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5 Cities in 11 Nights, doable?

I'm trying to plan the Croatia portion of my 2-month Europe backpacking trip. Originally I was going to skip Dubrovnik and take the overnight train from Bratislava to Split (3 nights), then do Zadar (3 nights), Plitvice lakes (2 nights) and Zagreb (3 nights) to then continue on to Slovenia. However, now I've heard this train might be discontinued and regardless I've decided it might be smarter to fly from Budapest (where I'll be before Croatia) to Dubrovnik as it's the same price or less as the 14.5 hour overnight train and probably a quicker experience (although there is a 3h layover in Belgrade, so not a ton quicker).

Now arrives the dilemma of trying to fit another city in my tight schedule. How would you fit Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Plitvice and Zagreb into 11-12 nights? Is it doable? I definitely do want to see some islands but just as a day trip as I don't want to add even more places to sleep in (plus honestly the logistics of checking-in/out, carrying my bags for just one night and an early check out gives me anxiety lol and accommodation there are usually not cheap). Which is why I'm also reluctant in reducing Plitvice to 1 night, although I might not have a choice. I feel like if I don't stay long enough in the cities, day trips to the islands (or other day trips) might also not be possible too.

I also don't want to remove Zagreb (I know it's not the most popular) since I'm interested in it and also will be going to Ljubljana from there after. The reasoning for more days in Zadar although it's smaller was that the hostels are a lot cheaper so I can enjoy relaxing beach days and potential day trip for cheaper (split is double the price).

Any recommendations? I won't have a car btw, so it will be all by bus. I'll be there in early July (yes, peak season unfortunately).

Posted by
3594 posts

I’m the type who usually suggests longer stays, but I really do read the context. Based on you being a solo traveler and what I know about the transport logistics, I think you have a solid plan.
Depending on what time you plan to arrive, staying one night at Plitvice could work well. You can see the highlights by visiting the park in late afternoon and the next morning. If they are still stamping entry tickets for next day entry at the park hotels, that makes up for the higher accommodation costs and keeps you close to the park and the bus stop. If you need that night elsewhere, I’d rather take that one away than one from Zagreb.
I have spent the least time in Zadar, so I’d just say to make sure you scope out the day trip options well.

Posted by
1248 posts

Because you are a backpacker, I am trying to see this from a different point of view. I am in my 70's so we travel at a slower pace and we don't have to worry as much about money. I am like the previous poster who usually recommends spending more time in a place. So, I think this is what I would recommend so that you can include Dubrovnik in your itinerary. It's such a beautiful city and even though it's crowded and "touristy", it is well worth visiting.

A sample itinerary could be:
Dubrovnik - 2 nights (this will give you a whole day to walk the walls, perhaps take the cable car to the top of Mt. Srd for the views and enjoy a drink, and see War Photo Unlimited, a wonderful photo exhibit where you will learn about the war in the 1990's.)
Split - 3 nights (this will give you time to see Split and Diocletian's Palace, and then take a day trip via catamaran to visit Hvar)
Zadar - 2 or 3 nights (I haven't been to Zadar but you mention the hostels are cheaper and you can enjoy the beach)
Plitvice - 1 night (You really only need one night in Plitvice)
Zagreb - 2 or 3 nights (We love Zagreb so I understand why you want to visit. Zagreb will give you diversity. It is very different from Dubrovnik and Split.)

We also ended our Croatia portion of our trip in Zagreb because from there we took the train to Ljubljana.

You will have an awesome 2 months in Europe! I envy you!!! I wish I had done that when I was younger.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks for the feedback guys! I'll probably remove a night from Zagreb and put it towards a coastal city so I have time to see islands (at least hvar). Or if I find I'm too interested in Zagreb I'll remove a night elsewhere in my previous itinerary and start Croatia a day early.

I'm still unsure about doing 1 or 2 nights in Plitvice. 1 is enough to visit the park early, but the hostel I'd probably stay at organized other hikes I might be interested in. So in this case I'd need a second night.

I'll keep pondering on it!