THE QUINTESSENTIAL 7 DAY CROATIA ITINERARY

Dubrovnik Orange roofs

Post Summary: The perfect 7 Day Croatia Itinerary including where to stay and what to do in each place. 

Planning a 7 day Croatia itinerary can be quite the endeavor. The list of amazing things to see and do is endless. From traversing waterfalls, visiting ancient fortified cities, island hopping through the Adriatic Sea, and dining on world-class Italian-Croatian cuisine, it’s no mystery why Croatia is no longer Europe’s best-kept secret.  At first glance, the country may seem small, but upon further research, you’ll soon learn that not only is Croatia long in its shape, but the main highlights are quite spread out from each other. 

That’s why planning ahead is key to maximizing your time there. While I have seen some 7 day Croatia itineraries that have you start from the top of the country in Zagreb and torpedo your way down to Dubrovnik, I don’t think it’s a good idea.  Most of those itineraries are not factoring in travel time, and you will barely have time to enjoy yourself before you have to get moving to your next destination. 

Trying to see all of Croatia in a week is impossible. Ideally, it’s best to take a few things off your list so you can fully enjoy what you can see.  Croatia is one of the most magical places in the world and deserves to be relished.  

I’ve created two separate “7 days in Croatia” itineraries that will hit up the main highlights along with breathing room and space to enjoy your time without a minute by minute schedule. The first is a best of Croatia itinerary focusing on the ever-popular Dubrovnik, Split, and a few days of island hopping. The second 7 day Croatia itinerary is centered on the two magnificent national parks Plitvice and Krka, and the often missed Istrian Region of Croatia. 

The two itineraries can easily be combined to become a 10 day or 2 weeks in Croatia itinerary. We spent 2 weeks there and think it’s the perfect amount of time to see the top highlights.  One week in Croatia is enough to get a glimpse, but if you can do two weeks, go for it! 

At the end is a mini Croatia travel guide for some essential things you’ll need to know when visiting Croatia.

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

7 Days in Croatia Itinerary

Explore the best of Croatia with the ultimate Southern Croatia travel itinerary. 7 Days discovering Dubrovnik, Split, and the neighboring Islands of Hvar and Korcula.

Day 1 to 3: Experience Dubrovnik

Old Town Dubrovnik View
Walking through Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is as beautiful as every picture makes it out to be. Unlike anywhere else, this ancient walled city that is now a UNESCO world heritage site will leave you feeling like you are in another world. Taking in to account travel and arrival time, you’ll have about 2 to 2 1/2 days to explore the Old Town area as well as one day trip.

Highlights of Dubrovnik include walking the iconic fortified city walls of Dubrovnik to get a birds-eye view of the Old Town. If you’re a Game of Thrones fanatic (who isn’t?), you might want to jump in on a walking tour to get all the juicy behind the scenes tidbits of how they filmed in Dubrovnik. 

Dubrovnik is without a doubt, incredible, but the crowds are no joke and something to plan around. Make sure to check out our in-depth guide to Dubrovnik, which includes how to avoid the crowds and the best things to do in Dubrovnik.

Other things to do in Dubrovnik include:

  • Getting lost while exploring the twisting, turning alleys of the Old Town.
  • Drinking cliffside at Buza Bar.
  • Take the cable car up Mt. Srd for glorious sunset views.
  • Kayaking to hidden coves and having a pebble beach all to yourself.
  • Visiting Fort Lovrijenac known as Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar.
  • Lazing at Banje Beach or discovering your own hidden beach.

Dubrovnik is also a perfect jumping-off point for day trips. You can make an easy day trip to Lokrum Island, located 20 minutes away via a ferry, or take a longer trip and visit the awe-inspiring Bay of Kotor in neighboring Montenegro. Another popular day trip is to visit Mostar in Bosnia. 

All the day trips can be done independently by renting a car and going on your own or with a tour that will take care of all transportation.

Where to stay in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has no shortage of accommodations from low budget hostels to high-end exclusive luxury. We chose to stay at an Airbnb because we always prefer the savings of staying at an Airbnb. We stayed at this Airbnb located outside of the Ploce gate to the Old Town. We loved it for its simple decor and proximity to the old town. 

Click here to see other Airbnb accommodations in Dubrovnik.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, Hotel Stari Grad has gotten great reviews and is located within the Old Town. Read TripAdvisor reviews or check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Dubrovnik include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Dubrovnik here.

For more info on what to do in Dubrovnik, check out our complete travel guide to Dubrovnik.

Day 4 and 5 - Island Hopping in Hvar or Korcula

Swimming in the Adriatic Sea
Dalmatian Islands in Croatia

Hop a ferry from Dubrovnik and check out why island hopping is all the rage in Croatia. The inviting Adriatic Sea has over 1000 islands that pepper themselves along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Because you have a limited amount of time, it’s best to visit the islands that are closer to Dubrovnik so you can spend more time on the beach and less time traveling. 

Hvar and Korcula are the best choices since they both have ample ferry choices and are en route to Split (the next stop in your itinerary).  

Hvar vs. Korcula

You really can’t go wrong with either island. Ultimately, it’s about the kind of traveler you are and the experience you are wanting.

Hvar is a more touristed option with a lot of places to dine and drink. It has a reputation for being a party island, so if you are looking for nighttime entertainment, Hvar is the place to go! Overall, it’s a more upscale experience that caters more to tourists.

Highlights of Hvar include walking through the Old Town, hiking up to the Spanish Fortress, climbing Sveti Nikola the island’s highest peak, and indulging in Croatian delicacies and wine.  

Korcula is often called a mini Dubrovnik because it too has an exquisite walled city. It’s a quieter island that doesn’t offer as many fancy food options as Hvar and will be more economical. Overall, Korcula is better for families and visitors looking for a quieter experience.  

Highlights of Korcula include renting a bike or scooter and exploring the island, meandering through the fortified Old Town, and lazing on Lumbarda’s sandy beaches.

They both offer amazing beaches so no need to worry about which is better. 

How to get to Hvar and Korcula

Korcula can be accessed via a two-hour ferry ride from Dubrovnik. During the high season, it’s typical to have three ferries a day. Check here for updated ferry schedules.

If you are traveling in the slow season and want more options than what the ferry offers, you can take a bus from Dubrovnik to Orebic and take a ferry from there to Korcula. The ferries in Orebic operate all year round.

Hvar can be accessed via a roughly three-hour ferry ride from Dubrovnik.  During the high season, it’s typical to have two ferries a day. Check here for updated ferry schedules. 

Another option to get to Hvar is to take a 4-5 hour bus from Dubrovnik to Split and take a ferry from there. It wouldn’t be my first choice since ferry travel is more comfortable to me than a bus, but it’s a good option if you are dead set on seeing Hvar and want other options for arrival times. 

Where to stay in Korcula

We almost always opt to stay in Airbnbs when we travel. Click here to see Airbnb accommodations in Korcula.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, hotels worth checking out in Korcula include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Korcula here.

Where to stay in Hvar

Hvar offers simple apartment stays to high-end luxury. Click here to see Airbnb accommodations in Hvar.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, The Villa Nora Hvar is a highly rated hotel located in the Old Town.  Read TripAdvisor reviews or check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Hvar include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Hvar here.

 

Day 6 and 7: Split

Rovinj Sunset

End your whirlwind trip trough Croatia in its second-biggest city, Split. Visitors tend to be hit or miss on how they feel about the city, but a visit to Croatia isn’t complete without some time spent in this historic city. We loved our time in Split and think it’s a great way to experience a more authentic version of a Croatian city. Unlike Dubrovnik, where most of the residents have fled the Old Town, Croatians still live in the center of Split going about their life. 

When traveling to Split, a must-do is visiting Diocletian’s Palace. It was built in 305 AD for the Roman emperor Diocletian and is now a main thoroughfare of shops and restaurants built into and within the palace walls. It’s a sight to see, and a great way to spend a 1/2 day.  We think the most magical time to visit is right before sunset when it feels like you’ve entered another era.

Other highlights of Split include:

  • Climbing the Bell Tower of St. Domnus Cathedral
  • Strolling the Riva Promenade
  • Climbing Marjan Hill for seaside views
  • Visiting the nearby seaside town of Trogir
  • Sunbathe and swim at Bacvice Beach

Where to stay in Split

We chose to stay in the Old Town of Split so we could be close to the ferries and are happy we did that.  We stayed at this Airbnb located close to Diocletian’s Palace. We loved it and wish we could have had more time there.

Click here to see other Airbnb accommodations in Split.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, Palace Judita Heritage Hotel has great reviews and is next to Diocletian’s Palace. Read TripAdvisor reviews and check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Split include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Split here.

7 Days in Croatia Itinerary

This second 7-day itinerary includes the otherworldly Plitvice Lakes, Krka Waterfalls, Zadar, and the magical but often missed region of Istria.

For this itinerary to work, you will need to rent a car. Not sure if you want to rent a car in Croatia? Check out our guide to renting a car in Croatia to get all your questions answered. If you’re certain you don’t want to rent a car, then you will need to pare down the itinerary to account for bus routes and tour guide times.  But seriously, rent a car so you can experience the ultlimate 7 day Croatia road trip.

Day 1: Zagreb

Zagreb Farmers Market

Fly into Croatia’s cosmopolitan city of Zagreb and spend what time you have left strolling through Downtown Zagreb, taking in the sights and stopping for espresso at one of the many cafes that line Jelacic Square. Admittedly, your time is limited in Zagreb since its being used mainly as a jumping-off point to get you to Istria. With so little time, you can keep it simple and do as the Croatians do and stop for a cup of espresso. Cafe culture is huge in Croatia and is an essential part of the Croatian experience.  You’re bound to see locals spending three to four hours sipping a single cup of expresso, happily chatting away with friends.

Other highlights of Zagreb include:

  • Dolac market to pick up fresh produce and local delicacies.
  • Zagreb Cathedral
  • The quirky Museum of Broken Relationships that displays objects and stories of failed relationships.
  • The Zagreb art scene is thriving and you’ll often see stunning mural galleries lining the streets.

Where to stay in Zagreb

We chose to stay right in the heart of Zabreb so we could walk around rather than use our car or a taxi service. We stayed at this Airbnb located five minutes away from the center of town. We loved it and the host even picked us up from the airport for a small fee.

Click here to see other Airbnb accommodations in Zagreb.

If you’re wanting a more standard hotel experience, the Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria has great reviews, is located close to the city center, and has nice perks like free breakfast and free parking. Read TripAdvisor reviews and check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Zagreb include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Zagreb here.

Day 2 and 3: Explore Istria

Wake up early to get your rental car and take a short road trip to the idyllic seaside town of Rovinj. Located in the region of Istria, Rovinj and the accompanying hilltop towns will satisfy every romantic notion you have of European charm.  Located on a heart-shaped peninsula, Istria is famous for being a premier foodie destination, with its award-winning wines, truffle laced dishes, and locally grown olive oils.  If you have an extra day or two or three to add to your itinerary, spend it in Istria. 

For the next two days, base yourself out of Rovinj and get love drunk on this Italian influenced area of Croatia.  Spend a day milling about Rovinj, exploring all the hidden alleyways and seaside cafes. 

Other highlights of Rovinj include:

  • St. Euphemia Cathedral and Bell Tower
  • The Farmers Market
  • Sunbathing and swimming at Monte Beach or Lone Bay
For your second day in Istria, take a day trip to explore some of the hilltop towns of the region. Perennial favorites are the highest hilltop town Motovun and the artist’s haven of Groznjan. You can explore both in a day and include a fun tour like truffle hunting or wine tasting.
 

Where to stay in Rovinj

We chose to stay right in the heart of Rovinj to make the most of our time there. The Airbnb we stayed at is no longer available, but there are no shortage of amazing Airbnb accommodations in Rovinj.

Click here to see Airbnb accommodations in Rovinj.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, the Hotel Spiritu Santo is a stylish hotel located in a historic 1920’s building. It has excellent reviews and is in the Rovinj town center. Read TripAdvisor reviews and check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Rovinj include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Rovinj here.

Day 4: Pula

Drive to Pula to spend a 1/2 day exploring the largest city in Istria. Famous for its summer festivals and for having the most intact Roman Coliseum outside of Italy. A 1/2 day is enough time to visit the city’s main attraction, the Coliseum, as well as walk around and grab a bite to eat. 

If you want to spend more time in Pula, other nature-based attractions include Brijuni National Park and Cape Kamenjak.

After your 1/2 day exploring Pula, take a scenic three-hour road trip to get to your accommodations near Plitvice Lakes National Park before sunset. Arriving before sunset allows you the comfort of not having to drive at night and also gives you plenty of time to rest before your early wake-up time for tomorrow’s activities.

Where to stay in Plitvice

Most accommodations near Plitvice Lakes National Park will be simple in what they offer. Since we were only spending one night and arriving in the evening, we chose the most budget accommodations through Airbnb. We stayed here, and it was perfect for what we needed…a comfortable bed. 

Click here to see more Airbnb accommodations near Plitvice Lakes National Park.

If you want more amenities than an Airbnb can offer, you can always stay in one of the three hotels located within the park:  They will be more expensive but are good options if you don’t have a rental car or if you want to be as close as possible to the park.

Or, you can compare other hotels near Plitvice here.

Day 5: Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zadar

Plitvice National Park Views
waterfalls at Plitvice National Park
Pathways in Plitvice

Set your alarm for EARLY O CLOCK in the morning so you can beat the crowds and arrive at Plitvice right when it opens. During the peak season, the park opens at 7:00 AM, which means you should be there at 6:59  AM. No really, sacrifice sleep for a day to experience the beauty and splendor of this UNESCO world heritage site. Thousands of people are bussed in every day from Zagreb and Split, and the park can get up to 15,000 visitors a day. 

Wear comfortable shoes for your day out hiking and exploring the 16 cascading lakes and over 90 waterfalls. The lakes are famous for its ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors ranging from turquoise to azure to grey. The colors appearance is based on the number of minerals and organisms in the water and the placement of the sun.

You’ll want to leave around 3:00 to 4:00 PM to make the short 1 1/2 hour drive to Zadar. That’s plenty of time to eat lunch in the park and take in the beauty of Plitvice.

Once you arrive in Zadar, you can check into your accommodations and settle in before heading out to the old town of Zadar to catch the sunset at the famous Sea Organ. The sea organ is an urban installation and a musical instrument played by the wind and waves of the Adriatic Sea.  What the heck does that mean? A staircase leading into the sea hides 35 organ pipes underneath it so that with every twist and turn of the sea, the most haunting, mystical melody is played. It’s fantastic and strange and an absolute delight. Grab some gelato beforehand and marvel in this unique experience.

Afterward, you can check out another art installation, the Greeting to the Sun, that comes to life after the sun goes down. Designed by Nikola Basic, the same artist who did the Sea Organ, the sun salutation is made out of 300 photo-sensitive glass plates that absorb energy from the sun. When the sun sets, the lights illuminate and create a dazzling light show.

Where to stay in Zadar

Since your time is limited in Zadar, it’s best to stay in Old Town or within proximity to the Old Town. We chose to stay in this cute little apartment right outside of the entrance to the Old Town because the apartment had free parking, and it was affordable. 

Click here to see Airbnb accommodations in Zadar.

If you want a more standard hotel experience, the Apartments Marina offers stylish rooms within five minutes from Old Town. It’s close to the beach and has a playground right next to it. Read TripAdvisor reviews and check out current rates here.

Other hotels worth checking out in Zadar include:

Or, you can compare other hotels in Zadar here.

Day 6: Krka National Park

Swimming at Krka Waterfalls

Wake up early to make the hour drive to visit Croatia’s other famous waterfall, Skradinski Buk, at Krka National Park. Often, visitors will question which one to visit, Krka or Plitvice. We think they both warrant a visit and are spectacular for different reasons. One of the main reasons people love Krka Waterfalls is that unlike Plitvice, you can swim in the water!

Krka National Park is based around the Krka River and includes seven waterfalls. Most people come to visit the main lower waterfall where you are allowed to swim, but the park also offers easy hiking trails and optional boat trips to the river island Visovac which has a Franciscan Monastery and Roman catacombs.

You’ll want to spend 1/2 day there to get the most of your time before you head to Split to spend the evening in the Old Town. If you are using a rental car, you can drop it off in Split since you won’t need transportation, unless you plan to use it to drive to the Split Airport.

*Check the first 7 day Croatia itinerary to see our recommended places for where to stay in Split. 

Day 7: Split

From here, you can use the first 7 day itinerary, which includes Split to plan your time there. If you’re low on time, park yourself on the Riva or within the Old Town and enjoy an espresso while savoring your last hours in Croatia.

CROATIA TRAVEL GUIDE

Now that you’ve got your Croatia itinerary all planned out, here are some key things you’ll need to know when planning a trip to Croatia.

How to get to Croatia

There are five main International Airports in Croatia, located in Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Pula, Split, and Zadar.

The biggest airports that will offer the most flights are Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Split, but Zadar and Pula can be good options if you are looking to travel to a specific region. 
 

When to visit Croatia

The high season in Croatia is July and August when hundreds of thousands flock to the country. Temperatures will be high, and prices will be higher. If you’re planning to travel in that period, be prepared that popular sights will be VERY crowded and you will need to reserve everything in advance, including your hotels, car rentals, tours, and ferry tickets.

The ideal time to visit is in the shoulder season from May to mid-June and mid-September to October. Crowds will have significantly diminished, and accommodation prices will be lower. The weather will be warm, and if you travel in the early Fall, the temperature is still warm enough to swim in the water.  

We think late September is the best month to visit Croatia because the weather is still warm, the white truffle season will have begun, and the crowds will have lessened.

The off-season is going to be in the colder months of November-April. You can, of course, travel then and experience a more authentic Croatia with fewer tourists, but many tours, hotels, and restaurants will shut down for the season.

Renting a Car in Croatia

If you’re doing the first itinerary, there’s no real need to rent a car unless you’re making a long day trip to Montenegro and want to explore on your own time. Taking a car onto the ferries is an extra hassle, and you won’t need one on the islands of Hvar or Korcula.

If you’re doing the second itinerary, we STRONGLY recommend getting a rental car so you can fully enjoy your time in the northern part of the country. 

You can check out our full guide here on renting a car in Croatia and everything you need to know.

If you are opting out of renting a car, you can use this site to figure out local bus routes.

What currency is used in Croatia?

Croatia currency is the Croatian Kuna and is often abbreviated to HRK or KN. Some places will accept Euros but be prepared for a poor exchange rate. 

Credit cards are mostly accepted, but there will be places that only accept Kuna, so it’s best to be prepared with both.
 

What language do they speak in Croatia?

Croatian is the primary language of Croatia with Italian, German, and English being the next most common languages spoken. English is widely spoken in the touristed sections of Croatia and we found it to be easy to get by with the bare minimum of Croatian we had acquired on our trip.  

Thanks for checking out our quintessential 7 day Croatia Itinerary! Let us know if you have any juicy tidbits to share about Croatia or if you have any questions. 

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