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14 days in Croatia - Itinerary comments appreciated & help w/hotels

Hi, my husband and I are planning a trip to Croatia in September. I put together the following itinerary and would love feedback from any of you who have recently been there. Would also appreciate any tips on hotels and restaurants:

Days 1 & 2: Fly into Zagreb (from Pisa), stay 2 nights. I booked a reservation at Hotel la Premier
Day 3: Rent a car and drive to Istria, I'd like to see Motovun, Gornjan and Rovinj . Staying 1 night (where?)
Days 4-5: Drive to Plitvice Lakes Ntl Park Stay 2 nights (enter the park the about 2:00 the first day and then again the next AM) Where to stay?
Days 6-8: Drive to Sibenik and stay 3 nights. Day trips to Zadar and Krka Ntl Park, hotel suggestions?
Day 9-11: Drive to Split, stay 3 nights with day trips to Trogir via taxiboat, and Hvar hotel suggestions?
Days 12-14: Go to Dubrovnik (either drive or turn over the car in Split and take the bus) stay 3 nights. hotel suggestions?
Day 15: Fly home to Seattle

Thank you in advance for any suggestions or comments.
JCE

Posted by
4005 posts

In Split we always stay at the hotel Peristil. It is within Diocletian’s palace walls. Lovely family run hotel with breakfast.
You can take a catamaran to Dubrovnik from Split. The schedule is at Croatiaferries.com. While in Croatia we always stay within the old city. Some of our favorites are Dubrovnik Gardens, Apartment Pavisa, and B+B Andio.
We have not been to Šibenik yet and may get there this September so I haven’t researched hotels yet.

Posted by
968 posts

Istria is a significant detour for one night. But I think you could easily move a couple nights around. Turning that into a 2-3 night stay is much more appealing.

You definitely only need one night in Plitvice, especially as you have planned on the afternoon-morning visit. You will easily see both major sections on the park, and can move on. With a car, you could stay nearby easily enough. The park hotels are not cheap and are basic institutional places. I stayed at Hotel Jezero, nice enough with a solid buffet. Didn’t need to splurge on the “lakes facing balcony” as there were no real views.

Little confused around Split. Were you planning on staying on Hvar? If not, two nights in Split are usually enough. Sibenik is a smaller town and two nights would probably serve fine. Especially if you’re using that night to stay in Rovinj, similar vibes. If you can ditch the car when you get to Split and just take the ferry to Dubrovnik that is the best option.

Posted by
1667 posts

I agree that you only need one night at Plitvice Lakes NP. Enter the park around 3 or 4 on the first day. And then again the next morning by 9AM. We loved our stay at Plitvice Miric Inn just outside the park. It's about a 5-minute drive from Entrance 2. In 2019 we paid 130 euros which included a magnificent home-made breakfast buffet. They used to serve dinner for an additional fee, but I don't think they do that any more.
https://www.plitvice-croatia.com/

In Dubrovnik we stayed at Karmen Apartments located within the walls, just inside Ploce Gate. A very convenient location and Mark is a lovely and helpful host.
https://www.karmendu.com/

Posted by
5450 posts

I make monthly trips to Zagreb and have been to areas you describe numerous times - especially Istria. I would land in Zagreb and just move on. Everything in Croatia on the coast is much more attractive than Zagreb, trust me. Land in Zagreb, maybe spend one night, get your car and get the heck out of there. I also think that one night in Istria is a huge disservice to that area and you will struggle to visit the three places you want to visit, which are nice but not even the best places in Istria, in my opinion. I would honestly just skip Istria altogether unless you can give it more time. The lakes are lovely and should not be missed, but I do not think you need all of that time. Sibenik is an excellent choice, to base for a few days. I absolutely love Split but I wouldn't stay there. I'd stay on an island (we love Brac, Hvar is too much of a party scene) and then do days trips into Split and Trogir from an island. What about Korčula - I think you don't want to miss that island, in my opinion, following Split. Ferry down with the car to Dubrovnik and return the car. Buses in Croatia are fine (I've taken dozens) but I'd always rather be in a car.

Posted by
4359 posts

You do have limited time.

I agree with the suggestions above, if you are bound by trip length:
Only 1 night at Plitvice
3 nights in Istria
1 night in Split (skip those day trips)
2 nights on an island
Ferry to Dubrovnik

I haven’t been to Zagreb so can’t comment there.

There’s nothing wrong with your itinerary if you are still able to add days to your trip. But if limited, you need more time for Istria and you need time for an island stay on the way from Split to Dubrovnik. (Still only need one night at Plitvice.) So it becomes about choices.

Posted by
1667 posts

We really like Zagreb. It's very different architecturally and visually from Split and Dubrovnik, so you get a more diversified trip by spending 2 nights in Zagreb. The food is very different, too.

Posted by
847 posts

As others have noted, one night in Istria is not a good plan. Especially to see three towns. Motovun is simply a small hilltop town with parking problems and you can walk around it in 30 minutes. Rovinj, also parking problems and although scenic is crowded and expensive. It is the same as many other Mediterranean coastal towns, like Spilt and Zadar.
You might note that unless on a toll road, your average speed will be about 30-40 kilometers per hour.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you all for your very helpful tips, as a result I have made a lot of adjustments to our itinerary. In addition, our amazing travel agent was able to get us some awesome rates on Turkish Airways which will give us a couple of days to sample Istanbul. Here's our adjusted itinerary:
• Day 1 (9/18) – Fly from Pisa into Zagreb via RyanAir Lv Pisa at 1:30, Arrive in Zagra at 3:00, spend a nice afternoon/evening strolling around the centre of the city (main square, cathedral, Ilica). (Stay 2 nights at Hotel Le Premier)
• Day 2 (9/19) tour Zagreb
• Day 3 (9/20) – Rent a car and drive to Motovun (2 hrs, 143 miles) and Gronjan have lunch, drive to Rovinj (stay 2 nights)

• Day 4 (9/21): hang out in Rovinj or tour other hill towns
• Day 5 (9/22): In the AM Drive to Plitvice Lakes, (after a quick stop in Beram to see the frescos). Stay local to the park. Explore
the park in the afternoon (stay 1 night)
• Day 6 (9/23): Explore the park in the AM, have lunch and then drive to Zadar see the Roman ruins (2 hrs, 90 miles) stay 1 night
• Day 7 (9/24): Drive to Split (1.5 hrs, 96 miles), tour Split (2 nights)
• Day 8 (9/25): tour Split

• Day 9 (9/26): Take a ferry to Korcula ( 2/12 hours) (2 nights)
• Day 10 (9/27): Korcula
• Day 11 (9/28): Car Ferry to Orebic (20 min, runs every half hr) Drive to Dubrovnik and return car (4 nights)

• Day 12 (9/29): Tour Dubrovnik

• Day 13 (9/30): Tour Dubrovnik or a day trip
• Day 14 (10/01): Tour Dubrovnik
• Day 15 (10/2): Fly from Dubrovnik to Istanbul

Posted by
4359 posts

Looks workable - you will have a great time. My only remaining thought is: have you considered returning the car in Split and taking the ferry the rest of the way?

Posted by
968 posts

Your revisions look good. You should drop the car once you get to Split though. The passenger ferries will get you down the coast easy. There is zero need for your car from then on.

Posted by
1837 posts

Agree that your revised itinerary is excellent and that you should drop the car in Split and do ferries the rest of the way.

In addition to Motovun and Grožnjan, I recommend a stop in Završje. When I was there in 2015 it was almost entirely abandoned. I've read that it's gradually being restored. In any case, it's very interesting to see, and won't take long.

Also, I recommend lunching at Konoba Dolina in Gradinje. It's in the same area as the other three towns. At the time it was recommended in Rick Steves' guide book. Maybe it still is. Food was fabulous.

Posted by
7473 posts

I did the RS Adriatic tour last year, and we stayed at Hotel Jezero at Plitvice. It’s was so handy to just walk the short distance to the entrance of the park. The buffet meals served by the hotel were well organized.

I veered away for one night from the tour (notified the guide upfront) and stayed on Hvar Island. I really liked it there! Hvar was so different than any place I had been - lots of night life in town, rows of yachts with party lights and just a general atmosphere of enjoying the Monday evening together. Even the young children were having fun playing with a ball in front of the church in the large town square. I preferred it over Korcula Island, but Korcula is nice, also. I stayed at Heritage Hotel Dea Hvar and would recommend it for the handy location, the friendly staff, the cleanliness of the facility, and the excellent breakfast made-to-order.

Posted by
27 posts

I have heard your advice and have decided to drop the car off in Split and take the walk on catamaran to Korcula. Thank you for all your great feedback and suggestions.

Posted by
4359 posts

With only 1 1/2 days in Korćula, I think you will be glad. You could easily spend the half day walking Korćula Town and on your full day take a wine tour or the hop on hope off 3 island boat for the day.

Posted by
886 posts

I highly recommend Zrinka House for your stay near Plitvice. (you can find it on booking.com) Stellar property with fabulous hosts. Zrinka and her daughter Barbara will do everything in their power to ensure a terrific stay. They even packed us a lunch on the day we departed.