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Help with Croatia Itinerary (~7 days)

Hello there!
My family (myself, my husband, 3 daughters ages 20, 18, 15) will be travelling to Croatia and Italy this coming July in celebration of my middle daughter graduating from high school (she got to pick the destination...she is a huge GOT fan!). We have 14 nights. We will fly into Zagreb on 7/17 and fly home from Milan on 7/31. We love to travel as a family but I have learned that we don't do well with a nonstop, crazy packed vacation. When I plan one of those, I get some crabby teens and a no one seems to remember where we even went. So, I am trying not to kill us at any given point on this trip and want to plan a few slow days here and there. That said, we want to see everything, so I am struggling!

I would like to split the trip with 7-8 days in Croatia and 6-7 in northern Italy (probably Venice, someplace on a beautiful lake, then Milan, which we fly out of). We will most likely rent a car for our time in Croatia and then again possibly for the time between Venice and Milan.

For the Croatia portion of the trip, I am considering this:
2 nights in Zagreb
1 night near Plitvice Lakes
3 nights in Split
2 nights in Dubrovnik
Fly from Split to Venice and continue from there.

Is this too aggressive? I don't love having to drive from Dubrovnik to Split in order to fly to Venice, but couldn't think of a better way to do it. Thought perhaps some day trips to visit islands (kayaking, snorkeling, etc) from Split, which is why I put 3 nights there...but I am not wedded to it.

Any thoughts? Ideas of a better way to do this? Anything I should skip? I had considered removing Zagreb and just driving to Plitvice Lakes but it seems wasteful since we are right there.
Thanks so much! This board looks like such an incredible resource.

Posted by
6245 posts

I was not terribly happy in Split -- I found Split over-touristed, crowded, crass, and absolutely jammed with cruise ship passengers. So was Dubrovnik but I suppose I was expecting that, and Dubrovnik seemed to handle it better (more room to spread out those crowds, I guess -- in Split, everyone is playing 'gladiator' in Dioclesian's Palace).

For me, I enjoyed the smaller towns (Zadar, Sibenik, and especially Trogir), and nearby islands (particularly Korcula) much more than Split itself. Tastes vary, but if it were me, I'd cut down time in Split and re-allocate it elsewhere. Driving from Dubrovnik to Split is no big deal, in fact it takes you through (arguably) more enjoyable smaller towns, and is easy.

If you have no interest in anything along the coast after Dubrovnik, why not just skip it and fly to Venice directly from Dubrovnik?

Regarding sleeping "near Plitvice"...sleep IN the park. Arrive there mid-afternoon, do half the park late in the day after crowds have eased, sleep in the park, get up early, do the other half of the park, get outta Dodge by noon as the park re-fills up.

Posted by
3 posts

I am only flying from Split because the flights seemed cheaper. I would be happy to fly from Dubrovnik.

What if I didn't stay in Split at all and just stayed in a smaller town? Then we could do a day trip into Split to see the sights but have a more relaxing stay outside of it? We tend to get a little burned out with cities after a while. But I didn't want to miss any of the GOT sights and had heard lovely things about Split. Is there a particular small town in that area that would fit the bill for a little relaxation mixed in the with sight seeing?
Thank you!

Posted by
708 posts

Your family is in for a treat. Croatia is wonderful. Your itinerary is ambitious and bordering on crazy non-stop, but doable with energetic teens. Glad to see you are including Zagreb in your plans. Lots of people skip it and that's a shame. You can visit Plitvice in a short day, but spending a full day there is delightful. Consider one of the hotels on the property to get a jump on the day. The hotel we stayed in was a classic Tito-era room, complete with pink and black tile bathroom, but it was easy and reasonably priced. Or, consider an excursion to Plitvice from Zagreb. Other people here know more about that than I do. You don't have to drive from Dubrovnik to Split. At that time of year, the ferries will be running frequently. You mentioned an island stop. You could board in Dubrovnik, get off on one of the islands near Split (Krilo (, or check google ferries Dubrovnik to Split for other options. There's a second company but I can't remember the name. Krilo stops at Mljet Korcula, Hvar and Brac) then head on to Split via the same company a day or two later. There are also busses from Dubrovnik to Split, but not as much fun as the ferry trip. I'm not a GOT fan, but look into prebooking the tour and/or guide before you leave. People there told me it wasn't easy buying same-day tickets. While in Dubrovnik, in addition to walking the wall, don't miss the gondola up to Mt. Srd. There's also a museum up there about the war that is worth the time.

Posted by
708 posts

David's got a good point on cruise passengers. If you have flexibility on the itinerary, check the dates you're contemplating Dubrovnik and Split on or another website that lists all cruise ships ports and dates. Both cities are miserable if you mix in 4,000 day-trippers from each ship in port, and in the summer, there's often more than one ship in town.

Posted by
2622 posts

Instead of going to Split why not visit Istria and take a 3h 45m ferry from Rovinj to Venice.
Varenna on Lake Como is a 1h 15m direct train ride from Milan. You can sleep in Varenna and also take a 15-minute ferry from Varenna to Bellagio and explore there too.

Posted by
3228 posts

Lol! Hanging out in Budapest…🤣

This is pretty aggressive to me, but it’s doable. Flying from Split is what makes it hard for me to order.

I think if you need to fly from Split, maybe you could look at:
2 nights Zagreb
2 nights Plitvice (only because the drive to Dubrovnik is longer and I wouldn’t want to do the whole thing after a day at Plitvice)
2 nights Dubrovnik (turn in the car when you arrive)
2 nights Split (ferry from Dubrovnik). If you had 9 nights, I would say 2 nights on an island and 1 last night in Split for your flight.

If you could fly from Dubrovnik:
2 nights Zagreb
1 night Plitvice (drive is shorter)
2 nights Split
2 nights Dubrovnik (ferry from Split) with an extra night somewhere but I don’t think you need it in Split. I would say either Zagreb or Dubrovnik or a one night island stop (again an extra night would be nice).

None of these fill me with joy, though. Truthfully it might depend on what you see on a regular basis. If you don’t see the coast, I might say skip Plitvice and give that night plus the extra night to an island between Split and Dubrovnik.

Posted by
3228 posts

Crowds and cruise ships will probably be a real thing…. I was there for a month last fall when there were neither. And yes, stay IN the park. Also, I stayed almost exclusively in 2 bedroom apartments, which might work well for you.

Posted by
3399 posts

Since your daughter is a GofT fan I wouldn’t skip Split. Besides it is such an interesting city because you are literally in an ancient Roman Palace. We love split and have been there a few times. I know a very well priced guide who could give you a city/GofT tour in Split and just outside. One of his friends was actually an extra. In Dubrovnik you just have to walk around the main streets, the wall, Ft. Lovrijenac and Lokrum Island to see almost all of the GofT spots. Especially Lokrum island. And yes, ferry between split and Dubrovnik (Croatia has all the info you need.

Posted by
1349 posts

We loved Split, too! It's a beautiful city with varied architecture and an awesome location right on the water. I recommend hiring Maya Benzon for a private tour of Old Town and Diocletian's Palace. She is recommended by Rick. And there are some wonderful day trips from Split: ferry to Hvar Town for a day; Trogir; Sibenik; Krka National park, to name a few.

We really enjoyed Zagreb, too. It's very, very different from Dubrovnik and Split. Reminds us a little bit of Prague.

Posted by
3 posts

Ok, I'm feeling a little boxed in by the flights that I initially chose! And I thought I was being so smart. :) The flight that I thought was going to help me out by getting me cheaply and efficiently from Split to Venice only operates 2 days per week (and not close to the day I would need). There are almost no direct flights and it is quite pricey, so I think I am back to getting up to Istria and taking the ferry over (that was my original plan when I booked my main flights).

So, my latest idea is, sadly, to remove Zagreb from the itinerary in order to have a more reasonable trek up the coast. I found that we can add on a quick flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik on our arrival day. It will make that day quite miserable, but I think it might be worth it. And I think I might allocate 8 nights to Croatia and 6 to Italy. How about 2 nights Dubrovnik, 2 nights Split, and then the next 4 nights split up the coast and ending where I can take the ferry across to Venice? What do you guys think? Can I squeeze a night in Plitvice Lakes (because I really want to keep that in the itinerary). When should I rent a car...exiting Dubrovnik or exiting Split?

Thanks again for all of your thoughts. I am very excited! I will definitely check out those suggested tour guides as well.

Posted by
3228 posts

It’s a hard and fast trip to hit all this, but the time is what you have.

How about this?
2 nights Dubrovnik (only one full day depending on ferry time)
Ferry to Split, 2 nights Split
Morning in Split. Pick car up in Split. Afternoon drive to Plitvice, 1 night Plitvice.
Visit Plitvice for most of the day. Drive to final destination for ferry (Pula?) 2 nights. I don’t know ferry location or times so this might impact where you stay.
Add one night somewhere - your choice depending on ferry times and tour times.

Posted by
1048 posts

After Dubrovnik for two nights,I would go to Hvar for 3-4 nights. Hvar has excellent beaches, a castle above.the old town that has panoramic views of the harborside town. You can rent a beachside apartment such as the original beachside Villa Hosta Apartments (stayed there in September and highly recommend it) and relax during your holiday,
Have a great trip!

Posted by
15999 posts

lisa, time to forget the armatures (me included) and talk to an expert. Talk is free and you might come up with some good ideas. Dijana is based in Montenegro but she does all of the Balkans.

Dijana Krkotic, Executive director
Doclea Travel
Bulevar Sv. Petra
Cetinjskog br. 79
81 000 Podgorica
Phone: +382 20 675 197
Mob: +382 69 277 749

Posted by
4 posts

This reply is specifically to Barbara's post.

I've got just a little time in Split this May and would love the contact info for your guide please.