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How many days would you spend in each city?

Hi all!
Husband and I are going to Croatia for 10-11 days for our 1 year anniversary in Mid-September and would appreciate your recommendations!
We want to go to Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, Plitvice Lakes, and Zagreb (any other must-see cities?)

  1. Should we fly into Dubrovnik and fly out of Zagreb, or the opposite?

  2. We're thinking about spending the following days:
    Dubrovnik- 3 days;
    Split - 2 days;
    Hvar - 1 day;
    Plitvice Lakes - 2 days;
    Zagreb - 2 days
    Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Is there a particular city that we should avoid being at on a weekend?

  3. What is the best way to travel from city to city? We are hoping we won't have to get a car.

Thank you so much for your thoughts!

Posted by
13275 posts

You can accomplish a great deal at Plitvice by arriving in the park mid- to late-afternoon, seeing some of the park then, and finishing up the next morning, going inside when the park opens. Although there are additional paths not included on the labeled routes, I think one night is the sweet spot for most visitors and wouldn't recommend 2 nights when you have only 10 or 11 days in total. Just don't try to drive in from Zagreb or Split and plan to see the park beginning at 10 or 11 AM. That will mean being surrounded by an unbelievable number of day-trippers.

The park has a new ticketing system that involves reserving a time-slot ahead of time.

I mentally write off my arrival day because sleep-deprivation and jetlag mean I rarely accomplish anything at all, so I wouldn't count that day as available for sightseeing in whatever turns out to be your first city.

Time in Zagreb should depend partly on your interest in art and decorative art museums. It has a lot of them. I especially recommend the small but wonderful Museum of Naive Art. In the not-art category, the Museum of Broken Relationships is popular and fun. Not interested in art? In that case one non-jetlagged day in Zagreb would be OK. Love art? You'd be hapy to have two non-jetlagged days and would need to plan carefully to fit everything in. The historic district is worth several hours of wandering.

If you like art, check the websites of the Zagreb Museums for days closed. If you don't have a guidebook that covers Zagreb well, consult Trip Advisor's Things To Do list to see what museums sound appealing.

There's a possibility the weather may break before the end of the yrip. If that happens, the south may remain pleasant a bit later than Zagreb. All other things being equal, I'd prefer to start in Zagreb. However, after consulting airfares and schedules you may find that things are not equal. And there's a good argument for going straight to Dubrovnik and getting over your jetlag there.

It's mostly buses in Croatia. I've been to all your destinations and have never rented a car in Europe.
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Posted by
1167 posts

I would fly to Dubrovnik and work my way back up to Zagreb. As much as we love Dubrovnik, i would spend 2 days there and add a day to Split. With 3 days in Split you can ferry to Hvar and back in the same day. (I haven’t checked the ferry schedule which might influenece your decision) or you can spend one day in Trogir. Short bus ride there and back. From Dubrovnik to Split is a bus ride. From Split to Plitvice is bus again. With the day not used in Hvar, i would add it to Zagreb. It’s hard to determine exact days because alot depends on your travel time. I always research travel options, length of travel time and departure times before I finalize an itinerary. When we are in Croatia we mostly rent a car or hire private drivers cause some buses and ferries only travel once a day or not when we need them. A bus from Rijeka to Dubrovnik is 12 hours, but driving it is only six. Once we flew, once we hired a driver, once we rented a car. This is where your research comes in and plays an important role. Planning is sometimes mundane, but necessay. Also, it doesn’t costs anything to get quotes from drivers. With only 10-11 days your time is valuable so i would check all options.

Posted by
529 posts

Both times I've been to Croatia I have rented a car (once from Dubrovnik to Zagreb) for the flexibility of choosing our arrival / departure times, especially to Plitvice. It's easy to drive in Croatia.

If you do decide to drive...

You don't need a car in Dubrovnik or Zagreb, so rent upon leaving your arrival city and upon arrival at your departure city.

You will also want to compare rental car prices. Checking a random 1 week period in September, Hertz had a 300 Euro dropoff fee from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. Sixt did not. Roughly similar pricing otherwise.

From a weather standpoint, you might prefer to start in Zagreb and work your way south to Dubrovnik. But practically speaking, flights might suggest your better option.

Posted by
1121 posts

My ideal would be to fly into Zagreb, two nights. Bus to Plitvice, one night, bus to Split, time determined by your interest, catamaran to Hvar or Korcula, 2-3 nights, catamaran (bus in case of Korcula) to Dubrovnik, two nights.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you all for such wonderful and thoughtful advice!
Do you have any suggested websites to look up bus schedule times or where I can find a private driver? Thank you again!

Posted by
13275 posts

I've used BusCroatia in the past, but there may be better options. My usual advice in that part of Europe (though I think it's advisable everywhere) is not to fully trust any bus schedule information you did not get at the bus station itself. And even then...

Online info may be incomplete or wrong. I couldn't fail to notice in 2015 that if I stopped in at a tourist office to check on buses, they reached for the telephone and called the bus station at my departure point; they didn't turn to the Internet.

Buses to and from Plitvice seemed especially flaky. There are enough of them to/from Zagreb that it's not too much of an issue if you aren't dealing with a really tight itinerary, but if you're connecting Plitvice with Split, I think you need to be a bit more careful. I wouldn't plan to take the last bus of the day (or rather, what I think is the last bus of the day).

Posted by
612 posts

Just returned from a similar trip as you are planning but traveled in the other direction. We spent 3 days in Zagreb, one day in Plitvice, (see my detailed post I just made on Plitvice), headed towards Split, but stayed in Zadar. Plans was for 2 days, just spent one and headed to Dubrovnik. Instead of staying in Dubrovnik we continued an hour south to Mo;tenegro. We made this as out base. One hour to Dubrovnik, 1 hour to Kotor, 1 hour to Bosnia. We spent just over half a day in Dubrovnik.

If you are interested in Plitvice checkout Tara, the Grand Canyon of Europe. Just over two hours from where we were staying in Herceg Novi. And take a look at the Blue Cave.

Have you priced flights to get from Northern Europe to Croatia? This is crazy but EasyJet from Dubrovnik to Paris is just $35. For accommodations in Montenegro we spent $35 per night for a 1 bedroom private apartment just 1 block from the beach. Herceg Novi is a rivera town with a beautiful old town and 10 mile long promenade along the waterfront.

As for car rental in Croatia there are somethings you should know. When you book the car do not get any insurance. (This is not a scam.) You have to buy insurance in Croatia. You’ll find it costs about the same far much better coverage. Than if you are traveling from Dubrovnik to Plitvice you will have a border crossings and have to use different currency. You will need to check on this but there is a “cross the boarder with a rental car” tax. We were traveling to Montenegro and I know they charge the tax.

We plan on returning next year. We would fly into Dubrovnik with EasyJet. Take a bus cab to Montenegro, about 45 from the airport and rent that car there. Then make Montenegro your home base to visit Dubrovnik, Kotor, Bosnia, Tara and maybe Albania before driving north to Plitvice and Zagreb.

Just a thought. Good travels.