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Plitvice vs. Pula/Rovinj

We will be in Croatia in early April and need to decide between visiting Plitvice or Pula & Rovinj. We will be staying in Opatija and can either join our tour group on a day trip to Pula/Rovinj, or venture off on our own with a hired driver/guide to go to Plitvice. Has anyone been to Plitvice in early April? I hear the weather can be iffy (possible rain and with it still being winter, have heard the views at Plitvice are not as spectacular as they'd be in summer). Plus, it's a 2 - 3 hour drive from Opatija to Plitvice. If anyone has been to both locations and had to choose between the two, which would you do?

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3302 posts

If I had to choose between these two different types of places? ("Which do you prefer, the chicken or the cheese cake?") In perfect, sunny weather, I guess I'd choose Plitvice, in part because I didn't care much for Pula. I ADORED Rovinj, but it's pretty small, and Plitvice is more unique.

Still, I'd probably play it by ear based on the weather. If you hire a driver, can't he/she take you anywhere for the day? If it's raining, I'd rather be in a town rather than trying to hike over muddy boardwalks and trails in a park. In a town, you can stop for an hour and have a meal until the rain stops, perhaps with a beautiful view. There isn't much opportunity for that at Plitvice (there is a snack bar with fast food and picnic tables, but I'm not sure how pleasant that would be in the rain).

Personally, I'd opt for a tour that includes Rovinj a few few little towns not Pula - just a preference. I'd seen plenty of Roman ruins in Italy by the time I visited Pula, but if you haven't, perhaps Pula's would intrigue you more than they did me.

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1393 posts

Andrew makes a good point about the weather but we were in Plitvice during early May the year of the huge rains in that part of the world (2014) and I will offer a different opinion about visiting during the rainy season. Because of all the rain, the falls, ponds, lakes, creeks, etc. were "fuller" than normal and it was absolutely spectacular; literally the entire Park took my breath away. Yes, we were rained on but dressing for the weather is crucial anytime you visit such a place that time of year and we were perfectly fine, only a little damp! Our second visit was a year ago last August and even though we didn't get rained on, it was a totally different Park and not nearly as awesome as it had been the previous visit due to the later time of the season and the lack of those spectacular rains. Rovinj is also lovely, but as pointed out, very small with several very good restaurants and lots of cute shops and pretty village alleys. The Cathedral of Euphemia which dominates the town is very interesting and the views are wonderful. I am sorry you will have to make a choice but hopefully you can come back for another visit!!

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
3461 posts

I'll just put in a good word here for poor, maligned Pula: We loved Pula. The town? Meh. Don't go there for the town. Go for the amphitheater - which to me, was better than the bigger, more famous Colosseum in Rome. I'm sure that's blesphemy to some. Sure, Rome's Colosseum is gigantic (you might even say colossal...) but you have to share it with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of other visitors, tour groups, hawkers, etc. OTOH, you can have Pula's smaller, but still spectacular amphitheater almost entirely to yourself (at least we did) and that totally changes the experience.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2988 posts

I’ve been to Plitvice in April. I’ve been to Pula and Rovinj more times than I know. Plitvice in April had no crowds and the leaves were a lovely bright green. It was extraordinary. I don’t like Pula. It is a big, ugly port city with some mildly interesting Roman ruins. The rest of Istria, however, is our favorite place in the world. Rovinj, Porec, Novigrad, Vrsar, a secret spot in the hills - these are our happy places. These experiences are do different, you must decide for yourself.

Posted by a1raney OP
3 posts

I wish I wasn’t forced to have to choose between such two very different yet equally endearing places, but since we’re on a busy group itinerary, there’s just no way way to squeeze in both. We will have our 2 kids, ages 12 & 10 with us and it will be their first time to Europe. My husband and I have already been to the Mac Daddy of coliseums in Rome, so if we choose Pula, the kids can get a great history lesson and then Rovinj would be icing on the cake, but we are all nature/National Park lovers and Plitvice looks so amazing! If I knew that giant crowds at Plitvice were to be an issue in early April, then I would avoid it, but from what I hear, it’s not crazy busy like in summer. Ugh, decisions!! I do thank you all for your feedback!!

Posted by mislavzoranic
34 posts

I have visited both places many times. They are completely different. Rovinj is beautiful but not much to do in early April. Also it is very similar to Opatija. Plitvice is something completely different. Paradise for nature lovers, surreal scenery, you can't believe you are in Europe. It is a bit touristy and crowded in the summer so April or May is ideal. On the other side it is much farther from Opatija than Rovinj so If you have to get back the same day I wouldn't reccomend it. Plitvice deserves at least a full day and you will never forget it.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10681 posts

I think you can probably walk the longest of the labeled paths in 6 hours, maybe 5 or so. I base that comment on having taken the second-longest walk in summer 2015 (on an unbelievably crowded day, which did slow me down). I finished the walk considerably faster than the posted time.

It would be a lot better if you could spend the night before the visit very near the park, but that may require committing far in advance for the hotel arrangements, and the weather can be very iffy at that time of year. If you get a bad day and are committed to Plitvice, it could end up basically wasted. If you're willing to risk having more people competing with you for space on the walkways and are prepared for one of you to get up early on the target day to check the weather forecast, I'd plan two options for that day and make the final decision then.

I haven't been to Pula (am simply not entranced by classical ruins) but did enjoy Rovinj, Porec, Vrsar, Groznjan and Motovun. The last two are inland towns, challenging to reach without a car, so I'd recommend trying to see at least one of them if you somehow end up with a car and driver but have to dump Plitvice because of weather concerns.

I agree that Plitvice is something special.

How much time are you planning to spend in Opatija? I've only passed through it on a bus once or twice, and it looked like an attractive old-line resort city, not as immediately engaging as places like Rovinj and Porec. However, that is a matter of taste; I don't love Stresa (Italy) or Locarno (Switzerland) either.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2988 posts

Yeah, Opatija is pretty meh compared to what’s around it.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3302 posts

Rovinj is beautiful but not much to do in early April. Also it is very similar to Opatija

I would disagree with that completely. Rovinj is a quaint old fishing port with a Venetian bell tower at the top of the old town. Opatija is an old Austrian resort town with huge villas and fancy cars on the streets. The only thing the two would seem to have in common is that both are on the sea.

Posted by Barbara
Brooklyn, NY
914 posts

Just like the other posters, I have been to all three. If you are nature lovers choose Plitvice. You can nap while the driver takes you there and back. It is a long day if you are driving yourself. We enjoyed Pula for a day, the colosseum was impressive and empty. We went swimming in the afternoon then drove back to Rijeka via Opatija. Rovinj is great for a relaxing beach day. Opatija for me has lost most of its charm. In the 1970's is was quaint with old world charm, a quiet beach and the Lungomare, the walkway along the water. Now it is like Atlantic City - too many clubs, casinos, sidewalk vendors. When we go with visitors we keep to the old part of town.

Posted by a1raney OP
3 posts

I think we've decided to go ahead and do the day trip to Pula and Rovinj and then get our nature fix at Vintgar Gorge when we're in Bled. If we weren't traveling with the kids, my husband and I would probably go to Plitvice and hike ourselves silly, rain or shine, but with 2 kids in tow, that could make for an incredibly long day of constant complaints between the long drive, inclement weather, potential crowds, etc. We'll just have to visit Plitvice on a separate trip, as I'm sure we will want to go back! Again, I appreciate all the great feedback!