Croatia is so beautiful, romantic, spontaneous and adventurous…Like me, like her, like him, like many of you! I should say, this beautiful country had been on my bucket list for years but I was able to travel to there this summer. I got drunk, fell in love, got poisoned but enjoyed every moment and every part of this country…
Before starting my trip, I checked some websites about Croatia and some tips, but they were not complete, they were so broad or so specific but not like I wanted. So here is my ultimate Croatia road trip guide which will give you the information what you actually need. Of course, I could only talk about the typical touristy route; Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik, but prefer you give more than this, plus the planning process… No, there is not a list like top ten things to do, there will be more.
This ultimate Croatia road trip guide includes the following parts:
- Planning a Trip to Croatia
- Croatia Road Trip
- Alternative Stops in Croatia
- Driving in Croatia
- Accommodation in Croatia
- Best Time to Visit Croatia
Let´s go to Croatia !
Planning a Trip to Croatia
Don´t search for any other guide. You are on the right page. I hope you enjoy it and save your hours to plan your Croatia trip!
Here’s an overview of how a first-time Croatia road trip looks like:
- Zagreb: 1 day
- Plitvice: 1 day
- Zadar: 2 days
- Split: 3 days
- Brac: 1-2 days
- Hvar: Day-trip
- Dubrovnik: 2-3 days
Duration: At least 10 days would be enough to see and enjoy these places at your first time Croatia road trip. Of course, it would be great if you have more time. It is such a wonderful country.
Activities: You’ll find here excellent wine, plenty of historical and cultural sites, ancient walled towns, national parks, great beaches, rafting, kayaking, sailing, kite-surfing, hiking, paragliding and swimming in waterfalls.
Croatia Road Trip
- Starting Point: Zagreb
- Ending Point: Dubrovnik
- Recommended Duration: 10 Days
Croatia Road Trip Route Map
Yellow pins: main road trip stops
Green pins: extra places you might want to visit
Pink pins: favourite main road trip stops
More information on the yellow and pink places below:
Zagreb: The Capital
Visiting the capital is a great starting point to get to know the country. Although Zagreb is so different from the rest of the country, it is a must visit to see the contrast.
When I think about Zagreb, I remember the grey buildings and plenty of museums. The main highlight of the city is definitely St. Mark’s Church, with its colorful tiled roof, representing the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on the left side, and the emblem of Zagreb on the right.
Other important attractions are the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art and the Museum of Broken Relationships, exhibiting personal objects of ex-lovers that somehow tell their dramatic story.
Where to Stay in Zagreb: As a backpacker, I would suggest you to stay at Chillout Hostel Zagreb which is directly in the center and a great meeting point for solo travelers.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvička Jezera (Plitvice Lakes) is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia, famous for its numerous turquoise-colored lakes surrounded by a series of waterfalls and mountains.
But…I made one of my biggest mistakes and decided to go there alone instead of going with a group, organized by my hostel. So, I waited almost two hours to get in the park. In the end, I was melting because it was like 40 degrees. If you come with a group, you don´t wait like me and get in directly.
The historic city offers you the perfect combination of ruins, fortress city walls and pedestrians only marble streets which lead to the sightseeing and beautiful beaches like Borik and Kolovare.
The absolute highlight of the city is the old town with an interesting combination of ancient and medieval heritage. A walk through the old town is like a journey through the different epochs of the exciting 3000-year history. Remains of Roman buildings, medieval city walls and gates, the modern landmarks on the northern side of the peninsula, Greeting to the Sun (Sun Salutation) and the Sea Organ. Listening to this music of the sea through this sea organ and watching the LED lights show of the sun salutation are the most special things you can never miss while visiting Zadar.
The nightlife was so unforgettable in the old town. You can meet so many interesting local people and enjoy the small bars and clubs. I must say Zadar had been one of my favourite cities during this trip.
Where to Stay in Zadar: Hostel Elena was just amazing. It is directly in the old town, clean, friendly and I felt like I am home.
Split is the second largest city of Croatia and the largest city of the region of Dalmatia, A great transport hub and popular tourist destination, the city is the ideal place departure place to explore the Adriatic islands. I chose the tours to Brac and Hvar islands. There are many other beautiful destinations. Besides, you can enjoy the city´s beautiful beaches like famous sandy beach Bačvice, or on the other side the Kasjuni beach.
The main highlight of the city definitely the Peristyle, the central square of the Diocletian’s palace which was built for the Roman emperor. The city started being built around it. I should say Split is beautiful, lively but unfortunately full of tourists as in Dubrovnik.
Sunset lovers can head for the Marjan hill to get the best view over the city!
Where to stay in Split: Situs Hostel was just great where I met some crazy lifelong friends. This place will make you feel home.
Brac: The Chill-Out Island
This island was my favourite during the trip because I forgot everything and just enjoyed the moment like in the book of Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. The water, the beach, small stone houses, winding streets dotted with pink and purple geraniums… I can only say it was amazing.
Zlatni Rat beach is the main highlight of the island and my favourite beach so far in Croatia. It is located in the town Bol on the southern coast of the island.
Hvar: The Party Island
Hvar is the most popular island destination in Croatia. This island is known with its crazy nightlife. If you want to swim, the water is crystal clear. I must say I got bored there since there was no party in the morning. So, I head to the Paklinski islands. Besides, it is not easy to find a golden sandy beach, there are mostly pebble beaches in Croatia and on the islands.
Dubrovnik has been one of the most famous cities in recent years. You know the reason: Game of Thrones. When you are there, you will see the GoT tours everywhere, at every corner. I must say the crowd made me exhausted but this city is just so beautiful. Anyway, I was able to escape from the crowd by getting lost in its narrow-cobbled streets with baroque buildings.
Being honest, I skipped to walk this two-kilometer ancient walls because of the amount of people and the temperature and found an alternative way through the help of locals. Then I discovered many hidden gems and enjoyed some amazing views over the city. If you preferred this typical touristic walk, let me know if it was worth it or not.
Besides, the city is so compact and easy to wander by foot. If you have time, I would recommend to go to Lokrum island, right in front of the city. If you really want to go for a swim in Dubrovnik, the most popular and centrally located are Dubrovnik’s Banje Beach, Sveti Jakov Beach and Bellevue Beach.
Alternative Stops in Croatia
Croatia has full of amazing cities and islands. If you decide to spend more days, there are many options not only in Croatia but also in other neighbor countries.
Istria Peninsula, Croatia
Istria is the biggest Croatian peninsula. Its hilltop towns, UNESCO sites, Roman amphitheaters, rustic villas, beaches, the National Park Brijuni, many artisan food and wine markets attracts the food, culture and nature focused visitors. Istrian wine roads and wine makers feature as the most prominent in all of Croatia.
Especially, Pula and Porec were my on my bucket list but I had to skip these cities because of limited time although many locals recommended me to visit these places.
KRKA: The National Park, Croatia
Krka National Park is a well-known nature spot in Croatia. There are seven waterfalls. Skradinski buk and Roški slap are the best ones to swim. Around the Krka and the lakes, you will find many caves, old fortress ruins, and some monasteries. So, it is definitely worth a visit to spend a day here.
Makarska is a small city on the Adriatic coastline of Croatia. It is a beautiful tourist destination with its narrow stone-paved streets and a main church square.
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
A day trip to Mostar is a must. I had to skip it because I was poisoned in Dubrovnik and didn´t have any time left for this amazing place. You can drive there from either Split, Makarska or Dubrovnik. When you are there, you must go to the stunning Stari Most (Old Bridge), which was built by the Ottomans. If you can dare, jump off this 24-meter bridge but I have friends who did it and after that, they were not able to sit for a week.
This coastal town of Montenegro is surrounded by 4,5 medieval walls with scenic views of its mountains and medieval architecture.
Driving in Croatia
Driving in Croatia is just so easy and enjoyable. You’ll be driving on mountains and cliffs. Everything is very well organized. Anyway, it is not the same in the cities. It can make you crazy, especially in Dubrovnik. Besides, PARKING is not possible. There are sometimes no free parking places and if you finally find one, it is most probably not gratis! I would recommend you to use public transport in the cities. There are also buses or ferries from every city to another one if you decide not to rent a car. However, prices are budget-friendly. By the way, sailing is also not a bad idea if you have the opportunity!
Accommodation in Croatia
There’s a wide range of hotels, hostels, villas and private apartments available in Croatia which you can book on Hostelworld, Booking and Airbnb. They’re usually affordable. I booked backpacker hostels just one day before my arrival, so it was sometimes not easy to find a good place. Therefore, it is recommended to book well in advance, especially if you are travelling in July or August.
Best Time to Visit Croatia
You cannot believe me but yes, I was there in August. So, I definitely don´t recommend you to plan your trip in August. It is too hot. I waited until evening to be able to go out. Besides, many cities and places were overcrowded and the prices were too high. The best time to visit and enjoy this country: May, June and September.