We have one week to spend in Croatia the first week of may. We fly in from Rome at about 10am. The plan is to stay in Split for 3 days, then rent a car to drive up the coast. One day in Pula, then to Zagreb to catch a plane home leaving at 1:30 pm. Are there any recommendations for things not to miss? Or notes on the timing that you think would be helpful, particularly regarding places to stay or anything regarding rental cars or the airport?
So, exactly how many nights do you have in Croatia?
I haven't been to Pula so I can't comment on that. I notice you do not have Plitvice Lakes National Park on your itinerary. I would definitely stop to see Plitvice Lakes, a very unique and beautiful national park with pristine interconnected, cascading lakes and many, many waterfalls. Because Plitvice is very popular and crowded with tour groups, the best way to see it is to stay overnight. You could arrive in the afternoon and plan to see part of the park in the late afternoon, let's say around 4PM. Then arrive early the next morning to see the rest of the park before the hordes descend.
Split is a beautiful and very interesting city. I recommend hiring Maja Benzon, recommended by Steve, for a private guided tour of Old Town and Diocletian's Palace. There is no formal entry into the palace. The city is built up around the palace ruins. So there are no brochures and audioguides, which is why hiring a guide is a good idea to learn about what you are looking at. You could take a catamaran or ferry for a day trip to Hvar Town. It was one of the highlights of our trip.
Are you planning to spend a night or day in Zagreb? We really enjoyed Zagreb. The heart of the city consists of an upper town and lower town. There is a very large and fun market, and quite a few interesting museums. We really liked the Museum of Naïve Art. Zagreb is very different from Split, visually, architecturally, ambiance and food, so it makes a nice contrast to the coast.
I haven’t booked the flight from Rome to split yet. We arrive in Florence on Tuesday the 21st of May. Want to spend probably 3days there. Rent a car and drive to Rome Saturday and take the flight to Split on Sunday. Our flight home leaves Zagreb on Sunday the 2nd of May.
So 5 nights in Italy, and 6 nights in Croatia.
And thanks for the info. I have been doing a bit of research. But frankly I haven’t been to Europe for about thirty years (I lived in Spain and travelled around a fair bit when I was 20). I only got one day in Split then, and really wanted to see more of Dalmatia. Unfortunately I only have these two weeks between semesters where I teach. Trying to see as much as I can without rushing. So the galleries in Florence, a visit to a couple of small towns on the way to Rome airport, the a nice drive up from Split. I hope.
Sounds about right. The drive from Split to Pula is over 5 hours so I am assuming you are staying one night. Love Pula, one day is enough. The drive to Zagreb will be about 3 hours. You could stop at Karlovace for lunch. It is a lovely small town. Before they built the new road, the bus would make a atop there for the bathroom and a quick snack. Since my hubby and I are more city people, and with the overwhelming crowds at Plitvice Lakes, we don’t stop there anymore when we have friends visiting Croatia with us. We will be in Rijeka with family in September and we will take them to Pula and Rovinj and/or Porec before going to Zagreb. We will stop in Karlovace also. The last time we visited Plitvice was 1978, before it was discovered. It was a lovely day but we never felt the need to return, especially with all the crowds now.
Barbara, will there be crowds at the end of April? We did plan on stopping there. And I thought that because it’s so early in the season there wouldn’t be so many tourists.
It sounds like you like Karlovac.. Should we maybe stay there and drive to the airport from there in the morning we leave? We don’t particularly want to go to Zagreb.
I only recommend Plitvice for those who can spend a night there. If the weather is halfway decent, I fear it will be crowded during day-tripping hours even in April, though I haven't been there that early in the year.
I still recommend visiting Plitvice Lakes NP, even if you can't spend a night. If it's a nice day, it will be busy but not nearly as busy as it will be in June, July, and August. Late April is certainly a better time of year to visit Plitvice instead of the summer months. An added benefit is that I think the lakes and waterfalls will have more water due to snow melt. We have friends who were there last April/May, and based on the way they described Plitvice, the lakes, and the waterfalls, I think they had more water than we did in September. More water means more dramatic scenery. This is my personal opinion, of course, but I can't image being so close and not visiting Plitvice, a one of a kind national park.
If you arrive in Split on a Sunday, and depart from Zagreb on a Sunday, then you have 7 nights. Perhaps you can divide it this way:
Split - 3 nights, Plitvice - 1 night, Pula - 1 night, Zagreb - 1 night because you should be there the night before your flight. (this gives you 6 nights.) I would actually recommend 2 nights in Zagreb but you do mention you aren't interested in Zagreb. So you could add the extra night to Split. Additional day trips from Split are Trogir, Krka National Park, and/or Sibenik.
Another coastal stop could be Zadar for one night.
Have you purchased any guidebooks? I recommend Michelin Green Guide, Rough Guide, and/or Lonely Planet. Please don't rely only on Rick's books. His Croatia book doesn't even mention Zadar. I've noticed that he omits destinations from other countries, too.
No, there shouldn’t be crowds in April. We were there in July and it wasn’t too bad. We saw the the Colosseum which has a great museum shop, did the hop-on-hop-off bus to get a feel for the city, had a lovely lunch on the pedestrian only street, all by foot. We then drove to the beach but it was crowded. Not being a big beach person, i didn’t care about but my daughter and her husband wanted to go. The beach was crowded. The Colosseum was practically empty. We were only there for one day, it was plenty.
Look at the website for Karvolce but i don’t think a night is necessary. We like Zagreb. It is not a big city by any means but is lovely for a day or two. When we fly through there we always stay at least 2 nights.
Am I the only one who thinks that with only six nights, the planned itinerary seems a bit rushed, especially including Plitvice? It's a lot of bouncing around. While roads are excellent, driving still takes time. Pula is at the very southern end of Istria, hardly on the way to anywhere. Do you have a specific reason for visiting? Roman ruins? The ruins are in good shape, true, and if you haven't seen them anywhere else, it might be worth the detour, but otherwise, I think it's a long trip for a short site. You may be better off to base in Split and take in 3 or 4 day trips, including Plitvice, and spending a couple of nights in Zagreb. There's more than enough to keep one busy for 2 days there, and you'd want to overnight before leaving the next day.
Thanks for the reply. I know it’s rushed. I thought that the area of Istria looked nice and figured we’d look around there a bit rather than see Zagreb which I’ve been to before. This is such a short trip! When I win the lottery I’ll travel at a more leisurely pace. Lol.
I particularly want to see some caves, and the famous waterfalls so trying to arrange the drive to include a day in Plitvice if possible, or other park that is recommended.
I think Istria is lovely; we made our second trip there in September 2019. To me (unlike everyone else) Motovun is overrated, but I especially enjoyed Rovinj, which has an old Venetian air, and Groznjan, which is green and quaint. Buzet is also cute but Buje didn't thrill me. If you were going to base part of the trip in Istria, I'd vote for Rovinj. Parking isn't great unless your accommodation provides it. (Ours did in the church yard of St. Euphemia, and it was valet, a real savings for my nerves!) There are two lots near the waterfront -- it's probably about a 10 minute walk to the bulk of the accommodations. The benefit of Rovinj is that the highways into it are good and it's centrally located, so day trips to Pula or the interior would be easily accomplished.