Combine Croatia's medieval cities and exceptional natural beauty on this trip, starting with a tour of Split's 4th-century Diocletian Palace and an excursion to the emerald waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Next, head to the island of Hvar where you'll kayak its shores and explore its cobbled streets, vineyards, mountains, and lavender fields. End the trip in Dubrovnik by eating your way through its historic streets and watching the sunset atop Srđ Hill.

Highlights

  • Explore the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace in Split
  • Hike along the dirt trails and wooden boardwalks in Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • Discover the island of Hvar with an off-roading tour with wine tastings and hikes
  • Eat your way through the Old Town of Dubrovnik on a food and wine tour
  • Kayak to the Paklinski Archipelago off the coast of Hvar

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Split - Explore its Old Town Split
Day 2 Hike the trails in Plitvice Lakes National Park Split
Day 3 Take the ferry to Hvar and explore the island Hvar Town
Day 4 Discover the history and culture of Hvar with an off-road tour Hvar Town
Day 5 Enjoy a sea kayaking excursion to the Paklinski Archipelago Hvar Town
Day 6 Ride the ferry to Dubrovnik - Explore Dubrovnik
Day 7 Eat your way through Dubrovnik on a food and wine tour Dubrovnik
Day 8 Depart Dubrovnik  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Split - Explore its Old Town

Old Town of Split, Croatia
Old Town of Split, Croatia

Welcome to the Dalmatian Coast, one of Croatia's most scenic and historic regions.

You'll start your exploration in Split, the second-largest city in Croatia. After settling into your accommodation, explore the Old Town and enjoy its narrow alleys through the ancient, 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace. You can either meander the city on your own, getting lost in its streets and perusing shops and boutiques, or join a local guide for fascinating information about the city's history and tradition.

Diocletian’s Palace is surrounded by 15th-century walls protecting its pedestrian-only center. Explore the main squares and markets, and don't forget about the old cellars, known as the basement halls. Visit Jupiter's Temple, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and, of course, Saint Domnius Cathedral with its dominating bell tower.

In the evening, enjoy dinner at your leisure. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars from which to choose, especially within the squares or along the promenade. Or, stake your spot in line at Villa Spiza, a quaint bistro serving locally-sourced cuisine that is absolutely worth the wait.

Day 2: Hike the trails in Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the most popular park in Croatia and a must-visit for any traveler. It's comprised of 16 terraced lakes over a total area of 114 square miles (296 sq. km). The clear, glassy water claims a shade of emerald green that is sure to impress you, matching the dense forests that make up the majority of the property. The highlights are the boardwalk trails that curve throughout the park and the powerful waterfalls that plunge into the lakes. 

There are numerous hiking routes within the park. You'll either start at the first entrance to tackle the picturesque wooden boardwalks or go a bit further to the second entrance to explore the higher lakes and trails. You can also take a boat from one area to the next and explore some quieter trails that give amazing views of the pools below.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Split in time for dinner.

Day 3: Take the ferry to Hvar and explore the island

Hvar Town at Sunset
Hvar Town at Sunset

After a leisurely morning in Split, you'll catch the ferry to the island of Hvar and settle into your hotel. Hvar is a popular destination with tourists due to its natural setting, mild climate, and its historic port town of the same name. Highlights of Hvar Town include its 13th-century walls, a hilltop fortress, and the main square anchored by the Renaissance-era cathedral.  

For some of the best views of the island, Hvar Town, and the nearby Pakleni Islands take a short walk up to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress. Or, join a kayaking tour and head out on the Adriatic to discover the many secluded coves that outline the islands. You can also opt for organized tours of lavender plantations, olive groves, vineyards, and pine woods, which can include wine tastings, cycling, or hiking. Scooters are available for rent in Hvar Town and are a much faster option if you want to see more of the local scenery.

After the day's adventures, treat yourself to a drink in the ancient piazza of Hvar overlooking the Venetian loggia, 7th-century fortification walls, and the oldest municipal theater in Europe.

Day 4: Discover the history and culture of Hvar with an off-road tour

Lavender Fields, Hvar Island
Lavender Fields, Hvar Island

Today you'll enjoy a full day of guided offroading as you traverse the island's terrain, which is accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fragrant fields full of rosemary and lavender. In the morning, you'll leave Hvar Town along a dirt road to the abandoned 16th-century village of Malo Grablje before continuing to the slightly older, UNESCO-protected Velo Grablje. Once home to a thriving lavender industry, Velo Grablje is slowly undergoing a revival. Today, only a few people inhabit the village throughout the year, but many gather for the annual lavender festival. 

Stop for a traditional lunch at a family-run tavern where your meal is prepared using locally-sourced ingredients and the peka, a bell-shaped lid that is covered in coal. Next, you'll spend time relaxing on Soline Beach on the northern coast of the island near Vrboska, followed by the trek up Vidikovac for views over the Stari Grad Plain—an agricultural landscape that was first colonized by the Greeks—and Stari Grad itself, Croatia's oldest township.

After enjoying your surroundings, you'll ascend Hvar's tallest peak, St. Nicholas for additional sweeping vistas over the Adriatic and neighboring islands like Brač, Korčula, and Vis. On your way down the sloping hillside lies Sveta Nedija, a village surrounded by vineyards so steep that they’re renowned for being extraordinarily difficult to tend; but they're also known for the high-quality red wine they produce from the Dalmatian plavac grape.

In the late afternoon, you'll continue along the southern edge of Hvar as you make your way back to your accommodation.

Day 5: Enjoy a sea kayaking excursion to the Paklinski Archipelago

Kayaking in Croatia
Kayaking in Croatia

One of the best ways to truly appreciate the island of Hvar is to experience it from the water. Slow and steady is the key when searching for the island's unique characteristics, so today you'll explore its surroundings by kayak. You'll meet your guides at a beach just a quick walk from the dock and receive a short kayaking safety introduction before getting acquainted with your gear.

Afterward, you'll paddle towards the Paklinski Islands, a chain of wooded isles which stretch out immediately in front of Hvar Town. You'll enjoy paddling around the rocky inlets and bays, stopping to stretch your legs and gain views atop the forested islands. You can even relax by the beach or sip on a beverage at one of the cafes along the water. In the afternoon, you'll return to Hvar Town.

Day 6: Ride the ferry to Dubrovnik - Explore

The Beach and Harbor of Dubrovnik
The Beach and Harbor of Dubrovnik

It's time to say goodbye to Hvar and make your way to one of Croatia's most popular destinations: the city of Dubrovnik

After taking some time to settle into your accommodation and freshen up, familiarize yourself with Dubrovnik by walking around its historic core, one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe.

Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic", Dubrovnik is a place of history. While there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this region 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.

Start in the Old Town, walking along its walls and visiting the Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses. There are almost too many sights to see, but you can't miss the Saint Ignatius Church or the Dubrovnik Cathedral. Other interesting monuments include Sponza Palace, the Dominican Monastery, and the Dubrovnik Synagogue. Outside the walls, you can visit the Porat and West Harbour.

As the sun starts to set, you can't miss riding the cable car up to Srđ Mountain to take in the views over the nearby Elafiti Islands. Afterward, stroll down Dubrovnik's streets to find a hip bistro for dinner and a wine bar for a nightcap.

Day 7: Eat your way through Dubrovnik on a food and wine tour

Outdoor Cafe in Dubrovnik
Outdoor Cafe in Dubrovnik

An excellent way to experience Dubrovnik is on a food and wine tour. You'll spend the day eating and drinking your way through the city's ancient streets while visiting bustling markets, modest bakeries, old wine bars, and various locally-owned eateries.

Together with your appetite, you'll meet your guide and set out to sample authentic Croatian cuisine from a number of historic locales, all the while immersing yourself in the city's rich history. Along the way, you'll also get to meet interesting locals who are at the heart of these food traditions. You'll visit the open-air Gundulić Square Market for authentic Dubrovnik products, 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, hitting all the different viewpoints and the Orlando Column.

With a full belly, you'll have the afternoon free to explore the city at your own pace. Head to Banje Beach for a swim and some relaxation on this sandy stretch close to the port. You can also opt to join a kayak excursion around the harbor and out to the small island of Otok Lokrum.

In the evening, catch the sunset from the water on a sunset dinner cruise aboard a traditional karaka ship, or from your own private boat. You can also grab a table at one of the waterfront restaurants or slip into a lively bistro in the heart of the Old Town.

Day 8: Depart Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik Old Town Walls
Dubrovnik Old Town Walls

Enjoy your final morning in Dubrovnik. If you have time, you can spend the morning strolling through the Old Town and visiting any sights you missed. When you're ready, you'll transfer to the airport in time for your flight.