Experience the highlights of Croatia as well as the less-frequented hidden gems on this comprehensive 21-day tour. Start in the dynamic capital of Zagreb and cover the rolling hills and castles of the Zagorje, the hill towns and Venetian-era villages of Istria, and the unspoiled nature of Cres Island in the Kvarner Gulf before returning to the mainland. You'll explore the stunning Dalmatian coast with its ancient coastal cities of Zadar, Šibenik, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik along with discovering Adriatic islands, Korčula and Mljet, the rugged beauty of the Pelješac Peninsula, and the exquisite Bay of Kotor on a day trip to Montenegro.

Highlights

  • Visit the straight-out-of-a storybook, Trakošćan Castle in the Zagorje countryside
  • Join an e-bike tour of Rovinj and pedal through Istria's vineyards and olive groves
  • Discover ghost towns, isolated beaches, and endangered species on Cres Island
  • Visit Rastoke, a suburb in the Kordun region crisscrossed by crystal-clear waters
  • Explore Mljet's unspoiled national park and swim in unique saltwater lakes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Zagreb! Zagreb
Day 2 Scenic Castles of the Zagorje Region Zagreb
Day 3 Zagreb to Rovinj, Stopping in Opatija Rovinj
Day 4 Truffle Hunting, Fine-Dining, & Medieval Villages Rovinj
Day 5 Rovinj E-Bike Tour Rovinj
Day 6 Sun & Relaxation in Cape Kamenjak Rovinj
Day 7 Rovinj to Cres Island Cres
Day 8 Cres Island to Plitvice Lakes, Stopping at Rastoke Village Plitvice Lakes
Day 9 Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar Zadar
Day 10 Sail through the Kornati Islands Zadar
Day 11 Explore Šibenik, Dalmatia's Most Underrated City Šibenik
Day 12 Šibenik to Split, Stopping in Trogir Split
Day 13 Walking Tour of Split Split
Day 14 Ferry from Split to Korčula Korčula Town
Day 15 Cycling & Wine Tasting Tour in Lumbarda Korčula Town
Day 16 Korčula to Ston via Pelješac Peninsula Ston
Day 17 Visit Mljet National Park (Day Trip from Ston) Ston
Day 18 Explore Ston, Drive to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 19 Walking Tour of Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 20 Day Trip to Montenegro Dubrovnik
Day 21 Depart Dubrovnik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Zagreb!

Looking out over Zagreb, Croatia's capital
Looking out over Zagreb, Croatia's capital

Start your adventure from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel to settle in where you'll have the rest of the day to spend as you like. The city center is easily walkable and the streets and parks are easy to navigate by foot. All the main attractions and restaurants are within walking distance.

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. Consider heading out on a guided walking tour of the historic heart of the city. This involves walking from Ban Jelačić, the main square, to Zagreb's Upper Town and passing through local markets before reaching St. Mark's Square.

Alternatively, you can 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 Zagreb's 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

Trakošćan Castle
Trakošćan Castle

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 rural traditional way of life that still exists in Croatia today. A quick day trip from Zagreb allows you to immerse yourself in this beautiful region.

Find your way to Trakošćan Castle, 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, visit Veliki Tabor Castle, which is located just southwest of 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, 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 3: Zagreb to Rovinj, Stopping in Opatija

Rovinj
Rovinj

From Zagreb, you'll make the scenic drive west to Rovinj, stopping first for lunch in the coastal town of Opatija. A popular tourist destination since the 19th century, Opatija is known for its Mediterranean climate and historic Habsburg-era buildings, remnants of its touristic past. Stroll along the famous Lungomare, a promenade that follows the Adriatic coastline before finding a restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink with a view that overlooks the Kvarner Gulf

After lunch, continue on to Rovinj where you'll settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the afternoon and evening 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 part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Explore 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 day with a delicious dinner of fresh fish and local wine. 

Driving time (Zagreb to Opatija): 2 hours
Driving time (Opatija to Rovinj): 1-2 hours

Day 4: Truffle Hunting, Fine-Dining, & Medieval Villages (Day Trip from Rovinj)

Buzet at sunset
Buzet at sunset

Enjoy a full day immersing yourself in the sights, flavors, and history of Istria.

Your first stop is Prodan Tartufi near the town of Buzet, to join the Podran family and their truffle-sniffing dogs on an hour-long search for the prized white truffle. Afterward, you'll spend a little time cooking up the delicacy for a light mid-morning meal, a precursor to lunch.

From here, get yourself to the nearby Toklarija restaurant for an unforgettable six-course tasting. Set in a rustic, fireplace-lit 17-seat room, the eccentric chef (and owner) prepares locally sourced ingredients in an array of mouthwatering dishes that will leave you speechless. (Reservations are a must as they don't take walk-ins.)

Come late afternoon, walk off your meal with a stroll in Grožnjan, a medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards. Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town's importance went into decline with the collapse of their empire (in the 18th-century). It wasn't until the sixties that Grožnjan became what it is today: the town of artists. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow and cobblestoned lanes, stopping to pop into one of the numerous art studios and galleries. 

A short distance across the lush Mirna River Valley sits Motovun, an ancient sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Its present appearance, with the city walls surrounding the town center, dates back to the Middle Ages. Walk its medieval walls and pick up local products like olive oil and herb-infused brandy called travarica before finding your way to the seaside town of Novigrad to enjoy one of Istria's top-rated dining experiences at Damir i Ornella. The dishes use simple ingredients, think olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, but the atmosphere, the hosts, and the straight-from-the-sea daily catch combine to leave you well and satisfied. 

Driving time (Rovinj to Buzet): 1 hour
Driving time (Buzet to Grožnjan): 40 minutes
Driving time (Motovun to Novigrad): 30 minutes
Driving time (Novigrad to Rovinj): 1 hour

Day 5: Rovinj E-Bike Tour

Rovinj and surrounding archipelago
Rovinj and surrounding archipelago

One of the best ways to see Rovinj and its surroundings is to cover some ground on a fun half-day electric bike tour.

You'll meet your guide in Rovinj and then venture along the coast for a short distance before cutting inland to take in the sights, a mix of both modern and ancient, as you work your way toward Rovinjsko Selo. You'll have time for a restorative drink and rest before carrying on through dense woods and passed groves of gnarled olive trees and neat vineyards until you return to the coastline. Here you'll follow a series of narrow roads and trails with alternating views of the Adriatic and countryside as you work your way back to your starting point in Rovinj.

Day 6: Sun & Relaxation in Cape Kamenjak

Kamenjak National Park
Kamenjak National Park

Take the day to discover beautiful Cape Kamenjak, the Istrian peninsula's most southern point. Protected as a nature park, the peninsula offers a variety of secluded coves and beaches, some of the best in the Pula region. Here you can relax, soaking in the fresh salty air and enjoying the mesmerizing sea, as you swim, cycle, or walk to explore the park.

Note that if you opt to drive into the park there is a small fee, though it's waived if you choose to go by foot or bicycle. Take the walking or cycling road that follows the peninsula coastline, breaking at one of the 30 bays that strike your interest. Stop for lunch at the busy Safari Bar before taking a walk along the cliff's edge—popular with cliff-jumpers. The more active might opt to visit Medulin, Istria's main destination for watersports for more of a beach day and to take a windsurfing or sailing lesson.

Break up the drive back with a stop in Premantura, a village that borders the park, for dinner at Konoba Ancora.

Driving time (Rovinj to Kamenjak): 1-1.5 hours

Day 7: Rovinj to Cres Island

Plava Grota beach near Lubenice
Plava Grota beach near Lubenice

Rise early this morning to cut across Istria to Brestova where you'll board a ferry to Porozina on the island of Cres. The westernmost of the Kvarner islands, Cres is a welcome treat from the mainland, particularly if you're traveling here during the peak July and August summer months. Seemingly untouched by modern-day mass tourism, the sparsely populated island is mostly wild with unspoiled landscapes, boasting a few attractive weather-beaten port and hilltop towns. 

Given the size and geography of Cres, the island offers much to see and do from climbing rocky mountains and peering off imposing cliffs, to hiking through oak and pine forests and bathing in shallow waters in hidden coves. Head to any of the smaller settlements like ghost-town Beli, Martinšćica, and the colorful fishing village of Valun to get a feel for simpler times from centuries past. Spend a little time discovering Lubenice, a ridge-top medieval town that presents stunning views of the rugged western coast as well as access to the gorgeous St. Ivan beach an hour trek each way.

Nature lovers will want to hike the paths that wind through the Tramuntana, a wooded area chock-full of natural beauty and historical sites, including forts, Roman bridges, and paths. There's an excellent chance you'll be able to spot the endangered griffon vulture here too, so train your eyes to the sky. Rent a boat to tour the perimeter of the island, dropping anchor at any number of tucked-away bay, cove, or inlet that piques your interest to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive the crystalline waters.

And when it's time to check into your hotel, consider the Venetian-styled Cres Town. For a little cultural exploration, start in Trg Frane Petrića, the main square that opens out onto the harbor. Visit the 15th-century loggia and 16th-century clock tower, and the Cres Museum inside the Gothic Arsan-Petris Palace before checking out the remnants of the city walls and old Roman bridge. Enjoy an evening stroll along the sea-facing promenade lined with cafés and restaurants. Try Plavica or Riva

Driving time (Rovinj to Brestova): 1.5 hours
Ferry time (Brestova to Porozina): 20 minutes
Driving time (Porozina to Cres): 30 minutes

Day 8: Cres Island to Plitvice Lakes, Stopping at Rastoke Village

Old watermills in the village of Rastoke
Old watermills in the village of Rastoke

Today, you'll ferry from Merag to Valbiska on the island of Krk and continue the journey onto the mainland and onward to Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of Croatia's most popular national parks. Along the way, make a point to stop at Rastoke. Rastoke is a small village known for its old watermills and beautiful waterfalls as two rivers converge in the area. This is a nice precursor of the sights to come at Plitvice Lakes.

If there's interest, you might like to visit the nearby Caves of Barać and take a tour of the prehistoric stalactites and stalagmites found within.

A short drive later, you'll arrive in Plitvice Lakes National Park. A must-visit for any traveler to Croatia, the UNESCO-protected park is comprised of an exquisite collection of 16 glassy emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 cascading waterfalls that seemingly cover every corner of the park, and numerous caves. The terraced lakes are surrounded by beech and pine forests and are home to extensive wildlife. 

You'll likely arrive in Plitvice in the late afternoon where you can relax in your accommodation in preparation to visit the park at sunrise the following morning. 

Driving time (Cres to Merag): 20 minutes
Ferry time (Merag to Valbiska): 25 minutes
Driving time (Valbiska to Rastoke): 2.5 hours
Driving time (Rastoke to Plitvice): 25 minutes

Day 9: Sunrise at Plitvice Lakes, Drive to Zadar

Discover Plitvice Lakes
Discover Plitvice Lakes

Early morning is one of the best times to visit Plitvice Lakes before the mid-day crowds arrive. You can explore the park on your own or opt for a local guide who will take you on a number of defined routes of varying lengths throughout 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. 

A historical center of the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar is famous for its picturesque coastline full of islands and vibrant blue waters, as well as fresh seafood and unforgettable sunsets. 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 capella groups called Klapa that serenade the passersby, including folks on yachts who dock there. 

Take in a legendary sunset (Alfred Hitchcock is on record saying they're the best in Zadar) from Café Brazil before discovering the pretty patterned lights of the Monument to the Sun while listening to the nearby Sea Organ.

Driving time: 1.5-2 hours

Day 10: Sail through the Kornati Islands

The beautiful Kornati Islands off the coast of Zadar
The beautiful Kornati Islands off the coast of Zadar

Today is reserved for a fun day of sailing from Zadar to Kornati National Park. Nearly devoid of life, lie the barren and ruggedly beautiful 90 or so islands of the Kornati archipelago, grouped around the significantly larger Kornat Island. You'll hoist anchor and set sail to take in the stunning raw beauty of the jagged rocks, indented coastline, and relatively untouched marine ecology.  Along the way, there will be time to explore some of the islands more intimately where you'll find your way to secluded coves for swimming and snorkeling opportunities.

Day 11: Explore Šibenik, Dalmatia's Most Underrated City

Steps leading to Cathedral of St. James
Steps leading to Cathedral of St. James

Set in middle Dalmatia, the unassuming town of Šibenik offers a perfect blend of historic charm, natural beauty, and modern delights, from Mediterranean architecture and island beaches to lively festival culture. Often overlooked by the better known Dalmatian cities to its south (Split and Dubrovnik), Šibenik offers much to be discovered, if not more so as the town has taken measured steps to maintain its heritage and tradition.

Today is yours to explore Šibenik's hidden beauty, the core of which lies in its magnificent medieval heart and its outlying fortresses. Wander the maze-like streets to Trg Republike Hrvatske (Republic of Croatia Square) as you find your way to the architectural masterpiece, the grand stone Cathedral of St. James. Eat fresh-caught seafood for lunch in stylish Gradska Vijećnica, the arcaded front of the former Town Hall before you roam the stone labyrinth of backstreets and climb narrow steps to tucked-away corners, stopping to snap the obligatory photo.

Continue to the Mediterranean garden of the St. Lawrence Monastery for a look at a recreated medieval garden of herbs and medicinal plants, bordered neatly between pathways. Enjoy an ice cream from the smartly located garden café before you continue the short ascent to St. Michael's Fortress. Transformed into a top visitor attraction and concert venue, parts of the fortress date back tot he 12th century and offer sweeping views over Old Town, Šibenik Bay, and the blanketed-in-green islands beyond. 

In the afternoon, consider taking a sunset kayak tour across the Šibenik Bay and through the St. Anthony Channel to see another of Šibenik's Venetian-era strongholds, the awe-inspiring St. Nicholas' Fortress. Alternatively, climb the steps up to Barone Fortress in the early evening to grab a drink from the café and watch the sunset over the whole of the city, including St. Michael's Fortress.

Day 12: Šibenik to Split, Stopping in Trogir

The island-city of Trogir
The island-city of Trogir

Set on a small island, a stepping stone between the mainland and the much larger Čiovo is the ancient coastal city of Trogir. 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. Navigate the narrow stone streets, starting with the Garagnin-Fanfogna Palace, working your way to the Cathedral of St. Lawrence to admire Radovan's 13th-century Romanesque portal and the bizarre creatures around the doorposts.

Stroll along the Riva, admiring the Romanesque, Renaissance, and baroque architecture and medieval fortress walls as you find your way to the 15th-century Kamerlengo Fortress. Ascend its ramparts for sweeping views over the island. And don't be surprised if you're serenaded by traditional acapella groups called klapa, along your way.

Come mid-afternoon, travel the short distance east to Split, settling into your hotel before taking the rest of the afternoon to wander its historic center. 

Start at Pjaca Square for pretty views of white marble tiles, the Iron Gate (the western entrance to Diocletian's Palace), a Romanesque clock tower with the remains of a medieval sundial, and the 15th-century Town Hall. Stop for lunch at Trattoria Bajamont, just north of the Iron Gate. From there, visit the popular Voćni trg or Fruit Square. Here you can enjoy renaissance architecture, influenced during Split's Venetian era. For a bit of shopping and a bite to eat head to Marmont Street, though you'll want to make your way to the waterfront to catch the sunset.

In the evening, take a stroll along Split's seafront Riva to admire the views over the Adriatic before finding the off-beat Konoba Dioklecijan restaurant, just to the left of the Bronze Gate for dinner, its outdoor terrace built into the walls of Diocletian's Palace.

Driving time (Šibenik to Trogir):1 hour
Driving time (Trogir to Split): 40 minutes

Day 13: Walking Tour of Split

Diocletian's Palace, Split
Diocletian's Palace, Split

An ancient coastal city founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Split's Old Town includes a number of impressive sites, including Peristyle, the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the Piazza, and Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. Meet your expert guide in Peristyle Square for a walking tour, taking in the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Diocletian brought back from Egypt before exploring the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace and other noteworthy sites.

If there's time following your tour, climb the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)—considered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use—for stunning views over the city and Adriatic. Another option for great views is to hike or bike to the top of Marjan Hill. Referred to as the "lungs of the city," the entire Marjan peninsula is dotted with tiny centuries-old churches, large cypress and black pine trees, and Mediterranean plants and herbs.

In addition to the stunning vistas, you'll be rewarded with attractions less visited: the Jewish cemetery and 13th and 15th-century churches, St. Nicholas and St. Jerome, respectively.  Afterward, head to Bačvice Beach and relax on the sand warmed by the day's sun before choosing a nearby restaurant for dinner.

Day 14: Ferry from Split to Korčula

Korčula's Old Town
Korčula's Old Town

Take the morning to check out Split's Green Market (Pazar Market), a lively fruit and vegetable outdoor 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 ferry ride to Korčula.

Once on Korčula, the afternoon and evening are yours to discover this little island's numerous restaurants, taverns, shops, and bars as you roam the maze of gray stone houses, alleys, churches, and squares. 

Enjoy a traditional lunch of lamb and goat in Korčula's Old Town, one of the finest examples of Venetian architecture on the Dalmatian coast. Next, visit the 14th-century Land Gate on top of an elegant staircase, before heading to the St. Mark's Cathedral to admire its strange sculptures of beasts and people. Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Bishop's Treasury next door for a small but impressive art collection, including works from Carpaccio, Bassano, and Tiepolo. From there, you may wish to visit the unremarkable house thought to be the birthplace of Marco Polo.

If beaches are what you're after, rent a bike or scooter or ride the bus the 5 miles (8 km) to the sandy beaches of Lumbarda. Afterward, grab a bite to eat and pair it with the local dry white, Grk, indigenous to Lumbarda and nowhere else. 

Ferry time (Split to Korčula): 4 hours

Day 15: Cycling & Wine Tasting Tour in Lumbarda

Grk grapes grow in the Lumbarda region
Grk grapes grow in the Lumbarda region

Spend the day on a cycling tour (private or with a group) across the island from Korčula Town to Lumbarda with stops along the way to visit beaches and wineries. Pick up your bike and meet your guide in Korčula and ride out of the town south toward Lumbarda. You will cycle through fields, villages, and wineries, covering asphalt, gravel, and dirt roads with vistas opening up to the Adriatic Sea as well as to the impressive Mt. Ilija on the nearby Pelješac Peninsula.

This gentle route explores the ancient and historical sites of the eastern side of the island as you work your way to the spread-out village of Lumbarda. Boasting beautiful beaches and centuries-old winemaking traditions, Lumbarda is home to Grk, a white grape variety that will pair well with your lunch or dinner. Some of Croatia's best white wines are produced on Korčula and you won't be left wanting.

You'll also have the opportunity to visit Bire Winery, a family-run winery that produces Grk wine as well as its own varietals, including a rosé. All the wineries in the area produce Grk which is unique to this region due to its sandy soil and Plavac Mali (a red grape grown extensively across South Dalmatia that acts as a pollinator for the Grk vines). 

Take some time to relax on one of Lumbarda's beaches before returning to Korčula Town for the evening.

Cycling time: 3-5 hours

Day 16: Korčula to Ston via Pelješac Peninsula

Orebić
Orebić

Make your way to the ferry terminal in either Korčula Old Town (foot passengers) or nearby Dominče (car ferries) to transfer the short distance to Orebić on the Pelješac Peninsula. Wander the seaside town's narrow streets, noting the charming stone villas once occupied by famous sea captains. From here, you'll continue your journey southeast to your hotel in the medieval city of Ston, stopping to sample Dingač, Croatia's most well-known red at any of the numerous vineyards populating the rugged landscape.

If there's interest, rent a bike and cycle along the Plavac Mali vineyards to a quiet bay for a swim, snorkel, and lunch break before carrying on to Ston, twin settlement to Mali Ston on the opposite end of the peninsula's isthmus. End the day with a meal of Ston's famous fresh oysters or mussels accompanied by a glass of local Dingač. 

Ferry time (Korčula to Orebić): 30 minutes
Driving time (Orebić to Ston): 1 hour

Day 17: Visit Mljet National Park (Day Trip from Ston)

Beautiful coastline of Mljet National Park
Beautiful coastline of Mljet National Park

Today you'll board a ferry from Trstenik to Polače on Mljet Island where you'll disembark to spend time exploring Mljet National Park. Considered the greenest as well as one of the larger Adriatic islands off the Croatian coast, Mljet is a thin strip of land parallel to the Pelješac peninsula and runs 20 miles (32 km) long and up to 2 miles (3 km) wide. The park itself covers a third of the island and is made up of lakes and bays, dense forests, and olive groves.

Rent a bike to explore the unspoiled western side of the island in the National Park and stop to enjoy a unique swim in any of the beautiful lush coves. Popular sights worth a visit include Veliko and Malo Jezero (Large and Small Lake)—two salt lakes in the park, connected by a narrow canal, Soline Bay, and a sea-belt some 500 miles wide off the most prominent cape, the Cape of Mljet. If the mood should strike, stop for a swim in the lakes (which are invariably warmer than the open Adriatic sea!). There's also the option to join a guided tour through the park to visit a 12th-century Benedictine monastery

Grab lunch at a local restaurant before making your way back to your hotel in Ston.

Day 18: Explore Ston, Drive to Dubrovnik

Climbing the parapet walkway of Ston's defensive wall
Climbing the parapet walkway of Ston's defensive wall

Take the better part of the day to explore Ston, its surroundings, and of course its impressive fortified walls—the longest on the continent (originally built to keep predators away from the town's saltpans) and discover the importance this area held in the 14th century. Enjoy beautiful views over the Adriatic and Ston and its glittering saltpans—one of the oldest and still active in the Mediterranean—from a parapet walkway.

Rent a kayak and paddle amid oyster and mussel farms in Ston's bay, taking in the striking views of the walls from the sea. Alternatively, if you're looking for more of a beach day, find your way to Prapratno, just over a mile away for access to the peninsula's largest sandy beach.

When it's time, make your way to your accommodation in the historic coastal fortress city of Dubrovnik. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure, allowing time for you to wander and explore this magical city. Climb the 16th-century city walls for incredible views of countless red rooftops of old stone houses, towers, turrets, churches, and palaces. And be sure to find your way to the limestone-paved Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street to get your bearings and choose from some of Croatia's best restaurants and wine bars.

Driving time (Ston to Dubrovnik): 1 hour

Day 19: Walking Tour of Dubrovnik

St. Blaise Church on Stradun
St. Blaise Church on Stradun

Start your day early (around 8 am) to avoid the crowds and to embark on a tour of Dubrovnik where you'll meet your expert guide outside the entrance to the medieval city at the 16th-century Pile Gate. Entering Old Town, you'll uncover centuries of the city's rich history as you listen to stories of local life and legends and of the importance Dubrovnik once held in the era of the 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 touring the streets and alleys, 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. At certain places the wall rises 75 feet high, offering excellent vantage points for photos of the coastline. 

For the rest of the afternoon, explore Dubrovnik and its surroundings on your own or enjoy the afternoon sun on the nearby beaches. Come early evening, you can get stunning panoramic views over the city and Adriatic by taking the cable car up to Srđ Mountain before descending back down for dinner at one of Dubrovnik's great restaurants.

Day 20: Day Trip to Montenegro

Our Lady of the Rock Island in Perast
Our Lady of the Rock Island in Perast

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. 

You'll want to get an early start to allow time for the border crossing. 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. From here, you'll make the 20-minute drive to 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 m). When you're ready, find your way back to Dubrovnik.

Know that you can do this trip on your own (with a rental car) or hire the services of a private driver. Navigating the border crossing and finding parking in Montenegro can be challenging, however, so it's recommended that you opt for a private driver.

Driving time (Dubrovnik to Perast): 2 hours
Driving time (Kotor to Dubrovnik): 2 hours

Day 21: Depart Dubrovnik

Rector's Palace
Rector's Palace

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, for a collection of 15,000 pieces of interesting works, visit the Rector's Palace and Cultural Historical Museum. Wander this well-preserved palace-turned-museum and explore its exhibits, some detailing life in the Republic of Ragusa during medieval times.

The drive to the airport from Dubrovnik takes around 45 minutes with normal traffic.