A Croatia road trip should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. After all, Croatia’s crystalline and sun-kissed coast will immediately spark joy in anyone who experiences it. Croatia isn’t one of the most famous countries in Europe, but it is definitely one of the most beautiful. While you are visiting Croatia, you will feel as if you have found a hidden gem. The country offers many UNESCO sites, rich culture, delicious cuisine, and more. As you plan your dream vacation to Croatia, I have created the perfect Croatia road trip itinerary for you to get ideas from!
Zagreb is the ideal place to begin your Croatia road trip. It is the capital city of Croatia and it is easy to access by plane. If you are wondering if Zagreb is worth visiting, then the answer is yes! Starting your road trip from here is convenient and will inspire you to continue on your trip to see the rest of Croatia. The city is a cultural hub and is one of the most popular spots for everyone to visit. You can easily spend a day or two here enjoying the culture and people of Croatia while looking at amazing sites. The city has a medieval European charm, from cobbled stone streets to unique architecture.
On day one, you can explore the Upper Town which is the oldest part of Zagreb. Here, you can admire the exquisite St. Mark’s Church and then visit the oldest café in Zagreb, Pod Starim Krovovima, where you can have excellent coffee. Of course, once you are done with Upper Town, you must visit the Lower Town. In the Lower Town, the streets are filled with lively people, events, food, and music. It is the perfect place to sit and people watch.
While in Zagreb during your Croatia road trip, be sure not to miss the Museum of Broken Relationships. It opened in 2010 and is dedicated to showing the remnants of failed relationships. This quirky museum is instagram famous and the perfect quick stop during your trip. The museum features a wide collection of personal objects that capture the experiences people associate with breakups.
Don’t forget to visit the beautiful parks, the Tkalciceva street at night to enjoy the nightlife. It will make your stay in Zagreb even more magical.
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After you are done with Zagreb on your Croatia road trip, it is time to head over to the stunning city of Rovinj. Depending on how much you want to explore, you can spend one or two days here. The Old Town is something you must not miss while you are in Rovinj.
In the Old Town, you can go towards the historic center and then make your way to explore the labyrinth of beautiful cobblestone streets. As you keep walking, you will find many cafes and restaurants to have a delicious meal or coffee. Here are some other top spots you must not miss on your visit to Rovinj on your Croatia road trip:
- St. Euphemia Cathedral
- Rovinj Port
- Lip Fjord
- Punta Corrente
- Rovinj Heritage Museum
- The Local beaches
Some of these locations are a little further off from Rovinj. However, if you plan on staying for more than two to three days, you can explore these regions. Otherwise, there is much to explore in the city itself too.
Brijuni National Park
After exploring Rovinj, the next stop on your Croatia road trip itinerary is Brijuni National Park. The ideal way to do this is to go alongside the coast towards Pula till you come to Fazana, a seaside town. Once you are here, you can take a ferry to Veli Brijun, which is the park’s largest island.
Keep in mind that you can stay here for a day or two as there are hotels such as Istra and Neptun to take your experience to the next level. It makes the most sense to book the hotels that are on the island so that you don’t have to take the ferry back and forth each day that you spend in Brijuni.
Initially, Brijuni was known for its imported animal species that are kept in the safari park. Now you will get to see many of these animals roaming freely here instead of in a “zoo-like” environment. On the island, you will find lakes, bird reservations, deer, peacocks, grasslands, and much more.
Below are some of the top things you can do on your Croatia road trip to Brijuni National Park:
- Take the Veliki Brijun Island Tour to explore the place in a single day
- Visit the stellar Brijuni island beaches
- Go snorkeling and diving at the Brijuni National Park
- Go for kayaking
These are the top four things you must do in Brijuni National Park. Of course, the availability of activities also depends on the months you visit. For example, kayaking is only available between June and October.
On your way back from Brijuni National Park on your Croatia road trip, you must make a stop at Pula. It is the biggest town in Istria and a stellar beach destination if you are a beach lover. However, Pula is more than just beaches as the old town is magnificent. Many of the older parts of Croatian cities are simply beautiful.
The old town in Pula was built more than three thousand years ago by the Illyrians. You will visit some beautiful landmarks and can catch some well-preserved Roman Ruins. You can think of Pula as a little Italy inside Croatia. There is also a Colosseum Rome look-alike in Pula known as the Roman Arena. It is the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheater worldwide. Be sure to get a ticket and visit this amphitheater when in Pula.
On the other hand, if you want to visit the best beaches in Croatia, be sure to head over to Stoja. You will find many beaches here next to a campsite. During your Croatia road trip, you can camp here and spend the night at one of the beautiful beaches for a rich experience or hop on a sailing excursion into the beautiful Croatian waters.
Risnjak National Park Croatia
The Risnjak National Park is a must-visit after Pula on your Croatia road trip itinerary. This national park is located in the most mountainous region of Croatia: Gorski Kotar. From these mountaintops, you can see for miles and truly embrace the entire Croatian landscape.
The Veliki Risnjak peak is the second tallest mountain peak in the region. If you are up for a hike, you can make your way upwards to the peak and get a panoramic view of the Julian Alps, Istria, and much more. You will also get to encounter over fifteen types of forest communities and find various species, such as fir, willow, and spruce on your way up to the peak.
If you love water and rivers, you must visit the beautiful turquoise lake at the spring of the Kupa river. The Croatian spring is at a depth of over 154 meters and is one of the gorgeous sights you will witness on your Croatian road trip itinerary.
There are four entrances to the park, and one is accessible easily from Pula. You will have to purchase tickets to get inside the park. You can spend a day here and use that time to connect with mother nature. There is endless nature of various kinds in the national park that you will never forget.
Zeljava Air Base
The next stop on your Croatia road trip itinerary is the Zeljava Air Base, an abandoned Yugoslav airport inside a mountain. Yes, you heard that right. It is one of the most interesting places you will visit during your road trip because of how eerie it is. Be sure to plan to spend a few hours here before you continue on your road trip.
The Zeljava Air Base is located between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The airbase used to be a Yugoslav military installation with an advanced communications center, hangars, barracks, and much more. All of it was designed to serve as a ballistic missile early warning system during the Cold War.
Of course, the military wanted the location to be untouched and indestructible, which is why it was built inside a mountain. Because of this, the airbase survived complete destruction during the Croatian War of Independence. Since then, it has been completely abandoned and turned into a location for adventurers and Youtubers.
It should be noted that the police will warn you not to visit the smaller halls and tunnels inside the base even if you think that you can get to them. That is because many of them are on the verge of collapse, so it is for your own safety. Be sure to keep a map and flashlights with you as you go on inside to explore the airbase.
Outside the airbase, you will even find some abandoned fighter jets and bombers. I know for my husband at least, this is a location to completely geek out at if you are into planes or military history.
Sjeverni Velebit National Park
Your next stop on the ultimate Croatia road trip itinerary is the Sjeverni Velebit National Park, which is the newest national park in Croatia. Many people who have been to Croatia talk about this park and share how amazing it is, but there are still many undiscovered gems inside this beauty.
Sjeverni Velebit National Park is located in the Northern Velebit Region which has the most diverse habitats in Croatia. Inside the national park, you will find grasslands, forests, water habitats, talus cones, rocks, and much more. The best part is that some of these phenomena also merge into each other creating a mix of habitats. It is also a conservation area for many important animal and plant species that make the area diverse.
If you want to experience the best of nature and fantastic views inside this national park, you must make your way to the area of Alan. The area is in the park’s southernmost part, and here you will find dolines, mountain grasslands, and mountain peaks. The view from this region is one that will remain in your memory forever.
There are many activities that you can do inside the national park which include cycling and hiking. You can leave your car at the entrance and cycle your way through the park, and there are companies that you can rent a bicycle from. There are also many guided tours that take place if you want to learn and explore with a knowledgeable guide. This national park will truly give you a feel of all of the nature that Croatia has to offer.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most famous national parks in Croatia. When you google “Croatia,” you will often find photos that were taken here. When you come to Plitvice Lakes National Park, be sure to plan to stay here for at least two days if you want to take in everything it has to offer. Imagine over sixteen clear water lakes arranged at different levels with waterfalls and cascades between. That is the unmatched beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
The national park is famous worldwide, and once you come here, you will never want to go back. It is one of the best natural wonders in Croatia that you will witness on your entire Croatia road trip. The lakes are the main attraction, but there is so much more to this park. You will find cascades, waterfalls, and even a cave. For the best trip, be sure to take the winding trails as it offers one of the best views.
There is a hotel located inside the national park that you can stay at. On the other hand, you can also camp here if you want to experience an outdoor adventure.
Walking is one of the best ways to explore this park in the day as you take in the fresh air and the majestic nature around you. There are great views everywhere, which is why you will never get bored. After you soak up the allure of the beautiful Plitvice Lakes, it is time to make your way towards Krka National Park on your Croatia road trip itinerary.
Krka National Park
After you leave Plitvice Lakes National Parks, you can stop in Zadar for one night if you want to take some time to rest before you make your way towards Krka National Park in the morning. The drive from Zadar to Krka National Park will take you two hours so it is ideal to spend at least a full day in Krka.
If you love swimming and waterfalls, you will fall in love with everything Krka National Park has to offer. The waterfall inside the national park is the biggest waterfall in the region. It is called Skradinski Buk and is Instagram famous due to its beauty. The waterfall creates a massive natural pool where you can swim and relax to re-energize yourself in the blue Croatian waters. It is also one of the more romantic places in Croatia.
Keep in mind that if you want to enter the national park, you can take a ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk Ferry Pier or hike for over three kilometers. The hiking path is not shaded, which is why this might not be the best idea during summers. Another option is that you can cycle the paths, but taking the ferry is the most convenient option as it is free if you have tickets to the Krka National Park.
You will find that the Krka National Park is home to historical sites as well as natural beauty. These include the Krka Monastery and many conventional watermills which have been there for decades. After, you can sightsee at one of the most popular sights in the park: The Seven Waterfalls. You can also take a guided tour to visit the best trails and check out all the attractions during your time at Krka.
You can spend the entire day and rest for the night here in nearby accommodation. After that, you can make your way to Mljet National Park.
Mljet National Park
The Mljet National Park is located on the Mljet island, which is one of the largest islands in South Dalmatia. It borders two saltwater lakes, and the Mljet landmarks are surrounded by sea caves, beaches, bays, and much more. The vegetation and nature are rich and lush there, which is why Croatians also call it the green island.
Forests cover 90% of the Mljet National Park, and you can visit it all year round. The park has three entrances, and you can go from anyone, depending on where you are coming from on your Croatia road trip. You can spend a day here and enjoy everything this beautiful national park has to offer to visitors. You will need to take a boat ride over to the island.
The best way to explore the national park is through cycling or walking. You can also rent a kayak if you want to paddle around the lakes and enjoy the waters. Swimmers can also enjoy swimming here to refresh themselves in no time.
If you want some of the best views of the Mljet National Park, you can go hike the hills. The park also includes a shopping market where you can stop for basic items if you run out of supplies during your trip. After enjoying all the beautiful activities in Mljet National Park, you can head towards Split, Croatia, on your Croatia road trip itinerary.
If you want to experience the best of Croatia’s history and culture, there is no better place than Split for you to visit. You can easily spend two days here and enjoy everything the city has to offer. During your first day, you can mark off all the top attractions that include Diocletian’s Palace undergrounds, the Cathedral of St. Domnius, and the Peristyle.
However, one thing you must not miss is Froggyland, which is the museum of the best taxidermy worldwide. It will be the highlight of your stop at Split. The museum comprises over twenty exhibits with over 500 stuffed frogs. It is definitely a weird adventure, but something that you simply can’t skip! Frogs of Froggyland represent the average everyday life of people. You will find the frogs doing many things. The craftsmanship on the frogs is exceptional because there are no incisions outside for you to notice.
After enjoying all these top attractions, you can trek up Marjan Hill to bask in the majestic view of the city. The next day, you can take a trip to Trogir town and take in more of Croatia’s history. Here, you can explore the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, Kastela, and more.
Paklenica National Park, Stari Grad
Finally, the last stop on your Croatia road trip itinerary must be the Paklenica National Park. It is located south of the Velebit Mountain Ranges and covers an area of more than a hundred square kilometers. Inside the park, you will find pine forests, beech forests, deep gorges, high peaks, and much more.
If you love hiking, the Paklenica National Park is one of Croatia’s best places to hike. You will find many trails here, and it is the best way to explore everything this park has to offer. There are also cycling trails for people who prefer this over hiking. Climbing is another incredibly popular activity in the park, and climbers from around the world come here to enjoy the different climbs that are available. Keep in mind that you must only indulge in climbing if you are experienced in this activity. You can also contain the Manita Pec cave to explore the geology of this national park.
The Marasovic Mill is also a famous water mill that doesn’t function but serves as a sightseeing attraction. Besides that, there is a Mala Paklenica Educational Centre and Marasovic Ethnic House inside the park. If you are an outdoor lover, you can camp here for the night. If that isn’t your style, there are also shelters and lodges within the park where you can stay. You can spend the entire day and night here and end your road trip on a good note. The trails and gorgeous views will give you the energy you need to get back to your life after the best Croatia road trip.
Other Places You Must Visit On Your Croatia Road Trip
Now that you have the entire Croatia road trip itinerary laid out for you, here are the other top places you must visit during your trip. These include:
- Abandoned Haludovo Palace Hotel: It is in the town of Malinska on the island of Krk. It is an abandoned resort hotel you can explore
- Blue Cave on Bisevo Island: The sunlight illuminates the cave with blue light making it one of the most breathtaking caves to visit
- Kornati National Park: The park is just off the Dalmatian Coast. The coves, crystal blue water, and natural beauty here is like no other
- Edivo Vina Underwater Winery: Visit an underwater wine cellar and experience drinking wine in the sea
These are the top four attractions and stops you can make on your Croatia road trip if you have the time. All of these places offer a unique experience you will remember for a lifetime.
That was your complete Croatia road trip itinerary! Depending on what you want to experience and your preferences, you can add more places. However, during a road trip in Croatia, everyone must visit these places at least once to experience the best of what this country has to offer.
So, what are you waiting for? Begin creating your itinerary today and experience Croatia like never before. You will create memories of a lifetime in this country.
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Love the itinerary. A group of six are planning a Croatia trip in May of 2023 and would certainly consider booking through you. Would like more specifics re where to stay.
That’s awesome! I’d be happy to help you with any travel planning needs. 🙂