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10-11 days in Croatia

My fiancé and I are planning to go to Croatia for 10-11 days in early September (tentative 9/7-9/18) after a couple days stop in Barcelona first. I would love any advice/comments on our itinerary:

Day 1 - Barcelona to Zagreb. Rent car and drive to Rovinj, looks like 3 hour drive, any interesting stops along the way?
Day 2 – Istria/Rovinj
Day 3 – Istria/Rovinj; drive to hotel near Plitvice Lake at night. Any interesting stops along the way?
Day 4 - Plitvice; drive to Zadar
Day 5 – Zadar – Kornati Islands boat tour
Day 6 – Zadar – do we need the extra day?
Day 7-9 – Split – Is it too rush to do a day trip to Hvar one of these days? Or Korcula?
Day 10-11 – Dubrovnik
Day 12 – Fly back to Barcelona to fly back to US

I considered skipping Zagreb but couldn’t find any flights to the Rovinj area to/from Barcelona. Not sure if the 3 hour drive in and out is good idea but from what I’ve read we would like to see Rovinj.

With our schedule we may end up at Plitvice on a Saturday or Sunday. Will the crowd be worse even if we go at 7AM?

I’ve read that parking is not easy and costly in Dubrovnik. Should we return the car as soon as we arrive? How easy is it getting around town, and to airport?

Any suggestions on accommodations, where to start?

Posted by
18872 posts

Warning: I've never driven in Europe, much less in Croatia.

I took a one-day bus trip from Rovinj through the Istrian interior last September. I thought Motovun and Groznjan were both very interesting. Try Rome2Rio for an idea of the driving time. I don't know how much it would add to your trip from Zagreb to Rovinj.

See what your guidebook says about Karlovac (inland), Rijeka and Opatija, but Zagreb itself has a nice and extensive old town, as well as some significant museums. If you've got some extra time to spend before you have to be in Istria, I think Zagreb's got more to offer than Karlovac, Rijeka and Opatija. I have no idea how convoluted it would be to get into the tourist districts of any of those cities by car, however.

I hope Plitvice will be less overrun in September than it was in late August, but I just don't know. Certainly starting early in the morning will be far better than arriving by bus from Zabreb at 10 AM as I did. What I'm not sure about is doing that drive from Rovinj at night. I approached from a different direction, and we were on a minor road for a good while. I suggest checking in Rovinj.

I didn't have a full day in Zadar myself, but I wished that I had that long, or longer. You'll want to spend a good bit of time wandering through the historic district and to see both the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun. The Greeting to the Sun is not a daytime sight; maybe you can see it on Day 5 after returning from your boat tour. Perhaps leave Zadar in the afternoon on Day 6?

If you get to Split either late on Day 6 or early on Day 7, I imagine you'll have time for a day trip to one of the islands, but I haven't done anything except speed down the highway in that part of Croatia since the late 1980s. I'm certainly not familiar with the ferry schedules. Be sure you have accurate information for September.

Posted by
334 posts

There is a small town, Rastoke, just north of Plitvice Lakes that is an interesting stop. Coming from Rovinj, you'd need to drive to Karlovac and then head south. This isn't the most direct route to Plitvice, but if you have the time, it's a neat little town on top of the waterfalls. Regarding Plitvice, as long as you get into the park before the tour busses arrive (usually around 10:00AM), you shouldn't have any problems no matter the day of the week. You don't necessarily need to be out in the park at 7AM unless you are an early riser.

Parking is not easy in Dubrovnik. There are a number of city bus lines that connect Dubrovnik and it's fairly easy to get around once you know which line you need to take. You shouldn't need a car unless you plan to leave Dubrovnik itself. The airport is about a 20 minute drive outside of town. There are busses (from the main bus station) that connect to the airport or you could have your hotel arrange a taxi for you.

Posted by
23 posts

What an exciting trip you have planned. We so enjoyed Barcelona with it incredible energy and architecture. The famous Ramblas is really filled with tourist. As one local said, "we don't go there". We found various tours to take in the city through Discover Walks. One met on the Ramblas but then took us into the Jewish qtr for a fascinating tour. Another one we took highlighted Antoni Gaudí's Modernism architecture. You just need to sign up, show up, and pay what you want. Well worth it!
Croatia is wonderful. We so enjoyed the Istria Peninsula with Rovinj being our favorite. The hill towns of Groznjan and Motovan were incredibly unique. Plitvice is remarkable and we spent a whole day traversing through the lakes and waterfalls. We got there around 9am, about a half hour before the tour bus arrived. If you are overcome by them, just step aside, wait a bit and they fly by, snapping up photos and then they are one their way. Mid week is a good time if you can schedule that. We found a great place to stay where you can easily walk from to the entrance of the park. Check out Krizmanic family B & B. The lady of the house speaks perfect English, serves a wonderful breakfast, and has great tips on how to maneuver throughout the park, as all the different routes can be confusing. Happy Travels, Fran