Croatia for a month in May 2013!

Old Nov 14th, 2012, 03:45 PM
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Croatia for a month in May 2013!

Hi - my wife and I will be taking a 6 month journey across SE Asia and making our back west to Europe. We plan on taking a train from Vienna to Zagreb and then doing this list of places in Croatia for an entire month. We are looking for simple things, like good "not so crowded" beaches, good local cuisine, and a chilled, laid back atmosphere. We live in the rain/gloom capital (Seattle) and just want to get plenty of sun rays on Croatia's coast. It's our first time visit to Croatia.

From the research I've gathered online, it looks like buses and ferries are abundant in May so we shouldn't need to rent a car. Few questions, is English spoken at most of the places we are visiting?

Will the beaches and sea be warm enough in May for swimming, snorkeling?

1) Zagreb - 4 days
2) Plitvice - 1 day and overnight stay
3) Bus to Zadar or Sibenik (can't decide which one) - 4 days
4) Bus to Split - 3 days
5) Ferry to Vis - 3 days
6) Ferry to Hvar Island - 4 days
7) Ferry back to Split, stay overnight
8) Bus to Dubrovnik - 5 days
9) Ferry to Korcula - 3 days
10) Ferry to Mljet Island - 2 days
11) Ferry to Dubrovnik for a few days before ferry to Bari, Italy

Is there a way to skip Italy entirely and get to Corfu, Greece?
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Old Nov 14th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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I'm not sure the ferries run every day in May between Korcula and Dubrovnik. There is a car ferry (passengers too) that runs about once a week or so all year, and there's daily direct bus as well.

Since there is no beach in Zagreb, I'd probably not do four days there unless you have some specific reason to and detour over to Slovenia for a few days instead. Ljubljana is a lovely town and Lake Bled plus the nearby Triglav National Park are outstanding. Zagreb has a few champions but mostly it is not regarded as a place to spend much time.

Consider also a detour over to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, not far from Dubrovnik.

You should have no trouble with English in Croatia - I sure didn't.

Why do you have to go to Italy at all? Can't you fly out of Dubrovnik or Split to somewhere else in Europe? I don't know anything about getting to Greece.
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Old Nov 14th, 2012, 05:42 PM
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I spent most of a month, mid-May to mid-June, In Croatia in 2009 - loved it! At least at that time, ferries did not necessarily run daily - as I recall, there was a shift in schedules on June 1st. I didn't swim, but I believe the water is likely to be a tad cold at that time of year.

I visited all the places you listed except Vis and Mljet; English should not be a problem.

I loved Zagreb and thought it well worth 4 days - but then, I love museums, which you don't mention as a priority. If they are something you hope to visit, note that many are closed on Sunday afternoons and Mondays (as I recall), so plan accordingly! But maybe your time in Zagreb includes day trips to Varazin or Cakovec or other parts of northeastern Croatia? I thought it a very enjoyable area, and I liked that it was different than other parts of Croatia.

One day/night for Plitvice Lakes should work well.

I spent a day in Zadar and 2 days in Sibenik (or rather, 1 day in Sibenik and 1 in Krka National Park, which I visited as a day trip from Sibenik); I was glad I visited both. They are close enough to manage with one as a base if you don't mind spending a couple of hours on the bus each way.

I'm not sure how your times play out once you take transportation into consideration, but I see that you have what sounds to me likely a lot of down time in the islands - Vis + Hvar + Korcula + Mljet would be way too much for me! But maybe that's what you are seeking, and I'm sure you'll want some down time during a 6-month trip.

BTW, if you can, do visit Korcula on a night when the moresca is being performed - great fun!

And much as I loved Dubrovnik, it sounds like you are spending a LOT of time there - 5 days between Hvar and Korcula and a few days before leaving for Bari. Even if you take a day trip into Montenegro, 3 or 4 days are enough to see the main highlights of Dubrovnik. (I'm not saying there isn't more to see - just trying to put the time frames in perspective.)

If you do trim some of these times, I'll second some of Andrew's suggestions: If you come up with 4 or 5 days, adding Slovenia makes a lot of sense (a day or 2 for Ljubljana, another day or 2 for Lake Bled, and a day or 2 for whatever else most intrigues you in the area). If you free up a day or two, visit Mostar - it is probably easiest to visit from Split, and while I think it can be visited as a day trip, I thought it well worth an overnight. And from there, you can get to Sarajevo in a few hours -- easily worth another couple of days.

Or you could add some time in Istria.... Or a day or so in Lovran or Opatia....


You should have a great trip no matter what you decide - you'll be in a spectacular part of the world. And you should be able to eat quite well: click on my name to find a "trip report" in which I review the dinners I ate during my trip to the area.

Hope this helps!
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Old Nov 14th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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What a great trip---I am envious.

Here are some images as a sneak preview. We loved the bay of Kotor as well. Have fun !

http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/show...y.php?cat=3882
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Old Nov 14th, 2012, 08:29 PM
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May could be rainy in some parts of Croatia
The water is still cool ...Croatia is NOT south of Spain !
I agree 5 days in Dubrovnik is too long...
"Sunbathing and swimming is also possible in April, May and October, but it really depends on the weather and chances are that you'll get more sunshine in the southern Adriatic. In that period expect temperature between 15°C and 25°C (59°F - 77°F) and the sea temperature between 16 and 21°C (61-70°F). This is a period with more rain and windy days. "
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 07:34 AM
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You may be able to swim, depending on your tolerance for cold water. I have visited southern Croatia in late May three times, and I was able to at least get into the water (I am a southern gal who likes my sea to be like bathwater). I had perfect sunny, hot weather on 2/3 trips, with cooler nights requiring a light jacket.
I always found English widely spoken (more so than in Spain!), but polite phrases are always appreciated. Hvala!
You would not need a car to get from place to place, as the buses are clean and convenient, plus with some possible minor adjustments ferries will work. However, you might like to rent a car if you stick with 4 days in Zagreb to explore the region, which has castles, etc. I rather liked Zagreb, but it would not hold my attention for 4 days.
You MUST include Plitvice National Park, between Zagreb and Split/Zadar.
I also agree that 5 days is a bit much for Dubrovnik unless you will be doing day trips.
Also, with a whole month, read through a guide book because there are some stellar places you could include that are not typically mentioned because most visitors have less time and so visit the "highlights." I just think with a month you have much more flexibility. You are living my dream, but after all that traveling, you may even just want to pick fewer places and set up camp on a secluded island.
Depending on how you work out getting to Greece, you may wish to alter the order.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 10:04 AM
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Even with a month that seems like a lot of moving around. You should consider renting a car - it would be easier than shlepping everything on and off buses and ferries..

Also check very carefully the ferry schedules to make sure they run daily and organize your schedule carefully if they do not. You could consider taking one of the gullet cruises to do some of the island part of your trip - a week island hopping on a boat.. I did not do this, but I saw lots of these boats at various ports and they looked pretty fun...

I agree that you should just go to Dubrovnik at the end for a few days - consider Rovinj in Istria - I spent a week there and loved it...

I also loved Hvar Island but without a car you are going to be fairly isolated as there are not a lot of public buses. Another good reason to have a car
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 11:11 AM
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I was going to mention that you should plan on renting a car for day trips/island exploring (especially Vis), but I would not want one for an extended period of time because you then have to put it on a ferry, plus you would not be able to use catamarans (only ferries), plus you'd have to park it.
Vis has some amazing beaches, but you'll need a car or scooter to reach them, while on Hvar there are daily boat trips along the coast as well as to small islands just offshore.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 11:22 AM
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Thanks for the replies! It sounds like getting there in early May is not ideal, but we do have a very flexible itenirary to play with. We are flying into Vienna from Bangkok (only $570 USD!) and then thinking about heading south to Ljublanja and doing Lake Bled as mentioned here in the forum. We also are thinking about checking out Istria for about a week so we arrive on the coast in Mid-May.

Is Zagreb worth checking out or should we skip it?

Also, are we trying to do too much in a month on Croatia? We'd much rather sweep the coast and the islands than do anything inland (we are both beach junkies and on the endless search for swim and tan)

Sounds like the islands I may need a car for a few days which is fine. Has anyone had a car and/or scooter experience in Croatia?

Should we try to cram in both Hvar and Vis? Or just pick one? Both look so amazing!

Updated list:

1) Vienna to Slovenia and Lake Bled - 4 days
2) Istria region - 5 to 6 days
3) Zagreb, maybe? (is there a bus from Istria region directly to Plitvice? )
4) Plitvice for a day and night
5) Zadar or Sibenik - the nat'l park idea sounds awesome!
6) Split - 2 days
7) Toss up between Vis and Hvar Island
8) Is there a direct ferry to Korcula then to Dubrovnik?
9) If not, back to Split and bus to Dubrovnik
10) Haven't seen anyone mention Mljet...is it worth a few days?

All in all, we just want decent weather and a chance to see a lot of Croatia, but take our time. We could even do 40 days in Croatia if you guys think our list warrants it.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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I'll say skip Zagreb. You are visiting Vienna and likely Ljubljana, so you're getting an Austro-Hungarian fix already. Hopefully someone can chime in with a Slovenia-Istria transport idea where you can bypass Zagreb. (You may have to pass through anyway.) I recall finding the Rovinj bus timetables online in the past.

Since it won't quite be beach weather in early May, Istria is a great idea. I have always happily traveled without a car, but you might consider one for the early part of the trip because 1) You'll probably need one for Istria if you want to explore the small hill towns with ease, and 2) You could probably then drive to Plitvice and then south to Split and drop the car before heading to the islands. This is the portion where you might want the most freedom and flexibility to for example, stop in Sibenik or the mts north of Zadar.

The ferry schedule works as follows: Split-Hvar-Korcula-Dubrovnik (note this is not daily). So, you could choose those islands, and take the bus to Dbv from Korcula if necessary. Ferry website: http://www.jadrolinija.hr/default.aspx?lang=2
To go to Vis, you have to backtrack to Split. (an off-season connection between Vis and Hvar only runs once per week). However, I cannot dissuade anyone from Vis, my favorite island with the best beaches and best food. This is where I first rented a scooter, and it was a blast.

Your head must be swimming with all of the options for planning this trip.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 12:07 PM
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Slovenia has a decent bus system too, just like Croatia:

http://www.ap-ljubljana.si/eng/

I too would skip Zagreb unless you are passing through anyway, then it is probably worth a stop but one night is probably plenty.

FYI, while there is ferry between Split-Hvar-Korcula-Dubrovnik only about once a week in May (I believe), there is daily catamaran service between Split and Hvar.

I think you can get by on the islands without a car and that may even be more convenient. But travel between Istria and Dubrovnik by bus may be time consuming. Renting a car in Rovinj, stopping at Plitvice, and dropping the car in Dubrovnik would probably save you a lot of time and hassle. I guess you don't have to loop back if you aren't planning to detour over to Mostar like I did, so you could drop the car in Split instead of Dubrovnik before island hopping.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 12:08 PM
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I totally agree with the above poster to get a car if you want to go to Plitvice from Istria and then on to Split. For my trip this year (I also went in May) I was going to do exactly this, but then ended up cancelling a booked car because I didn't feel like driving it alone... after I cancelled and starting researching the buses (to Plitvice and also straight to Split) I remembered why I had booked the car in the first place. I ended up FLYING to Split from Pula... through Zagreb because the buses were all such a pain.

The coastal ferry only runs after June 1 I believe.

I LOVED Hvar (I am sure I will love Vis too, someday) and in May it should not be too crowded.
Here is a blog post I wrote about Hvar if you are interested...
http://poptarticus.com/2012/europe-2012/sea-change/

If you could do 40 days do a couple of extra in Ljublana - awesome city with a great nightlife, worth more than a couple of days for sure.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 12:40 PM
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We did a month in Croatia in shoulder season, mostly without a car, and had as many stops as you did - and brought our 3 year old with us. It was not too much. It was easy, as I recall.

We *did* need a car to get to Plitvice. We rented from the Zagreb airport, drove to the National Park, spent the night, and then returned it to the airport. If you really don't want to have a car, that's the way to do it.

I agree Zagreb can be skipped. The ferry from Korcula to Orebic is really quick - 15 minutes or so. From there you can catch a bus to Dubrovnik. We did this in the other direction.

If you add Rovinj in Istria, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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christycruz: We *did* need a car to get to Plitvice. We rented from the Zagreb airport, drove to the National Park, spent the night, and then returned it to the airport. If you really don't want to have a car, that's the way to do it.

It IS possible to do Plitvice without a car (although I had one). There is regular bus service between Zagreb, Plitvice, and Split. There are several park hotels you can stay at; I stayed at one of them even though I had a car, but the bus stop (which I saw) isn't far from one of the park entrances where the hotels are. Since my plan was to go from Plitvice on to Baska Voda and Mostar, a car made it a lot easier. If I had been headed from Zagreb to Plitvice on to Split, the bus would probably have been fine.

The ferry from Korcula to Orebic is really quick - 15 minutes or so. From there you can catch a bus to Dubrovnik. We did this in the other direction.

There is one bus a day that takes you direct: you get on or off in Korcula Town and it takes the ferry and then continues on to Dubrovnik or vice versa. I think there's another option (a bit convoluted) to take a bus from Oberic to the other side of the peninsula, take another ferry to the mainland, and then a direct bus on to Dubrovnik or Split. The only reason one would probably choose this option would be the early or late times of that one daily direct bus between Korcula and Dubrovnik.
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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@yorkshire – I think we are going to skip Zagreb. Thanks for the tip on the Austro-Hungarian fix. How is Istria? What are some must sees in that area of Croatia, and how long would you stay there if you had a month to play with?
As for Vis, you are saying that there is only one per week during my stay? I REALLY wanted to visit Vis, it looks surreal. Thanks for the ferry timetable! Is there a direct ferry from Vis to Hvar? We’d like to do Split – Vis – Hvar - Korcula – Dubrovnik if at all possible in May

@Andrew – renting a car in Istria sounds ideal, but is it possible to get a bus from Istria (Rjeka maybe) to Plitvice? We then wanted to head to either Zadar or Sibenik from there. Krka National Park sounds amazing too. Hows Mostar?

@rialtogirl “The coastal ferry only runs after June 1 I believe.” Does this mean we are now able to use the ferries? Your blog is awesome! I enjoyed reading about how the wind managed to blow oil out of your hair!
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 05:35 PM
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chrizninja83: renting a car in Istria sounds ideal, but is it possible to get a bus from Istria (Rjeka maybe) to Plitvice?

Do you mean Rovinj? I'm sure you can get a bus (probably through Pula), but it might not be a pleasant ride, with not-ideal connections. Find the site that shows Croatian bus routings and schedules (haven't looked at it in a while) and see. Zagreb is close to Plitvice (2 hrs away by car) so a bus between them wouldn't be bad, but Istria is further away and maybe not so directly connected.

Renting a car is just going to be easier. Driving in Croatia was no big worry - I found it pretty easy.

Hows Mostar?

It's a bit touristy during the day, better at night after the tour groups have gone. It's a nice contrast to Croatia: much less prosperous than the Croatian resort towns, plus Mostar is half Muslim, so that gives the town a very different (kind of exotic) feel compared to the Croatian towns.

Here are my Mostar pictures from 2009 if you care to view them:

http://www.portlandbridges.com/00,5D...zegovina-.html
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 06:48 PM
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Sorry - I meant the coastal ferry that Yorkshire put a link to above - the one from Rijeka to Split to Dubrovnik. Other ferries will be running...
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Old Nov 15th, 2012, 07:22 PM
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I travelled with two friends for three weeks down the coast of Croatia a few years back. We did it by bus and ferry, difficult to organise because of language differences and the fact that ferry timetables are published on a just-in-time basis!

We stopped in Korcula for a night and that was enough. It's a tiny little island and while it is exquisitely pretty, there's not a lot to do there.

I'll probably be shouted down here but I'm going to say it anyway: I don't know what you'll do for five days in Dubrovnik. Again it's very lovely but it is tiny. You can walk around the walls of the whole city in about an hour. The place fills up with about six thousand tourists off the cruise ships every day and can be nightmarish. We stayed down by the port for a couple of nights and spent day 1 visiting the city at 8am when the walls open for walking and the cruisers are still having breakfast; on day 2 two of us went to the beach and the third person went on a tour to Mostar.

We spent a couple of days on Hvar and for a beach experience I think that's the best. Make sure you take hard soled swimming shoes with you as the pebbles will kill your feet, not to mention the spines from the sea urchins that proliferate.

Split was OK, the Diocletian palace interesting, but again not a whole lot to do.

We enjoyed Zadar, which is a bigger city with fantastic white paved streets and a wonderful walkway along the water with a sea organ.

We also visited Rovinj, a lovely city to the north, and the island of Rab (though we had to get up at 4.30 to be on the only bus that was leaving the island that day!) Both of those places were lovely and Rab had good swimming beaches if you walked round the island a little.

We didn't go inland at all so I can't comment on your other places.

A note on the weather - I only just managed to get into the water in mid June and even then found it cool. So be prepared.
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Old Nov 16th, 2012, 02:43 AM
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If you do go to Mostar I strongly agree with the suggestion that you stay overnight. It is very crowded in the middle of the day with day trippers from the Croatian coast.
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Old Nov 16th, 2012, 07:26 AM
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I have not been to Istria yet, but Rovinj gets raves, as do the smaller hill towns such as Motovun. I know you are eager to get to the islands, so depending on your interests in Istria, you could easily fill a week or more, but a few days might suffice. I think you are going to have to transfer somewhere to get from Rovinj (provided that ends up your base) to Plitvice by bus. This is not too easy to sort out, so you may want to just e-mail a tourist office to find out. http://www.autobusni-kolodvor.com/ = Rovinj bus timetables
Going to Zadar first might be the solution. You can easily get from Plitvice to Split, or you may choose Krka instead. They are similar, but I have only seen Plitvice.

About Vis, I meant that in the off-season there is a connection between Vis and Hvar, but year-round there are only daily ferries between Vis and Split. I know all of the ferries can be confusing, so it is worth it to take a look at the maps on the jadrolinija website to get a sense of the ports. The summer 2013 schedules will not be posted yet, but you can see this year's. It is not a big deal to go from Split to Vis, then back to Split to get to Hvar. There are many options for getting from Split to Hvar, but not as many for getting from Hvar to Korcula--so that will be the tricky part. Note there is also a different ferry line that goes from Split to Korcula.

I have found these two resources very helpful:
http://islands.zesoi.fer.hr/
http://croatia.hr/en-GB/Homepage

Also, each region, island, and town usually has their own tourist website, and those are good links for info and accommodation links if you want to pre-book any. A last tip is to book rooms through the tourist office in town when you get there. In May I think you are safe booking upon arrival.

Good luck! Reading this makes me relive my trips to Croatia and think maybe it is time to return.
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