So you want to visit Croatia? Honestly, great choice. This country is ridiculously beautiful, with waterfalls, a gorgeous coastline, and cute old towns. Whether your trip is a couple days or a couple weeks, you’ll have a good time. For a first-time visit, however, I think a full week is perfect. That’s why I put together this one week Croatia itinerary. With seven full days in Croatia, you’ll hit all the can’t miss spots and get a good idea of the country.
Croatia Travel Itinerary Overview
Or, jump straight to the actual Croatia itinerary here.
Seven Day Croatia Itinerary Summary
For a first-time visit to Croatia, I recommend spending a sizable amount of time on the coast. Croatia is best known for its coastline, after all! But if flying into Croatia from abroad, the capital city of Zagreb will likely be your first point of entry.
So, I recommend taking advantage of Zagreb’s proximity to Plitvice Lakes and spending one week in Croatia like below.
|Day 5||Hvar, or other island(s)||Split|
|Days 6 – 7||Dubrovnik||Dubrovnik|
If you’re the typical traveler with limited vacation days, I suggest breaking it down like below. This way, you only need to use five vacation days, but you actually get seven full days in Croatia.
Why does it work out that way? For those of you traveling from North America, when you depart for Croatia on a Saturday, you will land in Croatia Sunday morning. And when you depart from Croatia on a Sunday, you will land back in North America Sunday afternoon or evening.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Croatia
As this itinerary (and most every Croatia itinerary) focuses on the coast, the best time to visit Croatia is definitely during warmer weather. Specifically, I recommend the shoulder seasons of late May – early June and September – early October.
This allows you to enjoy everything in amazing weather, but you can avoid the extreme crowds that some cruiseship cities like Dubrovnik experience in the summer. Aiming for September – October in particular will give the waters all summer to get warmer, though the Adriatic Sea is definitely more-than-bearable by even early May.
The Best Way to Get Around Croatia
Unlike nearby Italy, Croatia is not an easy country to travel by train. So, you need to either rent a private car or stick to public buses and ferries.
Car rentals in Croatia are actually quite affordable, but only if renting a manual transmission (i.e. stick shift) car.
Thus, this Croatia itinerary guides you through the beautiful country solely using buses and ferries. I include all the details, such as bus and ferry stations, prices, and trip duration for each time you’ll use public transport to move around Croatia. I’ve got you covered!
You can absolutely still do this exact same itinerary with your own car rental. However, I must say I was pleasantly surprised how clean, comfortable, and free-WiFi-offering buses and ferries in Croatia are. Also, a plus side of traveling Croatia without a car rental is no looking for parking and no filling up gas.
Money in Croatia
Croatia is in Europe. It is also in the EU. However, it is not in the Eurozone (nor the Schengen area). That means Croatian currency is not the euro. Rather, Croatian currency is the kuna, abbreviated as kn or HKN. $1 is about 6.4 kn, and €1 is about 7.6 kn.
As Croatia receives a lot of tourism from Eurozone countries, euros are often accepted in Croatia as payment for larger items, and especially for items bought in advance online, such as bus rides, tours, and accommodation.
Credit Cards in Croatia
Credit cards are accepted in Croatia by hotels and some restaurants in larger cities, but it will be difficult to get through the entire one week in Croatia without using cash.
That being said, you definitely will want to have some kunas on hand in Croatia. This will be how you pay for smaller attraction entries, bus rides you purchase on board, and meals in certain restaurants.
Is Croatia Expensive?
Croatia has had the reputation of a budget travel destination for some years. It was a European destination considered off-the-beaten-path, and the prices relating to tourist activities reflected that. It also helps that Americans and Euro-zone-country visitors face a favorable exchange rate for kunas.
But in recent years, Croatia is becoming more and more popular to visit. Thus, it is travel-related costs are rising quickly relative to its neighboring Balkan countries. Croatia is not “cheap” like it used to be, at least in the popular destinations making up most itineraries. That being said, I still would not classify Croatia as expensive.
AND NOW, LET’S GET TO THE ACTUAL ITINERARY ITSELF
Zagreb is the capital and largest city of Croatia. Croatia’s interior isn’t what tourists usually come to see, but since you are flying into Zagreb, take a day to walk around and shake off any jet lag. This inland region is known to be the culinary core of the country as opposed to the coast. So try some truffle and oil-based meals before the rest of the week, which will be filled with seafood from the coast.
Zagreb is also close to Croatia’s top tourist attraction, Plitvice Lakes National Park, which you will visit on day two. So Zagreb also serves as a convenient base from which to head there.
How to Get to Zagreb
As the starting point of your Croatia trip, you will need to fly into Zagreb. Zagreb’s international airport is Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport (ZAG). To get from ZAG airport to the city center, you have two options.
- Option 1: Take a bus. From ZAG, you can take the Pleso Prijevoz airport shuttle bus to the Zagreb city center for 30 kn one way. You can find the schedule and purchase tickets in advance at the official site. You can also ride the Zagreb Electric Tram (ZET) bus line 290. This should cost around 10kn (less than $2 or €2) if bought on board and the ride should be around 35 minutes.
- Option 2: Take a taxi. Taxis from ZAG are not a fixed fare. The price ranges from 75 – 250 kn ($12 – $40 or €10 – €33), and you should confirm the estimated fare range before getting in. You can find the official taxis in the Passenger Terminal, near the ground floor arrivals. The drive should take around 30 minutes.
Things to Do in Zagreb (One Day)
Since this is the day your flight lands, take it easy. Zagreb is home to many museums, shopping malls, and cafes, but you should focus on the key highlights with just one day here.
- Ban Jelačić Square: This is the central square in Zagreb.
- St. Mark’s Church: This iconic church boasts a colorfully tiled roof and is one of Zagreb’s oldest buildings.
- Zagreb Cathedral: This beautiful Gothic-style cathedral is actually the tallest building in Croatia.
- Lotrščak Tower: A fortified tower built to protect the south city gate, this tower offers sweeping views over Zagreb from the top.
- Dolac Market: This colorful, open-air market is open daily, but try to enjoy it on a Saturday morning if you can!
- Stone Gate: Now a shrine of sorts, this gate was apparently burned in a fire centuries – all except for a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
As Croatia’s top tourist attraction, you absolutely should not miss a day in Plitvice Lakes National Park. With wooden walkways and comfortable hiking trails taking visitors right up past the cascading falls, Plitvice is a turquoise dream land.
How to Get to Plitvice from Zagreb
Get on a bus from Zagreb at Autobusni Kolodvor Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The bus will be a large, comfortable coach bus, and it even has good WiFi inside. The ride should take 2.5 hours and cost around 12 USD or 10 EUR. Look up timetables and even book tickets online ahead of time here. Otherwise, you can show up to the station and buy tickets in person.
Once you arrive at the park, expect an entry fee of around 300 kn ($47 or €40) from June to September. If visiting Plitvice any other time of year, expect 180 kn ($28 or €24) in April, May, and September, and 80kn ($13 or €11) in winter. Check fees and even book ahead online here.
If you buy tickets at the door, look for the little booth across the wooden bride near Gate 2, not in the car park. There is free luggage hold at both entrances to the park, so leave your luggage here while you explore.
Things to Do in Plitvice (One Day)
First things first, because I know you are thinking it. No, you cannot swim in the waters at Plitvice!
The main thing to do in Plitvice Lakes National Park is to walk the trails, which takes the better part of a day. Definitely stop by the information center at the entrance to get an overview of the day before starting. They can explain the trail routes, the train ride back at the end, the ferry ride in the middle, and where to buy food if you haven’t packed your own.
Split is Croatia’s second largest city, the largest city along the Dalmatian coast, and my personal favorite destination of this itinerary. It boasts a stunning old town, which is essentially the remains of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace from back in the 4th century. Split is also the perfect jumping-off point to enjoy some of Croatia’s best islands, and has even served as backdrop to some Game of Thrones scenes. I’m sure you’ll love Split!
How to Get to Split from Plitvice Lakes
(Pssst: You’ll actually be doing this transfer from Plitvice to Split on the same day that you visited Plitvice. Then, the next morning, you’ll wake up in Split to start your full day there. Just scroll back up to the itinerary summary at the top of this page if you’re confused!)
After finishing your day at the Plitvice Lakes National Park, grab your luggage and hop on a bus headed for Split. The bus should depart from the same area you were dropped off this morning, but you can double-check with the information desk to be certain. The bus ride from Plitvice to Split should take 4 – 4.5 hours if departing in the mid-to-late afternoon and cost $21 – $26 or €18 – €22. (The bus prices online are quoted in euro, not kuna. But you can pay in kuna if purchasing in person.)
I recommend buying this ticket ahead of time online, since you obviously cannot buy it from the arrival bus station in Split in person yet.
Things to Do in Split (One Day)
- Diocletian’s Palace: It’s impossible to miss this one, since it’s the entire old town!
- City cellars: This was a filming spot for Game of Thrones! But when it’s not cleared out for filming, it’s a market where you can souvenir shop.
- Temple of Jupiter: This was originally a Roman temple dedicated to the god Jupiter.
- Cathedral of St. Domnius: Climb up the bell tower. Entry should be 2 USD or 2 EUR.
- Peristyle: This is the main public square where any city tours you take likely begin. Definitely visit here at night. It’s lit up and a totally different vibe than in the day.
- Brace Radica Square: This is a very picturesque, smaller square.
- Milesi Palace: This is another lovely square, regarded as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Dalmatia.
- Marjan Hill: This is a hill-side park with great views over Split. You can walk or bike around, or you can grab a drink or snack at the cafe.
- Riva: This is the seafront area of Split.
Krka National Park
Krka National Park is like the little sibling of Plitvice Lakes National Park. But unlike Plitvice, you can actually swim in this place! It really looks like something out of a movie, and a day trip to Krka from Split will be just what you need at the halfway point of this jam-packed, one week Croatia itinerary.
How to Get to Krka from Split
Catch a bus from Split’s bus station (the same station as you arrived in) to Krka National Park for 12 USD or 11 EUR. Make sure to also buy a return ticket for the same price. The trip should take under 1.5 hours and will once again be on a comfortable coach bus with WiFi. After a fun day swimming in the sun, return to Split and enjoy another evening in the beautiful old town.
Things to Do in Krka (One Day)
Although you can hike, bike, and boat around Krka, the obvious main activity will be swimming amongst the cascading waterfalls. Entrance to Krka National Park in summer will put you back 200kn ($31 or €26). Check official prices for other months here.
There’s nothing more Croatian than a beautiful island, so you can’t leave Croatia before seeing at least one. You have a couple options here. You can choose one of the many island options near Split and make a DIY day trip out of it via ferry. The most popular one to visit is the island of Hvar, more specifically the town of Hvar Town. However, another common island to visit is Korcula, if you are interested in being a little different.
Alternatively, you can instead purchase an island hopping tour. This will depart from Split in the morning and take you to multiple islands – some larger and some smaller – before returning you to Split in the evening.
As someone who has spent one day doing the DIY day trip from Split to Hvar Town as well as spent one day on the island hopping tour, I personally recommend the island hopping tour between the two options. This is in large part because the tour stops at Hvar Town for at least 90 minutes, so you will not feel like you entirely missed out on seeing Hvar Town.
That being said, I will explain both options here in this guide, so that you can decide. Let’s start with how to get to Hvar Town and what to do there.
How to Get to Hvar Town from Split
First, you will need to head to the Split Jadrolinija ferry terminal and catch a ferry stopping at Hvar island. The ride takes 1 hour, and the ferries depart from right near the bus terminal where you first arrived into Split. There are several different ferries and catamarans stopping at different ports in Hvar. The schedule differs through the week and throughout the year. You can look up the ferry schedule in advance online, or check it out in person at the terminal on one of the previous days you used the Split bus station.
But your ferry trip will look something like this:
If there is a ferry stopping at the port of “Hvar,” this will be directly to where you want to go; Hvar Town. But there is a good chance the morning boats will instead be heading to “Stari Grad,” another port on the island of Hvar. From Stari Grad, you will need to take a short cab ride to Hvar Town. Taxis will be waiting at the port, so find some other travelers heading to Hvar Town (most will be) and split the price of the taxi.
Once you arrive in Hvar Town, purchase your return ticket to Split from the Hvar Town ferry ticket office. You do not have to go back through Stari Grad.
Things to Do in Hvar Town (One Day)
- Spanjola Fortress: Hvar’s Spanish Fortress offers the best view in town – that cliche one in all the brochures! It would be a shame to come to Hvar Town and not to enjoy it.
- Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower: A beautiful display of Renaissance architecture.
- St. Stephen’s Square: As the main square in Hvar Town, you will inevitably pass by without even trying. In the square is also St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
- Go to the beach: The closest beaches to Hvar Town are by no means the best on the island, but walk a short ways from the harbor, and you do find some decent options. Two close ones are Križna Luka and Pokonji dol Beach.
- Rent a motorbike: There is a lot more to the island of Hvar than Hvar Town, so renting a motorbike will allow you to ditch the beaten path and explore less crowded beaches and parts of the island.
- Rent a bicycle: For those of us unable to rent a motorbike, renting a normal bike is the next best thing. It allows you to get a little further from Hvar Town’s harbor and enjoy some of the beaches and beach clubs nearby.
Alternative to Hvar Town: Island Hopping Tour
If you would rather see a lot of different things in a short amount of time, book an island hopping tour. They are advertised all over Split or in any tourist office for something like €120 EUR. You can usually pay in euros, too.
I did this type of tour, and it was my top favorite thing of my Croatia trip. I was very reluctant about the price at first, especially because it was May and I didn’t know if the weather would cooperate or that the water was warm enough to swim in. In the end, I loved the tour and only wished there were more hours in a day. If you are staying on Hvar Island, these tours also depart from Hvar Town, which saves you the time it takes to get from Split to the islands and back.
Our tour group included two bay boats that could fit around 8 people each. We started in Split in the morning around 8:30a. We returned as the sun was setting around 6:30pm after hitting all the below sites:
- Blue Grotto (or Cave): A natural sea cave on Bisevo island whose waters glow blight blue from light coming through an underwater opening.
- Green Grotto: Another cave similar to the Blue Grotto, but green and located on the southern side of Vis island
- Stiniva Bay: One of Croatia’s most famous beaches and located on Vis Island, but sadly the tour just does a drive-by stop to look and snap pics rather than stop and get out.
- Lunchtime and swimming on a smaller island.
- Swimming on a different smaller island.
- Hvar Town: You get about 1.5 hours to explore, which honestly is enough time to just “see” the town
Thanks to Game of Thrones and Star Wars, this little walled city by the sea has boomed in tourism. Add that to all the cruise ships that stop here, and you’ve got yourself a very crowded little town in the summer. But in the mornings and the evenings after the day trippers have left, you’ll be able to enjoy Dubrovnik, its cute alleyways, and spectacular Adriatic views a bit more.
How to Get to Dubrovnik
You have two options for getting from Split to Dubrovnik without a car. Either way, it will take 4 – 5 hours to get to Dubrovnik from Split. So, your first day in Dubrovnik will be a half day.
- Option 1: Take a ferry. From the Split Jadrolinija ferry terminal, hop on a ferry headed towards Dubrovnik. The schedule varies based on day of the week and time of the year. Some days, ferries to Dubrovnik do not run at all. So check the ferry schedule online before your trip.
- Option 2: Take a bus. From the Split bus terminal, hop on a coach bus heading towards Dubrovnik. This will cost around $19 or €16. Make sure to get off the bus at the “Pile Gate/Old Town” bus stop. I recommend you sit on the right side of the bus if possible, to get views of the coast on the whole ride down. The bus drives through the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so you will need your passport handy onboard.
Things to Do in Dubrovnik (One and a Half Days)
- Stradun Street: This is the main pedestrian street of the town. It starts at the main gate, Pile Gate.
- Square of the Loggia: This is a plaza in the heart of the old town.
- Dubrovnik Cathedral: Beautiful Baroque building located in the square above.
- Rector’s Palace: This is now the Cultural Historical Museum, but it used to be a palace. It’s located on the same square above and has beautiful columns.
- Sponza Palace: A very pretty building near the above three sites.
- Fort Lovrijenac: This is the fort across from the main walled town. Climb here to get that cliche view over Dubrovnik. Fun fact: the little bay between this fort and the main walled town appears many times in Game of Thrones.
- City walls walk: The entrance for this is to the left of Pile Gate as you approach it from inside the walls and will put you back 200kn ($31 or €26). The walk takes about 2 hours to complete and afford the best views of the water and the city. I highly recommend timing this during sunset if you can!
- Cliff jumping: Did you really go to Croatia if you didn’t cliff jump? You can join a kayak tour around the city walls and to Lokrum that ends at a beach with cliff jumping spots. The young guys outside Pile Gate sell this tour. You can also DIY cliff jump near famous Cafe Buza. Just follow signs saying “cold drinks, beautiful view.” You’ll see this place on your city walls walk.
- Cable car ride: The cable car goes from behind Dubvonik Old Town up to the mountain looming above. This will set you back around 160 kn ($25 or €23) round trip.
- Beach day: Try Banje Beach, Sv Jakov Beach, or Uvala Lapad Beach (take bus 6 for this one).
- Lokrum Island: You can rent a jet ski and go yourself, or take a 15 minute taxi boat ride for 40kn ($5 or €5). This place is known for tons of peacocks, great views of Dubrovnik in the distance, and the French Port Royal Castle.
- Elafiti Islands: You can take a pre-booked boat tour to these three islands near Dubrovnik. Tours allow ample time to explore each island, and lunch is included. This costs around $35 or €31 (you would likely buy in advance online in one of these currencies).
- Sit on the Iron Throne: Stop by Dubrovnik City Shop – IRON THRONE for a photo op on a plastic iron throne.
How to Get Out of Dubrovnik
And before you know it, your one week Croatia itinerary must come to an end. You will need to make your way out of Dubrovnik city center. Dubrovnik’s international airport is called Dubrovnik Airport (DVB). But you will need to transfer at another, larger airport if you are traveling to North America.
- Option 1: Take a bus. From the Dubrovnik Main Bus Station in Gruž Port, take the bus to the Dubrovnik Airport. The ride takes around 90 minutes, and tickets for this official shuttle bus are purchased on the bus for 55 kn ($8 or €7).
- Option 2: Take a taxi. A taxi ride between Dubrovnik Old Town and the airport will cost 250 – 300 kn ($39 – $47 or €32 – €39). The drive takes 30 min to 1 hour in summer months.
Adjustments to this Croatia Itinerary
The above is how I would spend seven days in Croatia. I think this route is the absolutely perfect first visit to the country. But maybe your interests differ slightly! Below are some easy adjustments you can make to this Croatia itinerary.
- Visit Zadar instead of Krka or Hvar: Zadar is not far from Split. So you can definitely switch out the day at Krka National Park or the day visiting Hvar for Zadar, if that fits your Croatia interests more.
- Arrive in Zadar instead of Zagreb: If you are not arriving to Croatia from outside Europe, you might not have to fly into Zagreb. You might then want to switch out day one in Zagreb for a day in Zadar, by flying into Zadar instead of Zagreb. You can then day trip to Plitvice from Zadar for day two, then continue onto Split from Zadar on the morning of day three.
- Reverse the order of this itinerary: The order of this itinerary can definitely be reversed. If you are coming from outside Europe, you will simply have to transfer to Dubrovnik via a domestic flight after arriving in Zagreb Airport.
- Day trip into another country: Two popular day trips from Dubrovnik are to Kotor in neighboring Montenegro and to Mostar in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. That would of course require a full day, so you will have to substitute out either the Krka day or Hvar day.
What Do You Think?
What do you think of my one week Croatia itinerary for first timers? Have you been to Croatia? Was it for more or less than one week? Let me know below!
And in Case You Need One Last Summary
Croatia One Week (7 Day) Itinerary:
- Day 1: Zagreb
- Day 2: Plitvice Lakes
- Day 3: Split
- Day 4: Krka
- Day 5: Hvar
- Day 6: Dubrovnik
- Day 7: Dubrovnik