Croatia is a country with over a thousand islands, a long coastline dotted with sun-bleached medieval cities, a cosmopolitan capital, an underrated wine region, and an unfettered inland landscape that sees a fraction of the tourists that the Dalmatian coast brings.
During the pandemic, Croatia was one of the few European countries that remained open to tourism.
While most travelers seem to just visit Dubrovnik or Split for a few days, there is so much more to the country that I think is even better than the famous Dalmatian coast.
Many people spend a week on the coast and go home. This is not how you really should see the country. I suggest at least two weeks so you can get off the coast. But a whole month would allow you to cover most of the country and spend enough time in each place to feel like you have an idea before moving on to the next.
To help you make the most of your time in Croatia, here are a couple of suggested itineraries that you can use as a guide to help you plan.
There are a couple of ways to do Croatia in a week. First, you could spend a week going from Split to Dubrovnik on a boat trip. That’s the most popular way that everyone sees that part of the country. You will move fast but you will see the highlights.
There is a legion of boats, both chartered and hop-on-hop-off, sailing between Split and Dubrovnik. I made one a few years ago (you can read it here).
Croatia: A Week-Long Itinerary
During the high season, prices go up dramatically, but if you time your visit well and go during the mid-season, you can find great deals. However, charter flights can be expensive, with a seven-day trip starting at HRK 13,000-15,000. If you’re in the mood to party, Busabout offers hop-on hop-off boat tours. For a seven or eight-day trip, expect to pay 9,500 HRK.
If you don’t want to spend the week on an organized tour, here’s an alternative itinerary that covers the highlights:
Day 1-3: Split
The picturesque seaside town of Split, Croatia
Start your journey in Split. Split, the second-largest city in Croatia, is a Mediterranean metropolis known for its laid-back atmosphere. There are two main attractions here: it is a hub for ferries and boats that take travelers to various islands in central Dalmatia and it is home to Diocletian’s Palace. The 4th-century palace served as a retirement home for Diocletian, a Roman emperor who was born nearby. After his death in 305 AD, the palace slowly fell into ruin and the city was moved.
Today, you can wander the halls of this Mediterranean mansion and hang out in the cafes and shops that are lined on either side. Do not miss the Cathedral of Saint Duje, the Klis Fortress (which appeared in Game of Thrones), the Museum of Archaeological Monuments of Croatia (which houses some 20,000 relics and artifacts).
Day 3-4: Hvar
The popular party island of Hvar, Croatia
Located just 50 km from Split, Hvar is one of the top destinations for visitors to Croatia. It is famous for receiving 2,724 hours of sunlight a year, making it one of the sunniest places on the planet. Over the past two decades, the main city has drawn a wild party scene.
All boat tours stop here to get drunk and go dancing to the world-famous Carpe Diem.
For a more relaxed place, visit Stari Grad, literally “Old Town”, located on the opposite side of the island from the city of Hvar. Recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, Stari Grad features a maze of narrow, stone-covered streets. It is much quieter than the bustling city of Hvar. While you’re here, be sure to hike through the island’s many olive groves and lavender fields.
Day 5: Vis / Korcula / Mljet
Lush vegetation all over the island of Mljet, Croatia
Take a day trip to one of the aforementioned islands. Vis, which is pronounced “Vees”, was off-limits to everyone except the Yugoslav army until 1989, so the island has a very intact atmosphere (there are no large hotels or resorts here).
The old town of Korcula, in the main town of the island, also called Korcula, is very well preserved and very pleasing to the eye. Stroll through the historic city and you will see the name Marko Polo everywhere. That’s because the city claims, although there is no certain proof, that the legendary traveler came from there. The pošip grape, endemic to the island, produces a fresh and highly drinkable white wine, so be sure to sit down in a café and order a glass.
Mljet is home to a national park and is covered in forest. Legend has it that Ulysses was shipwrecked on Mljet for seven years. In addition to the dense forests, the island is dotted with small villages and some lingering Roman ruins.
Day 6-7: Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s bustling capital, Croatia, seen from the hills above
Explore Dubrovnik, the most visited city in Croatia. This city has gained fame in recent years due to the flood of cruise ships and the filming of Game of Thrones. Walk along the ramparts (200 HRK) and take the cable car to the top of Mount Srd (170 HRK) for an incredible view of this historic city. If there are cruise ships docked in town when you arrive, expect a horde of tourists to invade the walled old town. Also, don’t miss the 17th-century cathedral and the 15th-century clock tower. To get away from the city, take a day trip to Lokrum, an island off the coast where you can swim and hike.