Planning the perfect Croatia itinerary is essential to ensuring you have the ideal trip to this incredible country.
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 set their sites on Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands, they fail to dig deeper and explore the seemingly endless wonderful places to visit if you have 7 days in Croatia.
Croatia is a lot bigger and has a more diverse climate than most visitors expect, so it is essential to properly plan out your route before you go.
So if you’re visiting Croatia, these three itineraries are perfect guidelines for having the best trip possible.
Best Time to Visit Croatia
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 temperatures 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 if you’re planning a trip to Croatia, 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.
Getting Around Croatia
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 of 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 Busbud. 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 budget allows for it, a far better transportation option for one week in Croatia 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. Driving in Croatia is easy and going on a Croatia road trip is one of the best ways to see a lot of the country in a short amount of time.
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 compare the best car hire prices available.
If you’re flying into Croatia and are not hiring a car, you can organise a private transfer from the airport here.
Classic 7-Day Croatia Itinerary
If it is your first time visiting Croatia, then this is the 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 route, 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.
Day 1 – Zagreb
The most logical place to start this route through Croatia 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 walking tour of the city to get your bearings and explore some of the main historical sites like St Mark’s Church, the Stone Gate, the Zagreb Cathedral and strolling through the lush Green Horseshoe Park.
Where to Stay in Zagreb
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.
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Zagreb
Day 2 – Zagreb
Though you can certainly see the majority of the highlights of Zagreb within the confines of one day, spending two days in the city is ideal if you want to go at a slower pace and get your bearings in Croatia.
If you spent your first day in the Old Town there are plenty of other places you can visit on the second day.
For instance, consider hopping on a bus to see the massive and sprawling Mirogoj Cemetery. Or, if you’re a craft beer fan, there are plenty of great brewpubs to hop between. Those who love quirky museums will also like the Museum of Broken Relationships.
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 1990s when visiting Croatia, but it is important to see how far the nation has come in the past 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!
Day 3 – Plitvice Lakes National Park
The iconic and gorgeous Plitvice Lakes National Park is the 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 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 very 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
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 rooms available along with self-catering facilities. They also offer complimentary beer and rakija.
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Plitvice Lakes!
Day 4 – Split
After spending two days of your week in Croatia soaking up the arts, culture, and nightlife of Zagreb and another day at the incredible Plitvice Lakes National Park, it’s time to head to the coast and Croatia’s second-largest city of Split.
The drive to Split is absolutely beautiful and there are lots of places in Croatia to stop and enjoy along the way, so make sure to spend your day taking advantage of seeing all there is on the Croatian coast.
Spend the next day taking advantage of all of the great things to do in Split. Walk around the UNESCO-listed 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.
Where to Stay in Split
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.
Tchaikovsky Hostel – This hostel is a great option if you’re travelling solo or on a budget. They are centrally located, have excellent ratings, and offer both dorm and private rooms.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Split
Day 5 – Split
On your second day, consider taking one of the many potential day trips from Split. You could head to the towns of Sibenik or Trogir (the latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), visit the beautiful Krka National Park, or even make a trip to one of the islands off the coast — enjoy the laid-back nature of Brac or the lavender fields of Hvar for a day!
If you choose to visit Krka National Park, get an early start to beat the crowds – it’s located about an hour from Split. Here you can enjoy gorgeous lakes and waterfalls, swimming spots and nice walking trails.
The town of Sibenik is only about fifteen minutes from Krka, so it’s easy to also visit here. It’s small, but absolutely charming with great seaside views and plenty of winding, cobbled streets to get lost on.
If you want a jam-packed day, you could also tack on the town of Trogir on your way back to Split. This is an historic town on its own island (there is a bridge to get there) that is an absolute joy to explore.
Alternatively, consider taking a day trip to an island like Hvar or Brac. Brac is closer to Split but is a bit more sleepy – though it is home to the iconic Zlatni Rat Beach.
Hvar is a bit further away, but fast passenger ferries from Split can allow you to spend the day exploring the charming Hvar Town and swimming around the Pakleni islands.
If you have more than a week to dedicate to this particular itinerary, this is the time where it makes sense to spend more time. Spend an extra day or two in Split, for instance, and you can easily go on all of these day trips. If you have longer, head to an island like Hvar or Korcula for a few days before moving on to Dubrovnik.
Day 6 – Dubrovnik
The most popular place to visit in Croatia thanks in no part to Game of Thrones, no trip to Croatia that covers the tourist highlights of the country would be complete without including the city of Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is the premier place to visit in Croatia and the image of its beautiful city walls is what automatically fills people’s imaginations when thinking of this Adriatic country. Keep in mind that Dubrovnik is small, can be very crowded, and is 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 at least two days in Dubrovnik, one where you can stroll along the well-trodden tourist sites and another where you can try to explore outside of the Old Town.
Spend your first day in Dubrovnik taking in the highlights of the Old Town. Get an early start to beat the crowds on the City Walls and then continue on to visit the Pile Gate, the Dubrovnik Cathedral and the Rector’s Palace.
There are lots of day trippers and cruise ship crowds here, so the crowds can lessen significantly in the evenings. Take this time to enjoy a quieter side of Dubrovnik.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik
Boutique Hotel Porto – Located directly in the Old Town, this boutique hotel is a great option if you’re looking to add a bit of luxury to your time in Croatia. They have a range of clean, comfortable rooms on offer and it comes very highly rated.
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Dubrovnik
Day 7 – Dubrovnik
On your final day, you can use it as an opportunity to explore more of Dubrovnik and get a bit beyond the old town.
You could spend your day lounging on one of Dubrovnik’s beaches or, perhaps, visit lovely Lokrum Island located just a few hundred metres from the shores of the old town.
You can grab a ferry to Lokrun Island and reach it in about ten minutes from the centre of Dubrovnik. It is a nature reserve known for its lush greenery. There are also plenty of lovely, secluded swimming spots for those who want to splash in the water!
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.
7-Day Adriatic Coast Itinerary
If you’re interested in spending time on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast and want to see the highlights that lie in the cities, towns and islands of the Adriatic Sea, then this is the route for you.
It skips some of the inland attractions and concentrates solely on the coastal region. Keep in mind that this route is much easier to execute if you have your own vehicle.
Day 1 – Zadar
Begin your trip in the lovely town of Zadar. This historic town is located in the centre of the Dalmatia region and is actually home to its own international airport, so you can easily get here from plenty of other destinations across Europe.
Zadar is small but there is a lot to see and do in the town and it’s worth spending at least an entire day exploring. The pedestrianised old town doesn’t attract the crowds often seen in cities like Split and Dubrovnik.
There is a lovely seaside promenade complete with a delightful Sea Organ – a series of steps that plays music as the waves crash against it. There are also Roman ruins and beautiful churches to take in, along with swimming spots all along the promenade. There are also plenty of great cafes and restaurants to enjoy.
Where to Stay in Zadar
Art Hotel Kalelarga — This boutique hotel 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.
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Zadar
Day 2 – Krka National Park & Šibenik
On your second day, plan to make your way to Split as your final destination. However, there are a couple of excellent places you can visit within easy reach of Zadar.
Start your day with a visit to Krka National Park. Though not located directly on the coast, this gorgeous natural area is absolutely worth a visit if you’re in this part of Croatia. Within the park, you will find beautiful waterfalls, swimming areas and walking trails.
Only about fifteen minutes driving from Krka, you will find the lovely town of Sibenik, which is our second destination for the day.
This is another excellently-preserved old Croatian town and it is a true delight to wander through. It attracts even fewer crowds than Zadar, so you can certainly have some of the quiet, pedestrianised streets to yourself.
From Sibenik, it’s about a 1-hour drive to Split, your destination for the next two nights.
Day 3 – Split
Your third day of this route should be spent exploring the highlights of the city of Split. Though it’s Croatia’s second-largest city, you can easily explore the compact old town in the confines of a single day.
Because you’ve spent the night here, you can beat the crowds in Diocletian’s Palace and get an early start!
You can also take the time to hike up Marjan Hill where you can get incredible views of the city below and of the surrounding islands.
Day 4 – Hvar
Try to get an early start and hop on the earliest ferry you can to get to Hvar, one of the most popular Croatian islands to visit. Car ferries from Split arrive in the port in the town of Stari Grad, which is only about thirty minutes from the far more popular Hvar Town.
Spend your first day exploring the sites in and around Hvar Town. Wander the delightful Old Town and then take the time to lounge on the beach – Pokonji Dol Beach is an excellent option!
Alternatively, you can also join a boat tour or hop on a water taxi to the lovely Pakleni Islands, little islands that lie just off the coast from Hvar Town. These are great places to swim and sunbathe.
Hvar Town is also known for its nightlife. So, if it interests you, you can party into the wee hours of the night at one of the many beach clubs. Those looking for a quieter stay will find plenty of other great places to stay elsewhere on the island.
Where to Stay in Hvar
Pharos Hvar Hotel – Located in Hvar Town, this 3-star hotel is a good option on the island. They have a number of comfortable rooms to choose from and a great location for exploring the island and the town.
Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel – This seaside hotel is a great luxury option in Hvar Town. They have an inviting swimming pool, an on-site spa and plenty of gorgeous rooms for guests to choose from.
Hostel Villa Skansi – This hostel is great for budget travellers looking to enjoy Hvar’s nightlife. They have a number of different rooms to choose from and social events organised each evening.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Hvar hotels!
Day 5 – Hvar
On your second day in Hvar, continue to explore this beautiful and tranquil island! Your second day should be spent on the gorgeous Dubovica Beach before wandering over to explore cool and quiet Stari Grad.
You can stop off at some iconic Lavender Farms before wandering over to Vrboska – a town that has a lot of charm but not a lot of tourists. It’s a great place to sample some local wines and get a great meal!
Day 6 – Korčula
Day six of this itinerary sees you going to another gorgeous Croatian island – Korcula. However, if you’ve had enough of islands and would rather visit Dubrovnik, then consider heading there from Hvar instead.
If you decide to head to Korcula, it can also be a good idea to get an early start. The easiest way to get there from Hvar is to drive to the Sucaraj ferry terminal and take the ferry to the mainland, then drive to the Orebic ferry terminal and grab the boat from there to Korcula town.
Then, spend your first day exploring the beauty of gorgeous Korcula Town. Often marketed as a smaller Dubrovnik, this is an old and excellently preserved town that just oozes charm. There’s a lot to see here and there are also some great restaurants and lovely local wine bars to pop into.
Where to Stay in Korčula
Apartments Milion – A great mid-range option in Korcula Town, this place offers both comfortable double rooms and apartments for guests to choose from. It makes for a great base when exploring the island.
Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel – This plush hotel in Korcula Town has a beautiful location right on the seaside. They have plenty of beautiful rooms and a great breakfast available in the mornings.
Hostel Korcula – Backpackers visiting Korcula will love this cool hostel in the centre of Korcula Town. They offer both dorms and privates and there are great common areas to enjoy.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Korcula hotels!
Day 7 – Korčula
On your final day in Korcula, you can spend it lounging on the beach and, in the afternoon, enjoying some of the incredible wine that makes this island a dream destination. In the morning, head to the lovely Pupnatska Luka Beach and soak up some rays.
If you want to sample some local vintages, then consider heading to the inland town of Smokvica where there are several wineries that offer tastings.
In the second half of the day, make your way to the town of Lumbarda for more wine tasting. This town is also home to some of the island’s (and Croatia’s) only sandy beaches so you can enjoy this, as well.
7-Day 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:
Day 1 – Pula
Begin your trip 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.
Foodies will love the House of Istrian Olive Oil, which is a museum that explains the history of olive oil in the region and also allows you to have some tastings. There is some delicious extra virgin olive oil to enjoy here!
Of course, the Pula Arena is really the draw of exploring this city and it is truly spectacular. Excellently preserved, it is smaller than the Colosseum of Rome, however, it attracts far fewer people, as well.l You can climb all around the arena so it’s a very cool place to visit.
Where to Stay in Pula
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.
Boutique Hotel Valsabbion – If you’re the type to travel in luxury, then this boutique hotel is the place for you. Boasting sleek modern rooms, a fantastic swimming pool, an on-site spa, a beachfront location and much more, this hotel is sure to give you a great experience in Pula!
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Pula!
Day 2 – Brijuni Islands
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.
To get to the Brijuni Islands, you must take a ferry from the nearby town of Fazana. This is a pedestrian-only ferry as there are no cars on the island.
Once there, it can be a great idea to hire a bicycle and ride around the island – it’s quite flat and there are plenty of secluded beaches to enjoy.
Day 3 – Labin & Rabac
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.
There is a lot to see in this area of Istria so using Pula as a base for 3 nights really makes sense even if you only spend one full day exploring the city itself. The hill town of Labin, for instance, is located only about 45 minutes from Pula and it can be a delightful place to explore.
Nearby, if you want some seaside charms, head to the small town of Rabac, which is absolutely charming and with wandering through, as well. There are also plenty of beaches you could choose to visit should you wish to have a lazy day of sunbathing.
Day 4 – 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.
Where to Stay in Umag
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.
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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Umag!
Day 5 – Istrian Hill Towns
On the second day staying in Umag, 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.
Day 6 – 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.
Day 7 – Rovinj
On your second day in Rovinj and last day of this Croatia trip, 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
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.
Rooms Barbieri – 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.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places in Rovinj!
Croatia is an absolutely gorgeous and welcoming country that just begs to be explored. However, mapping out the ideal 7 days in Croatia itinerary is paramount to ensuring you have the best Croatian adventure possible!
Are you planning to visit Croatia? Have any questions? Let us know in the comm