One Week in Beautiful Croatia
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Sunny Dalmatian Coast, aquamarine water, beautiful islands, walled old town, delicious food and wine, limestone canyon, gorgeous lakes, amazing hiking trails….....!!!!
Well, the list is endless. But if you dream all of those, then your dream has come to reality: Croatia it is..
It is a southeast European country on the coast of the Adriatic Sea which I fell in love with. This crescent-shaped country is geographically diverse and situated in a perfect place bordering Slovenia in the northwest, Hungary in the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro in the southeast. If you are backpacking in the Balkan, you can easily travel from any of those countries to Croatia or vice versa. Of course, there is always the possibility to visit Croatia independently. Whether you are a backpacker or an individual explorer you can easily spend 1 week or more in this gorgeous country. I bet, you will still be running out of time.
I visited Croatia in the summer months for a week. To be honest, Croatia has so many things to see and explore, it is hard to cover everything at one go. In my opinion, It is better to select the places before, so that you can make use of your time the most.
Here I quickly share my itinerary:
Zagreb: We started our journey from Zagreb. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia. It is easier and cheaper to reach Zagreb because of frequent flight availability from Frankfurt. We stayed in Zagreb one day. Plitvice Lakes National Park: The next day, we took Flixbus from Zagreb in the early morning and reached Plitvice Lakes National Park. We spent the whole day exploring the park and stayed there overnight. Split: The next day we took a bus from Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split. We stayed in Split for 2 and a half days Dubrovnik: From Split, we traveled to Dubrovnik via ferry boat. I stayed in Dubrovnik for 2 days. We had a direct flight from Dubrovnik to Frankfurt on our way back home.
Key Points for Croatia:
I thought of sharing some useful information here:
1. Starting Point: Choose your starting point wisely, depending on the places to be visited.
If you see the map of Croatia, Zagreb is situated in the northwest of the country, not on the coast. Whereas Dubrovnik is situated in the southern part of the country. In my itinerary, I traveled from north to south. And traveling such a long distance takes time. If you rely on public transport, you must sync your time for the intercity travel. This was my main concern while planning my trip. I choose Zagreb as a starting point because of the flight connectivity from Frankfurt, and distance to Plitvice Lakes National Park. I also found bus connectivity is quite good from Zagreb. But I have also seen some people do the opposite which is starting from Dubrovnik and ending in Zagreb which is also fine. Apart from Zagreb and Dubrovnik airport, there are also other airports in Croatia such as Rijeka, Zadar, and Split. These are all port cities. Basically, you can choose any of them as your starting point but do check flight connectivity from your place, travel time and transportation from that place to your destination point especially if you are planning to use public transportation. If you have a car, it makes your life a lot easier.
2. Time to Visit: Croatia is a popular tourist destination. June, July, August (basically Summer) are the months of peak season. May and September: both are shoulder months. Everybody wants to enjoy long summer evenings, warm and sunny weather. But summer months are super crowded as well as expensive. But in summer, you are definitely getting quality beach time for sunbathing, swimming or water sports. So, it is worth it. But the shoulder months are also good if you want to avoid the crowd and it is budget-friendly.
3. Things to carry when in Croatia:
a) Carry Croatian Kuna. Kuna is the local currency. There are plenty of ATMs available. Though cards are accepted as well at most of the places.
b) Carry Umbrella because the weather can be unpredictable
c) Carry high SPF sunscreen whether you do sunbathe or not, hat and sunglasses. Otherwise, you will be burnt.
d) Most of the beaches are pebbled. It hurts if you are barefoot. Along with your swimsuit, beach towels do not forget to carry rubber soled beach shoes which you can also use while swimming.
e) Carry comfortable shoes for walking/hiking.
f) You are going to spend a lot of time on the islands or maybe doing water sport. Carry motion sickness medicine in case you need
g) I found normal tap water is safe to drink. I normally drink tap water and carry it with me as well. I never found any problem so far. But it depends on personal choice.
h) You can find many options for accommodation from budget place to luxury hotels throughout Croatia using Airbnb, Booking.com, Hostelworld. In high season, places normally get booked up very fast. It is better to book accommodation early to avoid paying extra. In Zagreb, I also had an experience of booking cancellation because I reached a bit late after the check-in time. Though my booking got transferred to someone else, they arranged my accommodation nearby.
Experience of City Hopping
Be ready with me for city hopping!!
Zagreb: Zagreb was our first stop in Croatia. We only stayed there for a day and headed to Plitvice in the next day. Spending just one day in a city is probably not enough. But Zagreb is not so big. If you just have one day, do not forget to visit:
Zagreb Cathedral: Neo-gothic style cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus. It is the tallest building in Croatia.
St. Mark’s Church: 13th-century church and one of the most significant buildings of Zagreb.
Stone Gate: Most significant oath site of Zagreb
Museum of Broken Relationships: Collection of the personal leftover items of former love, dedicated to failed love relationships.
360-degree view of Zagreb: Observation deck and a bar with an amazing view of Zagreb.
I feel walking is the best way to explore Zagreb though there is also public transportation available.
If you have more time, I recommend to check out
to include more places in your itinerary.
Plitvice Lakes National Park: Plitvice Lakes National Park consists of 16 terraced lakes along with waterfalls, limestone canyons, and beautiful walking trails. In 1979 it is declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the people visiting Croatia keep Plitvice in their bucket list. Needless to say, it is a place not to be missed.
To describe Plitvice in one word: it is ethereal. While walking through the trails, you will be surprised every moment to experience such a natural wonder. You will see the color of the water changing from green to turquoise to deep blue based on the sunlight and minerals. Also, you might end up taking numerous pictures like me. To be honest, pictures are not enough for me. I still feel I could have taken more.
Useful Info while planning for Plitvice: Coming back to the planning part. We went to Plitvice from Zagreb taking an early morning bus (Flixbus) from Zagreb central bus station. We reached there around 9.30 and kept our luggage in the locker and headed for the park. Also, we stayed overnight at Plitvice.
I have some general recommendations for Plitvice, might be useful:
Many people visit Plitvice from Zagreb on a day trip. There are many day trips options available from Zagreb. But I recommend staying there overnight to avoid the rush. The park is huge, and it takes almost 6-8 hours to walk following the trails (If you plan to take the longest route). If you stay at Plitvice, you can spend more time not thinking about the clock.
In case you arrive at different airports, you can even opt for a day trip.
We booked our tickets online. I recommend checking out the lake tour programs (A, B, C, D, E, F, H, K) before taking tickets or before booking online. You can find the information here. As you can see on the official website, they have predefined route details and explanations for every program which helps you to plan your time.
If you want to buy online tickets visit here. In case you have any general questions you can reach out to them also via email. They reply quite fast.
Plitvice lakes national park has lockers for keeping luggage. But it is mostly like a room, not an individual locker. In my opinion, it is better to lock your own luggage.
Do not forget to get the map before entering the park since the map has an entire route planned with the marking of the entrance, places to catch train, boat, restaurants, WC. Alternatively, you could use the Web App
The park has certain rules of behavior which I found very important to share to save our mother nature. Information can be found here.
Places to eat inside the park can be found here.
Lastly, check the park opening hours in case you plan to visit the offseason.
Accommodation: This is an important point to keep in mind while planning for Plitvice. On the official website, you can find a couple of options. Not every place is in front of the park or inside the park. For example, the campsites are a bit far. If you are using public transport or bus, the easiest is to stay inside the park or near the park for food as well as accessibility purposes. If you stay far from the park, you have to mostly rely on a taxi or you have to walk.
My personal experience: When we visited Plitvice, we did not find any accommodation inside the park. Everything was completely booked. My last try was with Hotel Bellevue. There was only one room available at Bellevue and it got booked up within 2 minutes. You can imagine how fast it got filled up. We had no other options but to stay a bit far. We booked our accommodation in Mukinje since it is the closest option we had. I really liked our stay at Mukinje and the surroundings. But Plitvice or Mukinje, these are not big cities. The number of restaurants is really less. In the evening, when we went to grab food outside, the pizza place nearby stopped taking orders. On top of that, it started raining. We had to come to the park for food again by walking since the taxi was taking too long to reach us. On our way back, the restaurant called a taxi for us which saved 30 minutes of walking time.
In short, staying inside or near the park helps to avoid all such situations. If not, carry sufficient food from the supermarkets just in case you need it. Also, check the restaurant timings before. You can buy some snacks and drinks in front of the park entrance.
Split: Our next stop was Split. We took Flixbus in front of Plitvice National Park entrance for Split. The journey time was a bit longer around 5 hours and 30 minutes. We reached Split before Lunch.
Located in central Dalmatia, it is a Mediterranean port city and second largest in Croatia.
Split is vibrant but slow-paced and full of restaurants, bars, cafes. It is also a hotspot for the people who quickly hop on to nearby islands via ferry. Also, it is one of the cities in Croatia which you can visit all around the year.
Things to do in Split
Explore the City: While in Split, one must take time to explore the beautiful city. There are places that should not be missed:
Diocletian’s Palace: Ancient palace built for Roman Emperor Diocletian. This palace has become the heart of the growing city in Split.
PeriStyle: The palace courtyard.
Jupiter’s Temple: In close proximity of Peristyle, the temple is dedicated to Jupiter, the Ancient Roman god of the sky and thunder and king of the gods.
Riva Promenade: Beautiful seafront promenade, always full of people. Perfect place for a drink or coffee.
Saint Domnius Cathedral: Located within the confines of the Diocletian Place, this is an important landmark and known as Sveti Dujam by locals.
Bell Tower and Chappel of Holy: A Benedictine monastery was built outside of the northern walls of Split
Varoš: It is a charming neighborhood with stone houses, labyrinth alley, and several churches. Worth to take a stroll around this area.
Mestrovic Gallery: Art museum dedicated to the sculptor, Ivan Meštrović
Marjan Hill park: Beautiful forest on the other side of Split. It has a beautiful botanical garden and it is a perfect place for jogging, hiking, cycling or if you just need a break for the city.
Klis Fortress: Medieval fortress, situated on the steep cliff between Kozjak and Mosor. Visiting this fortress could be a perfect day trip from Split. For updated information check here.
For Game of Thornes fan, it is the city of Meeran.
The only problem with visiting this place was transportation.
I got confused by the information over the internet until I found this blog.
But I strongly recommend checking the updated time table when you visit or consider taking a guided trip from Split.
Hit the beach: I found two nearby beaches. One is Bacvice beach: sandy beach but super crowded. Another one is recommended by Airbnb is Kašjuni beach, on the other side of park Marjan. This is a bit far from the town, visited by the locals. (Car accessibility available)
Eat fresh food: While in Split, do not forget to eat fresh fish, seafood or traditional delicacies. Split is very much affordable. I recommend to check out Buffet fife and Konoba Lučac for food.
Island hopping: As it is a port city, from Split, there are several options to visit nearby islands by boat. Some popular islands are Vis, Hvar, Brac, Solta, Bol. You can find many organized boat trips that have a consolidated island trip option/half-day or full-day island-hopping plus partying. It absolutely depends on what islands you plan to visit because all are beautiful. But my personal recommendation will be to go to one of the islands or stay there overnight if it is far, for a relaxed time.
Sunset Cruise: Unique experience of two hours boat trip to sail towards sundown along Marjan hill. Most of the trips start near Riva Promenade and you can buy tickets directly there. But I loved this trip for a relaxed evening.
Dubrovnik: Our last destination was Dubrovnik.
Situated in southern Croatia overlooking the beautiful Adriatic, this ancient walled city is undoubtedly gorgeous and truly stands for its name “Pearl of the Adriatic". The terracotta tiles of houses, the deep blue water of Adriatic along with the limestone streets painted an irresistible Mediterranian fantasy in Dubrovnik. The city has a rich history dated long back and was popular as a booming maritime trade center in the era of 15th and 16th.
Dubrovnik is also another place like Split which you can visit all over the year. The city is big though the old town is the most touristy one. In the peak season, it is always overcrowded. From our Airbnb, our host specially warned us to avoid the cruise time. Dubrovnik is the stopping point of many big cruises which means during the cruise time the old town will be completely jammed by tourists. Also, many islanders visit Dubrovnik as a day trip via ferry.
So in conclusion, people all over the place!!
My blog will be incomplete if I do not mention the Epic HBO series “Game of Thrones”. As a GOT fan you will be in euphoria when you reach Dubrovnik because:
“Welcome to King’s Landing”
How to reach Dubrovnik: Dubrovnik can be reached by bus, car, flight, and ferry. We took a ferry from Split via Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet to Dubrovnik which took around 4 hours 40 minutes. There are two ferry companies I found: Captain Luka and Jadrolinija. I took an online ticket for Captain Luka from this website. For Jadrolinija information can be found here. There are also buses option from Split. Information can be found here. Another option is to take flights from your respective places to Dubrovnik.
You can find numerous hotels, Airbnb, hostels in Dubrovnik. As I mentioned, it is very touristy and overcrowded, you need to book early. The old town is a popular place to stay because everything will be in a walkable distance. I did not stay near the old town but stayed in the Lapad area. Lapad is a beautiful neighborhood with amazing beaches. You can also check the accommodation there. I used the Dubrovnik card for transportation. If you do not stay near the old town, taking this card saves money. It also includes the tickets for city walks and various museums' entry passes which can be visited while in the old town. Another point, I would like to mention Dubrovnik is not so budget-friendly if I compare it to other places in Croatia (Considering food and tickets).
Things to do in Dubrovnik
City Walls: Whatever you do in Dubrovnik, walking the city walls should not be missed. Dubrovnik is surrounded by stoned walls, a symbol of the great fortification system of Middle ages. It was used as a shield to keep the invaders out and to protect the city. You have to buy tickets to access the city walls which costs around 150 HRK. There are three access points to the city walls. It will take around 2/3 hours minimum to complete the circuit. The city walls are comparatively higher which gives a very good view of the city as well as the sea and also you can climb the perimeter tower.
Walking City Walls is possible in one way. Now you can imagine the number of tourists at the same time and in the same place. My tip will be to visit the city walls very early before the cruise ship reaches or after the cruise leaves. In this way, you can avoid big tourist groups and walk the old town walls peacefully.
Old Town: As the old town is surrounded by city walls, when you finish your city walks you will be anyway inside the old town. The picturesque old town is dripping with beauty. Wandering through each every narrow winding street, checking out the stunning architecture, and stopping by the super cute souvenirs shops will be the best way to explore the old town. Also do not forget to grab your yummy ice cream (recommended place: Dolce Vita and Peppino's) on the go.
There are a couple of must-see places in the old town which I listed below:
Pile Gate: it is considered to the entrance of the old city. Pile gate is connecting the old city to the rest. If you enter through pile gate and walked down the stairs, you will go toward Stradun
Stradun: Stradun is 300 meters long main street, starting from the pile gate to the ploce gate. It is a pedestrian zone loved by tourists as well as locals.
Big Onofrio Fountain: 16 -sided drinking water fountain and part of the city’s water system. Once you enter through the pile gate, you can find it just in front of you.
Franciscan Monastery: A large complex consists of a church, monastery, pharmacy, library.
Church of St Saviour: A small votive church dedicated to Saint Saviour constructed by Dubrovnik’s senate as gratitude after the scary earthquake of 1520
Orlando Column: Stone Column carves as ancient knight Orlando
St Blaise Chruch: Beautiful church dedicated to patron Saint. The interior is richly decorated and notable for the Silver statue of St Blaise holding is the scale model of old Town.
Sponza Palace: It was the commercial point of the city and used as mint, treasury, armory, over time.
Bell Tower: 31meter high iconic landmarks at the end of Stradun
Rector’s Palace: Administrative center of Dubrovnik, now a museum
Cathedral: Dubrovnik Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. 17th-century church with lovely interior and religious painting.
Jesuit Chruch: Beautiful Baroque-style church with illustrative staircases
Dominican Monastery: Treasury of culture, art, history of Dubrovnik
Amerling Fountain: Drinking water fountain
To know more about the history regarding those place I recommend checking out the city guide
and also the Dubrovnik old town.
Game of Thrones tour: HBO showcased the Dubrovnik's old town beautifully. But what if you can relive those Game of Thrones moments??
You can book a game of thrones tour while in Dubrovnik. You can find more information regarding the trips here:
Apart from that also you will find many GOT tour options everywhere in Dubrovnik. I got those recommendations from my host. I did not take any GOT tours myself. Rather I visited the old town and tried to find those places on my own.
It was a lot of fun. :D :D
Remember the “Walk of Shame“. You do not have to guess the place. If you reach there, probably you will also be shouting “Shame, Shame, Shame” like others.
Check out Dubrovnik’s Ethnographic museum. Remember anything??
You are probably entering into little finger's brothel. :D
Lovrijenac Fort: Another symbol of the great fortification system. The fortress is located outside the western wall of the old city and played an important role to protect the city resisting the Venetian invaders in the 11th century. You will get an extraordinary panoramic view from here. For Game of Thrones fan, it is the “Red Keep”.
St John’s Fortress: Protecting the port, this fortress stands as a symbol of the strong defensive system of Dubrovnik. You can visit the maritime museum if you go inside the tower. In the evening, when I light is lit, it feels amazing to just sit there losing the time track.
Mount Srd: For the best view of Dubrovnik, take the cable car and go to Mount Srd. From the top of the hill, you will get an amazing view overlooking Dubrovnik and Lokrum. Especially the sunset view from there is pure bliss. When I visited Dubrovnik, the cable car was closed.
So I took a taxi for mount Srd. If you are sporty enough, you can also climb the hill but that requires a bit more time.
** There is also a restaurant on the top.
Kayaking: The blue water of Adriatic calls you for a Kayak trip. It is also another way to visit the city walls and surroundings. You can paddle the Kayak near the walls as well as near Lokrum Island. For more information check here.
Lokrum: It is an island near Dubrovnik which can be reached via 10 minutes ferry. It is a perfect place if you want to escape the city on a day trip. The entire island has a well-defined walking route which comes really handy. The island has a beautiful botanical garden full of pine, olive trees and peacocks, and also ruins of old Benedictine Monastery. The walking trail also leads you to the coast which is a perfect place for swimming and cliff jumping.
Additional info: There are only three places for food in Lokrum (Lacroma, Snack bar, Rajski Vrt: I had lunch here )which means you are not getting many options. You can also bring your own picnic in case needed.
Exploring the Croatian beach: Even if Dubrovnik’s old town has so many things to see, it should be a miss if we do not visit the beautiful beaches. The secret to finding the best beaches is to hop on a bus and escape the city. Or take your car and go out of the city.
There are plenty of beautiful beaches in Dubrovnik, but I visited only a few. I stayed near Lapad, so Uvala beach is the most convenient: 10 minutes walking from my stay. I liked it because it is very much tourist-friendly. Apart from the beach, there is a beautiful walking path full of pine forests along the coast creating an arch. If you walk along the coast, you can see numerous mini beaches on your way. In fact, people have created their own mini beaches there. On my last day in Dubrovnik, I did not go to the old town, rather spent time in that area.
Another beach near to the old town on Banje beach which I visited around evening time. It is good for parties and meeting local people. The last one is Copacabana beach recommended by my Airbnb Host, which is also a cool party place.
City hopping in Croatia ends here.
From Dubrovnik, I had a flight back home. That was all from my Croatia Diary. :D
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