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Best stops between Pula to Dubrovnik in July?

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Hi there,
My husband and I have a month to explore the Croatian coast next July, starting in Pula, and would appreciate some tips on how to avoid the largest crowds and still see the highlights. (I know, I know: "Don't go in the summer." But it's our only opportunity.)
We'll be relying on public transportation. We like hiking, swimming and snorkelling, kayaking, river-rafting. We're not interested in the party scene. We love quieter oceanfront villages, as long as they're accessible by bus.
Can we get some advice on our itinerary? Nothing is set in stone, but here's what I'm thinking.
Pula - 1 or 2 nights to see the Roman ruins
Rovinj -- 3 nights
Opatija? - 2 nights
A Kvarner island? Cres, Losinj or Rab? - 4 nights
Zadar - 3 nights - river-rafting?
Sibenik - 2 nights? Krka National Park
Trogir or Split - 3 or 4 nights - river-rafting
Hvar - 3 nights?
Korcula - 4 nights
Dubrovnik - 5 nights - day trips to Elafiti Islands, Mljet Island
Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions.

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    I visited Pula as a day trip by bus from Rovinj. I don't think that I would split that stay between the two places. I also think that Hvar has more to see and do than Korcula.

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    Thanks, Belinda. That's good advice. I'll stick to Rovinj then.
    I was a bit worried that Hvar might be too crowded and expensive in the high season, so I thought we'd get a taste of it but opt for a slightly slower pace on Korcula. We really just want to relax, hike and swim for the most part. But again, thanks for the advice. We'll give that some thought.
    Cheers!

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    Opatija? - 2 nights?

    I was in Opatija for a couple of hours just before/during sunset on a Saturday evening in early June of 2009. The bars and restaurants near the shore were competing with one another to see which could play their disco / party music the loudest and with the heaviest base. Street side shops were filled with junk, overpriced kitsch, and overly zealous sales staff. Sidewalks were filled with people who were already so drunk that trying to walk by or through them was a decidedly unpleasant experience. I did enjoy the Villa Angiolina, though -- that was worth seeing.

    In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed Lovran, a bit further along the coast -- decidedly faded, but that didn't bother me. The Lungomaro between Lovran and Opatija is lovely.


    A Kvarner island? Cres, Losinj or Rab? - 4 nights

    I skipped Cres and Losinj, but thoroughly enjoyed my night on Rab. Two nights (one day) would have been lovely.


    Zadar - 3 nights - river-rafting?

    I found one VERY long day sufficient for my interests in Zadar, but can easily see 2 nights there being very enjoyable, and if you want to add a day of river-rafting (I trust you've identified options) the extra time there could be great. When I was there, it was almost impossible to stay IN the Old Town, so getting to/from sites took more time than in many parts of Croatia -- you might want to take that into consideration.


    Sibenik - 2 nights? Krka National Park

    Sibenik is well worth a visit and is a great base for the Krka National Park. If you want to see any of the city of Sibenik itself, you might want to add a night or otherwise plan on the better part of a day there.


    Trogir or Split - 3 or 4 nights - river-rafting

    I enjoyed both, but wasn't river rafting! Trogir itself generally takes less than a day; Split itself can take 2 or more days, depending on what you want to see. Which to use as a base (and yes, they can easily been seen from either) really depends on how you want to spend your evenings.


    Hvar - 3 nights?

    Although I'm glad I saw it, Hvar Town was much too up-scale for my tastes -- I was ready to leave after just a part of a day. I stayed in Stari Grad, also on Hvar, but I suspect that it would be WAY too quiet for most people.


    Korcula - 4 nights

    I loved Korcula, but 4 nights there would have been WAY too much for me. I spent one night, just a bit under a full day, and saw everything that I wanted to see there -- including the moresca. DO make time for that if you can!


    Dubrovnik - 5 nights - day trips to Elafiti Islands, Mljet Island

    With those day trips, you might find this allocation of time reasonable. FWIW, I though Dubrovnik (and Lovran and Trsteno) together worth 2 nights (2 days).


    ALL of the places you mention are, I believe, easily reached by public transportation.

    There are a few "obvious" gaps in your plan -- maybe intentional, but in case not:

    The Plitvice Lakes National Park is, perhaps, the single most un-missable place anywhere in Croatia. And no, the Krka National Park isn't really a substitute (although it has some similar features). Getting to the Plitvice Lakes by public transportation can be a bit of a challenge, but is not impossible. Plan on an overnight stay so you have at least 6 hours in the park itself.

    Mostar (although not in Croatia) is easily reached by public transportation from either Split or Dubrovnik. WELL worth an overnight IMHO.

    (For that matter, you can also get to wonderfully laid-back Sarajevo by public transportation from Mostar.)


    Croatia is lovely -- enjoy!

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    Hi Kja
    Thanks very much for your thoughtful and detailed suggestions. I did want to go to Plitvice. Maybe I'll leave from Zadar and do an overnight before returning to the coast.
    I appreciate all your impressions on the other spots too. If that's the general experience in Opatija, we may just pass through.
    Again, my thanks!

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    I agree with the general consensus that you can consolidate some of your stops.
    (1) Visit Pula either en route or from Rovinj as a day trip
    (2) Merge Zadar and Sibenik--but possibly for fewer days (I don't know a lot about rafting, but I know it is possible at Omis as well--south of Split.)
    I like the rest of your time allotted, but I would add in an overnight stay at Plitvice, and I would not spend 5 days in Dubrovnik. Also, check the ferry schedules to see if you can stop at Mljet en route from Korcula to Dubrovnik. (I'll paste all of the transport links I know of at the bottom.)

    If Opatija or Lovran don't interest you, add those days elsewhere. (I found both pleasant, but I only used them to break up my trip from Zagreb to Mali Losinj and vice versa, and would not consider them important to include in your itinerary). If you decide to stop there, they are so close together that either one is convenient for the bus lines between Pula/Rovinj and Rijeka, a major transport hub. There is a national park above Lovran where you can do some hiking, if you give yourself at least two full days. (Tip: there are local buses that take you up into Ucka park where you can avoid the 5000 (ugh, probably more) steps up.)

    However, you may be able to travel from Mali Losinj to Zadar by sea, in which case you could omit Lovran/Opatija. Cres and Losinj are less accessible with bus but still totally doable and a nice change of pace. If they stay on your agenda, feel free to ask more. Not a lot of people get to the Kvarner region on their first trip.

    On Korcula, you might want to rent a car for one day of tooling around. You can do a lot with a scooter or bike rental and a little bit of combining with the bus. Basically the same deal with Hvar, but there are more boat excursions from Hvar town. The bus system will probably be better in July. I have always been in low season, but made do with feet, bikes, scooters, bus, and thumb. Because of the low population density, it is usually possible to just wander into some amazing scenery, but for some of the national parks, transport is more of a challenge (e.g., Paklenica, near Zadar).

    http://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/home (main ferry operator)
    http://www.krilo.hr/en/ (catamarans--note high season dates)
    http://www.gv-line.hr/raspored.php?linija=3&lang=E (ditto)
    http://www.buscroatia.com/

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    Yorkshire, I really appreciate your invaluable info. I'll fine-tune the itinerary, check out transport schedules and the island-hopping option and will post some more questions after that on a new thread.
    Many thanks!

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