Home to Dubrovnik referred to as “The Pearl of the Adriatic”, filled with historical sites from the era of the Roman Empire and known for its exquisite cuisine and growing wine industry, Croatia is a popular travel destination attracting more and more international tourists every year.
The country is geographically diverse, and it is a perfect destination for both the active traveller and visitors seeking a tranquil getaway. In our 8 Day Itinerary for Croatia, we have gathered it all – there will be recommendations for things to do and see, places to explore but also tips about where and what to eat, and where to wind down or simply enjoy the picturesque Croatian sunsets.
Of course you can do this trip on your own, however, take it from me it’s easier to let Traverse Journeys take the reins and organize everything from hotels, transfers and tours for you – Sit back, relax and enjoy this trip with Traverse Journeys. Use the promo code SF100 to get $100 off your booking!
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Day 1- Zagreb
Even though international flights now go to several cities in Croatia, Zagreb, the capital, is still the main airport, and that’s where your 8-day-long journey across Croatia will begin. Zagreb has an incredible atmosphere, so rather than jumping head-first into full-time sightseeing, we recommend you spend the first day relaxing and taking your time to arrive and settle in the Croatian capital.
Not sure where to stay in Zagreb? Take a look at Hotel As, tranquilly hidden in the green belt of Zagreb city centre. Do not let its lush and peaceful surroundings fool you. In spite of the secluded feel, all the essential Zagreb venues and the city’s cultural and historical features are within easy reach from the hotel.
Hotel As has an on-site restaurant and bar, yet in the evening we recommend you take a walk through the lively nightlife area of the Upper Town. Enjoy dinner in an atmospheric setting, and try some of the traditional Croatian specializes made from fresh local ingredients sourced from the famous Dolac Market.
Day 2 – Exploring Zagreb
Zagreb Walking Tour
Today the active explorations of the Croatian capital begin with a fun walking tour where you can learn about Zagreb’s rich history. Your guide will tell you the story of two settlements called Kaptol and Gradec that essentially merged and formed what we now know as the city of Zagreb. The tour will pass by famous landmarks such as the fortified Lotrscak Tower and St. Mark’s Church. Its unique tiled roof makes the church a remarkable Zagreb icon!
Lunch in Zagreb
2 hours of walking have probably made you hungry. Ask your local tour guide for restaurant recommendations or tips on what local delicacies to try while in Zagreb and explore eateries around the main square! Take your time with lunch to recharge energy for the afternoon explorations. Personally I loved a little cafe called Melt where you can enjoy avocado on toast or a delicious smoothie bowl.
The Museum of Broken Relationships
Welcome to the museum where… broken hearts can live forever! The Museum of Broken Relationships invites you on an emotional journey around the world through hundreds of unhappy love stories and break-ups. The museum has an ever-growing collection of items, each is a memento of a broken relationship.
The objects are accompanied by an intimate, yet anonymous story of its contributor. The goal of the museum is to offer a safe space and a chance to overcome an emotional breakdown through creativity – by contributing to a universal museum collection.
Museum of Broken Relationships was initiated as an art project by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in 2006 in Zagreb. The museum is open every day from 9 AM with longer opening hours in the summer season.
OR Mirogoj Cemetery
If you want to head out of the hustle and bustle of the city, I would recommend catching a taxi or Uber to the Mirogoj Cemetery which is a 5 minute drive from the Upper Town of Zagreb. Mirogoj Cemetery is huge, you could easily spend a few hours here wandering around, taking in the architecture and intricate sculptures.
Make sure to take some insect repellent as the mosquitoes at the cemetery try to eat you alive.
Day 3: Visit Plitviče Lakes
Today, your Croatian adventures starts early to guarantee enough time for exploring Plitviče Lakes National Park. It is one of Croatia’s oldest and largest nature reservoirs, listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The park is known for 16 picturesque lakes that are connected by waterfalls. Home to animal species like the European pond turtle and the brown bear (which you probably won’t see – Dont worry!), Plitviče Lakes National Park is a protected nature reservoir where swimming is strictly forbidden, so the main activities include hikes and mountain walks.
Start your hike at the lower lakes for 1 – 1.5 hours, and stop for a picnic lunch in nature. For the second part of the trek, you will take the boat to the upper lakes where you can continue hiking for another 1 – 2 hours or simply relax at the park café and enjoy the tranquillity, and beautiful views of the pristine Croatian nature.
Drive to Zadar
In the afternoon, continue your journey throughout Croatia, heading towards Zadar. The drive will be around 2 hours, so you should arrive in the early evening hours, right in time for quick hotel check-in and dinner.
Not sure where to stay in Zadar? We highly recommend Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel, located in Zadar’s historic Old Town, very close to Zadar’s famous St Donatus’ Church. For a homey feel with a sleek look, we suggest booking Zadar’s Art Hotel Kalelarga. The hotel features 10 thematically designed guest rooms, and it is located in Zadar’s vibrant city centre, on the famous Kalelarga Street.
Regardless of your choice of accommodation, head to the Old Town area for dinner (plenty of delicious, local dining options) and a relaxed stroll to soak up Zadar’s after-sunset atmosphere.
Day 4 – Travel from Zadar to Split and visit Diocletian’s Palace
You will feel different city energy in the morning, which is why we recommend you start your fourth day in Croatia with a walk around Zadar. Prepare to see stunning pieces of architecture and a number of important historical sites. The Church of St. Donatus, a remarkably designed circular Byzantine-style church from the beginning of the 9th century, named after the bishop who commissioned it, it is a must on your Zadar itinerary!
Some of the more contemporary city attractions are the “Monument to the Sun” or “The Greeting to the Sun” that was completed in 2008 and “The Sea Organ” that opened to the public in 2005. The Sun Monument is an art installation built of 300 multi-layered glass plates arranged on the same level as the waterfront, whereas “The Sea Organ” is a large-scale sound art piece.
Both installations are created by Croatian architect Nikola Bašić, and whereas the “Monument to the Sun” is designed to be a sign of communication with nature, “The Sea Organ” functions as an independent, experimental music instrument that creates sound based on the interaction between the art piece structure and the sea waves.
Travel to Spilt
When you have ticked the most spectacular Zadar landmarks of your itinerary, it is time to head to Split! The city is less than 160 kilometres away from Zadar; prepare for a drive of approximately 2 hours.
In doubt about the best accommodation in Split? Hidden behind the magnificent theatre building and slightly out of the main tourist tracks, Lanterna Rooms are one of our top recommendations for your hotel in Split! Lanterna rooms combine the authenticity of Split’s past with its contemporary, dynamic city spirit. The location is great for city walks, but it is also fairly close to the city’s green areas.
Another noteworthy mention is the Priska Luxury Rooms! Luxuriously decorated, fully air-conditioned and equipped with the newest technology, the rooms are a great pick for the design-conscious travellers. And the location is superb; only 500 meters from one of Split’s main attractions: Diocletian’s Palace.
“Eco Walk Talk” with GreenSail to Diocletian’s Palace
Diocletian’s Palace is an ancient residence that was built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Rather than a palace, it is a fortress, forming about half of Split’s old town. The remains of Diocletian’s Palace were officially added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979.
For a comprehensive introduction and a walk through the vast remains of the old palace, join the Eco Walk Talk with Split’s GreenSail! GreenSail is an organization whose aim is to raise awareness around the environmental policies in Croatia through the promotion of environmentally conscious practices and responsible use of the country’s natural resources.
Apart from an in-depth introduction to Split’s history, on the walking tour, your Green Sail tour guide will also tell you about important contemporary environmental issues that affect the town and its area. The tour is 1 hour long.
Wander around Spilt
After your walking tour and your morning of travelling you might be hungry, there are plenty of options to have lunch within the Diocletian’s Palace and the surrounding areas. Once you have a belly full of food, you can either head back to your hotel to relax for a few hours or make your way up the Cathedral of St Domnius’ and the Bell Tower to check out views of Spilt from above, it costs around 35 kuna to enter the tower.
Sunset at Marjan Hill
No better place in Split to view the setting sun than the beautiful Marjan Hill from where you will have a panoramic view of the town (best views are from the western cliffs). Often referred to as “lungs of the city”, Marjan Hill is a protected cultural landscape area, which means that any real estate development on the hill is prohibited.
You can get to the top of Marjan Hill on foot (prepare to climb some stairs!) or you can rent a bike and go up one of the designated cycling trails! The walk from the harbour to the look out point is approx 10-15 minutes, just type in Marjan Hill Stairs into your GPS.
Day 5 – Explore Split and join a beach clean-up with a local organization
Beach cleanup excursion with GreenSail
It is time to re-visit the green change-makers from GreenSail! This time, we encourage you to join a beach clean-up, organized to promote the development of sustainable tourism. Learn about how locals approach eco-tourism practices and what is being done to protect the Croatian coastal communities and the country’s natural resources.
The beach clean-up will not only be an amazing way to give back and contribute to a cleaner Croatian coastline and a safer environment for the beach and underwater fauna, but you will also get the chance to meet engaged local ambassadors, volunteers and interns from GreenSail. You will get the chance to connect with the local activist community over a good cause – it will be a great addition to your Croatian holiday.
Island hopping from Split
The three small islands of Hvar, Brac and Vis form the most popular island group of Central Dalmatia, and they are all easily accessible by boat transfer/ferry from Split. The island of Hvar is the most popular of the three; it is known to throw unforgettable parties. Hvar is also great for rock climbing and scuba diving, and a town is also a perfect spot for a simple, relaxed stroll. The Riva (harbourfront) is full of cosy eateries and small cafés where you can sit back and relax or try some of the local sweets!
The clearest waters, you will find around the island of Vis which, among the three islands, is the furthest from the Croatian mainland. Popular tourist activity is a hike up Mount Hum, perfect for visitors who want to add a bit of exercise into their island explorations!
The island of Brac is known for Zlatni Rat beach, located close to the town of Bol which is the largest tourist centre on the island. Do not head to Bol if you are seeking a tranquil island getaway, but if you are seeking some urban bustle, the city is filled with restaurants, cafés and sites you can explore. Going on foot is not the only way you can explore Brac though! It is popular to hire mopeds and cruise around the more pristine parts of the island.
One afternoon is not enough time to visit all three islands, so based on your interests, choose to visit the island that best matches your preferences and activity level! If you are concerned about the travel time, go to Brac, as it is the closest one to the mainland.
OR Explore the medieval fortress of Klis
If you prefer staying on the mainland for your afternoon activity, we recommend a visit to the Klis Fortress. Its history goes back more than 2000 years, and the site used to serve as a seat of the Croatian kings after the fall of the Roman Empire.
The Klis Fortress is one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets. In spite of it being an astonishing historical landmark, it only welcomes 15,000 people annually! Explore this ancient site with freedom and prepare for amazing views from the top of the fortress. The Fortress was also used in the filming of Meereen in Game of Thrones.
The Klis Fortress is located 20 minutes north of Split, in the village of Klis, and the daily opening hours are from 9 am to 4 pm. Entry fee is 40 kunas for adults and 20 kunas for children (around 6 USD and 3 USD respectively).
Day 6 – Head to Dubrovnik via Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ston
From Split, you will head towards Dubrovnik, known to many from “Game of Thrones” which was filmed in several locations within the city. Your drive will go through a section of land belonging to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which gives you a chance to visit the splendid city of Mostar!
Mostar got its name from the city’s breathtaking landmark “Stari Most” which translates to “Old Bridge”. Built in the 16th century over Neretva River, the bridge stood for 427 years until November 9th, 1993, when it was destroyed by the Croatian military forces. The site was rebuilt and is now featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
For most spectacular views of “Stari Most”, climb up the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, a remarkable piece of Ottoman architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also suggest you spend some time getting to know more about the recent war history of the area. To see examples of characteristic architecture and feel Mostar’s authentic vibe, head to the Old Bazaar (Bazar Kujundžiluk).
The Kujundžiluk quarter is the oldest in Mostar, with winding cobbled streets, filled with cafés and restaurants where you should stop for a coffee and Bosnian baklava (sweet dessert consisting of layers of thin pastry and layers of chopped nuts and syrup).
Oyster Happy Hour in Mali Ston
In any Croatia travel guide, you can be sure to find a mention about the exquisite seafood and delicious oysters that you can find around Ston! The best place to try the seafood is Mali Ston (meaning ‘Little Ston’), located on the upper side of the Peninsula, about 1.5 kilometre away from Ston. Most tourists choose to go to Mali Ston on foot; it is a short and easy walk from Ston. In the early evening hours, find a local eatery that will serve you oysters right from where they are farmed. If you want to make your dining experience in Mali Ston even more unique, you can try dining at one of the boats/floating eateries.
After the Oyster Happy Hour you’ll continue your trip towards Dubrovnik. The drive will be approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. If you’re not sure where to stay in Dubrovnik, we can recommend the Hotel Lero.
The hotel has been operating since the 1970s and it is a unique blend of ancient architecture, sleek interior design and all the modern comforts you may long for during your stay. The hotel is conveniently situated within 1 kilometre from the city centre, so it is a perfect point of departure for your Dubrovnik explorations on the following day.
Day 7 – Dubrovnik
If you decide to stay at Lero Hotel Dubrovnik, you can enjoy an plentiful buffet breakfast in the morning and head to Dubrovnik’s Old Town (called “Stari Grad” by the locals) after breakfast.
Dubrovnik City Walls
One of the main attractions of Dubrovnik’s Old Town is the ancient fortress walls (the part of town very well known to fans of “Game of Thrones”). Built as early as the 13th century, the walls surround the city centre, making it a car-free zone, perfect for a relaxed morning stroll. Take your time to walk around the almost 2 kilometres long city walls.
Afternoon in Dubrovnik Old Town
Old Town is also the perfect place for shopping. If you want to buy some local souvenirs, spices or simply soak up more of Dubrovnik’s unique atmosphere, spend your afternoon wandering through the cobblestone streets, exploring their hidden gems.
The walk will be interesting for architecture enthusiasts too, as you will find examples of various building styles like Gothic (eg. Rector’s Palace currently housing a history museum), Renaissance (Sponza Palace) and Baroque (the church of St. Blaise).
Hike up Mt. Srd
If you prefer something more active in the afternoon head out to Mt. Srd, a hill just behind Dubrovnik’s walled city. Mt. Srd is a popular viewpoint from where you can enjoy stunning views of the walled city centre, the Adriatic Sea and Lokrum; an island just 600 meters from Dubrovnik’s coast.
At the top of Mt. Srd you will find Fort Imperial, a defense structure built during the Napoleonic Wars by the French. Today Fort Imperial also houses a permanent art exhibition dedicated to Dubrovnik during the Homeland War that took place between 1991-1995.
Another popular site on Mt. Srd that was marked by the Homeland War, is the large white stone cross. It had been destroyed in the early 1990s and has since been rebuilt. You can hike up the mountain following a zigzagged pathway from the city centre. There is also a cable car for those who don’t want to make the hike, the cable car costs 170 Croatia Kuna for an adult round trip or you can take a taxi or Uber to the top if you don’t want to wait in the cable car line.
Day 8 – Departure day from Dubrovnik
How much you can do on your last day in Croatia will depend on when your flight is. Dubrovnik Airport is located in the village of Cilipi, about 21 kilometres from Dubrovnik Old Town. There is no train service to the airport so you will have to take a taxi or Uber and the drive usually takes around 30 minutes.
If your flight is scheduled in the afternoon, you can still enjoy a little more time in Dubrovnik before your departure. Plan a visit to one of Dubrovnik’s many museums, for example, the Dubrovnik Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art that houses a collection of three thousand artworks, including paintings, sculptures, installations, video art pieces and many more. The Museum of Modern Art is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am. Or visit Fortress Lovrijenac aka “Kings Landing” from Game of Thones. If you purchased a ticket to visit the city walls, this ticket will likely include entrance to the Fortress as well.