I spent 2 weeks in the summer of 2017 exploring Croatia with my family. There is enough to experience and explore in this not-so-hidden-gem for a month. Limited time off and other realities for most of us demand a two-week Croatia itinerary.
The Croatia itinerary we followed, gave us an opportunity to visit UNESCO Heritage sites like Plitvice national park and Ston walls, relax in beautiful islands of Hvar and Vis, explore medieval cities of Split and Dubrovnik.
This itinerary is suitable for family travel, also for travellers who desire to balance the top attractions and city sightseeing with island relaxation and adventure activities. Croatia offers several adventure activities – cycling, kayaking, diving, and we grabbed them with both hands.
2 days in Slovenia was a last-minute addition to our itinerary. We had extra time in Zagreb and decided to use it to visit the lovely city of Ljubljana and stay at the scenic Lake Bled area.
Croatia Itinerary Overview –
Zagreb (1 night) – Lake Bled, Slovenia (1 night) – Zagreb (1 night) – Plitvice national park (1 night) – Split (2 nights) – Hvar (3 nights) – Vis (3 nights) – Dubrovnik (3 nights)
Day 1: Zagreb
We landed in Zagreb via a connect through Frankfurt one late afternoon. By the time we checked into our hotel and settled in, it was already evening. Thankfully, Zagreb gets at least 15 hours of sunlight.
We started with the main square, Ban Josip Jelacic square and took in the drama – the views, the people thronging about, and the energy. My husband and daughter settled into having ice-cream at the swanky Millenium, while I visited the unusual-to-say-the-least Museum of Broken Relationships.
Even if you give this museum a miss, strolling around Upper Town – a charming area full of interesting landmarks, museums and small cafes – is recommended. Another recommended area to explore is the pedestrian-only Tkalčićeva Street, a beautiful street lined with restaurants, cafes and small boutiques.
Day 2 – 3: Ljubljana / Lake Bled
We had decided to limit our time in Zagreb, and while a couple of days are hardly enough to explore neighbouring Slovenia, we did get a delightful whiff and hopefully, would be back someday.
The next morning, we picked up our rental car and drove down to Ljubljana. A beautiful city! I cannot recommend it enough. My favourite part was the pedestrian-only town center with its colourful buildings.
We did an entertaining food walk in this city – read more on the food walk in Ljubljana. After spending few hours in the city, we drove to our charming B & B in Lake Bled.
We hadn’t planned any activity around Lake Bled. I do recommend renting cycles and exploring the area, for couples with older kids (or without kids). We wanted to reach Zagreb by early evening and thought a visit to Postojna caves (a subterranean cave, one of the key tourist attractions, about 1.5-hour drive away) would eat up the whole day.
We decided on taking a hike in the Vintgar gorge which was just a 15-minute drive away. The walk turned out to be an easy and satisfying half-day trip from Bled – something we enjoyed together as a family.
Perhaps because it was a Friday, the drive back to Zagreb had a lot more traffic than what we got coming to Ljubljana.
Day 4 – 5: Plitvice National Park
We drove to the most visited attraction in Croatia – Plitvice national park. We reached there by evening and before going to our charming B & B, we parked opposite Entrance 2 and explored the Upper Lakes area. As luck would have it, we had this area mostly to ourselves in the evening.
Even if you do minimalist research on Croatia, you will be warned about the crazy crowds that visit the Plitvice park during summer. This park plays host to more than 1 million visitors each year.
To beat the crowds, we woke up early the next day, had a big breakfast and went to Entrance 1 of the park. We managed to reach Entrance 1 by 8 am and the Lower Lakes area was already crowded. Here is what we did to stay away from the crowds and get the best viewpoints in the park.
After having lunch at a restaurant near Entrance 1, we drove down to Split, returned the rental car and checked into our hotel in the old town. The buzz in the old town during summer is marvellous, and I loved our decision to stay in the old town.
Day 6: Split
We woke up to some Dalmatian singing – we were staying at the Vestibul Palace – by a group that was performing nearby for tourists. We spent the day roaming around the old town in Split – we explored the underground caves, bought ferry tickets for next day, had long lazy meals, climbed the bell tower and soaked in the atmosphere.
Do read my guest post on what to do in Split for a day.
Day 7 – 9: Hvar island
The Croatia itinerary we followed gave us ample time to relax on 2 different islands. We took a morning (Jadrolinjia) ferry to Hvar.
The tag of “one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world” sits well on Hvar. This being June, there is breathing space. We were transferred to our resort – Little Green Bay, a new luxury property set within a secluded bay.
We like to indulge in some activities during our travel – sometimes individually and at times, together as a family where possible. Hvar offered some opportunities – a cycling tour on offbeat trails that my husband loved and my first time diving experience in the Adriatic sea.
Hvar has a reputation of being a party town. While that is true, this beautiful island also offers a lot to couples and families. We rented a car in Hvar town to explore the island. You could drive through Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and look at old olive tree plantations and lavender fields. And visit the towns of Jelsa and Vrboska on the island.
For the culturally inclined, a visit to the Fortica is a must. Even if you are uninterested in the history, the views looking down over Hvar town and Pakleni islands are stunning.
For Things to Do in Hvar, read – Hvar: one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world
Day 10 – 11: Vis island
We planned to spend the next 2 days in Vis, one of the furthest inhabited islands in Croatia. Direct ferry plies only once a week from Hvar to Vis, so a trip to this island needs some advance planning.
Instead of taking 2 ferries at different times – morning ferry from Hvar to Split, and the evening ferry from Split to Vis – we found a boat taxi. There are several you would find docked in Hvar town, and it is a matter of negotiating the price for a private transfer to Vis.
Cycling is popular in Vis, my husband did another off-road cycling trip with a local. And then the day went on an interesting Military tour. Tourists were not allowed on the island of Vis prior to 1989 and it was the military base for the Yugoslav National Army. This makes for some unique spots on this island.
The next morning, with increasing winds and choppy sea, our kayaking tour was cancelled. We rented cycles to explore the village of Kut and Vis town in an easy way.
Day 13: Makraska Riviera / Ston
The morning started early with us on a Krilo ferry from Vis island to Split.
In Split, we cancelled our plan of taking a ferry to Dubrovnik and opted to drive instead. We rented a car just for the day (via Last minute rental) and drove towards Makarska. What a wonderful drive!
En route, we stopped at Mali Ston for lunch and climbed the Ston walls thereafter. Ston, in my opinion, is quite underrated. The afternoon we visited, there was hardly any visitor to be found.
The Walls of Ston are a series of defensive stone walls, originally more than 7 km long (today 5.5 km long wall links Ston to Mali Ston). They surrounded and protected the city of Ston, part of the erstwhile Republic of Ragusa.
And then we dropped off the car in Lapad, before taking a taxi to the old town of Dubrovnik.
Day 14 – 15: Dubrovnik
Our Croatia itinerary ended in the touristy and yet charming Dubrovnik. We loved staying in the old town (apartment booked via Dubrovnik Rentals). We woke up early to walk the old town walls; the stunning views of the Adriatic Sea and the entire old town don’t disappoint.
We had booked the sunset kayaking tour, and that turned out to be a good, albeit a tiring experience. There are at least 7 or 8 companies outside Pile Gate, that run kayaking tours around Dubrovnik, and we were very happy with our choice of Adventure Dalmatia.
The cable car ride to the top of Srd hill, just behind the walled city, was the highlight of the next day. The Imperial fortress on top of Srd hill, hosts the Museum of the Patriotic War, with an extensive collection. A visit to the Franciscan Monastery on Placa street was interesting.
For more information, do read my Guest Post – The Best Things to Do In Dubrovnik
Day 16: Morning flight back home.
For additional information for planning your trip to Croatia, visit the Croatia Tourist Board.
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If you’ve been to Croatia, what was the favourite part of your trip?
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