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Stops between Rovinj and Zadar?

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Hi, Fodorites,
Our summer 2015 trip to Croatia was cancelled due to a family health crisis, but we are now rebooking things for next June and would appreciate your help.
We'll have 24 days in Croatia, relying on buses and boats to get around. We start in Rovinj for four nights. I'd appreciate feedback on whether to then head to Zadar in one long day (9 hours on two buses) or break it up by spending two nights in Lovran or Opatija to walk the Lungomare. We'd also consider doing some island-hopping to Zadar instead, but I'm not finding that easy to organize.
Also, is Trogir worth three nights, or could we spend that on Brac? I've had some recent feedback that it might not be worth more than a day. We have to stop in the area to catch the boat to Hvar anyway.
Confirmed so far:
- Rovinj: 4 nights
- Lovran or Opitija? 2?
- Zadar: 3 nights, including day visit to Plitvice? Or 5 nights with an overnight in Plitvice (if we skip Lovran).
- Trogir? Brac? 3 nights? Or just an overnight in Split before catching ferry to Hvar?
- Hvar: 4
- Korcula: 4
- Cavtat: 4
We prefer smaller seaside towns to cities and enjoy hiking, swimming and exploring old town centres. But again, we'll be relying on public transport, so we understand that will restrict our choices.
Any feedback would be appreciated. I'm always amazed at and gratified by how generous fellow travellers are in sharing thoughts.
Many thanks.

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    My travel style is much faster than yours, so I can't really answer the question "is Trogir worth three nights?" Old town Trogir is tiny. I would be bored out of my mind there for three nights unless I had day trips planned. One night was enough and my time was still brief. Trogir was cute but not a place I felt the need to come back to.

    Although I didn't care for Split that much, I'd rather spend three nights there than in Trogir, just because Split is so much bigger with more to do

    If you want a place where you can relax and chill and enjoy the weather for 3-4 nights, then Korcula (where I've been) and presumably Hvar (where I haven't) would better fit the bill than Trogir.

    By the way: there's a direct Croatia Airlines flight from Pula to Zadar - at least there is now - a few days a week if you want to skip the endless bus ride and day trip to Plitvice from Zadar.

    Put Sibenik on your list as a possible day trip from Zadar - lovely little town near Krka National Park.

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    Should be a great trip!

    "I'd appreciate feedback on whether to then head to Zadar in one long day (9 hours on two buses) or break it up by spending two nights in Lovran or Opatija to walk the Lungomare."

    I loved the Lungomare! I'm not sure there's enough to do in the area to justify 2 nights, but only you can decide that.
    - FWIW, I did NOT like Opatija: I was there for a couple of hours just before/during sunset on a Saturday evening in early June of 2009. The bars and restaurants near the shore were competing with one another to see which could play their disco / party music the loudest and with the heaviest base. Street side shops were filled with junk, overpriced kitsch, and overly zealous sales staff. Sidewalks were filled with people who were already so drunk that trying to walk by or through them was a decidedly unpleasant experience. I did enjoy the Villa Angiolina, though -- that was worth seeing.
    - In contrast, I was glad I chose to stay in Lovran -- but I readily admit that it might not be to everyone's taste: At least when I was there, it was decidedly past its prime.
    - I think you could also stay in Volosko -- the far eastern end of the Lungomare, but I didn't make it that far and so can't comment.
    - If you decide to spend 2 nights in the area, you might want to consider hiking some of the trails on Mount Učka -- again, something I skipped, but I've read positive comments.

    "We'd also consider doing some island-hopping to Zadar instead, but I'm not finding that easy to organize."

    That was my experience, too. I stopped on Rab -- and loved it! -- but I rented a car for a few days to facilitate travel in this part of Croatia.

    "is Trogir worth three nights, or could we spend that on Brac?"

    Well, that's a question I didn't see coming! Some thoughts:
    - Trogir is charming and has some of the world's most impressive stone carvings, but it is TINY -- it can easily be seen in less than a day.
    - Trogir is only about 1/2 hour from Split, which is one of my favorite places in Croatia and which I think easily worth several days. I found Split to be a dynamic, energetic, and fascinating city with a stunning waterfront; atmospheric corners in surviving elements of Diocletian's Palace; some fascinating public squares; great markets; and some lovely walkable districts within easy reach of the city's core -- not to mention some worthy museums. Split is one of my favorite places in Croatia; others haven't like it as much.
    - From Trogir, or between Zadar and Trogir, you could also visit Sibenik, the Krka National Park, etc.
    - I skipped Brac and so can't comment.


    The Plitvice Lakes National Park is, IMO, the single most un-missable of Croatia's many splendors. Not only are the lakes connected by travertine waterfall formations, but also each lake has unique microbiota, and as a result, the lakes (and different parts of some of the larger 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), preferably facing the falls.

    "Hvar: 4"

    Way too much time in a way-too-upscale place for my tastes, but I know that many people would envy you.

    "Korcula: 4"

    Way WAY too much time in a place that I loved. I visited every church, museum, street, and rampart, saw the moresca, and took a long walk into the hills overlooking Korcula Town in less than 24 hours. Without a car, I wonder what you plan on doing there for 3 or 4 days?

    "Cavtat: 4"

    Personally, I'd stay in Dubrovnik instead. JMO.

    Hope that helps!

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    Thank you both for the valuable feedback. You've given me lots to think about.
    I can definitely relate to what you're saying about time in a place. I plan a five- or six-week trip to a different country every summer, and I usually tend to tear around in a rental car, moving every day or two. But this time I thought I'd see what it's like to settle into a place for at least a few nights and actually unpack my carry-on.
    So after starting with five nights in Edinburgh and a week in the Lake District, I'm looking for scenic spots in Croatia that can provide decent sights, good walks, some kayak outings and nearby day trips.
    Andrew, thank you for your suggestion about Sibenik. I'll check that out. Ditto with the flight idea.
    Kja, you mentioned four days as being too long on Korcula. What about hikes, kayaking, a day trip to nearby islands? Not feasible without a car? I was thinking there would be more local transport or tour opportunities in high season As for Dub over Cavtat, I checked the cruise ship schedule, and I just can't bear the idea of sharing the city with thousands of tourists on up to five ships a day while we're there.
    If there are other must-sees, I'm all ears. I'll definitely start looking at Split.
    And thank you two again!

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    On my May trip to Croatia, I met an American couple who had just spent a week on Lokrum Island near Dubrovnik, and it sounds like they spent half of their time kayaking. They couldn't stop raving about it. It sounds too slow for my tastes, but something like that might be right up your alley

    I haven't been to Cavtat. I can relate to what you are saying about Dubrovnik being crowded with cruise ship tourists. However, is Cavtat in June really not going to be busy, too? That's close to the peak of tourist season in Croatia.

    Dubrovnik is a great base for day trips and excursions. The Old Town is not really that big and won't take a ton of time to explore. Walk the walls in the morning for sure, maybe take a walking tour or something, otherwise you don't have to spend much of your daytime time there. It is a great place to come back to at night, so if you stayed in or near the old town, you could be away from the town in the day time but enjoy a more peaceful nighttime with fewer tourists. Dubrovnik is magical at night, and I saw some of the most unbelievable sunsets ever there. (Have a drink at the Buza Bar for sure - or at least check out the view from there!) If you don't stay in Dubrovnik, try to spend at least one evening there after dark if you can get public transit home that late. Otherwise, you are really missing out.

    I think in June you will have plenty of options for excursions without a car.

    In May I made my second visit to Croatia but my first to Montenegro, which I loved. I'd almost call it a "must see." I spent a night near Kotor, which as a town didn't thrill me though the views from the steep walls above the town (a much more strenuous walk than that around Dubrovnik) were amazing. The Bay of Kotor is quite beautiful and scenic, too. Many people rave at the town of Perast instead of Kotor, and I stopped there too and really liked it from what I saw - it had nice peaceful, relaxing vibe to it which larger Kotor didn't seem to have. I don't know if a visit to Montenegro is really too much beyond what you already have planned. You might at least consider dropping one of the islands (Korcula or Hvar) and doing some time in Montenegro instead. Montenegro was definitely a highlight for me of my last trip in May.

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    "Kja, you mentioned four days as being too long on Korcula. What about hikes, kayaking, a day trip to nearby islands?"

    It might work for you -- it would not for me. Your call!

    "As for Dub over Cavtat, I checked the cruise ship schedule, and I just can't bear the idea of sharing the city with thousands of tourists on up to five ships a day while we're there."

    Understandable -- which is why I planned all my time in the area to minimize my time in Dubrovnik when day-trippers were there, and to take full advantage of as many of its truly glorious aspects of this city as possible once day-trippers left. I loved my evenings in Dubrovnik -- walking through ancient streets with only the sound of my own footsteps, looking out over waters that reflected the images of harbored boats, with just the tiniest ripples of changing tides....

    Re: Lokrum -- I'm glad I gave it a HALF day.

    Re: Dubrovnik's walls -- I recommend walking them at sunset.

    Re: Montenegro: Harder than some of the other places you've mentioned to visit without a car, but certainly do-able. My impressions of Kotor were that it was worth seeing, but a bit redundant of parts of Croatia's Dalmatian coast. I found it much more worn, so the architectural details were less impressive -- but also, therefore, more evocative of the passage of time. While the climb to the higher points of the walls offered magnificent views, I honestly can't say that I thought the effort worthwhile -- views from lower points were sufficient for me. I'm glad I visited Kotor; whether it meets YOUR interests is a different matter!

    BTW, I also enjoyed a brief stop in Perast -- again, I'm glad I saw it, and if you decide to go to Kotor and can easily visit Perast, go for it! But IME, its really worth at most an hour or two to walk the waterfront and visit the church and its treasury. Those places are, indeed, worth seeing, but give some thought to what you will have to skip by making time for it. Again, JMO..

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    BTW, I'm glad that Andrew has finally added places like Šibenik and Montenegro to the list of places that he recommends, since many of us have pointed to their merits for many years now. There is SO much to see and experience in this part of the world! Enjoy!

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    I agree with kja we found a lot we liked in Split and Zadar too because they felt like a real town, a little gritty and not too precious. Personally with the cruise ships I wouldn't recommend Dubrovnik in season. We stayed for several nights and I agree it is better at night, but you know the same onslaught is coming the next day so the cost/benefit wasn't there for me. However, I realize I may be in the minority here.

    I like luxury but I found Hvar town just a little too much, though it is very pretty it seemed a place where money and status is everything. However, we liked Korcula very much. My overall feeling is that with the amount of time you have you'll be able to get really out there on the islands, for example in Hvar get out of the main town. This seems to be an entirely different world. You have lots of time and the further out you go the more you may enjoy it as it sounds like the natural environment is the attraction.

    In terms of hiking we LOVED Slovenia and frankly for the most part preferred it to Croatia.

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