With long coastlines, home to over a thousand islands and crossed by the Dinaric Alps, it's easy to see why it was difficult to spend only 1 week in Croatia. We want to share our Croatia itinerary with important information about each location to ensure you have the best of times. Our itinerary will offer tips on travelling to Croatia and best places to add to your bucket list. We will also detail some of the hotels we recommend which have something unique to offer for each destination around the country. Get ready and join us on the best Croatia itinerary which reveals you how to best spent 1 week in Croatia.
Croatia Itinerary: The best 1 week in Croatia - Contents
1 week in Croatia
To be perfectly honest, it still feels a little unreal that not long ago we spent 1 week in Croatia. Our Croatia itinerary was perfect for our needs, and just about the right length. We visited Croatia on holiday which was definitely needed after several marketing campaigns with different destinations. It's been a while since we took a proper holiday with no digital distractions around... in fact, our last time we visited a place purely was pleasure was during our honeymoon in Seychelles. So naturally, we wanted to have at least 1 week in Croatia, where we could visit some of our top bucket list destinations. During our Croatian road trip, we visited Dubrovnik, Split and Plitvice Lakes. So here is how to organise your own Croatia itinerary to fit your perfect holiday needs.
Quick Croatia itinerary
- 2 nights in Dubrovnik
- 3 nights in Split
- 2 nights in Plitvice Lakes
If it's possible, we recommend extending your Dubrovnik stay to 3 nights instead of 2, because we definitely think you should spend a day trip to the Bay of Kotor, which is unimaginably beautiful.
Dubrovnik is a really beautiful place and if you have the chance to drive on some of its upper roads, the old town with its fortified city walls unravel itself like a true gem on the Adriatic Sea. One glance at Dubrovnik and you will instantly realise why it was chosen as one of the main Game of Thrones filming locations.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
There are so many types of accommodation in Croatia: luxury hotels, budget hostels, apartments and even camping options. We settled for a mid-range apartment not far from the Old Town. We wanted to be in one of the apartments located on the hill, so we can sip our morning coffee with a view. If you wish to be just minutes from the beach, then we recommend one of the many hotels located by the shores.
What you need to know about Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a city located in southern Croatia on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. It's especially known for its Old Town which became the King's Landing for the award-winning tv series, Game of Thrones. With snow being very rare in Dubrovnik, the city is an ideal location for year-round tourists. Summer is peak season when temperatures reach 30+ degrees, which makes Dubvronik an excellent cultural and beach destination alike. Dubrovnik is far from cheap, so for budget travellers, we really recommend visiting during the offseason. For culture lovers, check the annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival which is 45 days long with live plays, concerts and games.
Food in Dubrovnik is predominately Mediterranean with some Eastern European influences. Expect many seafood dishes accompanied by local wines which come from sun-soaked grapes grown on the many Croatian hills. For those of you who travel vegan, like we do, note there are limited restaurants which can accommodate your needs. Inf act, we only found one single vegan restaurant in the Old Town. However, you can always go to Italian restaurants and order cheese-less pizza. There are many supermarkets scattered all around the city, which sell fresh fruit and veg, as well as other ingredients for a great vegan meal.
Dubrovnik day 1
This is the chance to see the gems of Dubrovnik. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and during your visit, you will fully understand why. Incredibly well preserved, the Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world. Surrounded by its sturdy walls, this fortified city is home to an array of tourist attractions, beautiful sights as well as shops, bars and restaurants.
We recommend spending at least half of day exploring the Old Town with its wonderful points of attractions such as:
Palace Knezev Dvor, Palace Sponza, Church Sveti Vlaho (St Blaise), Church of Saint Saviour, Dubrovnik Cathedral, several monasteries, squares and monuments.
Walls of Dubrovnik
The best part of visiting Dubrovnik is that it features the thick city walls which allow for travellers to photograph the Old Town from above. From the city walls, you can enjoy vistas of the cobalt Adriatic Sea. Just make sure to bring sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water with you if you happen to visit the city walls on a very sunny day.
Lunch at Nishta
We had lunch at Nishta, the only vegan place we found in the Old Town. The food was great but the queues were very big. Whilst eating, we noticed people booking tables for the evening, so make sure you book your table in advance to avoid waiting.
We recommend going for the salad bar which was well priced and had a variety of fruit, veg and nuts to make a healthy vegan salad.
Spend the evening chilling on the beach, located just minutes away from the Old Town. This is a popular beach in Dubrovnik so please note it can get really busy. The only downside of the beach is that people smoke around so when it gets really crowded it's difficult to escape the smoke. If you are lucky enough to arrive when the sea is very calm, rent a kayak and go on a fun adventure around the Lokrum island.
Dinner at Azur
Azur has very limited vegan options but it's a great place for vegetarians. The service is very nice, but do note that many tables get reserved really quickly. Ask for the wine recommendations and the waiters will offer you tailored advice.
The sunset bar
From Azur, you can follow the signs towards the sea which say "bar with great views" and you can find yourself in a bar located on a cliff. Although the prices are premium there, the views are totally worth it on a lovely sunny evening. The bar is called Buza Bar.
Dubrovnik day 2
After you enjoyed your morning coffee with views over the Adriatic Sea, it's time to spend the day visiting two different beaches and one of the best vista points over the city.
The morning comes with soft light, so what better time to photograph Dubrovnik from above? Take the Dubrovnik Cable car for a 4-minute ride to the top of a 778-metre tall plateau which offers incredible vistas over the Old Town.
If you love secluded beaches, head over to Bellevue beach which, even mid-June was almost deserted. It's a bit more difficult to reach it without a car as it requires about 45 minutes walk from the Old Town. However, the walk itself is great and you can capture beautiful photos en route.
Lunch at Magellan, Restaurant & Caffe Bar
Magellan, Restaurant & Caffe Bar has vegan and vegetarian options, but please note they are mainly specialised in seafood. For other options, there are other pizza places all around, as well as several luxury hotels which serve lunch.
Sveti Jakov beach
We love being sunkissed so we decided to abandon our initial shopping plans and head for yet another secluded beach. Sveti Jakov beach is located just over an hour away from the Old Town so it's not close to the usual amenities. The walk itself is not protected from direct sunlight, so please make sure you bring sunscreen and plenty of water with you. Sveti Jakov beach is relatively secluded and it features a fun little beach bar. If you don't fancy the walk, you can rent a bike or take the car to a nearby car park. We really enjoyed the walk to the beach and walked back during sunset to capture some wonderful vanilla skies.
As you can tell, our Croatia itinerary is pretty chilled. It's suitable for couples and travellers who wish to just relax and forget about their working days.
It's time to head from Dubrovnik to Split. There are a few things you need to know about that stretch of road, so here it goes.
Dubrovnik to Split
When we created our Croatia itinerary, we didn't realise we will exit Croatia after Dubrovnik, just so we re-enter the country en route to Split. Little we knew that we will actually cross a stretch of Bosnia Herzegovina. Now, don't get me wrong, the stretch is quite small, but you still need to queue for passport control at the border. Several people recommended that we don't stop for food there as they had some bad experiences in the past. To be perfectly honest, the place itself looked just as wonderful as any other located by the Adriatic Sea. With a sea so beautiful, it's rather difficult to go wrong.
So when you drive from Dubrovnik to Split, make sure you have your passports handy as well as your car papers ready for inspection.
Split is truly one of the most beautiful cities we've ever seen. Of course, this is subjective, but we really connected with the place. From beautiful beaches, through leafy green areas, to palm-lined promenades close to the marina, Split really has something for everyone.
What we loved most about Split is that even though very busy, it never made us feel overwhelmed. We love walking places and Split seemed to have many promenade trails, including its beautiful large park called Marjan Forest Park which offers amazing views of the sea.
Where to stay in Split
We stayed just 10 minutes away from the centre, in a pretty little apartment. We picked a flat because we wanted to cook our own dinner one night, to experience the fresh local produce. Split has a relatively big market with fresh fruit and veg so we allocated one dinner to cooking our own food.
As Split is bigger and cheaper than Dubrovnik, it looks like there are a lot more accommodation options around. For a better accommodation than in Dubrovnik, we paid less and stayed one extra night.
What you need to know about Split
Split is a historic city located on Dalmatian Coast, known for its drop-dead gorgeous beaches and the stunning Diocletian's Palace. The Palace dates back to the 4th century and it's still rather well preserved today. There are many Game of Thrones filming locations in Split so if you are a fan, we recommend booking a tour in advance. We booked a tour guide for half a day in order to learn more about the history of the place and get to see some filming locations as well.
Split is much cheaper in comparison to Dubrovnik and has more vegan restaurants to cater for all tastes. We also found the service to be better and the overall atmosphere to be more to our liking. Overall, we can honestly say that we loved Split the most.
Split Day 1
Start the day with a visit around the Diocletian's Palace. This is an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD. It was initially intended as a retirement place for Diocletian although only half of the fortress was used by the emperor, and the rest was used for his military garrison. You can enter the palace and learn more about it and its purposes. It really is something special which managed to withstand the test of time so well.
Lunch at Marta's Veggie Fusion
Marta's Veggie Fusion serves great vegan dishes. we loved it so much, we returned twice to eat there. The place is quite small and intimate so expect some queues. Perhaps best to swing by and book a table, or avoid lunch hours. Strongly recommend you try their matcha cakes as well. Absolutely delicious.
Croatia is blessed with so many wonderful places suitable for sunbathing and Bačvice Beach is no exception. One local told us the beach gets very crowded during peak season but we didn't have any issues as we had just a few people around. The same issue as in Dubrovnik, the shores are made of pebbles so make sure you get some water shoes to avoid any foot injuries.
Dinner at Matoni
Calling all wine lovers, Matoni sells great wines. They have some vegetarian options but they mainly focus on Croatian traditional food. So please remember this before booking a table for Matoni. We went there for the wine only and ate back at Marta's in the evening.
Cocktails at Fjaka
We went to Fjaka to just relax with a drink and we discovered they have amazing views over the sea right at sunset. The sky looks amazing and the water transforms from its deep cobalt colours, into a fiery purple as the sun goes down. Oh, and did we mention they sell pitchers for just 99 kunas? That's a pretty great deal!
Split Day 2
Half a day tour guide
Start the day with a tour guide around Split. Honestly, we don't think we could have learned so much without our tour guide. Especially because we really wanted to see some cool GOT filming locations. We went under the Diocletian's Palace and saw where Mother of Dragons kept her babies. That was pretty cool. In fact, we learned quite a lot about GOT, the actors and their non-destructive approach to destinations.
Lunch at Pizza Portas
If you want to have amazing wine, excellent service and delicious pizza, then Pizza Portas is the place for you. They have several in-door seats but also a small garden, an ideal setting for a refreshing lunch in the shade.
Promenade around the marina
We wanted to have a lovely romantic walk by the marina. The promenade itself can take a couple of hours or more, depending on your speed. Do sit down on one of the many benches, have a chat and admire the beautiful Adriatic Sea. We recommend the promenade just before sunset, so you can admire Split's towering rocky cliffs change colours into a soft orange.
There are many dinner places at the main marina in Split, but we wanted to shop local and have a romantic dinner cooked in our apartment. We purchased fresh fruit and veg and made a beautiful vegan bowl accompanied by local wine. We appreciate not everyone will want to cook on their holiday, but we find that making food brings us together and get to really spend quality time together.
Split Day 3
Marjan Forest Park
Marjan Forest Park is the perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts who need a bit of quiet time in nature. There are various trails you can take in the park and can end up spending several hours just walking around. The vistas are incredible and well worth your time. Make sure to bring your camera, plenty of water and some snacks for a quick picnic.
After the Marjan Forest Park, we decided to end the afternoon by lazing on the Kasjuni Beach, which is located in the park. Close to the beach, there is also a grill and bar called Joe's Beach Lounge & Bar. The place has great ratings for drinks but not so much for food. For dinner, we suggest heading back towards the marina. Visit Adriatic Grašo or Restaurant Zrno Soli.
Plitviče Lakes National Park is a gorgeous leafy forest reserve in Croatia. It is known for its incredible terraced lakes, all joined by waterfalls. There are several trails around the lakes, all suitable for various fitness levels. The park has facilities for an electric boat ride as well, linking certain trails with one another. You will need to purchase entrance tickets for the parks and have them with you at all times.
Where to stay in Plitvice Lakes
Whilst there are hotels towards the entrance to the Plitvice Lakes, we recommend positioning yourself in a nearby village which has access to local supermarkets and restaurants. We decided to stay in a villa in Korenica which was minutes away from the supermarket and a restaurant called Babić.
What you need to know about Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Lakes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with amazing trails created for outdoors enthusiasts. Tickets can be purchased for one day or two-day visit. The two-day tickets will need to have your name on them. The entrance ticket price includes transport with the electric boat and panorama train, within the framework of the selected sightseeing programme, visitor insurance, and the VAT. Guided tours are available only for organised visitor groups (minimum group size is 15 persons). Tours are available in Croatian, English, Italian, French, German and Spanish. Guide services must be reserved in advance. To check the latest prices you can visit the official site.
Plitvice Lakes Day 1
There are several trails available in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. As it took us around 4-5 hours to drive from Split to Plitvice Lakes, we spent our afternoon enjoying the trail C. The trail took about 3 hours including the short electric boat ride. If you decide to go for a visually immersive trail, then this is your best bet.
Plitvice Lakes Day 2
We spent 8 hours in the park. We took trail K which is 18.3 km long. We hiked it in our New Balance shoes, but please note that there were parts where we had to take our shoes off and parts were the mud was very slippery. This trail is for people with good fitness levels and good shoes. Do not attempt this trail if you are not good with long walks and narrow, challenging trails. It's a beautiful trail with an array of photo opportunities. Since it's so long it's also less popular which means that you can enjoy the Plitvice Lakes in silence.
Dinner at Babić
Babić is one of the few good restaurants in the area so we ordered some cheese-less pizza and some fries with a summer salad. They have great service and good beers. We really liked it and would go back.
Are you ready to create your own Croatian itinerary? Will you spend 1 week in Croatia or will you want to extend your stay to add even more impressive cities and sights to the list? Let us know your plans in the comments section below.