With its beautiful island-speckled coastline, sparkling clear waters and miles of pebbly beaches, Croatia has earned its recently coined title as Eastern Europe’s “Riviera.” Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has lots to offer the water enthused—there are plentiful rivers, lakes, and waterfronts to sail, yacht, boat, raft, kayak and snorkel. The Dalmatian Coast and Islands, framed by dramatic cliffs, are a must-see. Indulge in a bottle of wine from one of the 800 wineries throughout the country while savoring some locally grown olives on your charcuterie board.
Once off the water, zipline or hike through Plitvice Lakes National Park, considered one of Europe’s most breathtaking natural wonders with its spectacular waterfalls, gorgeous lakes and lush, forested canyon. Explore Roman ruins in Pula, Habsburg villas in Opatija and Venetian bell towers in Rovinj to better grasp Croatia’s rich history. Roam the limestone-paved streets of Dubrovnik’s walled Old Town while sipping its renowned coffee. Sure to be a highlight of any visit for Game of Thrones fans is seeing the many authentic locations the popular HBO series was filmed at in Dubrovnik, Split and Trsteno. Imagine being transplanted to King’s Landing, Diocletian’s Palace and Klis Fortress! Finish your day sampling Croatian cuisine such as local fuzi, black risotto and truffles.
Itinerary 1: Northern Croatia
Days 1 & 2: Zagreb
Arrive in Croatia’s capital and get your bearings. Zagreb is best sensed by its Austro-Hungarian architecture and mix of outdoor cafes, museums, parks, and exquisite cathedrals. The city is easy to navigate as it is divided into three parts: Upper Town, Sabor, and Lower Town. Zagreb has more museums per square foot than any other city in the world so there is sure to be one that strikes your fancy! Explore the city by foot, scooter, or bike; when you’re hungry stop by the Dolac Market to experience the bustling sellers in action.
Relish the cityscape of terracotta-colored rooftops while checking out the Zagreb Eye, then find yourself hiking up Mount Medvednica. Smell the distinctive aroma of brewed coffee at the many cafes throughout the city—grab a seat to people watch. Zagreb will be an inviting start to your journey.
Day 3: Pula
Wake up early and head three hours west toward the tip of the Istria peninsula in the Adriatic Sea where you will find Pula, known for its intact Roman amphitheater, tranquil beaches, and Italian themed cuisine. Festivals? Pula has them all, ranging from cultural events and concerts to plays and films. This region is celebrated for its famous muscats, merlots, and cabernet sauvignons. Inside or out, this town has something for everyone.
Day 4: Rovinj
Drive 40 minutes up the coast to Rovinj, an archipelago of 20 islands. Your eyes will be riveted to the beauty of its cobblestone streets, arches, and historic gems. Stroll along the scenic harbor, shop at numerous art galleries, and delight in its romantic charm. Go to the shore, watch the sunset over the Adriatic Sea and soak up Croatian culture.
Days 5 & 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park/Korana
Plitvice, one of the most magnificent natural wonders of Croatia, is a national park brimming with wonderful lakes, lovely waterfalls, and enchanting forests. Kayak the inviting turquoise, blue, and green waters of its lakes or hike along the numerous paths throughout the park. The afternoon will be well spent outside, be it near the water or in the limestone canyons.
Korana is located just miles from the national park, the perfect resting spot before you continue your adventure rafting, swimming or snorkeling in the pristine waters of the Korana River. This quiet town offers peace and solitude as you immerse yourself in nature.
Days 7 & 8: Zadar
Take in your final views of the stunning coastline in this three-thousand-year-old city abounding with rich cultural heritage and ancient archaeological treasures. Zadar is not at all crowded, which provides comfort as you sunbathe, swim, and relax on its quiet beaches. Two of its most unique waterfront attractions are the sound-and-light spectacle of the Sea Organ, whose unworldly noises are powered by the waves, and the nearby Sun Salutation, a colorful structure created with 300 solar panels. Check out the marina in the old town, climb the Zadar church tower, or ferry the coast to several of the smaller islands for a half-day trip. Enjoy fresh seafood at many of its highly rated restaurants. Before you leave, purchase homemade lace tablecloths and some salty Pag cheese for the plane ride home.
Day 9: Journey Home
Fly out of Zadar. Have a safe flight!
Itinerary 2: Southern Croatia & Islands
Days 1-3: Dubrovnik
Start the day with a visit to the 13th-century Fort Lovrijenac or take a cable car for an aerial view of Dubrovnik to get the lay of the land. For more spectacular views, climb Minceta Tower, walk around the ancient fortress walls, and head toward Gundulic Square where you can peruse the open-air market. Dine at diverse world-class restaurants—relish in fresh oysters on the Peljesac peninsula while trying freshly baked bread with local cheese and pršut.
Sponza Palace and the Cathedral will grace your camera lens or grab a quick 15-minute ferry ride from Old Town Port to Lokrum, where peacocks roam free. Rent a boat to explore the Elaphiti Islands, wander the pebbled coast, go scuba diving, sunbathe, or swim in the deep blue Adriatic Sea on Banje Beach.
A jaunt to Sveti Jakov Beach, where the locals go, will find you on a secluded beach with a cafe and bar. During festival season, listen to the local music throughout the squares and palaces. Dubrovnik, described by the poet Lord Byron as the “pearl of the Adriatic,” is the best place to start your vacation in Croatia.
Days 4 & 5: Korcula
Korcula, “Little Dubrovnik,” is home to many medieval squares, charming villages, sandy beaches, and dense forest landscapes. Marco Polo’s claimed birthplace, protected by fortress walls, will take you back hundreds of years to old Croatia. Walk down to the docks where you’ll be mesmerized by the clear water, cycle through the everlasting rows of grapes, or soak up the sun on the variety of beaches.
Days 6 & 7: Hvar
Lavender fields, marble stone streets, remote coves, and lavish vineyards will captivate you as you enter Hvar. This Croatian island is known for its magnificent beaches, outdoor amusements, and Gothic palaces. Visit the large pebbled Dubovica Beach adorned with olive groves, drive on the Venetian streets of Stari Grad, and watch the golden Hvar sunset while indulging in some lavender ice cream.
Immerse yourself in the history of the Franciscan Monastery, rest in St. Stephen’s Square, ascend the Hvar fort that peeks over the red roofs and white-washed walls, or kayak through the blue and green water caves. End with a winery tour at Zlatan Otok in Sveta Nedilja or Vino Tomic in Jelsa and learn about the rich history of Croatian wine.
Days 8-10: Split
The Dalmation Coast welcomes you to Split as you land on the peninsula in the town dubbed the “Mediterranean Flower.” End your journey exploring luxurious beaches, lively markets, and rocky coves. After you see the crown jewel, Diocletian’s Palace, weave through the marble walkways, gaze at the Renaissance designs, and admire the Old Town of Split. Venture to Klis Fortress, walk along the seaside, relax at The Riva, or take a dip at Bacvice Beach.
Climb the tower of Saint Domnius Cathedral to enjoy incredible panoramic views of the city or hike Marjan Hill to observe the peninsula from above. Treat yourself to a wine and food tour, a sunset sail, zipline over the Cetina River Canyon, and sample Croatian cuisine. Taste the pašticada with gnocchi, fresh fish, goulash, and end with a traditional digestif, Croatian rakija.
For a day trip, head to Krka National Park. Soak in the views on the hour-long drive to this spectacular park. Stare at the rushing waterfalls, swim in organic pools of blue-green waters, or settle in on a boat outing around the reserve. Spot the wildlife in the area and be entranced by the beautiful gorges and canyons in Krka.
Fly out of Split on your last day. Have a safe flight!