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4 best places to see on first trip to Croatia

We are making a last minute decision to travel to Croatia the middle of Oct. What are our must see's and places to visit? We are older and not interested in nightlife but like to people watch. We also like good food and love the ocean. We are thinking of staying overnight on a pretty island. All info appreciated. Thx

Posted by
265 posts

Two trips were made to Croatia in 2019. A RS tour and a trip on our own. Zagreb, the capital was a surprise favorite with small and large museums, good food and a hilly cityscape. We liked the big bay front pedestrian walk in Split for hanging out day and night. ‘This area was for locals and tourists. The historic center is small next to the pedestrian walk. We stayed at a “sobe” with a family in the nearby neighborhood on small curvy streets, also right by the historic area. Good food and near beaches (we didn’t go to the beach). I think there are ferries to the islands for a visit. We didn’t get there.
Dubrovnik was way to touristy for us. Plitvitze Sp? (the water fall national park) was interesting but way out of the way. It is hilly and stairs and not great place if cold or wet. You should have a great trip.

Posted by
31 posts

I think Dubrovnik is a must. It is very touristy, but lots of interesting history and I was surprised at the quality of the (small) museums. Excellent people watching and the water even next to the town is clean and clear. The island of Lokrum is lovely. It seems like hordes of people get on the ferry over, but you quickly disperse and I was often alone walking around the island.

Split is the same- very interesting history and lovely spot, but crowded. I visited Plitivice and thought it was beautiful. I did it as a day trip from Split and it was an easy bus ride. I have heard mixed things about it being nice and empty vs being wet and sad in the fall.

My last stop was Sibenik, an interesting town for a day as it was easy to access and right next to Krka Park. Jokes on me, no easy access to the park of Sat or Sun except pricey taxi!! So I took an island hoping day trip which was very pleasant.

Island wise, I didn't stay at any buy Hvar is clearly the party island and has pricey hotels and even hostels. My roommate in Sibenik was considering paying 40 euros to stay in an 8 person bunk bed hostel on Hvar! That makes Dubrovnik look cheap.

Posted by
2764 posts

I have been four times and have my favorites, but I am also adamant that one should always make the most of their time, and I am insistent that the northern coast that fewer people have heard of is just as beautiful as the more famous southern coast. How many days will you have, and do you know where you will fly to/from?
I have not been to Istria, a glaring omission, but I know that October is a good time to visit there, as it is truffle season. Are you okay with driving, or do you want to stick to public transport? You can explore the coast of Istria very easily without a car, but the interior hill towns are the highlight, and a car is better for that.
How do you feel about outdoors? I never use the term must-see, but Plitvice Lakes national park would be the closest I'd ever come to using it.
The one thing I can say for sure is that you should plan on staying more than one night on an island, as most take some time/effort to get to and one night is just not enough. Vis is probably my favorite, but you will need wheels to explore it--bikes for those more fit than me, scooter for the adept, car for the rest.
Once you have your flight details, I'll be happy to throw out a few options. I regularly daydream of returning for the fifth trip so I've already got several itineraries in my back pocket, but I want to know what you like to do and how you prefer to get around.

Posted by
7977 posts

We enjoyed these islands the most:
Mali Losinj and Korcula.

Posted by
1908 posts

I also enjoyed Split. And I would second Istria. There are a number of lovely cities and most parts are within an hour’s drive.

I also don’t find driving difficult (although city centers could throw some people off). I didn’t make it to Zagreb (went to Slovenia instead).

Check historical October weather. I just left Hvar (gorgeous but loud at night) and am currently in Korcula, which is absolutely beautiful but definitely slowing down. - that might be an issue with the islands.

Posted by
1940 posts

I agree you need more than one night on an island. We have spent 3-4 nights each on three Croatian islands, with Vis being our overwhelming favorite, followed by Korcula and then Hvar. Vis is easily accessible by ferry from Split.

Posted by
5691 posts

Sorry, but October isn’t the time to be visiting the islands, as many places including hotels close at the end of September, which is usually when the weather changes to be cooler and much wetter. I was on Hvar a few years ago (I would never stay in the noisy Hvar town, but I go to Stari Grad or Jelsa - chalk and cheese to Hvar town) and the local couple that we rented our apartment from leave to spend the winter in Split in early/mid October. We departed 23 September and it was dead. The ferries move to their reduced winter timetable the first few days of October.

How long is your trip? In October, I would start in Istria, say Rovinj then head south, chasing the better weather. Zagreb is certainly worth a few days, then head to Split with a side trip to the charming Trogir and end in Dubrovnik. If you have less than 14 nights on the ground, I wouldn’t have 4 bases.

Posted by
21283 posts

I agree with Valadelphia about Plitvice Lakes National Park but would caution you that it is large and with very few opportunities to seek cover, so weather could be an issue. In my personal experience, the Balkans do begin to get wetter in the fall. Having had a super-crowded visit to the park in mid-summer 2015 when I arrived about 10 AM, stood in an hour-long ticket line, then walked in lockstep with throngs of other visitors along the (mostly rail-less) walkways, I always urge folks to spend the night near the park rather than treating it as a day-trip. But that requires a bit of advance planning because lodging needs to be booked, and it will be difficult to have confidence about the weather even a few days out.

Posted by
3448 posts

I can’t comment on mid October weather. We were in Slovenia & Croatia in the month of September. It was lovely. Our favorite places we visited were Rovinj, Split, Plitvice, Dubrovnik, and all time favorite island was Korcula!

Edited to add: If you include Korcula as an overnight stay, we enjoyed Hotel Korsal x2N. Great location and short walk to restaurants & sites. Our favorite restaurant was Nonno. Wonderful fish/pasta and lovely atmosphere. Our favorite restaurant in Dubrovnik was at Hotel Kazbek. Our tour group ate there the last night of our tour.

Posted by
2764 posts

In the meantime, another thing to consider is that you can kinda play it by ear in October. If it's rainy, stay put in mainland towns. If the weather is great, book it to an island. Korcula is one you may find just fine in October. Others might be too quiet. You want to focus on the ones with year round residents. That's one reason to have a car for part of the itinerary at least.

Posted by
1797 posts

If you rent a car, fly into/out of Dubrovnik/Zagreb and sleep in both places a minimum of two nights. If you add another night make it Dubrovnik.
The other two places I would focus on seeing are Plitvice Lakes National Park and sleep there for two nights and the Istria Peninsula and sleep in Rovinj for three to four nights. From Rovinj you can take day trips to Pula (45-minutes) and Motovun (1h).

Posted by
1204 posts

Back in 2017 we enjoyed Rovinj for a few days and also visited a couple of nearby hill towns.

Posted by
2315 posts

In 2014, we visited Croatia in early November, spending 3 days in Dubrovnik. It was pleasant but chilly. We needed a light jacket. It was not tourist-overrun at all. In terms of the winter schedule, we almost got into trouble, as we were depending on the bus to go from Mostar to Dubrovnik. Whoops, bus had ended Oct 31. So, check those late year closings.

We stayed in a sobe in Dubrovnik, and the ad noted that there were 400+ steps to the strada. Yep, that's the case. If you are "older", you need to be sure that you can go up and down.

Posted by
888 posts

I just returned from Split. It's really scenic and the water quality is better than that in most Greek islands. For an island stay, Hvar is a good option because it's just 1 hour away by ferry. Great seafood everywhere.

Posted by
2534 posts

We are in Zagreb now and the weather has started to change. It has been raining the last few days and will rain for the next few. That said, it is turning cooler, a jacket or light coat is a must, with a sweater. Down the coast, Zadar, Šibenik. Split, Korčula, Dubrovnik things are starting to or have already closed down. the hotel we stayed in in Zadar was closing down October 1 (we were the last guests), a restaurant we wanted to eat in on Korčula closed before we got there (sept 25) and in poreč last week many stores were closed already. Of course not everything or every place closes for the season, the stores, hotels, restaurants run by locals stay open year round. They don’t have another home in another city to go for the winter. PS, korčula is a nice island to spend a few days. I can recommend a nice B&B in the old part of town, PM me.