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Looking for Croatia/Slovenia Travel Itinerary Advice

Planning a trip to Croatia and Slovenia for 2 weeks May 22-June 4 2022: Two best friend moms with our 21-yr old daughters. We fly into Zagreb and out of Split. Renting a car for the duration. Here's what we have so far:

Sun 22-May Arrive Zagreb
Mon 23-May Drive to Ljubljana
Tues 24-May Day Trip to Lake Bled -- Stay in Ljubljana
Wed 25-May Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves en route to Plitvice
Thur 26-May Hike Plitvice, then drive to Dubrovnik
Fri 27-May Dubrovnik
Sat 28-May Dubrovnik
Sun 29-May Dubrovnik
Mon 30-May Drive to Drevnik; Ferry to Sucuraj; Drive to Hvar Town
Tues 31-May Hvar Town
Wed 1-Jun Hvar Town
Thur 2-Jun Drive/Ferry from Stari Grad to Split
Fri 3-Jun Split
Sat 4-Jun Depart from Split Airport

TOTAL DISTANCE: 1230.6 km
TOTAL DRIVE TIME: 18:45

In summary:
1 night - Zagreb
2 nights - Ljubljana
1 night - Plitvice
4 nights - Dubrovnik
3 nights - Hvar Town
2 nights - Split

Can anyone advise:
1) Is Google maps estimate of driving times accurate or too optimistic? I've seen posts where they say it takes twice as long between destinations than what I am estimating. (for example, I am assuming 5 hours drive to Dubrovnik after hiking Plitvice, with dinner stop along the way. Is 5 hour drive time accurate?)
2) Are we being too aggressive trying to hit so much during our two week journey? Is there anything we should 'not miss' along our path? Anything we should add/delete?
I welcome feedback!

Posted by
104 posts

I can't comment on Croatia (never been) but on a trip with 13 nights in country that includes your arrival day/night, 6 different overnight stops seems on the high side to me. I usually try to avoid one nighters (you have 2), and otherwise try to average 3 nights per stop. Otherwise every 2ND day in your itinerary is basically a travel day.

Now if you have done trips quickly paced like this in the past and had no issues with it, i say go for it. Others will opine on your itinerary, what to skip, and so on.

Posted by
19200 posts

You can cross-check Google's driving-time estimates with those provided by ViaMichelin.com. A plus for the latter is that if you zoom way in, any especially scenic roads will be marked in green. None of the times include: stopping, traffic delays, getting lost, searching for parking, or walking from your parking place to whatever you want to see (if you make a mid-day stop). The drive to Dubrovnik involves a border crossing. There's a tiny bit of Bosnia-Hercegovina you must transit. I haven't heard that there are significant delays at that border, but I guess it's theoretically possible you might get held up there.

Zagreb is a really nice town and deserves some time. Dubrovnik is tiny and tourist-thronged. You'll definitely need to plan side-trips there, or you could switch at least one night to Zagreb.

Posted by
1 posts

FIRST definitely take swim shoes! Most beaches have pebbles, some have huge rocks. Great swimming, just be sure you can protect your feet with swim shoes. Or you can buy there sometimes. I have been to Croatia about 10 times, and to all the places you mention and more with the exception of Hvar. I have been to several other islands, and island life is great, things are slower and relaxed. I went to Plitivice Lakes once, it was pretty, but very crowded, slow walking on the boardwalks with a lot of people, long waits in the sun for the boat across the lake, it was nice but not my favorite day of of the trip. I think it has been hyped too much. There are many places with beautiful rivers and waterfalls in Croatia. Hiking in the Velebit mountains was more fun, having lunch at a mountain hut. Split, while one of the larger cities and fairly crowded, has such a fascinating history with many layers. I stayed at a hotel inside the Diocletian palace, thought it would be cool, but the night life there meant it was so noisy I got no sleep at all. The next day I went to the local tourist office and booked a room in the home of some nice quiet teachers who lived just about 1 mile from city center, and had a great local experience. Just a warning on that one. The palace is fascinating though. There is a great beach to swim just outside of the city center in Split. Visiting some of the less touristed places were the best days. Dubrovnik: I was there in 2002, almost no tourists then. They were still waiting for tourists to return after the 1990s war. It is beautiful but no more than Zadar, Split, Sibenik, or Istria. I don't know... it has a real draw but if I were only going for two weeks, I might skip dubrovnik and spend a few days somewhere more laid back. i see you have allowed 4 nights in Dubrovnik, so if you drive that far, sure, stay 4 nights for sure. I never drove in Croatia, either took public transit or my Croatian friends drove me, so I was very lucky for that. The superhighways are fast and great. Other roads, beautiful but slow and can have a lot of traffic. May would be great time to go though, still low season. I will think about it if I have other ideas. It's a great vacation choice, obviously I love it since I have been 10 times!

Posted by
1425 posts

I think you should dump the car when you get to Dubrovnik. You won't need it for the rest of the trip. You can get from Dubrovnik to Hvar by bus and/or ferry.

What do you plan to do in Hvar for three nights? It's lovely, and great if you just want to lie on the beach and have some excellent meals and enjoy the views and sunsets, but there's not really a lot to see and do, so you could easily cut it back to two nights and add a night to Zagreb at the beginning of your trip.

And same thing about Dubrovnik unless you are planning day trips. I recommend Mostar as an excellent day trip. You should still dump the car and get a private guide with a van to take you up there. Kotor is also a fine option.

I disagree with slow traveler about Plitvice. Go early to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for the excellent feedback and advice! It's alot to consider. We are trying to tweak the trip, but we still plan to drive from Plitvice to Dubrovnik (with a possible overnight along the way).
I do like the idea of dropping the car and Dubrovnik and taking ferries to Hvar then Split.
However: I checked Sixt and it won't let me pickup in Zagreb and dropoff at Dubrovnik airport. Does anyone have other rental agencies I should consider?

Related Question: I know that when we drive to Dubrovnik, we pass through Bosnia territory (unless magically the new Peljesec Peninsula Bridge is open at end of May 2022 -- not slated to open until June). That said, are their any issues/considerations we may crossing the borders in the Neum corridor? Are there large delays at these border crossings end of May? Do I need to confirm that this is OK with Sixt Rental?

Greatly appreciate all of the feedback!!!

I just came back from Croatia July 2021. I flew direct to Dubrovnik. 1 full day to see the old town sights and 1 full day to chill on Lokrum was perfect. If I were there longer I'd want to take some day trips elsewhere. I took the ferry to Split, which ran right on time. The bus back from Split was a bit slow. Slowing down for the border took a while. It probably took 5 hrs with a brief bathroom stop. So driving would be similar. Split also required 1 full day. More than that I'd be a bit bored. But I like a go-go-go trip.

Personally I'd say you should go in a straight line down the coast, ditch the car in Split if possible, then take the ferry to Dubrovnik and a short flight back to Zagreb. Unless you really like driving.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks all for your feedback. We are still trying to massage the itinerary where we see the highlights but not bounce every day. We fly back out of Split, so we will end there. I think we will take the advice and spend a night somewhere halfway between Plitvice and Dubrovnik. (Zadar, Trogir or Sibenik?).

Posted by
102 posts

Laura: in 2013 wife & I took a trip to Croatia, Slovenia & Venice. Stayed 3 nights in Zagreb and enjoyed the town a lot. Picked up rental car (outfit later merged with someone else) and drove to Ljubljana, staying 2 nights at Hotel Emonec. Time was enough to have good meals & see the old town. Drove to Lake Bled staying 1 night - 2 would have been better. Over the Julian Alps with 1 night in Kobarid. WW1 museum a must see. Stopped 1 night near Skocjan caves & toured caves next day. 3 nights in Rovinj with day trip to Pula. 1 night near Plitvice with early morning into park. 1 night near Zadar & 1 night near Split. Drove using ferry & narrow road to Hvar town for 2 nights, then back to mainland same route. On to Dubrovnik staying 3 nights. Saw main areas before & after tour groups with daytime spent in exploring town & visiting with locals. Dubrovnik after dark was so charming & lovely. Turned car in first day. Taxi to airport. Main roads/highways in both countries are good. Other roads are more interesting, often very narrow & heavily traveled. Signage everywhere is good. Drivers were universally skilled, fast but courteous. Great trip. We are "slow travelers" & like to see/do more than the highlights.

Posted by
12 posts

Just got back--4 nights in Dubrovnik is a bit much--the Mostar idea is a good one, or spend more time in the islands--there are ferries daily all over.

Posted by
8 posts

Dubrovnik - Plitvice is a lot of driving. Some can do it in 5 hours. I think you as turists would prefer to drive slow and take your time. or just drive for few hours and you can have lunch around krka national park.

But do not put less then 4 nights in Dubrovnik, there are islands nearby, old town, then options to go to mostar or montenegro, and wine tour in the country)

what you might like also isMljet national park

Posted by
1165 posts

While I found Google Maps drive times were pretty accurate in September, I think you are overly optimistic on what you can accomplish on May 25 & 26. And I am with Lane, return the car in Dubrovnik and take the catamaran to Hvar and then to Split. For 3 weeks of driving, I used UniRent, renting in Dubrovnik and returning in Split.

Posted by
157 posts

Given the pandemic, which is far from over in Croatia or Bosnia, I would avoid border crossings generally. The Enter Croatia process is a breeze and works well, but crossing into and out of Bosnia at Neum is never swift and could be even more challenging. You do not enter Bosnia at all if you take a plane or ferry to Dubrovnik. Ferry travel can be really enjoyable, and worth doing. I would avoid long drives, like the one from Plitvice to Dubrovnik, and work out a more relaxed schedule. The Balkans are still not Kansas. A day trip up to Mostar on a bus group or with a minivan driver from Dubrovnik would be easier and worth it. Mostar is unforgettable.
I hate to say this, but you will be four women in a visibly rented car. Be careful. And stay in Croatia. It is gorgeous.

Posted by
4 posts

We are still tweaking our trip but this is fixed: Using Delta Miles for free flights, we fly into Zagreb on Sun May 22nd, then depart from Split on Saturday June 4th. Rented a Van from Sixt for the 5 of us... fairly affordable for 2 weeks with dropoff in Split. Still considering ditching car earlier and doing ferries the 2nd half... but then seems we would be paying for taxis to get around. We are considering skipping touring Zagreb and drive directly to Ljubliana on Day 1 so we can stay 3 nights with day trip to Lake Bled with home base in Ljubliana. Then, taking advice to add a night in Zadar so we don't have to drive from Plitvice to Dubrovnik after hiking. So this is what the trip would look like:

Sun 22-May: Arrive Zagreb at 1pm, pickup car, drive to Ljubliana;;
Mon 23-May Tour Ljubliana;;
Tues 24-May Day Trip to Lake Bled and surrounding area -- Stay in Ljubljana;;
Wed 25-May Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves en route to Plitvice; Stay 1 night near Plitvice;;
Thur 26-May Hike Plitvice, then drive to Zadar; Stay 1 night in Zadar;;
Fri 27-May Drive to Dubrovnik -- hit wineries or other sights en route? Stay in Dubrovnik;;
Sat 28-May Dubrovnik;;
Sun 29-May Dubrovnik;;
Mon 30-May Drive to Drevnik; Ferry to Sucuraj; Drive to Hvar Town; Stay in Hvar Town;;
Tues 31-May Hvar Town;;
Wed 1-Jun Hvar tours/snorkeling/blue-green caves/lavender fields;;
Thur 2-Jun Drive/Ferry from Stari Grad to Split;;
Fri 3-Jun Split;;
Sat 4-Jun Depart from Split Airport;;

In summary:
3 nights - Ljubljana;;
1 night - Plitvice;;
1 nights - Zadar;;
3 nights - Dubrovnik;;
3 nights - Havr Town;;
2 nights - Split;;

Questions: Are we crazy trying to cram this much in? As much as I don't like 1 night stays, I couldn't figure out what to give up to allow more time at the key destinations, and not kill ourselves with driving.
If we ditch the car in Split on Friday 27-May and then take Catamaran to Dubrovnik; Dubrovnik to Hvar; and Hvar back to Split for our 2nd week: how do we get from Split airport to ferry docks? and from Ferry docks to our lodging in Dubrovnik? Will we want a car on Hvar to explore?

Any Recommendations welcome!! Thanks much Fellow Travelers!!!

Posted by
19200 posts

I'm concerned about that arrival-day drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana after a not-short overnight flight. Are you confident that your driver will not be jetlagged and sleep-deprived? I'm brain dead on arrival.

Posted by
70 posts

I just returned from one month Sept/Oct. trip Croatia and Slovenia, included some of the places you have in mind - Dubrovnik, Split, a stop in Plitvice, Hvar, Stari Grad (among other islands on a small boat cruise which was affordable and efficient), a drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana, Lake Bled, we opted for Skojan cave instead of Postonja, plus more that is not on your list. I just posted my trip report (warning, it's long) in the Trip Reports - 31 Days...
-One comment about driving to Ljubljana after landing in Zagreb. I would advise against checking any luggage whenever immediately departing the area, and in this case the country, where you are landing. It could be a lost or delayed luggage nightmare. Just a thought there. But I agree with this change even though you'd miss Zagreb.
-For Dubrovnik, we arrived at 4:45 PM on Friday and then left at 1:00 in the afternoon the next day and though it was not enough, we saw a lot in that short time. For getting from ferry dock to hotel, vice versa, take a taxi. Not too expensive. You do not want a car while staying in Dubrovnik, my opinion.
-For Plitvice day, here is something for reference. We started in Split 8:00 AM, went with a guide who drove us to Plitvice, (entrance 2 at 11 AM) then a stop for late lunch, continued on to Zagreb arriving at almost 7:00 PM. There was no crowd at Plitvice so 1) no line at entrance 2) no line at boats 3) we were able to move at our own moderate-quick pace. I have heard that it takes much longer when it is busy. I can look and see what our exact beginning and end times were (thank you Fitbit haha) if that would give you some reference.
Last comment is about the drive to Plitvice. It is mountains once you start getting close to the park, so make sure you have enough time to get there in daylight. Not sure what time the Postonja and Predjama open or how long is needed there, but something to consider along with the sunset time.
Yay, I'm sure you'll have a great trip, happy planning! -Rena

Posted by
5 posts

we did a 54 day trip in Aug , Sept and some Oct in 2021 . We landed in Ljubljana to start. We didn't do Zagreb , I'm sure it's a great city but landing there with jet lag and driving to Ljubljana the next day seems just travel weary . Why not just land in Ljubljana and enjoy that city... we found it to be very beautiful and relaxing

Posted by
2104 posts

Did you try renting a car through Carwiz? We used them this past September and rented the car in Zagreb and dropped it off in Dubrovnik. This would be the only time you need to take a taxi. The car rental office is across the street from the port of Gruz. You can walk it, we have, but it might be a pain with your luggage. Otherwise you really wouldn’t even be taking any taxis unless your hotel/B&B is far out of town. You can take the ferry to Hvar then a ferry to Split. Things may be cheap in Croatia but parking isn’t. If you wanted to stop one night on the drive, all of those cities are nice to visit. I would choose the one which is best within your driving time. About Split, we always stay at the Hotel Peristil which is just inside the Palace. Night noise has never been a problem. They have lovely rooms, a great staff, AC, but no elevator. A menu breakfast is included. Driving through Neum is not a problem, they didn’t even take our passports from us, we held them up and they passed us through. The new bridge is completed but the access roads aren’t, that’s the delay. Also, we have a great guide in Split if you need one. We’ve used him a few times, as have friends.