Start in Croatia's capital, Zagreb, and learn about its history and culture before driving south to explore one of Croatia's most famous national parks, Plitvice Lakes. From here, you'll head to the coast of southern Dalmatia for a little sailing and wine tasting. Finally ending your trip exploring the narrow alleyways and fortress walls of the ancient city of Dubrovnik.

Highlights

  • Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park and see waterfalls and emerald-green lakes 
  • Discover Split and learn about its 1,700-year-old history
  • Step back in time and sail to the island of Šolta
  • Watch the sunset over the Elafiti Islands from Srđ Mountain in Dubrovnik
  • Tour the Konavle wine country and sample wines from three well-known and traditional wineries

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 Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split Split
Day 4 Sail from Split to Šolta Island (Day Trip) Split
Day 5 Split to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 6 Konavle Wine Tasting Tour Dubrovnik
Day 7 Depart Dubrovnik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Zagreb!

Zagreb is Croatia's capital and largest city
Zagreb is Croatia's capital and largest city

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

Day 3: Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split

View of Split
View of Split

Early morning is one of the best times to visit Plitvice Lakes before the crowds arrive just before noon. You can explore the park on your own or opt for a local guide who can take you on a number of defined routes of varying length throughout the park. You'll hike along the many wooden paths and bridges, in and around a series of 16 emerald-green and blue travertine (a type of limestone) lakes, more than 90 waterfalls, and numerous caves. 

From Plitvice, continue toward the Dalmatian coast and farther south to Split. Upon arriving in Split, check into your hotel and settle into your accommodation 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 (Plitvice to Split): 2-3 hours

Day 4: Sail from Split to Šolta Island (Day Trip)

Enjoy a day of sailing on the Adriatic Sea
Enjoy a day of sailing on the Adriatic Sea

Today you will spend a full day enjoying the sun and sea on a sailing boat with time left over to explore Šolta Island. Head to the Split marina to meet your captain and crew, before departing for Šolta, your speed and route determined by weather conditions.

You'll stop for swimming breaks, taking advantage of the many beaches and pristine coves this sleepy island has on offer. Once on Šolta, you'll have the chance to explore the small town of Stomorska as well as have lunch in one of its local restaurants. Though Šolta is so close to Split, it is far from modern life, further adding to its understated charm.

You'll return to Split in the late afternoon.

Day 5: Split to Dubrovnik

City walls of Dubrovnik

Today, you'll drive along the southern Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik.

Often referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik is a world-renowned city of exceptional charm. Take the time to explore its 16th-century stone walls, including the Minceta, Lovrijenac and Revelin fortresses, visit Onofrio's Fountain and the Church of St. Blaise (St. Vlaho), and stroll along the limestone-paved Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street to get your bearings. Dubrovnik offers excellent nightlife and some of Croatia's best restaurants and wine bars.

The remainder of the day will be at your leisure, allowing time for you to wander and explore this magical city. Depending on when you arrive, you may have time to hop aboard a cable car and ride to the top of Srđ Mountain for stunning vistas of Dubrovnik and the nearby Elafiti Islands. Here you can explore the 19th-century Fort Imperijal  (built during the Napoleonic Wars) before stretching your legs and walking back down the hill enjoying views of the city below.

Driving time: 3-4 hours

Day 6: 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 7: Depart Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik at sunset
Dubrovnik at sunset

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.