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8-9 days in Croatia in September

Hello,

Me and my husband are planning a trip to Croatia in September for not more than 8-9 days and we will be arriving from Boston.I figured that the cheapest flights are to Zagreb and Split. I would really appreciate any ideas on what to see during these 8-9 days if we start our trip in Zagreb or Split. Also we would like to visit Dubrovnik (which I know is quite far from Zagreb)

Posted by
5011 posts

Let's start by being honest with us - and with yourself. What you're describing sounds like a very, very short trip to Europe. Let's find out how short...

How many full days will you be there, not including your arrival day or your departure day?

You say that you "figured that the cheapest flights are to Zagreb and Split". Do you have a basis for that belief, or are you just guessing? Have you actually investigated flights yet?

Posted by
4700 posts

I agree. Nine days is barely enough time to get settled before flying home. Still, we have no idea what you are interested in besides Dubrovnik. If so, I'd fly into or out of Dubrovnik. I'd probably skip Zagreb and fly into/out of Split, so do an open jaw into one out of the other city. Would flying into or out of Zagreb save you money? Maybe, but it's also going to eat up a lot of extra time from your already short schedule.

So with nine days (eight nights?) you might have seven nights in country plus the one night flying to Europe. Maybe three nights in Dubrovnik, two nights on Hvar or Korcula, and two nights in Split before flying home. You can do that all by ferry or catamaran most likely. If you want to see a national park like Plitvice Lakes (an amazing park), you could fly into Dubrovnik, then take a cheap Croatia Airlines flight from Dubrovnik to Zagreb, and see the park as a day trip from there; maybe spend two nights in Zagreb with a day trip to Plitvice and five nights in Dubrovnik with a lot of day trips. Or: three nights in Dubrovnik, two nights in Hvar, then a long day of catamaran and bus to get to Plitvice, one night there, see the park the next morning and the last night in Zagreb and fly out of Zagreb. But Dubrovnik-island-Split is much simpler.

Posted by
19 posts

Hi David, so to answer you questions:
1. We will be there 8 full days
2. I checked airline prices and that's what i base my beliefs on:) Flying to Dubrovnik is most expensive with flight to Zagreb being the cheapest option. Flying to Split would be a good option too.
I understand that 8 days is not enough but that's how it is. Places we wanted to see are Plitvice lakes, Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Trogir. Having only 8 days for this trip i understand that we cannot squeeze everything in our itinerary, so I am asking for an advice for the most optimal option.

thanks again!

Posted by
19 posts

Hi Andrew, we are interested in Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Plitvice lakes. Considering we will have 8 full days only this is quite ambitious plan and we should probably cross out Plitvice lakes from the list.
We also think of renting a car.

Posted by
19 posts

So i came up with the following itinerary
Fly in to Split mid-afternoon, night in Split
Day 1. Split
Day 2. drive to Krka for one day, night in Split
Day 3. Drive to Trogir, Night in Split
Day 4. Drive to Hvar or Korsula (which one would you recommend?). Night there
Day 5. Day in Hvar or Korsula
Day 6. Drive to Dubrovnik. Night in Dubrovnik
Day 7. Dubrovnik
Day 8. Dubrovnik. Fly out of Dubrovnik

We might also try to squeeze in visiting Kotor

Posted by
334 posts

Plitvice Lakes is one of the highlights of Croatia. If you are the type who likes the outdoors and National Parks, do not skip Plitvice Lakes. You could make it as a day trip from Split, although it would be a long day. Or, if you fly in or out from Zagreb, you could stop at Plitvice between Zagreb and Split.

Another thing you should consider is returning your rental car in Split. The car ferries are slower, and you'll have more ferry options without a car. In Dubrovnik, you won't need a car unless you plan to leave town (e.g. day trip to Montenegro or Bosnia).

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks Mike
I would love to visit Plitvice lakes, but wouldn't it be too crazy to fly in to Zagreb and fit in Plitvice lakes, Split, Trogir, Hvar, Krka and Dubrovnik into our itinerary? Looks like I need to sacrifice one or two points of interests.

Posted by
1425 posts

Mike is right: Plitvice Lakes is a must-see.

How about this:

Day 1: arrive Zagreb, rent car, drive to Plitvice
Day 2: visit Plitvice, then drive to Trogir
Day 3: drive to Split, drop off your car, see Split in the morning, then ferry to Hvar
Day 4: Hvar
Day 5: ferry to Dubrovnik
Day 6: Dubrovnik
Day 7: Dubrovnik
Day 8: fly home

I'm not sure about the ferry connections in September, so be sure to research that to make sure you can do what I suggest.

If you only have time for one day trip from Dubrovnik, I recommend Mostar over Kotor. Kotor is very scenic, but you'll see much great scenery on this trip already. Mostar is historically significant and culturally a good counterpoint to your time in Croatia.

Posted by
334 posts

I like Lane's suggestion for your itinerary. If you need to choose between Krka and Plitvice, choose Plitvice if possible. Krka is a good park, but it is a step down from Plitvice Lakes. If you fly through Zagreb, Plitvice will be on the way. If you fly into Split, I'd do a day trip to Plitvice instead of a day trip to Krka even though you would spend a little more time on the road that day. If parks aren't your thing, there's no problem skipping both parks and just spending your time centered in Split and Dubrovnik. Each one of us travels differently and has different priorities. If Split and Dubrovnik and surround areas have higher priority for you, so be it. However, if your original list had fairly equal priority, keep Plitvice -- it's worth it.

Posted by
19 posts

Тhank you all for your great suggestions.
I love outdoors and based on your suggestions I changed our itinerary to look something like this:

Dаy 0. Arrive to Zagreb. Half/day in Zagreb, Rent a car, night in Zagreb
Day 1: drive to Plitvice, day in Plitvice, drive to Trogir, night in Trogir
Day 2: Trogir
Day 3: drive to Split, drop off the car, see Split , night in Split
Day 4: Ferry to Hvar, night in Hvar
Day 5: Ferry to Dubrovnik, night in Dubrovnik
Day 6:Dubrovnik
Day 7: Drive to Mostar, night in Dubrovnik
Day 8: Dubrovnik
Day 9: fly home out of Dubrovnik

I am also debating whether i should go to Zadar instead of Hvar.

Posted by
334 posts

I'm liking this itinerary a lot more. I can't comment on Zadar vs Hvar as I skipped Zadar my trip.

I'm glad to see that you're thinking of a day trip to Mostar. While there were other locations that are more beautiful along the Adriatic coast, Mostar is one of the most significant places in that region and it's one of the most significant places I've ever traveled to. There are very few places in this world that have the emotional tug of Mostar.

Posted by
4868 posts

You don't have time to cover any island in your timescale and most accommodation there has a 3 night minimum booking. If you are planning a visit in late September, Hvar starts winding down for the winter by c 20th. There is more than enough to cover on the mainland.

Posted by
4700 posts

I doubt it would be hard to find a place without a 3 night minimum in late September in Hvar.

Only probably with the latest itinerary is the long day of driving from Zagreb to Plitvice to Trogir. I know it's also not ideal to fly into Zagreb and immediately rent a car and drive, but I'd probably recommend that if possible. The reason is that you could get up first thing the next morning and see the park before it gets crowded. If you have to rent the car the next morning in Zagreb, you might not get down to the park (about a two hour drive) until well after noon. I have heard more than one complaint about Plitvice being too crowded from people who didn't get there til later - there may be lines of people and a crowded, Disneyland-like feel. Earlier in the morning it is not crowded.

The drive from Zagreb to Plitvice is not difficult. If you think you could manage it after the long flight, consider staying in one of the overpriced park hotels so you can walk right into the park the next morning.

I haven't been to Hvar (only to Korcula). I have also been to Zadar, which was OK but not my favorite. I liked Trogir a little more, but it's a very small town - a great place to relax, but unless you have day trips planned I wouldn't expect to want to spend two nights there. I'd probably go to Zadar after Plitvice if you really want to see Zadar instead of two nights in Trogir. (Note that parking close-in in Zadar can be a challenge - most of the center is a big pedestrian area. I don't remember what the parking lot situation was; I was very lucky my B&B owner found me the PERFECT free parking spot - out of only four right in that area! - a short walk from my B&B.)

Mostar vs. Kotor: yes, comparing the two towns, Mostar is a more historically interesting and significant city. But if you are interested in great scenery, I'd go to Kotor hands down. The Bay of Kotor has breathtaking scenery, and the views down from "walking the walls" above Kotor are amazing. Kotor itself was OK - not a city I fell in love with, but for me the amazing scenery made my brief visit well worth it. I did both Mostar and Kotor as overnights not day trips, though. Both will be crowded mid-day with tour groups (and cruise ship groups in Kotor, the same people who were in Dubrovnik the previous night or the next night). Mostar just get bus tour groups. I also did a twisty drive above Kotor through the mountains on a drive to the town of Cetinje - with unbelievable eye-popping views down on the bay; this might be make for a very long day of driving as a day trip from Dubrovnik, although this is what Rick Steves recommends.

The drive to Mostar isn't really scenic at all, nor is there a view down from anywhere. The rebuilt Stari Most (old bridge) in the center of town is quite amazing, though, and seeing a part Muslim city with mosques etc. makes for a nice contrast from everything else you've seen in Croatia. Kotor doesn't feel that different.

I think if I were to wake up in the morning in Dubrovnik and find it rainy, I'd drive to Mostar; if the weather was beautiful, I'd drive to Kotor, because I love scenic photography, and Mostar would be just as interesting in the rain.