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Late April / Early May - driving from Dubrovnik to Zagreb

My wife & I will be staying in Dubrovnik starting Saturday, April 23, leaving Saturday, April 30. While there, we will use the city as a base to see nearby sights. We may rent a car on one or two days, especially to drive up to places like Mostar.

When we leave Dubrovnik on Saturday, April 30, we will rent a car, with the goal of spending two nights in Zagreb on May 3-4 before flying home to the U.S. on Thursday, May 5. Based on this overall plan, we will have 3 nights available for stopping off along the way from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. My questions are as follows:

1) We're definitely going to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. One option is to get there early in the day but not stay overnight, and just see as much of the park as possible before driving to Zagreb. Or ... is it better to stay overnight? My wife is not a big hiker, so I'm figuring that the former will suffice.

2) I've heard mixed things about Split. However, it might be a decent "base" for the three nights, for seeing other nearby sights. Thoughts? Or should we avoid Split, given our week in Dubrovnik, given any similarities?

3) Are there any other towns/cities worth seeing and/or staying in along the route? Our route, BTW, will be primarily the E65/71 expressway, except where we branch off to Plitvice.

Thanks for any feedback.

Posted by
3287 posts

1) We, in our 70's, hiked the entire park in about 6 hours. My personal preference is for a relaxed itinerary, so I would plan to sleep one night at or near Plitvice, either before with an early start, or after if you'll be driving from elsewhere.

2) Dubrovnik and Split are quite different from each other. The blockbuster sight in Split is Diocletian's Palace. We very much liked the nearby small, medieval town of Trogir. Dubrovnik is more of a medieval/Renaissance city. The views are spectacular, and you can visit some interesting, beautiful areas, like that of Ston and Mali Ston, from there.

Posted by
971 posts

If you are renting a car in Dubrovnik, be sure that you are allowed to take it over the border to Bosnia and perhaps down to Montenegro and the bay of Kotor, wich is also very beautifull. Otherwise there are plenty of tours to Mostar on offer from Dubrovnik.

The hike around Plitvice lakes is not particularly hard, what is a concern is the crowds. I was there in the height of summer on a tour from Zadar and it was PACKED. It's was still wonderfull, but if you can drive there and spend the night and go in the early morning, perhaps you can avoid some of the crownds of day trippers (like me). Hopefully it won't be as bad in early May.

I don't get all these mixed things people are saying about Split, Split is Amazing and truly unique. Unlike a lit of the other towns and cities in the area, that are all medieval, Split dates back from the roman times. The city centre was built in the remains of Emperor Diocletians Palace and has sort of evolved over time, with the old walls and colums being incorporated into the buildings. Truly unique and not at all similar to Dubrovnik.

As said, Trogir is also very nice and could be done as a day trip from Split, or vica versa if you prefer to stay in more quite Trogir.

Noteworthy stops between Dubrovnik and Split could be Ston, with it's massive walls and Makarska. Between Split and Zagreb you could stop at Sibenik and see nearby Krka NP and in Zadar. Note that of these (Ston, Sinemanik, Makarska and Zadar) i have only been to Zadar myself, since i did not have a Car and the freedom to stop along the way. Most of the worthwile places in Croatia are fairly small, so you can technically see them in a few hours, so the car really comes in handy here