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Quick Croatia visit - November/December

We are spending two weeks in Italy and then spending a week in Croatia at the end of November/beginning of December. We have a flights booked from Dubrovnik -> Rome for our flight home, so we just have to make it there for that, but are hoping to see some of Croatia's highlights along the way. (I know this is crammed - but we only have so many days!)
My understanding is that due to weather, island adventures aren't really in the cards. I would still really love to go to Plitvice. Worth it?? I've seem some amazing winter photos, but not sure if it will be a magical snowy wonderland, or rainy and grey (or somewhere in between). I am worried that the weather will be terrible and we should focus on museums/cafes instead of wandering around cities/parks.
This is what we were thinking:

  • overnight bus from Venice to Zagreb, arriving early morning. Spend the day touring Zagreb and stay overnight
  • take an early morning bus (?) to Plitvice or rent a car (it seems like there aren't tours running in late november, but we're happy to wander there ourselves). As the park isn't open that late, we thought the best option would be to continue on to Split.
  • Full day in Split
  • Split to Dubrovnik
  • Full day in Dubrovnik
  • Half day in Dubrovnik before flight back to italy.

Would love to hear recommendations regarding renting a car/reputable companies, or what to focus our trip on. I realize it's a lot of travel, but we need to get from the North down to Dubrovnik somehow. If Plitvice isn't worth it we could just fly Zagreb to Split and "split" our time between there and Dubrovnik.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
2988 posts

The overnight bus from Venice to Zagreb sounds horrible. You won’t be good for much the next day. I’ve done overnight buses before- in the top five worst experiences of my life.

I would suggest Slovenia with this timeframe. So much to do and see.

Posted by Paul-of-the-Frozen-North
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
1091 posts

While I love Croatia, I wonder if you will after this trip. Ljubljana and Slovenia are much more doable in the short time you have. Ljubljana is a charming town, and very close to Venice. I bet it is under 3 hours, probably shorter. 3 days in Ljubljana, with a side trip to Lake Bled, is much more do-able. If you do insist on Croatia, here is my suggestion:

1) Rent a car in Italy.
2) Drive to Plitvice, and stay the night. Do the park in 6 hours, starting at the opening in the morning.
3) Drive to Split. Stay in Split for 2 days. 1 day for the city, 1 day side trip to Trogir.
4) Do not go to Zagreb (I love Zagreb, but you don't have the time) and Dubrovnik.
5) Drive back to Italy and drop the car there.

There are about 7-8 Croatian sea-side towns. Trogir, Sibenik, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, Rovinj, Pula. I've been to all of them except Rovinj and Pula. The other 5 are quite similar. Dubrovnik is the best, but Sibenik, Zadar, and Trogir are quite similar, and not as far. You could stay in Split one night, and then hit Sibenik for lunch and Zadar for dinner and overnight. Lot of traveling in this trip.

I see that you already have a flight from Dubrovnik to Italy booked. Can it be changed?

Posted by Frank
Wilmington, DE
2174 posts

You only seem to account for 5.5 days in Croatia when you say you have a week. If you go to Zagreb, which can easily fill a day, rent a car and drive to Plitvice in the evening, stay overnight, visit the park the next day and then drive to Split. Return the rental car in Split and take a bus to Dubrovnik (it only takes about 4 hours so it doesn't take the whole day). I've not been to Plitvice that time of year, but Croatian friends tell me it's beautiful. If you actually have a full week (7 days), I suggest the following: Day 1, travel to Zagreb, partial day in Zagreb. Day 2 Zagreb, travel to Plitice in the evening. Day 3, visit Plitvice, travel to Split and return car. Day 4, Split. Day 5, travel by morning bus to Dubrovnik, partial day in Dubrovnik. Day 6, Dubrovik (possible day trip to Montenegro). Day 7 partial day in Dubrovnik before flight back to Italy. This is a busy itiniary, but it's doable.