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Croatia Itinerary Help - Late May-Early June (15n)

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Hello! I come humbly seeking your collective wisdom.

Background & budget:
I'm a solo travelling Canadian woman in my late 20's, and this will be my first time in Croatia/the Mediterranean. (Previous solo trips were to Japan, England, and 'Benelux' with Paris at the end.) I have a fairly modest budget (trying to keep accommodation under $30CAD/160HRK so will go hosteling when I can) but willing to splash out on occasion when warranted. (My $80/night studio in Paris was well worth it, and the time I spent $60ish for a horseback ride through the Yorkshire dales). I usually try and keep to $100 or less/day averaged out including accommodation and in-country transport.

I like history, archaeology, architecture, taking in beautiful landscapes, and riding horses and bicycles. I've couch-surfed a few times and like socializing and meeting people and while I enjoy nature, I grew up in a small coastal lumber town so often old buildings do more for me than old trees. I like to dance but I don't drink and 'partying' isn't a big draw for me. Unfortunately I never developed a taste for seafood so that'll be a bit lost on me, but I do love eating tasty things. Some of my best travel memories have been just enjoying good coffee at a cafe with a view and soaking it in. I like a bit of adventure in the sense of exploration, but I'm a bit risk averse. I also travel fairly light with carry on only, and never check luggage unless it's a few souvenirs from my last departure point to home.

Does this rough itinerary make sense? (fyi - I arrive in Venice for a couple of days first and am meeting up with a friend in Budapest at the end before flying home.) Places in () indicate where the night is spent. I have a lot of 2 night stops and I usually aim to keep to 3 nights when possible but I've found sometimes 1-2 nights are OK if it's in a similar region. That said, moving around a lot can be a pain so perhaps I should pick between Split and Sibenik. Aside - I don't even have a Canadian driver's license and only commute by bike and bus at home so... a car rental is out of the question. I thought about leaving off Dubrovnik for logistic's sake. But..

May 20 Venice - Rovinj (Rovinj) **bus to Trieste and down or ferry to Rovinj for 67 euro?
May 21 Rovinj (Rovinj)
May 22 Rovinj (Rovinj) *day trip/excurison to Motovan and/or Grožnjan, Zavrśje
May 23 Rovinj - Pula (Pula)
May 24 Pula - Zadar (Zadar) Seems like flying is the best option?
May 25 Zadar (Zadar) *day trip to Plitvice
May 26 Zadar - Šibenik (Šibenik)
May 27 Šibenik (Šibenik)
May 28 Šibenik - Split (Split)
May 29 Split (Split)
May 30 Split - Hvar? (Hvar) ferry?
May 31 Hvar - Korkula (Korkula) ferry?
June 1 Korkula (Korkula)
June 2 Korkula - Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik) - by bus?
June 3 Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik)
June 4 Dubrovnik - Zagreb (Zagreb) fly dub-zag afternoon?
June 5 Zagreb (dep afternoon train) - Budapest (Budapest)

I'm a bit ham-stringed in Istria with a lack of a car so I may have to just shell out for an 'excursion'. I know people usually suggest doing Plitvice overnight but I feel OK with only seeing part of it. I'm a bit less certain about the last portion of the trip. Which islands and what makes sense is still unclear.


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    Hi, I'm from Split, Croatia. Here's my suggestion:

    Go to Split and stay there all your vacation. From Split it's only an hour with a bus to Šibenik. Also if you want to see Dubrovnik it's not that far. Want to go to island? No problem, very close as well.

    Split and Trogir are full of really amazing historical sites, you'll never be bored... plus they're much bigger(basically one town) than any other town on Croatian coast.

    I don't think it's a good idea to go on a vacation and then spend half of time traveling from place to place.

    Šibenik is amazing town with beatiful nature(the Krka waterfalls for example).

    There are quite a few cheap hostels in Split as well.

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    Thanks for the feedback! I think you're probably right. Honestly when I was planning this out, I thought that with just 15 (er..16) nights, I had to probably prioritize south or north, and coming from Venice and going to Budapest, it just makes more sense to be in the north and center. This is usually part of the planning process. Get too excited by all the places you want to pretend you live, and end up over-stuffing it. One always has to imagine one might come back one day.

    Possible alternative:
    2n Venice

    May 20 Venice - Rovinj (Rovinj) *bus to Trieste and down or ferry to Rovinj for 67 euro?
    May 21 Rovinj (Rovinj)
    May 22 Rovinj (Rovinj) *day trip/excurison to Motovan and/or Grožnjan, Zavrśje
    May 23 Rovinj - Pula (Pula)
    May 24 Pula (Pula)
    May 25 Pula - Zadar (Zadar) flying 6am
    May 26 Zadar (Zadar) *day trip to Plitvice
    May 27 Zadar (Zadar)
    May 28 Zadar - (Zadar)
    May 29 Zadar - Šibenik (Šibenik)
    May 30 Šibenik - (Šibenik)
    May 31 Šibenik - Split (Split)
    Jun 1 Split (Split)dt to Hvar or other island
    Jun 2 Split(Split)
    June 3 Split - Zagreb(Zagreb)
    June 4 Zagreb (Zagreb)
    June 5 Zagreb (dep afternoon train) - Budapest (Budapest)

    (I've got 6n in Budapest before I go home)

    I'd hoped to spend a night or two on an island but I suppose day trips can work too. I could also still turn those 2 Šibenik nights into Split nights (or island nights...)

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    No offense to Klarion, but I didn't fall in love with Split. Some tourists do love the city and rave about it, but I wasn't one of them. I would not want to spend so much time there.

    Your original itinerary looks OK to me. Dubrovnik is really unique - if you are nearby, try not to miss it. It does get touristy during the day with cruise ship traffic, but it's much nicer at night (even worse in Venice, which feels crowded like Disneyland during the day - yuck).

    Staying over on one island for a few nights makes sense but probably not two islands. Hvar or Korcula may be the most practical choices without a car. I visited Korcula for a few nights, not Hvar. You can catamaran from Split to Hvar and Korcula then bus from Korcula Town to Dubrovnik - I did it the opposite direction. I think the timing of the catamaran makes it difficult to do your stop-over in Hvar that way, Korcula is easier. Catamaran from Hvar back to Split then bus to Dubrovnik might even be easier if you wanted to stay over in Hvar.

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    Hi Andrew.
    Thanks for your reply. Since I will be in a larger city for a week at the end of my journey (Budapest), I had been a bit more intrigued by smaller cities.

    Making my own head spin here. Someone said it was a real shame I only had half a day in Zagreb. I was mostly looking at it as a way to get on to Budapest, with just an afternoon to poke around, but I could give it one extra night too. Added a night to Pula just for a bit more Istria breathing room. Here are the kind of four options I'm now considering:

    7 destinations in 16 nights:
    With Dubrovnik, more Split than Zadar (for day trip to Sibenik) and Korkula:
    3n Rovinj *Motovan, Groznjan
    2n Pula - fly to Zadar 6am
    2n Zadar *Plitvice
    3n Split *Sibenik
    2n Korkula
    2n Dubrovnik - fly to Zagreb?
    2n Zagreb

    With Dubrovnik, more Zadar, Sibenik and Korkula, no Split:
    3n Rovinj *Motovan, Groznjan
    2n Pula - fly to Zadar 6am
    3n Zadar *Plitvice
    2n Sibenik *Krka NP
    2n Korkula
    2n Dubrovnik + fly to zagreb?
    2n Zagreb

    6 destinations in 16 nights:
    With Dubrovnik but Sibenik just as a Split daytrip:
    3n Rovinj *Motovan, Groznjan
    2n Pula - fly to Zadar 6am
    3n Zadar *Plitvice
    3n Split *Sibenik
    3n Dubrovnik *island daytrip - fly to zagreb?
    2n Zagreb

    Without Dubrovnik:
    3n Rovinj *Motovan, Groznjan
    2n Pula - fly to Zadar 6am
    3n Zadar *Plitvice
    2n Sibenik *Krka NP
    4n Split *Brac, Trogir?
    2n Zagreb

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    Let me start by saying that I am a very unusual beast – a Fodorite who is completely willing to relocate every day or so, if that is what best suits my interests. I loathe backtracking, so if I can move onward in a reasonable way, I will! But note that I am an experienced solo traveler, I travel light, and I do a LOT of advance research, so my transition times (the time for finding where I want to be, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, etc.) are all about as short as they can be. I do NOT recommend lots of changes of hotel for most people!

    But if you can and want to, I’ve found some advantages to doing so. For example, I think I remember places where I spend a night because I see them in both daylight and in the evening. They are never just another “day trip.”

    So, with that important caveat in mind, here are my thoughts:

    “day trip to Plitvice”

    If you can spend overnight at the Plitvice Lakes, I strongly recommend it. Part of what makes these lakes so magnificent is that each has unique microbiota, and as a result, the lakes are different colors. 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).

    “May 30 Split - Hvar? (Hvar) ferry?
    May 31 Hvar - Korkula (Korkula) ferry?
    June 1 Korkula (Korkula)
    June 2 Korkula - Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik) - by bus?”

    You’ll have to check the ferry schedules very carefully to see if this routing is possible.

    “June 4 Dubrovnik - Zagreb (Zagreb) fly dub-zag afternoon?
    June 5 Zagreb (dep afternoon train) - Budapest (Budapest)”

    That doesn’t give you much time in Zagreb. FWIW, I really enjoyed it and thought it underrated; others don’t like it so much.

    I agree with Klarion that Split is a vibrant and dynamic city, and that Trogir is well worth seeing. Whether that means basing there is another question. ;-)

    Re: your 2nd proposed itinerary:

    I enjoyed Zadar, but 1 day was enough for me. YMMV.

    One other thought: You might want to consider traveling from south to north at that time of year. But definitely lay out the options, as I believe the ferry schedules change on 1 June, and that could affect your options.

    I visited Croatia at the same time of year and LOVED it. Enjoy! :-)

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    PS - I was composing my reply to your earlier posts while you were rethinking your plans. I'll try to review your newest ideas later.

    You might want to consider giving us at least 24 hours to respond before you shift your plans. That way, you'll have a better chance of taking ALL of our thoughts into consideration. :-)

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    On my trip to Croatia, I wound up with two nights in Zagreb - arrived late the first day, left early the last day, so really only one full day - and honestly, half a day would have been fine for me. I needed to pick up a car in Zagreb, the main reason I spent two nights. It is very worth spending at least half a day there exploring the center of town - interesting place.

    Zagreb is another one of those places that has a few champions but generally, it does not seem to make many highlight lists. It's hard to know whether you are one of those who will love it (and/or Split) or not. I wouldn't have regretted having only one night and a long afternoon in Zagreb, though.

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    I like option A best, but that doesn’t mean much – what matters is what suits YOUR interests the most! I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from the train/bus station or whatever, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together.

    As I said above, I enjoyed Zadar, and found a day there sufficient for my interests.

    I really enjoyed Split – one of my favorite places in Croatia. As you see, people disagree about it. BTW, Trogir is a real gem – it is TINY and is only about ½ hour from Split. :-) Some people prefer to base in Trogir and visit Split from there. Given what you have said of your interests, I would think you would find the ambience of Split more to your taste for the evenings, but I could easily be wrong, so give some thought to both options!

    I truly enjoyed my time in Sibenik, and thought it a perfect base for the Krka National Park (if you decide to visit it) – but you are correct in thinking you can see it from other places you plan to visit. It’s really YOUR call about what works best for you. In light of what you say of your interests, if you decide to skip the Krka NP, Sibenik may be something you can skip, or visit just long enough to see its remarkable cathedral.

    Dubrovnik can be hard to reach, so I agree with Andrew that if you are close enough to include it in your plans, and can, doing so is worth considering.

    Again, you need to check the ferry schedules CAREFULLY, but if you have a choice between Hvar and Korcula, here are my observations, in case they prove helpful: I enjoyed Hvar Town, but found it a bit too upscale for my tastes. If you decide to skip Dubrovnik, it may give you a taste of some of some of Croatia’s finest Venetian-inspired architecture (although you’ll get a bit – just a TINY bit -- of that in Rovinj, too). (And I'm not suggesting that Hvar Town and Dubrovnik are interchangeable -- I adored Dubrovnik!) Another option would be staying in a different town on Hvar – I stayed in Stari Grad, with just a day trip to Hvar Town – but I had a specific interest in visiting Stari Grad and suspect that it isn’t a widely shared one. Personally, I preferred Korcula Town to Hvar Town, but that’s just me – I found Korcula Town low key and beautiful and fascinating. If you have an interest in local traditions and can visit Korcula on a night when the amazing moresca is performed, give it serious consideration!

    As for Istria, I just noticed that you have no time in Porec. Maybe that’s intentional, but given your interests, you might want to see if you can find time for it. I know – FAR too much to see! As the saying goes – the world is full of insurmountable opportunities. ;-)

    I spent 2.5 days in Zagreb and would have LOVED more time there – but again – as you can see -- not everyone likes it as much as I did. It really depends on YOUR interests.

    BTW, I trust you have a really good guidebook or two? Of the half-dozen or so I used when planning my time in the area, I found the Rough Guide BY FAR the most useful.

    I can understand the urge to decide on a plan! But many of us check in to Fodor’s only once every day, and sometimes a bit more erratically on weekends. ;-) ANYONE planning a trip to Croatia on Fodor’s should at least wait until yorkshire checks in. :-)

    You are facing some difficult choices, but the good news is that you aren’t facing any bad choices!

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    Thanks again for the invaluable input. Andrew - good to get the balance of perspective.

    kja - I seem to recall you helping out with suggestions for my Japan trip last year. :) It seems like ferries pick up after June 1st, though I found that some of my initial ferry hopes were dashed when I had though I might island hop down from Pula to Zadar.

    I did look a bit at Porec but maybe it needs its own full day. Tiiime. ;) Still, nice to have the luxury of too much choice. Your observations of Hvar and Korkula seem to match what others have suggested. Thanks for the insight.

    One 'plan E' I didn't consider, but which might obviate the need for two flights, is if I fly Pula to Dubrovnik and then wend my way up from there to an island, onto Split then Zadar and over to Zagreb. Something like 2n Pula - 2n Dubrovnik - 2n Korkula or other- 3n Split - 2n Zadar, 2n Zagreb (since I can bus in in the morning and might eat up a whole Zadar day with Plitvice, perhaps I could steal a night from Zagreb to add back to Zadar or even Split or a town nearby )

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    Having had a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Japan, I do try to help others out with their time there - I hope I provided information that was useful, even if only to help you see differences in the ways in which we travel! ;-)

    I think it is hard to "island hop" from Istria -- my recollection is that ferries through the islands of the Kvarnar Gulf were a bit more difficult to fit into the routes that interested me than ferries from Split and south. I'm sure that varies with the season and one's interests.

    Porec could easily merit a day. But with limited time, and an interest in architecture, if you can find a way to fit in a few hours for the magnificent Euphrasian Basilica, I don't think you'd regret it. FWIW, although I enjoyed Motovun and other hill towns, I'd give them up in a heartbeat to see that basilica. JMO!

    BTW, have you completely ruled out a rental car just for a few days? I certainly understand if you don't want to do that, but if you could pick up a rental in Rovinj, use it to explore Istria and then the Plitvice Lakes, and then return it when you reach a city along the coast, it would simplify a lot! (And of course, you could do that in reverse, too....)

    Is "tillme" a new word/acronym that I don't know? Or just one of our beloved autocorrections?)

    Plan E could be worth pursuing! Depending on when you move, Korcula may only require one night (I got there late afternoon by bus from Dubrovnik and left late afternoon the next day via ferry from Vela Luka, on the other side of the island -- you should be able to get there by bus). Then, later, you could go from Zadar to the Plitvice Lakes and spend the night, and move on to Zagreb the next day. Again, I think you would do well to lay things out on a calendar with attention to transit times, opening hours, and -- most importantly -- YOUR interests.

    And do give yorkshire and others a chance to chime in!

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    hi kja!
    hi musicdiver, of all of your iterations, I think this makes the most sense:
    "One 'plan E' I didn't consider, but which might obviate the need for two flights, is if I fly Pula to Dubrovnik and then wend my way up from there to an island, onto Split then Zadar and over to Zagreb. Something like 2n Pula - 2n Dubrovnik - 2n Korkula or other- 3n Split - 2n Zadar, 2n Zagreb (since I can bus in in the morning and might eat up a whole Zadar day with Plitvice, perhaps I could steal a night from Zagreb to add back to Zadar or even Split or a town nearby )."
    1) Have you checekd to see that there is a direct Pula-Dbv flight?
    2) You would still start in Rovinj, right? I have not made it to Istria yet, but it seems to everyone's favorite. It is well linked to Pula by bus--you may not need two nights in Pula. That would be my only suggestion--put some one nighters in there so you can have three-nighters elsewhere.
    Also, at this time of year, you can basically wing it. If a town is not really doing it for you, just move on. No need to book everything. You really can't go wrong.

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    Thanks for the help everyone. Apologies for disappearing! Things got hectic with work and before I knew it weeks had flown by. Two weeks 'till departure!

    Currently the plan has been amended to match closely with plan E. Taking Yorkshire's advice on board, I've planned to stay in Rovinj alone for Istria and just day trip (alas, no license = no car so busing or bicycling for me) to nearby towns.

    5n - Rovinj (will make sure to do a Porec day trip - thanks kja!)
    *4pm flight from Pula to Dubrovnik, arr 10pm
    2n - Dubrovnik
    4n - Split * figure I'll just do island day trips since early season still & a bit awkward to get to islands
    1n - Sibenik/Other Smaller Place
    2n - Zadar
    2n - Zagreb
    *could also put that 1 night in between Zadar and Zagreb for Plitvice.

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    I am in Bosnia now having just done a week driving down from Rovinj to Montenegro.

    Rovinj was amazing, but I had only two nights there. I visited the hill towns the day I left Rovinj. Driving made getting there easier, of course. But I did not personally feel deprived having only two nights there; another would have been nice but I thought my time better used elsewhere.

    Can you hire a driver to take you to a few of the towns in one day? I saw four of them; Groznjan was the best in terms of town itself, old buildings and galleries and the like. The town almost felt too perfect, like a movie set. Motovan is larger and has better views. I also saw Zavrsje (almost uninhabited - mostly old buildings in disrepair) and Buje (really a modern working town with some old buildings - some neat stuff).

    I also day tripped to Pula. Probably a waste of time, but the weather wasn't so nice that day anyway. I'd seen Roman ruins before.

    So far, Montenegro has been the highlight of my trip (I've been to Croatia on a previous trip). Breathtaking scenery in the Bay of Kotor - wow! I highly recommend taking one of those Rovinj nights, if you can, and adding a night to Dubrovnik so you can day trip to Kotor from there (I spent a night in Kotor; you could too, but without a car, I'm not sure how that works out). The old city of Kotor itself wasn't really that amazing (if you've been to Dubrovnik), but climbing the walls above it was a great experience. A scenic drive through the mountains to Cetinje (a drive recommended by Rick Steves) was amazing - probably the most scenic drive I have ever taken. I know there are buses that take that route, as I had to navigate around some of them!

    Sibenik was wonderful - I stopped off for only a few hours between Zadar and Trogir. I had the best meal of my trip there (so far), in an empty Italian restaurant on a Sunday early evening. Compared to other places on your itinerary, Sibenik was wonderfully free of tourists, too.

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