It’s high time you made your way to the paradise that is Croatia. Beaches with crystal clear water combined with impressively well-preserved old towns will make your trip to Croatia one you’ll never forget. With so many beautiful places to discover and explore in Croatia, we know how difficult it can be to plan the perfect Croatia itinerary when you have limited time. That’s why decided to give you a little hand. Here is everything you’ll need to know for your Croatia road trip and our 10-day sample itinerary :)
Best Time To Visit Croatia
The best time to take on this Croatia itinerary is during the shoulder season, May, early June, and September. During these months you’ll still have great weather, but not nearly as many tourists, not to mention prices are considerably cheaper than in high season, July and August.
Check flights to Croatia from the USA (starts at $408) and UK (starts at £36)
Things to Pack for Croatia
We know it’s easy to forget things when you’re excited to travel to a new destination, so here are a few things you want to make sure you don’t forget to pack for your Croatia road trip.
- Sunhat/Cap: The Croatian sun is brutal in the summer and is not forgiving to those who chose to walk around without a hat or good quality sunscreen (you’ll need loads of it).
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: Croatia’s old towns are covered in very slippery cobblestones, so ladies, please leave those cute pumps at home and bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
- Water Shoes: Unlike more tropical destinations, Croatia does not have many sandy beaches. Most beaches are pebble beaches and getting into the water can be painful without water shoes. Not to mention there are many sea urchins along the shores of Croatia.
- Beach Towels: You’ll need something to lay on those not so sandy, rocky beaches.
- Motion Sickness Pills: There is no way you are missing out on Croatia’s beautiful islands because you get seasick. Pack yourself some motions sickness pills or pressure point wristbands if you aren’t into pills, as those islands should not be crossed off your Croatia itinerary.
- Pool Float: Okay you got us, you don’t need a pool float to travel through Croatia, but having one definitely makes your Croatia itinerary that much more fun. Who doesn’t love a sexy floatie while chilling on the beach.
Rental Car vs. Public Transportation
The best way to explore Croatia is with a car! By renting a car, you’ll have the freedom to stop whenever you want, visit places off the beaten path, and even stop on the side of the road for a quick dip in the crystal clear waters you’ll see along the road.
Recommendation: You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregator site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies in Croatia so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget
However, if you don’t want to rent a car, public transportation also works for our Croatia itinerary. Croatia has a great network of buses that travel frequently between popular attractions and destinations, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have a car.
Lastly, if you plan on visiting islands while in Croatia (which you will if you decide to follow our Croatia itinerary), you will use ferries or catamarans to get you there. Though there are many ferry companies in Croatia, the most popular one is Jadrolinija. To plan your trip to the islands, check their website for prices and schedules.
Where to Stay in Croatia
You’ll be happy to know accommodations in Croatia are plentiful. From cheap hostels and apartment rentals to luxury hotels, you’ll definitely find something that fits your budget. However, make sure you book far in advance as accommodations fill up fast, especially during high season. Trust us, you don’t want to pay three times the price for a crappy place, so book early.
When looking for a place to stay in Croatia, we found Airbnb and Booking.com to be the best rental sites as they have a ton of accommodation options for each city in Croatia. Also, with Airbnb, you can save money with our Airbnb coupon!
If you are traveling on a budget and rather stay at hostels, Hostelworld is another good option to look for places to stay. Or you can check out our list of the best hostels in Zagreb, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik.
But if you don’t feel like searching through millions of listings, no worries. For your convenience, we went ahead and listed our highly recommended accommodation options for each stop on our Croatia itinerary.
The Perfect 10-Day Croatia Itinerary
Our Croatia itinerary takes you from Zagreb to Dubrovnik (or vice versa) through some of Croatia’s most popular sights, beaches and islands. This is why we suggest at least 10 days in Croatia to experience the best it has to offer. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if you decide to stay longer, Croatia has a way of stealing travelers’ hearts :)
However, before we get to our itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
SafetyWing offers travel insurance for only about $10 a week, making it a no-brainer to get. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
SafetyWing is, of course, not the only option available. Two other popular alternatives are World Nomads and Heymondo.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get this Croatia itinerary on the road already (pun intended)!
Day 1: Zagreb
Welcome to Croatia’s capital city! From the gorgeous parks to some of the best food you’ll ever taste, and everything in between, Zagreb is totally worth a visit. The cobblestone streets and medieval architecture are like nothing you’ll see in the rest of Croatia, so make sure you make time for a walking tour and a good wander around Old Town.
The city is highlighted by the tallest building in Croatia, Zagreb Cathedral, and you won’t want to miss the gorgeous Romanesque architecture and colorful roof of the historic St. Mark’s Church.
If you get a chance, the Museum of Broken Relationships will add a quirky mix of somberness and hilarity to your Croatia itinerary.
Once you’re done sightseeing, there’s no better way to wrap up your day than with a good meal and a tasty cocktail from Tkalčićeva Street, it has all the restaurants and bars you could want.
Best Places to Stay in Zagreb:
Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria • Palace Hotel Zagreb • Hotel Dubrovnik
Day 2: Plitvice Lakes
It’s time to say goodbye to the capital city and head to Zadar, but there’s no way you can go to Zadar without making a stop at Plitviče Lakes National Park.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nature at its absolute best. You’ll be surrounded by amazing lake views and waterfalls as you walk along the picturesque walking trail. Hire a guide or explore the park yourself, but whatever you do, don’t skip Plitviče Lakes National Park. After all, it’s one of the top things to do in Croatia! Just make sure to get up bright and early so you can beat the crowds. We recommend getting there around 8ish – 9 the latest.
If you prefer you can also visit the Plitvice Lakes on a day tour from Zadar or even from Split.
Day 3: Zadar
Welcome to Zadar, home to some of the best preserved pre-Romanesque buildings in the world. Take a stroll through the historic Old Town and check out wondrous sights like the Church of St. Donatus, the Roman Forum, and the Cathedral of St. Anastasia.
If you’re a history lover, you should definitely make time to see the Archaeological Museum. The plethora of artifacts will truly make this stop a pleasant surprise on your Croatia itinerary.
After all that walking, it’s time to cool down. The best way to do that is to dive right into the gorgeous waters off Zadar’s promenade, Riva. After drying off and soaking up the sun’s rays, head over to the famous Sea Organ (Morske orgulje) to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world! Even Alfred Hitchcock raved about how awesome they are. As the sun takes its final bow, spin around and watch the waterfront light up at the Sun Salutation.
After the best sunset of your life, it’s time to hit the nightlife scene. If you haven’t already heard about it, Ledana has drinks that are out of this world, and the icy blue interior and three terraces make it a crowd favorite. End your day with a bang and get excited for another day in beautiful Croatia.
Best Places to Stay in Zadar:
Apartments & Rooms Andrea • Boutique Hostel Forum • Bastion Heritage Hotel
Day 4: Zadar?
Today you can either fill up your itinerary with new discoveries nearby or forgo another day in Zadar and continue your Croatia road trip by spending an extra day elsewhere. But if you chose to stay another day, here are several different amazing options to add to your Croatia itinerary:
- Nin: Located in a shallow lagoon, Nin is the oldest royal Croatian town and home to the longest sandy beach in Croatia, Queen’s Beach. Near the beach you can find medicinal mud. The mud is said to have healing properties and you will see many people rubbing it on their skin. We used it as natural sunscreen :)
- Dugi Otok: West of Zadar you’ll find the island of Dugi Otok. On one end of the island you can explore the breathtaking Telašćica Nature Park and on the other you can soak up the sun on Sakarun Beach, one of Croatia’s nicest and off the beaten path sandy beaches.
- Pag Island: Buy some lace, snack on the famous Pag cheese, Paski Sir, and party like a rockstar at one of the many nightclubs! A weird combination for a day trip, but it works :)
- Kornati Islands: This untouched natural beauty can only be reached with an organized tour, as it is a protected area and extremely difficult to reach without your own boat. Nonetheless, Kornati Islands are definitely worth a visit.
If none of those day trips tickle your fancy, Zadar’s beaches never disappoint. Kolovare, Borik, and Vitrenjak are some of the most popular beaches along the coast of Zadar.
Day 5: Krka National Park
Krka National Park is a beautiful stop on your way to Split. The stunning paradise is known for its waterfalls and nature trails, so make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds and get uninterrupted pictures.
If you’d like to add one more thing to your Croatia itinerary once you leave the park, spend the night in the medieval city of Šibenik, it’s easily loved by tourists for its lively, bohemian atmosphere. There are tons of attractions and things to do, but one thing you won’t want to miss before you head off to Split is the Cathedral of St. James.
If you prefer you can also visit Krka National Park and Šibenik on a day tour from Split.
Best Places to Stay in Šibenik
D-Resort Šibenik • Heritage Hotel Life Palace • Apartments Palma
Day 6: Split
Croatia’s largest coastal city definitely packs a big punch and may end up being one of your favorite stops along the way. Split’s Old Town can keep you entertained for hours. Taking advantage of a walking tour is a must to soak in all Split has to offer.
Making up about half of Old Town is the highlight of Split – the 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace. At the heart of the palace you’ll find the Peristyle, or main square, which is a great place to relax, enjoy some coffee, and people watch.
If you want to get away from the crowds, you can get in touch with nature by hiking the “lungs of Split” aka Marjan Hill. Marjan Hill is a unique sight among dense forest that offers gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea and is the perfect place for a picnic lunch.
After your hike, wrap up your night with tasty Mediterranean food and delicious wine on the promenade.
Best Places to Stay in Split
Radisson Blu Resort • Hotel Villa Diana • Hotel Luxe
Day 7: Split
For your second day in Split, you can take your pick at any of these super fun options to fill your Croatia itinerary.
- Go Canyoning: For anyone who loves a good outdoor adventure, canyoning is a must. You’ve never explored a canyon like this before as you’ll find yourself hiking, chasing water rapids, climbing, abseiling, and cliff jumping all while taking in the beautiful landscape surrounding the Cetina River. We went on this unique adventure with Iris Adventures, and they did not disappoint. They were professional and experts at making sure we had an unforgettable adventure. It was definitely one of the best things we’ve done in Croatia.
- Klis Fortress (Tvrđava Klis): No Game of Thrones (GoT) fan would leave Spilt without visiting Klis Fortress. Unlike the GoT filming spots in Dubrovnik, Klis Fortress is not super touristy, so you can enjoy the castle without the crowds. Also be sure to stop by the Restoran Perlica near the castle for the best traditional lamb peka dish you’ll have in Croatia.
- Trogir: Decorated by Romanesque, Renaissance, and baroque buildings, you’ll love strolling through this well-preserved, charming, medieval UNESCO World Heritage town. After all, it is considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.
If none of those options float your boat, go ahead move on and enjoy an extra day in Hvar.
Day 8: Hvar
Vineyards, lavender vines, and secluded coves are just some of the amazing things you’ll experience on Hvar Island. You’ll likely spend most of your time in Hvar Town, so get excited to enjoy the glitz and glam of Croatia’s premier party town! While you’re waiting for the sun to set, Hvar has some beautiful and ancient sights that need to make it on your Croatia itinerary.
Hvar Town is a beautiful place to wander around and you’ll be able to say you visited the largest square in Croatia with a visit to St. Stephen’s Square. Some of the other popular sights include the Cathedral of St. Stephen and the delightful Hvar public theatre.
Once you’ve seen the best of Hvar attractions, climb up to the Španjola Fortress to experience the perfect sunset. Not only will you get a magnificent view of Hvar Town, but you’ll also be overlooking the Pakleni Islands :)
If you don’t want to stay in Hvar for the night, you can also do it as a day trip from Split. However, due to the limited ferry schedule during the off-season, we recommend you only do it as a day trip if you’re here between June and September. You can check the ferry schedule here.
Have more time or came a day earlier?
If you want to spend more time on Hvar Island, we highly recommend you add at least one of these adventures to your Croatia itinerary:
- Stari Grad: Experience the oldest town in Croatia with a trip to Stari Grad. You won’t want to forget your camera as your stroll through the cobblestone streets to sights like Tvrdalj Castle.
- Vrboska: With so many small bridges, Vrboska is the nicknamed “the little Venice”. Even though it’s the smallest town on Hvar Island, it packs a big punch in terms of scenery and culture. While you’re there, you may as well check out the beautiful town of Jelsa. You’re sure to love the intimate vibe along with the parks and squares.
- Sveti Nikola: See the sunset from the highest peak of Hvar island, Sveti Nikola. Just make sure you have good travel shoes for the climb!
- Blue Cave: Make friends with a boat captain and ask him to take you out to the Blue Cave on Biševo. Or book a tour with one of the local travel agencies like everybody else :D
- Relax at the Beach: Take some time to get away from the rat race and lay out on the beach. Dubovica, Lučišće, Milna, Zaraće, Jagodna, and Grebiše are some of the most popular, but if you’re feeling adventurous, ask the locals about the secret beaches so you can enjoy the peace and beauty of mother nature without the crowds.
Best Places to Stay in Hvar
Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel • Apartments Bonkan Hvar • Apartments Stipisic
Day 9: Korčula
Just like Hvar, you can make a day trip out of Korčula from Split or make it a full day’s stop on your Croatia itinerary.
This island is full of natural beauty. The best thing for you to do is park your car, and journey through the city on a bike. There are plenty of shops around that will rent you a bike from 7-15 euros per day. Vineyards and beaches are just a few things you’ll discover on your bike ride.
You can even snorkel or kayak through the crystal clear waters, and if you want to take a swim, just make sure you take a few minutes to play “Marco Polo”, since Korčula is where he was born :)
Once you’re ready to hop off your bike, take a walk through Old Town Korčula. There you can indulge in fine Croatian wines and tasty local cuisine you just can’t leave without trying. Some of those must-tries are brodet, pašticada, zrnovski makaruni and pogačice. You won’t regret it!
Best Places to Stay in Korčula
Hotel Korsal • Hotel Fabris • Hotel Liburna
Day 10: Dubrovnik
You’re going to end your 10 days in Croatia in the crown jewel of the country, Dubrovnik. And if you’re wondering, yes, you can take a Game of Thrones tour. While Game of Thrones made Dubrovnik more famous, there’s so much more this city has to offer.
The Old Town is full of fantastic architecture and is probably the most preserved medieval town we’ve seen during our travels. Though crowded, it’s truly breathtaking and a must visit. From the churches to narrow alleyways and everything in between, you won’t even have time to put away your camera.
The views of the city never disappoint, so depending on your style, you can either walk the city wall or take a cable car to the top of Mount Srdj, or do both!
As your 10 days in Croatia comes to an end, grab yourself a glass of wine at Cafe Buža and jump off the cliff at the bar for one last swim in the gorgeous and crystal clear Croatian water.
Best Places to Stay in Dubrovnik
Sun Gardens Dubrovnik • Hotel Adria • Hotel Neptun Dubrovnik
Day 11+: Dubrovnik and Beyond
If you’ve fallen in love with Dubrovnik and just can’t leave just yet, here are some other amazing things to add to your Croatia itinerary.
- Fort Lovrijenac: One of the most impressive sights in Dubrovnik is Fort Lovrijenac. The impressive fortress and theater sits just outside the western wall.
- Relax at the beach: You can never go wrong by adding more beaches to your itinerary. If you want to avoid the crowds, make your way to Lokrum Island. If you feel like making new friends at Dubrovnik’s most popular beaches, then Lapad Beach or Banje Beach are where you need to be.
If day trips are more your thing, here are couple day trips from Dubrovnik we highly recommend.
- Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina: You may have heard of the iconic Stari Most, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Mostar. With everything from swimming under waterfalls, to street art, to high fiving the Bruce Lee statue, you’ll be in for a surprisingly great time. You can book a day tour to Mostar here.
- Kotor, Montenegro: If you’re looking for something a little less touristy than Dubrovnik make your way to this UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s full of history and romance that will steal your heart. With a lively Old Town and great views, you should definitely try to sneak it onto your Croatia itinerary if you can. You can book a day tour to Kotor here.
- Elaphite Islands: This archipelago of 13 islands is located northwest of Dubrovnik, and is great to avoid the crowds. The three inhabited islands are the most popular to visit, Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan. Both Lopud and Kolocep are car-free, small and quiet villages with nice pebble beaches. You can book a day tour to the Elaphite Islands here.
- Mljet National Park: This beautiful, unspoiled natural beauty has been protected since 1960. The National park is the main draw of Mljet island, however, if you are up for an adventure take a drive around the dense Mediterranean forest of Mljet. You can book a day tour to Mljet National Park here.
- Pelješac Peninsula: An hour drive from Dubrovnik, you’ll find this narrow peninsula where you can indulge in Croatia’s finest red wine and delicious and not overpriced seafood. You can book a day tour to Pelješac here.
And there you have it – Croatia in 10 days! Keep in mind, 10 days in Croatia is just enough to give you a taste of what Croatia has to offer. However, if you’re wanting to stay longer in any places on our Croatia itinerary don’t hesitate, as this is your trip and we are just here to guide you through the best of Croatia.
So, what are you waiting for, go explore Croatia already :)
Thanks for your article, really informative. I found a lot of info I had no idea about. Since living in the Czech Republic, Croatia is n. 1 place to go and I was looking for this type of content for ages. Soon I am gonna experience this beautiful country on a yacht. Cant wait!
Hey Robin, thanks for sharing this itinerary with us. I love it!
We are looking to fly to Split in December and rent a villa there. Do you maybe know anything about villa renting in Croatia? Any provider you could recommend maybe?
Can’t wait to see Split and my husband and me learned a lot from this article. Thanks again for sharing!
Joann K. says
We are planning to rent a car to drive from Zagreb to Dubrovnik making many of the stops you suggested. If we want to go over to some of the islands from Split (i.e Hvar, etc) what do we do with the car because we need it to get to Dubrovnik. Might be a silly question, but would appreciate your input.
You can take the car on the ferry and from island to island. So you don’t have to worry about leaving it in Split.
What if you don’t want to drive. Can this itinerary still be done?
Yes, as mentioned in the article, you can also do this itinerary by bus (some of it even by train).
Sherine Ibrahim says
Regarding renting a car.
So we r planning the following
Zaghreb – plitvice lake- split
Split-havr then duprovnik
Option 1 : rent car from zaghreb and use it to go to plitvice then go to split. We go to hvar and come back rent another car to go to Dubrovnik
Option 2 : only rent a car from split to Dubrovnik
Hi Sherine…this is exactly what I am thinking of doing as well!! I read that you can’t take a car carrying ferry from HVAR to Dubrovnik…you would have have to go back to Split from HVAR (via Stari Grande) then drive to Dubrovnik. Is this what you have heard as well? Let me know what you decide to do…when are you going? I would love to hear how you made out!
Is this itinerary feasible in winter? At the end of December towards the beginning of January?
Chalee Ho says
I have plan to Croatia early April with 2 child 5 and 2 years old.
Do you have any advice, especially place to stay?.
My plan is to rent a car.
Looking forward to hear from you.
Carolyn Rodriguez says
Robin, Thank you so much for your wonderful article. I am planning my vacation as I type this, unfortunately I do have to go during the high month since I have a college student traveling with me.
I am assuming based on your itinerary you flew into Zagreb and out of Dubrovnik or did you drive back to Zagreb.
Thanks and any other tips you want to give me I appreciate it.
We actually continued down to Montenegro but yes, you can either drive back to Zagreb or fly out of Dubrovnik. It all depends on the cost of your flight and how much time you have available. Enjoy Croatia.
For the “beyond” route I would definitely recommend Brac island with the amazing beaches of Bol, as well as visiting Orebic peninsula – there are some stunning places there, too!
Not to mention Cavtat – South of Dubrovnik!
I have been to to Croatia three times from Australia as I absolutely fell in love with Croatia on my first visit. Your itinerary is a great one but in my opinion too rushed. It’s one thing to see a place and another to experience and enjoy a place. I feel you need at least two weeks for this itinerary. Croatia has so many leaders known gems to non Europeans. Check out these on Google Images….Betina on the island of Murter, Baroque Varazdin, waterfall village of Rastoke, Rovinj, Motovun, Groznjan, Mali Losinj on Losinj island, beautiful stone town Pucisca on Brac island, Island Vis the new location for the Mama Mia 2 movie and the Makarska Riviera. But be sure to rent a car and drive from Sibenik down to Dubrovnik by the coastal road and put your car on tbe ferries when crossing to the islands.
Yes, it’s so beautiful! There is so much to see and do, even if you’re not a GOT fan. It’s an amazing place to visit and you’ll definitely have a great time :)
I didn’t know Croatia is that beautiful! Based on your pictures it truly is such a beautiful place. Those old medieval structures are truly breathtaking! I can’t wait to finally visit. I thought those GOT locations are the only attractions in the country but clearly there are so much more. I’m super excited and I hope to visit very soon.
Lovely post! I was so curious to see your itinerary. We did a similar one last year, by car, starting from Romania. We also stopped in Varazdin near Zagreb and Sibenik, before reaching Krka. But we did not visit Stari Grad on Hvar and did not get to Corcula either.
But there is always a next time right?
Isn’t Croatia beautiful!? And yes, there is always next time. We are hoping to go back and explore some of the lesser know places in Croatia.