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Beginning itenerary for Croatia

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We just started planning this portion of our trip. We could use some advise.

Is it realistic to drive from Budapest to Zagreb ( yes we know it costs more to return a car across the border). Spend a few hours visiting the city and have lunch, then drive to Plitvic Lakes and Spend the night. The next day we'd hike around and see the waterfalls. Late in the day we'd drive to Rijeka, have dinner and spend the night.

We have 7 days to explore the coast before we spend our last 2 nights in Dubrovnik and then fly home.

My husband and I are well traveled, enjoy driving on our own and can handle a fast paced busy itinerary.

We could also use some help with ideas of where to spend our days and nights until Dubrovnik. We are looking for small charming towns, ocean views, and maybe a little island hopping. Not so interested in museums and such at this point in the trip.

Interested in lodging recommendations between $100-$200.

Thanks

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    I believe its about a 3.5 hour drive from Budapest to Zagreb, not counting navigating the streets in each city -- and IME, Zagreb is NOT an easy city in which to drive (one way traffic, roads with streetcars that have the right of way, etc.), so your call whether you could drive there for lunch, visit a bit, and then drive on.

    Why Rijeka???

    7 days is very, very little for the coast of Croatia. IMO, you will have to be extremely selective, even if you are pursuing a very fast-paced and busy schedule, and your options will depend on when you are traveling, which you don't mention. The places between Rijeka and Dubrovnik from which you are likely to be selecting include (but are not limited to) Krk, Cres, Rab, Pag, Dugi Otok, Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Hvar Town (or elsewhere on Hvar), other islands in that part of Croatia (e.g., Vis, Brac), Korcula, Ston, and Mljet. And of course, there are many other parts of the region that are well worth visiting -- I'm only mentioning those between Rijeka and Dubrovnik, since that was your question..

    Of course, NONE of us can tell you what to visit and what to skip when trying to see so much diverse territory in so little time. You would, IMO, do well to consult a few good guidebooks. Of the half-dozen or so that I used when planning my time in the area, I found the Rough Guide the most useful BY FAR. Or take a peek at the MANY, many planning threads for Croatia on this forum.

    Even if you enjoy driving yourselves, you might want to reconsider. Much of the coastline, particularly the coast south of Split is absolutely stunning. With a car, one of you would have to give up the chance to see some of the world's most magnificent scenery because large stretches of the roads really do demand the driver's full attention. You can use buses and ferries instead.

    For lodging, consult booking.com

    Do come back with your questions once you've done a bit of research!

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    Hi Kia,

    I do have guidebooks and I've started to go they them but my hopes were that someone would point out some "can't miss " towns of beauty. I would love to spend more time seeing everything you've mentioned, but still being working folks, 2 weeks is all we have. So I'll just have to pick a few places on this trip with the hopes to return one day to see the rest.

    That being said, Rejka was not a destination necessarily, just an entry into Istria and towns which I heard are beautiful. Maybe that's incorrect? I was wondering if it made sense to go to The lakes first or Istria first as far directions to travel. I tried looking up Ferry Travel, but the website seemed to be down. I'm not entirely sure how they run, from point to point and costs. I will work on that. Though we would still like to drive from Budapest as the train takes twice as long and we're short on time obviously. We can always park outside Zagreb and take a taxi to the center.

    I heard that the most beautiful stretch of scenery is from Split to Dubrovnick. Maybe we could bus or ferry for that part of the route? Does that make sense?

    I forgot to mention that we are going to arrive in Croatian around the second week of September.

    Thanks for your help

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    Unfortunately, "can't miss" is in the eye of the beholder.

    With your time frame, I think you would need to choose to visit Istria, the Plitvice Lakes, Split or Trogir, and maybe just one or two other cities north of Split. If you want to go all the way to Dubrovnik, I think you really need to give up Istria, visiting the Plitvice Lakes, Trogir or Split, Dubrovnik, and a few places in between. IMO, you simply don't have time for it all.

    If you are committed to Istria, consider going straight there from Zagreb. If you really think you must route through Rijeka, be prepared for a lot of traffic and consider a stop outside the city itself.

    Instead of parking outside of Zagreb and taking a taxi in, consider stopping in Samobor.

    For a sense of your travel options, consult rome2rio.com. It isn't perfect, but can give you a starting point.

    For Split to Dubrovnik, I preferred the bus. I'm sure there are those who prefer the ferry. And of course, it depends on whether you are visiting Hvar or Korcula.

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    Thanks kja. Have you been to Rovinj? It sounds gorgeous. But I'm thinking I could give that up in favor of something else. Really want to see Dubrovnik. Don't have to spen time in Zagreb or Split this time around. Would rather do islands and coast than cities. Will get plenty of culture in Prague and Budapest on this trip. Of course everything is subjective, but I like to hear what other people loved about where I'm planning to visit. This part of the trip is more mature and beauty for the soul than anything else!

    Wondering why u like the bus more than ferry. You sound pretty experienced in all things Croatia. I appreciate you insight.

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    Yes, I've been to Rovinj and yes it is gorgeous, but so are many other places in Croatia. If you decide to visit Istria on this trip, Rovinj would certainly be worth considering, not just as a place to visit, put perhaps also as a base. But as you are realizing, you really can't see it all, not even the highlights of Croatia in the time you have -- and I say that even while acknowledging that many of us have very different lists of the country's highlights. You can try to see Istria and Dubrovnik in the time you have, but then you will be spending an inordinate proportion of your time in transit (including a chunk of time on inland roads) instead of actually seeing or visiting places. Your call.

    IMO, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is the single most un-missable of Croatia's many splendors. Split was my favorite city in Croatia (and while I enjoyed it's museums, they were a "bonus," not the key to my delight in that city). Dubrovnik can be magical when not overrun by daytrippers from the flocks of cruise ships that inundate it. (At least the city has capped the number of such ships on any given day.) I did not like Opatija, but it sounds like my experience there was unusual. Beyond that, I refuse to pick favorites. I found much to savor in each place I visited, but then, I chose each of my stops after extensive research and based on very specific personal interests. (That's just my preference for how to plan a trip -- others plan their trips quite differently, and viva la difference!)

    For the stretch from Split to Dubrovnik, I preferred the bus because of the stunning views it afforded over cliffs -- often visible up ahead -- and out over the island-studded waters of the Adriatic. The views from on the water to the distant shore were nice, but IMO, didn't have the same drama or magnificence. Pleasant enough, and I'm glad I saw both, but I had more time than you will have.

    I'm glad to share what insights I can, but note that several Fodorites have much more extensive experience of Croatia than I. And regardless of the amount of experience, Fodorites who have been to Croatia seem to have some very different perspectives. For example, Split is my favorite city in Croatia; other people don't like it at all. Many people adore Hvar Town; I thought it beautiful, but WAY too upscale and party-hearty for my tastes. That's why I don't think we can give you a list of "can't misses" -- it depends too much on personal tastes.

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