Explore Croatia's Istrian Peninsula and be mesmerized by medieval fortress towns, discover the beauty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and look upon stunning coastal views as you make your way from Rovinj to Hvar. Board a private sailboat and be dazzled by Croatia's islands as you make your way across the Adriatic Sea to Dubrovnik. Feel the spirit of the Mediterranean on this 12-day adventure.

Highlights

  • Visit GroŇĺnjan, Oprtalj, and Motovun as you tour the picturesque Istrian peninsula
  • Discover dramatic waterfalls and glittering emerald-green lakes in Plitvice Lakes
  • Discover Split and learn about its 1,700-year-old history
  • Island hop from¬†Korńćula to Mljet and sleep aboard your private sailboat
  • Take in a sunset over the Elafiti Islands from Dubrovnik's SrńĎ Mountain

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Rovinj Rovinj
Day 2 Into the Heart of Istria: GroŇĺnjan, Oprtalj, & Motovun Rovinj
Day 3 Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes National Park via Opatija Plitvice Lakes
Day 4 Plitvice Lakes to Split, Stopping at Krka National Park Split
Day 5 Walking Tour of Split Split
Day 6 Sail from Split to Hvar, Stopping at Brańć Island Hvar Town
Day 7 Sail from Hvar to Korńćula Korńćula Town
Day 8 Sail around Korńćula Island Korńćula Town
Day 9 Sail from Korńćula to Mljet National Park Mljet Island
Day 10 Sail from Mljet National Park to Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 11 Explore Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic" Dubrovnik
Day 12 Depart Dubrovnik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Rovinj

Rovinj
The pretty streets of Rovinj

Welcome to Rovinj, a small jewel on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. You will have the rest of the day to explore Rovinj at your leisure.

Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became a part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the idyllic narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Explore the town and note Rovinj's skyline, dominated by the baroque St. Euphemia Church. Seek out your choice of interest from churches to galleries and pebbled beaches to the many seafood-offering restaurants. 

Cap off the evening with a delicious dinner of fresh fish and local wine before returning to your hotel on one of the 14 small islands just off the mainland. 

Day 2: Into the Heart of Istria: GroŇĺnjan, Oprtalj, & Motovun

Motovun, Istria, Croatia
Motovun at dusk

Today, head inland to explore the rolling hills of Istria, taste a few of the best local olive oil and wine varieties and explore some of the most charming villages in the country.

First, drive north to¬†GroŇĺnjan, a medieval hilltop town surrounded by terraced olive groves and vineyards. Once an important stronghold for the Venetians, the town's importance went into decline with the collapse of their empire (in the 18th-century). It wasn't until the sixties GroŇĺnjan became what it is today: the town of artists. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow and cobblestoned streets, stopping to pop into one of the numerous art studios and galleries.

Then, continue on to Oprtalj, a medieval fort town sitting on the northern side of the Mirna river valley. Oprtalj is home to traditional narrow streets, shops, and fine examples of Istrian and Venetian architecture, including the 16th-century St. George's Church and Venetian style bell tower.

Finally, drive south to explore Motovun, an ancient sleepy town located atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Its present appearance, with the city walls surrounding the center of the town, dates back to the Middle Ages. Sitting opposite Oprtalj on the southern side of the Mirna river, Motovun today hosts a popular film festival for one week in the summer. Sample local wines and enjoy a meal with truffles sourced from the nearby truffle-rich forests.

Driving time (Rovinj to¬†GroŇĺnjan): 1.25 hours
Driving time (GroŇĺnjan to¬†Oprtalj): 30 minutes
Driving time (Oprtalj to Rovinj): 1.25 hours

Day 3: Rovinj to Plitvice Lakes National Park via Opatija

Croatia - Plitvice Lakes - Aerial view over Plitvice Lakes National Park and winding boardwalk
Plitvice Lakes National Park is famous for the emerald waters of its lakes

This morning you'll make the drive to Opatija before carrying on to Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of Croatia's most popular national parks.

Head northeast across the Istrian peninsula and stop in the coastal town of Opatija. A popular tourist destination since the 19th century, Opatija is known for its Mediterranean climate and historic Habsburg-era buildings, remnants of its touristic past. Stroll along the famous Lungomare, a promenade that follows the Adriatic coastline and enjoy a drink at one of the many bars that overlook the Kvarner Gulf. 

Continue east to Plitvice Lakes National Park, arriving in the afternoon to settle into your accommodation and to 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. 

Here, you can request a private, expert local guide to lead you throughout the park along the wooden paths and bridges to show you the most impressive points of interest and explain the significance of its history and natural features. After your tour, you will have free time to continue exploring, have dinner, or you may wish to bring a bought dinner (and a bottle of wine!) with you to enjoy a picnic. 

Driving time (Rovinj to Opatija): 1.5 hours 
Driving time (Opatija to Plitvice): 2.5 hours

Day 4: Plitvice Lakes to Split, Stopping at Krka National Park

Split
Split

Get an early start to your morning and make the trip south to Krka National Park, another of Croatia's top-rated parks home to a network of striking waterfalls. With seven waterfalls‚ÄĒthe largest and most impressive being¬†Skradinski Buk‚ÄĒKrka National Park¬†is one of eight national parks in Croatia. The¬†Krka¬†River, another highlight of the park, carves through the limestone and creates a spectacular canyon on its 44-mile journey (70 km) from the foothills of the Dinaric Alps to ҆ibenik.¬†

Follow the winding wooden paths that traverse emerald pools and river islands to prime lookout spots in which to view the falls. 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. Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and mother nature saved the best for last. Cascading 78 feet (24 m) down into an emerald lagoon wider than the falls are tall, you'll find restaurants, snack stands, and ice cream shops at the base of this postcard locale to satisfy any food-related cravings.

Come mid-afternoon, travel further south to Split, settling into your hotel before taking the rest of the afternoon to wander its 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¬†Vońáni 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 make your way to the waterfront to catch the sunset.

In the evening, take a stroll along Split's seafront Riva to admire the views over the Adriatic before finding the off-beat Konoba Dioklecijan restaurant, just to the left of the Bronze Gate for dinner, its outdoor terrace built into the walls of Diocletian's Palace.

Driving time (Plitvice to Krka): 2 hours
Driving time (Krka to Split): 1-1.5 hours

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Day 5: Walking Tour of Split

Croatia - Split -  Early morning at the Peristyle inside Diocletian's Palace in Old Town
Early morning inside Diocletian's Palace in Old Town

An ancient coastal city founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Split's OldTown includes a number of impressive sites, including Peristyle, the Cathedral of St. Dominus, the Piazza, and Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. Meet your expert guide in Peristyle Square for a walking tour, taking in the 3,500-year-old sphinxes Diocletian brought back from Egypt before exploring the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace and other noteworthy sites.

If there's time following your tour, climb the Romanesque bell tower of the¬†Cathedral of St. Dominus (St. Duje)‚ÄĒconsidered the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use‚ÄĒfor stunning views over the city and Adriatic. Another option for great views is to hike or bike to the top of¬†Marjan Hill. Referred to as the "lungs of the city," the entire Marjan peninsula is dotted with tiny centuries-old churches, large cypress and black pine trees, and Mediterranean plants and herbs.

In addition to the stunning vistas, you'll be rewarded with attractions less visited: the Jewish cemetery and 13th and 15th-century churches, St. Nicholas and St. Jerome, respectively. Afterward, head to¬†Bańćvice Beach¬†and relax on the sand warmed by the day's sun before choosing a nearby restaurant for dinner.

Day 6: Sail from Split to Hvar, Stopping at Brańć Island

Croatia - Brańć - Bol's Zlatni Rat beach
Brańć's¬†Zlatni Rat beach

This morning you'll take a private sailboat from Split to sail in and around the island of Brańć. The largest of the central Dalmatian islands,¬†Brańć is bursting with historic sites dating back to Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages. You'll make your first stop at one of the island's hidden bays for swimming and snorkeling, and if there are time and interest, perhaps a short hike. Enjoy the morning sun as you relax and delight your senses with the sound of the waves and a chance sighting of dolphins (if luck is on your side).

In the afternoon, you'll then continue your sailing journey to¬†Hvar, where you'll spend the night aboard the boat, anchored in the Hvar harbor.¬† Hvar is a popular destination with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and its historic port town of the same name. Depending on timing, you might like to explore some of¬†Hvar Town's¬†highlights: the 13th-century walls, the 16th-century¬†Ň†panjola¬†Fortress, and the main square anchored by the Renaissance-era Cathedral.

Day 7: Sail from Hvar to Korńćula

Korcula
Korńćula

Leaving Hvar in the morning, you'll set course for the island of¬†Korńćula, breaking up the trip with stops for swimming, snorkeling, and exploration as you like. There are plenty of options for those interested in discovering quieter locations over more popular destinations.

Gradually, you'll arrive at¬†Korńćula Town¬†on the eastern tip of the island of the same name, where you'll dock for the evening. If there's interest, take some time to discover Korńćula's numerous restaurants, taverns, shops, and bars as you roam the maze of gray stone houses, alleys, churches, and squares. Try a traditional meal of lamb and goat with a glass of¬†Grk¬†white wine before you visit some of Old Town's notable attractions: the 14th-century¬†Land¬†Gate,¬†St. Mark's Cathedral, and the house thought to have belonged to¬†Marco¬†Polo.

Day 8: Sail around Korńćula Island

Croatia - Korńćula - Pristine waters off the coast of Lumbarda with PeljeŇ°ac peninsula in the background
Pristine waters off the coast of Lumbarda with PeljeŇ°ac peninsula in the background

Pull up anchor this morning and set sail to cruise around the whole of Korńćula island, taking advantage of the winds of the PeljeŇ°ac and Korńćula channels to add to an exciting day of sun and sea. As you make your way around the island, enjoy a different perspective of Korńćula's coastline and choose to stop to swim and snorkel as the mood strikes‚ÄĒevery shore offering something different: from the fortified walls of¬†Korńćula¬†Town¬†and the pebbly and pristine beaches of¬†Lumbarda, to the rocky shores and lush nature of¬†Proizd¬†and¬†OŇ°jakislands¬†near¬†Vela¬†Luka.

After a full day of sailing, you'll return to¬†Korńćula Town's¬†harbor where you'll dock for another overnight. Debark if you like for an evening stroll amid medieval walls and narrow streets that are patterned like a fish skeleton‚ÄĒa design made to reduce the effects of wind and sun.

Day 9: Sail from Korńćula to Mljet National Park

Mljet, Croatia
Mljet's coastline

Today you will sail further east to the island of Mljet and its national park. Upon arriving on¬†Mljet, disembark to trek in¬†Mljet¬†National Park. One of the larger Adriatic islands off the Croatian coast, Mljet is a thin strip of land parallel to the PeljeŇ°ac peninsula and runs 20 miles (32 km) long and up to 2 miles (3 km) wide. The park itself covers an area of 33 square miles (85.5 square km) and is made up of lakes and bays, dense forests, and olive groves.

Rent a bike to explore the unspoiled western side of the island in the National Park and stop to enjoy a unique swim in any of the beautiful lush coves of the island. Popular sights worth a visit include¬†Veliko¬†and¬†Malo Jezero¬†(Large and Small Lake)‚ÄĒtwo salt lakes in the park, connected by a narrow¬†canal,¬†Soline Bay, and a¬†sea-belt¬†some 500 miles wide off the most prominent cape, the¬†Cape of Mljet.

Day 10: Sail from Mljet National Park to Dubrovnik

Bokar fortress, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Bokar Fortress

In the morning, continue sailing east to the mainland and to Dubrovnik. Upon arrival at the marina, you'll transfer to your accommodation.

Often referred to as the "Pearl of the Adriatic,"¬†Dubrovnik is a world-renowned city of exceptional charm. After checking into your hotel, you'll want to get out and explore. Can't-miss activities include riding the cable car up to SrńĎ Mountain¬†to take in the sunset over the nearby¬†Elafiti¬†Islands, visiting¬†Lovrijenac¬†and¬†Bokar¬†fortresses, and walking along the smooth, limestone-paved streets of historic¬†Old¬†Town.

And be sure to find your way to Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street to get your bearings and to choose from a number of excellent restaurants and wine bars. Alternatively, there's Buza Bar along the water's edge, a great spot to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the sunset.

Day 11: Explore Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic"

Banje Beach, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik's Banje beach

Spend the day as you like, exploring this ancient medieval city. Get up early to take advantage of all that Dubrovnik has to offer, starting with a visit to the open-air¬†GundulicŐĀ Square Market¬†for authentic Dubrovnik wares, like dried lavender, local brandies, and dried fruits. From there, take a stroll through the narrow streets of Old Town, walk atop the encircling city walls, or head to Lovrijenac fortress and Orlando Column.

Be sure to break up your walk by sampling the local cuisine. Dubrovnik's location on the border with Bosnia and 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.

In the afternoon, head to Banje Beach for a swim and some relaxation on the sandy stretch of beach close to Old Town. There’s also the option to join a kayak excursion to the islands facing the city. A great way to end the day is to catch the sunset from the water on a sunset dinner cruise (2.5 hours) on a replica of a traditional karaka ship or from your own private boat. Enjoy the view of Old Town from this vantage point.

Day 12: Depart Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik

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.

Map

Map of Istria to Dubrovnik: Land & Sea - 12 Days
Map of Istria to Dubrovnik: Land & Sea - 12 Days