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Croatia for ~ 10 days in MAY 2016

My boyfriend and I are going to be backpacking in Europe for 2 months, and will be in Croatia at the beginning of May. We get in May 1 and our ferry to Venice leaves May 11. Here is the plan so far, any tips or suggestions would be MUCH appreciated!

May 1, take train from Budapest to Zagreb (capital), stay the night and next day in Zagreb.

May 3, morning: take a bus to Plitvice Lakes National Park, spend the day/several hours at Plitvice. Take a bus from Plitvice to Zadar.

May 4, Spend a few nights in Zadar, and explore Zadar and surrounding areas (islands) during the days. Do a day trip to Split.

Then we need to get north to Rovinj for May 11 because that is the only time the ferry to Venice runs in May.

We were wanting to do island hopping and were thinking of going from Zadar and taking the ferries to various islands and work our way up to Rijeka. Then from Rijeka we will take a bus to Rovinj in time for our boat. The only problem is I'm unsure if this is even plausible. Would the better option be to forgo the ferries and catch buses up the coast?

Are the ferries between the cities fairly easy to use? What kind of options would we have in May, as it is a bit off season still? Is there anywhere reasonable to stay on the islands?

Comments please! And especially from anyone who has traveled there before!

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
4700 posts

I would recommend spending only the first night in Zagreb, spending the next morning and maybe early afternoon exploring (if you feel like it) then take a bus in the late afternoon to Plitvice and spend the night there. Then you can get into the park first thing in the morning (park opens at 7AM) to beat the crowds and tour groups. When I was there last May, the park was not a mob scene by mid-day but there were still plenty of people. When I got there at 7:30, there were very few people.

Also, if you can start first thing in the morning, you will have as much time as you need (to a point) in the park without the need to feel rushed and still make a bus to Zadar at a reasonable hour.

I'm not sure how you would island hop from Zadar up to Rijeka. There are local ferries between the islands and the mainland but not sure about coastal ferries connecting them, especially in May. You can find ferry info for the Dalmatian coast pretty easily by googling though I'm not sure you will find May schedules yet.

Rovinj was one of my favorite stops in Croatia - it would be a shame for you to use it merely as a transit point on to Venice without seeing it. It's not a big town so doesn't take much time to explore, but it is really lovely. If you can work in a night there I don't think you would regret it.

FYI, there is a flight from Zadar to Pula (near Rovinj) I believe - maybe not expensive. It would go against your island hopping plans but if they don't work out...consider the flight to save time.

Posted by
334 posts

I am not experienced with the ferries north of Split, but the beginning of May is just the start of shoulder season and I don't know how frequently those ferries will be running. That is going to be your greatest obstacle -- working yourself into the ferry schedule. If I were you, I would research the bus schedule and have it as a plan B in your back pocket if something doesn't work out with the timing of the ferries. You can use www.buscroatia.com to get an idea of the frequency of the busses in the region you'll be in.

If the ferries are running at the times you want, they are easy to use. You'll have no problem getting tickets in early May. The busses are relatively easy as well.

Posted by
8 posts

Great, thank you for the information!

Yes I have looked into the ferry schedules (krilo and jadrolinija), there are some that run in May. i was speaking to a man who is from Croatia and he was mentioning the weather might not be the best and we wouldn't want to get stranded on an island.

Has anyone taken these ferry companies? Is it easy to buy tickets? Like say, could we just go there in the morning, get a ticket for that same day and leave a little while later?

I'm also unsure what kind of accommodation would be available, since we are trying to be budget conscious.

Posted by
334 posts

I was in Croatia in mid-May last year and took both both Krilo (Kapetan Luka) and Jadrolinija ferries between Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar. It is easy to buy tickets at the port -- you just have to locate where the ticket office is. In May, the ferries were not full, so it is possible to buy tickets right up until the ferry leaves, however, I would recommend checking in at the ferry office before you intend to leave just so that you have the most up-to-date schedule.

If bad weather is predicted, it will need to be pretty bad to have the ferries canceled -- it's a rare event in summer. The car ferries are more consistent than the little catamarans as they are larger, sturdier ships. You shouldn't have any issues with a regular storm. If it's more serious, you may want to take the bus -- especially if the weather is going to be terrible the day you're intending on being on an island.