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Help with planning our time in Croatia

UPDATED ITINERARY:
Based on your inputs i have removed lake como and added 3 days to Croatia. Please review and advice.

Day 1 - Land in Dubrovnik around 5 PM and have dinner and go to bed early (from Seattle)
Day 2 - Dubrovnik
Day 3 - Dubrovnik
Day 4 - Dubrovnik
Day 5 - Rent car from Dubrovnik. See Perast and get to Kotor, Montenegro and sleep in Perast/Kotor.
Day 6 - Spend day in Kotor, Montenegro and sleep in Perast/Kotor.
Day 7 - Drive to Mostar, Bosnia and spend the day in Mostar and late evening drive to Split and sleep in Split
Day 8 - Split
Day 9 - Split (day trip to Korcula)
Day 10 - Split (day trip to Hvar)
Day 11 - Spend day in Split and lave evening drive to Plitvice to sleep close to park
Day 12 - Spend day in Plitvice and late evening drive to Ljubliana and in Sleep in Ljubliana
Day 13 - Ljubliana - Sleep in Ljubliana
Day 14 - day trip to Lake Bled - Sleep in Ljubliana
Day 15 - Drive to Rovinj - Sleep in Rovinj
Day 16 - Spend day in Rovinj and drive late evening to Zagreb to return car and Sleep in Zagreb (trying to avoid international drop off fees, also not interested in seeing Zagreb)
Day 17 - fly back home.

-----ORIGINAL ITINERARY---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi All, I'm travelling 2nd week of April to Croatia and will be renting a car for our entire trip. Could you please take a look at my dates and help me with planning? Im wondering if the places I visit will be open?

Day 1 - Land in Dubrovnik early PM and have dinner and go to bed early (from Seattle)
Day 2 - Dubrovnik
Day 3 - Dubrovnik
Day 4 - Dubrovnik
Day 5 - Rent car from Dubrovnik. See Perast and get to Kotor, Montenegro and sleep here.
Day 6 - Kotor, Montenegro and sleep here.
Day 7 - Drive to Mostar, Bosnia and spend the day in Mostar and drive to Split and sleep in Split
Day 8 - Split
Day 9 - Hvar
Day 10 - Possibly do a day trip to Korcula and drive to plitvice to sleep close to park
Day 11 - plitvice and sleep in Rovinj
Day 12 - Head to Lake Bled
Day 13 - Ljubliana - Sleep in Ljubliana
Day 14 - Early morning flight to como and reach lake como by 10 AM.
Day 15 - lake como, italy
Day 16 - fly back home.

Posted by
3816 posts

I’m having trouble with your plans from day 7 on. Too much, loo little time. Having been to everyplace on your list multiple times, except Kotor and Lake Como. I would plan the following

Skip either Kotor or Mostar. Kotor is similar to Dubrovnik from other people’s reports so I would go with Mostar and stay overnight. I would cut a day from Dubrovnik and add to Split. It is almost impossible to do a day trip from Hvar to Korcula then drive to Plitvice. Skip Rovinj, not swimming weather yet. And out of the way. Sleep in Ljubljana and day trip to Lake Bled. Why Lake Como? Why throw a flight in there. I would go to Zagreb for the last few nights and home from there. I would also skip Hvar and Korcula this trip and add the days to Ljubljana or Split. There are a few nice day trips from either of these cities. Also, when you go to Hvar or Korcula you cannot take the car so you would have to find a lot in Split to leave it - doable but annoying. In Ljubljana and Zagreb we stayed at hotels with parking, again doable.

A nice itinerary could be
Day 1 - land Dubrovnik
Day 2,3 - Dubrovnik
Day 4 - drive to Mostar
Day 5 - Mostar drive to Split in afternoon
Day 6, 7 - Split
Day 8, 9 - Hvar or Korcula - could drop
Day 10, 11 - Plitvice
Day 12, 13 - Ljubljana
Day 14, 15 - Zagreb
Day 16 - fly home

Posted by
4323 posts

Day 10 does not make much sense--backtrack south several hours and then several hours drive north?
Have you mapped all of the drives using Google Maps or ViaMichelin?
Where are you dropping the car? If in a different country, it can be very expensive.
Overall I think it lacks balance unless you have special reasons for your choices. You have several days in Dubrovnik, which is tiny. Then you rush through the rest. I would choose fewer places, less moving.

Posted by
312 posts

We just returned from a small ship cruise trip to Greece and Croatia (OAT/GCT). Athens-Delphi-Corfu-Saranda, Albania (Butrint)-Kotor, Montenegro-Dubrovnik-Korcula-Hvar-Split-Plitvice-Zagreb. Weather fabulous, unusual for late October by all accounts, but it was still end-of-season so while crowds were less, some places were also going into off-season hours (shop/cafes especially). Not sure if this applies to your April dates. Second week in April has Easter, so expect sites, shops, etc to be closed/limited hours perhaps for the entire weekend. We were in Zagreb for All Saints Day Nov 1 - other than restaurants and a few tourist shops, nothing was open.

I will echo above two comments - I think you've got too much going on in your itinerary, unless there are specific reasons for you to get to some of those places (and I did not even have to figure out transportation on my trip!) Unless you really love driving (and maybe driving is part of your touring enjoyment) on unknown roads across several borders, then maybe it's great! Your drive from Kotor to Mostar to Split is probably 6+ hours, 3 countries. Plitvice to Rovinj to Lake Bled then back to Ljubliana - also a ton of driving, 2 border crossings. You'll need a ferry for Hvar and Korcula, so you need to factor in those schedules.

My thoughts: Hvar - in the off-season - not much happening (again, IMO) unless you are heading out of the historic center to a winery or touring other areas. Plitvice - If you want to go to Plitvice (and it is worth going to, for sure), you should go from Split. And check on accomodations not sure there is a lot at Plitvice? Kotor - was underwhelming, IMO, and if you plan to walk/hike the city wall, plan for a few hours for sure.

So maybe take a look at distances, schedules, weather and what will be open and see if you can simplify. We liked Dubrovnik, Korcula, Split, and had a trip to Varazdin (from Zagreb) which was also great.

Posted by
312 posts

Also, keep in mind different car rental agencies handle border crossings differently. They may not allow you to drive through multiple countries, or they may charge a fee, especially if you rent in one country and drop the car in another (we wanted to rent a car in Portugal, drive through Spain and drop it in Barcelona. There was something like a $500 fee to do that. Needless to say, we took public transport to Seville and rented there instead). They may not allow you to take the car on a ferry either, if that's in the plan. Sounds like you plan to rent in Croatia and drop in Slovenia, while also driving to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. You'll want to confirm you can even do that, and ask specifically about fees.

Posted by
6113 posts

Taking a car onto the islands doesn’t make sense as you can’t get from Hvar to Korcula with a car. April isn’t a great time for the islands as many things will still be closed. Drop the islands as the rest of the trip is rushed - it looks as though you are trying to tick boxes as to how many countries you can visit in a single trip! A lot of time on the road rather than seeing places.

Take a day from Dubrovnik. Drop Kotor. Add a day to Mostar. It’s the correct thing to stay near Plitvice the night before you go into the park. Add a night to Rovinj and visit the hill towns.

Ljubljana is charming and 2 full days there would be rushed. If you haven’t booked your return flight, fly back from Ljubljana and add another night to Rovinj.

Posted by
5687 posts

I think you have too much time in Dubrovnik in the beginning unless you have day trips planned from there. I love Dubrovnik, but it's not that big, and in the day time it gets mobbed with tourists (not sure about April, probably less, but if cruise ships come...). It's a lovely place to be at night when it's more quiet but during the day, in April? What are you going to do there?

You could use Dubrovnik as a base for day trips to Kotor/Perast and Mostar. Although I've never done it, you can probably hire someone to drive you for the day if you can't find convenient public transportation. Yes, you could just rent a car earlier or for a day. I would want to say in the old town of Dubrovnik myself on a first trip, and parking there can be expensive (again...April might be easier/cheaper, not sure). One option is to stay in the nearby town of Cavtat which I understand (haven't been) is a nice town but might be easier for driving/parking, if you really want a car there.

Anyway...I think I'd do day trips from Dubrovnik to Kotor/Perast and Mostar and take the extra days to slow down the rest of the trip.

If you rent a car leaving Dubrovnik, you can take the car ferry from Orebic to Korcula. From Vela Luka (other side of Korcula island) you can take a car ferry to Split. Or back to Orebic and drive on land to Split.

You could skip the car entirely here and take the catamaran from Dubrovnik to Korcula (if it's going in April - if not, take the bus) and a catamaran from there on to Hvar/Split. Rent the car in Split and head north. Or if you go to Hvar with a car, you need to take the car ferry to Stari Grad; there is no car ferry to Hvar Town, only passenger catamarans.

I'd probably stay at one of the overpriced park hotels at Plitvice. They are extremely convenient - you park right in the park and walk right in from the hotel. And if you want to stay over and see the park over two days (what if it rains one of the days?), you can enter a second day on the same park ticket, if you get it stamped by the park hotel.

Istria and Rovinj are lovely, but I'd want more time there to make it worthwhile. Rovinj is a small town - lovely to stroll around in the morning and at night, a great base for exploring Istria, but I'm not sure it's worth driving far out of the way just to see it.

It's up to you whether you want to go on to Italy. I wouldn't. There's a lot to see in Croatia and Slovenia that you are barely seeing. I'd forget Italy myself and spend more time in Istria and Slovenia. Flying out of Zagreb would make the car rental a lot cheaper for sure. A one-way rental within Croatia probably won't incur a drop fee. A one-way rental from Croatia to Slovenia might incur a drop fee; I'd guess it would be a very steep fee dropping the Croatian car in Italy.

To skip a possibly expensive one-way drop fee for the car, you could pick up the car in Dubrovnik or Split and drop it in Istria if you want and take a bus up to Slovenia. Or drop the car in Rijeka and take the train from there up to Ljubljana. (It's a nice train ride; I'm partial to trains over buses myself.)

Flying out of Ljubljana might be challenging. Flying out of Zagreb or Venice back to Seattle ls likely to be a lot cheaper and/or have fewer connections.

Posted by
763 posts

Just in case you've not heard enough from everyone else, I'll add a bit based on our two trips there. My first reaction is that you're trying to smash in quite a bit into a 2 week vacation. What are your goals/priorities for these countries? What do you enjoy doing? Museums, nature, history?? Thinking about that will help you craft a less intensive and more rewarding itinerary. Driving takes more time than you think it will, and right now at least you plan some border crossings, too. (Some will be painless; but, into BiH took us well over an hour last time we were there. Keep in mind, too, that some rental car companies charge more or don't allow border crossings with their vehicles.) Starting with Dubrovnik, I'd say that the wall is fun, as is walking down the Stradun, and we enjoyed the ethnographic museum. Mt Srd is worth it, but all could be done in a day with good planning and an early start. Two days would be a more leisurely pace, especially since you're coming in from so far away. Two is more than enough; it’s not that big and somewhat overrated, I think. I think Hvar and Korcula would better be omitted on this trip; use that time in Split instead. April is a little early in the season and the islands will probably be too quiet and/or still closed down to be worthwhile. I like Kotor (which is in some ways like a miniature Dubrovnik, but the wall is a much bigger project to walk up and around) and the drive up the mountain to see Boka Bay is wonderful and worth it. We had a day guide (with a car) in Kotor, so we had the luxury of seeing and learning more with less effort (and white-knuckled driving the mountains). Spending a day between Kotor and Perast would be a push, but it could be done on the heels of a good night's sleep. I wish we had planned to spend more time in Perast. Days 7 - 11 seem like a rushed mishmash to me. Are there a number of one-night stays, or were you thinking seeing Hvar and Korcula as day trips from Split? Mostar needs a full day, with 2, again, being more comfortable, especially when you factor in the time it takes to get there from anywhere. You may have to decide if it's worth all the driving and time to try to do both Mostar and Kotor versus how much actual on-the-ground time you'll have in each. In a lot of ways, I found Split more interesting than Dubrovnik. It's hard to explain, but it seemed more like a real city to me than tourist-land Dubrovnik. I love Rovinj, but why are you going? It is nice, relaxing and scenic, and a good base for Istria, but it’s an outlier here. Personally, 2 or even 3 days in Ljubljana would work for me; one just doesn't do it justice, especially if you're wanting to see Lake Bled as well (are you staying there overnight? It works fine as a day trip from Ljubljana.) There's a wonderful ethnographic museum in Ljubljana (yes, there's a trend here), but it is outside of town and requires a bit of effort to get there. Tacking on Lake Como doesn't make sense to me, especially since you're shortchanging so much of Croatia. Just to add a bit more confusion, you left out Zagreb. Was that intentional? It's heavy on museums, true, but we were pleasantly surprised by both the city and the sights. Also, I'd think seriously about finding a time slot for Plitvice. It's really beautiful and well worth the effort it takes to get there (about two hours from Zagreb).

Posted by
28 posts

I have updated my itinerary based on your advice, @Barbara, @valadelphia, @TheOrdinaryRebecca, @GeoffB, @Jennifer, @ Andrew H., @Wanderlust58 Please review.

Posted by
3816 posts

Is there a reason you want to go to Rovinj? Just curious because April is pretty quiet there. Not swimming weather yet and there isn’t much to see there. Pula would be a better choice.

Posted by
28 posts

@barbara - We don't plan to swim anyways in any of the cities. Saw Rovinj in RS videos and fell in love with the place. This past April we did Tuscany and Umbrian village and loved the no-crowd and calmess of the villages we visited. Hoping to have a similar experience with this trip too.

Posted by
4323 posts

It is much improved-- though I would have put the Slovenia days in Istria, giving you two days to leisurely explore the hill towns rather than squeezing in Ljubljana and Lake Bled.
While in Kotor, you may want to drive to Cetinje or down to the coast.
You might want to overnight in Mostar to avoid so much driving that day, but I know you are making an effort to reduce one-night stays.

ETA wild asparagus will be in season in Istria

Posted by
5687 posts

Let me add the suggestion that in April, you need not stick to such a rigid itinerary. Assuming you will have a working phone, it's easy to make reservations as you go in Croatia off season. I did a long driving trip on Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia in May some years ago and that's how I did it. Except for one busy night in Zadar (some event going on there), it was easy to find last-minute lodgings everywhere. Sometimes I booked the day before; sometimes I booked day-of or just drove up to a place to book. I went with my interests and what I was enjoying.

If you "wing it" at least part of the way, then you can change things up based on your interests or the weather. It would be a shame to have a fixed day in Plitvice but have it rain that day...but not the day before when you might be able to arrive that day instead. (Though it's possible the park hotels may fill up even in April, not sure.)

As for Split: I think you have more time there than you need. It's an interesting town but not my favorite. I just visited for the second time last month and used it as a base to island hop. While Diocletian's palace is a really unique setting for a city, it doesn't take a lot of time to see. Split is a convenient base, but I don't think you need lots of time there (you seem to have two days just for the island day trips plus a day and another half day in Split). I would plan to leave early the final day in Split instead and head north and stop in places like Krka National Park (big waterfall) or a town like Sibenik, which is really interesting and worth seeing.

Or as I said...you can wing it if you choose.

Posted by
28 posts

@Andrew H. I would be travelling with my husband and 2 lil kids (Age 6 and 4.5 - they travel very well even in a very tight schedule) and dont want to wing it as i'm a lil nervous abt the accommodation. Although, i would take ur advice and book refundable places in case i want to stay some place extra! I have extra time in Split mainly for day tripping to the island. If all goes well (weather wise too), i will do as you said and leave early from Split and do krka on the way.