Croatia is a European country that is an incredibly popular tourist destination. In the winter, it is because of one of the best Christmas Markets (in Zagreb) in entire Europe, and in the summer it’s the perfect vacation destination.
With nearly 2000km of coast – not including the islands – it’s one of the most popular destinations in the Adriatic Sea. And since it’s June and summer is coming up, I had to make this the ultimate summer itinerary!
But it’s not just going to be beaches and swimming. I’ve included some larger cities in this itinerary as well, so that you can also experience a part of Croatia’s history, culture and cuisine.
Before we get exactly into the places you should visit and the highlights of each one, I am going to assume that you know nothing about Croatia. So, I’m going to give you some tips about the language, currency and basically everything you should know beforehand.
I’ll also break down the best transportation options for you, depending on your personal preference and budget. But, if you are coming from elsewhere in Europe, I think your best option is to drive there. Still, it’s up to you.
One more thing – you probably know how useful it is to learn some phrases in the language of the place you are visiting. You wouldn’t go to France not knowing how to say Bonjur and Merci, and you shouldn’t go to Croatia without learning how to say Dobar dan! and Hvala. There will be a few more useful phrases in the guide, so take out your pen and notebook!
Since the country is pretty large, one week is barely going to be enough to see everything worth seeing. Especially because every town on the coast is unique, and it has something different to offer. But, here is a rough overview of the best (and my personal favorite) places to spend your week in Croatia.
The itinerary also works backwards – both Zagreb and Dubrovnik have airports and large bus stations, and that allows you to either work your way up or down the country.
It’s always good to know at least a few phrases in the native language of the country you’re travelling to. It will be easier for you to communicate with people who don’t speak English, and even the ones who do will appreciate your effort and interest in their culture.
Please Molim vas
Thank you Hvala.
Do you speak English? Da li pričate engleski?
I don’t understand Ne razumijem
I’m sorry Oprostite
Good day Dobar dan
Good evening Dobro veče
Good night Laku noć
How much is it? Koliko košta?
the bathroom Toalet
the train station Željeznička stanica
a ticket Karta
a room Soba
a restaurant Restoran
red/white wine Crveno/bijelo vino
Check, please Račun, molim
This itinerary assumes that you are going to land in Zagreb, and then work your way south. However, you can also do it in reverse – land in Dubrovnik, and work your way north, towards Italy or Slovenia.
Zagreb Airport is about 20-25km away from downtown Zagreb – depending on where exactly you want to go. Your best (fastest and cheapest) way of getting around town is to ride the trams. You can catch a bus from the airport to the main bus station in Zagreb, and you can catch a tram there. To follow the itinerary, catch a tram number 6 (Crnomerc) – it will take you to the Ban Jelačić Square.
Zagreb is the perfect place to begin your perfect week in Croatia. It is the capital city, and it definitely has the most to offer. Museums, parks, squares, shopping malls – you name it.
The best way to get around the center of Zagreb is to walk. So, my advice to you is download the offline Google map of the city, and just follow the directions it gives you. It is very accurate, and it can save you from getting lost in the narrow city streets!
So, I assume you’ve made your way to the Ban Jelačić Square. It was a quick tram ride, and you slept through your flight/bus ride and now you are full of energy and want to do some exploring. And is there a better way to begin your day than by going into an observatory that offers a panoramic view of the entire city?
From the Ban Jelačić Square, turn around so that you are facing the casino – can’t miss it. To your right you will se a huge skyscraper, and that’s your next destination. When you get to the Zagreb 360 you will have to get a ticket (about 60HRK for adults), which will give you unlimited access to the observatory for an entire year. So get to the top, take some amazing panoramic photos and enjoy the view.
From the observatory, we are walking to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Turn to your left and walk down Ilica, and then turn right onto Tomićeva street – when you see the Vincek pastry shop, you should turn right. The museum has some pretty cool exhibits – people donate various items from their failed relationships, and each one has a story. Some are funny and others not so much, but it’s definitely something you should experience. Plus, you can grab a coffee and a quick bite inside the museum’s coffee shop.
From there you can go to the Museum of Illusions – it’s only a 10 minute walk, and it’s a really cool experience.
Other Zagreb Highlights:
… and many, many more. Honestly, one day is hardly going to be enough for you, so definitely plan to return there. After all, you want to make use of that one-year observatory ticket! Or, you can just pick from that list above, and satisfy your own travel wishes (instead of mine).
When you are done exploring, go get a good night’s sleep, and then make your way to the central bus station again. From there, we are going to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
From the urban jungle to the real jungle – almost! The Plitvice Lakes National Park is full of stunning photo-ops, so remember to bring your camera!
The entrance fee varies, depending on the time of the year. For adults, it can be as low as 55HRK in the winter months, and as high as 250HRK in July and August. Anyway, you can see the full price list on their official website.
But, since you are going to spend the whole day there, it’s totally worth it. The ticket includes a sightseeing ride, in which you can really experience the stunning waterfalls on the lakes. You also get a boat ride, which will allow you to see all that beauty up close!
But, you won’t go to a national park and not go hiking, right? Luckily, there are a couple of hiking trails in this national park and they are not too difficult. However, there are some pretty steep ascents you are going to have to make, so be prepared for that. Remember to pack a pair of hiking shoes and some appropriate clothing.
If you want to mix things up a little, there is an adrenaline park about 3km from the entrance to the national park. They don’t have too much to offer now, but they do offer a zip-line ride over the river Korana. The ride is about 300m long, and you can even achieve a speed of 70km/h, which sounds really exciting.
And so day two is slowly coming to an end. Go get something to eat – there are a ton of restaurants here, and you can try some really good Croatian cuisine. My advice is go for some roasted lamb, you won’t regret it. :>
You can spend the night here if you like – there are plenty of hotels and camps. And it’s going to be a very peaceful night without any car or tram noises, unlike your first night in Croatia!
How do you get there? Easy. If you are driving, just hop on the D1, and then turn left on E71 when you get to Gornja Ploča. It’s about a 90-minute drive, and you’ll reach Zadar in no time. If you don’t have a car just hop on the bus at the Plitvice Lakes – they are fairly often in summer, and the tickets are 80-100HRK.
Zadar is a seaside town on the Dalmatian coast, but with a twist. Its Old Town and all the top sights are actually located on a small peninsula, while the other side of the city is the urban area, with shops, parking spaces, schools etc. Obviously, we are going straight to the Old Town – go for a walk across the bridge that connects the two parts of the town. You will save some time, rather then going around, and it can be your first highlight of this pretty place!
The Old Town is not a big area of Zadar – you can walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. That means that you can spend the entire day exploring, and take your time at each new place.
So, I assume you’ve crossed the bridge and are wondering where to go next. Well, why don’t you turn left, and start off at the Park. Or don’t you want to take some photos of the trees and the birds with the sea in the background?
Just when you exit the park, you will see the Land Gate. Definitely stop and snap a few photos, as these gates were built in the 16th century, and were once the main entrance to this city! From there you can go right and check out the 5 Wells Square – another historic landmark of the city, dating all the way back to the 16th century. Plus, there is a very good restaurant, also called the 5 Wells, which will give you a taste of authentic Mediterranean cuisine.
So, now you are full and it’s time to burn those calories – it is very important to stay fit even when you travel, if you want to easily get into the clothes at home. Go down the Kalelarga (Wide Street) and make your way to the edge of the peninsula. You will see some very old churches along the way, and you can stop by and visit or just admire the architecture from afar.
At the edge, go left until you see the stairs that go into the sea. That will mean that you’ve reached the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun, both of which were recently designed by a famous Croatian architect, Nikola Bašić. And they both light up during the night – something you’ll definitely want to experience. Plus it’s the perfect way to end your one day in this ancient, beautiful city.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia, and much larger then other cities on the coast. The entire place was built around the Diocletian’s Palace, which is definitely one of the places you must see there! But, since the town is pretty big, you probably won’t be able to walk everywhere. Your best option is to ride the city buses, which also connect the town to the local suburbia.
First, you will want to enter the Split Old Town through the Golden Gate – just like emperor Diocletian. And you’ve entered the Diocletian’s Palace – the most famous landmark in Split. Take your time there, and also check out the underground below the palace – it will be worth your time. Also, don’t be confused – the palace is not really a palace. It’s more like a fortress and it consists of giant walls that encompass the better part of the Old Town.
So, most other famous landmarks that you should see are also there. That includes several towers, the Ethnographic Museum, the Cathedral of St. Dominus as well as the Peristyle, which is the central part of the Palace.
My advice is to just take your time. Walk around the Old Town as long as you want. There are restaurants there if you get hungry, which serve classic Mediterranean food.
When you feel like you’ve seen enough of this ancient part of the town, hop on a bus and make your way to the Marjan Park. It is a huge park on a hill that looks down on the town, with a few hiking trails and a beach. That’s right, it’s finally time for a swim on the Kašjuni Beach – a taste of what your remaining 3 days in Croatia are going to be like!
Hvar Town, and Hvar Island in general, are incredibly popular summer destinations in Croatia. The beaches there are stunning, the nightlife is wild and the harbors are full of large boats. All of that attracts a lot of young people, but also a lot of rich people. But, there are plenty of things to do and see in Hvar that don’t include spending all of your cash. If you are more about exploring than splurging, this itinerary is going to be perfect for you!
Hvar Town Highlights:
Notice that there aren’t too many highlights I suggest you should see? That’s because we are going to spend most of our day on the beach! Yes, you’ve finally made it to a proper beach-vacation town in Croatia, and you simply have to take advantage of that. It’s the only way to truly realize why Croatia is such a popular summer vacation destination, and why so many people return there.
So, when you get to Hvar, head straight to the beach – if it’s still morning. My advice would be to go sightseeing between noon and 5-6PM, as at that time the UV index is the highest, and it’s going to be unbearably hot in the sun. You need to protect your skin and stay out of the sun during that period, and what better place to hide than a chilly fortress?
So, let’s start at the Port of Hvar. Go check out some of those huge boats, take a few pictures – after all, boats generally photograph really well and make for some stunning photos for your Instagram account.
To the right of the port is the St. Stephen’s Square. It stretches all the way from the port to the Cathedral of St. Stephen, and that’s where you’re headed. The Cathedral was first built sometime in the 14th century, but its current design is actually from the 17th century. All architecture lovers will really be able to appreciate the mesh of renaissance, baroque, gothic and many other design elements of its look. Oh and you can always grab some ice cream at the Square, at one of the many coffee shops and restaurants there.
But be sure to finish that ice cream before you head to the Episcopal Museum. It’s right next to the Cathedral, and the entrance fee is only 10HRK – which is probably going to be cheaper than that ice cream! You can see some stunning paintings there, as well as plenty of artifacts that are a historic part of Hvar culture. Just keep in mind that the museum is closed 12-4PM, and you won’t be able to get inside during the hottest time of the day.
From the Cathedral, you should make your way to the Fortica Fortress. It offers some beautiful panoramic views of the town, and there are some affordable restaurants and cafes there. Plus, the stone walls will provide you with some shelter form the heat!
From there, you can go back to the Old Town and just explore the streets and the little shops. Or you can head straight back to the beach and just relax for the evening. Even though a sunset on the beach sounds cliché, it is still an incredibly relaxing and stunning sight.
Trpanj is a personal favorite of mine, and I had to include it in this itinerary. It’s the perfect place to spend your entire summer and not just one day. But, you can pretty much go to any town on this peninsula, and you won’t regret it. It’s just that this town holds a special place in my heart.
Getting there from Hvar is a little bit tricky though, if you are not driving. If you are driving, just get on a ferry to Drvenik, and then you have two options. You can either drive to Ploče and get on a ferry directly to Trpanj, or you can drive from Drvenik to Trpanj. The latter is the longer (but cheaper) option, and it includes entering Bosnia and Herzegovina at one point, for which you are going to need your passport. On the other hand, if you are on foot, you can just get a boat ride from Hvar to Korčula, then a Boat from Korčula to Orebić and a bus from Orebić to Trpanj.
Anyway, once you are there you will surely want to relax from all the ferry hopping. And luckily, Trpanj is the perfect place for relaxation. It has just the right combination of beach and forest, which really impacts the climate. It gets really hot there in the summer, but luckily after 2PM it’s going to get windy, and the heat won’t bother you that much.
One of the things you must do if you go to Trpanj is jump from the pier. You will see many locals (and tourists) doing it, so there’s not reason to be afraid. And the feeling of flying into the water is 100% worth it. Just keep in mind that the ferry docks really close, and avoid jumping in the water while it’s there. Don’t worry, you will see it coming. :>
Other than that, this little town is probably the best known for the Virgin Mary statue. The Assumption of Mary (Velika Gospa) attracts people from all over Croatia there, for a mass on the sea and a concert in the evening.
So lie on the beach for the day, swim in the sea and just enjoy yourself. In the evening, you can go for a walk towards the village, and you can see the school, the church and some really cute painted houses that remind me of Amsterdam. Or you can go for a walk in the nature, along the walking trail that goes along the shore and through the ‘forest’.
If you get hungry, there are several restaurants that you can go to. Žalo is a great one, and definitely try the iced coffee there. Other good restaurants are Konoba Ribar and Pizzeria Veslo.
When it’s time to leave, you have a couple options if you don’t have a car. You can catch a bus directly from Trpanj to Dubrovnik, or you can take the ferry to Ploče, and get on a bus to Dubrovnik there.
My guess is you’ve probably heard of Dubrovnik at some point. Maybe last year, when Roman Abramovič stopped by to refuel his humongous yacht? Or a couple years before that, when Beyonce and Jay-Z serenated each other there? Needless to say, it is a favorite of the rich, but there are some very good reasons for that, which could include all the things you can do in Dubrovnik.
Luxurious resorts, Michelin star restaurant and private beaches are just a few of those reasons. If you are in for a 5-star experience, book a room at the Hilton or the Excelsior, go out for dinner at the 360 Dubrovnik, and then go for some drinks at the Cave Bar More. The bar isn’t too expensive, but it offers some stunning views of the sea.
If you are more interested in exploring the city than just spending all of your money, I have a few ideas for you.
Dubrovnik is not a really big town, and you will easily be able to see all of these places in one day. So, let’s begin with a walk through the old town. The street that goes through the old town is called simply Stradun, and it’s one of the most beautiful places in Dubrovnik. There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops there, so you can always stop somewhere for a quick bite if you feel hungry. Just be aware that almost every place there is very expensive.
You can, however, get a one-day Dubrovnik card. It will give you discounts at many restaurants and shops all over Dubrovnik, as well as free access to some museums and the city walls. And since our itinerary includes visiting the Walls of Dubrovnik, I’d say it’s worth it!
Make your way through Stradun, admire the paved path and the stone walls that are everywhere. Slowly make your way down to the Walls of Dubrovnik – do you know that they filmed some scenes from Game of Thrones there? Anyway, go left to the Bokar Fortress, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the sea and nature. And don’t forget to take some photos! Then you can go back to the Minčeta Fortress, which is on the other side of the town. From there, continue along the walls and go right until you get to the Dominican Monastery and Museum– another must-see in Dubrovnik. And that concludes your stroll on the walls that surround the city!
When you get back to the downtown from the monastery, you should start making your way towards the Dubrovnik Cable Car. It’s about a 7-minute walk – take the stairs to the downtown, and then continue onto the Revelin Bridge. You will pass by the Ploče Gate – another stunning sight – and then turn left onto Cavtatska Street. Finally, turn left onto Lokrumska Street and you will see the Cable Car.
The 4-minute ride will take you to the plateau at the top of the Srđ Hill, which offers panoramic views of the town below it. Have some cocktails or grab something to eat while you enjoy the views, and reminiscence upon your week-long Croatian adventure! And plan ahead so you make it to the top of the hill at sunset – it will be more than worth it.
Your week has come to an end now it’s time to get back for Zagreb! Maybe you’re flying back from there, maybe you want to return the car you rented there, or maybe you just liked it so much there that you must see more. Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you all you need to know about that trip.
Flying: There are flights from Dubrovnik Airport to Zagreb Airport several times almost every day. A ticket usually costs about 240HRK, not including checked baggage.
Also, if you’ve rented a car at Zagreb, you can safely return to the same division of the car rental service in Dubrovnik. It will just cost you more – a car that costs about 80HRK a day when you return it to the same place you rented will cost about 200HRK day if you return it elsewhere.
Driving: The distance between these two cities is about 600km. If you go via Croatia coast (on the D8), then you should arrive at Zagreb in some 6-7 hours, depending on the traffic. You will probably have to pay some tolls along the way, so have some Kunas ready.
By Bus: You can take the Croatia Bus back to Zagreb, and you can buy the tickets online. The drive lasts anywhere between 8:30 hours to 12 hours, so be prepared. Naturally, the shortest trip back is if you take the night bus, which is probably your best option because you can sleep through it. The tickets are about 220HRK, which is just 20HRK less than via plane! If you only have about 8 kilos of luggage, consider flying back instead. :>
No Trains!: There currently aren’t any trains that go from Dubrovnik to Zagreb.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.