Hands down, Croatia is an amazing country and one of our favourites after our recent visit in June. The country has plenty of fascinating things to do for nature lovers, wine experts, history enthusiasts and beach bums. Whatever your interests or budget, you will not leave Croatia disappointed. Before our Croatia road trip, we didn't know much about this beautiful country and it ended up blowing us away in the most amazing way possible.
A Croatia road trip itinerary can take a lot of work and might be a little overwhelming to plan. And this is where we come in to help. To save you countless hours of searching and scrolling through Google, we have put together this perfect 10-15 day itinerary for you.
Following our Croatia road trip itinerary, you will visit four national parks, swim in pristine pools, hike your heart out, explore old cobblestone streets, medieval buildings and spend a few days relaxing by the beach.
Croatia Road Trip Route Map
Destinations: A. Zagreb - B. Risnjak National Park - C. Plitvice Lakes National Park - D. Zadar - E. Paklenica National Park - F. Sibenik - G. Krka National Park - H. Pisak - I. Split
Duration: 10-15 days (depending on how much time you spend in each destination).
Total Distance: 688 km (toll route) or 711 km (without toll route)
First Stop, Zagreb
If you are coming from the north, chances are, you will be starting your Croatia road trip in Zagreb. With its wonderful medieval architecture and old cobbled streets, the Croatian capital has a slight resemblance to one of our favourite cities, Prague.
Zagreb is made up of two parts; Gornji grad (upper town) and Donji grad (lower town). Gornji grad also known as "old town" is where you will come across the cities wonderful architecture like the Zagreb Cathedral, religious monuments and other historical structures. While Donji grad is a more modern side of the city, with museums, parks and cafes.
Giving ourselves only one day for Zagreb, we spent most of our time in "old town" visiting the sights. During the evening, we kicked back with a pizza and beer for some great people watching on the beautiful Tkalciceva street.
Explore Risnjak National Park
(133 km & 1 hour 35 minutes from Zagreb)
Leaving Zagreb early morning, make your way west to explore the trails in Risnjak National Park. With several different trails, the park is the perfect place for nature lovers and hikers.
The hiking trail which gathers the most interest here is the towering Veliki Risnjak peak standing at 1528 meters.
At the end of a 3-hour hike, standing on top of its rocky peaks you will have a view in all directions over its dense mountain forest below. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Adriatic Sea and the Alps.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
(123 km & 1 hour 45 minutes from Risnjak)
If you love waterfalls and amazing viewpoints overlooking pristine lakes, then you will love Plitvice Lakes. There are 16 different lakes in this UNESCO World Heritage Site interconnected through a series of waterfalls. On top of the lakes high cliff walls, you will discover many viewpoints scattered across the park.
Being one of Croatia's most popular attractions, we recommend getting here early morning. The park has many different trails but if you want to explore every inch, we suggest taking the K trail, 18 km in total.
(118 km & 1 hour 30 minutes from Plitvice Lakes)
Zadar, the ancient city of Dalmatia is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. Not as well known as other Croatians cities, Zadar is easily explored by foot and boasts a wealth of attractions from Roman ruins to medieval churches.
Take a walk through the cities narrow marble streets towards the Adriatic Sea out onto the promenade. Here you can listen to the sound of music played by Zadar's Sea Organ through the action of waves.
Hiking In Paklenica National Park
(43 km & 44 minutes from Zadar)
Paklenica National Park is a hikers heaven and a paradise for rock climbers. Throughout this 95 km² region, there are around 150 km hiking trails and 400 marked climbing trails.
Paklenica which sits in the Velebit Mountains is a large rocky area consisting of two dolomite limestone canyons, the Mala (small) and the Velika Paklenica (big). Within the park, there is also a large cave called Manita pec which you can explore.
The main tourist hiking trails are relatively easy and flat in most sections. We suggest giving yourself the whole day to explore the less taken trails.
We hiked a circular route (8 hours) which took us to the famous Anica Kuk wall. Climbing to the top, we skipped over jagged rocks to its 712-meter high peak.
(96 km & 1 hour from Paklenica)
Sibenik is a city along the Adriatic Coast and can be easily explored in a day. One of the main reasons for stopping in this small charming city during your Croatia road trip is due to its accessibility to Krka National Park. Being only 13 km from the park, Sibenik is the perfect stopover for an early start to Krka.
In saying that, there are still some pretty cool things to do here, keeping you entertained throughout the day.
Spend your day roaming the narrow cobblestoned streets and climb to St Michael's fortress, one of Sibenik's four fortresses. Although, the cities most popular attraction is the famous St. James Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Swim In Krka National Park
(13 km & 18 minutes from Sibenik)
Krka National Park is a natural karst phenomenon with a wealth of waterfalls covering an area of 109 km². Unlike Plitvice Lakes National Park, in Krka, you can actually take a swim in the pristine pools below the waterfalls.
Krka's main attraction and closest to Sibenik is the Skradinski buk, one you might recognise from many photos. Here you have the opportunity to explore the 1900 meter wooden trail across the river with 17 waterfalls.
Along the trail, you will visit an old pre industrial watermill powered by the Krka River, before swimming beneath the falls at Skradinski buk.
We had a really great day here and we are sure you will too. This is a popular tourist attraction. Get here early to beat the crowds and enjoy the whole pool all to yourself.
(121 km & 1 hour 20 minutes from Krka)
Now, after all the hiking and exploring medieval churches and old cities, we think it's time to hit the beach. Take some time out of your busy Croatia road trip itinerary to relax and to soak up some sun. Pisak is a tiny town along the Adriatic Sea, which we accidentally stumbled across while looking for an Airbnb.
If you are looking for a quiet get away, then this tiny town is the perfect location. The beach, like many others in Croatia, is full of small stones. But unlike many others, the beach here is not as busy with only a handful of tourists. There will be times during the day where you will have sections of the beach to yourself.
Pisak is also a great location to explore the city of Makarska, which is only 30 minutes away. Only instead of staying in a busy tourist city, you will be coming back to your quiet apartment with awesome panoramic views over the sea and Brac Island.
(42 km & 1 hour from Pisak)
Your final stop on your Croatia road trip will be in the coastal city of Split. A vibrant city with a big Roman and Greek influence, rich in culture and medieval Renascence buildings.
Splits main attraction is the Diocletian's Palace, which is an old Roman Palace and one of Croatia's architectural wonders still in use today.
After exploring Splits historical old town, take some time out of your day to sit by the beautiful Riva or hit the beach for some cliff jumping.
Tip: If you are planning on spending a few days in Split, then we recommend bringing the car back to the rental company the day you arrive. You will not need your car as you will spend most of your time in and around the old town.
Best Time For A Croatia Road Trip
Our best advice would be to avoid peak season from July to August if you can. During these two months, the prices for accommodation and the main attractions will double in price.
For example, entrance to Krka National Park goes from 110 HRK (17$) to 180 HRK (28$) and our accommodation in Pisak was triple the price during these months.
We recommend doing your Croatia road trip during the shoulder season, which are the months of May/June and September. Prices are lower, attractions are less crowded and the weather is perfect.
We did our road trip through Croatia during the first two weeks of June and had perfect weather with only one day of rain.
Driving Through Croatia
We found the roads in Croatia to be in perfect condition and easy to navigate. No matter if it's a small country road or highway, you will find the roads in Croatia to be free flowing and well signed.
The highways are great for covering long distances in such a short time, as you will hardly come across traffic. But we did find the tolls on the highway to be quite expensive.
We suggest taking the lesser roads when you can. Not because of the toll prices, but because you will actually get to see Croatia's landscape and small country towns.
Parking During Your Croatia Road Trip
Parking in cities during your Croatia road trip might be a bit of a pain and an expense you can do without. Our tip is to book Airbnb's with free parking and a 10-15 minute walk to the city centre. This will save you having to worry about topping up the parking meter and give you the freedom to wander the city for the day.
Outside of cities and around national parks you will easily find lots of free parking.
Accommodation In Croatia
We chose Airbnb for the whole trip. You will have no problem finding accommodation with Airbnb in any town or city throughout Croatia.
Reasons for Airbnb? Well, not only are they the cheapest option for private rooms or whole apartments, but you also have the use of a kitchen, unlike in hotels. Since you will be spending a lot of time out hiking for the day, the use of a kitchen is a great way to prepare a packed lunch.
If you are travelling alone, you might find that hostels work out cheaper for you. Although, some smaller towns might not have hostels.
Croatia Road Trip Price Breakdown
Total days in Croatia: 14 days
Accommodation: 2260 HRK / 354 $ (13 nights Airbnb)
Car rental: 452 HRK / 71 $ (10 days) We rented our car with Ride Car through rentalcars.com
Car insurance: 260 HRK / 41 $ (we bought separate car insurance online)
Gas: 610 HRK / 96 $
Activities: 745 HRK / 117 $
Food & drink: 2120 HRK / 333 $
Other: 348 HRK / 55 $
Total: 6795 HRK / 1068 $ for 2 people (534 $ per person)
We hope you find our Croatia road trip itinerary helpful and it helps you prepare for your own road trip. Share with us in the comments below, if you have already done a road trip through Croatia or if it's something you would love to do.