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Itinerary: Land in Dubrovnik, fly out from Zagreb

We are 2 couples (in our early 30s) planning to visit Greece and Croatia (for the first time) during the 1st & 2nd week of May. We are just at the initial planning stage and are trying to zero down on an itinerary.

Out of our total 14 days, we plan to spend 8-9 days days in Croatia (? Too much / too less). All we know right now is that we will fly into Dubrovnik from Athens. Drive up North to Zagreb, from where we fly back home. Given the limited days in hand, we want to just stick to the very best of experiences in the region. Few things we have thought of are walking the walls in Dubrovnik, a day in split, see stadi grad, may be see the beautiful stiniva cove, Zadar, plitvice lakes and explore Zagreb (also a day trip to lake Bled if we have an extra day? Too much? )

  1. How many days should we keep for each city. An itinerary would be really helpful.
  2. Does hiring a car from Dubrovnik and dropping off at Zagreb make sense?
  3. What are the must sees that I haven't figured out.
  4. Which ones to avoid given I don't have enough time. Idea is to do key sites well instead of just touching everything and moving up. (right now everything is looking beautiful... Don't know what to skip and what to experience).

Thank you for reading.

Posted by
679 posts

We did your trip minus Greece. How long and where are you planning to go in Greece. Croatia is a trip in itself. I don't know how long you plan on spending in each place. A couple of things you might want to check out:
1. Day trip to Mostar. This was one of our highlights. We hired a private guide (via RS book) and it was GREAT!
2. We got our car from Split and dropped off from Zagreb. We took the ferry from Dubrovnik to Split via a couple of days in Korcula. That gives you a different point of view and loved visiting the island.
3. Visiting Lake Bled may be a little too much. Dubrovnik for 2 days, (too busy for me), night on one of the islands, 1-2 nights in Split, 1 night in Zagreb before you leave (don't know what time your flight would leave). Plitvice you could do on your way from Split to Zagreb. We also stopped at Krka National Park and loved it. We drove to Ljubljana in Slovenia which was a BIG hlghlight.

Good luck with the planning and enjoy!.

Posted by
16846 posts

Some basic subtraction here shows that you will have no more than 6 days for Greece. Really, I would not do this. Either Greece or Croatia is worth two weeks or more. Although you can give Croatia a quick look in 8 or 9 days, I can't imagine 6 days in Greece.

I wouldn't attempt a day-trip to Lake Bled from Zagreb. First, you don't have any extra days anywhere. Second, to drive to Lake Bled and skip Ljubljana would be a shame. Third, you might get hung up at the border, and ViaMichelin estimates the driving time (I'd say optimistically) at 2 hr. 8 min. with no stops at all.

How many nights do you expect to spend in Europe? At roughly what time of day do you arrive in Athens? Is that an overnight flight?

Edited to add: I would definitely not do Plitvice in transit. You'd be seeing it with every other day-tripper who decided to head in that direction for the day. Plitvice is arguably the best sight in Croatia. Spend the night before your visit in or near the park so you can get inside when the park first opens and have the best possible experience.

Posted by
3993 posts

You may get lucky with the weather in Greece and Croatia in early May, but you might not!

There is more than enough in either Greece or Croatia to keep you occupied for your entire trip. I would opt for one or other.

For Croatia you need at least a full day in Dubrovnik and from here, you could have a day trip to Mostar.

If you want to visit an island, Korcula for 2/3 nights is an obvious stop, travelling by the Krilo catamaran. In May, this service only runs 4 times a week. Hiring a car in Dubrovnik as an alternative to the catamaran means that you would have to take the car out of the EU, which many car hire companies do not permit (or they charge an additional fee) plus you may have a delay at the border.

Split deserves at least a full day and nearby Trogir at least half a day. If you don’t stay on an island en route to Split, then you may want an additional night in Split to visit an island.

Stay at Plitvice the night before you visit the park. Krka National Park is also worth visiting.

With your limited time in Croatia, you don’t have time for Ljubljana or Lake Bled unless you drop Greece. You aren’t going to have much time to see Zagreb.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you Nancy, Acravan and Jennifer for replying.
I understand and appreciate the opinion that the time I'm spending in Greece is too less, but our basic initiation for this trip was that we see both these countries. So I don't want to fiddle with that now.

Greece is a place we think we will be going back to multiple times in the future. We just intend to do a couple of days in Athens, Crete and Santorini and that's it. We however, are looking at experiencing the best that Croatia has to offer. For this we will be landing from Athens at Dubrovnik on Friday afternoon and fly back home on Sat afternoon.
Dubrovnik - Friday, Saturday
Reach Hvar (Stradigrad) Sunday
Trip to Stiniva on Monday morning end day at split
Hire a car in split and drive to Zadar by Tuesday evening
Wednesday explore Zadar and reach near plitvice to stay overnight.
Explore plitvice and krka lakes and reach Zagreb Thu evening.
Explore Zagreb on Friday and off Sat afternoon.

I know this is looking too packed. I want to know if it should be korchula or Stradigrad (stiniva? Overhyped).

The above itinerary is more like what I want to do and I haven't thought it out really. Days are limited.. I need to know the right way to make this work now and also decide the transport between each stop.

Posted by
16846 posts

Crete is a very large island. Really, truly, I wouldn't go there for such a short time. Are you flying or taking the long ferry trip?

Posted by
3 posts

Flying. I'll look at doing an extra day in Crete. But then I've to do Santorini for just one night.

Posted by
3993 posts

You are going to spend longer in transit to Santorini than you spend there. I would just focus on Athens and Crete at that time of year, early in the season.

If you take the catamaran from Dubrovnik, it lands in the evening at Hvar town, not Stari Grad, so you would need to take the bus to the other side of the island. I haven’t seen any day trips running to Stiniva on Vis from Hvar. If there was a choice, I would stay in Korcula rather than Hvar town. Many places have a 3 night minimum stay, so your choice of accommodation will be more limited.

A word of warning - when I was there in early September, the Dubrovnik- Split catamaran was cancelled for 2 consecutive days as the winds were too strong for it to safely operate, so ideally, you need some flexibility in your schedule. The ferries will run in rougher seas than the catamaran.

Posted by
80 posts

We visited Vis this past September. It was our favorite part of our trip. However, Stiniva looks much better in photos than in person. It is mobbed even in September. Also, it is much more dramatic looking from above than from the water, but if accessing from land, you have a very steep climb down.

When do you have time to see Split, which is lovely? You are going from Zadar to Plitvice to Krka to Zagreb. Check a map—you are going back and forth.

I like to move around a lot when traveling, but I think you have way too much planned. You are going to spend all your time moving from one place to another and not see anything.

Posted by
1803 posts

Have you checked ferry schedules? I don’t think it’s physically possible to ferry from Hvar to Vis, make your way to Stiniva, back to the port and then to Split via ferry, all in one day.

Better idea: Skip Stiniva. Do Korcula instead of Hvar. And add a day to a couple of your stops by skipping Crete.
Just spend 2 nights each in Athens & Santorini & add the other Greek nights to your existing Croatia schedule without adding any stops.