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.

Highlights

  • Walk Lenuci’s Horseshoe, a ring of landscaped urban parks in Zagreb
  • Beat the crowds with an early-morning exploration of Plitvice National Park
  • Explore historic Zadar, an ancient Mediterranean walled port city
  • Sail and snorkel the Pakleni Islands, just off the coast of Hvar

Brief itinerary

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

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.

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.

Day 4: Drive to Split and Ferry to Hvar

View of the 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.

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.

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 7-8: Hvar to Dubrovnik - Depart 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.

If you have the next 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: Zagreb to Dubrovnik - 8 Days
Map of Highlights of Croatia: Zagreb to Dubrovnik - 8 Days