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One month in Croatia, How? Where? Can it be done?

Hey everyone. My wife and I are hoping Europe will open up by June. We, like so many others, have been really wanting to get back there. The last few times we visited there we have tried to see too much and end up moving every 3 - 5 days. We vowed the next time that we won't bounce around like in our past. I have always wanted to rent one house for a month and take side trips. The problem is there is always too many places we want to see.
I would like to know your thoughts. if you were to spend a month in Croatia and want to see many of the cool places in a month, islands, cities, inland etc. could it be done by renting one house as a hub. I am afraid we will end up traveling and staying in other places anyway. Where would that hub be. Or are we better off breaking up the month by staying in 3-4 different spots
We are not lovers of super touristy places and we are wondering if Europe opens back up will there be a flood of people traveling this June. I'd love your feedback. We also wanted to spend time in Portugal but there we go again. we could do 2 weeks in each country This is tough to figure out. First world problem I guess. thanks Andrew

Posted by
18138 posts

My crystal ball is too cloudy to help on the question of COVID-19 recovery and whether specific countries will be open to Americans on any given date, but I do have an opinion about trying to see Croatia from a single base: Don't do it.

I understand the pull of being able to settle in at one spot and not have to drag/roll a suitcase around for a month. However, I think that approach works best for people who have already done a great deal of traveling and don't have a strong desire to see a bunch of new places. Croatia is not a tiny country, and it doesn't have express trains that will whisk you between key cities at 180 mph. In fact, it doesn't have a lot of trains, period. The buses are usually comfortable, but they have to deal with traffic and may not cover ground very fast. If you tried to see the country (or even half the country) from one base, you'd spend a tremendous portion of your time in trains/buses or your car. And some destinations are worth more than one day, so you'd be traveling back and forth along the same route at least four times.

I like Zagreb a lot, not least because it has many nice art museums. I'm a slow traveler and could spend about a week sightseeing in Zagreb (indeed, I more or less did that in 2015), but most folks wouldn't want that much time in art museums. On this forum the usual recommendation is for just one or two nights in Zagreb. I think there must be some nearby towns of interest that would justify 4 or 5 nights in Zagreb even if the city itself doesn't require that much time, but I have not traveled outside te capital myself.

Istria is nice place for several days; I'd say 5 nights if you don't have a car, because traveling around that area by bus is a little slow. I enjoyed Rovinj, Porec, tiny Vrsar and two medieval towns in the interior (Motovun and Groznjan). Others like Pula for its Roman ruins. There's also at least one winery in Istria.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia's (and Europe's) highlights. Although it doesn't take a full day to see the park (though one could certainly enjoy a full day there), it's critical to spend the night nearby so you can get into the park first thing in the morning rather than showing up with the mobs of other tourists at 10 AM.

There are many nice places along the coast between Istria and Dubrovnik, including Zadar, Sibenik, Split and Dubrovnik. The distance from Rijeka (just south of the Istrian Peninsula) to Dubrovnik is over 330 miles. estimates the driving time between Rijeka and Dubrovnik at about 7 hours, but that doesn't include stopping, getting lost, traffic issues or looking for parking at your destination. It would be difficult to sightsee along that entire stretch of coast without sleeping in three different cities, though if you planted yourselves in Istria for several days, you could probably knock off Rijeka/Opatija (if desired) from your Istrian base.

Most people spending a month in Croatia would also want to see at least one or two of the islands.

Many people who visit Croatia try to fit in a side-trip (day-trip or overnight) to Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Bay of Kotor in northern Montenegro. ViaMichelin indicates Mostar would be reached faster from Split than from Dubrovnik with a round-trip driving-time estimate of about 4-1/2 hours; in normal times bus tours are available. The Bay of Kotor is accessible from Dubrovnik by tour or by public bus. Both of these this trip requires crossing a border, so delays are certainly possible.

I should also mention that Ljubljana, Slovenia, is a charming city less than 2 hours from Zagreb by car (per ViaMichelin). Trains are rather infrequent and take close to 2-1/2 hours each way. Given the attractiveness of Ljubljana, I wouldn't consider it for a day-trip.

I highly recommend breaking your time up into chunks so you can see a good portion of Croatia rather than being pinned down in one area.

Posted by
1861 posts

For one month I would break it up into at least 4 cities. I would fly into Zagreb and spend a few nights. Do some reading and decide how many days you would need. Pick up a rent a car and head over to istria. Decide where you want to base yourself depending on parking for the car. Day trips are many - Pula, Porec, Rovinj, Opatija, etc. you could even do a day trip to Venice on the hydrofoil from Rovinj. Then I would drive down the coast and base in Split, dropping off the rent a car. From there you could ferry to Hvar for the day, or Korcula for one night keeping your Split place. Korcula is very inexpensive . I know a great B&B, water sports, many museums, day trips such as Trogir, etc. I would then either bus or private driver to Dubrovnik for a few nights with a few day trips, Kotor, etc. we have spent time in Dubrovnik without taking day trips. I would fly home from Dubrovnik. This is where your research comes in. Only you can decide how long you want to stay in one place and what interests you. I’ve done this “tour” a few times, but in 14 days and never felt too rushed. ACraven is correct. Croatia is not easy to navigate because of its size and long coast. The buses run often but are slow. For example, to drive from Rijeka to Dubrovnik straight is 6 hours, the bus takes 12. No trains down south. To stay in one place for a month you wouldn’t see too much.
Did you ever research or consider a small ship cruise along the coast to get from the north to south or the other direction. We have a 3 week itinerary for September with another couple. It was originally for last September but.... we will start in Dubrovnik for one week. We will take a day trip to Kotor with a private guide. We will also rent a car and drive to Medjugore for one night and stop in Mostar in the return. We will keep the B&B in Dubrovnik so we don’t have to pack everything for one night. We then take a 7 night small ship cruise (38 passengers) through Katerina-Line from Dubrovnik to Opatija stopping at Korcula, Metkovic, Split, Sibenik, Zadar, and Rab. We then will stay in Opatija/Rijeka area for 3-4 nights and take day trips to Istria then onto Zagreb for 2-3 nights then home. 3 weeks total.

Posted by
1819 posts

I love the idea of staying in one place for a month, and I dream of being retired one day and doing just that, but I would not recommend staying in one place in Croatia for the entire month. It is mostly long and skinny--even Dubrovnik and Split are nearly four hours apart, Zadar and Zagreb are both at least a few hours from Split. Visits to the islands are dictated by ferry schedules, making day trips not as convenient as they might appear.
The only area where I would consider staying one month in one place is Istria, where distances are such that you could explore the entire peninsula easily, with a car. If you prioritize being in one place for a month over all else, then look at Istria for sure. If you are more interested in seeing the entirety of the coast, then I think splitting it into three or four would work just fine. Most people stay a few days max in these places, so a week will still feel luxurious. Do a deep dive into a guide book to determine which place (for me, it would be an island like Lastovo) you would envision yourself going off grid and relaxing for a week, just swimming and eating seafood.
Croatia is also a place that outside of July and August, you can travel rather freely and not make plans, leaving the option open of finding a place you like and deciding on the spot to stay longer.

As for Covid, I wish I were as optimistic as you--I am sitting here wondering if I will even be able to see family in the US this spring and summer, so even though Croatia has been welcoming of Americans, I would not buy anything that is nonrefundable. Croatia's most popular places have long been mobbed in July and August. I always visited in late May and early June, and because I spent lots of time off the most popular tourist trail, I never found it overwhelmed. Be sure to look at lesser mentioned but just as beautiful places like the Kvarner region. If you are outdoorsy, you are likely to have trails and beaches to yourselves.

Posted by
1096 posts

A month in June to explore Croatia sounds wonderful. Please keep in mind Croatia is a country with ample access via ferries so take a deep dive into researching ferry routes, expense and times.
Travel by ferry is relatively easy to navigate offering a diverse menu of options to conduct day trips.

Consider a blend of destinations such as spending a week each in Zagreb, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. Each location offers a variety of explorations via walks, car rentals and ferries.

Tip: while some folks would consider this practice "extravagant" we have rented an apartment for a week, but then paid for a hotel at a place where a day trip was not truly feasible. We consider TIME to be the most precious commodity so take cheap lodgings in order to gain the most out of a location without the need to pack up and relocate for a night.

You have ample research to conduct, but your work will be well rewarded with the journey to Croatia.

Be well!

Posted by
1819 posts

songman, have you been to Italy? What kind of things do you like to do? I really feel like the main appeal of Croatia is outdoors--though there are some important cultural sites to be sure, such as the museums of Zagreb, the Roman ruins in Split and Pula, the Venetian towns. If you are more of the history/culture traveler but still want the experience of a home base, I would consider staying a month somewhere in Italy, where you can find places with more geographically concentrated sites as well as fast trains to facilitate day trips.

Posted by
7 posts

THANKS YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE WHO WROTE TO US. Your insight is invaluable and has really helped us. Now the research. I am thinking now to split the trip into. possibly 4 - 1 week stays. and 1 week in Portugal. For the person who suggested italy, We have spent time in taly and we love it but we wanted somewhere we haven't been this time. OK One more question. Would you spend one month traveling around Croatia or would you split it and make it 2 weeks in Croatia and 2 weeks somewhere else? We have never been to Greece and have wanted to explore the Algarve and Porto in Portugal. Any other suggestions? we have spent time in Southern France, All over Spain and Italy. so something new would be great. Beaches are big on our list. Not so much wanting the Museum thing. We find if there are too many tourists museums get too crowded and I feel rushed and well I just don't like being around that many people. Our main objective is to find Local culture, Quiet, peaceful, great food, cheap, beautiful beaches, smaller towns incredible clear water, relaxing. We are not into rushing around looking at every roman ruin etc.

Posted by
1819 posts

Sounds like you will love Croatia--the beaches are so natural and stunning (they are mostly rock and pebble, but the water is clear and the vegetation...ahh I just love the scenery there). The only place that has ever truly compared to me (in my limited Mediterranean experience of Italy, Spain, Malta, Montenegro) is Greece. That said, I can't imagine dipping into Greece for just a week, it is just too tough to narrow down.
I would let the transport (once flights schedules are stable) and Covid issues dictate the extra week or two, to really maximize your time. You might also consider dipping into one of the neighboring countries. Montenegro is beautiful, and I have only heard good things about Slovenia. Good luck!

Posted by
12131 posts

I think its a great idea. Remember public transportation isnt the best in that area so a rental car might be a good idea too. But I wouldn't limit it to Croatia. From Dubrovnik to Zagreb is about an 8 hour drive; thats a long narrow country. And in making that trip you will be within an hour or two of amazing places in Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia. So maybe you look at it as a regional trip and not a Croatia trip. Something like a week in or near Dubrovnik, a week in or near Sarajevo, a week in or near Split and a week in or near Zagreb. With that you can see the entire region (almost) from Ulcinj to Ljubljana and from Mountains to Coastal Islands.

Posted by
1096 posts

WIth 30 days and your indicated willingness to travel I suggest exploring the following:

  • start with a week based in Lisbon in an apartment. Take a couple of day trips, but avoid travel stress by staying one place.
  • fly to Croatia with your exhaustive investigation into locations determining where you will stay. Invest two weeks into Croatia and strive to divide into two one week stays in two destinations.
  • Fly to Greece for a relaxing vacation to end the trip. I am NOT a fan of Athens and keep in mind how much geography encompasses Greece. To me Greece is ALL ABOUT TRAVEL BY SEA so please explore ferries. Don't rule out a cruise for this segment of the journey (we utilized this mode of travel and found leaving the driving to the captain expanded our geographic journey in an enjoyable relaxing manner.)