It’s hard to resist the orange rooftops reflected in the crystal clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea along the Croatian coast. Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Croatia after my trip to Sweden and I fell head over heels for the country. My sister and I flew into Croatia from Stockholm and met the rest of our family for the start of our multigenerational trip — across the ten of us we represented four generations!
If you’re thinking about taking to your own trip to Croatia, I encourage you to do so earlier rather than later as it’s becoming a more popular (and crowded) destination every year. To help you get started, I’ve outlined the Croatia itinerary I took for my trip. Check out the full Lonely Planet Croatia guide to take with you (and get 10% off when you use the code LITTLETHINGS10)! Want a more personalized itinerary? Check out my travel planning services!
Day 1 – 2: Zagreb
As the capital of Croatia, Zagreb tends to be an easier (and generally more affordable) destination to fly into from most places. While Zagreb tends to get overlooked because it’s not on the coast, it has a rich culture and history and is easily walkable.
Read More: Weekend Travel Guide to Zagreb
Day 3 – 4: Marina
From Zagreb we flew into Split and got a ride to Marina, a small town just outside of Trogir, where we rented a house for all ten of us to use as our home base for the week. A quiet town with few tourists, this was the perfect place to relax by the beach or to come back to at the end of a long day.
Day 5: Trogir
A quick drive from Marina, we visited the charming historical town of Trogir, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The towering medieval walls of the city house over 2,000 years of history, and it’s the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in all of Central Europe.
Day 6: Krka National Park, Šibenik, and Primošten
One of my favorite day trips was to Krka National Park, with stops in Šibenik and Primošten on the way. Krka National Park is Croatia’s lesser known but no less beautiful gem of a park, complete with turquoise waters and stunning natural waterfalls. Our next stop on the Croatia itinerary was Šibenik, a town that is similar in size to Dubrovnik but less popular that turned out to be one of my favorite Croatian cities. Finally, our last stop was in Primošten, known for its medieval churches and famous Babić red wine.
Read More: A Visit to Krka National Park in Photos
Šibenik: My Favorite Not So Hidden Gem in Croatia
Day 7: Croatian Cooking Class
Learning about and tasting the food that is unique to a specific region or culture is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place and adds an even deeper appreciation of their culinary customs. Up in the mountains of Vrsine, Croatia is a quaint restaurant named Donja Banda where we learned all about Croatian cooking.
Read More: Learning to Cook Croatian Style
Day 8: Sinj and Kotlenice
This one was a very special day of our Croatia trip. It was the day where we met our Croatian relatives and had the opportunity to learn about our heritage firsthand. In the small village of Kotlenice just outside of Sinj, we were embraced with hospitality from family we had never met before, some we never even knew existed. To make this heritage exploration complete, I got to see the homes where my great grandparents grew up. It was a truly memorable moment that I will never forget.
Read More: Heritage Travel: Connecting With My Croatian Roots
Day 9: Zadar and Nin
This was as far north as we traveled during this Croatia trip, as I decided to save Istria for my next visit so I could spend more time there. The three thousand year old city of Zadar is full of history and is the second largest city in Dalmatia. It is full of interesting stories and unique attractions, like its very own sea organ built into the wall along the water and many historical monuments.
Make sure to take home or at least try some Maraschino. Previously considered to be a medicinal potion, Maraschino is a liqueur made from the maraska cherry fruits pulp and the stem and leaves from young and tender branches of the maraska tree.
Nin is the oldest royal town in Croatia and it’s located on an island that is connected to the mainland by two bridges. Known for its medicinal mud, you can visit Queen’s Beach to try it out for yourself. If you remember the large statue of Grgur Ninski from Split, you can also find a smaller version of the statue in Nin where you can again touch his big toe for good luck.
Don’t leave Nin without taking home some salt! Nin has been producing sea salt at their rare saltworks since the time of the Roman Empire. For the most high quality salt, take home the Nin Flower of Salt that is rich in natural minerals providing additional nutrients and digestive regulation.
Day 10 – 12: Split
After Marina, we made the short journey to Split where we spent a few more days. This was another highlight of the Croatia trip, despite being a more popular tourist destination. We spent plenty of time exploring Diocletian’s Palace, learning about the history of the city, and indulging in the delicious food throughout Split.
Read More: 9 Handpicked Things To Do In Split, Croatia
Day 13 – 15: Dubrovnik
The rest of my family flew back home from Split, and I continued my Croatia itinerary on my own taking the bus down to Dubrovnik. Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is the most popular tourist destination in all of Croatia, and the city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. While I don’t think you need more than a few days in Dubrovnik, it is a good location to take advantage of the different day trip options in the area.
Read More: The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Dubrovnik
How I Visited Dubrovnik, Mostar, and Kotor for Under $600 (And How I Could Have Done It For Less)
Day 16: Island of Lokrum
Just a quick 15-minue ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Old Town you will find the charming Island of Lokrum, measuring less than one mile wide. It’s a serene place to spend the day with plenty to see across the island, including peacocks, nude beaches, and a chance to sit on the Iron Throne for those Game of Throne fans, and it even has a well-known legend that involves being cursed by Benedictine monks. The Island of Lokrum was the perfect quiet getaway after being in the crowded streets of Dubrovnik.
Read More: A Secret Getaway on the Island of Lokrum
Day 17: Bosnia & Herzegovina
While this is outside of Croatia, I knew when I was staying in Dubrovnik I wanted to do more than just stay in one city, so a day trip to a neighboring country was definitely worth a visit. I booked this tour with Adriatic Explore. They picked up from Dubrovnik and the tour included a mix of free time on your own and guided portions with a tour guide. We stopped at Pocitelj, a small town that is a beautiful medieval UNESCO World Heritage site before continuing on to Mostar.
Read More: First Impressions of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Day 18: Montenegro
Another perfect border crossing day trip from Dubrovnik, my visit to the gem of Montenegro was too short a stay in my opinion. I would have loved to spend more than a day there. I enjoyed every moment of walking around Budva and Kotor, with the rugged mountains contrasted by the clear, blue waters.
Read More: How Montenegro Enchanted Me Into Returning
Day 19: Island Hopping Tour of the Elaphites
After a lot of time on the road with multi-country day trips, an island hopping tour off the coast of Dubrovnik was just what I needed at this point in the Croatia itinerary. The boat stopped at Koločep, Šipan, and Lopud, the only three inhabited islands that are a part of the Elaphite Islands. It was just what I needed to wind down from being on the go the last two days.
Read More: A Day of Island Hopping From Dubrovnik
Day 20: Cavtat
My final stop was in the small town of Cavtat, only about 30 minutes from Dubrovnik. I had wanted to spend more time outside of the busy streets of Dubrovnik, so Cavtat seemed like the natural fit for my last day being closer to the airport.
If having a very lively party scene is important to you, Cavtat will not be a good fit. But for those traveling with family or for anyone who prefers a more quiet and relaxed destination, you will be in exactly the right place. Cavtat was a much cheaper alternative to staying in Dubrovnik, while also being able to easily access the more popular nearby cities.
Read More: Cavtat: Your Dubrovnik Alternative
Once you nail down your trip plans, I’d advise packing light and even pack in just a backpack if you can. This Croatia itinerary may seem like a lot, especially looking at all the stops on the map, but the whole trip was really a good pace. Keep in mind that I didn’t include any of the Istria region of Croatia, which I decided to save for my next trip when I have more time. We were able to see a lot on this trip, but still managed to have enough down time that we didn’t feel rushed.
If you enjoyed this Croatia itinerary, make sure to take advantage of my travel planning services for your next trip and remember to sign up for my newsletter to receive exclusive Little Things Travel content and sneak peaks of my upcoming trips!
Accommodations: Hotels can be cheaper during the off season, but especially during peak season I would recommend searching for apartments on Booking.com for the best accommodation options. They have tons of affordable choices all throughout Croatia, and you’ll get much more of a local experience! I’ve also found that since my visit, more accommodation options in Croatia are popping up on Airbnb, so be sure to check there as well.
Travel Insurance: It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to travel insurance. I am a strong believer that travel insurance is worth it while exploring the globe. World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Gear: Any new gear I bought for this trip was purchased either from Amazon or REI, like my trusty Turkish towel, a compression sack, my favorite travel shoes, and this clothes line (believe me, you will be washing clothes often after dripping sweat in the heat of Croatian summers).
Buying from these sites will help support Little Things Travel at no additional cost to you. World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, I receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. I do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance. All opinions are my own. If you have any questions about the companies or products mentioned on this page, please reach out to me and I will happily answer them.
NicholasJune 9, 2019 at 11:45 am
Very nice post, Marissa. I visited Croatia and Bosnia Herzegowina just last month. I’d have to say my favourite place in Croatia are the Plitvice Lakes and Mostar in BiH. Best regards, Nicholas
Marissa SuteraJune 10, 2019 at 4:52 pm
Thank you Nicholas, both some of my favorites as well!
Anumeha MittalSeptember 24, 2018 at 2:30 pm
Check out my recent 10 days Balkan (Croatia) Road Trip – https://foodinza.com/2018/09/24/croatia-mesmerizing-beauty-of-red-roofs-and-blue-sea/
EllieApril 27, 2018 at 12:22 pm
Hi, Marissa. Thanks for this great posting! Will it be difficult to get around/communicate with locals if we can only speak English?
Marissa SuteraApril 27, 2018 at 2:56 pm
Hi Ellie, Not at all! I spoke only English (and the teeny bit of Croatian I learned along the way) the whole time I was there. Most people know English and speak it pretty well, especially the younger folks. You will be just fine! 🙂
LeahApril 16, 2018 at 4:07 pm
Hi Marissa, where did you travel home from?
Marissa SuteraApril 17, 2018 at 2:01 pm
Hi Leah! I departed Croatia from Dubrovnik, which worked out well as I had made my way down the coast to end there. But the other way around could also work well, if you worked your way up the coast and departed from the more centrally located Zagreb.
Adriana KupresakOctober 27, 2017 at 6:13 am
Great post! I’m glad you enjoyed my beautiful country! And your intinerary is perfect! xx
NatOctober 12, 2017 at 5:42 am
Nice trip. Me and my friends once stayed in a villa with pool on the island of Krk, it was the best! Lovely scenery, we loved Krk.
Rachel @ RBTSeptember 26, 2017 at 11:58 am
Trogir was on our list but we never made it! Looks like we will have to make it back sometime. Thanks for writing – love that others loved the country too!
Marissa SuteraSeptember 27, 2017 at 2:34 am
Yes, you’ll definitely have to return! It’s a lively little town 🙂
Jade D'saJuly 21, 2017 at 2:01 am
Loving the architecture! Croatia looks absolutely wonderful! Looks like you had a great time!
Marissa SuteraJuly 21, 2017 at 10:36 am
Thank you! It is one of my favorite places!
DanJune 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm
You missed all the islands. They are Croatia’s jewells. I suggest doing Losinj island when you do Istria, also do Cres, Rab and Krk island up North across from Opatilja . But the south islands could be another trip. Hvar, Brac, Korcula, Vis and Mljet are a must
Marissa SuteraJune 20, 2017 at 11:04 am
Sadly I could only do so much in one trip, but I did get to a handful of the islands 🙁 Croatia’s islands could be an entire trip in itself!
DeahJune 2, 2017 at 11:26 am
I’m heading that way in July so thanks for a great overview!
Marissa SuteraJune 2, 2017 at 7:03 pm
You’re welcome! I hope it comes in handy!
Weekend Travel Guide to Zagreb - Little Things Travel BlogMay 10, 2017 at 5:47 am
[…] The Ultimate Croatia Itinerary – Little Things Travel Blog Says: July 27, 2016 at 4:49 pm […]
PatriciaMay 4, 2017 at 3:34 am
Nice over-view for going on a read trip! You did a great job here =)
Very kind regards from Patricia from http://www.croatiastories.de/en/mein-blog/
Marissa SuteraMay 4, 2017 at 6:46 am
LarryJune 30, 2016 at 5:07 pm
That’s a pretty through itinerary … might have to borrow parts of it for when I get to Europe next year!
Marissa SuteraJune 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm
Please do! I’m sure it will come in handy 🙂
ElineJune 25, 2016 at 5:28 am
Loved it! I am going on a roadtrip through croatia soon and you gave me loads of new. Small lesser known cities to visit 🙂 thaanks!!
Marissa SuteraJune 25, 2016 at 6:42 am
So glad to hear it was helpful! Hope you have a blast on your Croatia road trip!