My siblings, Mother and I will be traveling to Hungary and Croatia this August. Being of Hungarian lineage and having visited before, that leg of our trip is an easy organization. Croatia, however, is feeling very daunting! We plan on spending 6 days in Croatia in early August. I would welcome your input on where to visit to maximize our short stay - scenery, historical, cultural, epicurean and overall best possible experience in a limited timeframe. A tall order to be sure! Any and all information is most welcome. Thanks in advance
How will you be traveling from Hungary to Croatia? What's your last stop in Hungary? At the end of your trip, will you be flying home from Croatia? If so, from which city? Do you have six full days in Croatia, or does that include the day you arrive from Hungary and/or the day you fly home?
Hello, thanks so much for your reply! Of course ... some pivotal information is missing! We are flying from Vancouver, BC into Croatia then on to Budapest. I am simply uncertain where in Croatia we should fly in to and where we should concentrate our stay. We would like to travel to a few destinations within Croatia within the 6 day period then travel on by train or plane pending suggestions. We are also looking for economical accommodations via either Airbnb or Vrbo.
The Dalmatian Coast (Dubrovnik, Split, islands) is an obvious highlight of Croatia, with beautiful coastline, warm oceans for swimming, and unique cities. But it's also high season and probably very crowded in August - something I personally wouldn't want to deal with. But many do. Up to you if that's what you want to see.
Zagreb is likely to be less of a zoo, being the capital city and not a big tourist town. It would be on your way to Hungary by train if you wished to proceed that way. But I'm not sure I'd want to spend six days there. Maybe you could fly into Split, take buses or trains north to Zagreb, stop at the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park on the way (spend a night and visit first thing in the morning; the park will be a zoo in the summer with big tour groups by mid-morning).
With so little time in peak season, I would recommend that you divide your time equally between Split and Dubrovnik, offering you two different cities with sufficient time for a day trip from each to either a national park or an island. Getting from Split to Dubrovnik will take 6+ hours door to door.
Unless you want to spend most of your time in transit rather than visiting, I would suggest that you limit yourself to 2 bases.
If this doesn't fit with your flight options, I would suggest either Split plus Brac or Hvar OR Dubrovnik plus Mljet.
Flights within Europe have been available for months, so for peak season, book asap, as prices only head one way.
With just six days, you won't want to waste a bunch of time with inefficient transportation links, so I'd start by looking at flights from your home airport to Croatia. Decent itineraries may be more limited than you expect, or you may find that all of Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik will take similar amounts of time and not differ greatly in price (which wouldn't help you narrow things down!). Or you may find that Zagreb is both faster and cheaper for you. I like Zagreb a lot, but it is probably less different from what you see in Hungary than the other top destinations in Croatia.
Then investigate your Croatia-Hungary leg. A quick check didn't turn up any non-stop flights into Budapest, but I could have overlooked something.
I don't actually know that your target area in Hungary is near Budapest, but there's a 9:50 train departure from Zagreb that gets you to Budapest at 4:24 PM--not ideal because it costs you essentially an entire day's sightseeing time. There's another direct train at 4:40 PM, arriving at 10:24 PM. From other parts of Croatia, it gets rather difficult, though there's a night-train itinerary from Rijeka with just one connection (in Ljubljana) at a reasonably-sane time prior to midnight.
This transportation awkwardness may limit your choice of final stop in Croatia unless you're willing to pay more money and do a two-leg flight by way of a city off your direct path. Which will take a lot more time, of course.
Depending on where you're going in Hungary and what you decide to do in Croatia, you may need to consider buses, which are often needed within Croatia as well. The BusCroatia website will give you an idea of how long it takes to move around the country in the many areas without rail service.
I haven't seen all of Croatia, but these are among the country's highlights for me: Plitvice Lakes National Park (I love it, but you must spend the night and start early the next morning), Dubrovnik (must be able to tolerate crowds), the islands, Istria (needs 3 nights, I think) and Split. I also like Zadar (especially if you don't have time to get all the way to Dubrovnik), and others have made positive comments about Krk National Park and Sibenik.
There are decent bus connections from Zagreb to Plitvice and from Split to Plitvice. I don't think there are any direct buses connecting Plitvice to Istria, so you'd probably need to change in Rijeka or Zadar (closer than the other options of Split and Zagreb). The connection would be easy with a rental car.
Assuming you and your mom don't have mobility issues that would cause problems on the walkways at Plitvice, I'd try to build the trip around a stop at the park, because I think it's really special. That would probably mean not seeing Dubrovnik on this trip.
Edited to add: On a short trip, coordinating bus transportation with ferry departures will be somewhat limiting, but if an island is a top priority, you can make it work. If you find that you need to fly into and/or out of Zagreb, you might need to stick to one of the northern islands.
Hello, thank you so much for your detailed responses. It truly is helpful. We've tweaked our itinerary somewhat and have added 2 days for a total of 8. These are my thoughts on a loose itinerary. All suggestions welcomed! Fly in to Dubrovnik - stay 2 days then travel to Korkula on day 3 via ferry, explore, overnight stay then on to Split where we will home base and day trip Hvar, Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes where we will overnight then travel to Zagreb on day 8 overnight, then train to Budapest on day 9. Thoughts? Many thanks