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How do we get Off Beaten Path in July? - Zagreb to Dubrovnik

Hello everyone!

I have an itinerary below for 9 nights in Croatia for July. Unfortunately we can NOT avoid July because of our children's school schedules and wedding to attend. Because it's our first (and perhaps only) visit to Croatia, we are seeing the major highlights.

However, I'd love -- for at least 1-3 days -- to have a feeling of NOT being in the thick of crowds. So my key question, is how to escape the crowds from time to time.

Context: We are a family traveling with 2 kids, ages 10 and 11, and my 80-yr old mom. We like nature, culture, history. We'll do a beach for a day, but that's about our beach limit.

Our current itinerary is:
Day 1 - Arrive Zagreb mid-day. Rest.
Day 2 - Sightsee Zagreb. End of day head to Plitvice Lake. Overnight in Nat'l Park hotel
Day 3 - Plitvice Lake for day, and spend night in Zadar.
Day 4 - See Zadar AM, and Krka Nat'l Park PM. Overnight in Split.
Day 5 - See Split and Trogir. Ferry Hvar. Overnight Hvar for 3 nights.
Days 6, 7 -- Currently planned for HVAR and surroundings.
Day 8, 9 - Dubrovnik (2 nights)
Day 10 - return to US

My questions are:
1. What's a good substitute for Hvar? It sounds glitzy and touristy. Is Korcula really less busy in July? Should I just head to Dubrovnik?
I was hoping to go to Mostar -- and perhap if I skip Hvar -- I can do that?

  1. Conversely: If we stay on Hvar -- how best to escape crowds?

  2. Any other recommendations on small places to stop by and visit is welcome. Thank you!!

Thank you! This is a helpful forum.


Posted by
6850 posts

I went to Brac in lieu of Hvar and really enjoyed it; however, I went in September so it did not seem at all too packed (although a considerable number of people too the ferry over from Split). If you want someplace really laid back, there are several villages on the way to Korcula that are just that: Ston and Mali Ston. They may be too small for your liking but they really had a nice feel to them. I don't know how you'll escape crowds in the peak of summer (definitely not Dubrovnik which is the most touristed of all) but I highly recommend Mostar (caveat: it will be touristy) or picking a small town in a Croatian guidebook where you can have a lovely, relaxing time by the water (they are literally all over the place - I passed them by on bus trips - but they'll be very understated and maybe not even mentioned in guidebooks). Maybe the little island of Vis? Also, you may want to check into Mljet..I know it's a park/nature reserve so it may be a nice place to stay and also do some hiking. Korcula is definitely worth seeing as well (I don't know about the crowds in July though). Sorry for the roundabout have the right idea about Hvar but I think you should check out a good book for something that will fit all of your interests since you have a pretty wide age distribution of travelers.

Posted by
2118 posts

I loved Croatia and I think it's beautiful, but I think your schedule is pretty ambitious for such a short trip, especially with 2 kids and your mom in tow. It might be helpful to winnow down these locations a bit. I know it's hard to pick and choose but I think you'll have more fun if you limit what you're aiming to see.

Another tool you can use is to pick your days in Dubrovnik by the days that cruise ship arrivals are limited. Here's a link to a website that keeps track of planned cruise ship arrivals and the total passengers arriving. You'll see that for July, some days have as few as 200 people arriving and some have 7,000!

Dubrovnik was awesome. We stayed there for 5 days and did day trips to Mostar and Montenegro. I recommend both. You could simplify your trip by doing something like Zagreb - one other location - Dubrovnik (with a day trip or two).

Posted by
5460 posts

Your itinerary is a minimum 14 day itinerary in July squashed into 8 full days there.

You can't escape the July crowds on Hvar, but the towns on the north of the island are slightly quieter. Hvar Town in July is one long party and I wouldn't take children there. Your itinerary is rushed, so I would drop Hvar and unless you want to spend days on a beach on an island, I would stick to the mainland. July and September are chalk and cheese crowd wise.

Day 5 is not doable. You need a day for Split and another for Trogir. You have too many one night stops which may be difficult to arrange for July for 5 people, which probably means 3 rooms. It was pushing 40 degrees last July, so this may impact on what you do if this year is similar. Even a normal summer is going to be c 30 degrees.

Stay in Omis between Split and Dubrovnik. Although it's a seaside resort, drive inland and go kayaking in the gorges to escape the crowds.

With 5 people plus luggage, you will need a large car / people carrier and there will be a 1 way drop fee. Ensure that you are insured to drive through Bosnia to reach Dubrovnik. Drop the car as soon as you reach Dubrovnik as it won't be needed there. Your itinerary isn't realistic by public transport.

It's a great country and I am sure you will love it.

Posted by
6850 posts

After reading the other comments, I agree - this itinerary is way too rushed. At the very least, I would cut Hvar out completely and just spend Days 5, 6, and 7 in Split and Trogir. If you have a day free, then perhaps you can go to one of the islands as a day trip.

I covered the area between Split and Dubrovnik (plus side trip to Mostar and Saravejo, and a day trip to Montanegro) in about 12 full days and it was quite a busy, active schedule. You're starting from much further to the north and you have much less time. I am not sure how you'll include Mostar without cutting something else.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks Agnes, Valerie and Jennifer. I'll be changing the itinerary to make it more doable.

Part of why it's doable is we're hiring a private driver -- not doing this by public transport. Still, my plan is to cut out Hvar, spend more time in Split/Trogir and then go to Dubrovnik.

When my kids go to college, we'll be able to travel in May and Sept!

Thanks for your advice,

Posted by
2118 posts

Do you already have a driver? We used Petar Vlasic for 2 day long tours out of Dubrovnik. He's really something special. His coverage area is large - I'm pretty sure he'll come get you in Zagreb and take you on your entire route. This is his website:

Posted by
334 posts

Last year, I had a 11 day itinerary in Croatia and it was rushed despite there only being two of us. I couldn't imagine pulling it off with kids and a grandmother. Often we tend to overpack our schedules because we have the mindset of it being "our first (and perhaps only) visit" somewhere. As travelers we have to remind ourselves that it's impossible to see or do it all. And if a place is extra special, we will find a way to go back.

With the five of you, I would highly recommend that you limit how many times you pack up and move to the next location. Your original itinerary has you in a different bed each of your first five days. That is much too much movement. I would recommend staying in Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik only. Your other locations can be reached as day trips from these bases. I might make an exception for Plitvice Lakes, but this depends on how quickly you can be up and going on your Plitvice day. You need to be well into the park before the tour busses arrive (around 10:00AM). If you can be up early, you can just stay in Zagreb. If you think you'll need the extra sleep, go ahead to Plitvice the night before. If you have a driver, it should be able to leave from Zagreb early.

After Plitvice, head to Split. From there, Zadar, Krka, Trogir, and Hvar are all possible day trips.

After Split, head to Dubrovnik. From there, Mostar is possible day trip as is Montenegro. You didn't mention Montenegro, but it is a popular destination for visitors to Dubrovnik.

I said "possible" day trips above because there is no way that all of those destinations can be covered. You're going to have to pick and choose between your family interests. When in Split, if your primary interest is ancient history and culture, focus on Diocletian's Palace, Old Town, and Trogir. If primary interest is in nature/hiking, focus on Krka. However, with just being at Plitvice, Krka may seem a little repetitious. If your primary interest is in having some island time, focus on Hvar.

When in Dubrovnik, spend a couple days with the city itself (Old Town, walking the walls, the gondola, the beach, etc). I always recommend that people go to Mostar if they have the opportunity. It is one of the most significant places I've ever visited. Keep in mind that in Mostar is in the arid part of Bosnia and will be extremely hot and you should be prepared with plenty of water and protection from the sun. Time permitting, you can also visit Montenegro (Kotor, Budva, Perast).

I'm thinking that your itinerary should look something like this:

Day 1 - Arrive Zagreb. Night Zagreb.
Day 2 - See Zagreb. Night Zagreb (or Night at Plitvice if necessary).
Day 3 - Early start to Plitvice, Night Split
Day 4-6: Split including day trips (Day 6 Night in Dubrovnik)
Day 7-9: Dubrovnik including day trips
Day 10: Return

Depending on what activities you want to do in Split/Dubrovnik, you may want to add or subtract a day (i.e. 2 days in Split vs 4 Dubrovnik or 4 days Split vs 2 Dubrovnik).

Posted by
18 posts

I was in Croatia last Sept in my VW camper. After Greece and Albania and Montenegro, I found Croatia too busy, too crowded and too expensive. Two suggestions - Plitvice Lakes are stunning but maybe not for an 80 year old. It's a long up and down hills walk into and out of the really great views - you might consider staying there the night before to get the really early start you need and the next night there to recover. After beautiful and uncrowded Kotor and warnings from my daughter about the Dubrovnik crowding (which I really hate), I drove right on by and don't regret it. Suggest you visit Kotor - only 90 km from Dub.

Posted by
334 posts

With respect to the Dubrovnik crowds, consult the cruise ship schedule. If you will be there on heavy day, you can either use that day for a day trip to somewhere else or plan your Dubrovnik day around the ship schedule. In other words, plan activities in Dubrovnik itself either early in the morning or late in the evening. During the middle of a heavy cruise ship day, the Old Town and walls will be flooded with people.

Even though Kotor is smaller, it isn't immune from the cruise ship crowds. On our Montenegro day, when we reached Kotor, it was very crowded. We skipped it in favor of Budva and went back to Kotor later in the afternoon when we thought the crowds would start to dissipate. Just be prepared to be flexible.