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Need help please- Croatia - travel in September ok? itinerary ok?

Hi
My husband and I normally take an extended vacation in early September - still warm yet less crowded in many places. This year however our dogsitter isn't available so our available dates are Sunday Sept 13th - through the following Wed Sept 23rd. (we could extend to 24th if needed)

Sept 13- fly overnight Philadelphia to Zagreb (arrive 11:30 am). check in an wander around Zagreb
Sept 14 - Zagreb
Sept 15 - fly Zagreb to Dubrovnik (roughly 1 hour flight, Croatia Air)
Sept 16- Dubrovnik
Sept 17- Dubrovnik
Sept 18 - Mostar
Sept 18 Dubrovnik <--- here's where we need help. It is worth it to take a ferry up to Split area or is it too late in September (cold) to enjoy the beaches?

ultimately we wanted to fly to Venice and spend a day there and fly out. So if the beaches aren't worth it, then we'd either
1) fly from Dubrovnik to Venice and spend a couple days in bologna or Ravenna (a few hours from Venice). Or alternatively,
2) at the beginning of the trip. we could do a loop from Zagreb to Lubjana to Lake Bled and enjoy that area before heading south to Dubrovnik

we need to make decisions soon so any help appreciated. if September is really not a great time to go, we'll just spend time local to the US for this vacation and delay this international trip to next year (June timeframe)

Thanks in advance for any help

Posted by
5687 posts

September is a great time to visit Croatia. It should still be fairly warm, surely warm enough to go swimming, but less crowded than high season. However, you need to understand that the beaches are not long and sandy like the Jersey Shore - they are kind of rocky.

You might consider renting a car and driving from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. That way, you can visit such gems like the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park 2hrs south of Zagreb (perhaps the highlight of Croatia - or if not one of the top three). And you could stop in Mostar on the way down, instead of backtracking from Mostar back to Dubrovnik.

Some people evidently like Zagreb enough to want to spend some time there, but I didn't care for it much, and it seems many don't. I was done with the main sights in half a day. So you might think twice about spending two nights there with such limited time. I much preferred Ljubljana, though I understand it's much harder to fly there from Philly than into Zagreb.

Posted by
4637 posts

September is great month to go. Still warm to hot and water is warm. But I don't know if you can get ferry from Dubrovnik to Split in September. But you can go by bus or rent a car.

Posted by
108 posts

Thanks for such a prompt response, We found it impossible to find decent flights to Lubjana or Dubrovnik (many stops). The one to Zagreb is essentially fly overnight to Frankfurt, an hour layover and then in Zagreb by 11 -11:30. I've read about the Plit. Lakes region but wasn't sure it was worth it. I usually jam pack our trips and have realized sometimes its best to just not see everything and have a more relaxed vacation. (ex, when we went to Turkey everyone said "Wow you must see Ephesus!" so we did. and regretted it as we had seen lots of ruins before and realized we were so tired we would have rather just spent a few days doing nothingin the sun).

Is Mostar a day trip or should we stay overnight?

Thanks again for your help

Posted by
5687 posts

Have you watched the RIck Steves PBS Croatia videos? They are all up on YouTube. Watch the one that covers Plitvice. It's a magical place with dozens of waterfalls, huge turquoise-colored lakes full of trout, just an amazing place, truly unique. I've visited twice - definitely one of the highlights of Europe for me.

Should you avoid Plitvice because everyone says you should go? Only you can decide that.

Even if you don't visit Plitvice, I'd rather spend that extra night in Zagreb somewhere else, unless you have specific reasons to want to spend the extra time. I think the thing people rave about in Zagreb is the supposed restaurant scene, something I wasn't particularly interested in. Otherwise, it doesn't seem like a great place to chill and do nothing - for that, I'd rather be on the coast somewhere.

Mostar gets a lot of day tourists, so expect some mini-crowds if you day trip. At night, it's much quieter and nicer, but Mostar is also pretty small. Before you go, go on YouTube and find the documentaries about the Bosnian war that cover Mostar - heartbreaking to see what that city went through just over 20 years ago; you can see incredibly footage from the war, with people scurrying over the bridge avoiding snipers, a place where you will today enjoy a peaceful walk.

Posted by
108 posts

Andrew, Thanks. Since we're arriving before noon, perhaps one full day wandering Zagreb and recovering from jet lag is sufficient and then we'll fly out. I'll definitely take that into consideration. I do have Rick's book on Croatia and will find some of his Croatia shows.

Any suggestions of where to stay in Dubrovnik?

Posted by
5687 posts

Without a car, stay in or near the old town Dubrovnik for sure. (Parking a car can be a challenge there.) I can't really recommend a specific place. My last visit in May, I had a car and stayed in a suburb called Lapad (an easy bus ride to the old town, though), and on my previous visit I stayed near Pile Gate of the old town (an excellent location, actually) in a forgettable place. Keep in mind that in many parts of Croatia, there aren't many conventional "hotels." It's much more common in Croatia to stay in a B&B or apartment or "sobe" (private rooms) than in other parts of Europe, it seems. I tend to prefer these types of places now instead of regular hotels.

Many apartments in Dubrovnik seem to require climbing a lot of steps. I'd read reviews on Trip Advisor etc. carefully. You can also refer to Rick's book for lodging recommendations, though in my experience his recommendations tend to book up early, and September is still a fairly busy time there.

Remember that Dubrovnik gets MOBBED during the daytime with cruise ship tourists, but it's really nice in the evenings. Try to walk the walls either first thing in the morning before the cruisers get there or late afternoon after they've moved on.

Check out Dubrovnik's Buza Bar for sure, with an amazing view over the ocean and a great place to take in a sunset.

Posted by
3614 posts

Having been to both Plitvice and Lake Bled, I would say there is no comparison. Plitvice is a protected, unimaginably beautiful natural area. Lake Bled, while pretty enough, is heavily built up with hotels, shops, a casino, etc. I would follow the advice, given above, to get a car and drive to Plitvice from Zagreb, not to Slovenia.
BTW, you are correct about there not being an easy way to fly to Ljubljana. Much easier and cheaper to fly to Zagreb.

Posted by
1816 posts

I think Mostar is absolutely worth spending a night. Like most places it gets crowded with tourists during the day; in the evening you will find it much quieter and more relaxed. Plus the most wonderful thing about Mostar is the people. Spend enough time there to meet and talk to some locals. If you can, stay at Muslibegovic House. The highlight of my trip there was sitting in the lobby to use the wifi and getting into a long conversation with the receptionist. Talk to the shopkeepers (who will be too busy to chat during the daytime hours). These people lived through unimaginable horrors. But I found them to be warm and peace-loving, and as interesting as it was to hear about what they went through during the war, it's even more enlightening to learn about the Bosnia of today.

Posted by
108 posts

thanks for the responses, I'll repost with a new itinerary in a few days. :-)

Posted by
2144 posts

Brenda -- regarding where to stay in Dubrovnik, you might consider staying in Cavtat instead. It's a little fishing village just minutes from the Dubrovnik airport, so when you fly from Zagreb you'll be in your hotel quickly. You can visit Dubrovnik by boat or bus (20 minutes) but then escape the crowds and come back to lovely little Cavtat for a peaceful dinner by the harbor. You can do your Mostar (or maybe Montenegro) tour from Cavtat as well). Check it out on Trip Advisor or Google.

And I agree -- September is gorgeous in Croatia!

Posted by
108 posts

thanks so much for this tip - I did look on Trip Advisor and it looks fantastic. Ok folks, I am starting to get very excited about traveling in September. I am going to book the Philly to Zagreb and Venice to Philly open jaw to secure the flights, then will figure out whether we'll drive or flight once inside Croatia. I've been reading about the boat from Split area to Dubrovnik, something like 4-4.5 hours. Does anyone know if it's a scenic trip? If scenic it may be nice to sit on a boat and enjoy the coastline, but if it's not scenic we may just fly.

also wondering, any good beaches near Dubrovnik that people can recommend? (I know they are pebbly, not sandy). Thanks

Posted by
4637 posts

The area between Dubrovnik and Split is very scenic.