- Walk the ancient fortress walls of Dubrovnik
- Visit beautiful Adriatic islands and Croatian wine country
- Marvel at the remains of Diocletian’s Palace in the coastal city of Split
- Explore the waterfalls, lakes, and rivers of Krka and Plitvice
- Tour Zagreb, one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe
|Day 1||Arrival in Croatia - Explore Dubrovnik||Dubrovnik|
|Day 2||Tour Dubrovnik's Old Town||Dubrovnik|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Montenegro||Dubrovnik|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Cavtat or Koločep Island||Dubrovnik|
|Day 5||Transfer to Korčula - Tour the Pelješac Peninsula||Korčula|
|Day 6||Explore Korčula||Ston|
|Day 7||Transfer to Split and Trogir||Trogir|
|Day 8||Explore Trogir and Klis||Trogir|
|Day 9||Visit Krka National Park||Skradin|
|Day 10||Transfer to Zadar - Explore the Region||Novigrad|
|Day 11||Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park||Plitvice Lakes National Park|
|Day 12||Transfer to Zagreb||Zagreb|
|Day 13||Tour the Zagorje Region||Zagreb|
Day 1: Arrival in Croatia - Explore Dubrovnik
Welcome to Croatia!
This is a treat because you'll be arriving in one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. Known as the "Adriatic Pearl," Dubrovnik is a piece of history. While there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this area only came into its own in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was under the rule of the Venetians. Throughout the middle ages, it was a fortress port encircled by stone walls and filled with baroque churches and renaissance/gothic palaces that still stand today.
Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in. Despite being tired from the journey, you'll likely want to get out and explore. Can't-miss activities include strolling Dubrovnik's historic 75-foot walls, visiting Lovrijenac and Bokarfortresses, and walking along the smooth, limestone-paved streets of historic Old Town.
After spending some time getting to know the city you'll probably want to duck into one of Dubrovnik's many wine bars to relax. It's a good plan, as there's no better manner in which to celebrate your first day in Croatia than by enjoying a glass of white or red wine as the sun goes down over Dubrovnik's Old Town.
Day 2: Tour Dubrovnik's Old Town
You'll have the entire day to discover the pearl of the Adriatic that is Dubrovnik. We recommend embarking on a guided tour of the city, as an expert guide will be able to reveal historical insight about Dubrovnik as well as point out lesser-visited landmarks and hidden gems.
You'll begin on the renowned streets of Dubrovnik's Old Town. Both the Republic of Venice and the Byzantine empire alternated control of Dubrovnik for hundreds of years starting around the 9th century. However, it was in the year 1358 that Dubrovnik declared its independence and the Republic of Dubrovnik was founded. If you visit Lovrijenac Fortress, above the entrance you'll see an inscription in Latin that translates to "Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold in the world."
Dubrovnik's streets are an architectural hodgepodge of the earliest Byzantine/Venetian influences as well as the middle ages. Besides Lovrijenac Fortress and the city's 75-foot-high defensive walls, other landmarks you can visit on a tour include St. John's Fortress, Luza Square and the Church of Saint Blaise, the 15th century Rector's Palace, the café-lined streets of Brsalje Street, and the 16th-century Pile Gate, which serves as the main entrance to Old Town.
Another great excursion is to head just outside the city and take a cable car up Mt. Srđ, which is part of the Dinaric Alps. The mountain stands 1,352 feet (412 meters), and from the lookout point you'll enjoy panoramic views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. They say that on a clear day there's visibility of 37 miles (60 km).
Day 3: Day Trip to Montenegro
Today you'll get to check off another country on your travel bucket list as you make a day trip to Montenegro. This Balkan nation borders Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the south and is known for the beautiful beaches and medieval villages along its Adriatic coastline.
The trip begins early as you meet your private driver and transfer to the border. After crossing over, you'll enjoy a scenic drive around the Bay of Kotor before stopping at the village of Perast, which is a little bit of Venice on the Adriatic. Then you'll stop and explore the medieval coastal village of Kotor. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is built on a sloping mountain and abounds with Venetian palaces and Romanesque churches.
Kotor is also an ancient fortress town as evidenced by the medieval stone ramparts that run up the mountain to the Fortress of St. John, which dates to the 6th century. You can reach this fortress by hiking up some 1,350 steps from town to a height of roughly 820 feet (250 meters).
Day 4: Day Trip to Cavtat or Koločep Island
Today you'll have two options for day trips. First, you can choose to head 30 minutes southeast of Dubrovnik to the town of Cavtat. This harbor village enjoys a postcard location in a peninsular cove on the Adriatic. It's also got much history, having been founded in the 7th century as a haven for ancient-Greek Epidaurum refugees after their colony was sacked by invaders. Enjoyable activities here include strolling the waterfront promenade, lazing on pebbly beaches, and whiling away the hours in cafés.
After or before Cavtat, depending on your preferences, you'll travel a few minutes southeast to Sokol Tower. Constructed on a cliff in the 14th century, this is one of the most impressive fortresses in the Dubrovnik area. Sokol was used as a defensive structure, housing soldiers, commanders, and an arsenal. It was abandoned in the 18th century but was rebuilt in 2013. Visitors can tour the fortress and see the commander's quarters, barracks, and a collection of archeological artifacts from the medieval era.
Another day-trip option is to visit one of the islands in the Elaphiti archipelago. One of the nicest is Koločep, the southernmost inhabited island in Croatia.
At just 2.4 square miles and boasting a population of 100 people, there are no cars on Koločep. The best way to get around is on a scenic hike or even sea kayaking around the island. The latter is highly enjoyable due to the number of beaches, coves, and hidden coastal caves to explore. As an added bonus, there's a great little family-run restaurant on Koločep that serves the best grilled calamari in Croatia.
Day 5: Transfer to Korčula - Tour the Pelješac Peninsula
Today you'll leave Dubrovnik and transfer about an hour northwest to the Pelješac Peninsula. This is the second biggest peninsula in the country, and here you'll find the fascinating medieval city of Ston. First-time visitors will be taken aback by the 3,937-foot (1200-meter) wall that runs from the mountains down through Ston to the water.
This stone fortification was constructed in the 15th century to defend the town, as Ston's location surrounded by three different seas made it highly sought after by invading forces. Aside from the iconic walls, Ston is famous for having the oldest active saltworks in the Mediterranean and for its long tradition of growing oysters and mussels.
Pelješac is also known for red wine, as the whole peninsula is a grape-growing area. Pelješac is home to the most famous wine varietal in Croatia, which is named after the region where the grape is grown: Dingač. The vineyards here are set on steep hillsides that slope at a 70° angle down to the water. Over the last couple of years, more and more family-owned wineries have been popping up in the region. Should you choose, you can take a tour of one of these wineries and sample Dingač's famous reds.
Afterward, you'll transfer to the nearby island of Korčula, which boasts a rich history. There were settlers here in the neolithic age, but the first colony was founded by ancient Greeks around the 6th century BCE. It then fell under Byzantine and then Venetian rule as the island was valued for its strategic location and dense pine forests. You can see remnants of Korčula's former glory in the medieval stone fortifications that encircle its historic Old Town.
You'll arrive in this Old Town, which is currently awaiting UNESCO World Heritage status. After checking into your hotel you can head out and explore, either on foot or perhaps on a rented bicycle, traveling from the town center to one of the secluded beaches on the island. You also might want to sample Korčula's delicious Grk and Pošip varietals of white wine.
Day 6: Explore Korčula
Today you can get out and explore Korčula. There are many historic sites in town worth visiting, the first of course being Korčula's famous fortress walls and battlements. There's also St. Mark’s Cathedral, a 15th century gothic/renaissance church built out of limestone.
Venturing beyond the historic town is also a great way to spend a day. The island itself is 107 square miles, and the most pleasant and scenic way to cover the most ground is on a bicycle as you ride down the country roads. Easily accessible from the town of Korčula is the village of Lumbarda, where you'll find a nice sandy beach and a winery.
Speaking of which, Korčula is not all about the great outdoors; the island is also known for producing great white wines. There are some good wineries you can visit in town and also on the eastern tip of the island as well as in the center and on the west side. No matter how you decide to spend the day, know that the best activities involve lazing on beautiful Mediterannean beaches, snacking on local cuisine, and indulging in an adult beverage or two.
Day 7: Transfer to Split and Trogir
Today you will leave Korčula and travel north to the coastal city of Split. Travelers come from far and wide to walk along Split's Riviera-esque waterfront and tour the impressive Diocletian’s Palace, located in the heart of Split's historic center. This "city within a city" is a maze of narrow alleyways within stone fortifications originally built for Emperor Diocletian back at the turn of the fourth century ACE.
The palace has changed its appearance over the centuries as a medieval city grew up around it, but it's still one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture in Croatia. In point of fact, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's nothing quite like strolling the narrow stone streets inside the palace fortifications and ducking into little cafés/bakeries/bars for a cinnamon roll, ice cream cone, or a glass of wine.
You can enjoy Split on your own or stroll the streets on a guided tour of the city. A tour is ideal as the guide will be able to point out all the hidden gems within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. After sightseeing in Split, you will then transfer about 30 minutes west to the island town of Trogir, where you will overnight.
Day 8: Explore Trogir and Klis
At more than 2,000 years old, Trogir is one of Croatia's other Unesco World Heritage Sites and a great example of a beautiful island fortress town. It's a small place, and it doesn't take longer than about five minutes to walk from any point in Trogir's historic center to reach the sea.
You'll have the day free to explore Trogir. Stroll the narrow cobbled streets, enjoy the romanesque architecture and medieval stone walls, and don't be surprised if you hear the harmonies of Trogir's famous Dalmatian Accapella singers carrying through the air. For Instagram-worthy photos, head to Kamerlengo Castle, a fortress built by the Venetians in the 15th century. From atop its battlements, you'll have incredible panoramic views of Trogir and the surrounding area.
If you'd like to explore more you can visit Klis, and walk along its ancient ramparts. This fortress town sits on a cliff 20 minutes northeast of Trogir and was the seat of Croatian kings beginning in the 9th century. Its strategic position made it a defensive stronghold against invading Ottomans, who took Klis in 1537 but lost it to the Venetians in 1669. These days, Klis is ensconced in popular culture because it served as one of the shooting locations for the hit television show "Game of Thrones."
Day 9: Visit Krka National Park
Prepare for an unforgettable day trip. In the morning you'll transfer one hour to Krka National Park, which, besides Plitvice, is home to Croatia's other drop-dead gorgeous network of waterfalls. As if the stunning beauty of these falls isn't enough, you'll also be able to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed.
In total there are seven waterfalls in this 54 square-mile (139 square-km) national park. They're formed by the Krka River, and a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) boardwalk follows a circuitous route through Mediterranean forest around the falls. You can complete the path in well under an hour, and on this easy walk, you'll pass by gullies and over river islands featuring prime lookout spots in which to view the falls.
Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and mother nature saved the best for last. The falls here cascade 78 feet (24 meters) down into a wide emerald lagoon. At the base of this postcard locale, visitors will find restaurants, snack stands, ice cream shops, and a section in which to take a dip in the lagoon waters.
After enjoying the falls you will retire to your hotel in the nearby town of Skradin, where you will overnight.
Day 10: Transfer to Zadar - Explore the Region
Today you'll explore an often-overlooked star of Dalmatia: Zadar. This is the largest city on Croatia's northern coast, and there's a lot to see and do. You can stroll the marble streets of Zadar's famous Old Town, once the mightiest fortress city in the Venetian Republic. Beyond the Venetian gates in the city's stone walls, you can see examples of Roman and Byzantine architecture in the form of the 1st century remains of the Roman Forum and the 9th century Church of St. Donat.
But Zadar is as much about the new as it is about the old. Case in point: two unique art installations situated on Zadar's waterfront. The first is the Monument to the Sun. This 72-foot (22-meter) disc is the brainchild of Croatian artist Nikola Bašić and reflects light patterns off its smooth surface as the sun goes down. The second is the Sea Organ. Also the work of Bašić, this architectural sound art utilizes tubes located underneath waterfront steps to transform sea waves into organ music.
You can also head a couple of miles north of Zadar to the small town Nin. This town sits on a lagoon at the edge of the Adriatic and is connected to the mainland via two old stone bridges. Most noteworthy are the beaches in the area, as they are some of the sandiest in all of Croatia's Adriatic coast.
After a day spent touring around the area, you will retire to the nearby waterfront town of Novigrad, a fishing village on Novigrad Bay. Its small size and pleasant waterfront location mean it is more tranquil than the nearby big cities, and it also features views of the biggest mountain in Croatia, Velebit.
Day 11: Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park
Today you'll drive an hour north from Novigrad to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice is a must-visit for any traveler to Croatia. This is more than a park—it's a storybook locale conjured out of a romantic dream. Comprised of 16 terraced lakes over a total area of 114 square miles (296 sq. km), its glassy waters are as emerald green as the forest that surrounds it. The stars of the show, however, are the cascading waterfalls that plunge over the terraces.
There are many hiking routes within the park that follow along wooden boardwalks, and you can explore them on your own or with a private guide. The benefit of opting for a guide is that he/she will be able to offer insight into the region as well as lead you to the most interesting areas of the park. However you choose to explore Plitvice, it's best to arrive early in the morning before the massive tourist crowds arrive and the boardwalks turn into a traffic jam.
After hiking around the park, you'll return to your hotel in the Plitvice area, where you'll overnight.
Day 12: Transfer to Zagreb
In the morning you'll transfer a couple of hours north to Zagreb. Boasting a population of around 800,000 people, Zagreb is both the capital and largest city in Croatia. This is a gem of a European city, at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks and gothic/neo-renaissance buildings, yet there's also modern shopping complexes, outdoor malls, and endless dining and drinking options.
After checking into your hotel, you can head out on a guided walking tour of the historic heart of the city. This involves walking from the main square to Zagreb's Upper Town and passing through local markets before reaching St. Mark Square.
Or you can visit one of Zagreb's many galleries and museums. These include the Art Pavilion, Museum of Contemporary Art, Archeological Museum, and the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum. One unique option is the Museum of Broken Relationships, which exhibits personal items from failed relationships with accompanying stories detailing their significance. One item on display is an ax a woman used to chop up the furniture of an unfaithful boyfriend. Believe it or not, this is Zagreb's most popular museum.
Day 13: Tour the Zagorje Region
Just a few miles northwest of Zagreb lies Zagorje, a sparsely populated region as tranquil and bucolic as Zagreb is metropolitan and buzzing. A quick day trip from Zagreb allows you to immerse yourself in this beautiful region, which is denoted by green hills, forests, vineyards, and medieval lakeside castles.
Trakošćan Castle is a good example of one of these storybook locales, as it sits perched on a hill adjacent to a glassy lake. The castle, a historic landmark, was built in the 14th century as a defensive fortress but was later used as a home for aristocratic Croatian families. On a tour, you can not only visit the castle grounds but you'll go inside and explore all four floors, which function as a museum with permanent exhibitions.
Afterward, you can visit Veliki Tabor Castle, which is located near Trakošćan. This gothic-renaissance castle dates to the 16th century and also sits on a green hill overlooking the fertile countryside. It was originally built for a noble Hungarian family and its fortifications were designed to defend against Turkish invaders. A tour of Veliki includes visits to the towers, guardhouses, and inner courtyard plus a small museum featuring exhibitions of medieval artifacts like armor, weapons, and paintings.
Apart from castles, you can explore nearby old villages, like Kumrovec, where you'll find restored peasants houses from the 19th century. These are great areas to browse local craft shops and enjoy some traditional country cuisine like grilled lamb, meat skewers, and veal stuffed with cheese and ham. Kumrovec is most well known for being the birthplace of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the communist revolutionary who was President of Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980.
Day 14: Departure
After breakfast, you will transfer to the airport where you will catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Croatian adventure. Come back soon!