Croatia is becoming an ever more popular European destination year after year as it has firmly cemented its beautiful Adriatic Riviera onto the pages of travel magazines, websites, and Instagram feeds. This incredibly diverse and welcoming country has endless opportunities to offer travellers. While most visitors to Croatia set their sites on Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands, they fail to dig deeper and explore the seemingly endless wonderful places to visit in the country. One could easily spend months travelling throughout this Balkan nation and barely scratch the service but if you only have time for a 7 day Croatia itinerary, then there are a number of different routes you can take.
Croatia is a lot bigger and has a more diverse climate than most visitors expect. Just one day in Croatia could see you traipsing the cosmopolitan streets of Zagreb before hiking through lush forests and waterfalls and finishing up with a cocktail on the crystal clear Adriatic. With so many options for places to visit in Croatia, it is essential you give your itinerary some proper advance planning in order to truly maximise your short period of time in this wonderful country.
When to Go
Contrary to popular belief, Croatia isn’t all sunshine and sea every day of the year and the vast majority of the country really does experience all four seasons. While winters in Dalmatia and on the coast tend to be mild compared to that of other European countries, the north of Croatia — in places like Zagreb or the Slavonia region — can expect to experience fairly heavy snowfall and average high temperatures that linger just above freezing.
It is also worth noting that a good majority of Croatia isn’t perennially blessed with endless sunny days. Zagreb, for instance, is actually quite wet and it is best to expect at least a few rainy days on your trip along the coast as well — depending on the season you are travelling. In the most popular coastal cities in Croatia — like Split and Dubrovnik — you can expect a significant amount of rain in the winter months.
If you do want to avoid the hordes of tourist crowds, then winter can be an appealing option, especially if you’re not one to enjoy lazy beach and swimming days. It is worth knowing that many restaurants and tourist attractions are closed in the winter due to low demand.
The summer months of late June-August are the most popular times to travel to Croatia and if you plan to hit the most visited cities in the country, you can expect them to be very crowded. Temperatures can reach well over 30ºC (86ºF) on the coast and expect it to be even hotter in the capital.
Prices also mimic the high temperature in the Croatian summer with everything from accommodation to restaurant costs inflated to take advantage of the tourism revenue. Places to stay tend to book out early, especially in July and August, so it is essential that you plan well in advance if you are set on travelling in peak season.
Ideally, the best time of year to travel to Croatia is in the shoulder seasons directly surrounding summer. May and September have some of the best weather in Europe, where you can expect warm temperatures averaging around 25ºC (77ºF) and for the majority of your days to be sunny. Most seasonal restaurants and tourist attractions will begin to open their doors again through the months of March-October so you will be able to see and eat everything that you could in the summer with a fraction of the crowds.
How to Get Around
If you are only planning a one week Croatia itinerary and want to make the most of your time, you need to be able to optimise your transport so you spend more time sightseeing and less time in transit.
If you want to rely on public transport when getting from point A to B in Croatia, then you’re going to need to get to know the bus network. Like many Balkan countries, Croatia doesn’t have an advanced train system and the majority of inter-city transport is dominated by the humble bus.
Bus connections between major cities are frequent, but they can book out early during the summer months. There are a number of different transit companies to choose from, some which allow you to book tickets online. Others might require you to buy a bus ticket at the station. You can check bus timetables and routes throughout Croatia on getbybus.com. Another thing to keep in mind is that most buses do charge to put luggage into hold — usually around €1-2.
If you can and your Croatia trip budget allows for it, a far better transportation option for a 7-day Croatia itinerary is to rent a car. This will allow you to be more flexible with your departure times and reach places that aren’t as well-served by the bus network. If you only have a week, you are going to want to see as much of the country as you can and it isn’t always possible to do with irregular bus timetables and long travel times. We use Rentalcars.com to find the best car-hire prices available.
Croatia Itinerary: 7 Days (Classic Croatia Itinerary)
If it is your first time visiting Croatia, then this is one week itinerary you should follow. It covers all of the main tourist highlights of Croatia with possible day-trip options to nearby national parks and beautiful islands. We do recommend renting a car for this itinerary, however, if you want to save money, a car is not necessary for the Zagreb portion of this trip. You can go ahead and rent a car when leaving the capital and save a couple of days of fare and parking fees.
Days 1-2: Zagreb
The most logical place to start this 7-day Croatia itinerary is in the vibrant capital of Zagreb. For many years, tourists have treated Zagreb as merely a place to fly into before making a beeline for the coast — maybe spending a night there if their flight arrives late and leaving first thing in the morning. However, in recent years, Zagreb has really come into its own as a tourist destination, which is why we recommend spending two days in the Croatian capital.
Zagreb has a gritty, artistic feel to it and has a number of interesting things to do. Take a free walking tour of the city to get your bearings before venturing out to discover its thriving street art scene, take in a few of the city’s interesting museums, eat at some of its world-class restaurants, and experience some Zagreb’s bustling nightlife.
Zagreb is also an excellent place to educate yourself on the Yugoslav Wars, which were particularly devastating here. Many people tend to forget the horrific conflict of the 1990’s when visiting Croatia, but it is important to see how far the nation has come in fewer than 30 years.
Two days in Zagreb is a perfect amount of time to spend in order to really get a feel for the city and will probably lend to you longing to return one day!
Where to Stay in Zagreb
Because Zagreb is finally becoming a tourist destination in Croatia in and of itself, there are a number of great accommodation options to choose from in the city. Here are our top suggestions:
Hostel Mali Mrak — This locally-run hostel is one of the best places to stay in Zagreb if you’re travelling solo or on a budget. They have an incredibly friendly staff, great common areas that make it easy to meet other travellers and have both dorms and private rooms available. Click here to see their latest prices
Casablanca Boutique B&B — This boutique bed and breakfast is one of the best places to stay in Zagreb if your budget allows for a little bit more than a hostel. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available, it is located very close to the city centre and all of the main tourist attractions, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Airbnb — Airbnb is a fantastic alternative option to traditional hostels and hotels. There are many properties available in Zagreb, ranging from private rooms to whole apartments in whichever neighbourhood you might please (this private apartment is one of the best-rated places in Zagreb!) Click here to browse the best Airbnbs in Zagreb!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Zagreb
Day 3: Plitvice Lakes National Park
The iconic and gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park is second-most visited attraction in Croatia (after Dubrovnik) and it is for good reason — it is absolutely spectacular. This massive network of lakes and waterfalls is enough to charm even the most ardent of city people and visiting is a highlight of any trip to Croatia. While it can get EXTREMELY busy in the summer months, it is still an unmissable area to explore in Croatia.
While many people visit Plitvice as a day trip from Zagreb or Split, we recommend spending a night near the park so you can get there as early as possible, avoid the inevitable tourist crowds, and spend as much time as you can in the park.
You need at least four hours to see the majority of the park, but you can easily spend longer. Because of this, we recommend leaving Zagreb in the evening, spending the night near the park, visiting Plitvice Lakes in the morning and then driving onto your next destination by the afternoon or evening.
Where to Stay in Plitvice Lakes
As mentioned earlier, Plitvice Lakes is an incredibly popular place to visit and therefore, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. If you’re looking for the perfect place to stay near Plitvice Lakes National Park, have a look at these suggestions:
Falling Lakes Hostel — This is a great option for backpackers, budget and solo travellers who want a place near Plitvice Lakes. They offer both dorm and private rooms, self-catering facilities, and will arrange a shuttle to the entrance of the lakes should you not have your own vehicle. Click here to check their availability
House Turkalj — This cosy family-run guesthouse is an excellent affordable option for those looking for a little bit more than a hostel. They have a handful of private ensuite room available along with self-catering facilities. They also offer complimentary beer and rakija. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Plitvice Lakes!
Days 4-5: Split
After spending two days of your one week Croatia itinerary soaking up the arts, culture, and nightlife of Zagreb, it’s time to head to the coast and Croatia’s second-largest city of Split.
Try to leave Zagreb early in order to be able to make a stop at the gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park. As one the top attractions in Croatia, this stunning natural park is one of the best places to visit in the county and can really give you a scope at how incredibly diverse the geography of the country is. It is worth alloting at least a couple of hours to explore the park before continuing onto your destination in the late afternoon/evening.
Spend the next day taking advantage of all of the great things to do in Split. Walk around Diocletian’s Palace, stroll along the seaside promenade, enjoy a glass of Croatian wine at an outdoor cafe, or take a hike up Marjan hill.
On your last day in the city, consider taking one of the many potential day trips from Split. You could head to the towns of Šibenik or Trogir, visit the beautiful Krka National Park, or even make a trip to one of the islands off the coast — enjoy the lavender fields of Hvar or the laid-back nature of Brac for a day!
If you have 8 days in Croatia rather than the 7 days I’ve accounted for in this itinerary, then I would suggest spending another day in Split. Either take more time to go beyond the tourist sites in the city itself or take another day trip.
Where to Stay in Split
There are countless accommodation options in Split, seeing as it is one of Croatia’s premier tourist destinations. If you’re lost on where to stay, these are our top suggestions:
Tchaikovsky Hostel — This hostel is a great option if your travelling solo or on a budget. They are centrally located, have excellent ratings, and offer both dorm and private rooms. Click here to see their latest prices
Il Giardino Luxury Rooms & Suites — If you’re looking for a little bit more luxury, then you can’t go wrong with this boutique hotel. They have a number of spacious and comfortable rooms on offer, are located close to both the centre of Split and within walking distance of the beach and have breakfast included and a restaurant on site. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Split
Days 6-7: Dubrovnik
The most popular place to visit in Croatia thanks in no part to Game of Thrones, no 7-day Croatia itinerary that covers the tourist highlights of the country would be complete without including Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is the premier place to visit in Croatia and the image of its beautiful city walls are what automatically fills people’s imaginations when thinking of this Adriatic country. I am going to be honest with you, however. Dubrovnik is small, crowded, and noticeably more expensive than anywhere else in the country.
That is not to say it’s not absolutely gorgeous and it is absolutely worth spending time in the city, especially if it’s your first time visiting Croatia. We recommend spending two days in Dubrovnik, one where you can stroll along the well-trodden tourist site and another where you can try to explore outside of the Old Town.
Dubrovnik is also a great base to take a few day trips. It is incredibly possible to visit the beautiful city of Kotor, Montenegro or marvel at the Stari Most in divided Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. If you spend one day exploring the old town, it is totally possible to tack on a visit to either of the cities on the second day.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on driving yourself that your rental car has the proper documentation to cross the borders. This is not always the case and you will be turned away at the border if you don’t have the proper papers. Check with the rental car company beforehand so you can curb and potential setbacks.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a popular place and has many accommodation options because of that. If you’re wondering where to stay in Dubrovnik, have a look at our top recommendations:
Old Town Hostel — As the name suggests, this boutique hostel is located directly in Dubrovnik’s iconic Old Town. It is one of the highest-rated hostels in the city and has both dorm beds and private rooms available. Click here to see their latest prices
Soleil Luxury Rooms Old Town Guesthouse — Located directly in the Old Town, this boutique guesthouse is a great option if you’re looking to add a bit of luxury to your Croatia itinerary. They have a range of clean, comfortable rooms on offer and it comes very highly rated. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Dubrovnik
Croatia Itinerary: 7 Days (Istrian Highlights Itinerary)
If it isn’t your first time in Croatia — or even if it is and you’re keen to venture away from the well-trodden tourist path — then consider heading to the northwestern region of Istria. This triangular peninsula is often considered to be Croatia’s gastronomic heart and it offers incredible ancient historical sites, beautiful coastal cities, and imposing hill towns to rival those of Tuscany. So, if you want to take the road less travelled, take a look at this Istria itinerary:
Days 1-3: Pula
Begin your 7 days in Croatia in the historic port city of Pula. Pula has an international airport that serves a multitude of airlines and destinations but if you don’t arrive by plane, it is also well-connected by bus.
Three days in Pula is sufficient in order to be able to see all of the incredible sites that the city has to offer while also giving you time to take a day trip or two. Spend your first day checking out the amazing Pula Arena, visiting the number of interesting museums in the city, browsing the bustling Pula market and learning about Pula’s history.
You can spend your second day either taking in more of Pula itself or going on a day trip to the wonderful Brijuni Islands. These were once the summer home of former Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito and today are a wildlife park and nature reserve.
On the third day, you can either take a day trip to neighbouring hill towns like Labin or spend the day lounging on a nearby beach.
Where to Stay in Pula
Pula is increasing in popularity as a tourist destination and, because of that, there are a number of great accommodation options. Here are some of our suggestions:
Crazy House Hostel – located in the centre of the Old Town, this hostel is the perfect place for solo travellers on a budget and there is a fantastic outdoor terrace to relax on. Click here to see their latest prices
Boutique Hotel Oasi — this small hotel is located very close to the beach and a short distance from central Pula. They have a number of rooms on offer, a restaurant on site, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Pula!
Days 4-5: Umag
After spending some time enjoying the history and atmosphere of Pula, it’s time to head to one of the most underrated towns in Istria: Umag.
Umag is a small seaside town in the northwest of Istria and has a quaint and compact old town, a number of stellar swimming spots, great restaurants, and is close to some of Istria’s best vineyards. Two days here should be enough.
Spend the first day exploring Umag itself and maybe take the time to visit a local vineyard for some wine tasting. You can even head to the beach and swim in the warm Adriatic.
On the second day, take to the car and head inland to visit some of the most picturesque hill towns in Istria. Buje, Groznjan, and Motovun are all within easy reach of Umag. Here you can also dine on truffles and pasta for a fraction of the cost of elsewhere in the world.
This area of Croatia is completely different from the most popular tourist destinations and it is sure not to disappoint.
Where to Stay in Umag
Though not as popular a destination as other towns in Istria, there are a number of great accommodation options in Umag. Here are the ones we recommend:
Vilola — a small boutique hotel located close to some of the best swimming areas in Umag, Vilola offers air-conditioned rooms with their own balcony and breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Hotel Arte Casa — another boutique hotel in Umag, this one also has a great breakfast included in the nightly rate, air-conditioned rooms, and free parking on the premises. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Umag!
Days 6-7: Rovinj
After enjoying the hustle and bustle of Pula and the laid-back nature and nearby hill towns of Umag, it’s time to head to the most iconic Istrian town: Rovinj.
Rovinj is an absolutely beautiful seaside town in western Istria and boasts a number of interesting things to do. Its proximity to some of the best beaches in the region is an appealing reason to visit Rovinj as well.
Spend one day exploring the Old Town and take the time to just let your feet wander and get lost. Walk around the harbour, stop in for a drink at one of the many seaside cafes, and even climb the bell tower of St Euphemia’s Church.
On your second day in Rovinj and last day of this Croatia itinerary, you can either spend it laying on the beach and soaking up the bright Adriatic sun or you can hop in the car and go on another day trip. The small hill town of Bale or the lively seaside towns of Porec and Vrsar are both appealing options, as is the beautiful Lim Fjord.
Where to Stay in Rovinj
Rovinj is an incredibly popular town to visit in Istria and it, therefore, has a lot of different accommodation options to choose from. There are our recommendations:
Hotel Angelo d’Oro — a small hotel in the middle of old town Rovinj, this place has a number of rooms on offer and comes very highly rated. Breakfast is also included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Bed & Breakfast Villa Squero — located only five minutes from the old town, this charming hotel is a great option for a place to stay in Rovinj. The rooms are large and comfortable and it also includes breakfast in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Rovinj!
Croatia Itinerary: 7 Days (Adriatic Coast Itinerary)
If heading to Istria doesn’t appeal to you but you want to head a little bit off the typical tourist trail, then follow this 7-Day Croatia itinerary. It is very similar to the Classic Croatia Itinerary, with one major variation.
Days 1-2: Zagreb
Begin your trip, as suggested in the Classic Croatia Itinerary, in the capital of Zagreb. Although you might be excited to head to the beautiful coast, we recommend spending two full days in Zagreb in order to really get a good feel for this lively and dynamic city. You won’t regret it. If you’re wondering where you should stay in Zagreb, be sure to check out our recommendations above.
Day 3: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Much like in the Classic Croatia Itinerary above, we recommend spending a night in Plitvice Lakes National Park before moving onto the coast. This will allow you to spend an ample amount of time exploring the park, avid the majority of the tourist crowds, and still get the most out of your Croatia itinerary without feeling too rushed.
Like mentioned earlier, plan to leave Zagreb in the late afternoon, spend the night near the park, and get to the Lakes as early as you can the following morning before heading onto Zadar in the afternoon.
Day 4: Zadar
Instead of following the Classic Croatia Itinerary and heading directly to Split from Zagreb, we recommend you visit Zadar instead. Located in the north of the Dalmatia region, Zadar doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves with so many tourists only setting their sites upon Split and Dubrovnik.
We recommend spending two days exploring Zadar. This will give you enough time to see all of the biggest sites and get lost in the city’s beautiful old town. Take a stroll along the wonderful seaside promenade and relax on the steps of the sea organ and listen to the music of the Adriatic waves.
You can spend the second day in Zadar enjoying the warm water and lounging on the beach, of which there are many within very easy walking distance from the city centre. Or you can just take in the laid-back atmosphere and hop from cafe to cafe, enjoying an espresso drink, some local wine, or even a shot of rakija or two!
Where to Stay in Zadar
Zadar is gaining popularity as a tourist destination, but it still doesn’t receive nearly the amount of tourist as Split or Dubrovnik. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is a shortage of great place to stay in Zadar. These are our recommendations:
Downtown Boutique Hostel — This small boutique hostel is located in the centre of Old Town Zadar. They have a number of room options available — from dorm beds to privates — and a friendly and helpful staff. This is a great budget option. Click here to see their latest prices
Tinel B&B Premium Edition — This bed and breakfast offers modern, comfortable rooms and free breakfast in the morning in a fantastic Old Town Zadar location. It is one of the highest-rated hotels in Zadar and it is a great option for those looking for a bit of luxury. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Zadar
Days 5-7: Split
The final three days on this particular 7-day Croatia itinerary should be spent in beautiful and lively Split. If you follow the recommendations in the Classic Croatia Itinerary above, you are assured to have a wonderful final few days in this beautiful country. Split has a lot to offer travellers and it is in a great position to explore more of Dalmatia and cast a broader net.
Croatia Itinerary: 14 Days (The Best of Croatia)
If you have more time to spend than just one week in Croatia, then you have a lot of options available to you. If you are looking for a 14-day Croatia itinerary, consider lumping to of the above itineraries together into one. For instance, you can begin in Pula for the Istrian Highlights itinerary and then head to Zagreb after visiting Rovinj and either follow the Classic Croatia or Adriatic Coast itineraries from there.
Alternatively, it is very easy to pick just one of these itineraries and expand from there. Want to do more day trips from each destination, well then add an extra day in whichever place you choose. All of these routes can easily be added to or subtracted from in order to make the perfect 6, 10, or 12-day Croatia itinerary or even a great two weeks in Croatia itinerary!
The opportunities in this beautiful nation are endless and only your imagination is the limit!
Croatia is an absolutely gorgeous and welcoming country that just begs to be explored. However, mapping out the ideal Croatia itinerary is paramount to ensuring you have the best Croatian adventure possible!
When visiting Croatia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a Croatia itinerary? Have you been to Croatia? Let us know in the comments!