This 10-day itinerary highlights some of Croatia's more popular attractions, including the medieval hill town of Motovun and the "Adriatic Pearl," Dubrovnik, with a unique twist. For example, you'll venture into the romantic Istrian peninsula to seek out the prized truffle and explore Dubrovnik's limestone-paved streets on a private tour of two of the country's most esteemed artists. You'll also discover trendy cafés in Zagreb, marvel at Plitvice Lakes' enchanting beauty, listen to Zadar's Sea Organ, and visit famed Diocletian's Palace in Split.

Highlights

  • Hunt for mushrooms alongside truffle-sniffing dogs in Motovun
  • Explore Pula's famed Roman Arena, a mini Colosseum leftover from the 1st century
  • Relax in a secluded treehouse amid tall pines and rolling hills in rural Grabovac
  • Learn to cook a traditional Croatian 'gozba' in the eclectic island-city of Trogir
  • Discover renowned Croatian artists' artwork on an exclusive tour in Dubrovnik

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Zagreb, Croatia's Bustling Capital Zagreb
Day 2 Zagreb to Motovun, Truffle Hunting Tour in Motovun Forest Motovun
Day 3 Motovun to Rovinj, Stopping in Pula Rovinj
Day 4 Rovinj to Grabovac Nature Park & Resort, Visit Plitvice Lakes Grabovac
Day 5 Grabovac to Split, Stopping in Zadar Split
Day 6 Cooking Class in Trogir (Day Trip from Split) Split
Day 7 Ferry from Split to Hvar, Free Afternoon Hvar Town
Day 8 Hvar Offroad Tour Hvar Town
Day 9 Ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik, Private Art Gallery Tour Dubrovnik
Day 10 Depart Dubrovnik Dubrovnik

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Zagreb, Croatia's Bustling Capital

View over Zagreb's Kaptol
View over Zagreb's Kaptol

Start your adventure from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll transfer to your hotel to settle in where you'll have the rest of the day to spend as you like. The city center is easily walkable and the streets and parks are easy to navigate by foot. All the main attractions and restaurants are within walking distance.

Head to Ban Jelačić Square at the heart of the city and wander the bustling open-air markets—a bounty of local produce, flowers, jams, and honey. There's also an entire area of vendors selling an array of handcrafted cheeses, cured meats, pastries, and other locally-made products.

Opt for a guided walking tour that will take you through the history of the city, sharing the stories, legends, and pivotal events of its past. You will learn about the history of Zagreb since the Middle Ages as you traipse the cobblestone streets of Gornji Grad and over to the Cathedral and Kaptol, the religious core. 

Alternatively, you may wish to explore the city's neighborhoods, like the hipster Marticeva street, for your choice of trendy boutiques and shops. Stop for a bite to eat and people watch from one of the many cafés in Spica—a strip of cafés in the pedestrian zone between Trg Jelacica and Flower Square in Lower Town. And when it's time for a proper meal, choose from one of the many great restaurants Zagreb has to offer, perhaps at Otto & Frank, before catching a live performance of theater, opera, or a classical concert.

Day 2: Zagreb to Motovun, Truffle Hunting Tour in Motovun Forest

Istria's charming hill town of Motovun
Istria's charming hill town of Motovun

Following breakfast, your driver will pick you up in front of your accommodation and take you to the charming hilltop town of Motovun, an ancient sleepy town that sits atop a 909-foot (277 m) hill. Drop off your luggage and meet your English-speaking guide who will lead you on the day's primary activity: hunting for wild truffles.

You'll transfer to a 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 the delicacy, and after an aperitif, you'll venture into the forest and begin the search.

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.

Day 3: Motovun to Rovinj, Stopping in Pula

Pula's Roman Arena
Pula's Roman Arena

This morning you'll board your private driver and make the scenic drive south to the historic city of Pula. Its strategic location at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula means it has been occupied many times throughout the centuries by everyone from the Romans to the Allied Forces in WWII. While Pula is known for its beaches and harbor, it's most famous for its Roman amphitheater, the Pula Arena, which dates back to the first century.

Take your time to explore the city. You'll no doubt want to make a beeline for the arena, which is one of the ten largest colosseums the Romans ever built. Stand in the tunnels and corridors where warriors and lions were kept before entertaining crowds of up to 25,000. But that isn't all—there are many other ruins you can visit here. These include the Arch of the Sergii—an ancient Roman arch dating to 29 BCE—and the Temple of Augustus, a Roman temple built in 2 BCE.

When you're ready, you'll say farewell to Pula and make your way up the coast to Rovinj, where you'll settle into your accommodation before taking the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore this small jewel on the west coast of Istria. 

Though Rovinj remains an active fishing port today, it wasn't until 1763 that it became part of the mainland. As such, its restricted access resulted in the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets you see today. Explore Old Town and marvel at the centuries-old Venetian influenced architecture as you pass under archways, through alleyways, and up stone stairwells. Navigate your way to Balbi's Arch and the 12th-century Town Clock, noting Rovinj's skyline dominated by the baroque Church of St. Euphemia.

Seek out your choice of interest from churches to galleries and pebbled beaches, capping off the day with a delicious dinner of fresh fish and local wines, like Teran and Malvasia.

Day 4: Rovinj to Grabovac Nature Park & Resort, Visit Plitvice Lakes

Mreznica river
Mreznica river

Say farewell to the Istrian peninsula and meet your driver to venture through the Karlovac countryside to your alternative accommodation in rural Grabovac. You'll stay in a secluded treehouse at the Resort Turist Grabovac, located amid tall pine trees and rolling hills and a convenient distance to Croatia's top-rated park, Plitvice Lakes, of which you'll have the opportunity to visit after check-in.

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), the park's 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.

Many hiking routes within the park follow along wooden boardwalks. Here, you can request a private, expert guide to lead you, or opt to explore them on your own. Either way, you might like to bring a bought lunch (and a bottle of wine!) with you to enjoy a picnic.

Day 5: Grabovac to Split, Stopping in Zadar

Zadar's waterfront view
Zadar's waterfront view

Get an early start today to work your way toward the Dalmatian coast, stopping to explore Zadar on your way to Split.

Set on a peninsula surrounded by the sparkling Adriatic Sea, Zadar is a tidy network of polished stone streets and public squares—the Roman forum dating back to the 1st century CE as an example.  Explore the historic center starting at the unique Sea Organ, passing the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of St. Anastasia and the baroque Church of St. Simeon. Stop for lunch with a glass of wine in the center of town at a konoba restaurant like Stomorica, which is popular for its grilled fish and simple Dalmatian cuisine.

From Zadar, you'll continue your journey further south to Split to check into your accommodation before taking the rest of the afternoon to wander Split's historic center. A dynamic ancient coastal city, Split was founded 1,700 years ago by Roman Emperor Diocletian and today its UNESCO-protected Old Town includes a number of impressive sites, including Diocletian's Palace, one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world. 

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. From there, visit the popular Voćni 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 your chosen restaurant. Perhaps an establishment with views overlooking the sea.

Day 6: Cooking Class in Trogir (Day Trip from Split)

Prepare a traditional Mediterranean meal
Prepare a traditional Mediterranean meal

Located 45 minutes west of Split is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trogir, a port town on a small island just off the mainland. Encircled by medieval walls, Trogir's gorgeous 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 begins by meeting your host and 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 labor, together with a glass of one of Croatia's famous wines.

Day 7: Ferry from Split to Hvar, Free Afternoon

Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance
Hvar and the Pakleni Islands in the distance

Catch an early morning ferry to the island of Hvar and check into your hotel. A Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea, 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.

Today, you have free range to explore Hvar at your own pace.

A great way to discover much of the island is to rent a scooter in Hvar Town and drive along the coastline through olive groves, lavender fields, and vineyards, stopping along the way to lie out on a beach you happen upon. In the afternoon, switch gears and join a half-day wine tour to sample some of the region's best wines as well as learn about its 2,400-year-old history. In the early evening, bring a bottle of wine and head to Tito's Caves, just north of Stari Grad, for a picnic as you watch the sunset from these hidden-away caves.

The more athletically inclined might prefer an early morning start to trek up to the 16th-century Španjola Fortress for views over Hvar Town and the Pakleni Islands, followed by a cycling tour around Hvar to explore the interior of the island. Another great option is to embark on a hike from Hvar Town to visit Velo Grablje, a nearly-deserted 500-year-old town, and Malo Grablje a nice hike that takes you down a canyon into the village. Here you can stop for lunch to enjoy a delicious meal at perhaps the most authentic of the island's taverns.

One last option is to explore the nearby Pakleni Islands. You can rent a private taxi boat to tour around the islands for the day, where you might consider taking a 15-minute water taxi to Jerolim and Stipnska or continue on to other islands further out to walk around and explore. For the more adventurous, there is the option to go on a guided full-day or half-day sailing or kayaking tour of the islands—a great way to discover the many secluded beaches and lagoons!

Day 8: Hvar Offroad Tour

Lavender fields along the roads of Hvar Island
Lavender fields along the roads of Hvar Island

Enjoy a full day of guided offroading fun as you cover the undulating island terrain, accented with vineyard-covered hills, thick olive groves, and fragrant fields full of rosemary and lavender. Set out from Hvar Town along a dirt road to the abandoned 16th-century village of Malo Grablje before carrying on 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 an authentic lunch at a family-run tavern where your meal is traditionally prepared using locally sourced ingredients and the peka, a bell-shaped lid that is covered in coal. Next, you'll spend a little time relaxing on Soline beach on the northern coast of the island near Vrboska before it's time to head up Vidikovac for views over the Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape that was first colonized by the Greeks and is still maintained today, as well as Stari Grad itself, Croatia's oldest township.

After a moment to absorb the breathtaking 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 and possibly even the east coast of Italy! On your way down the sloping hillside lies Sveta Nedija, a village surrounded by vineyards so steep they’re renowned the world over for being extraordinarily difficult to tend; but they're also known for the high-quality red wine they produce from the Dalmatian plavac grape. Continue along the southern edge of Hvar as you make your way back to your hotel.

Day 9: Ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik, Private Art Gallery Tour

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik

This morning you'll board an early ferry to Dubrovnik where you will have the day to explore one of the most ancient fortress cities in Europe. Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik is a piece of history. 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 and Gothic palaces that still stand today.

After checking into your hotel, you'll join your guide for a delightful two-hour tour of some of Croatia's leading art galleries—perfectly crafted for art lovers and those with interest in local art. What Paris is to France, Dubrovnik is to Croatia, a town that has always been an inspiration for many local artists, painters and sculptures in particular. 

You'll first visit Antun Masle's home in Old Town. A progressive painter who died in the late 1960s, Masle was influenced by the Art Brut movement of which is evident in much of his modern and provocative pieces of the period. You'll meet Antun’s daughter and granddaughter, both fluent in English and keen to share stories regarding Antun’s impact on Croatian art. 

Next, you'll find your way to Lapad Bay to see the works of the late sculptor, Marijan Kocković. Kocković has a prolific body of work of which has been exhibited in more than 100 international art events, with works decorating the interiors of many public buildings. His studio continues to be run by his sons, geniuses in their own right, and ready to introduce you to their father's pieces. 

Following the private tour, you might want to get out and explore more of the city. Can't-miss activities include riding the cable car up to Srđ Mountain to watch the sunset over the nearby Elafiti Islands, visiting Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses, and walking along the smooth, limestone-paved Stradun, Dubrovnik's main street and the perfect place to choose from a number of excellent restaurants and wine bars. Alternatively, there's Buza Bar along the water's edge and outside the city walls—another great spot to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the sunset.

Day 10: Depart Dubrovnik

Rector's Palace
Rector's Palace

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 Unique Highlights of Croatia: Motovun, Pula, Grabovac, Trogir, & Hvar - 10 Days
Map of Unique Highlights of Croatia: Motovun, Pula, Grabovac, Trogir, & Hvar - 10 Days