Cover the highlights of Croatia in this one-week itinerary. Starting in Zagreb, the capital, you'll make your way south to Dubrovnik, stopping at Plitvice National Park and the ancient port cities of Zadar and Split. Spend a few days relaxing on the beach on the island of Hvar then end your trip in the medieval town of Dubrovnik.

Brief itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight Accommodation Transport
Day 1 Arrive and explore Zagreb Zagreb Hotel Rental car
Day 2 Zagreb to Plitvice Plitvice B&B Rental car
Day 3 Plitvice National Park Plitvice B&B Rental car
Day 4 Zadar, Split, Hvar Hvar Hotel Rental car, ferry
Day 5 Sightseeing around Hvar Hvar Hotel Scooter or bicycle
Day 6 Half-day sailing trip to Pakleni Islands Hvar Hotel Sailboat
Day 7 Explore the medieval city of Dubrovnik Dubrovnik Hotel Ferry
Day 8 Depart Dubrovnik      

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Zagreb

Walk around Lenuci's Horseshoe in Zagreb

Explore the city of Zagreb. During the summer, it is crowd-free and home to non-stop festivals, museums, bars and sporting events. Walk around Lenuci’s Horseshoe - which is a u-shaped string of seven landscaped, urban park squares in Zagreb. Explore and take in the sites like the iconic Croatian National Theater, several museums, monuments, lots of outdoor statuary, shops and restaurants. There’s always something going on all year-round; take a look here for the best time to visit.

Places to stay

Luxury

  • Esplanade Zagreb Hotel. Rated one of the best hotels in Zagreb located close to the center of town. With a bar, two restaurants and cafe on site it is a great place to stay for travelers interested in food, exploring old-town and architecture.

Mid-Range

  • Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria. Great location in a quiet area in the center of the city, and has free private parking and wi-fi. It has a cafe and restaurant on site.
  • Hotel 9. Luxury boutique hotel, modern interior in a great location in the city center walking distance to the train station. 

Budget

Day 2: Drive from Zagreb to Plitvice

Aerial view of Plitvice
Aerial view of Plitvice

Drive two hours to Plitvice National Park, the most popular park in Croatia. Spend the morning in Zagreb and drive to one of the nearby villages of Plitvice. Spend the night in a sobe (B&B) to enjoy a more intimate experience and wake up early the next day to take advantage of the park before the crowds.

Even if you arrive in the Plitvice area earlier there are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in, from hiking to swimming in the Mrežnica River.

Places to stay

B&B

  • Villa Verde. A family run B&B that focuses on giving travelers the local experience. Nada and Zeljko make every guest feel at home and use locally sourced ingredients in their home-cooked meals. 
  • Villa Plitvica. Located in the park, basic and clean B&B. Walking distance to the waterfalls. There is a restaurant across the street which serves simple Dalmatian cuisine. Free parking available.

Day 3: Plitvice National Park

Waterfalls in Plitvice National Park 
Waterfalls in Plitvice National Park

Wake up early and explore the park before the crowds. Choose your route before you go to the park as there are 8 different hiking trails to choose from which range from 3 to 8 hours. The upper lakes tend to be less crowded during the peak season. Make sure to pack a picnic lunch as food in the park is overpriced.

Check out our article on unique ways to experience Plitvice National Park.

Day 4: Drive to Split and Ferry to Hvar

View of harbor in Hvar Town

After breakfast, drive an hour and 40 minutes to Zadar, an ancient Mediterranean walled port city. Rich in history, explore the historic center starting at the Sea Organ, passing the 12th-century cathedral and the church of St. Simeon. Stop for lunch with a glass of wine in the center of town at a restaurant like Stomornica, which is popular for its grilled fish and simple Dalmatian cuisine.

Continue driving to Split for an hour and 40 minutes, returning the car, then going to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry for Hvar Town. Depending on if you have time before the ferry - explore the Old Town of Split, its narrow alleys and walk around Diocletian’s Palace.

Places to stay

Luxury

  • Adriana Hvar Spa Hotela 5-minute walk from the beach and center of Hvar, offers a spa, rooftop and swimming pool. A few bars and restaurants on site. Guests love the location and proximity to the beach
  • Villa Nora Hvar, a boutique B&B with 8 rooms in Old Town, Hvar. Housed in a former 14th-century palace, serves a buffet breakfast and dinners. There are many restaurants, cafes, and bars close by.  

Mid-range

  • The Palace Hvar Hotel overlooks the Hvar Bay and has great views of the Paklinski islands. A bar and restaurant on site, it is in an ideal location.

Budget

  • Apartments Mare a B&B with a sweeping view of the Adriatic from every balcony and a 10-minute walk from the main center. It offers a kitchenette with a grocery store nearby.

Day 5: Explore the island of Hvar

Relax on the beach in Hvar
Relax on the beach in Hvar

Rent a scooter from Hvar Town and drive through olive groves, lavender fields, and vineyards along the coastline, for no more than 250 Kuna/day ($40 USD). Bring a bottle of wine and watch the sunset from Spanjola Fortress. The short walk up to this old 16th-century fortress is worth the hike up for the stunning views of Hvar Town and the Pakleni islands.

Check out our article on other unique things to do in Hvar.

Day 6: Half-Day sailing trip to Pakleni Islands

Pakleni Islands
Dubrovnik Old Town

Take a half-day sailing and snorkeling trip to the Pakleni Islands. Just off the coast of Hvar, these islands are filled with hidden beaches and lagoons. 

Day 7: Depart Hvar and ferry to Dubrovnik

The medieval old city of Dubrovnik
The medieval old city of Dubrovnik

After breakfast, take the three-hour ferry ride to Dubrovnik. Take the cable car up to the top of Srdj Hill, for stunning views of Dubrovnik and nearby Elafiti Islands then walk down instead of taking the cable car down. Spend the day exploring Old Town and the city walls at your own pace. Get a map from your hotel and wander aimlessly through the town.

Watch the sunset from Buza Bar, a hidden gem outside the city walls overlooking the sea or catch the sunset from the water on a 2.5-hour sunset dinner cruise on a traditional Karaka replica ship or your own private boat. Taking in the scenes of Old Town and the islands from the water.

Check out our article on Unique Ways to Experience Dubrovnik.

Places to stay

Luxury

  • The Pucic Palace. A boutique hotel with 19 rooms and suites located in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, next to the main Stradun street. With Banje beach so close by the hotel provides guests with complimentary umbrellas and sun chairs. The hotel has a private yacht which is available for trips up the coast
  • Hotel Bellevue. Set on a cliff overlooking Miramare Bay has a pebbly beach on site. Offering sea views from all rooms, Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a mile away. Has a spa and restaurants on site.

Mid-range

  • Hotel Lapad. Located 2 miles from Dubrovnik’s Old Town or a 10-minute bus ride. The hotel is in a historic building with a large outdoor pool and a restaurant.

Budget

  • Hotel Adria. Located 1.5 miles from Old Town in Gruz, most rooms have a balcony with views of Lapad Bay. Restaurant and cafe on site.

Day 8: Depart Dubrovnik

If you have the morning free, visit Gundulić Square Market to buy gifts and snacks from the only open-air market in Old Town. It sells authentic Dubrovnik products like dried lavender, local brandies, and dried fruits. Go before 1 pm.

Map

Map of Highlights of Croatia Self Drive: Zagreb to Dubrovnik - 8 Days
Map of Highlights of Croatia Self Drive: Zagreb to Dubrovnik - 8 Days

Recent Trip Reviews

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Highlights of croatia: zagreb to dubrovnik - 8 days, Croatia - Sep 25 - Oct 3, 2018

Traveler: Sam Austin W. - Local specialist: Robert Pinčević

Robert helped us with everything and did an amazing job. Our hotels were just as we had hoped and our itinerary was perfect for our needs. All along our travels, Robert would check on us and make sure there were no glitches. We had a rental car which he had arranged, someone to pick us up at the airport, deliver the rental car, pick up the car when we were done and someone to drive us to the airport. There was no detail left undone! We loved Croatia, especially Dubrovnik. Our vacation was wonderful!

Highlights of croatia: zagreb to dubrovnik - 8 days, Croatia - Sep 25 - Oct 3, 2018

Traveler: John W. - Local specialist: Robert Pinčević

Robi was in daily contact with us to insure that we were enjoying ourselves in Croatia. We felt the itinerary which had been presented provided appropriate opportunities to experience each stop during our 8 days in Croatia yet allowing some time to explore on our own. The suggested accommodations were outstanding. We would certainly recommend Kim Kim and Robert to anyone traveling to Croatia.

Highlights of croatia: zagreb to dubrovnik - 8 days, Croatia - Sep 21 - Sep 21, 2018

Traveler: Jessica M. - Local specialist: Robert Pinčević

We recently returned from two weeks in Croatia. Robi helped ensure we had an amazing trip in this stunning country. He offered the perfect combination of culture and outdoor excursions, and when he was unavailable to be our guide, he set us up with Goran who was knowledgeable and funny. Robi was always quick to respond to email and worked with us to ensure we had a fantastic trip within our budget.

Highlights of croatia: zagreb to dubrovnik - 7 days, Croatia - Jul 29 - Aug 5, 2018

Traveler: Sapana S. - Local specialist: AndAdventure Croatia

We had an amazing time during our week long visit to Croatia - thanks to Ante!!

We were lucky enough to learn of KimKim and be connected with Ante during our planning process. Ante helped from pre-planning, all the details during our trip and also met us in person. He listened to our preferences and helped us design the perfect itinerary including excursions and transfers. Our trip included a walking tour, bike tour and boating day - all were coordinated with amazing guides and were the... read more

We had an amazing time during our week long visit to Croatia - thanks to Ante!!

We were lucky enough to learn of KimKim and be connected with Ante during our planning process. Ante helped from pre-planning, all the details during our trip and also met us in person. He listened to our preferences and helped us design the perfect itinerary including excursions and transfers. Our trip included a walking tour, bike tour and boating day - all were coordinated with amazing guides and were the perfect experience. Ante took care of (and communicated to us) all of the transfers between cities whether they were through fast ferry or rental car.

During the trip, Ante was with us the whole way - answering questions, providing tickets and information. There is nothing as beneficial as having someone who lives in your destination to help you with your trip. Ante went above and beyond and we were thrilled to meet him in person too.

I really can't say enough good things about our experience!! Highly recommend Kimkim and ANTE!!

Highlights of croatia: zagreb to dubrovnik - 8 days, Croatia - Jun 6 - Jun 14, 2018

Traveler: Kristen F. - Local specialist: Veselka Huljic

Our trip to Croatia was amazing, what a beautiful country. We have been wanting to make this trip for years but never got around to planning, mostly because of the complicated itinerary we wanted. Thanks to Veselka the planning was easy. She made sure we got to do everything we wanted and booked the perfect hotels and apartments, all in the best locations. She also made sure that someone was there at every point to take us to our accommodation making this a very stress free and relaxing vacation. Our family travels a lot and we all agree this was one of our favorite trips.