Road trip style holidays are rapidly becoming my favourite kind. Not only do they allow you to see the big sights in a short time, but also to escape the crowds and discover places away from the tourist trail.
For our Croatia road trip, we plotted in highlights from the ‘must visit’ lists, but what we ended up falling in love with was another Croatia. The Croatia of mountain-road switchbacks, secluded coves, golden forests and local produce. One of unexpected landscapes, the best Roman architecture outside of Italy and turquoise waters that look like they were shipped in from Southeast Asia.
Despite most people over thirty holding memories of incredibly bleak times, (the bullet-holed houses of road-side villages tell their own story), Croatia proved to be an immaculate country, full of warm-hearted people and one which ten days just could not do justice.
Such is life, Croatia.
We’ll just have to come back again.
And with a place as sense-grabbing as this, I think we probably will.
Outline of the Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Our aim was to see as much of Croatia as we could, without it feeling like too much of a rush – the eternal struggle of the road-tripper! Thankfully, the journeys themselves often proved to be as pleasing as the destinations. Whether coast-hugging, mountain-traversing, or valley-sweeping, the roads in Croatia have some of the greatest scenery we’d ever seen from a car window.
We planned our journey in a north-south way, starting a Pula, and ending at Dubrovnik, averaging around 98km a day, but this was with two or three-day stopovers in Plitvice, Split and Dubrovnik. The longest day of driving was 330km, but most days were less than 150km. We also decided to hop the border for a night in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The roads in Croatia are fantastic, though they can be quite slow through the mountains, as there are regular switchbacks, and big lorries can cause long tailbacks. The roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina were great on the main routes, but turn onto the minor roads and they quickly turn into single-track and even gravel!
We choose to fly into Pula purely for flight logistics. We wanted to fly in and out of Stansted, as this is where we’d leave our car back in the UK. If we hadn’t had this restriction, we probably would have either flown into Zagreb or Ljubljana (Slovenia), to try and fit in another big city. This would have meant missing out both Pula and the fantastic drive along the coastline on the second day though, so it turned out well in the end.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1 – Fly to and explore Pula
- Day 2 – Drive Pula to Plitvice (330km)
- Day 3 – Hiking in Plitvice
- Day 4 – Drive Plitvice to Zadar (via Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary) (225km)
- Day 5 – Drive Zadar to Šibenik (102km)
- Day 6 – Drive Šibenik to Split (102km)
- Day 7 – Exploring Split
- Day 8 – Split to Mostar (143km)
- Day 9 – Mostar to Dubrovnik (140km)
- Day 10 – Exploring Dubrovnik/Cavtat (44km)
- Day 11 – Walking on Lokrum Island
- Day 12 – Dubrovnik (fly back to UK mid-morning)
Total distance = 1086km (approx.)
(Click on the icon in the top left-hand corner of the map to bring up the points of interest and day-by-day routes).
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 1
BASIC OUTLINE: Fly into Pula, explore the city
We got a 0650 flight from Stansted, so were in Pula by lunchtime. The airport is only a few minutes from the city, so this gave us loads of time to explore the old parts of Pula.
What did we do?
- Visited one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. It costs 50kn (approx £6) per person for entry. Make sure you go to the underground exhibition, as this shows where the fighters and animals would have been kept before a battle.
- Headed over to the forum and grab a seat at one of the numerous cafes, overlooked by the imposing Augustus Temple. Sip espresso with whipped cream or tangy fruit spritz and eat traditional ćevapčići (a kind of minced kebab served on fresh flatbread).
- Walked uphill to the Pula Castle ‘Kaštel’, for unbroken views over the bay, and a great shot back over the top of the arena.
- Wandered around the old quarter, with its cobbled streets, narrow colourful buildings and dotted Roman architecture that pops up in the most unusual of places (mosaic behind a car park, excavated building in the garden of a tower block!). Keep an eye out for the heritage signs that will point you in the direction of anything interesting.
Where did we stay?
Name: Studio Apartment Bety
How much? £37 for one night
What did we like? Good location, just behind the arena. Easy walk into town. Lots of free street parking around. Powerful/warm shower. Small apartment with a big double bedroom and kitchen, dining area. Shutters kept the place nice and cool.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 2
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive to Plitvice National Park (330km)
A heavy day of driving, but well worth it. We were staggered by the variety of Croatia’s scenery.
We passed by moonscapes, mountainside hairpins, dunes, moorland, autumnal forests, farmland, sheer cliffs, turquoise waters, remarkably constructed tunnels and even bullet-hole-ridden buildings.
Leave yourself all day to complete the drive, (0900-1700), but enjoy it. This is one of the most diverse and scenic drives I’ve ever done.
What did we do?
- We set off at 9am from our apartment in Pula.
- Cape Kamenjak. This peninsula juts out into the ocean and is a wild, rugged area filled with orchids, wildflowers, rare birds and edged by little coves. The white gravel tracks counterpoint with the colours of the ocean around, the limestone turning the sea a striking shade of turquoise. The price list said 80kn (£9.50) per car, but when we arrived (October), there were signs up saying no charge. In the summer this place is a famous escape for tourists and locals, with activities from kayaking to hiking taking place here.
- Plomin. We happened upon Plomin on our drive through the mountains, pulling over for the incredible views down to the sea. It is a delightful little Roman-era village, with narrow alleyways, and crumbly houses perched on the mountainside. The village is popular with tourists and is set up with a viewpoint for the perfect photos. What Instagram doesn’t show you is the view down to the coal power plant scarring the landscape in the other direction!
- Otočac. Past Rijeka, away from the tourist areas, you will see a very different side to Croatia. No-where is this more apparent than in the little town of Otočac, where you can still see the scars of the war that ended only a quarter of a decade before.
Today is more about the journey than the destinations. If you follow the route on the map above, you will be astounded by the sheer diversity of Croatia’s natural landscape. Our favourite part was between Otočac and the junction between the 52 and 1 roads. This will take you through farming villages selling fresh produce by the roadside, steep switchbacked mountain passes, long flat valleys border by ancient forests.
“This is a drive where you don’t really feel like you’re doing it to get anywhere, the journey is reward enough.”
Where did we stay?
Name: Apartments Bramado
How much? £44 a night (we stayed for two).
What did we like? A place so beautiful I had to add a photo too! This place books up quickly, but we were lucky to get in after a cancellation. About a 15-minute drive from the entrance to Plitvice National Park, in a little village with a shop and restaurant, but it has a small kitchen to save on eating out costs. Set back from the road, in a quiet patch of forest, this will probably our favourite accommodation of the trip.
Anything else to add?
Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Today is the longest drive of the trip, but don’t see it as a chore! Turn on the radio to a traditional Croatian music station, and marvel at the unforgettable landscapes you’re about to pass through.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 3
BASIC OUTLINE: Hiking in Plitvice National Park
Yes, it really does look like that! Plitvice is one of the largest national parks in Croatia, and very popular with tourists, with over 1 million making their way here every year – many on day trips from Zagreb and Split. It is a series of 16 lakes, connected by waterfalls. In 1979 it was given UNESCO World Heritage site status, owing to the unique way the chalk and limestone deposits have formed natural dams. It is these minerals which give the water its vibrant green-blue colour.
Entry Cost: This varies hugely depending on the season. We were there in the off season so paid 55kn (£6.50) per person, but prices go up to as much as 250kn per person (£29) in the busy season. A full price list can be found here. We also paid 42kn (£5) for 5 hours of parking, prices are listed on the site.
What did we do?
- We were up early to beat the crowds. We got to the gates for opening at 8am, though there were already two tour buses worth of people waiting!
- 0830 – got the bus from ENTRANCE 2 to BUS STOP 3.
- 0845 – started the walk back down the east side of the lakes.
- 1000 – got the boat from PIER 2 (P2) to PIER 3 (P3).
- 1020 – we did the loop from P3 to BUS STOP 1 via ENTRANCE 1. A lot of people then get the bus from BUS STOP 1 back to ENTRANCE 2, however, we were feeling pretty good so carried on walking back to ENTRANCE 2.
- In total, we walked about 10 miles, which took us 4 to 5 hours.
The paths around the lakes are fairly flat, though there are a couple of steep uphills around ENTRANCE 1, which give you the iconic views back down over the walkways and lakes. The walk up to BUS STOP 3 is also completely uphill, but we decided to get the bus up and walk down!
If you start with a big group, it’s a good idea to head off fairly quickly. You’ll get ahead of the main tours, who will stop for a lot of early photos, and before you know it you’ll have some of the trails almost to yourself (remember we were there in October, I doubt this will be the same in summer).
The area around ENTRANCE 1 is the most iconic, but also the most crowded. A lot of the tour parties seem to pull up here and do a quick loop. Even in the off season it got very congested.
Don’t worry too much about the weather. We were there in the mist, and the combination of wooden walkways, turquoise lakes and the mist felt like something from a Tolkien novel!
Where did we stay?
A second night in Apartments Bramado (see day 2).
Anything else to add?
This is one of Croatia’s biggest attractions, so it gets very busy. Get up early, and be patient, it is worth it!
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 4
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive from Plitvice to Zadar via Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary (225km)
What did we do?
- Re-traced part of our drive from day 2, back through the forested mountain passes and picturesque valleys out towards Otočac. If you didn’t get a chance to stop here on the way to Plitvice, then park up and have a wander around. The area near the church is best.
- Stopped off at the Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary. This ethically run sanctuary is funded on donations (entry is free) and kept open by volunteers. They rescue bears orphaned by the culls in Croatia and bring them up in a little village called Kuterevo. It is a quirky place, with meditation areas, hand-made signs and colourful displays. Most importantly, the enclosures are huge, and the bears seemed really happy! There were seven on the day of our visit, all of which were happily lounging around in the sun, or snuffling for food in the tree litter. The setting for the sanctuary is magical, with an alpine feel to it, with the drive through the national park almost worth the trip alone. Make sure you leave as big a donation as you can afford. Places like this are the lifeblood of conservation around the world and deserve our support. The people we met cared so much about what they do, and have helped create this important and unique sanctuary for bears, in a country still wrestling with how best to manage the population after entry to the E.U..
- It’s about a further two hours to Zadar, but most of it is on super fast toll roads (these are self-service, just take a ticket when you get on and pay when you get off, like a British car park). We stopped off on the way, at the service station ‘Macola, Odmoriste Zir‘ for some of the best baklava we’d ever tasted!
- We arrived at Zadar mid-afternoon, and once we’d checked in we headed out to look round the little peninsula. It is so small, that it was quick to see the main sights, but the narrow cobbled streets were a delight. The defence system of Zadar is a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the Fortress at Šibenik. Similar to Valletta in Malta, the big walls and small piece of land have kept the modern world out and preserved this part of the city beautifully. Amongst the ancient churches, buildings and pillars though are two more modern attractions. The sea organ – which allows the waves to play hypnotic tunes, and sun salutation – custom solar panels which play a nighttime light show, and power the seafront lights – were designed by Croatian artists Nikola Bašić.
- We finished the evening by watching the sunset at Tramonto Restaurant on the seafront. The views from here are fantastic, a perfect place to sit and wind down the day. A live musician worked through his back catalogue of Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Cat Stevens and Pink Floyd. The seafood was fresh, but the pork medallions with gnocchi in a prosciutto sauce came highly recommended by the waitress, and she was right! We finished the night with a shot of the local Maraschino, before walking around the lit-up city walls back to our apartment.
Where did we stay?
Name: Prestige Zadar
How much? £44 a night.
What did we like? Down a side street on the historic Zadar peninsula, it puts you right in the heart of the city. The room was big and comfortable, with a little balcony looking out over the terracotta roofs of the old town. Room 3 is east-facing, meaning you’ll be greeted by a fantastic sunrise through the big windows. They have parking, though it’s about a five-minute walk away, at a hire car shop from where they run the business, and from where you’ll need to pick up the keys.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 5
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive from Zadar to Šibenik (102km)
What did we do?
- We woke up early to have another wander around historic Zadar. Check-out wasn’t until 11, so we made the most of it. We had breakfast at a little side street wine bar called Barrique which did the most delicious omelettes.
- Drove along the coastline to Šibenik. It is only a short drive today, and whilst we stopped into the sleepy Marina town of Murter on the way, we were still in Šibenik by around 2pm.
- After dropping our stuff off at the apartment we wandered the short distance into the old town. I’m not sure if it was the time of year, but Šibenik was almost completely abandoned! This was like stepping onto the set of Game of Thrones, on an off day!
- Our main aim for Šibenik was to see the UNESCO heritage site Cathedral of St. James (pictured above). The Cathedral made it onto the UNESCO list because of its unique constriction – entirely of stone – and the huge number of faces that decorate the edges. It was well worth the visit, but it was the surroundings as much as the Cathedral that made Šibenik with the visit. The pillared town hall, stone staircased alleys and beautiful little Garden of St. Lawrence were all wonderful to discover.
- We ended the evening by watching the sunset from the castle (50Kn entry – approx. £6), which was a worthwhile climb up above the city.
Where did we stay?
Name: Apartment Sibenik
How much? £40 a night.
What did we like? A full apartment, with kitchen and living room. About a ten minute walk from the old town. Lots of local facilities such as supermarkets, and free parking in the public car park beside the building (the owner will give you a parking pass).
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 6
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive from Šibenik to Split (102km)
What did we do?
- Got up early to have another look around Šibenik in the morning light.
- Drove for twenty minutes around the coast to St Nicholas’s Fortress (pictured above), which has guarded Šibenik for 500 years. Its appearance is so intimidating, and location so strategic, that Šibenik has never been invaded! If you navigate to the location on the map I’ve produced above, you will be right by the entrance to a nature park on a peninsula opposite the fortress. It is not only is perfect for taking photos, but also a peaceful, shady retreat with lots of wildlife (we saw a kingfisher making easy catches in the clear water).
- The drive from here along the coast to Trogir is one of the best coastal roads of this entire trip. The roads hug the shoreline (if you follow the route I’ve shown above and don’t end up on the bigger highway), and look like something out of a Top Gear special. Be sure to pull over in a gravelled lay-by just after the little town of Primošten, for some postcard-perfect views down over the Adriatic with the town in the foreground. There are also sellers here with local olives, oil and wine for sale.
- Next stop off was another UNESCO heritage site, this time at Trogir. We found a car park on the main road, which has a bridge from it right over into the historic part of Trogir that cost us 20Kn (£2.50) for two hours. Trogir was a lovely place just to wind away a few hours, heading up the castle for the views over the city above 25Kn (£3), and just wandering in and out of the old passageways. We had lunch at Vrata O’Grada (hand-made burgers come highly recommended, and is also perfect if one of you is gluten intolerant), before grabbing an ice-cream. This point is in bold for a reason. Trogir (and another in Split) has a shop that sells THE BEST ice-cream we have ever tasted. So good that we sought out their sister shop in Split! Don Dino ice-cream is attached to their main restaurant and is so good that is even beats Hockings down in Devon. We were blown away! I’d recommend anything with pistachio, the streak down the middle is like the centre of a luxury chocolate.
- From Trogir it is only a short drive to Split. Keep an eye out for ‘1950’ written on the back of a lot of the sign-posts, in reference to the main supporter’ group of Hajduk Split football club, formed on 28th October 1950.
Where did we stay?
How much? £56.50 a night (we stayed for two)
What did we like? This place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but is a well-kept apartment, with a stunning view down over the city. The owner (Ivana) was one of the friendliest we met on the trip, taking the time to talk us through the city, and even getting us some grapes from a local farm to enjoy. It has a designated parking spot, and was only five minutes from the old part of Split. One of our favourite places to stay on the entire trip!
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 7
BASIC OUTLINE: Exploring Split
What did we do?
- Walked down through the city, and past the port, to the little beach at Bačvice. I had heard about an unusual game called picigin that the Croatians love, and was invented on this beach in Split. Sure enough, there were large groups of men splashing around trying to keep what looked like the inside of a tennis ball out of the water. As Becca pointed out though, I had dragged her all the way from our apartment to stare at men in Speedos!
- Worked our way through the key sights in Split. If you’re looking for inspiration, this article has some great ideas. We spent most of the time around Diocletian’s Palace, which isn’t just a big building as the name suggests, it’s essentially a walled city right at the heart of Split (and a UNESCO site!).
- Our favourite things to do in Split were:
- Exploring the substructures under the main palace building, some of the best preserved Roman architecture of its kind. It was also where Daenerys Targaryen stored her dragons for a while in Game of Thrones. 21Kn per person (£2.50)
- The cathedral was fairly spectacular, though no-where near as big as usual. It is actually the final revenge of Christians on Emperor Diocletian. He was a man famous for persecuting them, so after he died they turned his mausoleum into a church and named it after Saint Domnius a man martyred by Diocletian’s actions. It is regarded as the oldest cathedral in the world (that hasn’t had serious renovation), with the structure itself being the second oldest used by any Christian Cathedral.
- Wandering around the old town, dipping in and out of shops and alleyways, whilst watching the world go by! Split also claims to have the narrowest alley in Europe known as ‘Let Me Pass Street‘. A place where a polite Englishman could get stuck for hours!
- Froggyland. Yes, it really is what it sounds like. Well actually, maybe not! Froggyland is what happens when a taxidermist has a lot of time on his hands. Around 100 years ago Ference Mere devoted ten years to stuffing over 500 frogs and arranging them into human poses. There is a school scene, an athletics tournament, a circus, even random frogs getting ‘caught short’ and having a wee against the edges. It’s all a bit strange, and certainly not something that would be repeated in this day, but we enjoyed it in a weird sort of way!
- In the evening we ate at the excellent Toro Grill Bar. Right in the student district, it is simple food at fantastic prices. This meal would have cost us double in the old town. Beer is served in cans, the wine in mini-bottles, and the meat taken from the display and cooked to perfection. The ćevapčići was fantastic, as was the burger stuffed with cheese.
Where did we stay?
Name: Apartment IDA – Royal View (second night, for full details see day 6).
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 8
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive to Mostar via Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards (143km)
Today turned out to be one of the big surprises of the trip. The journey into Bosnia and Herzegovina was not what we expected, with the old town of Mostar probably our favourite place of the entire holiday. The pictures we had of Bosnia and Herzegovina in our head were miles from the reality, with our 24 hours here giving us barely a glimpse. We will definitely be coming back.
What did we do?
- Drove to the Medieval Stećci at Mala Crljivica. These are part of a UNESCO Heritage Site list spread across 28 locations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. These ones are right by the road, with some huge wells beside them. There is no entry fee, we just got out and had a look. They are quite a striking sight.
- Drove on to Mostar. The city we were expecting to be beautiful, but the setting caught us off guard. The drop down from the mountains with the city below was spectacular! *One quick thing to note is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not in the European Union. If you have been taking advantage of free data and using Google Maps to navigate through Croatia TURN IT OFF at the border or you will get stung with a big charge.
- Once we got to Mostar, we dumped our stuff and had a look around. This has to be one of the most beautiful old towns we’ve ever seen! We didn’t do anything in particular, just wandered around the steep cobbled streets, taking in this charming place. Our favourite spots were the views over the old town towards the main Mosque from the bridge, and sitting by the river watching the Mostar Divers rustle up donations and then throw themselves 24 metres from the bridge into the waters below.
- We had lunch at Kulluk, great for views down over the bridge, but also traditional Bosnian food. We tucked into ćevapi, baklava and Bosnian coffee, a clear Turkish influenced meal.
- Having taken a couple of hours to recover from lunch, we headed out again after dark to explore Mostar again. It is beautifully lit, and free of day-trippers from Dubrovnik, so feels quite surreal, we almost had it completely to ourselves!
- For dinner we went to Hindin Han restaurant, which had come highly recommended. We intended to splash out a bit tonight as it was Becca’s birthday but, despite having their best bottle of white wine (locally produced Zilavka), mains and even more baklava, it still came to less than £35. A pleasant surprise!
Where did we stay?
Name: Pansion Villa Nur
How much? £44 a night
What did we like? A small hotel right in the heart of Mostar. This place was exceptional! The couple who run the place were as welcoming as they come. He chauffeured our car down some impossibly narrow streets to the property so I didn’t have to (man points lost!). She greeted us with lemon drinks, and makes homemade ice-cream which she leaves in the freezer for guests to enjoy. There is a shared kitchen, and it is only minutes walk from Mostar Bridge. The WiFi was a bit slow, but who cares when you have views like the one above (this shot was taken from the seating area on our balcony!). If you come to Mostar, try and get a room at this place, you will not be disappointed.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 9
BASIC OUTLINE: Drive to Dubrovnik via more Stećci and some incredible roads! (140km)
What did we do?
- We got up early to have another look around Mostar before the tourist coaches started to arrive. We especially wanted to get out of the old town, and see a bit more of the surrounding area of Mostar. It is certainly different, with many of the buildings still showing bullet holes and damage from the Bosnian War.
- We stopped into the Museum of War and Genocide Victims (10 BAM, around £5 per person). Part of us coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina was to learn a bit more about the atrocities that happened here in the mid-nineties. This was a war that happened on T.V. when I was growing up, and one I didn’t really understand. It’s not one we ever learned about in school, or one that gets discussed much in the UK. 24 hours was never going to give us anything like a proper understanding, but the Museum really hit hard. Whether it be in France, Cambodia or here, I will never be able to get my head around how people can do this to one another, regardless of religion, race or political opinions. After spending an hour or so taking in as much as we could, Becca and I left in silence, and spent a good part of the next hour the same way.
- At around 11 we headed off towards Dubrovnik, with our first stop off the Stećci at Radmilja. These are part of the same UNESCO site we visited yesterday, as they are scattered all around this part of the continent. These ones seemed much better kept than those at Mala Crljivica, and had more information. There was an entry fee of 4 BAM (around £2) per person.
- After this, we headed on to the next set of Stećci at Boljuni via the beautiful little town of Stolac. These were in the middle of no-where, and not as well-kept as the other ones we’d seen, however coming here did prompt the biggest adventure of the trip!
- After leaving Boljuni, we followed Maps.me which took us on a very unusual route. If you want an easy life, you’d be best advised to follow the road back to Stolac, and take the main road to Dubrovnik from there. However where we ended up was in some of the most deserted and striking landscapes we saw on the entire trip!
- If you refer to the map above, you’ll see I have split today’s route into two parts. This is because one of the roads we took was so small Google doesn’t even recognise it! Most of these roads were single-track, and a large proportion were actually gravel. We were on them for about 45km before we reached the Croatian border at a little-used crossing at Orahov Do.
- If you are not one for adventure, avoid this part of the route, but if you are, you will feel as if you’ve been transported and dropped somewhere in the middle of Mongolia. This is certainly not what we’d expected from our little trip to Bosnia Herzegovina, but turned out to be one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring sections of our journey. It was truly unbelievable to be out in the middle of no-where, with only the occasional farmhouse or small village appearing through the mountains. If you read this article, you’ll also see some videos and additional photos of our off-road experience.
- We arrived to our accommodation at around 1530, and after taking an hour or so to relax, wandered down to have a look around Dubrovnik’s old town. By this time, most of the tourists had cleared out for the day, so we had a great time exploring the city, and watching the sun set over the harbour. The perfect end to an unexpected and exhilarating day.
Where did we stay?
How much? £54 a night (we stayed for three)
What did we like? Finding somewhere to stay in Dubrovnik that was a) close enough to the town centre, b) reasonably priced and, c) had parking, proved to be very difficult. As always Becca came up trumps, but there had to be a compromise. ABC apartments were good value, and had parking, but they were about a half hour walk from the old town, the return journey being up quite a steep hill. An Uber was only about £3 a journey, but we persisted with walking! The apartments themselves are modern studios, with a little kitchen and seating area. They are a great option if you want to stay in Dubrovnik with a car, but do not want to pay out huge amounts of money.
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 10
BASIC OUTLINE: Exploring Dubrovnik and Cavtat
What did we do?
- Another early start (I know I say that alot, but we find it’s the best way to beat the crowds), we headed down to Dubrovnik old town from around 0700 to have a look around before the buses started to arrive.
- We made the most of the empty streets for an hour, and got some great photos of an abandoned Dubrovnik.
- At 0800 the city walls open, which was the main thing we’d wanted to do. Dubrovnik’s massive stone walls rise up high above the city, and are the perfect way to take it all in. It is a circular walk of around 2km, which took us just over an hour. It was 150kn (£18) a person to do the walk.
- When we got down from the walls the city had changed completely. Coach after coach was turning up just outside the main gates, with the streets now filled with tours. We’d enjoyed our time on the empty streets, so decided to cut our losses and head back to the apartment.
- After lunch, we drove down the coast to Cavtat. This beautiful little seaside town was the original Dubrovnik. After being attacked by the Slavs in the 7th century, refugees fled up the coast and formed a small town that would grow into the city we know now. Now it is a quaint little harbour, with some lovely walks around the headlands, and views back over the water to Dubrovnik. If we had our time again, I think we would choose to stay here and just do day trips to Dubrovnik. For now it cost us less than £2 for a few hour’s parking.
Where did we stay?
Name: ABC Apartments “Studio Roni” (second night, for full details see day 9)
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 11
BASIC OUTLINE: Lokrum Island
What did we do?
- We decided to get out onto one of the famous Croatian islands for our last day in the country. There are regular ferries from the harbour in Dubrovnik over Lokrum Island. The ferry takes around 15 minutes, and gives great views back to Dubrovnik. Cost (in October) was (£18) 150kn per person.
- Lokrum is an uninhabited island, with no cars, a pleasant change from the busy Croatian coastline. The main attractions are an inland salt lake known as the ‘Dead Sea’, a 10th century monastery (which now houses a museum, in which you can sit on a replica of the ‘Iron Throne’ from Game of Thrones), a Mediterranean style botanical garden and a tame population of rabbits and peacocks.
- We found the south of the island to be quite crowded, as this is where the main attractions are, but after wandering a kilometre or so up the dusty pathways to the north of the island, it felt like we’d been shipwrecked!
Where did we stay?
Name: ABC Apartments “Studio Roni” (third night, for full details see day 9)
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary – Day 12
BASIC OUTLINE: Heading home
What did we do?
- Left home at about 0745 for our 1040 place. Čilipi Airport is only about half an hour from Dubrovnik, and even at rush-hour, we got there quickly.
- The airport was not the most efficient – it took a while to get through security. The may have been having an off day, but I would suggest not trying to cut this one too fine!
Where did we stay?
Name: Home 🙂
Is there anything we’d change if we did it again?
No, not alot! We were really happy with the way it turned out, and it all came in at a fairly decent cost considering it was a 12 day holiday. The amount of driving was just about right, and the time in the car was worthwhile, as we got to see some of Croatia’s stunning scenery.
If we were to change anything, it would be the final part of the trip. Dubrovnik is an incredible city, but it is completely overrun with tourists and cruise ship passengers, so we didn’t enjoy it as much as expected. We planned three days here, and it felt like too much.
If we were to have our time again we would probably spend an extra night in Mostar, and use the opportunity to explore a bit more of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We absolutely loved Mostar, and the Bosnian countryside was astonishing, but we simply did not get enough time to see it.
We would also choose not to stay in Dubrovnik itself. Our apartment was great, but the prices in Dubrovnik are so high, that you will always have the flip-up between location/cost – especially if you have a car. If we were planning the trip again, we would choose to stay a bit further along the coast, in somewhere like Cavtat, and plan in trips to Dubrovnik by car, bus or even boat. We wouldn’t just be able to walk in when we please, but to be honest, our apartment was half an hour walk away, so we weren’t doing this anyway. It would put us in a much quieter location that we would enjoy alot more though, and our experience of Dubrovnik wouldn’t have been too different to the one we got.
Flights to Croatia
It was easiest for us to fly in and out from Stansted as it was near to home. There are lots of flights on offer at different times, and from different locations in the UK. You could also vary the route, and go into Zagreb or Ljubljana, though hiring a car from Slovenia and taking it into Croatia looked much more expensive.
- Flight to Pula (Sunday 0650 BST land 1005 CEST)
- Back from Dubrovnik (Thursday week +1 1040 CEST land 1225 BST)
Car Hire in Pula
We hired our car through Hertz UK.
The total cost of hire for the twelve days was £202.46, which included a 50 EUR fee as it was a one-way hire I.E. pick up in Pula, drop-off in Dubrovnik. We already had insurance as part of our annual cover. Please please don’t try to drive abroad without decent insurance, we had a bad experience in Laos that I will never forget. It’s well worth the money. If you decide to go into Bosnia and Herzegovina, make sure this is included too.
Pickup from the airport was easy, I just presented my passport, UK license and a credit card. I mentioned that we were planning to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he didn’t seem to mind. I guess they knew that anyway, given that Croatia is cut into two, meaning you have to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina to get to Dubrovnik.
Driving In Croatia
As Croatia is in the EU, you do not need an International Driving License here if you are a Brit.
Driving in Croatia proved to be a safe and fairly calm experience, even near the big cities. Compared to driving in Italy it was an absolute breeze.
After I was given the keys, the guy didn’t even come out to check the car with me, he just wrote on the paperwork ‘photos on customer’s phone’, and asked me to take photos of any damage that was present on the vehicle.
We ended up with quite an old Citroen C5 which had done nearly 100,000 kilometres. This is unusual for a hire car, as you tend to get new ones. It wasn’t a problem, as the car ran really well, despite a few dents! I’m not sure if this is standard for Croatia, or if they just gave us the worst car they had because they knew we were returning it to a different branch.
I was a bit apprehensive about the drop-off, as I thought there might be problems with finishing in a different location, but I shouldn’t have been. After a quick check around the car, comparing it to the photos on my phone, we signed it back over in Dubrovnik without a problem.
When to Visit Croatia
???????????? AUTUMN ????????????
We did the trip in October, and we had good weather (average daytime temperatures were over 20°C on the coast), but it was quiet. It was also beautiful with the Autumn colours bringing the forests of the interior to life. On all the ‘best times to visit Croatia’ lists, October comes highly recommended for exactly these reasons. The main bulk of the tourists have left, but the weather is still really good.
❄️❄️❄️ WINTER ❄️❄️❄️
Winter stays fairly warm on the coast, but if you decide to head inland to Plitvice, then you will be faced with minus temperatures and snowfall.
???????????? SPRING ????????????
Springtime might be another good bet, with good weather (averages of 14°C in April and 18°C in May), and the appearance of beautiful wildflowers.
☀️☀️☀️ SUMMER ☀️☀️☀️
The summer holds better weather but is also incredibly busy. Visitor numbers are very high between mid-June and mid-September.
Costs of Travelling in Croatia
We kept the costs down by booking accommodation with kitchens so that we didn’t have to eat out every night. Overall we felt Croatia was reasonably priced for a European country, with meals out costing about the same as they would have done back in the UK. Entrance fees felt a bit less, as did fuel. Be warned though, similar to most European countries, the prices rise significantly when arriving at the big tourist hotspots such as Dubrovnik and Split.
Supermarkets seemed really good value overall, with good ranges of products. We found gluten-free sections in nearly every shop we went to, which is much-needed as Becca has a major gluten allergy. The more local you buy, the cheaper it is, with noticeably lower prices on fruit and veg, meat and Croatian wines. We were picking up decent bottles of wine for less than £4!
Below is our list of costs for the trip.
We are certainly not ‘budget’ travellers, but equally, we don’t like to waste money. Overall I felt £1,700 was pretty good value for 12 days in Europe.
Obviously we could have kept prices down by not hiring a car, and staying in one place, however, we would not have been able to see as much of this beautiful country.
At less than £50 a night, we managed to get good value accommodation at this time of year, though I would expect this to become a lot more expensive in peak season.
We did a lot with our time, so the cost of entrance fees, tolls, excursions etc was high, oh, and a significant ice-cream budget!! We did manage to keep this down by booking accommodation with kitchens and not eating out every night.
Our Total Spend For The Trip
|Other Spending (inc. fuel, food and excursions)||£708.18|
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.
Go you if you managed to get all the way to the bottom, I know it’s a bit of a beast!
If you’ve found the advice useful, or have any extra tips for taking a Croatian Road Trip, then please let us know in the comments below. It only takes 30 seconds, but would really help out other people reading this post.
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