a bus that picks you up and takes you to Hvar if the only option is for you to take a ferry to Stari Grad.
Spend the day in Hvar. We had the best greek-style feta and chicken salad at Dalmatinos. I still dream about this salad months later and have tried to replicate it, but to no avail. I would suggest renting either a quad or vespa and explore the island and watch the sunset from some remote beautiful locale. Make sure if you rent a quad that you do so early in the day as they tend to sell out during the summer. Hvar does shut down in late September so spending time on this island makes the most sense from May-September.
Spend another day in Hvar. When you first arrive on Hvar island, I would recommend talking to a local and getting a feel for the winds and the choppiness of the water as this will determine whether or not you will be able to rent a boat or take a guided tour of the blue grotto. We rented a boat which was definitely an experience (click here to read our horror story), but I would also recommend taking a tour if you don’t feel like going out on your own and exploring the surrounding islands of Hvar. Go to Hula Hula to watch the sunset. Everyone complains about how expensive the drinks are, so just get one drink. I thought the price I paid for a drink to sit on the edge of an island in a free lounge chair and watch the sunset was absolutely reasonable.
Travel by catamaran to Dubrovnik. Buy your ticket for the catamaran soon upon arrival in Hvar as the catamaran does sell out! The tickets are sold at a store near the main dock in Hvar. You will arrive in Dubrovnik around 1 PM and have the rest of the day and night to roam around the old city. I recommend staying near the cable car like we did, as the location is a five-minute walk into the old city, yet away from the hustle and bustle and tourists in the center. If you do one thing in Croatia, please have it be walking the old city walls around sunset! I have travelled a lot and seen many spectacular things, but walking the walls affected me in a way that very few things have in a long time. The views, the people, and the peacefulness is so incredible. Just make sure you don’t dawdle too much, as we missed about 1/4 of the walls, since they close the gates right at 6:30 PM and there are two entrances and exits.
Spend the day in Dubrovnik or take a guided wine tasting tour in nearby Montenegro. As this is your last day of a very complete and exhausting trip, it is up to you whether you would like to spend the day roaming the streets again around the old city and perhaps take the cable car up to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view of the Adriatic Coast. If you feel like powering through, finding a tour and having the opportunity to visit another country for half a day, there are many options for guided wine tasting tours in Montenegro, Serbia. We opted for the former and spent the day eating, buying souvenirs, and enjoying the last moments of being in Croatia.
Fly home or to your next location. There is an airport bus that picks up right at the bottom of the cable car and takes you straight to Dubrovnik airport. This could not be easier and the bus times correspond with your flight times. How awesome is that!
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