Croatia Roadtrip Itinerary: from Dubrovnik to Plitvice

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I have been to Croatia several times and it has always been fantastic. Roadtrip in Croatia is a perfect way to discover the country and to stop to every little Adriatic jewel (city, town, village,…). In September 2017, I did an eight-day roadtrip from South to North. Departing from Dubrovnik, in the south of the country, up to Plitvice National Park, we drove more than 700 kilometres along the Dalmatian coast, between the sea and the natural parks.

In this blog post I am sharing our itinerary and all the details on each stop during this 8-day roadtrip in southern Croatia. We spent our time both at the beach and doing some nice cultural visits.

Day 1 -2: Dubrovnik
Day 3-4: Mljet
Day 5: Makarska Coast
Day 6: Split – Trogir – Sibenik
Day 7: Plitvice National Park
Day 8: Zadar

On this map, you can see the places we visited and how we moved from one place to another.

You’ll find all the practical information at the end of this post ! 

8 days between sea and natural parks 

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A Roadtrip story

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Dubrovnik (Day 1 & 2)

Dubrovnik is our first stop. We arrived at 8am at the airport and we have a full day to enjoy our first day in Croatia. The sun and heat invaded us immediately. Few minutes later, we arrived in Dubrovnik’s old town. And wow !
Dubrovnik is called the Adriatic pearl and you understand why : it’s beautiful, it’s rich in culture and history and it’s facing the sea! Unfortunately, Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success. Indeed, the city os very (very) touristic and the crowd can quickly spoil all the charm to these small authentic and so well preserved alleys. But if you want to fully discover the city, you’d better get up early and walk through the small medieval streets before people get up.
In any case, you can’t be disappointed by this jewel of the Adriatic!

Where to sleep ? There’s no need to sleep in the old city to enjoy Dubrovnik. We slept in the Babin Kuk area – outside the old town but very easy to reach by bus (15 minutes). There are a lot of AirBnb and the prices are much more affordable (we slept in a guesthouse here)
Not to miss ! The city tour on the ramparts, the small alleys and restaurants at night, the panoramic view of Dubrovnik from the road (coming from the airport) and to get up very early to avoid the crowd

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Mljet (Day 3 & 4)

Mjlet is probably one of my most beautiful discoveries during this roadtrip. It is the largest island of the Croatian islands and is different from its neighbours by being a huge natural park. That’s why it’s called “the green island“. We arrived in Mljet after a 45-minute ferry ride from Stone. The arrival on the island gave us this feeling of tranquility…. The crowd had disappeared, we were alone in the middle of nature and everything looked so beautiful! The island is not too big so it is the perfect opportunity to spend several days immersed in a dream setting: in the middle of nature, crystal clear waters and incredible landscapes! I tell you more about it in this blog post.

Where to sleep? We found a beautiful and friendly place to stay  – Love it ♡ – We slept at Eva dnd Lucija’s place in their Villa Evita Appartments (see here)
Not to miss ! The Natural Park and its two lakes, cycling, swimming, enjoy the sunset, tranquility…

Find all details on this article: “Mljet: The Croatian Green Island

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Makarska (Day 5)

I was quite sad to leave Mljet, I wish I could have spent more time there. So on day 5 we took the road again towards the scenic coastal route of Makarska!  The road is really spectacular. I wanted to stop every 500 metres to admire the view, between the sea and the mountains. We decided to spend our 5th day in Croatia at the beach and it feels good!
We spotted different creeks and stopped whenever we wanted…

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Split (Day 6 )

Split impresses you as soon as you arrive in the historic centre: you enter a fortress where all the buildings are made of white stone. The sea is not very far away and  very large palm trees line the seaside. The centre houses many remains, including the Diocletian Palace, built by the Roman Emperor in the 4th century. Therefore, we spent the morning strolling through Split’s streets, visiting the cathedral while shopping and settling down to eat… It was a very hot day and we decided not to stay too long to continue the trip… However, you can spend one full day in Split to visit all the museums and Churches.

Where to sleep? We had decided to sleep on the coast to be close to the sea and so we were not sleeping in Split. I do not recommend our accommodation if you want to visit Split but I advise you to sleep on the Makarska Coast if you want to enjoy the sea and spend a day trip to Split!

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Trogir (Day 6)

When we left Split (on the way to Zadar), we decided to take a short break in Trogir (Sibenik was also on our itinerary, but fatigue got the better of us and we therefore missed it.) These two small towns are very typical of Croatia. Cities close to the sea, with beautiful and culturally rich historic centres, small stone streets, and more beautiful places to stop for ice cream or a drink. Trogir is not very big, so we decided to take a little walk, and it took us less than two hours.

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Plitvice National Park (Day 7)

The (very) famous Plitvice National Park! It was one of the most awaited moments of our trip, but unfortunately we were not lucky with the weather. As Plitvice is located in the mountain, the weather can be either very hot during the summer or quite humid and cold during the rest of the year. On the morning of our day 7, he weather forecast announced 12° and rain in Plitvice. (The weather was, however, very hot by the sea so I couldn’t hide my disappointment…)
We hesitated to drive 300km over a day (from Zadar) to get there, but decided not to miss the inevitable. Regret? I don’t think so, but if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it again. Yes, Plitvice National Park is beautiful and offers a superb walk, but it’s better when it’s not that cold (or at least, take appropriate shoes and clothes!) You can walk a short or a long distance. We took the longest one and it took us less than a day (I would say 4 hours walk and 1 or 2 hours break and photo break). Fortunately at the end of the day (in the afternoon) the weather got better, event the sun came out, and the panorama at the end made us forget the first hours…

Where to sleep? We slept in Zadar (which is about 135km away – 1h30 drive) – because the surroundings of Plitvice don’t really offer a lot of accommodation and because Zadar is very pleasant in the evening!
Not to miss ! There are different tours (from the shortest to the longest) – don’t be afraid to take the big tour and go against the crowd’s direction from time to time (in order to be alone). The best advice I can give you is to leave early. The most beautiful panoramic view is at the almost end of the route (after the “waterfall”) you have to follow the route and go up !

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Zadar (Day 8)

Zadar was our last stop on this journey. We spent the day walking through the city. The old city centre is not too big and it is possible to walk around. Zadar is best known for the Roman and Venetian ruins of its old peninsular city. Its ramparts contain several Venetian gates (we find the lion of Venice). It is a very nice city to discover also at sunset time: the most beautiful sunset (that’s what Croatian say). In the evening, several streets are busy with bars and restaurants (make sure to book your restaurants in advance – especially in summer and on weekends!). Zadar has an airport, so it was easy for us to go back home from Zadar…

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Where to sleep? All neighbourhoods near the city centre are suitable. We booked an Airbnb here (yes, we fell in love with the pool)
Not to miss! Sunset and musical stairs

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If you have more time…Where to go next?

If you are lucky enough and you have more time to spend in Croatia, you can either decide to drive to Zagreb (the capital city) or to go for a trip to the Istria region (on the west – close to the border with Italy and Slovenia). I would really recommend Istria: It is very beautiful and very different from southern Croatia. It is also a little less touristy and less expensive. To see: Pula, Rovinj, Porec….

Preparing your trip to Croatia

Capital city: Zagreb
Number of residents: 3 687 410 (in 2017)
Currency: Kuna >> 1€ = 7,39 kuna
Time difference: UTC+2

 


When?
All seasons are good for visiting Croatia. Depending on what you want to do, choose spring and summer as the best time to go swimming.
I left at the beginning of September and it was the best. September is the ideal month to do the roadtrip. The weather is good and the cities are getting a little empty of crowds.
I am also in Croatia several times in June and early July and it was just as fantastic.
By car or public transport?
I have never experienced Croatia in public transport. Cities, such as Dubrovnik and Zadar for example, are easily accessible by bus if you sleep outside the city centre. On the other hand, if you want to move as you like and move easily on the islands (or stop on the road, to swim in a small creek that looks nice), without hesitation the car will be your best friend! The prices are reasonable, even if you pick up the car at point A and drop it off at point B: convenient for the roadtrip, without having to turn around.
Itinerary
Before leaving, we didn’t really think about the direction of the itinerary: starting from the south and going up the coast or from the north and going down the Dalmatian coast? The choice was made according to the price of the plane tickets (it is better to do it in advance!).
What if we have to do it all over again?
I think the road is worth going down from north to south.
Why? Why? First, to better enjoy the view, without having the sun in your eyes and thus, to follow the sea (since you drive on the right!). It’s perfect for stopping more easily.
Then, because Dubrovnik is a beautiful city and it is better to enjoy the small towns of Zadar, Split and Trogir BEFORE going to Dubrovnik….

➳ Are you planning your trip to Croatia? Do you have any questions?

➳ Share your experience !

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