Croatia Itinerary: Split to Dubrovnik

Posted by Fodor's Editors on June 18, 2008 at 11:21:49 PM EDT | Post a Comment
croatia-markarska-mikelens-flickrF.jpgOn the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea, a renaissance in tourism to Croatia is underway. Though a very popular destination for Europeans for over 40 years, Croatia is only now coming into its own for Americans, when—finally—gleaming new cities have been rebuilt out of the wreckage of the civil war of the mid-1990s. When cruise ships first returned to Split and Dubrovnik in the late 1990s, cruise passengers might have seen bombed-out buildings on their way to the beach. But the pace of infrastructure repair caught up with skyrocketing tourism, and since 2001, Croatia has come onto travelers' radar in a big way. Now it is a major summer destination for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Most people planning a trip will go to Split, Dubrovnik, or one of the beautiful islands in between. There are many ways to travel, of course, and our forums are full of suggestions: Is 8 days too short?, Itinerary & Lodging help, and Favorite Islands? are just a few recent examples. For our take on the essential places to see in Croatia, consider this itinerary (link to pdf) from Fodor's Croatia & Slovenia.

Orientation

Both Split and Dubrovnik have international airports, so this itinerary could be reversed if you want to fly into Dubrovnik. Both cities are popular in summer, so be warned: you won't be sightseeing by yourself in August. In some respects, this itinerary can be best enjoyed without a car, as traffic and parking in high season are frazzling aspects of the southern Dalmatian coast. A little advance research about ferry schedules at the time of your travel (ferry and hydrofoil service is significantly reduced in the off-season) can make this a pleasant, mostly seafaring itinerary. Try to start your weeklong trip on a weekday (Monday to Monday, for example) instead of the weekend, so that your weekends are spent on a quiet island instead of in bustling Split or Dubrovnik.

Day 1: Split

Arrive in Split and head to a hotel (which you booked months ago) or take one of the many private rooms available around town. Accommodations in Split can be surprisingly limited. Spend this first day getting your bearings and exploring the Mestrovic Gallery and the Archaeological Museum, two of the city's best museums. Save the full day for Diocletian’s Palace tomorrow.

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Day 2: Diocletian's Palace

Get up early and head into the Grad, the Old Town area that once encompassed Diocletian's palace. You'll need a whole day to explore the palace, but the area is best seen on foot. Sit in the open peristyle and admire the imperial quarters, the Cathedral of St. Domnius, and the Egyptian black sphinx. Walk through the Grad area noticing all the different styles and materials used in the construction and renovation of the palace. Head out of the eastern Iron Gate to find a good spot for lunch and then continue along the Riva toward Marjan for a relaxing afternoon by the sea.

Day 3: Island-Hopping

Take one of the ferries or catamarans from Split to Brac, Hvar, or Vis, and spend the night in an island paradise. This is the heart of Dalmatia, after all, and these islands are the stuff of glossy tourist brochures. Book your accommodations in advance, or try to book a private room through an agency in Split. In summer, ferries, hydrofoils, and catamarans operate regularly to the islands. Rent a bike or scooter once you've landed and tour the back roads where you can find uncrowded coves and beaches.

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Days 4 & 5: Dubrovnik

Get back in the car, or, if traveling without one, take the bus or ferry to Dubrovnik. The arrival by ferry is more dramatic, because you’ll see one of the prettiest fortified cities in the world as it was meant to be seen: from the sea. From this view, you can tell why Dubrovnik (formerly Ragusa) was once master of all of Dalmatia. Choose a hotel slightly outside the city walls, as the crowds flock there daily in high season. Have lunch in one of the many fish restaurants near the fish market and enjoy some Dalmatian wine. Save the sightseeing for the late afternoon, when the cruise-ship day-trippers have departed. Stroll along the placa in the early evening with the locals, stopping along the way for some Italian-style ice cream.

Day 6: Elafiti Islands

The great thing about the Elafiti islands is that they're very close to Dubrovnik, so you can easily make a day trip out here if you’re pressed for time. A trip out to one of the islands is ideal for a final wind-down before the week's end. Most of the islands have no cars and are sparsely populated, so it's just you and the sparkling Adriatic out there. Logun has the best overnight accommodations if you have an extra day, or for wilderness seekers a trip to farther-flung Mljet is rewarding in its forested beauty and serenity. All the islands have regular service in the summer, and hydrofoils and fast catamarans can get you there in half the time the ferry takes. In winter there is limited boat service from Dubrovnik.

Day 7: Back to Split

Day 7 will most likely be a travel day, no matter if you travel by car or ferry. Have one last seafood lunch in a restaurant with a view of the sea, buy a bottle of Dalmatian wine to take home, and vow to come back next year.

Photo credits: (1) Photo by mikelens, Flickr; (2) Photo by greenmelinda, Flickr; (3) Photo by restlessglobetrotter, Flickr.
Posted in Trip Ideas Tagged: Croatia, Slovenia

Member Comments (2)  Post a Comment

  • Shona_OHagan on May 31, 11 at 02:23 PM

    hi there,
    myself and my husband are planning to go to slovenia making our way down through croatia and ending up in Dubrovnik. would 3 weeks be too long for this? we intend to hire a car to travel around Slovenia for about 10 days. then plitvice, and onto split, visiting some of the islands before finishing in Dubrovnik. if anyone could help us with how long we should spend on doing this trip we would be very grateful. it is our honeymooon!!
    Shona

  • JAGrippo on Feb 17, 10 at 07:08 PM

    I have just registered and really don't know what I'm doing or to whom I'm writing but, we are three couples going to Dubrovnik next Sept and if anyone out there knows the territory, I'd like some comments. First, my name is Joe Grippo in Northern California (jagrippo@sbcglobal.net). We'll land in Dubrovnik where we already have registered in an Inn (only 5 rooms,quiet, 200 yds from town; we like old, quaint if we can find it, reasonably-priced Inns rather than hotels ).We will see Dubrovnik without a car for 2 days; we will then also use it as a hub for 3 more days but will get a rental van to hopefully see: Montenegro (Kotor's Bay , Budva , Sv.Stefan), Mljet Island and Mostor...all five days we will be in Dubrovnik to sleep;
    The next day we plan to drive to and see Ston and eventually sleep on Korcula Island (where ? we don't know):Next we will take the ferry with our van and see and sleep in Hvar (where to sleep?); Next we will take the ferry with our van to Split, see it but, sleep in Trogir (again, where we don;t know); the following day we will see and sleep again in Trogir; the next day we will see Sibernik and plan to sleep in Zadar (where?); the next 2 days we wish to find a place in the Plitvica Lakes area (where?); the last day we hope to find a place in Samobar (where ?); since Samobar is only 20km from Zagreb we fly back from there.
    Questions to folks who have been there: we only have 2 weeks there... are these towns the best ones to see ? Are there others we should see on the way? Is this doable? Again, joe grippo (jagrippo@sbcglobal.net)

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