Enjoy this 11-day adventure through Croatia, starting in Dubrovnik and ending in the capital, Zagreb. You'll fall in love with Croatia's rugged and wild beauty as you kayak, hike, swim, and bike your way over peninsulas and to islands and through lavender fields and wine country. From stunning and diverse national parks to charming coastal cities and island villages, you'll get a complete sense of Croatia on this tour.

Highlights

  • Paddle to and snorkel the hidden Green Cave on Šipan
  • Climb Ston's historic defense wall for views of glittering saltpans and the Adriatic
  • Hike the historic Napoleon path on Korčula
  • Cycle through olive groves and vineyards and past coastal villages on Hvar

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Dubrovnik! Dubrovnik
Day 2 Elafiti Islands by Private Speedboat: Kayaking, Swimming, & Villages Dubrovnik
Day 3 Dubrovnik to Korčula via Pelješac Peninsula Korčula Town
Day 4 Hike through the Forests and Vineyards of Korčula Korčula Town
Day 5 Ferry from Korčula to Hvar Hvar Town
Day 6 Guided Cycling Tour around Hvar Island Hvar Town
Day 7 Ferry from Hvar to Split Split
Day 8 Split to Zadar, Stopping for a Visit in Šibenik Zadar
Day 9 Hike through Paklenica National Park (Day Trip from Zadar) Zadar
Day 10 Zadar to Zagreb, Stopping at Plitvice Lakes National Park Zagreb
Day 11 Depart Zagreb  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Dubrovnik!

Old city walls and the Adriatic
Old city walls and the Adriatic

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 riding the cable car up to  Srđ Mountain to take in the sunset over the nearby Elafiti Islands, visiting Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses, and walking along the smooth, limestone-paved streets of historic Old Town

After spending some time getting to know the city, 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. For dinner, there are a number of great restaurants you can choose from.

Day 2: Elafiti Islands by Private Speedboat: Kayaking, Swimming, & Villages

The rocky island of Šipan along the Adriatic Coast
The rocky island of Šipan along the Adriatic Coast

Today you'll set out on an exciting day trip to discover the vegetation-covered Elafiti Islands. Set between Dubrovnik and the Pelješac peninsula to the north, the small archipelago consists of 13 lush islands where only Koločep, Šipan, and Lopud are presently inhabited. Meet your skipper at Dubrovnik's Gruž harbor and board your private speedboat to cruise to the nearby island of Lopud.

You'll then switch into your sea-kayak after a brief introductory lesson and together with your snorkeling gear, paddle across the channel to the hidden Green Cave on Šipan. Tie up your kayak outside the mouth of the sandy-bottom cave to spend time snorkeling and exploring your surroundings. And if you're up for it, the spot is perfect for a little cliff jumping as well. After a full day of paddling, swimming, and visiting island villages, you'll return to Dubrovnik.

Day 3: Dubrovnik to Korčula via Pelješac Peninsula

Mali Ston, Croatia
Mali Ston, Croatia

Today you'll leave Dubrovnik behind and drive an hour northwest to the Pelješac Peninsula as you make your way to Korčula. En route, stop in the medieval city of Ston to explore one of the longest defensive stone walls in Europe (originally built to keep predators away from the town's saltpans) and discover the importance this area held in the 14th century. Catch great views of the glittering saltpans, below, from a parapet walkway on Ston's 3,937-foot (1,200 m) wall.

For lunch, treat yourself to a light meal of Ston's famous fresh oysters or mussels accompanied by a glass of local Dingač red wine. Should you choose, you can take a tour of one of the area's family-run wineries for a further sampling of Dingač's famous reds. 

When you're ready, continue your journey to Orebić to catch the ferry to Korčula. Once on the island, the afternoon is yours to discover Korčula's numerous restaurants, taverns, shops, and bars as you roam the maze of gray stone houses, alleys, churches, and squares. Check into your hotel in Old Town before heading out to explore, either on foot or perhaps on a rented bicycle, traveling from the town center to one of the secluded beaches on the island.

Driving time (Ston to Orebić): 1 hour
Ferry time (Orebić to Korčula): 20 minutes

Day 4: Hike through the Forests and Vineyards of Korčula

Korčula
Korčula

Today, you'll explore Korčula by foot and hike through a nature park full of amazing karst rock formations, dense forest, and wildlife. The walk is peaceful and leisurely and will take you to the ancient Napoleon path along olive groves, small vineyards, and beautiful fields of sage, oregano, and other local herbs. End your hike in the village of Pupnat where a traditional local lunch has been prepared with ingredients from the fields you've just walked through.

After lunch, make your way back to medieval Korčula Town to explore the cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and Gothic and Renaissance architectural masterpieces. Or spend the rest of the day enjoying the beach and water, paddleboarding, swimming, or relaxing on the sand.

Hiking distance: 7-14 miles (11-23 km)

Day 5: Ferry from Korčula to Hvar

Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance
Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance

Catch the ferry from Korčula to Hvar in the morning (1.5 hours) and check into your hotel. Another Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, Hvar is a popular destination with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and its historic town of the same name. You'll have the late morning to explore Hvar Town. Visit St. Stephen's Cathedral and climb the steps to the terrace outside of the historic Arsenal to enjoy views over the harbor and the surrounding area. 

Depending on interests, you may like to consider renting a scooter to drive through olive groves, lavender fields, and vineyards along the coastline. Bring a bottle of wine and watch the sunset from Španjola Fortress. The short walk up to this old 16th-century fortress is worth the hike for the stunning views of Hvar Town and the Pakleni islands. Alternatively, embark on a hike from Hvar town to Velo Grablje and Malo Grablje or go on an idyllic sunset kayaking tour of the nearby Pakleni archipelago.

Day 6: Guided Cycling Tour around Hvar Island

Croatia - Hvar - Cyclist explore plains around Stari Grad
Croatia - Hvar - Cyclist explore plains around Stari Grad

Start the morning with a self-guided walk along the Riva to Trg svetog Stjepana, the long, rectangular square that meets the sea. Here you can visit the Venetian arsenal and the town theater—one of the oldest Baroque playhouses in Europe. From the square, head into the Groda to explore the Hektorović Palace, Leporini Palace, and the Benedictine Convent.

In the afternoon, you'll be transferred from Old Town Hvar to Stari Grad to gear up and get ready for a cycling tour around the island—the best way to get to know all sides of Hvar. You'll bike through the center of well-preserved ancient Greek ruins on the Stari Grad Plain—an agricultural landscape set up by the ancient Greeks (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site)—and stop to explore small villages in the inner part of the island. 

Your guide will help you choose from a number of routes, ranging from 6 to 9 miles (10 -15 km). It'll be an easy ride on mostly flat roads through lavender fields, olive groves, and vineyards, palm trees and pine woods, and past coastal villages like Jelsa and Vrboska.

Day 7: Ferry from Hvar to Split

Split
Split

In the morning, you'll catch a one-hour ferry from Hvar to Split. Upon arriving in Split, check into your hotel and settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the day to wander Split's 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 Voćnitrg 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 head to the waterfront to catch the sunset.

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

Ferry duration (Hvar to Split): 1 hour

Day 8: Split to Zadar, Stopping for a Visit in Šibenik

11th-century Šibenik on the Adriatic
11th-century Šibenik on the Adriatic

Today, you'll spend time exploring the Adriatic coast as you make your way from Split up to Zadar.  On your way, consider breaking up the trip with a stop in 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 St. James' Cathedral, a UNESCO protected site for good reason, before selecting a restaurant for your dinner—perhaps Pelegrini, a restaurant and wine bar just above the cathedral.

From Šibenik, you'll continue the drive to Zadar. 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 (Split to Šibenik): 1.5 hours
Driving time (Šibenik to Zadar): 1 hour

Day 9: Hike through Paklenica National Park (Day Trip from Zadar)

Rugged mountains of Paklenica National Park
Rugged mountains of Paklenica National Park

Nature and outdoor lovers delight! This morning you'll get up early to make your way east to Paklenica National Park, the most accessible hiking area in the southern Velebit mountains. Made up of dramatic karst formations, the park is most known for two limestone gorges, Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica (literally meaning Big Paklenica and Small Paklenica), which run down toward the sea and offer plenty of hiking and rock-climbing options for the active traveler.  

You'll meet your expert guide in Starigrad where you'll lace up your hiking boots and set out to trek through black-pine and beech forests under the 1,312 feet (400 m) craggy limestone cliffs of Velika Paklenica. A prime rock-climbing destination in Europe, you'll complete a 12-mile (19 km) loop and stop for a traditionally prepared lunch in the one-house village of Ramići before making your way back to Starigrad.

After a day of hiking, you'll return to your accommodation in Zadar to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening as you choose. Perhaps take a seat on the marble steps at the water's edge listening to the Sea Organ plays its unending melody, fueled by the ebb and flow of the Adriatic Sea's current.

Driving time (Zadar to Starigrad): 1 hour

Day 10: Zadar to Zagreb, Stopping at Plitvice Lakes National Park

Boardwalk leading to waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park
Boardwalk leading to waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park

You'll want an early start for your drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of Croatia's most popular national parks. Gorgeous at any time of the year, Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s natural masterpiece. The park is home to an exquisite collection of 16 emerald green and blue travertine lakes, more than 90 waterfalls, and numerous caves, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lakes are surrounded by beech and pine forests and are home to extensive wildlife. 

Here, you can request a private, expert local guide to lead you throughout the park along the wooden paths and bridges to show you the most impressive points of interest and explain the significance of its history and natural features. After your tour, you will have some free time to continue exploring or you may wish to bring a bought lunch (and a bottle of wine!) with you to enjoy a picnic. 

When you're finished in the park, continue your onward journey to Zagreb, Croatia's capital. Check into your hotel to settle in before spending the rest of the day 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. Consider visiting the Homeland War 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.

Driving time (Zadar to Plitvice): 1.5-2 hours
Driving time (Plitvice to Zagreb): 2 hours

Day 11: Depart Zagreb

Sip coffee in a café onTkalčićeva street
Sip coffee in a café onTkalčićeva street

If you have a free morning before departing, make like a local and visit one of the many café-bars in central Zagreb. Try the pedestrianized section around Bogovićeva and Preradovićeva or the popular Tkalčićeva street for a morning coffee and pastry and to people watch before you say farewell to Zagreb and head to the airport.

Driving time (Central Zagreb to the airport): 30 minutes