Help with Croatia Itinerary

Jan 20th, 2014, 12:28 PM
  #1  
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Help with Croatia Itinerary

I don't really know where to begin w/ a Croatia itinerary. I'm looking for a relaxing trip with beautiful scenery ... we tend to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or biking more than museums. My one "must-see" on a Croatia trip is Plitvice National Park. Otherwise want at least a few days on the coast or islands. Dubrovnik looks most appealing, and especially cool because it would allow us to take a day trip to Kotor, Montenegro. But it also is further from the national park than some of the other coast cities. It also seems a little more out of the way when looking at getting to Croatia from the US ... most connecting flights seem to go into Split or Zagreb.

Anyway, thoughts on putting together an itinerary with some of these cities, listed in order of my preference, based mostly off of google images ? Trip would be ~7 day trip in August or September. Which of these locations are more interesting to actually spend a few days? I don't expect to see them all.

Plitvice National Park
Dubrovnik
Kotor
Split
Hvar
Zagreb
k_traveler is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 12:36 PM
  #2  
 
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My wife and I did Croatia and surrounding areas last year. We flew into Dubrovnik (its easier to fly into it than out given the flight times). We spent 1 night in Kotor, which was lovely, then one night in Mostar, Bosnia. After that we did an afternoon in Split, with 2 nights in Zadar. We enjoyed Zadar - would have liked to have gone to Hvar, but the ferry times weren't convenient. Finished up in Zagreb, which is a do not miss.

We did not stop in Plitvice, but its not too far out of the way if you're going from Split to Zagreb. Happy to provide specifics if you need them. Our trip was 10 days.
robertcoon is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 01:09 PM
  #3  
 
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Plitvice was my favorite spot in Croatia, so you're right to have that at the top of your list. It is most convenient to Zagreb than to anywhere else on your list, but like a lot of others I didn't much care for Zagreb (not a bad place at all, just not that interesting to me or not a terrifically beautiful city). Some like robertcoon do like Zagreb, but I think he is in the minority.

(Click on my name to check out my 2009 trip report from Croatia.)

Seven days is not much time - does that mean seven nights IN Croatia or seven nights INCLUDING arrival/departure? Is it really not possible to add a few days? Yes, it is harder to get to/from Croatia and the US without extra time. (I arrived in Italy and trained over from Slovenia and then flew back via a stop overnight in Paris - but I had more time.) You could also look at separate easyJet flights between big European hubs like London or Milan (many flights are seasonal, may end in August).

You could arrive in Zagreb, rent a car (I found driving in Croatia a piece of cake), drive 2hrs to Plitvice, spend one night, drive on to Split, drop the car, and take a catamaran on to Hvar or Korcula, spend a night or two (probably one or the other, not both), and end in Dubrovnik (by ferry or bus). You could do Kotor as a day trip if you have three nights in Dubrovnik (to me, Dubrovnik is outstanding yet doesn't really require lots of time, so a whole day devoted to a day trip to Kotor seems fine to me. You could rent a car for a day or perhaps take a bus or excursion tour down.

With 7 nights in Croatia, I'd do one in Zagreb, one in Plitvice, two or three on one of the islands, and two or three in Dubrovnik. If you can add a night or two, spend it in Split/Trogir or add another night on an island. (Or detour to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina - a nice contrast to Croatia.)
Andrew is online now  
Jan 20th, 2014, 03:30 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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With only 7 days you will have to be very selective. The plan Andrew outlines is worth considering. Or with so little time, you might consider focusing your time in northern Croatia, maybe Istria or one of the islands of the Kvarner Gulf. Be sure to give yourself at least 6 or 8 hours for the Plitvice Lakes.

A good guide book should prove quite helpful to you. The most useful of the ones I used was The Rough Guide.
kja is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 03:36 PM
  #5  
 
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My take: fly into Dubrovnik, take a bus tour to Kotor, rent a car upon leaving Dubrovnik, drive up the Dalmatian coast to Dvrenik, take ferry to Hvar, after a night on Hvar, take ferry to Split and drive to Plitvice. Return to Split, drop car, fly home. I'd drop Zagreb since you're short of time and seem to prefer the coast.

Really this is still too many stops for a week, not a leisurely trip. Like Andrew, I'd like to see you add a couple days at least. Or drop one of Hvar or Dubrovnik.

Croatia isn't easy to get to and rushing through your time there kind of misses the great virtue of Croatia, its easy-going, laid back, trip-back-in-time atmosphere.
Mimar is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 04:44 PM
  #6  
 
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Mimar: My take: fly into Dubrovnik, take a bus tour to Kotor, rent a car upon leaving Dubrovnik, drive up the Dalmatian coast to Dvrenik, take ferry to Hvar, after a night on Hvar, take ferry to Split and drive to Plitvice. Return to Split, drop car, fly home. I'd drop Zagreb since you're short of time and seem to prefer the coast.

If you have driven to Plitvice from Split, I'd say continue to Zagreb, drop the car, and fly home out of there - it's a quicker drive than driving back to Split as I recall, plus flight options out of Zagreb are likely better than from Split to fly home. One-way car rentals within Croatia may not be more expensive than returning to the same location. (I did the opposite in 2009: picked up in Zagreb, returned in Dubrovnik.) Plus then you can at least see a bit of Zagreb - a few hours the evening before you fly home perhaps. That's better than nothing.

With Plitice, it's best to see the park first thing in the morning before the tour groups arrive, when it can get mobbed (I'd think especially so in August). So a plan of a long day of driving from Hvar via Split with a late arrival in Plitvice, see the park the next morning and then on to Zagreb and home the next morning isn't a bad plan.

Just note that car ferries may not run every day. It is in fact possible to do all of this WITHOUT a car. If you can get from Dubrovnik to Hvar by ferry (timed on the right day), then you can get daily from Hvar to Split by catamaran (passengers only). And there are daily buses between Split - Plitvice and Plitvice - Zagreb. (You can stay at a park hotel for simplicity - there are three hotels right in the park.) Ferry service may be more daily available during August, not sure (I was there in October, when the they have moved to largely an off-season schedule.)

(It's amazing that I remember all this stuff almost five years later. But my Croatia trip was the most complicated trip I've ever taken, so I guess it's kind of burned into my memory!)
Andrew is online now  
Jan 20th, 2014, 05:05 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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"With Plitice, it's best to see the park first thing in the morning before the tour groups arrive, when it can get mobbed"

I actually went to the park AFTER most of the tour groups so I could explore at leisure without worrying about them catching up and overtaking me. That worked extremely well for me. As I recall, I started at about 10:30 a.m. and two tour groups quickly caught up with and passed me. I then spent the next 7 hours or so in relative peace. Lovely!!
kja is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 06:10 PM
  #8  
 
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Only two tour groups? What time of year? I expect in August there will be a dozen groups. (I have no idea if park officials limit how many people can go in.)

In October 20009, I spent part of two days in the park: an afternoon and the following morning. In the afternoon, it was difficult to get a shot of a few of the bigger waterfalls without a person in the shot. The next morning, I went out before 10AM and had a much easier time - almost no one there. After about ten, the mobs starting coming back, so I left.

Just to give some perspective, though, Plivice is a huge park. It's easy to find places in the park that don't people even when there a lot of people, but there are a few popular spots (a few of the best waterfalls) in the park, and that's where I seemed to encounter the groups. You can hike all over the place and away from where the groups are if you wish.
Andrew is online now  
Jan 20th, 2014, 06:13 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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The point is that I got there AFTER most of the tour groups.
kja is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 07:16 PM
  #10  
kja
 
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I just checked my records - it was June 10. And BTW, from the top, before I ventured into the park, I could see MASSES of people there -- lots and lots of tour groups that had entered the grounds in the hour or two before I got there.
kja is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 07:51 PM
  #11  
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Thanks for the tips! I will certainly browse through your trip report Andrew. The 7 days is a starting point since the trip is still a ways out in the future. Realistically I'll end up adding a day or two and shortening my sight-seeing list.
k_traveler is offline  
Jan 21st, 2014, 03:02 PM
  #12  
 
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We travel to Croatia fairly often from Seattle. My personal preference is now this: Fly to Split, and get to the islands (Hvar, Korčula or Brač) quick, either same day or after an overnight in Split, without getting a rental car. It is easy, the ferry ride is relaxing and beautiful, and nothing beats being on the islands and enjoying some swimming, hiking, etc.

It also seems to be the best for me and jet lag, as it's a long trip across the pond... a couple days to unwind without worrying about a rental car, driving in a foreign country, etc. None of that is overly hard, but I just prefer to chill more the first couple days and focus on the wine, food and seaviews!

I love Dubrovnik, but am not crazy about it that time of year, just too many cruise ships, tons of steps, combined with the heat...I would go north. Maybe get a rental car in Split after your time on the islands, hit Plitvice, finish out in Zagreb or even a sidetrip to Istria before returning the rental car.

All of Croatia is about the size of one medium US state, so you can definitely cover a lot of ground, especially with a car...but I bet you'll enjoy your trip more if you are not travelling every other day.
stefica01 is offline  

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