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Input on 18-day Croatia itinerary in July 2021

Hi, would love input on possible itinerary for first-time trip to Croatia (we're coming from California). I've traveled a decent amount and generally try to hit a few big cities but always try to spend at least half the time off the beaten track a bit. We're stuck in height of tourist season for this trip, so probably traveling first 3 weeks of July. Thanks!

Day 1: Fly into Pula, stay in Rovinj
Day 2: explore Rovinj
Day 3: Rovinj — day trip to Pula
Day 4: Rovinj — rent car and drive to Rastoke (maybe stop in Moscenice on coast?)
Day 5: explore Plitvice Lakes National Park/stay in Rastoke
Day 6: leave Rastoke in morning and drive to Trogir
Day 7: explore Trogir
Day 8: Trogir — morning drive to Split to turn in rental car and catch ferry to Vis Island (stay in Vis)
Day 9: Vis Island — day trip to Komiza town/Stiniva beach
Day 10: Vis Island — Blue Cave?
Day 11: Vis Island — take ferry in morning to Brac (stay in Pusisca?)
Day 12: Brac — explore Pusisca and maybe Splitska/Supetar?
Day 13: Brac — explore Bol/Zlatni Rat beach
Day 14: Brac — take ferry in morning to Korcula (from Bol via Makarska)
Day 15: explore Korcula
Day 16: Korcula — ferry in morning to Dubrovnik (maybe stay in Cavtat?)
Day 17: Dubrovnik/Cavtat
Day 18: Dubrovnik to SFO

I realize I'm skipping Split but it sounded a bit crowded and touristy. And I'm also not leaving much time for Dubrovnik but hoped that might be enough. One thing I wondered is whether it was better to skip Korcula and spend an extra day in Brac and extra day in Dubrovnik instead. Also, my plan assumes I would turn in my rental car from Rovinj in Split on Day 8 and maybe just rent scooters (or take taxis?) as needed on the islands instead. No idea if that's the best way to do it but being stuck with car ferry schedules and logistics seemed a bit cumbersome.

Any help or other ideas much appreciated!

--Bill

Posted by
693 posts

Hi Bill, you need to make three connections to get to Pula, so I recommend sleeping in Pula your first night before renting a car and driving in Rovinj. I would also see Korcula before spending another day in Brac and sleep in Dubrovnik instead of Cavtat.

Posted by
4400 posts

My initial reaction, before I got to your explanation of shorting Split, was, too bad, why not more time in Split? It was a great part of our visit, actually staying nearby in Solin, but that was more than 15 years ago. Maybe you can fit in Split on your next trip. We didn’t get to Dubrovnik that time, and Trip #2 hasn’t happened - yet. Should be a great time for you, either way. Interesting thought, avoid rental car weighing you down, and use scooters. Might be a way to go, although we weren’t in that position.

Posted by
18136 posts

Except for Plitvice you have all coastal towns and islands. I like islands, but they can get sort of same-y after a while unless your primary goal is relaxing on a beach or puttering around in boats. Personally, I like Zagreb a lot. It's a very handsome central European city with a bi-level historic center and lots of interesting museums. (It helps if you like art.) You might have more flight choices into Zagreb than into Pula.

I haven't been to Pula and acknowledge its Roman ruins, but quite a lot of people have been "meh" about it. I did enjoy a day-trip to Porec with a stop in the little hilltop town of Vrsar, and stuck around Rovinj for an extra day in order to take a once-a-week bus tour that included the medieval villages of Motovun and Groznjan.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks acraven. I had Zagreb initially as a bridge to Plitvice and will consider adding back in. Also will consider swapping out Porec or Motovun trip instead of day trip to Pula, as I've generally read lukewarm comments about Pula too.

Also thanks to MaryPat and Cyn for your comments. MaryPat, curious why the recommendation of staying in Dubrovnik over nearby Cavtat if you don't mind explaining.

Posted by
207 posts

All comments are based on a trip I and my significant other (then mid 50s) took in 2015.

We spent a day in Pula and thought it was worth the day trip from Rovinj.

Stop for a drink in a small inland town on the way to Plitvice, and look for signs of the war.

For Plitvice, I would try to stay right by the park, get up early, and enter as soon as it opens. You will mostly stay ahead of the tourist hordes that way. That place is quite unusual, and quite pretty, and well worth the day to see it.

We stayed in Hvar, which I enjoyed, perhaps because it was off season. I would be hesitant to visit mid season, as I understand it is quite the college age party town. We didn't visit Trogir (except maybe a drive by), Viz Island, or Brac.

Did spend two nights in Korcula. Its a wander round and explore kind of old pedestrian town, with just a bit of a Venice like feel.

I think you need more time in Dubrovnik. Definitely learn about the war, visit the fort up on the hill, walk the walls, and try one of the bars outside the wall. We also got out of the old town into an area that seemed like it was built in the 50s, apparently for the Yugoslav elite, and found that interesting.

Posted by
731 posts

We stayed in Rovinj back in 2017 and really enjoyed it. A couple of nearby hill towns worth visiting are Motovun and Grožnjan if you have time.

Posted by
693 posts

MaryPat, curious why the recommendation of staying in Dubrovnik over nearby Cavtat if you don't mind explaining.

Hi Bill, only because I feel that Dubrovnik needs two nights and should not be a day trip. From my experience on past day trips, all you get is a glimpse of what it looks like, and fail to experience what makes it special, i.e., being there at night after the day trippers leave can be priceless.
It would be ideal if you could sleep in the old town because that’s where Dubrovnik’s charm is. While in Dubrovnik, I recommend exploring the old town on foot, walking on top of the wall and savoring those moments before riding a cable car to Mount Srd for the view.
Furthermore, sitting outside enjoying a fresh seafood dinner in the evening hours then walking back to your hotel, etc. instead of getting on a motor scooter for a 30-minute ride after a couple glasses of wine may not be a good idea.

Posted by
13 posts

I think you could stand to do one more day in Dubrovnik (definitely see Lokrum), and would echo that Split is lovely to spend two days or so in as well. I also think skipping Hvar is a mistake - I spent time there last summer and with the reduced crowds at the moment it was wonderful. On Vis, I highly recommend visiting Stiniva by boat if possible rather than trying to make the hike down. And you also don't need a full day for the blue cave. I'd recommend getting a boat that can take you to Stiniva then out to the blue cave - that's what we did and it was a beautiful morning/afternoon. Happy to refer you to the captain we sailed with if interested. Also, renting a car on Vis is practical because it's hard to get around the island otherwise, but beware of windy cliffside roads. I nearly had a heart attack.

Posted by
2506 posts

Hi woverend,
It looks like you’ve chosen some great highlights for your trip! We took the RS Best of the Adriatic tour in Sept. 2018. We stayed in Motovun (home of the Motovun Film Festival) and then visited Pula with a local guide. We felt it was worth the stop. We enjoyed the Roman ruins & Venetian architecture. From there we toured the lovely seaside town of Rovinj. The next day we stopped in the gorgeous seaside town of Opatija to wander and enjoy a leisurely lunch. As far as Plitvice, I would agree to stay next to the park and plan an early day walking the park. Our group started at the top end to avoid the lower end day crowds. Our next stop was Split. We did a walking tour through it’s old town and then spent a few hours visiting the the world-class Meštrović Gallery (per bus). Amazing sculptures that we felt rivaled Rodin. Split was a nice place to relax & walk the waterfront. Have to say Korčula was our favorite highlight of the tour. It warrants two nights!! It’s magical. We enjoyed wandering the cobbled lanes of the medieval quarter. The cuisine is wonderful. We also took a happy-hour boat cruise. Now Dubrovnik. We stayed 2 nights. Our hotel was outside the wall in the Lapad district. We began our day with a walking tour within the walls. By mid morning we headed back to our hotel neighborhood to avoid the crowds. We walked to the beach to wander & and enjoyed lunch by the seaside.

Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
1819 posts

I'd at least try to take a peek at the palace in Split--you could see it after you drop your car (store bags) while waiting for the boat to Vis, or come over by teh short bus ride while in Trogir, which is tiny (as is Dubrovnik, so I agree you have given it adequate time.) Split is the kind of place I'd love to live, but on vacation I am after the tiniest prettiest village in the middle of nowhere.
People seem fond of Cavtat, but I would stay in Dubrovnik, which is just a short ride from the airport anyway.
I think your plan to drop car makes sense, especially so you can use catamarans. Scooters are a fine option, or even a day car rental (boat makes sense for Vis also, but I liked hiking down to Stiniva).
Korcula is so lovely, I'd keep it in the plan.
If you have the stamina after the flights, you could stop and see the arena in Pula before heading to Rovinj. Or, stop by en route to Premantura park. I have not been to Istria, but I think the interior hill towns are the main draw and would focus on that.
I did pass Mošćenice when I was in the region, and it is pretty.
While on Brac, I'd try to tour this monastery--I missed it because there were not tours on the days I was there.
https://www.chasingthedonkey.com/blaca-hermitage-brac-island-bol-croatia/

good luck!

Posted by
1812 posts

From your choices of locations, you obviously love smaller, scenic places. And with Vis and Cavtat, you have picked two of our favorites.

Vis is gorgeous. You might even consider staying in Komiza, as both Stineva and Bisevo (for the Blue Cave) can be accessed from there. Pick a bright sunny day for the blue cave.

By the way, did you know that the movie Mamma Mia 2 was filmed on Vis (pretending to be a Greek island)? I haven’t seen it but it might be fun to watch just for the scenery.

As for Cavtat vs Dubrovnik ... it’s easy to get to Dubrovnik from Cavtat via boat or bus. You can walk the wall & see the sights and then escape back to gorgeous little Cavtat and sit by the harbor, watching the sunset with something cool to drink.

If you’re thinking of day trips, you can use Cavtat as a base — take a boat tour of the little islands or visit Montenegro (via bus tour or by renting a car for a day).

Also — Cavtat is just minutes from the Dubrovnik airport, for easier logistics on your travel-home day.

Posted by
4180 posts

You can see Trogir in about 30 minutes. It’s cute but not much to see or do. Split, in the other hand, is fascinating.

We travel to Istria every year. Rent a car. Visit Kamenjak, skip Pula. Porec is borderline tacky these days. Rovinj is our second favorite coastal town. I’ll keep my #1 a secret. Dvigrad is cool. Look at https://www.frankaboutcroatia.com/ for good dining and winery recommendations. The best of Istria is not in the travel books thankfully.

Posted by
3 posts

Wow, thanks to the community here for all the great comments and links. Too many to call out one by one, but very helpful and much appreciated!

Looks like some mixed thoughts on Pula, but I will definitely try to hit Motovun or another hill town based on all the Istria comments. Likewise will make sure to give some time to Split and try to spend more time (and maybe stay) in Dubrovnik. Happy to get the comment from valadelphia about Moscenice, as that was a planned stop on our way from Istria to Plitvice.

One other question if anyone has input: I had considered a short sailing trip, since people rave about those in Croatia, but my assumption (maybe wrong) is that those would tend to drop you for a partial or full day in a city/town and then sail to the next one, whereas I usually would prefer to be on an island for a few days and have more time to explore. That said, I considered doing that for the Korcula leg of my trip -- perhaps sailing from Brac and having the boat stop on Korcula for a day, and maybe another small island (or second place on Korcula) for a day. I realize that might not give the full Korcula experience, but sailing itself could also be a cool experience. Does anyone know if it's possible to charter a boat like that for just a 2-3 day trip, or otherwise have thoughts on that idea? In case it matters, I'll be traveling with my wife and also 12-year-old daughter, so we're just a party of three.

Thanks much again!

Posted by
1819 posts

Hi Bill,
I don't know anything about sailing, but just so you are aware, there are many day boat operators who could probably give you a great day excursion, easy to incorporate into your itinerary and affordable. That way, you can enjoy staying in town but get you those stunning views of the coast. They often pull into secluded coves for a swim. The tourist offices have always been very helpful in my experience.