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12-day Croatia itinerary - sanity check

We'll be by car, arriving and departing from Zagreb (August). I've mapped this out by proximity, but is it reasonable? Anything worth skipping or re-ordering? I'll be the driver so am especially interested in ways to make this more efficient. But most distances seemed to be no more than 3-hour drives, which I can tolerate w/o getting too twitchy. For those that have done Croatia/Slovenia by car, I'd love confirmation that those are also accurate and separately, that we've allowed enough time in each spot. Have it it, and thanks for any suggestions!

  1. Sunday 10 a.m., arrive Zagreb, pick up car, lunch in Zagreb, drive to Lake Bled (3 hours). Afternoon and all of Monday doing Lake Bled/Julian Alps area. (Has anyone taken the car train back to Lake Bled that Rick writes about in his book? Was thinking of doing that driving tour.)
  2. Tuesday: Drive to Motovun (2 or 3 hrs?), do a little sightseeing, proceed to Rovinj and make home base for 2 nights - day trips to Pula, etc. (Q: Is this long enough in Istria?)
  3. Thursday: Drive from Rovinj to Plitvice (Google Maps says 3-4 hours from Rovinj but I don't believe it. True?) Hike, one overnight.
  4. Friday: Drive to Split (3-4 hours from Plitvice?). Thoughts welcomed here: Make Split home base and day trip to Hvar and Korcula, or do Split, car ferry to Korcula and make that home base instead. 3 nights - less / more?
  5. Monday: Drive to Dubrovnik (3 hours?). Dubrovnik and day trip to Montenegro through Wednesday, drop car, fly to Zagreb Thursday afternoon, home Friday.
Posted by
5292 posts

My general comments are that you may be trying to put too much into the Split to end of trip portion and issues with the car.

First, the Car, no issues with a car, you will need it for a trip like this, just check ahead on two things; First, Lake Bled takes you into Slovenia, Make sure the rental agency is aware of it, and that they allow it. You might be required to pay a bit more...or they may have no issue with crossing borders, check also about Montenegro if you were planning on driving there. Second, same with any ferries, sometimes agencies have issues with you taking a rental on a ferry. Just go over the plan with them, just the added drop off cost in Dubrovnik will likely bump up the cost, just be aware of any other issues so there are no surprises.

As for once you get to Split
You basically have 5 uninterupted days (excluding the travel day to Split and the Travel day to Zagreb. Neither Hvar or Korcula are easy day trips from Split. Hvar seems like it should be, but ferries just do not seem to work out to get there, have some time, and get back. You could check out ferries, I believe you can get one from Split to Stari Grad on Hvar, then from Stari Grad to Korcula, then drive from Korcula to Dubrovinik. However, if you intend to add in Montenegro, you are making nearly every day a travel day, most days all morning...not leaving much time to see anything.

I would consider dropping Hvar and Korcula, maybe stop in Ston on the way down to Dubrovnik, at least for a few hours, and maybe a few other stops on the coast, maybe a night. That would give you the time in Dubrovnik to see Montenegro.

Posted by
3134 posts

Cars: Last year, we rented a car in Dubrovnik and dropped it in Zagreb. There was no drop fee. I do seem to remember a clause in the contract forbidding taking the vehicle on ferries.
Istria: We loved Porec, but were sorry we didn't have time for Pula, as well. You are aware, are you not, that 2 nights gives you only 1 full day?

Posted by
3 posts

Paul and Rosalyn, belated thanks for your replies!

I heard from others to spend more time in Istria and to skip Hvar, Korcula, etc. (or just choose one) instead, in order to have more time in Dubrovnik. Would you agree or do you think they both deserve some time?

We're also contemplating skipping Plitvice because of the extra time driving inland for how much time we'd actually spend there. Curious on your thoughts there, if it's a not-to-miss.

Finally, when I read about queues for the ferries, does it matter if it's passenger or car this time of year (August)? I'm assuming they'll both be long, or did you find that if you're taking your car on a ferry you have to show up even earlier than passenger alone?

As for the car, I'm all squared away w/ border crossings, ferry permissions and drop fees.

Thanks again for your help. Any other insight on your favorites of these spots will be v. much appreciated.

Cheers!

Posted by
5 posts

You travel like we do....fast but fulfilling itinerary and nothing we'd change. We just got back from a 14 day driving tour from Milan to Slovenia/Croatia/Montenegro/Bosnia with nights in: Bled (one day in Bled then next day did Julian Alps car drive), then down to the caves (a blast) and cave castle which were awesome, down to Rovinj (best coastal town we think), then Plitvices (a do NOT miss if you like natural beauty unlike anything you will ever see elsewhere), then Dubrovnik for a few days with a great side trip to Kotor Montenegro and surrounds, then a final day trip to Mostar Bosnia on the way back to Italy (we LOVED Mostar BTW).

"Drive from Rovinj to Plitvice (Google Maps says 3-4 hours from Rovinj but I don't believe it. True?)" Yep, it takes this long. Fascinating once you get out in the country to see all the bullet ridden abandoned homes after so many years.

We LOVED Rovinj and if you like food (truffles and seafood to die for), wine, history, gorgeous towns etc you want to have at least 2 full days there. We enjoyed there and Bled as much as (maybe more than) Dubrovnik.

Let me know if you need more info!

Julia

Posted by
3134 posts

We did not make it to either Korcula or Hvar. After hearing that Hvar was great for a swinging nightlife scene, we knew it wasn't a place we'd want to go. We tried to get to Korcula from Dubrovnik by car. The plan was for a brief stop in Ston, and a drive to the town at the end of the peninsula, from which you can get a ferry, then a bus into town. That drive is a long, hairy one, with narrow curving roads. To top it off, the weather looked worse by the minute. After about a half hour, we bagged our plan and turned back. Good thing. The rain came down hard as we were driving back to Dubrovnik.

I echo those who say not to skip Plitvice. It is magically beautiful. This from one who lives in an extremely beautiful state and who has done a LOT of world travel. I don't think either island could match Plitvice.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone! OK, for those of you who have been to Plitvice, I am sold. We were going back & forth on whether it's worth the 3-4 hour drive from Rovinj, then another 3-4 hours to Split, but it's sounding like it's a must do, esp for nature lovers. Logistically, though, is this a one-night or two-night stay, considering the drive before and after? I've read that you can pretty much see the place in 3-4 hours. I don't want to be rushed, but I don't want to unnecessarily stretch things out either. In my mind we'd spend part of the day in Rovinj before heading to Plitvice, get there late afternoon, the really make a full day of it the next day, sleep over one more night and then book it to Split.

Sounds like Hvar might not be worth our time, and I think we'll save Korcula for when we get to Dubrovnik and take one of the catamarans there instead of a car ferry.

Thanks again for any other advice!

Posted by
187 posts

I agree with the others who have been to Plitvice Lakes NP. It really is a must see. We drove from Zagreb to it. We left Zagreb in the am and got there in time to do everything that we wanted to. After staying overnight in the park, we drove to Split. I am not sure exactly how long it took us, but I would say that it was more than 4 hours.

Posted by
1196 posts

We will be in Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia/Montenegro in September and October so we're reading posts to these forums with great interest. Although we don't have the issue stated by the OP, we want to thank all who responded. Your info on the driving times is really helpful to anyone planning a similar trip, as we are. Although you responded to this one question, you've helped us and other readers looking for information about this part of the world. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Posted by
3 posts

Great information - thanks!!

I am following much of Rick Steve's driving tour. Picking up a rent car in Zagreb, going to Lake Bled & Plitvices, then working our way down the coast to Dubrovnik. After reading the above posts, I will skip Hvar and catch Korcula from Dubrovnik. My question is: should I keep the rent car for the entire trip? Is there a decent driving route (I'm envisioning California's Route 1) along the Dalmatian coast?

Posted by
20 posts

We just got back from Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar, and Split. We also did Plitvice Natl park ( a must according to a Croatian friend and myself).

We spent 3 days/3 nights in Dub, with a day trip to Kotor and Budva Montenegro. Since we started here, we were pleased. But, after our 12 days touring the above itn, I'd say that you can skip Montenegro. It's just more of the same, with some variations.
You can do lots of multiple day trips from Dubrovnik.

Korcula (town) must be where the Croatians go on vacation. It's laid back and relaxed.

Hvar, accoding to a couple of young boatmates we met on the ferry, is cool, hip, and happening. Lots of restaurants when you arrive on the dock. It's pretty happening at night. I say this as a 61 year old. It has a big city vib considering it takes up so little space.
We loved Hvar. Plenty to do and like if you want peace and quite.

Posted by
10 posts

Everyone is so generous with information! We are planning much the same trip in September and since it will be our first time to Croatia I am worried that I am trying to pack too much in:
Ferry from Venice to Rovinj - 2 nights in Rovinj
drive to Plitvice Lakes - 1 night there
drive to Split or Ston or somewhere to take the ferry to Korcula with the car - 1 night on Korcula
drive to Dubrovnik for 3 nights
I have already booked the Rovinj, Plitvice and Dubrovnik nights.
Here is my question - would it be better to add a night to Dubrovnik and do a day excursion to Korcula with a tour group? The ferry with a car sounds time consuming and difficult.

Thanks!

Posted by
1 posts

Be careful about thinking you can do a day trip to some of the islands closer to Dubrovnik after August 31st. The ferry schedules cut back drastically. We are leaving in less than two weeks and only a few days ago while planning discovered that when we are there in September, the ferry from Dubrovnik to Korcula, Hvar, etc. only go about twice a week and don't coincide with just staying there one day; it will be more like 2-3 days. We had to do some digging to find a list of all the ferry companies; working out a schedule that wasn't going to have us on Korcula without moving on to Hvar or back to Dubrovnik was a bit like solving a Rubik's cube. Do good research, as you won't want to spend more time in one place than you can enjoy and miss out on others.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks! I got nervous about trying to get to Korcula for just one night so I tacked on another day in Dubrovnik. I hope to do some sort of island tour from there. The ferry situation is hard to figure out for sure.