Croatia seems to be the place to be this summer (and not just ’cause I’m gonna be there), I’m not surprised people are finally taking note of this beautiful country. I fell in love with it last year when working on a Summer Camp and after travelling around it myself I think I’ve aced the perfect itinerary for you to spend 1-2 weeks during the summer catching some rays, swimming in the sea and experiencing some of the most beautiful nature in Europe.
I really think the best way to make the most of the Croatian landscape is by car and, because Croatia hasn’t quite been gobbled up by tourism just yet, it’s still fairly cheap to do so. If your in a small group or you manage to find some new pals in a hostel that fancy going off the beaten path then I would definitely recommend hiring a car!
Tip- If you are under 25 and book online your pretty much guaranteed to get a young drivers surcharge. If you hire when you get there chances are they won’t be bothered!
You should either start in Pula or Dubrovnik/Split and work your way from north to south or vice versa. It’s not the end of the world if you back track but it saves time and more importantly, fuel .I’m going to do it from North to South just because, well I want to. Disclaimer here, I MUCH prefer the north of Croatia to the south so my roadtrip is going to be biased in that sense. For me, the south of Croatia is very touristy and much more expensive than the north hence why I would spent 80% of my trip above Split.
Stop 1 Pula – Pag
Pula is host to some of Croatia’s biggest music festivals so definitely check beforehand if you want to avoid them. Accommodation will treble and the city goes from fairly serene and relaxed to 20’000 party goers. If that’s your bag then hey, enjoy but I don’t think it would be my cup of tea. When in Pula check out the famous Amphitheater that gives the Colosseum a run for it’s money and head south towards Selo in Prementura for some cliff jumping whilst relaxing with a few beers. Head to Safari Bar which is right on the coast and a hotspot for locals and holiday goers in the know.
Tip- There’s lots of places to explore around Pula including heading up north to Rovinj and heading inland to the smallest town in the world, Hum.
Stop 2 Pag – Zadar
Pag is the party island of Croatia, renowned for it’s boat parties and the famous Zrće Beach. There are festivals throughout the summer that cater to the under 30’s who want to enjoy a week of partying but you can avoid this by staying away from Novalja. You can catch a ferry from Rijeka which is north of Pula or drive onto the island as there is a bridge connecting it. My Croatian friend has informed me the catamaran crossing between Rijeka and Pag is beautiful so I will be taking that option.
Tip- If you have time to explore Rijeka do so! It’s been selected as the European City of Culture for 2020 so expect big things to happen here soon!
Stop 3 Zadar – Sibenik
Zadar is the perfect place to spend a few days and use as a base for island trips or trips to the near(ish) national parks. You can hit up Paklenica National Park just north of Zadar if you enjoy a hike or some rock climbing, head off to the many neighbouring islands on a boat trip or if you want to get lost in the Croatian mountains head to Zrmanja River for a really off the beaten path experience. Zadar is a beautiful town in itself and is definitely worth a day of exploring. The old town has so many little nooks and crannies for you to get lost in or if you want a little down time, you can do that too. The famous Sea Organ is so calming to sit by and listen to as the waves crash around you. It’s also worth taking a climb up the bell tower for around 20 kuna (£2) to see a gorgeous view of Zadar.
Tip- For food on a budget head to Crazy Pizza, after a night of one too many Ožujsko’s (Croatian beer) it is THE best drunken food!
Stop 4 Sibenik – Krka National Park
I would be tempted to say that Sibenik is my favourite seaside stop in Croatia. A rather small town that has lots of personality. I stayed in 2 great Air BnB apartments here, one with an awesome view the other in a great spot in old town. I’ve also spent the night in Hostel Mare which is perfect for backpackers wanting to head to Krka for the day. Whilst your in Sibenik walk up to St Michael’s Fortress for a stunning view from above or walk around the old town and wander around the shops and buildings. If you fancy a visit to one of the best voted restaurants in Croatia head to Pelegrinis right near the Cathedral, with a fresh menu and creative dishes it really is a gem of Sibenik. The sunsets here are also insane!
Tip- If you’re an adrenaline junkie you can bungee jump off of the bridge that you will drive over to get to Sibenik.
Stop 5 Krka National Park – Split
Krka tops my list of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. In the peak season it does get really busy so try and go towards the end of May/beginning June if possible. Even still, swimming in the clear waters right by the waterfall is so exhilarating and peaceful at the same time. There’s a gentle walkway that you can explore after your first dip of the day so take a walk and see the many fishes and cute houses dotted around the park. It’s not massive but it is the perfect way to spend a day chilling and exploring. See my 5 hidden gems post that included a sneaky way of getting a little extra out of your Krka day trip.
Tip- Take a picnic, like most touristy places food is not that great and can be expensive.
Stop 6 Split – Dubrovnik
After spending some time in the smaller towns and cities it will be a bit of a shock when you pull up into Split. It’s a major hot spot for sail boats with groups of 18-30 year old’s pulling in daily and seems to have a different themed part every night. Saying that, the old town is really vibrant and there’s lots to see and do. Head to the daily farmers market for some fresh fruit and walk up the bell tower for a great birdseye view of the city. The harbour is ridiculously busy but if you can find a quiet spot it’s still a nice place to sit and watch the sunset with a beer and some friends. Get a city map and check off the list of things to see and do but if you want to escape the crowds head to the beach and find yourself a spot to swim and people watch, if you haven’t already guessed, one of my favourite past times.
Tip- Parking is a nightmare in the city, public transport is good and cheap so make use of it!
Stop 7 Dubrovnik
Not my favourite place on the roadtrip but definitely worth a stop. The Game of Thrones hype is huge here so if your a big fan you will probably love it. It’s definitely worth doing the walk around the City Walls to really appreciate the vastness of it. It’s a good 2 hour walk and I’d definitely advise avoiding the mid day heat. If you want to see the city from the hills you can catch a cable car up and take in the views. There’s also a bar within the walls that you can cliff jump off which looked awesome if your brave enough. The guys over at Best World Yet did a great post on things to do outside of the walls so go over and check that out if you want a few more ideas of places to explore.
Tip- Buy things before you enter old town, the prices soon start getting higher the closer into the centre you get.
There are loads of towns in between the spots I have pointed out so go and do what I did and find some Croatian gems that hopefully you can share with me! Sorry this has been super long!
I hope this helps you when your planning your Croatian adventure! Let me know in the comments where you can’t wait to visit.
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