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Croatia Itinerary Help

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Thanks in advance for all the help our friends on Fodor have given us on many trips.

Following is a draft itinerary for mid-May to early June for a couple of independent travelers. We want to strike a balance between seeing the sights and having a bit of laid back coastal town experience.

“PART 1” of the itinerary seems fairly set, but we’re open to suggestions.
Fly from the US to Zagreb and spend two more full days in Zagreb.

Rent a car and drive directly to Rovinj.
We plan to rent an apartment or suite hotel and stay in Rovinj for 4 nights.
1/2 day in Rovinj on arrival
1 day Rovinj
1 day to Porec and interior towns such as Motovan.
1 day to Pula and back.

Drive directly from Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes and stay overnight.
Google says 3 ½ hours driving time. Is that reasonable?
We hope to take in some of the park in the afternoon of arrival.
We hope to do what we can the next day and drive to Zadar in afternoon.

“PART 2” of the itinerary is where we have more questions. We have 9-10 days available from arrival in Zadar to flying from Dubrovnik to the states. Keeping in mind a balance between getting a representative view of this part of Croatia, some mellow seaside town/city life, and not moving too often, how shall we split those days between Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik?

Here’s a tentative plan.

Zadar ½ day on arrival from Plitvice.
2 more full days in Zadar

Zadar to Split – stop in Trogir. Drop rental car. Half day in Split
3 more full days in Split including a day ferry to islands.

Bus to Dubrovnik
Half day on arrival
One more full day.

Fly from Dubrovnik to US.

Thanks again

  • Report Abuse

    "Drive directly from Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes and stay overnight.
    Google says 3 ½ hours driving time. Is that reasonable?"

    I think that's an underestimate. viamichelin -- which I found MUCH more accurate the google maps for Croatia -- estimates a minimum of more than 4 hours.

    "We hope to take in some of the park in the afternoon of arrival."

    Frankly, I don't recommend that, as you can't really loop the lakes in just a few hours. Not only are the lakes connected by travertine waterfall formations, each lake has unique microbiota, and as a result, the lakes (and even some parts of the same lakes) are different colors. IMO, the best way to see that is to make a single, long loop through the park -- something on the order of 6 hours or more (including time for the boat that connects the lower and upper lakes). BTW, I'd start at the low end, so you are facing the falls as you walk. You will probably find park rangers at each entrance who can help you identify shorter options if that's the only way for you to fit these magnificent lakes into your plan, but I think you have time during the 2nd part of your trip to manage the longer loop, arriving in Zadar in time for dinner rather than in time for 1/2 day there. JMO.

    "Keeping in mind a balance between getting a representative view of this part of Croatia, some mellow seaside town/city life, and not moving too often, how shall we split those days between Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik?"

    It really depends on your interests! That said, I think your plan generally makes sense from what you've said, and I think it would work even with just 2 full days in Zadar. (3 nights -- arriving, as suggested above, after the Plitvice Lakes and leaving the morning after the 3rd night).

    I loved Split, but not everyone does. I found it energetic and dynamic and full of interesting things to see and do. Some people prefer quiet Trogir, which is just 1/2 hour away by bus. Trogir is beautiful, but it can be very very very quiet at night -- and I was there about the same time of year as you are planning to visit.

    Do pay careful attention to the ferry schedules. I think they change on 1 June, but I could easily be wrong.

    1.5 days is, I think, good for Dubrovnik.

    You'll see some wonderful things -- enjoy!

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    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/fall-2015-balkans-trip-report-mostly-croatia-slovenia.cfm

    We just returned from a trip to Croatia and did some different and some similar things. Above is a link to our trip report. If you are interested, I would consider taking the train from Zagreb to Ljubljana (Slovenia). It's only about 2 hours and Ljubljana is much more beautiful in our opinion.

    Also, look for a trip report by a guy named Andrew who went to a number of the spots on the Istrian peninsula that you're planning.

    It's a very enjoyable part of the world!!

  • Report Abuse

    Four hours is about right for the drive from Rovinj to Plitvice and I agree 100% with kja, relax when you get there and go to the park the next morning. I'd even consider two nights in Plitvice just to chill out and take your time.

    You could consider staying on an island (like Hvar and day tripping BACK to Split for one day, if you want laid-back coastal then I think you would like Hvar. Split is fantastic but very much a city and it can get crowded.

    Finally its a long way to Dubrovnik just for one and a half days. I'd try to add one more day on there if you can.

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    As rialtogrl notes, "its a long way to Dubrovnik" -- but oh, the scenery is spectacular! Enough to make it well worth the ride, even if for limited time in Dubrovnik. Sit on the right side as you head south. :-)

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    We did a good part of your proposed itinerary last month, including the drive from Rovinj to Plitvice. That trip was about four hours and there was a considerable amount of caravan traffic which prevented us from making better time. We left Rovinj around 8 am and arrived just after noon at our accommodation-the Ethno Houses. We had a quick lunch and went straight into the park.

    This is not an area where I would recommend relaxing for the afternoon and entering the park the next day. We would have been extremely bored "relaxing" for the afternoon as the main attraction is the park.

    Just so you are aware, most accommodation in the area is basic. The better places, (ours was) are really not good value for what is offered and where we stayed, credit cards were not accepted.

    We spent a couple of hours in the park and for us that was enough. The scenery is lovely but in this traveller's view, somewhat repetitive and not worth a six hour visit unless you are avid hikers or nature -lovers. If so,you may well want more time.

    I expressed our disappointment to our Croatian travel agency, Secret Dalmatia, but from the outset they discouraged us from an overnight visit at Plitvice Lakes, citing the limited accommodation, etc. We just could not fit it into our itinerary otherwise.

    If I had it to do again, I would have skipped the lakes entirely or reconfigured our itinerary and done the lakes as a day trip, heading straight to Zadar afterward. It would have been a very long day but Zadar is definitely worth a longer stay.

    To each his own!

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    FWIW, I agree with pirouette that I, personally, would not plan on arriving in Plitvice early enough to just relax for an afternoon -- I would aim to get there before dark and in time for dinner, not earlier. And with your options in Istria, that shouldn't be a problem! :-)

    Frankly, I'm not surprised that a visit to the Plitvice Lakes of only a couple of hours left an impression of "repetitive" scenery -- as I noted above, it really takes some time to get into the park to see the incredible diversity of the scenery it holds, no matter which entry one uses (although I, personally, think the scenery of the lower parts among the most stunning.) But I also agree -- to each his or her own!

    I have visited all of the places mentioned so far on this thread with the exception of Pula, and quite a few other places in Croatia and other parts of what was once Yugoslavia as well, so FWIW: I thought Zadar easily worth a day. For my tastes, no more, but then I don't travel for relaxation. (Just a personal preference; no criticism to those for whom relaxation is a priority!) I thought Hvar Town quite beautiful, but WAY too upscale for my tastes -- I was glad I gave it only a few hours. For Croatia's islands, I far preferred Korcula and Rab, and for that matter, Trogir; I even preferred Stari Grad on Hvar to Hvar Town itself, but suspect my preferences for Hvar Island are quite unusual. I think Zagreb has an understated and quiet charm that merits much more credit than it generally gets. I agree that Ljubljana is absolutely charming.

    Basically, with ALL of these destinations, where to go and how much time to spend in any of them ultimately depends on one's preferences, and NONE of us can tell you what will work for YOU.

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    I've been to Plitvice with a lot of people - and they are usually pretty blown away by it. But it is really best when the sun is shining - if it is overcast, it is not the same. And in May you run the risk of it being overcast. There can also be flooding and some of the paths could be closed.

    You could go to Pula on your way to Plitvice, also to Hum "the smallest town in the world..." or Opatija, there are some things to do on the way and if it looks like sun one day and clouds the next, you can adjust accordingly to be in the park on a sunny day.

    If you do stay in Plitvice, I can highly recommend this place:

    http://www.plitvice-croatia.com/
    They serve great dinners there (soup, nice green salad, big platters of meat, fresh trout and veggies) and the family that own the place are wonderful people.

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    As always, my friends on Fodor’s add a great deal to our trip planning. Your comments have already got us thinking about a couple of possible revisions and clarifications.

    His_Dudness got us back to thinking about our original plan which included Ljubjlana. We’ve traveled independently all over the world and don’t get put off too easily, but the refugee problem in the Balkans had us wondering if we were going into a mess of logistical problems with trains etc. So, we’ll work largely with what I laid out before (with the adjustments that were spurred by all of your comments) and add Ljubjana. If things get too dicey in May and we’re locked in to our air tickets, we’ll surely figure out what to do with the extra days. (Trieste?)

    The flights into Ljubjana and out of Dubrovnik didn’t look good, so the revised plan is to fly into Zagreb and stay two more full days, then take the train to Ljubjlana for another two full days in addition to travel day. Then we’d rent a car in Ljubjlana and drive to Rovinj where we pick up with the last itinerary. I’ve read earlier posts on driving in Slovenia and between Slovenia and Croatia so I’ll pay attention to vignettes (?). A quick look at rental agencies doesn’t show any of them seeing a problem with a pickup in Ljubhjana and drop in Split. Suggestions on rental agencies will also be appreciated.

    As for the Plitvice Lakes, we’ll leave Rovinj in the morning and perhaps stop in Opatija for a few hours before moving on to Plitvice, arriving later in the afternoon. We’ll have the entire next day and be there early enough to beat any crowds before moving on to Zadar.

    We want to take a ferry to one of the islands from Split. Hvar is obviously highly recommended along with Korcula. How transportation to other towns on the islands such as Stari Grad?

    The itinerary is falling into place, and all your comments have been terrific.

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    I have not spent time in Istria but have visited Croatia 4 times, each time with more relaxation than the last!
    The first half looks fine. You have plenty of time to sort out the second half. I like the plan of limited time in Dubrovnik as it is very small (and I have a preference for the islands). Read up more on the Zadar area (not my area of expertise) and the islands off Split (Hvar, Brac, and Vis) to determine your preference for splitting up the remaining time. Any of them would make a fine choice. Korcula would work, if you decide to stop there in between Split and Dubrovnik.
    There are ferries to Stari Grad, which is well connected by bus to Hvar town. Hvar town is served by catamarans.

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    We used Sixt for our rent cars.

    Just watch out for any rent car companies drop charges between Slovenia and Croatia. For some reason when we booked our trip they were significant enough that we actually dropped our Dubrovnik rented car in Croatia on the way to Slovenia and rented another car in Slovenia to avoid the drop charges.

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    Ljubljana is charming, and if conditions permit, Lakes Bled and Bohinj are also well worth seeing IMO. If conditions don't seem auspicious, Trieste is an option. Or Varaždin in Croatia is a small, charmingly lively university town quite that I think unlike anything else you'll see.

    You might be able to find exceptions, but drop-fees for renting a car in Slovenia and dropping off in Croatia can be high. Consider public transportation from Ljubljana back into Croatia -- I think there are options to Zagreb, Porec, Pazin, and even Rovinj.

    I always arrange my rentals through gemut.com, which has a 24/7 toll-free call line in English. :-)

    As yorkshire noted, you can get to either Hvar Town or Stari Grad (on Hvar) from Split. As I recall, the ferry port is actually a few miles outside of the town of Stari Grad, and I believe there is a bus that stops at the ferry port, the town of Stari Grad, and Hvar Town timed to coordinate with the ferries. As a day trip, Hvar Town makes sense to me -- as I said, its a bit too rich for my tastes, but it is beautiful and I can understand why many people savor their time there. And much as I loved Stari Grad, it doesn't have the same appeal or give the same sense of Croatia's island delights. (It's not on the coast, but at the inland end of a long inlet.)

    I loved Korcula, but wouldn't recommend it as a day trip from Split. And I wouldn't give up the spectacular scenery that can be seen on the bus from Split to Dubrovnik to instead visit Korcula by ferry en route.

    I think is a bit far for a day trip to Vis, but I could easily be mistaken.

    I haven't been to Brac yet, but if yorkshire recommends it, I'm sure it's a delight. :-)

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    I would not worry about the migrant crisis. When the trains were suspended, there was always a bus replacement service available (I am not sure about the very first few days of the first suspension, but after that it ran smoothly) and the regular bus lines between Ljubljana and Zagreb were running normally. The migrant crisis has so far been (besides the trains situation) been limited to smaller local border crossings and that is very unlikely to change as it would be a major hindrance to cross-border trade and travel and would severely affect residents in the wider region, not just a few border villages.

    If you do have a car in Slovenia and time permits, however, I recommend you don't just stick to the favourites such as Lake Bled, Ljubljana and the caves, but head to the countryside for places such as the medieval towns of Skofja Loka and Kamnik, the Soca River or Logar valleys, winegrowing regions such as Goriska Brda, Kras or Jeruzalem, or the Velika Planina mountain, full of charming rustic shepherd's huts, etc. There is plenty to see in Slovenia if you stray off the tourist path. Time permitting, of course.

    And regarding the vignette, it's a time-based highway toll sticker you affix to the inside of your windshield. If you rent a car in Slovenia, it comes with the car, if you rent it in Croatia, you can buy a sticker at a gas station before entering Slovenia. And as His_Dudeness and kja pointed out, do check into those cross-border drop-off fees, they can be exorbitant.

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    http://vacationkorcula.com/en/2015/11/11/how-to-reach-the-island-of-korcula/

    n Vela Luka on the island of Korcula you can come in many ways, of course, depends where you come from and what kind of traveling you like, by car, by boat, airplane, private airplane :) bus or train, if you stay for a long time on Korcula island we highly recommend that you have available vehicle. If you not travel by car it is easy to rent a car in Split, Dubrovnik. If you arrive in Croatia by train, airplane or bus it is easy to rent a car on the Island of Korčula. If you prefere boat ride, ferry “Korcula” sailes daily, from Split to Vela Luka. Shipping takes three hours and offers beautiful views of the islands of Solta, Brac, Hvar and many small island on the way to Korcula. Without vehicle you can cach the speeder boat – catamaran, every day, from split to Vela Luka, with one stop station on Hvar. Fly with hydro plane from Split to Vela Luka in just 15 minutes.

    Traveling by car, you can choose a route 100 km longer, but cheaper option than boat from Split. Road continues by highway (or coastal road if you want to watch the beautiful scenery and the coast of the southern Adriatic Sea) to the port Ploce. Ferry drives one our to the port Trpanj on Peljesac penisula. Than you drive another 30 km from the port to Orebic on Peljesac penisula and watch beautiful scenery of vineyard hills. From Orebic ferry drives to Korcula Island – 10 min.

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