Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Itinerary Help: Zagreb -> Dubrovnik (10 Nights) (

k_traveler Mar 12th, 2016 07:02 PM

Itinerary Help: Zagreb -> Dubrovnik (10 Nights)
Would love thoughts on a 10 day itinerary from Zagreb to Dubrovnik in August (I know, not ideal but that's when we have time).

This will likely be our only trip to this region, so want to see a lot of the "highlights." I think I'm most excited about experiencing the differences between the various towns we visit, and exploring Croatia's diverse natural features in an active way (hiking/biking/kayaking). Advice on the itinerary, transportation recommendations (currently planning on renting a car), favorite biking/kayaking excursions in this region, and if you recommend guides or do it yourself for excursions such as Kotor, Mostar, and biking/kayaking adventures is much appreciated! Thanks so much!

Day 1 (Zagreb): Fly into Zagreb, explore in afternoon
Day 2 (Plitvice): Drive to Plitvice on day 2, see the park, and spend the night.
Day 3-5 (Sibenik/Trogir/Split): Drive to coast, possibly stopping in Zadar on the way. Where do you recommend staying in this region? Thinking of doing day trip to one of the islands and/or biking excursion and/or Krka Waterfalls.
Day 6 (Mostar):Interested in stopping here on the way to Dubrovnik because it seems like a stark contrast to the other towns we'll be seeing. Do you think a night here is worthwhile?
Day 7-11 (Dubrovnik): want to spend one day for a sea kayaking excursion & thinking of one day for Kotor. Fly out early on Day 11.

kja Mar 12th, 2016 07:31 PM

Wow -- you are trying to fit in a LOT!!! It could be do-able, but only you can figure out whether you actually have time to see / do the things that are your highest priorities.

"Day 2 (Plitvice)"

I recommend that you make sure you have at least 6 hours in the park itself (including time for the boat that connects the lower and upper lakes), and by all means, start at the lowest part of the park so you are facing the falls as you proceed. My reasoning is that these the lakes are not only connected by travertine waterfall formations, but moreover, each lake 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, and that takes something on the order of 6 hours or more

"Day 3-5 (Sibenik/Trogir/Split): Drive to coast, possibly stopping in Zadar on the way. .. Thinking of doing day trip to one of the islands and/or biking excursion and/or Krka Waterfalls."

I can't imagine seeing Zadar AND Sibenik AND Trogir AND Split AND the Krka National Park (let alone one of the islands of that part of the country) in just 3 days. By way of comparison, I spent 7 days in these areas, traveled HARD, avoided back-tracking, and still felt that I had to be extremely selective in what I saw. It really depends on what YOU want to see and do, so again, I encourage you to make sure you actually have time for what most interests you.

"(Mostar):.... Do you think a night here is worthwhile?"

I thought Mostar much more enchanting in the evening, after day-trippers had left, and was VERY glad that I chose to spend a night there.

"Day 7-11 (Dubrovnik)"

You can probably cut one day from Dubrovnik -- that would still give you one day for kayaking, one for Kotor, and one for Dubrovnik itself, before flying out.

I did not feel any need for a guide in any of these locations.

I thought public transportation in Croatia easy and convenient -- but given how very much you are trying to fit into such limited time, you will probably need a rental car. Be aware, though, that many of the cities you plan to visit are not particularly car-friendly, and make sure you have plans for where to park.

Croatia is delightful -- enjoy!

mike1728 Mar 13th, 2016 04:40 AM

We just did the opposite travel in May, however we had 14 days and had been to the Croatia prior to this trip so we had seen some of the "highlights" already.

We had 2 days in Dubrovnik which was not enough (should have had 3 but as our flight was approaching Dubrovnik we suddenly ascended very quickly and landed in Zagreb due to lightening storms in the area). We then had to fly from Zagreb to Split the next day and rent a car to Dubrovnik, thus losing an entire day (Lufthansa paid all expenses, including hotel and meals in Zagreb). Bottom line, I think 3 days would have perfect for Dubrovnik. After Dubrovnik we rented an apartment directly on the Adriatic in the little village of Komarna which made for easy day tips to Mostar (Loved it!), Ston, and various small villages along the Adriatic. Form Komarna we spent a week in an apartment, again directly on the Adriatic in the little village of Sparadici which made for easy day trips into Sibenik, Primosten, Trogir, Split and Skradin and Krka National Park (Waterfalls).
You may consider driving from Zagreb to your town of choice in the Sibenik area and skip Plitvice and Zadar, as KJA advised you may be cramming to see too much, which in my opinion can really do a disservice to a great vacation.
LOVE Croatia!

Vttraveler Mar 13th, 2016 05:59 AM

I think Mostar is an interesting side trip and much more enjoyable with an overnight visit. I would worry about the heat in August, though.

k_traveler Mar 15th, 2016 07:28 PM

Thank you for the ideas! And glad to hear people loved Mostar, I'm more convinced it needs to stay in our trip!

Plitvice is one of the places I'm most excited about seeing. I plan to spend the night so we can dedicate as much time as we need and hopefully enjoy a few hours before the mobs of other tourists join. If spending the night, is it better to enjoy a couple hours the day we arrive and see the rest the next morning, or would splitting the visit into two days result in a lot of backtracking through the park?

My current itinerary is 4 nights, 3 full days in Dubrovnik, with one dedicated to sea kayaking and another to a daytrip to Kotor - really only one day for Dubrovnik itself. So I don't really want to reduce my time there unless I skip the daytrip to Kotor. Would you recommend dropping a daytrip to Kotor, and/or dropping the day in Zagreb, for more time in central Dalmatia?

kja Mar 15th, 2016 07:48 PM

"Plitvice ... is it better to enjoy a couple hours the day we arrive and see the rest the next morning, or would splitting the visit into two days result in a lot of backtracking through the park?"

As noted above, I strongly recommend a SINGLE loop through the park, and specifically from the lower part to the highest part. If you try to split your time into two loops on different days, plan on a LOT of extra time, as you'll essentially have to backtrack to your starting point on each trip. JMO.

"Would you recommend dropping a daytrip to Kotor, and/or dropping the day in Zagreb, for more time in central Dalmatia?"

You might need a night in Zagreb to get over jet lag before renting a car. (Most people don't realize that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to themselves AND others, as driving drunk.)

FWIW, Kotor bears similarities to Dubrovnik IMO. It is, IME, worth visiting, but I personally wouldn't make time for it with the itinerary you are contemplating. Again, JMO.

k_traveler Mar 17th, 2016 09:41 AM

I've been playing around with the itinerary to try to get more time on the coast/islands. Thoughts on this itinerary as an alternative: Plitvice (1 Night), Central Dalmatia Coast (2 Nights), Island (3 Nights), Mostar (1 Night), Dubrovnik (3 Nights).

1. I believe this gives me time to visit two of: Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, and Split. Which two do you recommend visiting? And where on the coast would you recommend staying (coming from Plitvice and next taking a ferry to an island)? Hoping to visit two towns that provide a nice contrast from each other and the other places I am visiting this trip.
2. Which island do you recommend staying at for 3 nights (2 full days)? My idea of a fun island stay would include a 3-4 hour bike ride in the morning and exploring the main town in the afternoon/evening, and then repeating this for a neighboring island the 2nd day. Leaning towards Brac and Hvar, mostly because the ferry times seem relatively short and its hard to otherwise distinguish between the islands.
3. Would you return the rental car in Split before going to the island, and then pick up a new rental car for the drive from Split->Mostar->Dubrovnik? Or take a car ferry and keep the car on the islands?

More Detailed Itinerary:
Day 1 (Plitvice): Land in Zagreb around 13:00. Rent car and drive to Plitvice. Spend afternoon exploring Rastoke on the way (in part because it doesn't seem like there's much to do outside of Plitvice if I get there earlier). Will have arrived in Europe a couple days before so not worried about jet lag.
Day 2-3 (Central Dalmatia Coast): Get to Plitvice Park around opening, plan to spend ~6 hours in park. Drive to coast, arriving around dinner time. Spend 2 nights in central Dalmatia (town TBD)
Day 4-7 (Island): Afternoon of day 4, take a ferry or catamaran from Split to Island of choice for 3 nights (giving me 2 full days on the island).
Day 7 (Mostar): Take ferry back to Split, drive to Mostar arriving in early afternoon.
Day 8-11 (Dubrovnik): Drive from Mostar to Dubrovnik on day 8, stopping in Poltejc and Ston on the way. This gives me an afternoon + 2 full days in Dubrovnik. Plan to spend one of those days on a sea kayaking excursion around the Elaphite Islands. Early morning flight on day 11.


kja Mar 17th, 2016 04:39 PM

It sounds to me that you really only have 1.5 days in what you are calling the "central Dalmatia Coast" (and that might be the correct appellation! I'm not questioning you, just trying to be clear) -- day 3 and until afternoon of day 4. If you are most interested in the one place among the set of Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, and Split that is MOST different than anything else you are planning to visit, I would say Split. Split has an established tourism infrastructure, but is not dependent upon tourists. It is, instead, a lively and dynamic city with a university and some unique sites (including Diocletian's Palace, its Peristyle, and the magnificent cathedral that was once Diocletian's mausoleum). Split also has a stunningly beautiful lungamare, complete with lots of lively cafes, some great markets, and some interesting little museums. I loved Split -- its one of my favorite places in Croatia (and that says a LOT), but not everyone likes it.

BTW, tiny Trogir is only 1/2 hour by bus from Split so -- depending on your interests, you might be able to cram that into your plans somehow. It has some of the most awesome stonework of any place in Croatia, but in many ways (basic layout, style, setting) it is IMO more like Dubrovnik and Hvar than some of the other places you are considering.

Likewise, I really enjoyed Sibenik, but am not sure it would optimize your diversity. That said, its Cathedral of St. James has some very unusual architectural features (e.g., the construction of its dome) and other special elements (e.g., its elegant baptistry), and you can get some stunning views from its castle or the cemetery near there -- but then, you can also get great views from the Marjan area of in Split, etc.

So if Split doesn't capture your interests, then Zadar would be the other place that -- of the 4 you mention -- would seem to me most different than the places to which you are committed. Another university town, it has some remnants of its Roman days (nothing as extensive as those in Split), one of Croatia's oldest churches, and the much more modern, and unusual, Sea Organ and solar Greetings to the Sun. If you select Zadar, you MIGHT have time to cram in Trogir, or a VERY cursory stop in Sibenik, before leaving Split for an island -- but only (I think) if you forego Split entirely.

These really are very different places, IMO, and I'm sure you realize that my impressions are just that -- mine. If you haven't already consulted it, you might want to look at the <i>Rough Guide</i> to Croatia -- it was, by far, the most useful of the half dozen guidebooks I used when planning my time in the area. Or check the guidebooks with high-quality photographs, such as <i>Eyewitness</i> or <i>Insight Guides.</i>

As for the rental car, I try to avoid them when I can in a country as scenic as Croatia -- the driver really doesn't get the chance to see much, whereas everyone can see a LOT from public transportation! So I, personally, would return the car upon arriving in Split and use public transportation from then on out. There are easy and convenient buses connecting Split to Trogir, Sibenik, and Zadar (and a car would NOT likely be an advantage in any of them). You can take a ferry from Split to either Hvar or Brac and back. Take a bus from Split to Mostar and a bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik. And then a bus or taxi from Dubrovnik to Catvat. Check for more info.

Hope that helps!

tower Mar 17th, 2016 08:33 PM

Yo usual, you tell it like it is...and your suggestions are spot on.

K Traveler...worry not, you'll have a memorable and beautiful experience. I promise. As KJA states, it's tight, but you'll feel your way and it will work out for you. I do not do trip reports ... I always like to share my pics in order to familiarize you with the territory and give you some ideas. A pic is worth a thousand words, as they say. Here are some from old Yugoslavia, and newer Croatia, covering some scanned stuff and also digital, 1980's-

tower Mar 20th, 2016 02:58 PM

This address might be better for you to see my Yugo/Croatia pix. been having problems transferring my 1000's of pix from Picasa to Google/Chrome.

tower Mar 20th, 2016 03:05 PM

I think I've got ir right this time:
This address might be better for you to see my Yugo/Croatia pix.
Have been having problems transferring my 1000's of pix from Picasa to Google/Chrome.

tower Mar 20th, 2016 03:14 PM

Problem solved...hope the pix help you learn a bit about teh region. Notice some Plitvice pix are in snow in early spring..

k_traveler Mar 21st, 2016 06:21 AM

Great pictures tower! Lucky you to have experienced Croatia before the world new how beautiful it is!

And thank you kja for the comparison between the towns. That's one of the better direct comparisons I've been able to find!

I'm sure my plan will go through a few more iterations. Right now I'm thinking 1 night plitvice, 3 nights Split, 1 night Mostar, 3 nights Dubrovnik ... and then debating between adding 2 nights at the beginning to see Zagreb (knowing I'll only get a sampling of the coast), or adding 2 nights after Plitvice to Zadar. Tough choices, Croatia just has so much that looks interesting and beautiful!!!

tower Mar 21st, 2016 09:39 AM

K Traveler: For your 3 nights in Split, I recommend the classic Hotel Park as seen in my pics (and the one below)
We loved staying there as the ambience is one of old Europe. You'd expect to see a fleet of 1920's Lamborghini's and Masseratis out front. Beautiful terrace and dining room, good staff. it was in the $150 range a few years ago.

tower Mar 21st, 2016 09:42 AM

This might be a better route for the pic

kja Mar 21st, 2016 04:54 PM

I'm glad you found my descriptions helpful! Thanks for letting me know. :-)

OK, so you are now considering giving up an island to add time in Zagreb or Zadar? Any option could work, again depending on your interests.

Zagreb is, IMO, vastly underrated. I enjoyed it, and found plenty to enjoy there (including a number of interesting museums); other people have been disappointed. Timing might matter -- when I was there, almost everything was closed on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays, so if your time there includes those days, you might want to check the opening hours of any places you want to see to be sure to visit before making a decision. Zagreb is distinctly different than anything else you are considering (as far as I understand your planning) -- it bears the strong mark of its Austro-Hungarian heritage, and I don't believe that any of the other places you are considering were part of that empire (at least for any length of time).

Of the islands you were considering -- Brac and Hvar, I believe? -- I haven't been to Brac. I admit that I found Hvar Town a bit too upscale for my tastes, but it is beautiful. (Stari Grad, also on Hvar Island, is another option, but I'm not sure I would try to fit it into your itinerary -- I found it extremely appealing for some rather esoteric reasons, and don't think it offers the same WOW factor as the other island destinations.) Another option that you can reach easily between Split and Dubrovnik is Korcula -- which I loved and think suits a stop of just a night or two quite well. One of the advantages of including either Hvar or Korcula in your itinerary would be the chance to see the Dalmatian Coast from a leisurely ferry ride, if the timing works. BUT Hvar Town and Korcula bear more similarities, IMO, to Dubrovnik and Trogir than Zadar or Zagreb..

Zadar, as already noted, has some unique elements, and also has some similarities to Split. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but will admit that I was not enthralled by it. My favorite memories of Zadar are of specific sites (e.g., the Sea Organ or the Museum of Silver and Gold), not the streets or plazas that connect them -- and I usually find much to treasure in just walking around old towns.

Again these are just my impressions, and others could have very different views. One other thing to consider: Are one or more of these places ones to which you would be more likely to find it convenient to return? For example, if you think you might visit Slovenia one day, it might make sense to limit your time in Zagreb since it is easily visited from there. Or if you think you might visit Sarajevo one day, you might defer Mostar.... Just something to consider.

Hope that helps!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:32 AM.