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Croatia Itinerary - Are we trying to do too much?

My husband and I will be traveling to Croatia in mid september. We will fly into Dubrovnik and out of the Pula airport on the Istra Penninsula. Will will rent a car. We have 10 night in hotels and thought we would spend 3 nights in Dubrovnik. Day trips to Kotor and Mljet. Then drive and spend 3 nights in Trojir (visit Hvar and Split). From there we would drive to Zadar and spend the night. The next morning we would get up really early and drive to Pviltvice Lakes and then after (the same day) drive to Rovinj and spend 3 nights visiting towns in Istra (Motovun, Porec, Groznjan, etc.). Fly out of Pula the last day. Do you think this is trying to do too much in the time we have? Also, can you do a day trip into Hvar from split or should we plan to stay overnight in Hvar?

Posted by
334 posts

Three days in Dubrovnik, three days in Split, and three days in Istria is about right.

Is there anything in particular you want to see in Zadar? If not, it will be easier to skip Zadar and stay at Plitvice that night. You're going to have a ~3.5 drive to Rovinj after hiking Plitvice. If you try to do a drive from Zadar that morning, you're going to have a very long, tiring day.

You can do a day trip to Hvar from Split. There are regular ferries and catamarans that go to Hvar and back. If you intend to take your car, there are daily car ferries from Split to the Stari Grad port. If you don't drive, make sure to check which port the ferry/catamaran is heading to (Stari Grad or Hvar).

Posted by
4700 posts

I agree: don't stay over in Zadar. You can stop on the way up if you want. If you want a quicker stop off the A1, stop in Sibenik instead (nice town, not the same as Zadar though). You might stay at a park hotel at Plitvice so you can explore the park first thing in the morning (park opens at 7am) before the tour groups arrive, then leave for Rovinj by mid-afternoon. The park hotels are overpriced but convenient (and they have breakfast). Staying at a sobe / B&B near Plitvice is fine too - just park your car in one of the big parking lots near the entrances.

If you stay at Plitvice, then, you don't necessarily have to arrive early if you see the park the next day. So you could spend a few hours in Zadar or Sibenik if you want before heading north. There isn't much in the way of food at Plitvice - not many restaurants (basically, a pizza place is all I remember). You could eat in Zadar or Sibenik early before heading north.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the feedback. I didn't really think about just visiting Zadar and then staying up by Plitvice, but that makes sense. Another question - Does anyone know how easy it would be to make a day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor in Montenegro? Any recommendations on where to stay in Dubrovnik with a car, but still easy access to the Old town area?

Posted by
4700 posts

I stayed a night in Kotor and drove down from Dubrovnik in a rental car. It's pretty easy to do. You could just drive along the bay to Kotor, park for a few hours, explore the town, climb the town walls (great views down), then drive back (take the ferry back across the bay to save some driving). If you follow Rick's recommended mountain drive up to Cetinje (I did - breathtaking scenery), add another two hours of driving to your day, so maybe 5-6 hours of driving if you do all of that. I was glad to have stayed a night to break it up a bit.

On my last trip, I stayed in Lapad and took a bus into the old town. I was being frugal; the hotel was cheap and parking was only 5 Euro/night. It had no view or anything, but I didn't care - the bus was frequent and quick. You might find places that are walkable to the old town and have views and also parking but I expect they would be more expensive than that I paid. I suppose you could consider not renting the car until you leave Dubrovnik and taking excursions to Kotor and Mijet - not sure if that works out to save you money or not, but you wouldn't have to worry about parking the car and would have more lodging options in/near the old town.

Posted by
334 posts

Kotor is a common day trip from Dubrovnik. There are a number of tours that go to Kotor, so you may want to get an early start to beat those busses out of town. Typically the tours will pick up people from about 7:00AM to 8:00AM and try to leave Dubrovnik around 8:00AM. The main border crossing is on D8, and if you leave before the busses, you should have no problem crossing. However, if you get a late start, you can take a second route by turing off of D8 to D516. This takes you to a much smaller border crossing, and you'll typically get across pretty quickly. This route will connect back into the main route after a few kilometers. As you pass by, Perast is worth a quick stop. Also note that you don't have to back track around the full length of the bay when you're ready to return to Dubrovnik. There is a car ferry that runs continually during summer near the mouth of the bay. It only takes about 15 minutes to cross, and saves a lot of time on the drive back.

Posted by
6 posts

This is great! Thanks for all the detailed information. Hopefully it goes as easy as you guys make it sound.

Posted by
6 posts

One more questions. We are flying out of Pula so will be spending a couple nights in Rovinj to explore the Istra area. Do you think 2 nights is enough to stay in Rovinj or would 3 be better. We just want to drive to some of the different hill towns and see the sights.

Posted by
4700 posts

It sounds like you have only ten nights total - so you're asking whether you should spend three nights in Rovinj or two nights in Rovinj and an extra night elsewhere, right? I guess it depends where else you might spend that third night.

Rovinj itself is small - a really nice town but doesn't take long to explore. It does make a nice base for exploring Istria, and it is a great place to come back to in the evening. One option might be to stop along the Kvarner Gulf somewhere like Opatija (I stayed in nearby Lovran). If you map it, I think that's basically on the way from Plitvice to Rovinj anyway. You could stay a night in Opatija or nearby, then do your tour of the hill towns as a detour on the way to Rovinj. That would still give you a final day in Rovinj with the possibility to see a little more - maybe dash up to Porec or something. You probably wouldn't want/need to spend the entire day in Rovinj unless you want to relax there, take a little boat tour etc. Maybe you could see the Brijuni Islands (something I didn't do).

One thing I enjoyed about staying in Lovran was walking along the Lungomare, a long seaside promenade. You can walk several kilometers between towns if you feel like it.