- Visit the open-air markets of Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb
- Row across Lake Bled to the iconic island at its center
- Explore the Istrian coast, from the streets of coastal Rovinj to inland hilltop villages
- Watch the Monument to the Sun's colorful displays of light in Zadar
- Wander the 16th-century stone walls of Dubrovnik's fortresses
|Arrive in Zagreb (Croatia), Free Time
|Scenic Castles of the Zagorje Region
|Drive to Ljubljana (Slovenia)
|Day Trip to Lake Bled & Lake Bohinj
|Drive to Rovinj (Croatia), Free Time on the Istrian Peninsula
|Into the Heart of Istria: Grožnjan, Oprtalj & Motovun
|Ferry to Zadar, Drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park
|Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar
|Drive to Split via Šibenik
|Full-Day Krka Waterfalls Tour
|Ferry to Korčula, Food & Drink Tasting
|Ferry to Dubrovnik, City Walking Tour
|Half-Day Elafiti Islands Speedboat Tour
Day 1: Arrive in Zagreb (Croatia), Free Time
Start your great Croatian adventure in Zagreb, the capital. A gem of a European city, Zagreb is at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks and Gothic/neo-Renaissance buildings, yet there are also modern shopping complexes, outdoor malls, and endless dining and drinking options. On arrival, a private driver will meet and transfer you to your hotel. Refresh and get ready to explore. Consider heading out on a guided walking tour of the city's historic heart, taking you from the main square to Zagreb's Upper Town through local markets to St. Mark's Square.
Alternatively, you could visit one of the many museums and art galleries, like the Homeland War Museum, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, or the ever-popular Museum of Broken Hearts. Or stroll through the city center, enjoying 17th-century neo-Baroque architecture found at the Art Pavilion and Croatian National Theater. Zagreb also has a number of beautiful city parks, which are great for exploring and people-watching, especially in the late afternoon. Maksimir is a great option, with a variety of cafés nearby to pick up a coffee for your stroll.
Day 2: Scenic Castles of the Zagorje Region
Just a few miles northwest of Zagreb lies Zagorje, a bucolic, hilly region dotted with Renaissance and medieval fortresses, numerous Baroque castles, and family-run vineyards and farms. It's a memorable, romantic landscape that will take you back in time to a sense of both the aristocratic past and the traditional rural way of life that still exists in Croatia today. A quick day trip from Zagreb allows you to immerse yourself in this beautiful region. Your guide will take you to Trakošćan Castle, a 14th-century fortress perched on a hill adjacent to a glassy lake.
This defensive fortress was later used as a home for aristocratic Croatian families. You'll tour the castle grounds, then explore all four floors. Explore the heyday of Croatian nobility with historic oil paintings, antique furniture, and even medieval weapons like swords and cannons. Afterward, you'll see Veliki Tabor Castle, a 16th-century Gothic-Renaissance castle built for a noble Hungarian family with fortifications to defend against Turkish invaders. Explore the towers, guardhouses, and inner courtyard—plus a small museum featuring exhibitions of medieval artifacts like armor, weapons, and paintings.
Finally, explore the village of Kumrovec and its 19th-century restored peasants' houses. Here, you can browse local craft shops and enjoy 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 3: Drive to Ljubljana (Slovenia)
This morning, you'll pick up your rental car and make the drive two hours west to charming Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Check into your hotel, then use the rest of the day to explore Slovenia's lively main city. Saunter down the main street along the banks of the Ljubljanica River, stopping in whatever small boutique, outdoor café, or wine bar terrace strikes your fancy as you breathe in the fresh air of one of the continent's greenest cities. A classic European castle, parks, and churches are all on offer as you wind your way around town by foot or bicycle.
You'll notice the legacy of modern architect Jože Plečnik around the city at worthwhile stops such as the National Library, Triple Bridge, and Plečnik's own home-turned-museum, all under the watchful eyes of the city's many signature dragons. The Central Market is also a key site for sampling local cuisine at its many stalls.
Day 4: Day Trip to Lake Bled & Lake Bohinj
After breakfast in the capital, you'll make the 45-minute drive to Lake Bled. No matter the season, this picture-postcard lake with its island is one of Slovenia's main attractions. You can also climb up to the castle and tour its smithy, wine cellar, and printing press before enjoying a traditional meal in the restaurant, or row a small pletna boat across the placid waters. Once you reach the fairy-tale island at the lake's center, climb up the church's 99 steps, where legend has it the ringing of the bell can grant your wishes.
In the early afternoon, drive a further 30 minutes to Lake Bohinj. You'll have the option to ride the cable car up to Mount Vogel for spectacular views over Lake Bohinj, the Julian Alps, and Triglav National Park, or take a boat ride across Lake Bohinj. Next, choose from several walks in the area—though you won't want to miss a trek to the famous Savica Waterfall to admire its 256-foot (78 m) cascade into the crystal waters below. After all this fun, return to Ljubljana for the evening.
Day 5: Drive to Rovinj (Croatia), Free Time on the Istrian Peninsula
Today, you'll return to Croatia, journeying south into the coastal town of Rovinj, a three-hour drive away. Settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the day to explore this small jewel on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became a part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today.
Explore the Old Town and marvel at the centuries-old Venetian-influenced architecture as you pass under archways, through alleyways, and up stone stairwells. Navigate your way to Balbi's Arch and the 12th-century Town Clock, noting Rovinj's skyline dominated by the Baroque St. Euphemia Church. Seek out your choice of interest from churches to galleries and pebbled beaches, capping off the evening with a delicious dinner of fresh fish and local wine. Return to your hotel on one of the 14 small islands just off the mainland.
Day 6: Into the Heart of Istria: Grožnjan, Oprtalj & Motovun
Hit the road this morning for a full day exploring the rolling hills of Istria, tasting the best local olive oils and wine varieties, and exploring charming Croatian villages. First, drive 75 minutes north to Grožnjan, a medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards. Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town went into decline with the collapse of the 18th-century empire. In the 1960s, Grožnjan reemerged as an artist town. Lose yourself in the maze of cobbled streets, popping into art studios and galleries.
Then, continue 30 minutes to Oprtalj, a medieval fort town on the north side of the Mirna River valley. Oprtalj is home to traditional narrow streets, shops, and fine examples of Istrian and Venetian architecture, including the 16th-century St. George's Church and its Venetian-style bell tower. Finally, drive south to Motovun, an ancient sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Its present appearance, with the city walls surrounding the center of the town, dates back to the Middle Ages. Sample local wines and enjoy a meal with truffles sourced from the nearby truffle-rich forests, then return to Rovinj.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Ferry to Zadar, Drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park
Get up early to catch a six-hour ferry to Zadar, a historic city on the Dalmatian Coast. Zadar is famous for its picturesque coastline of islands and vibrant blue waters, as well as fresh seafood and memorable sunsets. You'll arrive in the early afternoon. Stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat before continuing 90 minutes north to Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit for any traveler to Croatia. This is more than a park—it's a storybook locale conjured from a romantic dream. Comprised of 16 terraced lakes over 114 square miles (296 sq km), its glassy waters are as emerald green as the surrounding forests. The real stars of the show, however, are the cascading waterfalls that plunge over the terraces in seemingly every corner of Plitvice. You'll visit the park at sunrise tomorrow, but you could gain a sneak peek this evening if there's time.
Day 8: Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar
Early morning is one of the best times to visit Plitvice Lakes before the midday crowds arrive. Many hiking routes within the park 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 they'll be able to offer insight into the region as well as lead you to the most interesting areas of the park. After enjoying a leisurely morning in Plitvice, carry on your way south to the ancient capital of Zadar, the perfect city to arrive in after a day in the storybook wilderness.
Take the rest of the day to relax and explore. You may wish to stroll along Zadar's Riva, a wide ribbon of stone paths bordered by a grassy park on one side and the sea on the other. It runs along Old Town's waterfront, where it comes alive at night with vendors and Dalmatian a cappella groups called klapa that serenade the passersby, including folks on yachts who dock there. Take in a legendary sunset from Café Brazil before discovering the pretty patterned lights of the Monument to the Sun while listening to the nearby Sea Organ.
Day 9: Drive to Split via Šibenik
This morning, continue south along the Dalmatian Coast to Split, halfway along the 2.5-hour drive to visit Šibenik. A true Croatian town founded by the Croat king Petar Krešimir IV in the 11th century, Šibenik is home to impressive fortresses, music festivals, and medieval gardens. Start with a visit to the famous UNESCO-protected St. James' Cathedral, before selecting a restaurant for your lunch—perhaps Pelegrini, just above the cathedral. From here, continue to Split, the second-largest city in Croatia. On arrival, check into your hotel and refresh.
Split, an ancient coastal city, was founded 1,700 years ago by the Roman emperor Diocletian. In the fourth century, he built the dazzling Diocletian's Palace, which became the blueprint for Split's Old Town. The well-preserved palace has been transformed into the heart of this ancient city, and you can wander its halls. Visit the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the Piazza, and Peristyle Square, where you can admire the 3,500-year-old sphinxes that Diocletian brought back from Egypt. If there's time, climb the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus for stunning views over the city and Adriatic.
In the evening, take a stroll along Split's seafront Riva to admire the views over the Adriatic before finding the offbeat Konoba Dioklecijan restaurant for dinner, its outdoor terrace built into the walls of the famed palace.
Day 11: Full-Day Krka Waterfalls Tour
Prepare for a memorable day trip into Croatian nature. In the morning, you'll meet your local guide and driver and commence a one-hour journey to Krka National Park, which, besides Plitvice, is home to Croatia's other drop-dead gorgeous network of waterfalls. In total, there are seven waterfalls in this 54-square-mile (139 sq km) national park. They're formed by the Krka River, and a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) boardwalk follows their circuitous route through the 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. Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and Mother Nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, at the base of this postcard locale, you'll find restaurants, snack stands, ice cream shops, and more. After exploring the national park with free time to enjoy the best of this natural paradise, you'll transfer back to Split.
Day 11: Ferry to Korčula, Food & Drink Tasting
Check out Split's Green Market (Pazar Market), a lively outdoor fruit and vegetable market just east of the Diocletian Palace. This is a great place to see how the locals shop and to pick up some fruit for your 2.5 or 3.5-hour ferry ride to Korčula. Settle into this idyllic Adriatic island, then join your guide for a special local food experience, starting at one of the region's top honey producers. Learn how honey gets from the beehives to jars, what makes it taste different, and sample gin made with honey. Then, transfer to the village of Lumbarda to enjoy one of Korčula's most famous products—wine—at a family-run winery.
You'll taste the acclaimed and little-known indigenous white wine, grk, as well as the red plavac mali, which is produced throughout Dalmatia. Enjoy regional snacks with your tasting, then wander over to the home of the jovial Ivan and Ana, where you'll taste an array of homemade products, including olive oil, preserves, sweet treats, Croatian rakija (brandy), domestic wine, and to top the tour off, pancakes (crêpe-style) with jam. Bid your new friends farewell, and return to town.
Day 12: Ferry to Dubrovnik, City Walking Tour
Catch a two-hour morning ferry to Dubrovnik today, then use the afternoon to explore one of Europe's most ancient fortress cities. Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," 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 its many Baroque churches and Renaissance and Gothic palaces still stand today.
Check into your hotel, then meet a private guide. Tour the Old Town to uncover centuries of the city's rich history while your guide shares stories of local life, legends, and tales of the importance Dubrovnik once held in the era of its Republic. Highlights include Onofrio's Fountain, the 15th-century Rector's Palace, Luza Square, the Church of St. Blaise (St. Vlaho), and the café-lined streets of Brsalje Street. After, you'll head for Lovrijenac Fortress as well as the city's impressive defensive walls, the second-largest set of city walls in the world, where parts rise some 75 feet (22 m) high.
Day 13: Half-Day Elafiti Islands Speedboat Tour
Admire the scenery of the Adriatic Coast with today's half-day speedboat tour. Meet your skipper, then set out to discover one or more of the three islands of the Elafiti archipelago: Lopud, Šipan, and Koločep. Explore small settlements and discover hidden coves perfect for swimming. Wander around in the shade of Mediterranean vegetation, explore interesting small villages, and enjoy local cuisine. Return to Dubrovnik and use your afternoon to explore deeper.
Afterward, you might ride the cable car up to Mount Srđ for panoramic views over the city and Adriatic. You could stay for a final Croatian dinner at Panorama Restaurant. Alternatively, there's Buza Bar along the water's edge and outside the city walls—a great spot to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the sunset.
Day 14: Depart Dubrovnik
Depending on when you depart, you may have time to visit one of Dubrovnik's museums, like the Franciscan Monastery and Museum. This large complex houses many treasures, including the world's third-oldest pharmacy dating from 1317. Alternatively, visit the Rector's Palace and Cultural Historical Museum to explore a well-preserved palace-turned-museum filled with details of life in the Republic of Ragusa during medieval times.
Then, when the time is right, make the 45-minute drive to the airport with enough time to drop off your rental car and check into your departing flight home or onward. This concludes your grand Croatian adventure. Safe travels!
More Great Croatia Itineraries
A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.