This 14-day adventure covers the highlights of Croatia, from the north to the south and the Dalmatian Coast to the inland national parks. You'll leave no stone unturned as you stroll the cobbled streets of ancient cities like Split and Dubrovnik. You'll also discover the culture and history of the country on a tour of Zagreb, partaking in a cooking class, and visiting the stunning waterfalls at Plitvice and Krka national parks.

Highlights

  • Explore Zagreb, one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe
  • Marvel at the cascading waterfalls of Plitvice National Park
  • Swim in emerald lagoons at Krka National Park
  • Take a cooking class and learn the secrets to delicious Croatian cuisine
  • Stroll the streets of the ancient fortress city of Dubrovnik

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Croatia - Explore Zagreb Zagreb
Day 2 Day Trip to Trakošćan Castle and Varazdin Zagreb
Day 3 Transfer to Motovun Motovun
Day 4 Truffle Hunting in Motovun Forest Motovun
Days 5-6 Transfer to Grabovac and Plitvice Lakes Plitvice Lakes National Park
Day 7 Tour Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes National Park
Day 8 Transfer to Split - Explore Old Town Split
Day 9 Split Cycling Tour Split
Day 10 Visit Krka National Park Split
Day 11 Cooking Class in Trogir Split
Day 12 Transfer to Dubrovnik - Explore Dubrovnik
Day 13 Day Trip to Srđ Mountain Dubrovnik
Day 14 Transfer to the Airport - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Croatia - Explore Zagreb

Zagreb
Zagreb is filled with culture and energy

Welcome to Croatia!

Upon arrival in the capital of Zagreb, you'll check into your hotel and have the remainder of the day free to explore. Zagreb is a gem of a European city, at once historic and new. On the one hand, 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. You can feast on haute cuisine paired with the nation's famous wines or chow down on pub grub washed down with a few craft beers.

The party is nonstop in Zagreb, as there's no shortage of festivals, sporting events, museum exhibits, and other activities. For the most bars and restaurants per square meter, visit the windy streets of the Tkalčićeva neighborhood, located above the main square. For more urban culture, head to Branimirova Street, where drab walls have been transformed by colorful murals that stretch 1,476 feet (450 meters) and feature the works of over 50 street artists.

Regardless of when you visit Zagreb or where you go, there's always something to see and do.

Day 2: Day Trip to Trakošćan Castle and Varazdin

Spend a day touring the castles north of Zagreb

You're in for a treat because this morning you'll embark on a day trip to the impressive Trakošćan Castle. After breakfast, you'll hop in a vehicle for the hour-long drive from Zagreb towards Croatia's northern border, where Trakošćan is located in a storybook setting adjacent to a glassy lake. The castle is a historic landmark as it was built in the 14th century as a defensive fortress but was later used as a home for aristocratic Croatian families. 

But Trakošćan is more than an attractive place to take selfies. Not only will you tour the castle grounds, but you'll go inside and explore all four floors, which function as a museum with permanent exhibitions. You'll see items that represent the heyday of Croatian nobility such as historic oil paintings, antique furniture in the baroque, rococo, and neo-classical style, and even medieval weapons like swords and cannons. You'll also enjoy a romantic boat ride around the lake. 

Plus, you'll visit the city Varazdin, also called “Little Vienna" due to its abundance of baroque and rococo architecture. In Croatia, Varazdin is known as the city of music and flowers, and there's no shortage of festivals and floral exhibitions. On a walking tour of the city, you'll pass by its baroque palaces, churches, and monasteries. Be sure to stop at Varazdin's historic Old Town, which is actually a castle that dates to the 14th century.

Day 3: Transfer to Motovun

Motovun Town
Motovun Town

In the morning you'll transfer about three hours west to the ancient town of Motovun, which is located near the coast on the Istrian Peninsula. The scenery on the drive is spectacular, as you pass by rolling hills, fertile valleys, and lowland Mediterranean forest abounding with oak, elm, and ash trees. Motovun itself is a medieval gem, an ancient Istrian acropolis perched on a 908-foot (277-meter) hill overlooking the Mirna River Valley. 

Leading from Motovun's Venetian-inspired town square up to the top of the hill is the longest staircase on the Istrian Peninsula, which boasts 1,052 steps. Walk up it and you'll be treated to 360° views of the vineyards and forest outside the village walls. The vineyards produce Croatia's famed Teran and Malvasia wines while the forests are home to hidden treasure: black and white wild truffles, which are prized among foodies across the globe.

Day 4: Truffle Hunting in Motovun Forest

On the hunt for wild truffles

Today you'll head from Motovun southwest to the Istrian village of Vrh. This is a charming hilltop town, but for today's purpose, it will serve as a meeting point. Upon arrival, you'll head to the bell tower where you'll meet an English-speaking guide who will lead you on the day's primary activity: hunting for wild truffles. 

You'll transfer to the nearby country house of a seasoned professional who has 40-years of experience hunting for wild truffles in the Mediterranean forests of the area. He'll introduce you to dogs trained specially to hunt truffles, and after an aperitif, you'll venture into the forest and begin the hunt. 

The tour takes about three hours total. However, the initial truffle hunt takes just 45 minutes, at which point you'll spend the remainder of the time at the country house learning how to prepare a meal with truffles as the star ingredient. The friendly hosts will serve you local wine, cheese, truffle flavored honey, and other delicacies as you work, which you can also buy at the estate.

Days 5-6: Transfer to Grabovac and Plitvice Lakes

You'll be staying in the Plitvice region

Today you get to commune with the unspoiled nature of rural Croatia. It begins in the morning as you transfer to Grabovac. This village is located in the wilderness just five miles (eight km) from one of the great natural attractions of Croatia, Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is famous for its terraced lakes and waterfalls. 

Upon arrival, you'll have the option to partake in various outdoor adventures (horseback riding, cycling, rock climbing, a paintball match, etc.). And at the end of the day, you'll spend the night in a treehouse nestled amid the tall pines of the forest.

Day 7: Tour Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit for any traveler to Croatia. This is more than a park—it's a storybook locale conjured out of a romantic dream. Comprised of 16 terraced lakes over a total area of 114 square miles (296 sq. km), its glassy waters are as emerald green as the forest that surrounds it. The real stars of the show, however, are the cascading waterfalls that plunge over the terraces in seemingly every corner of Plitvice. 

There are many hiking routes within the park that follow along wooden boardwalks, and you can explore them on your own or with a private guide. The benefit of opting for a guide is that he/she will be able to offer insight into the region as well as lead you to the most interesting areas of the park. However you choose to explore Plitvice, it's best to arrive early in the morning before the massive tourist crowds arrive and the boardwalks turn into a traffic jam.

Day 8: Transfer to Split - Explore Old Town

The coastal city of Split

After breakfast, you'll transfer to Split, which is the second-largest city in Croatia and the largest on the Dalmatian Coast. Within Split you'll find its famous historic center, a 15th-century Old Town that is rich with medieval history as well as ancient buildings and towers overlooking the sea. The most iconic example is a former palace located in the heart of Old Town. This "city within a city" is a maze of narrow alleyways within stone fortifications originally built for Emperor Diocletian back in ancient Rome.

You'll have the day free to wander the cobbled alleyways of Old Town and stroll along Split's palm-lined, Riveria-like waterfront. You can do this either by yourself or joined by a local guide who will offer perspective and historical insight into the locales you visit. Other highlights include the Venetian Cathedral of St. Lovro and the Church of St. John the Baptist, which was built on the site of a former Byzantine basilica dating to the 6th century.

Day 9: Split Cycling Tour

A lookout point at Marjan Park, Split

One of the best ways to see the historic city of Split is on two wheels. This three-hour, 12-mile (20 km) cycling excursion takes place almost exclusively on the city's waterfront as you visit charming little bays, harbors, and pebbly beaches. Not to worry, though, as you'll also stop in at some must-visit sites like the Diocletian's Palace and Marjan Park, a pine forest on the western end of the peninsula that features scenic viewpoints. 

Despite being a half-day outing, this is an easy excursion that requires a low level of physical fitness. Depending on the schedule, it's also possible to include additional stops on the itinerary, including museums and restaurants.

Day 10: Visit Krka National Park

Skradinski Buk waterfall, in Krka National Park

Prepare for an unforgettable day trip. In the morning you'll transfer one hour from Split to Krka National Park, which, besides Plitvice, is home to Croatia's other drop-dead gorgeous network of waterfalls. As if the stunning beauty of these falls isn't enough, you'll also be able to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed.

In total there are seven waterfalls in this 54 square-mile (139 square-km) national park. They're formed by the Krka River, and a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) boardwalk follows a circuitous route through Mediterranean forest around the falls. You can complete the path in well under an hour, and on this easy walk you'll pass by gullies and over river islands featuring prime lookout spots in which to view the falls. 

Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and mother nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 meters) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall. At the base of this postcard locale, visitors will find restaurants, snack stands ice cream shops and more, and it's even allowed to take a dip here in the lagoon waters. 

Day 11: Cooking Class in Trogir

Prepare a traditional Mediterranean meal

Located 45 minutes west of Split is Trogir, a UNESCO port town on a small island just off the mainland. Encircled by medieval walls, Trogir's Old Town is a mix of romanesque and neoclassical architecture, making it a romantic destination on any Croatian vacation itinerary. Moreover, the town's location in the heart of the Dalmatian coast makes it the perfect spot to take a cooking class, learn the secrets of the region's delicious cuisine, and enjoy a traditional Croatian gozba (feast).

This half-day culinary adventure beings by meeting your host/cooking instructor and planning a menu according to your food preferences. Then you'll hit Trogir's cobbled streets and browse the markets for the freshest produce. With ingredients in hand, you'll head to the kitchen and start preparing the meal. At the end of the experience, you'll sit down with your host and enjoy the fruits of your labors with a glass of one of Croatia's famous wines.

Day 12: Transfer to Dubrovnik - Explore

Dubrovnik
Enjoy Dubrovnik

In the morning you'll transfer to the far south of Croatia and the historic city of Dubrovnik. Known as the "Adriatic Pearl," it might be the most attractive city in all of Croatia. 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.

There's no better way to pass the time in Dubrovnik than to spend an afternoon strolling its historic walls and smooth, limestone-paved streets while marveling at the spirit of the city. A tour with a local guide will be that much more rewarding, as he or she will lead you to the best spots and offer insight into Dubrovnik's culture and history. Just know that you won't be the only one touring this city—the unrivaled atmosphere and beauty of Dubrovnik draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. 

Be sure to take a break from your walking tour to sample the local cuisine. Dubrovnik's location on the border with Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro means there is some unique fusion cuisine here as well as downright wild fast food options (think octopus burgers). But you can also find good-old Italian-inspired comfort food like pasta in meat sauce, black risotto, and basic but hearty meat-and-potatoes dishes.

Day 13: Day Trip to Srđ Mountain

Srđ Mountain
The best view of Dubrovnik is from Srđ Mountain

There's no better vantage point in which to enjoy sweeping views of Dubrovnik and the surrounding coast than atop Srđ Mountain. This peak looks out over the city from 1,351 feet (412 meters) high, and you'll begin a vigorous hike up to it after breakfast. The trailhead to the top runs just under 1.5 miles, but know that this is often a steep uphill hike. If you're in average physical condition, plan on it taking about an hour to reach the viewing point.

Once you do arrive, all that work will have been worth it as you can marvel up and down the Dalmatian coast for miles in each direction. You can also visit a fascinating museum here that's housed in the old Fort Imperial and dedicated to the Croatian War for Independence against Serbian forces in 1991-'95. It features over 500 exhibits including war documents, maps, weapons, flags, logbooks, and more. 

Afterward, you'll return to Dubrovnik, either on foot or cable car depending on your energy level. You'll then have the rest of the day free to relax and/or enjoy more sightseeing in Dubrovnik.

Day 14: Transfer to the Airport - Departure

Farewell, Croatia!

After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel, transfer to the airport, and make all connecting flights home. This concludes your grand Croatian adventure. Come back soon!

Map

Map of Discover Croatia: Zagreb, Istria, Plitvice, & Dalmatia - 14 Days
Map of Discover Croatia: Zagreb, Istria, Plitvice, & Dalmatia - 14 Days