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First trip to Croatia this June

I will be going to Croatia with my husband and nine year old son. This will be my son’s 3rd trip to Europe and he loves to travel. We like to do a little bit of everything. Parks, cities, islands, etc. I was originally planning on going up to Slovenia, but I felt like the trip was too rushed. We will have to see Slovenia another trip.
We will be flying into Zagreb from Copenhagen and then flying back to Copenhagen from Dubrovnik. Here is my itinerary so far. I would love suggestions or any input.

June 17th fly to Zagreb (stay in Zagreb)
June 18th rent a car and drive down to Plitvice (stay in Plitvice)
June 19th visit the park and then drive to Split
June 19th-21st (stay in Split 3 nights) check out Krka one day
June 22nd go to Hvar (stay 2 nights)
June 24th go to Korcula (stay 3 night)
June 27th go to Dubrovnik (stay 3 nights)

I have another night I can add someplace. I was thinking of adding another night in Dubrovnik and taking a day trip or possibly staying a night in Montenegro. Any suggestions? Also, should we drop off the car in Split or take it with us and eventually drop it off in Dubrovnik? What is easiest? I thought it would be nice to have a car on the islands and we would also need one if we go Montenegro.

Thanks for any feedback!

Cindy

Posted by Cro on the go
Istria, Croatia
64 posts

Correction needed. If you go Korčula on 23rd for 3 nights, you will not go Dubrovnik on 25th.

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
1918 posts

Your timing is also incorrect for 19-21st, as you are visiting Plitvice on the 19th and if you stay 3 nights, you leave on the 22nd. Krka is backtracking from Split.

Many places on the islands have a 3 night minimum booking. Your son is too young for the night clubs of Hvar town, so I would suggest that you stay in Stari Grad or Jelsa.

Posted by MAYA
2 posts

You shouldn't miss Šibenik! It is amazing little town, with plenty to see, historical plus nature (2 National Parks are close by - Krka and Kornati)... If You want to have fun too, there is Amadria Park Jure hotel, with great beach club - En Vogue! Check it...

Posted by Cindy OP
Portland, OR
52 posts

Thanks for the correction of the dates.

Also, thank you on the suggestion on seeing Sibenik. Maybe we will head there after Plitvice and then hit Krka the next day before we head down to Split.

Posted by Edin
Portland, OR
8 posts

This will be really enjoyable trip! I have couple of suggestions. For Plitvice and Krka make sure you are at the entrance at the opening time: it gets really crowded later in a day and it can take away some of the experience. So, for Krka, I would suggest spending night in Skradin, which is next to the entrance. Daytrip from Split is backtracking, as someone said, and you will have to get up early to be there at the opening time.
Also, for the night in Plitvice, you should know that hotels are pretty much in the middle of nowhere, it is like spending night at the lost lake on Mt Hood. If you require some city amenities, I suggest spending night in Bihac, Bosnia. It is larger town, 30 mins drive from Plitvice. Prices there are substantially lower if that is of concern.
For Krka, often you will see these photos of ppl swiming in the waterfall. In reality, it is so crowded, that you can barely swim without hitting into someone. Also, if you want to maximize variety of experiences, seeing both Plitvice and Krka might be redundant.
Dubrovnik and Korcula are good picks, however, as someone mentioned, Hvar is not really known for family oriented tourism.
For an extra day I would suggest something other than Kotor in Montenegro. Thing is, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar and Kotor are all cities that belong to italian cultural sphere, perhaps you want to do something else. If Montenegro is where you want to go, maybe Mt Durmitor and Zabljak town. It is marvelous mountain you can hike, or, since you are with the kid, you can drive through. Lots of opportunities for photos.
Other option is to spend a night in Mostar, Bosnia, which is more along your route (2 hours detour from split - Dubrovnik road. Mostar has ottoman oriental feel which is interesting change.

Are you staying in the old town in Dubrovnik? If yes, your car will become a liability, parking is hellish. I would use big parking garage above old town, but they do charge a lot. Also, going by car to Dubrovnik, you will have to go through Bosnia.

Lastly, coming back to Krka. I love the place, but unfortunately it is way too crowded and this does diminish experience. However, these types of rivers and waterfalls are common in Yugoslavia, so risking wrath of other cro fans, I would suggest that you simply search for some other river in the region, less visited. What comes to mind is Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia, also karst region river where you can swim. It also has bunch of tourists but still, they are at least half the number of Krka visitors. And they arrive after noon.

Hope this helps.

Posted by Cindy OP
Portland, OR
52 posts

Erin,

Thank you for the great feedback! I booked a place super close to Plitvice so that we can get to the park first thing in the morning. We might cut out Krka. I was also thinking of staying a night in Sibenik before we go to Split. I’ve read some nice things about the town. Have you been there? Thoughts?
Would you take a car to the islands (Hvar and Korcula) or should we drop the car off in Split? Are the car ferries a lot slower/less frequent? I will look into the Mostar detour. That sounds interesting.

Thank you again!

Cindy

Posted by Edin
Portland, OR
8 posts

Sibenik is a nice town, views from the fort are beautiful and cathedral (array of tiny heads decorating outside) is pretty. That said, Sibenik is not a must-see place like Split or Dubrovnik and I would make it a day trip rather than overnight. It can be seen in 3 hours or so. If you want to overnight near by pick Primosten or Rogoznica.
If you are staying in Hvar town on Hvar, most likely you will go swimming to one of the nearby Pakleni Islands, set of small islands near Hvar. You will use water taxi to get there, so car is not needed. Also, you can rent a small boat for a day and explore coves around by yourself. Only occasion for a car on Hvar is if you visit Stari Grad, but that is for the monuments, not beaches.
Korcula is almost a rock throw from the mainland and ferry ride is quick. On Korcula you do need a car. Old city does not have nice beaches, closest one is Lumbarda, few miles away. It is sandy which is rarety in Croatia, but always windy. I like better beaches on the far end of the island: drive to Vela Luka and take a boat to Proizd, beaches are rocky but pretty. Also, Korcula island has lots of other pretty coves.
I personaly don't drive on islands: I take catamaran either from Dubrovnik or Split and then use public transport on the island. However, you might find car convinient. Catamaran is fast, but I think (not 100% sure) that all car ferries are slow. Catamarans are only foot traffic. That said, croatian islands are not like greek: they are all not far from the mainland, and even slow ferry will not take long. For example, travel to Korcula is like 15 minutes :-)
Edin

Posted by Edin
Portland, OR
8 posts

Okay, here are few general tips:
For the food, one of the dalmatian (and in general, Mediterranean) specialties is grilled whole fish. It is also expensive, going at about 45 to 60 euros per kilo. They will weight the fish you choose and make sure you confirm total price before you order. I do see often complaints on tripadvisor about surprise bill for this item. That said, this price may or may not be a reasonable deal. Most of the fish they sell this way are orada and branzino. However, these two fish can be farmed, and most likely your restaurant is jacking up the price which should be really low for farmed fish. Unless you are able to differentiate between farmed and wild orada and branzino, you are running a risk of paying 60 euros something that costs at most 5 in a market. I personally avoid these two fish if they are charged 50 per kilo. Look for dentrix (zubatac), scorpion fish (skrpina) and John Dorry (kovac or shampier). These three cannot be successfully farmed, and are guaranteed to be wild. Even on a fish market, these three fish fetch around 30 euros per kilo, so charge of 50 in the restaurant is reasonable. Given rarity due to overfishing, not many restaurants have these three (but do have oradas they are happy to overcharge), and usually, if I spot any of them in the restaurants I walk in, I order it. Sometimes I would walk from restaurant to restaurant until I find one that has a fish I want.
However, word of caution here too: these fish are 100% wild, but not necessarily caught in adriatic. They might be import from Sicilly or west africa. But I don't care, I would rather have wild import than domestic farmed. In the end it is your choice, just don't overpay :-)

Speaking of restaurants, i can give you few suggestions for Dubrovnik: Don't eat in a row of restaurants off stradun (you climb few steps). They are mostly tourist traps. Likewise, I avoid Peskarija Lokanda which is bunch of tables at the old harbor. Locals say they cook elsewhere and then warm food up. I recommend Kamenice (locals frequent this, it is not a fancy restaurant, but down to earth and good portions). I also like Lady Pi Pi, in the old town. This is the only charcoal grill in the old town. Excellent grilled tuna and veggies. For better restaurants you have to go outside Old Town. My personal best for Dubrovnik is konoba Bonaca in the suburb sustjepan.

As for the wine, Croatian wine is good, but it is bit overpriced compared with what you can get in Italy or Spain. Their best wine is Dingach (red wine), and probably the best producer is Matusko. He has a wine bar in the old town Dubrovnik, check it out. But be prepared to pay 100 Kn (14 euros) for a glass of reserva. For comparison, you can get a glass of Brunello riserva for that money in Toscana.

Well, since you live in Oregon, it is pity you won't have time to explore Balkan mountains. They are spectacular, nothing like PNW. But hiking there would require a few days.
Cheers,
Edin

Posted by Cindy OP
Portland, OR
52 posts

Edin,

Thank you so much for all the food recommendations!! We enjoy fish, so it’s good to have a heads up on what to order.
I’m now thinking of cutting out Hvar and maybe just doing a day trip from Split to one of the islands. What do you think about this... After our time in Split, we will drive to Mostar, stay the night and then drive back to Korcula the next day. We will spend 3 nights in Korcula and then head down to Dubrovnik. Does that sound good? I will have to look into where we can drop off the car after our detour to Mostar.
Thank you again for all your feedback! I’m so appreciative. How many times have you been to Croatia?

Thanks,

Cindy

Posted by Edin
Portland, OR
8 posts

I think your idea of dropping Hvar is reasonable. It is a famous place but you can't fit everything, and you want to add variety. If you do plan to do day trip to some island, I would suggest Mljet National Park, and doing it from Dubrovnik. There is a fast catamaran (so no cars) that leaves early in the morning and comes back in the afternoon. It drops day visitors on Mljet and then continues to Korcula. You board it again for the return. You get about 4 hours or so on Mljet. It is very beautiful island, Rick Steves talks about it in the book. It has a lake in the center and then another island on that lake on the island :-) Lake is very very salty and warm, but it is really enjoyable to swim. I prefer Mljet to Hvar.
So you might consider that. For a daytip from Split, I suggest Trogir and sibenik (since you want to see Sibenik). Both towns worth a half a day, so perfect day trip. And higway in much much better shape than I-5 connects Split and Sibenik.

Here is an alternative to cut your car usage in half that you might consider: Do zagreb, Plitvice, Split and Mostar. Then drop a car in Split and take a catamaran to Korcula, then catamaran from Korcula to Dubrovnik. You would be without car on Korcula, which you might find inconvenient but you will certainly find convenient that you do not have a car in Dubrovnik! You would have to use public transport in both places. So something to think about.

I am from ex-Yu, Bosnia, but i've lived in Portland 24 years, since the war. I have been to all of ex yugoslavia countries many many times, both when it used to be yugoslavia and now that they are independent. And i have family all over Croatia so visit often. :-)

You will certainly have fun, whatever you decide to do.
Edin

Posted by Cindy OP
Portland, OR
52 posts

Edin,

Thank you so much for all of your input and suggestions. You are a wealth of information!
I like your suggestion about Mljet. I will look into taking a catamaran from Split to Korcula after our drive back from Mostar. Hopefully they run later in the day.I wish we had more time to see more of Bosnia-Hercegovina. I’ve heard great things about your country!

Again, thank you!!

Cindy

Posted by Ray
Saint Helens, OR, USA
257 posts

When planning our itinerary, we had to adjust things because of the limited number of catamarans from Split to Korcula. From what I've seen there's only a few a day and they are mostly in the morning. We will be staying in Mostar the night before. So rather than going to Split from Mostar we will travel to Dubrovnik. Traveling from Mostar to Split and expecting to also catch a catamarn in the same day is mostly likely not going to be possible. Instead we will go to Dubrovnik, stay a few days, get up early and catch a catamaran to Korcula. From there we will fly out of Split.

Posted by Paul
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
847 posts

You said you have an extra night. Spend one day in Zagreb. We have been there 3 times. It's a nice town. It has several good museums, and the main square always has stuff going on. There are nice restaurants. We were there last summer, and sat in an outside bar with hundreds of Croatians watching the final of the Champions' Cup. It was fun, a loose and pleasant atmosphere. Prices now are OK.

If you go to Sibenik, look for the turtle fountain. It's unique. We stayed in Hotel Jure. The resort is good for families. It has beaches, restaurants in the complex (it's 5 hotels in one place), and a bus into town.

Posted by Cindy OP
Portland, OR
52 posts

Hi Paul,

We are staying a night in Zagreb and will have a full day there before we head to Plitvice. I’ve heard it’s a great city. Thank you for your feedback.

Cindy

Posted by Paul
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
847 posts

While in Zagreb, consider the Museum of Croatian Naive Art, in the Upper Town. It's a museum featuring a form of Croatian primitive or untutored art, which is becoming quite popular.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8304 posts

I agree with Paul. That's a very good museum. Small, so it doesn't take a lot of time to see. And located in an area that you will be visiting anyway. Very high recommendation. There's a tiny shop with related souvenirs, well-priced as of 2015. The city has other good museums, some of them more traditional, but also including the Museum of Broken Relationships, which sounds very odd but is quite well-done. I enjoyed it a lot; it has won awards. All the signage (which is critical in this case) is posted in English as well as in Croatian.

If you happen to find yourself walking past the tourist office, stop in and ask for the museum brochure, then spend 10 minutes or so scanning it. I found its descriptions very helpful in deciding which museums would most interest me. Some of the museums are in the old town. Most of the rest (the larger ones) are between the old town and the train station, possibly quite near your lodgings.

Posted by Edin
Portland, OR
8 posts

Hi Ray,
Actually there is an afternoon catamaran from Split to Korcula, it is called "Krilo" and you can buy tickets online (to my understanding).
Here is the schedule: (2018 I believe)
https://www.krilo.hr/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Sailing_schedule_KORCULA.pdf

So if you are waking up in Mostar and need to catch this catamaran in Split, you should have plenty of time. However, main border crossing in Doljani can be hellish (2+ hours wait), so suggested path would be Mostar-Tomislavgrad-Kamensko (border crossing)-Trilj-Split (you can plot in on google map). Wait time at Kamensko crossing is substantially less then Doljani, I usually spend 10 to 15 minutes there.

Edin

Posted by Ray
Saint Helens, OR, USA
257 posts

We are still in the planning stage. Excellent information. Thank you!