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Spring Break: Croatia to Venice

Greetings- I'm looking for some input on our itinerary for the end of March, beginning of April spring break trip. My husband and I will have our 11 and 18-year-old sons with us. We fly from the states to London, then take a regional airline to Croatia. I've already booked the Airbnbs for the cities below (although most of them have flexible cancellation policies) They are all very conveniently located, so no car is needed within the cities.

  1. Arrive Zadar airport late night. (should we get a rental car at the airport right away, or wait until we are heading out?)
  2. Zadar (this is Easter--- I'm guessing nothing will be open, so recommendations on what to do/see?)
  3. Zadar (day trip?, or is there enough to see for 2 days in Zadar?)
  4. Leave early morning, drive to Plitvice. Tour the park, drive and stay the night in Novi Vindolski, on the coast.
  5. Drive to Pula. Tour amphitheater, old town Pula. Stay night in Rovinj. (drop off rental car first thing, or keep?)
  6. Rovinj
  7. Early morning bus to Venice
  8. Venice
  9. Fly out of Venice back to LHR.
Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8969 posts

I think you should reconfigure your plans and spend just two nights in Zadar. That should be enough time; it's very atmospheric but not terribly large. The main reason, though, is that it is prudent to spend the night before your Plitvice visit in or near the park so you can get on the walkways very early. Day-trippers start arriving by mid-morning. Yes, I was there in the summer (when the walkways were absolutely packed) and you are visiting in April, but I suspect the spring-break period will cause a spike in visitors. Plitvice is one of the glories of Europe; it's a shame not to see it at its best. If you spend Night 3 near Plitvice, you'll be able to see the park in the morning and the early afternoon of Day 4, then move on.

I don't know anything about Novi Vindolski.

I don't see any reason to have a car during the time you're visiting Zadar or Rovinj; it will just be an anchor that needs a parking place. However, a car is handy if you want to visit neighboring towns. Inland Istria is interesting, and I enjoyed Groznjan and Motovun, which I was able to reach via a one-day bus tour. The coastal village of Vrsar and the larger town of Porec are very worthwhile and can be visited by public bus from Rovinj (at least in the summer; don't know about the schedule in April), but if you wanted to pack a lot of destinations into one day, keeping the car would be the way to go. Not sure how much time you'll have to see things outside of Rovinj, though.

Check opening hours of car-rental agencies you might want to use. European agencies often keep more limited hours than we're used to. Since you're arriving late on Saturday, you may note be able to pick up a car then even if you want to. I'm not sure about getting a car on Easter Sunday, either.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

I wasn't a big fan of Zadar myself. It seems like more of a summer vacation spot than a vibrant, charming town. I spent one night there and that was plenty. I much preferred Sibenik (to the south). But if you really want to stay in Zadar, some good day trips would be Sibenik (if you want to see another town) and nearby Krka National Park (if you want to see another park - with one huge, amazing cascading waterfall, dwarfing anything you will see at Plitvice, which is still superior to Krka otherwise). I take it you have already booked the flight to Zadar - but I would swap it for Split if I could (even though I didn't fall in love with Split either, it felt more interesting than Zadar).

Keep the car through the final day in Rovinj if you want to day trip to see hill towns, as many do. Rovinj is lovely but small and explored fairly quickly. But it's a great place to return to at night after exploring nearby.

An alternative to an early bus from Rovinj to Venice might be taking a GoOpti transfer. It may not cost much more, and you might be able to choose a better time. You could even have them drop you at the Trieste train station and take a train to Venice the rest of the way. (I'm not a big fan of long bus or van rides and love trains - just a personal preference. Obviously a direct mode of transportation is easier for many.)

Posted by Roxanne OP
St Paul
7 posts

Zadar was really the only option for flights that worked for us. Flights are quite limited that time of year and we were influenced by price as well. If there really isn't too much to see there, we can plan on day trips for both days--while spending the evenings strolling around the historic core of Zadar.

Acraven- what time would you suggest we get to Plitvice? I was hoping to leave early morning to arrive by about 9:30. Is that early enough for a Tuesday morning in early April?

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

I agree about getting to Plitvice as early as you can to avoid the crowds. I recommend staying over in the park the night before if you can (there are overpriced but convenient hotels right in the park). But in early April, I wouldn't expect the crowds to be overwhelming. In mid-May a few years ago, there were plenty of people in the park by late morning but it wasn't overwhelming. I was glad I had arrived in the park just after 7AM when it opened, because I got to take pictures for a few hours without too many people on the trails.

Keep your eye on the weather forecast. Plitvice might not be a fun place to explore in the rain. In April, you could wing it with lodgings and book things at the last minute and switch things around as needed. I had no trouble doing that in early May when I spent a couple of weeks driving through Croatia and Bosnia. Obviously, having an internet device to make reservations makes things far easier.

Posted by Deidre
Oakland, CA
74 posts

We were in Croatia two years ago and it is lovely! In fact, we're going back next year, mostly to visit the islands.

As for Zadar, a good friend of mine recommended this company for either sea or river kayaking: https://www.huckfinncroatia.com/
They said the the Zrmanja River trip was a blast. My husband and I are going to look into this when we go in September 2018.

My friend also recommended this hotel in Zadar. He said it's pretty communist-era but the breakfast was good. http://www.hotel-kolovare.com/en/ Not sure whether we will stay there or not.

FWIW, I was not a big fan of Split either. We will look into staying in Trogir instead.

As for Plitvice, the advice to stay the night before is good -- get to the park when it opens. When we were there two Octobers ago, it was raining, which was a drag (in fact, it rained the entire time we were in Croatia), but it is still beautiful.

Finally I will just say that I really liked Pula. It's a regular, working city, with a lovely Roman amphitheater. Rovinj is also lovely, but more touristy.

Sounds like a great trip.

DD

Posted by inireland
Waterville, Ireland
409 posts

I love Croatia, but that bus to Venice doesn't sound too appealing to me! (but that's me!). Have you considered a ferry, for the experience? The ferries are pretty spectacular, and alot more comfortable than a bus..... Just a thought!

Susan
Expat in I Ireland

Posted by Roxanne OP
St Paul
7 posts

We’d LOVE to take a ferry- but we have not been able to find any that are running at the beginning of April. There was one mentioned earlier in this thread that looked like it would work (even said so on website)—but when I contacted them, they said not until May. Let me know if you’ve heard otherwise! We’d love a ferry option!

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

The "ferry" to Venice is a fast catamaran, I believe, where you need to sit inside not out on deck, so I wouldn't guess it would be quite as much fun as one might imagine. I have taken real ferries before and they are pretty fun. I took a catamaran from Korcula to Split a few years ago and it really wasn't anything special, to be honest. And because it goes fast, it's more bumpy than a big ferry which tends to have a smoother ride.