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Help with January Croatia Itinerary

We have a short trip to Croatia this January as my wife has a business trip in Dubrovnik. We have 8 nights and will be flying into Split and out of Dubrovnik. The last four nights are in Dubrovnik. I am thinking that we need the first two nights as there are a few points of interest. We are wine lovers and enjoy hiking and am thinking about visiting the Peljesac peninsula and feel that we should stay there for at least one night. However I am not sure where we should stay. I am thinking perhaps Korcula may be a good place to stay.
Would this be a good place to stay as we will be driving from Split? One night or two? Any other suggestions? I would love to visit Kotor’s Bay but not sure how to fit this in. Any suggestions?

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2090 posts

For hiking, Krka National Park isn't far north from Split. I assume it's open in the winter, not sure. Plitvice Lakes is a little further north and usually very touristy, but I'm guessing in January it's not and if there is snow on the ground, it might be amazingly pretty. Not sure if it's worth the detour north.

I've been to Korcula in October when it felt like the season was over and the restaurants and shops might start to close up (or early) for the winter. I'm guessing January isn't the best time to visit - it felt slow enough in October. Then again, there shouldn't be too many other tourists.

Bay of Kotor is easy as a driving day trip from Dubrovnik, though with shorter days you'll want to leave at the crack of dawn to get the most out of your day. Then again, if your wife is doing work stuff in the daytime and you don't want to go alone, maybe go south a day early to fit it in. I stayed a night in Kotor itself - not amazing, not bad, amazing views down from the "walls" above the town (a steep walk up many steps but otherwise not too difficult). I stopped a half hour north along the bay in Perast, a much smaller and, in my opinion, more charming town where it might have been nice to stay instead, if you don't want to do it as a day trip.

I'm not saying you could/should do ALL of these things - but you can pick and choose!

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8300 posts

I have no winter-in-Europe experience for a very good reason (I would hate the weather), so the thoughts below are just speculation on my part. I suggest that you do some Googling ("winter in Korcula", "winter in Kotor", etc.) to get some real-world experience.

  • I'd be nervous about Plitvice if there was any risk of ice or snow. In fact, I'd be nervous if it was rainy during the colder months because there are very, very few places with hand rails. When you're on solid ground, it can be a bit uneven (seldom paved), and there may be dead leaves to slip on. The rest of the time you're on walkways over the water, with the occasional shallow step up or down. If you hit a slick spot, there would be nothing to keep you from getting up close and personal with one of the lakes. They are mostly very shallow, and you're generally walking only a foot or two above the surface, so this isn't much of an issue in warm weather, but in February... brrrrr. I confess that even in the summer I found myself musing about broken wrists and sprained ankles if I went overboard.

  • I'm not sure about Korcula in the off-season. Some islands really close up shop at some point in the fall, and transportation becomes less frequent. I suspect that, as little time as you have, an examination of the ferry schedule will indicate that you'll spend a lot of time getting to Korcula compared to time spent on the island. I could be totally off-base on this, though, so do check.

  • The drive around the Bay of Kotor is spectacular, and as long as the weather doesn't severely limit the visibility, I think it's worth taking that trip even in February. There appear to be four buses a day, which will be somewhat limiting in winter when the days are short. Kotor gets rather heavy cruise-ship traffic during high season. You won't be facing that, but (as with Korcula), it may be unattractively quiet.

  • The town of Herceg-Novi, which you reach just before you start around the Bay of Kotor, is picturesque. I suspect nothing would be happening there in February, so it would probably be depressing if the weather was bad.

The BusCroatia website is a good first-step if you think you may need to take a bus somewhere.

If you're planning to drive, you'll need to verify that your rental car can be taken across a bit of Bosnia-Hercegovina as you travel between Split and Dubrovnik, as well as into Montenegro if you want to go there.

Posted by Nick OP
Oak Park
190 posts

Thanks for the suggestions. I begrudgingly crossed Plitvice off my itinerary. Too short a trip and iffy weather at best. We definitely want to visit some wineries and maybe some hiking on the peninsula.
Perhaps Kotor is best done as a day trip??

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8300 posts

Viability of a day-trip to Kotor will depend on bus schedules. It's not a particularly fast trip by public bus, and the bus station is a bit of a walk from the walled city (maybe 15 minutes?). You'd want to have enough time to explore before you had to head back to the bus station, though technically you could just travel to Kotor and back for the scenery. I'd also check into bus tours from Dubrovnik. They certainly are offered during the busier periods, but I don't know about winter.

Edited to add:

Oops: my bias is showing. I always stick to buses and trains, so the possibility of a rental car doesn't often cross my mind. With proper clearance from your rental company, you could drive to Kotor for the day. You wouldn't be tied to a schedule. I'm not sure how much the driver would be able to take in, given the need to watch the road. I hope we have someone on the forum who has driven that stretch of road.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2090 posts

I'm glad I had a car when I visited the Bay of Kotor. The scenery is breathtaking, and I got out numerous times for photos (and also at Perast). I don't know if you were planning to keep your rental car the entire time; if so, definitely drive. It should be easy in January (was easy enough in May). It is true that you need to let your rental car company know you are leaving Croatia - may be an extra charge, plus you need the right "green card" (insurance card) at the border crossing. FYI, technically you leave the EU driving south from Split to Dubrovnik driving through the "Neum corridor," a tiny section of Bosnia along the coast. So you need some sort of clearance even for that from the car company, though some car companies make exceptions for Neum corridor crossing, as so many tourists do it.