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Help with Croatia Vacation

A little background: Traveling to Croatia with my family (mother 50, grandmother 73, and my 2 cousins we are all in our 20s) my grandmother was born in Croatia so we have planned a trip to explore all the best parts of Croatia and ANY recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

The dates of our trip would be June 22nd-July 8th. So far all we have booked is that we are flying into Zagreb and flying out of Dubrovnik. Below is the rough itinerary but is flexible. Please let me know if I missing out on anything or any recommendations on hotels, excursions, beaches, events, bars/clubs, restaurants, how to get from one place to another and whatever you can think of!

Day 0 (June 22nd): Travel from Arizona to Zagreb

Day 1 (June 23rd): check into hotel in Zagreb (flight arrives around 8pm)

Day 2 (June 24th): explore Zagreb
Day 3 (June 25th): explore Zagreb

Day 4 (June 26th): check out of hotel travel to Split, planning on stopping at Plitvice Lake on the way to Split. I found this transfer tour for about $150 a person or was thinking of renting a car?

Day 5 (June 27th): explore Split
Day 6 (June 28th): explore Split
Day 7 (June 29th): explore Split

Day 8 (June 30th): check out of hotel and travel to Hvar recommendations on best way to get to Hvar needed check into hotel in Hvar

Day 9 (July 1st): Explore Havar
Day 10 (July 2nd): Explore Havar
Day 11 (July 3rd): Explore Havar

Day 12 (July 4th): check out of hotel in Hvar travel to Dubrovnik and check into hotel

Day 13 (July 5th): Explore Dubrovnik
Day 14 (July 6th): Explore Dubrovnik
Day 15 (July 7th): Explore Dubrovnik

Day 16 (July 8th): Fly back to Arizona - flight is at 7:25am

Please give any recommendations! My family is having me plan the entire trip so it is a lot of pressure any recommendations would be so helpful! (:

Posted by
133 posts

What a delight to see an itinerary that covers the highlights and actually gives you time to see them! You have done well, especially accounting for the age differences in your party. Plenty of time to see the sights, and to throw in some reasonable time for slowing down and enjoying where you are for a few days. It will be easy to fill 2 days in Zagreb; there's a nice mix of museums, activities and cafe culture. Your day from Zagreb to Split via Plitvice will be a long one, whether you drive it or take the tour. As for deciding that, you'll probably make better time with a car, but on the other hand, you won't have to think about logistics if you are on a tour. The tour will certainly cost more than the car rental, if that is a concern. My concern there would be how much time do you want to spend actually walking the park? How much of it do you want to see? How are the mobility issues? What time of day would the tour get you there? Does the price of the tour include tickets to the park? Lots of people do it in one day, but adding the travel time from Zagreb and to Split, one overnight might be better for the group. On to Split. A lot of people spend only a day or two there. I guess it depends on your interests. We spent a few hours at the Palace complex, but also enjoyed the Dalmatian Ethnographic Museum (for which, I bet, your grandmother would be a wonderful tour guide!), seeing a variety of churches and the Mestrovic museum. Adding in time to stroll, time to eat, and you've spent 3 easy-going days. We haven't been to Hvar, but at that time of year, taking the hydrofoils from Split to Hvar and Hvar to Dubrovnik would be the best way to go I think. Hvar is pretty small laid back, as I understand it. If you're beach people, it might be ok, Depends what your goal is. For me, Dubrovnik can be covered pretty easily in two days, but three will give you time to perhaps take a day-sail, visit the island near off-shore Dubrovnik (the name of which I forget) or get more deeply into the cultural side of Dubrovnik, visiting another ethnographic museum (different from Split's; ditto on grandma) and the museum about the war (from the Croat point of view) that's at the top of Mt. Srd. If you're interested in the history of Dubrovnik from a naval/trade perspective, the naval museum is also good. I was done in an hour; my husband spent three. I'm sure others will have recommendations, too. It would help to know what sort of interests you have and what limitations your group might have in terms of mobility and endurance, as that can have a big impact on your itinerary. But, in my view, you are off to an excellent start!

Posted by
16590 posts

I urge you not to try to see Plitvice in transit from Zagreb to Split. The park is a mob scene during day-tripping hours, and it really seriously degrades the experience of visiting one of Europe's loveliest natural-beauty spots. Spend the night in or near the park. See the park late the day you arrive and early (at opening time) the next morning. It will make a huge difference.

The park no longer guarantees entry to folks who just show up without a ticket, so you should get tickets ahead of time. There are 2-day tickets as well as 1-day tickets. It has been reported here that the hotels inside the park (mediocre though they apparently are) can endorse a one-day ticket to let you return to the park the next day. I haven't done that myself. If you don't like the looks of the park hotels, check to see whether there are places outside the park but nearby.

Posted by
633 posts

You have a great itinerary except for the stopping at Plitvice Lakes en route to Split and using a transfer service. For way under that cost you can rent a car. That will also allow you to spend the night and see the park in the afternoon and following morning when it is much less crowded than mid day (when all the day trippers, tour groups are there). I would take the last night in Zagreb and plan to leave Zagreb after an early lunch and arrive in Plitvice around 3pm. Check into one of the hotels on the park grounds (we stayed at the Bellevue, but there are two others) and enter the actual park at 4pm. You can buy one day tickets that don't allow entry until 4pm for less cost than a regular day ticket. Then, if you are staying in the park hotels, they will stamp your ticket allowing you to re-enter the following morning for free. Go back in the following morning and plan to stay until about 11 or so. Then leave and continue on to Split. This gives you more time in the park, when it's less crowded, and for less money than your original plan.

The best way to get from Split to Hvar is the ferry. There are fast ferries to Hvar town, and the bigger slightly slower (but much more pleasant) ferries to Stari Grad on the other side of the island. There are buses between the towns so you can visit which ever one you don't stay in. Hvar town is known for it's "party" atmosphere (not really noticeable during the day time) and is more expensive than Stari Grad, but even if you opt to stay in Stari Grad you should visit Hvar town.

Four nights on Hvar is more than you might want. Depends on what you want to do there. Some would say if you don't mind an extra move that you could split the time with the island of Korcula.

Here's my trip report which covers Plitvice, Split, Hvar (I visited Dubrovnik on a previous trip.)

Posted by
133 posts

acraven is correct. As of last September, anyway, the park will endorse a one-day ticket for a second day without additional charge. The trade-off is staying overnight in a park hotel. We had a nice, clean, if very old, room (pink and black tiled bathroom, think 1950's) for a reasonable price at Hotel Jerezo. The food is, indeed, mediocre at best, but it's only one night. Probably worth enduring for the free second-day admittance to the park. And, yes, absolutely buy your park tickets in advance. See other posts on the issues with the park website, though; sometimes it's a bit glitchy and last year they were hacked. If you do decide to stay in the park, I'd get on it right away. With your travel dates, competition for rooms will be fierce.

Posted by
1893 posts

Your itinerary is good.

On the car rental: I would do that for your situation. Croatia has basically very limited rail transport, good bus transport, and car rental. For going from Zagreb to Split, the car is a very good choice. You can get 5 in a car if luggage is limited. Once in Split, you can return the car, and take the ferry to Hvar first, and then to Dubrovnik.

In Split, 3 days allows a day trip to Trogir.

You don't mention visits to your Grandma's home location, unless it is one of those place.

I have been to Croatia for conferences. One of the great parts of the conferences is a trip to a farm restaurant. With your family connections, you can probably find one. Last summer, we went to the Croatian Neanderthal Museum and then to a farm winery in the region.

Posted by
1893 posts

In Croatia, there are a number of Adriatic towns. I've been to Sibenik, Zadar, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik. I think that Trogir (day trip from Split) and Zadar are similar. Zadar is larger, with the Sea Organ and wonderful sunset views of the Adriatic. But, listen to Granny. I think a night in Zadar is a great idea. We enjoyed it. We stayed right off a square, and were treated to the wonderful Croatian male quartet singing until late in the evening. We also did the boat day trip from Split to Trogir. This was fun too. The boat docks right at the same place where all the town restaurants are. We got off the boat and shared a 250K seafood lunch (that's about $40 USD) overlooking the water. So pleasant!!

Both Dubrovnik and Split will be busy during the day. The Strada in Dubrovnik will be very crowded. So, don't plan on Dubrovnik during the day. Go to Cavtat (boat ride from Dubrovnik), or some of the islands. Walk to the main new town and look for restaurants there. They are a little less expensive. Your Granny will be able to speak to the locals, and get the skinny, Minnie, on the non-tourist stuff. You've got the advantage of no language barrier (all Croatians speak English, however, I think).

Posted by
6 posts

Kudos to those who suggested Trogir ... I loved that town ... absolutely charming. Easy walking by the water and to some nice markets. Some great small streets and alleys with typical laundry hanging out the window-scenes. I also fell in love with a little place called Omis ... I was driving through and it just tugged at me to stop and walk around. Just a charming little place. I wasn't a big fan of Split but others I know who've gone liked it. Sometimes driving into a big city can spoil it for you ... as I drove into Split, there was massive road construction everywhere and by the time I got into the city, I was ready to leave. So I probably didn't give it a fair chance.
I also agree with comments on Plitvice ... to walk it all is massive, and there are hoards of people. I also kind of OD'd on waterfalls by the time I had walked the entire thing, but, having said that, it is a beautiful park!
Definitely do the wall in Dubrovnik. And Srd Museum is really interesting. I was amazed that I was watching live video of the war ... as missiles and bullets were flying in real time when the videos were taken. Kind of unnerving, but interesting ... and a great view of the city below. I drove up and it was an interesting, challenging drive.
Enjoy ... wonderful place to visit!

Posted by
107 posts

Great itinerary with time to walk and experience. If the damage from the earthquake in Zagreb has. been stabilized, atop in at the Croatian Museum of Naive Art in the Upper Town. A loop walk up and down to the upper town can be done by the Funicula steps or the St George statue/ Stone Gate and any of the many steps back down, called Stube. Dolac market above the main square is on the right side of the hip cafe street Tkalciceva and is best in the morning. Spend time sitting in cafes and people watching. Zagreb is a fine city now.
If it all works out - consult Total Croatia News for English language updates on the situation as they all pray to save some season - do pay the price of walking the city wall in Dubrovnik. Consider it the price of a major museum ticket and a contribution to preserving it. In ten years you will forget the bills and have only memories. True of all the best travels.
All of Croatia is vastly better in the early morning. This year there may be no tour groups or cruise ships in port to fight past, but it is still better to be out early or late. when day visitors are gone. Get lost on purpose in side streets inside the walled cities. Zhivili!

Posted by
71 posts

Too many days in Split and too many days in Hvar. Split is a big city, I think more than 250 thousand inhabitants with a small old town that can be seen in a couple of hours. Not much opportunities for daytrips there since there are miles of factories and storehouses around. My suggestion is Makarska riviera far more meditteranean flavour, sea and air unpolluted. There are many beautifull small towns there (Brela, Tucepi, Makarska...). My suggestion for at least 3 days is Makarska. It is beautiful for itself, the the whole town is mediterranean and gives you many opportunities for day daytrips and you can actually swim in the sea which I wouldn't recommend in Split. Hvar, nice but 3 days is too long.
You are missing Istria, with Porec and Rovinj. Also try to visit Zadar or Sibenik at least for a couple of hours. On your way from Split to Dubrovnik visit Arboretum in Trsteno with Neptunes fountain. Restaurant reccommendation-"Kapetanova kuća" (Captain's house) in Mali Ston, don't miss their seafood soup and also seafood spaghetti or black risotto. In Dubrovnik try to visit Lokrum island, oasis of serenity.
Plitvice*, nice but very touristy and crowded in the summer, try to take a room there to be able to hike early in the morning and late in the the afternoon. Try to avoid bigger cities generally in Croatia, smaller places are more beautyfull and less touristy. So 1 day in Split, 1-2 days in Hvar, 2 days in Dubrovnik, 3 days in Makarska...

Posted by
12 posts

Agree with above poster that 3 days seems like too long for Split. Split has Diocletian's Palace, which is interesting. But I think that you can see enough of the city in one day. I would consider staying in Trogir so that you can relax and swim in the sea, and then taking the bus into Split during the day. Also agree that other towns on the coast are great destinations if you have a car. Zadar is a beautiful town with the Sea Organ. It is relatively empty during the day (when people swim), and then comes alive at night.

I haven't been to Dubrovnik, so I can't speak to that. Have heard it is very crowded during the day, so it may be good that you are staying the night (after the day trippers from the cruise ships leave).