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Four days in Croatia help with itinerary

Three women will arrive Zagreb Sept. 13 and leave for Budapest Sept. 17. Here is our tentative itinerary, we would appreciate your thoughts.

Day 1: Drive from Zagreb to Rovinj. What to see along the way? Suggest a B&B or?

Day 2: Explore coast. What villages to see? Proec?

Day 3: Drive from coast to Plitvice National Park. Returning to Zagreb.

Day 4: Day in Zagreb. Suggestion on what to see in one day.

Any suggestions about car rentals i.e. which company, pick up place, etc out of Zagreb?
Thoughts on taking the train to Budapest please.

Thank you for your time and thoughts!

Sue and Jean

Posted by
6406 posts

What exactly does this mean?

arrive Zagreb Sept. 13

Arrive what time, from where, by what means? Will you be jet-lagged coming off a 10-hour redeye flight from California at 4 pm, or fresh from a short drive at 9 am?

The drives you propose are not terribly difficult, and won't take all day. But they probably will take most of the day (when you factor in getting started, finding your way, putting the car away upon arrival and getting oriented). So, Day 1 is mostly consumed by driving - unless you roar off from Zagreb early and fast, you won't reach Rovinj until sometime in the afternoon. Day 2, you have a full day there, and you have just arrived - I'd spend it in Rovinj - why head off to explore other towns? Day 3...hmmm, you're going to drive from Rovinj to Plitvice, then drive onward and end the day in Zagreb? Don't you want to spend any time in the park at Plitvice, rather than just seeing the entrance sign as you drive by? As I recall, when I drove from Rovinj to Plitvice, we arrived in Plitvice around 3 or 4 pm. Of course, it depends on what time you depart Rovinj and how fast you drive, but it's going to take you more than a few hours to get there.

Bottom line - it looks like your plan is to "do" Zagreb, Rovinj and Plitvice in just 3 days. I don't think that's very realistic. Yes, you can get yourself to those places in 3 days, but you're not going to have a great experience in them. Plitvice deserves more than an hour or two, and Rovinj is perfectly suited to slowing down and relaxing. Can't help you with Zagreb.
I'd look to see if you can add another day or two if possible. Give Rovinj a full day and two nights, give Plitvice a night and most of a day.

Good luck.

Posted by
1667 posts

For the most part I agree with David, except the drive from Rovinj to Plitvice only took me 3 or 4 hours, so with an early start it was easy to spend a leisurely afternoon at the park.

Still, I don't think I would go to Rovinj if I had just 4 days starting and ending in Zagreb (and it's not clear whether you actually have 4 days). Will you be jet-lagged on arrival? If so, you do not want to land, pick up your car, and drive to Rovinj.

The other thing is that Rovinj is absolutely lovely, but it's small -- you can see everything there pretty much in half a day. It's a good base for exploring the Istrian peninsula, but if you do that you're going to spend a good portion of your 4 days in the car.

You could just spend your entire 4 nights in Zagreb and do some day trips from there. Ljubljana would be a good choice for a day trip in addition to Plitvice.

Here's another option: spend 2 nights in Zagreb and 2 nights in Ljubljana. You could do Plitvice as a day trip from Zagreb, and you could visit Bled as a day trip from Ljubljana.

If you really want to get to the coast, then I agree with David: add a day or two.

Sorry I can't help with your questions about rental cars or about taking the train from Zagreb to Budapest.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you Lane and David for your quick response. This site is a great help. We will be coming from 2 1/2 days in Ljubljana so no jet lag. In our exuberance we 'want to do it all', of which David pointed out our error in that thinking. We cannot add on the days so must adjust our itinerary as we do not want all our time spent in a car.
Your input will be helpful. Thanks!

Posted by
334 posts

Since you will be in Ljubljana anyway, another possibility is to rent a car there and then drive to Rovinj following the coast. Without stopping, that drive is just over 2 hours. After your time in Rovinj you could then return to Slovenia to drop the car and head to Zagreb. Once in Zagreb, you could then do a day trip to Plitvice and then have your final day in Zagreb.

Day 1: Drive from Ljubljana to Rovinj, stopping wherever you wish along the way. Night in Rovinj.
Day 2: Rovinj in AM; drive back to Slovenia to drop car; train/bus to Zagreb
Day 3: Day trip to Plitvice
Day 4: Explore Zagreb

With this, most of your transportation time is grouped on a single day (Day 2). There's not as much time in Rovinj as you may have wanted, but that's really the only way I see to include all of your wants in just four days.

Regarding the train to Budapest, I took the train the opposite direction from Budapest to Zagreb. My only complaints were that the train was quite hot as it left Budapest in the late afternoon, and that it would barely get going before it was stopping again. That made the trip feel much longer than what it actually was.

Posted by
6406 posts

You have three days.
Your list includes: Zagreb, Plitvice, and Rovinj.
Pick two of them.

Painful, I know. But I don't think you're doing yourself any favors by trying to squeeze this all in - and I say that as someone who routinely tries to squeeze in too much. :)

I have not been to Zagreb, so I can't offer an opinion on how great Zagreb is relative to other places. On my trip to Slovenia & Croatia, we loved...well, pretty much every place.

If you are coming from Ljubljana, you could easily do two of these places, plus some things nearby (for example, Roving is cute, and we loved it, but there's the rest of Istria - the hill towns, plus Pula with its great Roman amphitheater. The rub would be how to get around - you don't want to rent a car in one country and drop off in another (big fee). Tough call...

Posted by
167 posts

I agree with the idea of going directly from Llubjana to Rovinj. There is a direct bus. Check Autotrans website (it can be clicked onto English). If you are driving a car (Sixt or AutoEurope?) from Zagreb, take the tollroad and only leave it after the Ucka tunnel in Istria.
Rovinj has invested in a beautiful waterfront walkway through Zlatni Rt (Gold Point) park, pine woods, past small coves for swimming, etc. People find the cafe in the park, a warm rock, and spend the day. You can take a small shuttle boat from Rovinj to one of two hotel islands, for a taste of the sea views of Rovinj. Accommodation in Rovinj can be arranged through the Tourist Office - enter the phrase TZRovinj just to enjoy their website. Hotels have gone upscale - why not try AirBnB for some local options?
It can take more than half a day to explore all of Rovinj, and sunset is the best time of day to be there. Pick a table at Ancora out on the rocks. Cafe XXL just below St. Eufemia church at the top of old town has the best open view of the western sea.
Rovinj is at the end of a long road. You can't really 'drive along the coast' on the western side of Istria due to the inlets, some of which like Lim Canal are fjord-sized. You can drive up the coast road on the east side, on the old style two lane road up from Pula to Opatija facing the Kvarner Bay near Plomin (pull over fast and admire the tiny church interior) and the islands of Cres and Losinj. You might want to do that, just to get ideas for your next trip. You can join the Y shaped toll-road to Zagreb at several points, and go back under the Ucka (Oootch-kah) mountain tunnel. Driving to Zagreb on the turnpike is fast and straightforward and not really good for stopping - the old road is better, but much slower and not for novices. If you want a glimpse of inner Istria, leave Rovinj and cut across the middle on your way to Plomin. If you have rented a car in Rovinj, you can probably drop it off in Zagreb without extra costs. Check.
I still haven't made it to Porec or Plitvice after years of exploring Istria, the northern islands, and the southern coasts.
But I have found a lot to like in Zagreb. Take the funicular to Upper Town, find the Museum of Naive Art, upstairs in a rambling building. You will never forget the range of 'naive painters' who recorded Croatian life and landscapes on glass panes over the winter.
You can contrast the funky Museum of Broken Relationships down the way, if you want modern art. Below the Upper Town is the busy street of cafe-bars called Tkalciceva. After a drink you can say it. Saft is a great new restaurant hidden in a cellar halfway down.
The jazz cafe with the blue doors is also worth finding,. Back on the main Ban Jelacic square.any cafe is worth the price for the people watching and life unfolding before you. It's all much cleaner and brighter now, full of energy and life. Watch friends meeting 'under the clock'. Dolac market (above and below ground) is bustling and interesting. So are the many squares and streets south of Jelacic Square, full of the latest fashion and bookstores, and cafes, cafes, cafes. You could hire a personal guide to walk you around Zagreb downtown. Like Istria it is best enjoyed in a relaxed loop. The train to Budapest will be listed on the TZZagreb website probably. Main Station is called Glavni Kolodvor Zagreb. I use it to travel to Munich. Book train tickets in advance for best savings, even on first class.