The Ultimate Croatia Road Trip: 2 Week Itinerary
If you’re the type of person who enjoys islands, beaches, unique national parks and exploring historic towns, you’ll find Croatia is the perfect place for you! There’s so much to see throughout this country, you’ll want to leave enough time to enjoy the full 2 weeks in Croatia itinerary I’ve put together. This ultimate 14-day Croatia road trip will give you the top highlights of the country taking you from north to south. Alternatively, you can do this trip in reverse starting from Dubrovnik rather than Zagreb. Start packing your bags and get ready to be inspired for your Croatian road trip!
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Fast facts about Croatia:
- Population – 4,034,000
- Visa’s – Many nationalities are able to enter Croatia visa-free for 90 days. Check iVisa for your nationalities’ visa requirements.
- Currency – Kuna
- Capital city – Zagreb
- Language – Croatian
Where is Croatia
This crescent-shaped country is in the northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. As you can see, on the map below Croatia borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. The coastline runs along the Adriatic Sea and makes up one of the most beautiful countries in the Mediterranean.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary Overview
- Day 1: Zagreb
- Day 2: Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes
- Day 3: Plitvice Lakes
- Day 4: Plitvice Lakes to Zadar
- Day 5: Zadar
- Day 6: Zadar to Split
- Day 7: Split
- Day 8: Split
- Day 9: Split
- Day 10: Split to Vis Island
- Day 11: Vis Island
- Day 12: Vis Island to Dubrovnik
- Day 13: Dubrovnik
- Day 14: Dubrovnik
Croatia Road Trip Destinations Map
Click on the map icons to bring up their information. The red markers are locations and the yellow markers are things to do.
Day 1-2: Zagreb
Zagreb is not only Croatia’s largest city but also its capital city. This makes Zagreb the perfect starting point for your Croatian road trip. You’ll find there are plenty of flights arriving daily into the capital and also buses coming from all parts of Europe. I arrived in Zagreb after a 10-hour bus trip from Krakow, Poland for under €30.
Zagreb is the home of about 800,000 people with much to explore from historic renaissance buildings to local markets and delicious dining experiences all within a stroll of each other. I hadn’t left much time for this city, but was extremely impressed with it and which I had allocated more.
If you happen to be visiting around Christmas time, make sure you to check out Zagreb’s Christmas markets, which are some of the best in Europe!
Things to do in Zagreb
Explore Upper town
As you’ll likely be settling in after arriving in Croatia, the upper town is the perfect place to explore the oldest part of Zagreb dating back to the 11th century where it is normally never too busy. You’ll appreciate the quiet as you visit historic landmarks and sight-see the remnants of buildings that survived through medieval times. Some of the most well-known attractions in Zagreb’s upper town are the Lotrscak tower, Stone gate, and St. Marc Church. Before leaving upper town, don’t forget to visit Dolac Market which has been named ‘the belly of Zagreb’ for amazing food and a vibrant open-air market experience
Take a stroll Downtown
After you’ve spent time exploring all that the upper town has to offer, you’ll likely spend the rest of your time in Zagreb’s downtown. Starting at Jelacic Square, head over to Tkalciceva street. After a long flight, grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee at a local cafe will be the perfect way to refuel and take in the historic scenery.
Maksimir Park is the largest public park in Zagreb and the perfect place to relax and people watch or visit their small Zoo. You can also take a nice stroll through their leafy trails and beautiful lakes while you’ll be sure to pass by their beautiful flower beds waiting for their photo opportunity! Maksimir Park is truly picturesque and a nice tranquil addition to your visit to Zagreb.
Check out the art scene
Europe has a lot of cool cities with amazing street art. I did a self-guided tour of the street art in Budapest and in Plovdiv and loved it, yet Zagreb seems to top even those cities. I mean, just check out that giant whale! Travel Honestly has a great post on the street art in Zagreb and where to find it.
Bus or car
Assuming you have not rented a car yet, to get to our next destination your best bet will be to travel by bus or rental car. Before heading to Plitvice, pick up your rental car. You can compare car rental prices on Kayak for great prices. Note that Croatian roads have a toll system, so you will want to check with your rental car company to see if toll fees are included in the price of your rental car.
If for some reason you can’t hire a car or don’t want to, this trip can be done via the bus network. It’s just a bit more planning.
Day 3-4: Plitvice Lakes
A trip to Croatia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Plitvice Lakes. Plitvice Lakes National Park is located in Central Croatia, in the Karlovac and Lika-Senj districts, close to the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to traverse along wooden boardwalks that extend over teal blue waters, look up at magnificent waterfalls and find stunning viewpoint after stunning viewpoint.
This will be about a 2-hour drive from Zagreb or about 3 hours if you decide to go by bus. You can also buy your tickets online to save time. Plitvice Lakes attracts many visitors each year so purchasing tickets online will help you to avoid the lines for ticket queues once you arrive. Make sure to buy them at least two days in advance. Or grab a guided tour and ticket.
Plitvice Lakes National Park Entrance Fees
Note, the cost of a ticket into Plitvice Lakes varies and depends on the time of year you visit.
|Date||Cost for adults: One day ticket||Cost for adults: Two-day ticket|
|1st November – 31st March||60 Kn (9 USD)||90 Kn (13 USD)|
|1st April – 31st May & 1st October – 31st October||100 Kn (15 USD)||150 Kn (22 USD)|
|1st June – 30th September*||250 Kn (38 USD)||350 Kn (52 USD)|
Things to do in Plitvice Lakes
Detour to Slunj
Slunj is a city located on the banks of the rivers Slunjcica and Korana. While you’re on the main road leading to the Plitvice Lakes it’s absolutely worth your while to take a detour to discover what Slunj has to offer. This tiny village may be one of the best-hidden gems in Croatia. There are several popular tourist activities to choose from between rafting, scuba diving, cycling and paintball, but the biggest draw for me was Rastoke. Rastoke is a well-preserved water mill town where the most adorable buildings sit over cliff-edges with waterfalls cascading below them.
Explore waterfalls and lakes
After your stop off in Restoke, you’ll only be half-hour out of Plitvice Lakes National Park. I’ve written a thorough guide on everything you need to know about Plitvice Lakes NP. Make sure to check it out! The park is divided into the upper and lower lakes. Upon entering the park, you’ll find 4 circular routes per entrance as well as 4 hiking trails to choose from. Grab a free map of the park and head to Entrance 1 so you can enjoy as much as you can of the beautiful waterfalls.
Once you make it to the lower lakes, you’ll be able to enjoy the highest waterfall in the Park called Veliki slap. This waterfall stands tall at 8 meters high so you definitely cannot miss it! The lower falls are where most of the tourists are and since it’s a narrow boardwalk to get around, the peak summer season can be quite hectic.
If you find yourself in Croatia during the middle of summer, escape the crowds by exploring some of the less popular (but still gorgeous) upper falls. There’s also a boat ride that takes you between the two.
Where to Stay at Plitvice Lakes
There are a couple of pretty exxy hotels nearby the park entrance. Otherwise, you’ll need to backtrack and stay in one of the little towns. I stayed in Rakovica 5km’s back. There are regular buses that run to and from the park or free parking with a ticket if you choose to drive.
Day 5-6: Zadar
The drive to Zadar from Plitvice is easy and driveable as you will only be using two roads. About 90 minutes south, Zadar is rich in culture and heritage. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to experience the sights and sounds of the largest city on the North Croatia coast. This small historic town is surrounded by incredible architecture that you will want to explore!
The old town is small but has some really cute cafes, restaurants and now that we’re finally on the Mediterranean coast – gelato!
Things to do in Zadar
The sounds of the sea organ
An award-winning urban installation sits right at the tip of the town’s peninsula. The sea’s breeze and ocean waves are the musicians at play due to 35 organ pipes built right into the stone steps. Enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean as you watch the sunset on the horizon. Before you leave the peninsula be sure to visit the Sun Salutation light show, another incredible installation whose vivid display is completely solar-powered.
A short (and cheap) boat ride from central Zadar will take you to one of the most popular getaways known for its bike trails, hikes, and beautiful beaches. Many locals come here to escape the noise of Zadar, so if you’re looking for a change of pace and want to enjoy numerous swimming coves, Uglijan will be a great choice!
Along a path from Preko to Kali, you will be able to access Jaz Beach which is equipped with showers and even snack stands. Zelena Punta is another gorgeous beach where you’ll be surrounded by nothing but crystal-clear water. If you are looking for something a little quieter, take a short walk to Sabusa and Jelenica beaches for a little more privacy.
Or if you’re feeling more adventurous like we were, take a short steep hike to the summit. At 265m above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the neighbouring islands and back over the mainland to the eastern mountains. The summit is marked with the fortress of St. Michael which dates back to the 6th century. The only downside is it’s also adorned with a giant radio tower.
Day 7-10: Split
Split is the largest Dalmatian town full of architecture that is centuries old. While the town itself has so much to see, Split is also a great base for day trips to the beautiful surrounding national parks, beaches and even Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Split is one of the starting points for joining yacht week and has numerous daily ferries to the nearby islands.
Things to do in Split
This historic palace was home to the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It is full of incredible architecture and also where the popular show, Game of Thrones, happens to be filmed. This will be a great start to your stay in Split as there is so much to explore and see in the city’s center before you venture off onto your day trips.
By bus, Krka is about a 1 hour and 40-minute ride where you can easily bus into a town neighbouring the national park. You may purchase tickets upon arrival but it may also be a good idea to purchase tickets ahead of time online on the Parks of Croatia website.
Among the 17 waterfalls that Krka has to offer, The Skradinski Buk waterfall is a must-see. Be sure to pack water shoes if you plan on exploring and swimming near the falls as the rocks may cause you to lose balance! Krka is a wonderful way to spend the day if you want to enjoy the beautiful falls and take a dip in the water.
You can easily drive from Split to Omis or take the local number 60 bus that leaves every half hour. This should only be about a 40-minute ride to Omis. There is plenty to do and see once you arrive, depending on what you are interested in. If you are looking for adventure, there are opportunities to raft, kayak, hike, dive, and more. If you want to experience the rich history of Omis, you can hike up and explore Fortress Mirabella, Fortress Starigrad, and the ancient churches and old Franciscan monasteries. Plus you’ll be rewarded with this awesome view.
Day 11-12: Vis Island
Vis is an incredible island full of beautiful landscapes, mountains, and beaches, and a population of about 4000 people. Ferries leave Split for Vis twice a day and take two and a half hours. The boats also take vehicles if you happen to want to take your rental car. We were able to rent scooters for about 35 Euros a day which turned out to be the perfect way to get around the island.
Things to do on Vis Island
At 587 meters, Mt. Hum is the highest elevation point of Vis. At the peak of the mountain, you will find an ancient military radar station inaccessible to pedestrians. Admire the views of Komiza once you get to the top. On Mt. Hum, you can venture to Tito’s caves, the two small caves where partisan leaders secretly stayed during World War II. There are about 275 stairs that lead up to these caves so keep that in mind!
There are several beaches you can explore while you’re in Vis. Srebrna is one of my favourites, as it is surrounded by beautiful pine trees. This pebble beach also happens to be family-friendly and accompanied by plenty of parking. Mala Travna is worth exploring and has crystal clear water that happens to be a few degrees cooler due to the freshwater coming in from the bay. Stiniva pictured below is a cute cove that you can reach by land or by boat from the main port.
Day 13-14: Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik will be a great way to spend your last days in Croatia as it is only a 40-minute shuttle or drive to the airport.
Tip: Make sure to have your passport handy when driving to Dubrovnik as you’ll need to cross through Bosnia and Herzegovina and then back into Croatia. Take a look at the map above – it’s pretty cool the way the country splits into Croatia claiming its own small coastline.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
Hike Mount Srd
There are options to take a cable car to the top but opt to hike the mountain trail for a more budget-friendly option. Make sure to pack some snacks and water as the food options on the top of the mountain may not be as budget-friendly. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to take in the breathtaking views of Dubrovnik, Lokrum Island, and even the village of Cavtat!
Sveti Jakov Beach
Only a mile away from Old Town, you can get one of the best views of Dubrovnik from this beautiful beach. Just around the corner of St. Jakov church, you will find the 160 stairs that lead to the beach itself. To avoid the stairs, you may alternatively take a boat directly from Old Town. Once you arrive, you’ll be blown away by the beaches crystal clear waters and be able to escape the buzz of Old town by relaxing in the sun.
Croatia Travel Tips and Information
Driving in Croatia
The most ideal way to travel throughout Croatia has to be by car or by bus. You will need a valid driver’s license from your home country. It will be a good idea to always have your passport on you while you drive, just in case you are pulled over for any reason at all.
For the most part, the main streets are in great condition and smoothly paved. As you can imagine, when travelling off the beaten path you may encounter slightly poorer road conditions.
Do you need a car?
Although travelling by car is by far the easiest way to get around, Croatia has many shuttle and bus options to get you where you need to be. You will only need to factor in the additional time it may take to be from one destination to the other.
The best time to visit Croatia
The peak times to travel to Croatia are June through August. The best time to travel will be during Croatia’s “low time” which is October to April. Croatia is equally beautiful all year round so avoiding peak times will allow you to enjoy everything it has to offer and at the lowest prices. Goway has a detailed post of the best times to visit different destinations in Croatia.
Safety in Croatia
Croatia is a very safe place to visit as there are rare reports of violent crime and crime levels, in general, tend to be very low as well. Take the same precautions as you would traveling to any tourist area and be mindful of pickpocketers and petty theft. Keep your belongings secure and close to your body when traveling to popular tourist attractions.
How to get to Croatia
The best way to get to Croatia is by plane. There are five main international airports in Croatia: Zagreb, Pula, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. All of these airports will handle most scheduled and charter flights from Europe and North America.
Where to next?
Croatia is a great entrance to exploring the Balkans. The southern Croatian border takes you into Montenegro (possibly my favourite European country). Check out my guide on getting a bus between Croatia and Montenegro. Once you’re there continue your road trip with my 7 Day Montenegro Road Trip itinerary. From Montenegro head further south into Albania making sure not to miss the Valbona to Theth hike.
Alternatively, if you reverse this trip and head north you’ll be in beautiful Slovenia. Lake Bohinj was my highlight of Slovenia and is just an hour from Lake Bled and an access point to Triglav National Park.