A beautiful country you imagine in tones of azure, Croatia has a lot going for it. It was a semifinalist in the World Football Championship, it has the euro as a national coin, it has roman and ottoman influences, and it has one of the most beautiful shorelines I ever saw.
It’s impossible to write just one blog about it, so we’ll keep this to the point and make it a simple travel guide for 10 days by car in Croatia. You can also chose to do it in 2 Parts and treat it like 2 vacations.
- Pula to Split
- Split to Dubrovnik
Croatia Travel Guide
Croatia travel guide trip by car itinerary:
3 nights to relax in the North West – Pula
A 5 hr 5 min drive to Split
2 nights to explore the coastal towns – Zadar & Split
A 3 hr 1 min drive to Dubrovnik
3 nights to descover the Pearl of the Adriatic – Dubrovnik
OPTIONAL NIGHTS: You can add 2-4 nights for 2 attractions
- Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (about 2 hours drive from Dubrovnik or Split)
- An island – Krk (about 2 hours drive from Pula)
Traveling by car in Croatia
But from 2023, just like that, entering from Italy and Slovenia you just continue on the motorway to your destination.
Step 1 of the Croatia Travel Guide: Pula to Split
PULA – the largest city in Istria County – We went looking for BATHS and SIGHTS, so we recommend resorts near historic towns. You can obviously stop in the northwest part of the country or go by plane to Dubrovnik and travel by car from there to Split.
We made our first stop in Pula.
Accommodation in Pula: we chose the Park Plaza Resort, a beautiful and huge place on the Verudela peninsula.
You can choose from multiple Hotels here, each with its own charm and beach. The one we had gave way to this hidden paradise.
The beaches are pebbled so take your water shoes with you. And if you go explore on the shore, you’ll find some more beaches, some wild. Valsaline Beach, Gortanova uvala, Gortan Cove and Valkane Beach are amazing and you have all the colors in the world to choose from and relax watching. The water is great and the depth increases slowly so even the scary cats can have fun with no waves on some beaches.
What to do 3 days in Pula:
- Relax in the resort on day 1. The Verudela Peninsula has an aquarium, tenis courts, and 2 or 3 beaches. Explore the grounds and take refreshing baths, you are at the Adriatic.
- Take the bus from the Peninsula to Visit Pula and from the Arena see the old town, listen to a concert, go to Pita House for a Bosnian burek. The city center has paved streets and an italian feel. Look for the Mosaic The Punishment of Dirce and the other hidden roman mosaic. Go under the Arch of the Sergii roman vestiges and see the monument for James Joyce (he worked as a professor of English at the Berlitz School here). See the twin gates, go under in the Zerostrasse tunnels and drink a cocktail in the Forum Square.
3. Pack a picnic and go on the promenade to discover the groves and beaches I talked about. Hidden or populated, there are dozens of photo opportunities and tanning sports.
Optional trips in Croatia from Pula:
– Take a half-a-day tour of the Brijuni Islands 23 euro ticket. It’s an island treated as a national park, with activities like Safari park, a byzantine castrum, dinosaur footprints and a Mediterranean park.
– Book an optional night on Krk Island, the largest island in the Adriatic. It’s connected to the mainland by a bridge at about 2 hours off Pula. The are resorts, a 12 century cathedral, a 11th-century church and great beaches, like the rare sandy beach Sveti Marek.
On the road to the next destination:
– On your way out of Pula stop for a few hours for lunch in Rijeka, the largest port in Croatia and a 13th-century castle, Baroque buildings and a nice feel.
– Stop on your way out of Pula and see this simply a must-visit picturesque coastal town known for its Venetian architecture and charming streets. It’s the second most visited city in Croatia after Dubrovnik: Rovinj.
It’s a very pretty small town, with cobblestone laneway and photogenic places. Visit the harbor, climb to the top of the Church of St. Euphemia and have a drink at the edge of the sea.
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Notes on this area of Istria in our Croatian travel itinerary:
– you can see pines next to palms and its amazing
– if you don’t get a full board, a meal is about 30 euros/per person
– they don’t display prices in clear view for some reason
– the water is very expensive, ranging from 1.80 to 3.50 euros per bottle, more than twice the water in Greece
– there aren’t directions to some of the beaches but you get there with patience
– get a bag for your clothes to stay dry as you walk on the shore to find beaches
Step 2 Split – 5 hr 5 min drive from Pula to Split
Arrive in Split and check in for 1-2 nights, for rest and to plan the next half of the trip.
What you can do 2 days in Split:
- Visit the town and see Diocletian’s Palace, a Unesco Listed site. Historic Split is amazing, with old buildings and Pjaca square is a perfect place for a cocktail on shiny marble tiles. Go see history in the 3,500-year-old Egyptian sphinxes brought to the city by Diocletian and still standing in Peristil Square.
- Make another few hour’s stop in Zadar, 1 hour and a half before arriving in Split, towards the evening. It’s city with 3000 years of history. It has an airport so you can visit another time if you are in a hurry. Once inside the city take a pic in the Forum built by the first roman emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian, take a stroll on the famous street Kalelarga and say Bye to the sun on this amazing new art installation called Greeting to the Sun.
- Go for a day at the Krka National Park (1 hour drive from Split)
4. Go for a day at the Plitvice Lakes (2 hr 24 min from Split)
Both are amazing national Parks with renowned Lakes making for amazing pictures. The waterfalls are impressive and the entire landscape is from another world.
You can read about our trip to Plitvice lakes here.
5. Get your feet on the Golden Horn, the most famous beach in Croatia, on the Brac island, the place where the sun shines for 2600 hours a year. (7 nautical miles from Split, 1 hour for a crossing)
5. Visit Trogir, another Unesco site and the best-preserved site for you to see romanesque and gothic architecture. Unchanged buildings since the 1200s and other sites are considered on top of all lists about Croatia.
The waterfront promenade is a moment of contemplation and a small lunch, as you make your way off the beach on this amazing dalmatian coast. Be sure to snap a pic at Kamerlengo Castle and the Clock tower in town.
Notes for the roads in Croatia:
- The motorways are ok, but unlike other countries, the speeds here vary and you need to pay attention to the speedometer if the car doesn’t let you know you have crossed the limit. The limitations are in the mountains and in the tunnels.
- There are a lot of tunnels, some going for 5 or 8 km.
- There are very few bathrooms on the motorways, with little eco booths.
- Each time you leave a motorway there’s a booth for payment and you need a card or cash ready.
From Zadar to Split you see mountain views, but from Split to Dubrovnik you are greeted by the sea on your right. This is the second-largest city in Croatia and it was the place for the ancient Roman palace of Diocletian. Here, take a tour of the palace and explore the city’s lively Riva promenade.
As a note, all the people in Croatia are fluent in english and they speak one of the best english we heard.
You can come to Dubrovnik by plane too, just so you know.
Step 3 in our Croatia Travel Guide> From Split, a 3 hr 1 min drive to Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is an amazing city with Venetian influences, as they were under e Venetian Republic rule at one time in history. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, you can’t leave Dubrovnik without a pearl. They have shops that sell amazing Ohrid Pearls and the prices are reasonable. But you can really say you have a beautiful souvenir. I recommend the Royal Pearl place in the old city Ul. od Puča 8.
Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik is beautifully located on the northeast side, on the Lapad peninsula, and has a view of the Grebeni Lighthouse. You can watch from your balcony as huge cruisers make their way into the port and how leisure ships cross the horizon.
You have a lot of choices here too, and we do recommend maybe a hotel closer to the sea (President Valamar Collection maybe), as we made 10-15 minutes from Valamar Lacroma to the beach. On the plus side, there is a bus station for the Old town just 2 minutes outside the hotel and a ticket is 1,60 euros per trip if you buy it from the hotel lobby.
What to do 3 days in Dubrovnik:
- Relax in the resort on day 1. Plan for the next days, sort through the pics so far and eat ice cream by the pool. Visit each of the beaches around and explore the Lapad peninsula. The views, the room and the pool are amazing here, so we were happy to stay for a day here and in the surrounding areas.
Go for dinner at the local Pivnica Dubrava next to the hotel, an inconspicuous place that has a pet cat and the best meats ever, in huge portions, as you can see above. The prices are ridiculously low.
- Take the bus from the Peninsula to Visit Dubrovnik. The trip with bus 6 takes about 10 minutes and maybe try for an early start, as the city gets full by dinner time. And expect a crowd on the return trip.
Dubrovnik is crowded. In August the streets looked like this, but coming in the morning you can enjoy the quiet.
You can do as we did and try to visit half a day in the morning and then come back the next day for an evening stroll and cruise. Dubrovnik is like a puzzle you need to solve, with many streets and hidden spots you can discover.
Do a game of Thrones Tour and remember the best parts of the series, while also absorbing the views from above the old city walls and the citadel.
Here’s a map from gretastravels.com.
There are many cruises on offer by the harbor and you have to be careful what you chose. We recommend the pirate ship cruise because….well, a pirate ship.
Just a few objectives for your walking in the city list: Fort Boker, Love stories Museum, the west harbor, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Church of St. Ignatius (the location for Cercei’s walk of shame in GoT). Go to Porporela and stare at the sea and then stay in the Old Port for a great dinner.
You can take a swim here too, at Dubrovnik city beach ot the famous Banje Beach.
But the real highlight for me were the back streets, the hidden passages and all the clothe line poetry.
Go up by cable car and see the city from above. Once here, take a jeep ride or get down the panorama Zipline.
Lunch and dinner: We recommend a cold beer in the secret Buža Bar.
The way here is even more amazing than the location. And a burger inside the old town, at Republic Burger House. There’s also another great restaurant in the harbor for a dinner with a view. The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the 102 feet Clocktower are great photo locations.
The food and drinks are expensive from a Roumanian POV, with a burger at 20 euros (double the price in our country). The water too is very expensive, so use your strolls to get near the Large Onofrio’s Fountain for a free refill.
3. You have another day to walk in Dubrovnik and insert a cruise or a ferry to the Island of Lokrum. It’s located just 600 m from land and you can see a fort, a strange small inland salt lake known as the Dead Sea and the Iron Throne, located at the visitors center on Lokrum.
Optional trips from Dubrovnik:
– Take a day trip from Dubrovnik to the nearby island of Mljet, known for its beautiful beaches and national park. An unspoiled island with 2 salted lakes and the greenest landscape in Croatia.
– Drive from Dubrovnik to the historic town of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Visit the Old Bridge and explore the town’s Old Bazaar.
Notes on this area in our Croatian travel itinerary:
– Cats are considered the city’s oldest citizens in Dubrovnik and you can find them lounging or begging for food. And you can even get small wooden cats as a souvenir.
– Modric is a star and worshiped here, with shirts with his name in every souvenir shop. (see Real Madrid for more info on this player).
– There are very few signs for you to follow to some beaches so do your best in orientation or follow the other people.
– In our trip we stopped in Zagreb for 1 night. Check out our recommendations for the capital in the article below. Tips and tricks, things not to miss, and what you can expect.
What part of Croatia is best for a holiday?
It depends on what you are looking for. For amazing coastal sights and a pearl of a city, you need to go closer to Dubrovnik. For the same nice beaches at the Adriatic sea, from Pula to Zadar or Split you get the amazing sight of mountains and the sea. From Split to Dubrovnik you’ll see the sea as you drive on the motorway.
What is the best month to visit Croatia?
Starting from May Croatia has nie temperatures, but for a swim in a warm sea you need months like June to September. Even October we understand is great for swimming and visiting.
Is Croatia good for a holiday?
It’s a favorite country to visit for the people in Romania, Germany, Austria and Italy, as we saw lots of cars from these places. And now, because Croatia is part of Shenzhen since 2023, the transit in and out of the coutry is easier still. They already used Euro as a payment method, so now there is absolutely no reason for you to miss a vacation in this amazing country.
We chose August and on top of the amazing golden light of the end of summer, we got perfect weather, perfect water and not so many crowds (except for Dubrovnik which got filled in the afternoons).
Is Croatia cheap to visit?
Croatia is not a cheap country to visit. Parking your car at a hotel in 8 euros a day. And a cab from Dubrovnik to Valamar (a resort near the city) was 18 euros, while a bus ticket (purchased from the driver) was 2 euros.
What was really expensive was the motorway taxes. As a comparison, while in Slovenia the vignette was 15 euros for 2 weeks, in Austria is 9,90 Euro for 10 days, in Croatia you pay at every Exit from the motorway and a portion of just a few miles from Pula to Zadar costs up to 26 euros.
So, do you need a vignette in Croatia? No, you do not have to purchase vignettes in advance, but the tolls are paid directly at toll booths on motorway exits. You can calculate your road tolls here.
Hope this article helps you make up your mind, let us know!
The GALs, Catalina&Florin
”We’re a couple in love with travel and research. We hope to give you some good tips from experience so that you can have the best of times.”
Decide on a trip to Croatia with these essentials:
- A special dress, a shawl for the beach, or a beautiful fan from here.
- A special dry body oil made for glamourous feelings, by the french from Nuxe.
- Must have feet protection for the rocky shores from here.
- A book with the same vibe and a love for cats: Memoriile unui motan calator.
- hat for summer, with the same magic feeling of this city. Try this.
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