Croatia 19-day itinerary - advice?

Jul 1st, 2005, 05:20 AM
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Croatia 19-day itinerary - advice?

After reading many of the Fodor's postings and our guidebook, we've come up with a tentative itinerary for our trip to Croatia. I'd like to get thoughts from you guys. For background, we are mid 30's and mid 40's; we usually stay pretty busy exploring during our vacations, but this trip is also a much-needed break for us, so although we don't normally spend much time on the beach, we want to plan some time for relaxation as well as exploring. We especially enjoy small towns: seeing the architecture, visiting local markets and flea markets, trying local cuisine, etc., but also enjoy spending time in cities and out in nature. A knee injury keeps us from doing anything too strenuous, but my husband does want to spend one day diving. Here are our thoughts (the trip is from September 1-19).

Sept 1 - arrive Zagreb
Sept 2 - Zagreb
Sept 3 - Travel to Plitvice Lakes (stay overnight)
Sept 4 - Travel to Split
Sept 5 - Split
Sept 6 - Split
Sept 7 - Split (day trip to Trogir)
Sept 8 - Ferry from Split to Hvar
Sept 9 - Hvar
Sept 10 - Hvar
Sept 11 - Hvar
Sept 12 - Ferry from Hvar to Korcula
Sept 13 - Korcula (scuba diving)
Sept 14 - Travel Korcula to Dubrovnik
Sept 15 - Dubrovnik
Sept 16 - Dubrovnik
Sept 17 - Dubrovnik
Sept 18 - Dubrovnik (day trip to Montenegro?)
Sept 19 - Depart from Dubrovnik

I don't want to nail down the details too much; I'd rather play it by ear depending on what we like, what we see along the way, and current ferry schedules, but I'd like to have a general idea of our plans.
What are your thoughts? Have we included too many places? Too few? Left something wonderful out? We don't like whirlwind tours; I'd rather visit a handful of places and spend time exploring all the nooks and crannies. But if the towns only have enough nooks and crannies for a day or two, then we'll move on. I also wonder about including Rovinj and some of the Istrian towns. They seem really beautiful, but I worry that it's trying to pack too much in, and that it might be better to just include that area in a later trip. Fodorites provided invaluable help in our last trip, what do you think about our plan?

Thanks for your help.
copilot is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Looks good.

I think your idea of seeing Istria is worthwhile enough to slice one day each off of Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. You should have a car for that, though (which you shouldn't need after Split).

Dubrovnik is nice. But after you've walked the walls and circled the Stradun a few times, I think it's time to move on.

You've picked the best time of the year, too.
metlc is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 07:31 AM
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It sounds very nice. I agree that Istria is worth seeing, but I don't agree that you've got too much time in Dubrovnik. There are many daytrips you can make from there. And it's a wonderful place to come "home" to.
Catbert is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 01:18 PM
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Your trip looks great – we are planning a similar one (15 days only – Sept 2006) and I was wondering the same thing: Istria looks great, but what can I do, how can I play with the days (and the miles) to be able to do that, too? Will you rent a car?
Please post a trip report when you return.
xyz99 is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 01:24 PM
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what about Zadar?

It's on your way to Split (and a major ferry stop - maybe coming from Istria?)- it's a great cross road city - a mix of Croatian, Hapsberg, Italian and Modern - and I feel more interesting than Split.

Agree regarding Istria (though I've not been yet)
Carta_Pisana is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 03:16 PM
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Upon further review of your personal profiles, I have this suggestion.

After Zagreb and Plitvice, why not just "wing it"? By that I mean: Assuming you're traveling by car from Zagreb, keep the car and head to Istria, and work your way south to Split, staying however long you feel like, wherever you are.

In September, you won't have much trouble finding private rooms ("Sobe") anywhere in Croatia. This will change in a few years, so take advantage of it now.
metlc is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 04:37 PM
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You might consider spending one day less in Split, one day less in Hvar and adding Opatija into your itinerary. It is situated in the picturesque Kvarner Bay, is very romantic and reminiscent of Cannes, and has beautiful Hapsburg style hotels which are just now being renovated. (We stayed in the 5 Star Millenium and loved it.) There is a walk along the sea called the Lungo Mare. You can walk to the quaint Italian style fishing village of Volosko. Opatija is also an hour from Rijeka which has quite a bit of history.
partypoet is offline  
Jul 1st, 2005, 09:35 PM
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It sounds like you have planned a nice trip. You have some down time but you will still be seeing many wonderful places.

I will offer my personal opinion:

I would only spend one night in Zagreb. I must disclose that it rained during our 24 hour stay there so my opinion may be a result of the weather. I wasn't impressed by Zagreb.

Another place you may consider visiting is Rab Town on Rab Isalnd. We really liked it there! it is a nice place to chill out for a couple of days.

I think you could easily shave a day off the Split area. Rather than stay in Split have you considered staying in Trogir and doing a day trip to Split? I am suggesting this because you mentioned that you enjoy small towns. We loved Trogir! if you choose to stay there I have a great accomodation recommendation; Apartment Bakica!

Two nights on Hvar in Hvar Town was enough for me. If you have a car you can explore other parts of Hvar such as Zavala Beach. This is a little slice of heaven!

I don't think I could ever get enough of Dubrovnik! It just feels good to be there. Next time I go to Croatia I will spend a full week in Dubrovnik alone!

Renting a car from Zagreb to Split is the way to go. It allows you the freedom to stop where you want to. You will drive through abandoned towns that are completely shelled out from the war. The destruction is quite a shocking and sad site.

I posted my trip report and photos from my trip last year. If you click on my name you will find those posts.

Enjoy your trip! Croatia is stellar!!

eurotraveller is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2005, 01:16 AM
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You guys are great! I couldn't believe when I logged on and saw so many responses in just one day! We will tweak our itinerary a bit based on your suggestions, and we will take your advice and stay in Trogir with a day trip to Split, vs. the opposite. We hadn't yet decided whether to rent a car or not. I like the freedom of having a car, but it's sometimes a less relaxing trip for the driver, who can't enjoy the views as much either. But it sounds as if it would be better for us to rent a car from Zagreb to Split, then wing it from there with ferries and buses. Thanks again everyone for your suggestions. We are so looking forward to our trip, and will post a report when we return.
copilot is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2005, 10:49 AM
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Regarding visiting Montenegro while in Dubrovnik: The relations between Croatia and Montenegro are strained at best, and if you do go, I recommend buying a bus tour in Dubrovnik. Most of the rental car companies do not provide insurance if you want to take their rented car into montenegro, and the wait at the border crossing can be very long for private cars. Tour buses usually get through faster.

Also, you can check out my web site for a description of our trip to Croatia. BTW - we loved Hvar!!!
Here's the URL:
sssteve is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2005, 11:26 AM
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Hello Copilot!

After being in Croatia many, many times (I went there for holidays before and now I am driving tourists to Croatia or Slovenia from Budapest) I would also definitely recommend to slice off a few days of Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. If you are not a museum or church buff, then one day is almost enough for any of the above mentioned towns. I know I will hurt some people’s feelings but even Dubrovnik you can do in one day. I would better visit some towns on the Istrian peninsula and without any hesitations would give Montenegro 2 or 3 days.
Speaking frankly I can not understand why there are many people so fascinated about southern Dalmatia. Croatia is absolutely beautiful, wherever you go. The southern Dalmatia hit is probably based on recommendations of most of the people who’ve been there, but never ever been to Istria or the Kornati islands. The towns of Rovinj or Porec are as beautiful as any of the south Dalmatian ones. Also places like Opatija (Abbazia) which was the most lavish resort town of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire also an absolute must to go. A drive from Rijeka along the Riviera Opatija to Rovinj is simply magnificent, with little towns like Lovran, Medveja, Moscenicka Draga. I am not even talking about Pula with a gorgeous Amphitheater, that looks much bigger than it is, the Forum, the Augustus Temple, the Sergi Triumphal Arc, Double and Hercules Doors, the Castle. A great number of preserved monuments from all epochs had inspired many artists and composers like Michelangelo, Piranesi, Dante Alighieri, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Ferenc Lehar. It is an absolute rival of Split! You can go even further to the Slovenian towns Piran and Koper, miniature copies of Venice. A visit to the island of Rab or Krk will give you the same feelings and show you beauties and nature as in southern Dalmatia. For instance the little fjord near Jablanac (this is where you take the ferry to the island of Rab) is the most picturesque in the whole Adriatic! Even the one in Kotor pales in comparison. The biggest advantage of all these places is that they are within 2-3 hours by car from Zagreb (I believe these are short hops even by bus), so you don’t waste your precious vacation time.
You’ve mentioned you would like to go scuba diving. Well, I don’t know whether you’ve been diving in the Adriatic before. As a diver myself I can tell you be ready for a brutal shock. It has nothing to do with diving in the Red Sea or the Caribbean. Marine life is almost nonexistent. Just a few fish, mostly of grey colors, an occasional moray eel or lobster. The explanation for this is the much colder water. Even in the heat of the summer the maximum temperature stays around 75 (24-25 Celsius). Down under it is very cool, to say the least. Requires a wetsuit, sometimes with a hood. The Adriatic is mostly famous for wreck diving. If it is your favorite, then go for it. Otherwise for scuba diving in Europe you better be off with Malta or the secluded islands between Sardinia and Corsica.
Now comes Montenegro. Since you will be in Dubrovnik and want to go there for one day, I would ABSOLUTELY recommend you to go for more.
We’ve been to Croatia 8 times before we went to Montenegro for the first time. After this visit Croatia literary “disappeared” from our mind. This was a beauty shock and love at first site. Probably one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Yes, it is a little bit run down, some places need an urgent cleaning, the infrastructure needs big improvements, and the service is kinda slow. BUT!
The natural beauty pays for all. When we first entered the country in 2001 after a 12 hour drive through Bosnia (the last 8 miles required 30 minutes on a 7 feet wide dirt road and trucks and buses coming your way!, surrounded on both sides with a yellow tape “Pozor Mine” (watch out for mines!!!) we wished we went to Dubrovnik instead or even stayed back home in Budapest and I started to hate myself for even of the idea of going there.
But when we crossed the border in Hum, and drove the through the little wooden bridge over the Piva River it was an absolute WOW! The emerald colors of the water, the mountains around us, the Pivsko Jezero (Piva Lake) that followed shortly, it was all out of this world. One more time I have to say I’ve been to Croatia 8 times before, but this was something more exciting.
The Canyon of the Tara River (the deepest in Europe), The Durmitor National Park, The Kotor fjord with little magnificent towns like Kotor or Perast, Budva is a miniature copy of Dubrovnik, Skadarsko Jezero (Shkodra Lake the biggest on the Balkans) with the water lilies, thousands of birds and its almost secret atmosphere, the millionaire’s island of Sveti Stefan (it was the symbol of Yugoslavia on all brochures before the split of the country) etc., etc.
In one day you will have only a glimpse (and probably not the best) of this little paradise on earth.
You need at least 3-5 days to explore it:
One day a drive along the cost and the Kotor fjord with a visit to Kotor town and the man made island opposite Perast where you can see one of the most beautifully decorated 15th century church, Gospa Od Skrpjela. Also the medieval houses of Perast damaged by the earthquake of 1979 will add a final touch to the views. Kotor town, surrounded by ancient walls, with narrow winding roads and the bare rocky mountain that rises for about 5,000 feet above the town, will provide you with an unearthly view. This can be made with a side trip to Cetinje the first capital of the country in the 15th century and the Lovcen Mountain where you can feel yourself on top of the world. In clear weather you can see even the Italian coast.
Next day you can visit Tara river canyon and the Durmitor national Park. The road that takes you there and the views are absolutely dramatic. Alternative to that is the trip to the Skodra Lake and the Moraca River canyon with a visit to the 13th century Manastir (monastery) Moraca.
One day you can spend for a drive along the Montenegrin coast all the way down to Ukcinj, the southernmost town of the former Yugoslavia. The Albanian border is in the vicinity and the town itself is populated by Albanians that gives it a distinct oriental feel. The food and sweets (especially the pastries) are dozen times better (and whole lot cheaper) than anywhere in Croatia. There you can take a short boat ride along the Bojana River that runs along the Albanian border. Along the way you can visit Budva, Sveti Stefan, and the ghost town of Stari Bar etc. Options are unlimited. Just give it a try and you will remember this little country forever.
Sorry for the long opus, but it’s very difficult to describe the beauties of Croatia and Montenegro.
Feel free to ask any questions.
Bela Lukacs
okszi is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2005, 11:34 AM
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Wow! What an incredible description of Montenegro. I've just put it on my list of places to visit. Thanks!
kleeblatt is offline  
Jul 28th, 2005, 02:57 PM
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I didn't take time to read other recommendations so this may be a repeat. We flew to Dubrovnik and only spent one day, two nights. The city was hot and crowded (May 15th). Luckily, we'd made arrangements with friends to drive to Budva which is 70 miles south in Montenegro. It's not expensive to hire a minivan. On the way to Budva you take a ferry across the mouth of the second largest fjord in Europe. (You can drive from Budva, through the mountains to Kotor, which is on the fjord and a UNICEF protected walled city.)
Budva is on the water, a walled city similar but smaller than Dubrovnik, popular with eastern Europeans because it's less expensive. The beach is quite nice, both just outside the walls and near town. We stayed inside the walled city at Familia Antonioli ( From Budva we visited Ste. Stefan, Kotor and the fjord. I really would recommend it rather than being with crowds in Dubrovnik where it's expensive. From Budva we took another minivan to Bar and then a ferry to Bari, Italy.
Shazzy is offline  
Jul 28th, 2005, 07:43 PM
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I agree with those that suggested allowing some time for Rovinj, Opatija and Rijeka. This is really a lovely area and well worth the trip.

Personally I think a day in Split is enough but the Palace is very interesting to see.

We had no problems in Montenegro and went to Budva and Kotor. I wish I had the name of the restaurant where we had lunch in Kotor... it was right on the water and delicious food.

I was in Dubrovnik 3 days and loved it there. I would definitely go back. Be sure to walk the walls. The views are wonderful.

I wasn't impressed with Zagreb.

Have a wonderful trip!!

suesnothome is offline  
Jul 29th, 2005, 03:55 AM
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Lots of good ideas here. I like the Budva suggestion.

Here's another idea to consider. At that time of year (early September), you could start in Venice and take a ferry over to Pula or Rovinj, drive around Istria for a few days and head south to Plitvice from there.
metlc is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 07:30 AM
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I realize this is an older thread, but, it's very relevant to my situation.
We just decided yesterday to take a trip to Croatia and Montenegro.
We are flying into Zagreb where we shall stay 2-3 nights. And, then, we shall pick up our rental car to get lost over the next 12 days.
We will likely drive to Plitvice Lakes for the first day and then through Bosnia until we reach Dubrovnik. We loved Sicily, The Amalfi, small towns and such and think Montengro suits us more than Dubrovnik and the Dalmation Coast.
What I need help with are accomodations in Zagreb and on the coast of Montenegro.
We prefer hotels in cities and are open for apartments or hotels in Montenegro.
All help appreciated!
wanderinggirl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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I stayed in the Hotel Dubrovnik in Zagreb which has a very central location. Not the most charming looking hotel in the world but right in the middle of things.
Feb 26th, 2007, 07:42 AM
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wanderinggirl, I hope you don't mind me putting in my two cents worth.

I would spend minimal time in Zagreb as there are much nicer places to stay in Croatia, that is unless you like big cities with communist block style apartments high rises.

Don't discount Dubrovnik. It is an absolutely wonderful city, especially within the walls.

I don't think it is wise to drive across the border into Montenegro with a car with Croatian license plates. You may not even be allowed to by the rental company. Maybe someone else on here can confirm that?

If you like small towns you may want to check out Rab Town on Rab Island and Trogir. The Dalmation coast is a spectacular place and the drive will take your breath away. Stunning!

Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovia is interesting for a 1/2 day.

If you would like to see my Croatia trip photos you can view them at:

Just go to the Croatia album.


eurotraveller is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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Fantastic! Thank you, lawchick, for the recommendation on Hotel Dubrovnik. I looked at it and liked the location very much. As long as it's clean, well located, we're fairly easy to please.

Eurotraveler, we contacted AutoEurope, with whom we've rented dozens of times, and they assured us we can take the car into Bosnia and Montenegro. They are charging us a fee for this, likely to cover some extra insurance?
We really like the out of the way places and will surely look at your photos and the villages you recommend.
I'll start another thread on this subject, too. There's much to discuss on this.
Thanks for the advice, it's greatly appreciated!

wanderinggirl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2007, 11:03 AM
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Wanderinggirl, if you reread my post you will see that I said you may not be able to take the care into Montenegro, not Bosnia and Hercegovina. I know that you can drive into Bosnia and Hercegovina as I talked to people who did it.

Your post stating you like small towns lead me to suggest you spend minimal time in Zagreb as it is not small nor did it appeal to us at all. We only spent 1 night and then rented a car and drove out early the next morning to Plitvice Nat'l Park, which is beautiful!

Trogir is very small and Rab Town is as well.

On one of the other forums there is a guy who posts about how much he loves Montenegro. Really raves about it. I am sure you will have a great trip!
eurotraveller is offline  

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