This 10-day multisport itinerary combines culture and history with a large dose of adventure. You'll explore historical cities along the coast, hike through rugged mountain landscapes, relax on idyllic islands, and visit Croatia's most famous national parks. The trip begins in the capital of Zagreb before heading south to Zadar, through Plitvice Lakes National Park, over the Zrmanja River, to the Dalmatian coast and onward to medieval Dubrovnik.

Highlights

  • Kayak white water as you traverse the Zrmanja river
  • Trek under dramatic limestone cliffs in striking Paklenica National Park
  • Hike, climb, swim, and jump your way down the Cetina River
  • Paddle the open sea from Dubrovnik's Banje Beach to Lokrum Island
  • Discover wine country and sample local brandies on a biking tour of the Konavle

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Zagreb! Zagreb
Day 2 Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes National Park
Day 3 Kayaking & Rafting on the Zrmanja River Novigrad (Dalmatia)
Day 4 Guided Hike in Paklenica National Park Zadar
Day 5 Zadar to Split, Visit to Šibenik Split
Day 6 Rafting, Zip-lining, & Canyoning on Cetina River Split
Day 7 Split to Ston, Explore Pelješac Peninsula Ston
Day 8 Explore Ston, Drive to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 9 Konavle Wine Tasting Tour Dubrovnik
Day 10 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 be transferred to your hotel to settle in. The rest of the day is yours 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's 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 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: Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park

Today, you'll make the drive south 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.

A short drive later, you'll arrive at Plitvice Lakes National Park in the early afternoon and can explore the park at your leisure. 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. 

Choose one of eight different hiking trails, ranging from three to eight hours in duration, where the upper lakes tend to be less crowded during the peak season. You may wish to bring a bought lunch (and a bottle of wine!) with you to enjoy a picnic. Tickets are purchased at the entrance of the Park.

Driving time (Zagreb to Rastoke): 1.5-2 hours
Driving time (Rastoke to Plitvice): 30 minutes

Day 3: Plitvice Lakes to Novigrad, Kayaking & Rafting on the Zrmanja River

The stunning Zrmanja River
The stunning Zrmanja River

Leave Plitvice Lakes behind and make your way south toward Novigrad, stopping for an adrenaline-fueled excursion down the Zrmanja river amid Velebit's craggy karst landscape. Depending upon the day's water level, you will either whitewater kayak or raft the Zrmanja, enjoying the dramatic scenery of rapids, waterfalls, and crystalline waters.

After an afternoon of fun, you'll head a short distance west to the nearby waterfront town of Novigrad in Zadar County, a fishing village on a small bay of the Novigrad Sea. 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.

Spend the rest of the day at your own pace, soaking in the peaceful charms of this picturesque town. If you have the energy, you might like to trek up to the medieval Fortress Fortica ruins and ramparts that loom over Novigrad. Alternatively, stick closer to home and wander the maze of narrow streets, stopping to check out the Church of St. Kate, the Aleroj clock tower, and the ruins of the Church of St. Martin before finding your way to a suitable restaurant to dine on fresh-caught shellfish.

Another, more relaxing option is to take to the beach for a late afternoon of swimming and sunbathing at one of the small, isolated coves. 

Driving time (Plitvice to Zrmanja): 1.5 hours
Driving time (Zrmanja to Novigrad): 1 hour

Day 4: Novigrad to Zadar, Guided Hike in Paklenica National Park

Peaks of rocky hills in Paklenica National Park
Peaks of rocky hills in Paklenica National Park

From Novigrad, you'll make your way around the bay a short distance north 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 continue your journey west to Zadar, where you'll check into your hotel before setting out to familiarize yourself with the ancient capital of Dalmatia.

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 (Novigrad to Starigrad): 30 minutes
Driving time (Starigrad to Zadar): 1 hour

Day 5: Zadar to Split, Visit to Šibenik

Old Town, Sibenik
Old Town, Sibenik

This morning you'll continue south along the Dalmatian coast to Split, breaking up the journey to explore 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, a restaurant and wine bar just above the cathedral. If there's time, check out the 16th-century war architecture masterpiece, St. Nicholas Fortress.

From here, carry on your way south to Split. Upon your arrival, check into your hotel and settle in before taking the rest of the afternoon 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 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 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.

Driving time (Zadar to Šibenik): 1 hour
Driving time (Šibenik to Split): 1.5 hours

Day 6: Rafting, Zip-lining, & Canyoning on Cetina River (Day Trip)

Zip your way across the Cetina River canyon
Zip your way across the Cetina River canyon

You'll get an early start this morning to drive south along the coast to Zadvarje for a day of rafting and canyoning the Cetina River, ending with the option to zip-line in Omiš. 

You'll begin with rafting in a protected area of the river canyon popular with tourists every summer. The quiet parts of the river, as well as the second and third-grade rapids, create the perfect combination of relaxation with high-adrenaline adventure over the course of three hours. Next, you'll meet your guide and change into your gear (wetsuit, life vest, and helmet) to hike, climb, slide, swim, and cliff jump (optional) your way down the river until you reach Omiš. Celebrate the fun with a break for lunch, before taking the early afternoon to zip-line over the Cetina.

After lunch, you'll experience a true adrenaline rush. You'll have the chance to zip your way across the magnificent Cetina River Canyon suspended by a harness and wire. There are eight wires in total running a length of 6,890 feet (2,100 m), the highest wire reaching 492 feet (150 m) above the river canyon. Enjoy incredible bird’s eye views of the surrounding scenery on this three-hour excursion.

After the tour is complete, you'll transfer back to Split.

Driving time (Split to Zadvarje): 1 hour
Driving time (Omiš to Split): 45 minutes

Day 7: Split to Ston, Explore Pelješac Peninsula

Mali Ston
Mali Ston

Today you'll drive down the length of the Dalmatian coast toward Ston, crossing into and out of Bosnia and Herzegovina along the way. Ston and its twin settlement, Mali Ston, act as the gateway to the Pelješac Peninsula, a rugged landscape home to one of Croatia's most well-known reds, Dingač. Enjoy the coastal route for a scenic drive and depending on when you arrive, you might like to head further inland to explore the plethora of picturesque coastal villages as well as stop to check out a winery or two.

If you make it to Orebić on the western edge of the peninsula, wander this seaside town's narrow streets, noting the charming stone villas once occupied by famous sea captains. And if there's interest why not rent a bike and cycle along the Plavac Mali vineyards to a quiet bay for a swim, snorkel, and bite to eat before heading back to Ston for a rewarding meal of Ston's famous fresh oysters or mussels accompanied by a glass of Dingač.

Driving time (Split to Ston): 2.5-3 hours
Driving time (Ston to Orebić): 1 hour

Day 8: 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 9: Konavle Wine Tasting Tour

Sample local wines in the Konavle Valley
Sample local wines in the Konavle Valley

This morning you'll head to Konavle, a famous wine region outside of Dubrovnik, where you'll visit three wineries and their famous winemakers—all families whose tradition of winemaking has endured for centuries.

The tour lasts six hours and starts with a shuttle transfer and a panoramic drive along the coast to Konavle. First, you'll stop at the awarded winemaker, Crvik, to taste the local white, red, and rosé, including a unique white, Dubrovacka malvasia, pressed from old grapes from the days of the Dubrovnik Republic.

Next, you'll continue to another winery belonging to the Ljubić family, where you'll taste merlot and a variety of herb liqueurs, as well as enjoy a traditional meal in their wine cellar. From here, you'll carry on through the Konavle Valley to the Karaman family's award-winning winery to sample their dry dessert wines, Prošek alongside traditional Padispanj cake.

Day 10: 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.