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Just beginning to plan trip to Croatia

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I’m just beginning to plan a trip of about 9 days to Croatia in late September and would appreciate advice on a few issues. Our time in Croatia will precede our spending a month in Bologna, Italy (for work). More questions will follow as I do more planning.

My tentative plan is to fly into Dubrovnik or Split, work our way north, and then go to Italy, perhaps by ferry from Istria. I definitely want to visit Dubrovnik and Plitvice. Decisions are yet to be made about other places to visit. We are probably going to be coming back to the area (in conjunction with a bike/barge trip that starts and ends in Vienna) in August 2017 and are planning to visit Zagreb and Slovenia then.

We enjoy beautiful scenery, flora and fauna, hiking and walking tours, kayaking, bicycling, good museums, interesting buildings, local culture, and local cuisine. I don’t have much interest in ruins or laying on the beach.

First question: Fly into Dubrovnik or Split? I had planned on the former, but see that many people seem to do the latter, and some of the flight options do seem better. (We will be starting in Los Angeles.)

Second question: How to get around within the country? Because of our spending a month in Italy after Croatia, we may have a fair amount of luggage, which may affect how we will get around within Croatia. We are certainly open to renting a car some or all of the time (as long as the cost isn’t prohibitive), but know that parking can be a problem in some places.

Third question: How best to get to Bologna from Croatia? Ferry to Venice (and then train to Bologna) or just driving there seem like the best possibilities.

Fourth question: Given our interests, what stops (other than Dubrovnik and Plitvice) would you recommend? E.g., are there places where it is easy to rent bicycles and there are safe places to ride? Ditto kayaks.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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