Croatia has become one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean in the past few years. Even though its popularity increased after the emission of Game of Thrones, Croatia is a country of contrasts, of crystal blue water and never-ending waterfalls, of old Roman ruins and islands filled with castles. I cannot recommend enough visiting this country. I was there last summer and I was beyond amazed. If I haven’t convinced you yet, check out this 10 day Croatia itinerary and start packing!
Day 1 and 2: Discovering Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is the southernmost city in Croatia. This little town has great connections with many airports in Europe and is a mandatory stop to most cruises sailing through the Eastern Mediterranean. All of this makes Dubrovnik the perfect starting point for your 10 days in Croatia adventure.
Like most cities in Croatia, Dubrovnik has a fortified old town that the modern city has outgrown and that now surrounds it. The wall of this city is almost intact and, of course, you can visit most of it. Some of the views from up there will be quite familiar if you have seen Game of Thrones: it is the filming location of King’s Landing.
Read more: 5 Fictional Destinations You Can Visit
Past the city walls, the perfect start for a proper Dubrovnik itinerary, you will face a steep set of stairs. Most of the county is set in high hills and many cities have extremely long sets of stairs, so forget about trolleys. Down the stairs and past many restaurants, you will arrive at the main street of Dubrovnik: Stradun.
There you can find more souvenir shops that you can visit, and enough ice cream shops and cafés to satisfy the pickiest eater. This street is flanked by one of the nicest gates and the Onophrian Fountain in the West and to the Sponza Palace and the Rector’s Palace in the East.
Both palaces are nice, and although I am not sure they are worth a visit, checking out the original mixture of architecture it’s an interesting way to understand a bit better the history of the city.
Past these palaces, there’s a small natural harbor showing the perfect greenish-blue water and the tiny boats with the city in as background. It is the perfect place for the most picturesque shot in the city. Past that, there’s a tiny lighthouse and a small set of rocks from which you can jump out to the sea. Funny note: you can swim almost anywhere on the coast, just try not to drown.
Even though there are many landmarks in Dubrovnik well worth a visit, you can spend your first morning taking a free tour around the city walls. Then, enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the many small restaurants that serve local food. Spend the afternoon discovering the cobblestone streets of the old town and visit the historical sights. Later on, head to the city harbor to watch the sunset from the water.
On your second day, go to the beautiful (but hidden) Bellevue Beach.
This beach is outside the old town and it is completely made out of round and big rocks, but go in the morning, this spot is so hidden that is in shadows most afternoon. After that, you can walk through the city outside the walls, discover the more modern parts of Dubrovnik: visit Bokar-Festung (a beautiful old fortress) and Lovrijenac (another fortress now turned into a theater). Climb the hill in the north of the city to watch the sun disappear between the neighboring islands.
Day 3 and 4: The amazing Hvar and the Paklinski islands
Early in the morning of your third day, take a ferry and head to one of the nicest spots in Croatia: Hvar. Even though this tiny island is often known for its party scene, it is a magnificent place to enjoy the true Mediterranean slow-paced life.
Once you arrive on the island, you will see a beautiful white promenade. To the left, you will have the center of the city and to the right a small harbor where many small boats are tied. The whole town is made out of white stone and shines with the sun. Seriously, if it is a very bright day, the city is blinding. Imagine the perfect cobblestone white streets with flowers in every corner and tiny restaurants all around. In my honest opinion, it is the cutest town in the country.
The first day, wander through the city, enjoy the sights and take in the local culture. Have a nice fish dish by the sea and walk through the white streets. You can visit a couple of churches but just walking through the city is an amazing experience by itself. After lunch, and when the sun is starting to go down, put your sports shoes on and head up to the fortress. The walk up there is steep but the views are worth it. Bring a bottle of local wine and enjoy some of the nicest landscapes you will find in Croatia.
The second day in Hvar, rent a boat. For about 60€, you can get a small boat very easy to drive that you can use to reach the Paklinski Islands and do a bit of Croatia island hopping!
These are small islands right in front of Hvar (town) and are part of a National park. For this reason, there are no hotels/people living on them. You can find a few bars scattered along the islands but expect to be mostly on your own. I was there in September, so I do not know what may happen in peak season, but we may have been there along with 20 more people. Even though there are two official beaches (one of them nudist), there are trails along the island and many people just set their towels wherever they see a good spot.
One tiny comment regarding these islands, cruising is common there, so don’t get scared to see men walking around naked. Head back to the main island in the afternoon, take a shower and head to Falko Beach bar to have a beer while the sun sets behind the neighboring islands after your Croatian island cruise day.
Day 5: Enjoying the Roman Split
Very early in the morning, you will have to board the Ferry to Split.
Only a couple of hours later you will arrive in one of the most beautiful places in Croatia. It is quite different from previous stops. When you head North the taste of Croatia becomes more and more Italian and you will start to see this switch in Split. The city has many museums worth a visit but the old town can be visited in half a day. Like in Dubrovnik, free walking tours are widely available and are a fantastic choice: They will take you to visit the old town.
Like previously, you will find it surrounded by walls, and within them, the houses have grown on top of each other. The main attraction of the old town is the Diocletian’s Palace, the old residence of a Roman emperor, now in ruins and used as a square. And always packed to the max. Almost next to it, there’s the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, another beautiful site with an amazing bell tower that you can climb to see the city from above.
Other sights that you can visit are the Temple of Jupiter, Gallery Kula, or the former town hall – Stara gradska vijecnica.
When the afternoon starts to fade, head to the small peninsula of the city: Marjan. You can visit this hill from both sides. There are a few beaches that can be reached accessing the peninsula both from the North and the South trails.
If you decide to be brave and climb the hill, you will end up with some of the best views of the city.
Day 6: Day trip to Trogir and Kliss Fortress
From this point on the itinerary, your best choice is to rent a car. Even though you could have rented one in Dubrovnik and move around with it on the ferry, it is an unnecessary expense. Although you can do Day 6 and probably Day 7 using public transportation, it will be very complicated and most likely more expensive than simply renting a car.
Trogir is a tiny town a little bit North Split. With a beautiful seaside promenade and a walled old town, it is, in my opinion, even nicer than Split itself. There is a tiny market in the middle of the street where you can find plenty of strange delicacies.
Once inside the old town, you will see that the central square is magnificent. If you have time, do not skip a visit to St Lawrence Cathedral, it is truly beautiful. You can also visit the Gates of Trogir or climb the stairs of St Michael Bell Tower and see the city from above. Even though there’s plenty to see, just walking through the city is a fantastic way to spend half a day.
After lunch, take the car and head to Kliss Fortress. This is another one of the filming locations of Game of Thrones but its interest does not lay only on that, the views of the bay from up there are breathtaking.
This castle is more than one thousand years old and it has been the seat of many of the past rulers of Croatia. Moreover, it was crucial in the European resistance to the Ottoman Empire (current Turkey). Located on the summit of a small hill, it seems to effortlessly grow out of the rock. Worth a visit!
From there, go back to Split and enjoy the nightlife of this buzzing city.
Day 7: Visiting Krka NP and arriving in Zadar
Today you will be heading North. Leave Split early in the morning and arrive as soon as possible to Krka National Park. This park is made out of waterfalls and greenish rivers and most of the trail is set on floating platforms hovering above the water.
Even though it is the little brother of the infamous Plitvice lakes, some people prefer Krka for a simple reason: you can swim in this park! There’s only a section in the park where you are allowed to float, but swimming against the current created by the waterfalls is an amazing experience. I think it is a must!
Following this, head North again and arrive in Zadar.
This little town is much cheaper than any of the previous destinations but it is as beautiful, if not more. Like with all the previous destinations, the old town is walled and covered in white stone. Some truly beautiful squares are located in the city center and cheap and classy cafés are everywhere. There’s also a very interesting spot comprising the Church of St Donatus and a set of old Roman ruins in the middle of the city.
Besides all this, the best part of this town is the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun. Usually, an organ produces music after the air is pushed through its tubes. Well, in this case, the mechanism behind the movement of the air is the sea. Seeing the sun disappear while listening to the ocean singing is one of the most magical experiences you can have in the amazing country that is Croatia.
Right next to it there’s a circle made out of lights on the ground: the monument to the Sun. It is mostly a nice compliment to the Sea Organ if you ask me. And here ends your first Croatia week! But there’s more, your Croatia itinerary does not end here.
Day 8: Grabovaca, Plitvice NP, and Rastoke
On the eighth day of this itinerary, you will see the most touristy spot in Croatia and two others that are mostly unknown.
Because the first guided tour of Grabovaca starts at 10 am, you will have time to have a relaxed breakfast in Zadar before leaving the city. Then, about half an hour away and next to the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, you can visit the cave park Grabovaca.
This spot is mostly unknown and the definition of a place off the beaten path. There are four tours every day and each one lasts about an hour. You will see amazing rock formations in three different caves and even a location where there are concerts a few times a year. If you decide to visit, bring warm clothes, the temperature moves around 10ºC all year long.
After visiting the cave, drive for a little less than an hour and reach the well-known Plitvice National Park. You can spend half a day there and leave happy with what you have seen but some people prefer to spend a full day there. That’s up to you to decide.
The Plitvice lakes are far away from the coast and the weather is somehow nastier, for that reason, it is common to be 15ºC colder than in Zadar (as it was our case). This is the park with all the amazing waterfalls and nice trails that appears so often online and in travel journals. It is much larger than Krka but the trails are so small that is quite complicated to walk at a nice pace: expect to wait for all the photographers-to-be and everyone carrying a baby to move.
Besides, since swimming is forbidden, if the sun is not shinning all the beautiful colors of the water will be missing. Because the entrance fee to this park is quite high, you must consider all this (and the weather) to decide if you visit the Plitvice Lakes.
Almost next to it, less than 10 minutes away, there’s the overlooked Rastoke. This town is tiny, but it is all built on top of a set of waterfalls. Although it is a very cold and wet location, the few houses have a couple of nice restaurants and all around it, there are many B&Bs where you can spend the night for almost nothing.
Day 9 and 10: Arriving at the capital, Zagreb
The following morning, you will be heading to the capital of Croatia: Zagreb. Because this city lacks the coastal vibes common in most of the country, you will finish this itinerary with a little bit of culture. You can visit the highlights of the capital with a walking tour.
Then, spend the afternoon strolling through the streets of the upper town and enjoy the farmer’s market. There you will be able to buy some delicious handmade cheese, cream, and cornbread.
Later in the day, climb Medvenica Mountain and enjoy the fantastic landscape from up there. Then, finish the evening dining in one of the great restaurants in the city.
To finish the trip, the next day, visit the Museum of Broken Relationships: a catalog of mementos from relationships that didn’t work out and the sad/funny story behind them.
Many other museums worth a visit for your last day in Croatia are: Tortureum (a museum about torture), Mestrovic’s Atelier (about the art of the famous Mestrovic), or the popular gallery Klovicevi Dvori.
Recap: visiting Croatia in 10 days
With this (slightly demanding) itinerary you will be able to get a global feeling of amazing Croatia in only 10 days. Remember that the best time to visit Croatia without the crowds and with good weather is Spring and Fall, being May and October great choices. If you head to Croatia in Summer, let’s say August, the weather will be still great but you can be sure that Croatia’s most known locations will be packed.
PS. If you have one week in Croatia or are looking for a 5 day Croatia itinerary, you can skip a few things on this list and still have a memorable Croatia road trip. For instance, if you have 7 days in Croatia, our suggestion is to spend just one day in Dubrovnik, Hvar – or another Croatian island – and Zagreb. Enjoy!