have the perfect 7-day Croatia itinerary for your first trip. I’ll tell you right now: this will not be your last trip to Croatia.
I have the perfect 7-day Croatia itinerary for your first trip to this gorgeous country. I’ll tell you right now, this will not be your last trip to Croatia. After visiting all European countries, I can definitely say that some were blessed with breathtaking nature, and Croatia is one of them.
I’ll try my best to give you some of my best tips on how to plan your Croatia itinerary. I did this itinerary (and more) in May 2023, and I just have to say that this will not be my last trip to this part of Europe. I now consider this only a scouting trip, because I felt like I rushed through Croatia, and it definitely deserves more attention.
Why visit Croatia?
Visiting Croatia offers a perfect blend of stunning natural landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes to the ancient walls of Dubrovnik, the country is a treasure trove of unique experiences. Whether you’re a beach lover, history buff, or outdoor enthusiast, Croatia has something for everyone, making it a must-visit European destination.
When to visit Croatia
My personal recommendation is to visit in late spring or early autumn when the crowds are smaller, and the prices are more affordable. This applies to all places along the Mediterranean zone. The climate is perfect in May and September, while during the summer months, you will melt together with thousands of others.
I did this Croatia itinerary in May 2023, and the weather was perfect, the crowds were bearable, and prices were good. As a personal insight, I would never go anywhere near Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, or any of the Balkan countries during summer – it’s simply too hot.
Preparing for the trip to Croatia
I did a road trip in Croatia and then continued with the other Balkan countries. Read my Europe road trip guide for my best tips on how to approach road trips.
What to pack for Croatia?
The climate is always mild, but if you’re planning to visit Croatia from late April and up to late September, think about summer essentials – sandals, summer clothing, sunscreen, sun hat.
Croatia budget tips
Croatia is one of the most expensive countries from the ex-Yougoslavia, so budget appropriately. While Zagreb, the capital city, isn’t particularly expensive, the coastline resorts can really damage your Croatia itinerary budget.
This is one of the main reasons I would suggest avoiding the peak season (July and August) when everything is booked out, and local businesses will ask more because there is such a high demand.
All in all, considering gas, accommodation, meals and other attractions, I would recommend:
- $80 per day for a budget trip
- $120 per day for a mid-budget trip
- $200+ per day for a luxury trip
You can probably get lower than the budget cost I mentioned, but it’s really up to you and how well you research locations and book accommodation in advance (when you stand the best chance to find cheap deals).
Know that prices can be doubled in hot spots like Dubrovnik and Split, and searching for restaurants and hotels just a few kilometers away from those places can help you save a lot of your budget.
The 7-Day Croatia Itinerary
Croatia isn’t a huge country, but it has plenty of gorgeous spots, which will make it hard to decide where to stop and spend the night. Obviously, if you have to decide on a 7-day itinerary in Croatia, you won’t have the chance to see it all, but I’ll try to include some of the best spots for your week in Croatia.
I don’t know where you’re coming from, so I will assume you are arriving in Zagreb.
Day 1: Arrival in Zagreb
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is a delightful blend of classic European elegance and modern energy. The city invites tourists to explore its historic center, where landmarks like the iconic Zagreb Cathedral and the bustling Tkalciceva Street offer a glimpse into its rich past and vibrant present. One can’t leave without trying the famous local dish, Strukli, a creamy and savory pastry that’s a true comfort food for the soul. Whether you’re into arts, history, or culinary delights, Zagreb serves as a captivating introduction to all that Croatia has to offer.
Top 10 things to do in Zagreb, Croatia
- Visit Zagreb Cathedral. Marvel at this Gothic architectural masterpiece that dominates the city’s skyline.
- Stroll Down Tkalciceva Street. Enjoy cafes, boutiques, and bars on this lively pedestrian street, perfect for people-watching. If you’re more into history, then booking Zagreb city walking tour will offer you much more insight into the history of Zagreb.
- Explore the Upper Town. Wander through the cobblestone streets and discover historical landmarks like St. Mark’s Church.
- Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships. Experience this unique museum that showcases mementos from failed relationships, offering an unconventional take on human experiences.
- Take a Ride on the Funicular. Enjoy panoramic views of the city as you ride one of the world’s shortest funicular railways to the Upper Town.
- Experience Dolac Market. Immerse yourself in local culture by visiting this bustling open-air market, where you can find fresh produce, local delicacies, and handmade crafts.
- Try Strukli. Don’t miss tasting this traditional Croatian pastry, typically filled with cottage cheese and sour cream, at one of the local restaurants or bakeries. If you’re a foodie, then book a food walking tour in Zagreb.
- Walk Around Zrinjevac Park. Spend some leisurely time in this beautiful green space that often hosts events, markets, and live music performances.
- Visit the Art Pavilion. Explore Croatian and international art collections housed in a stunning yellow building that itself is a work of art.
- Explore Mirogoj Cemetery. Visit this peaceful and architecturally impressive cemetery that is also an open-air art gallery, featuring works by some of Croatia’s most famous sculptors.
Day 2: Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes
On Day 2, leave the bustling city of Zagreb behind and head to the tranquil oasis of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The journey itself is a treat, with the landscape gradually transforming from urban sprawl to picturesque rolling hills and dense forests.
Once you arrive, prepare to be awestruck by the park’s cascading waterfalls and series of interconnected lakes that boast a range of colors from azure to emerald green. Spend your day hiking along well-marked trails that offer breathtaking views, and don’t forget to take a boat ride on Kozjak Lake to truly appreciate the scale and beauty of this natural wonder.
This day promises an unforgettable escape into Croatia’s stunning wilderness.
Day 3: Plitvice to Zadar
On Day 3, it’s time to trade the serene beauty of Plitvice Lakes for the coastal charm of Zadar. As you make your way to this ancient city on the Adriatic Sea, you’ll pass through quaint villages and open landscapes that offer glimpses of Croatia’s diverse geography.
Upon arriving in Zadar, you’ll instantly notice its unique blend of historical relics and modern art installations. Head to the Old Town to marvel at Roman and Venetian architecture, and make sure to visit two of the city’s most famous attractions: the Sea Organ, an art installation that turns waves into music, and the Sun Salutation, a solar-powered light show that illuminates the waterfront at dusk.
Zadar offers a magical mix of the past and the present, making it a captivating stop on your Croatian adventure.
What to do in Zadar?
- Visit the Sea Organ. Experience this unique art installation on the waterfront that creates melodious sounds as the waves interact with a series of underwater pipes.
- See the Sun Salutation. Witness this captivating light display, also on the waterfront, where solar panels absorb energy during the day to create a mesmerizing light show at dusk.
- Explore the Old Town. Wander through cobblestone streets to discover Roman ruins, medieval architecture, and the iconic St. Donatus Church. Go up the tower for the best views of Zadar.
- Walk Along the City Walls. Get panoramic views of Zadar and the Adriatic Sea as you stroll along these ancient fortifications, which have protected the city for centuries.
- Take a Boat Tour. Enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby islands and the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea by embarking on a boat tour that might also offer snorkeling or fishing opportunities. One of the most popular tours is the Kornati boat tour.
Day 4: Zadar to Split
On Day 4, bid farewell to the enchanting city of Zadar and set your sights on Split, a bustling port city that effortlessly blends the ancient and the modern.
As you travel down the Dalmatian Coast, the views of the sparkling Adriatic Sea will keep you captivated.
Upon arrival in Split, you’ll be greeted by the grandeur of Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman complex that now forms the heart of the city.
Spend the rest of your day exploring the labyrinthine streets within the palace walls, and be sure to take a leisurely walk on the Riva Promenade, where locals and tourists alike gather for coffee, conversation, and stunning seaside views. Day 4 brings you closer to the Mediterranean lifestyle, full of history, culture, and scenic beauty.
What to do in Split?
- Explore Diocletian’s Palace. Wander alone or book a tour to explore this ancient Roman fortress that now serves as the vibrant heart of Split, filled with shops, cafes, and historical landmarks like the Cathedral of St. Domnius. If you have the time, go up the tower.
- Walk on the Riva Promenade. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along this bustling waterfront area, where you can soak in the views, enjoy local cuisine, and experience the city’s lively atmosphere.
- Visit Marjan Hill. Hike or bike to the top of this local landmark for panoramic views of Split and the Adriatic Sea. It’s a great place for outdoor activities and photo opportunities.
- Discover the Split Archaeological Museum. Dive into the rich history of the region by visiting Croatia’s oldest museum, which houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the Roman and early Christian periods.
- Take a ferry to the nearby Islands. Use Split as a jumping-off point to explore the beautiful Croatian islands like Hvar or Brac, easily accessible by frequent ferry services.
Day 5: Day trip to Hvar
Book ferry here:
On Day 5, embark on a maritime adventure as you set sail from Split to the idyllic island of Hvar. Known for its stunning landscapes, lavender fields, and crystal-clear waters, Hvar serves as a Mediterranean paradise.
You can also book a day trip from Split to discover the most beautiful islands nearby, including Hvar.
Upon docking at the harbor, you’ll immediately sense the island’s vibrant atmosphere, framed by luxurious yachts and bustling cafes. Head to Hvar Fortress, commonly known as Fortica, for panoramic views that are nothing short of breathtaking.
Spend the rest of your day lounging on one of the island’s many picturesque beaches, or perhaps indulge in some local cuisine at a seaside restaurant. A day trip to Hvar offers a blissful escape and a taste of Croatia’s famed island life.
Hvar is most famous for its sunny climate and vibrant nightlife. It’s often referred to as the “Sunniest Island in Croatia,”.
The island’s vibrant nightlife attracts a younger crowd looking to experience some of the best parties Croatia has to offer.
Day 6: Split to Dubrovnik
On Day 6, prepare for a scenic journey as you travel from Split to the jewel of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik. As you make your way down the Dalmatian Coast, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the sea on one side and rugged mountains on the other.
Upon arriving in Dubrovnik, you’ll immediately notice the city’s imposing stone walls, which have stood the test of time and even served as a filming location for the popular TV show “Game of Thrones.” Spend your afternoon getting lost in the labyrinth of cobbled streets within the Old Town, perhaps making your way to the Rector’s Palace or Sponza Palace for a dose of history and architecture.
Dubrovnik is a city that captivates every visitor with its blend of ancient grandeur and modern charm, making it a fitting highlight as you near the end of your Croatian journey.
What to do in Dubrovnik?
- Walk the City Walls. Experience breathtaking views of the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea as you stroll along Dubrovnik’s ancient fortified walls. I strongly recommend waking up early and exploring the walls with a guide.
- Visit the Old Town. Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, exploring landmarks like the Rector’s Palace and the 16th-century Sponza Palace. Book a walking tour if you have the time.
- Ride the Cable Car. Take a cable car ride to the top of Mount Srđ for panoramic views of Dubrovnik and the surrounding area, providing a perfect photo opportunity. A round trip is 27 Euros, but the views are worth it.
- Explore Lokrum Island. Take a short ferry ride to this nearby island, known for its botanical gardens, fort ruins, and the famous Dead Sea, a small saltwater lake ideal for swimming.
- Discover Game of Thrones Locations. For fans of the show, take a guided tour to see locations within the city that were used as filming sets, including the famous King’s Landing.
Day 7: Departure
Spend the morning shopping and then head to the Dubrovnik airport in Čilipi.
If possible, drop your rental car here and then continue your travels by plane.
Croatia itinerary tips
Getting around Croatia
The best way to explore Croatia is by car. I always use RentalCars to search for the best car rental deals when I’m exploring a new country. So far, all my experiences with them have been great, and I’ve rented in multiple countries in Europe.
Given its geographical size, the best way to explore Croatia would be to land in one city, usually one of the coastal cities, and then leave from another place. This way, you wouldn’t have to drive back to your starting location, and it will save you precious time.
Also, if you rent a car, you won’t be tied to a certain hotel. I like my Europe road trips because I can book hotels which are a bit outside the city, which means a better deal for me and more often than not, I’m also discovering secret gems which I wouldn’t be able to explore without a car.
Croatian food and cuisine
Croatian culinary traditions offer a sumptuous blend of Mediterranean flavors and Balkan heartiness. The food is as diverse as the country’s landscape, varying from seafood-rich dishes along the coast to meat and potato-based meals in the inland areas. Along your 7-day itinerary, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine, each dish telling a story of Croatia’s cultural and regional influences.
Must-Try Dishes and Where to Find Them
- Strukli. This comforting pastry filled with cheese can be enjoyed in Zagreb, where it is a local specialty. You can find it in traditional Croatian restaurants or even some bakeries, but the best one is La Štruk, in the center of Zagreb.
- Black Risotto. This seafood risotto made with squid ink is a coastal delicacy you’ll likely encounter in Zadar or Split. Waterfront restaurants are the ideal places to savor this dish.
- Peka. Often prepared with lamb or octopus, this slow-cooked dish is a Dalmatian classic. You might come across it in traditional taverns in Split or even in some restaurants in Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
- Grilled Fish. When you’re in Hvar, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in freshly caught fish grilled to perfection, often seasoned with local olive oil and herbs.
- Oysters. If you’re a seafood lover, you can’t leave Dubrovnik without trying the fresh oysters, renowned for their quality and flavor. These can typically be enjoyed at the city’s harborside restaurants.
Safety and Travel Tips
Make sure to prepare for your trip to Croatia and check if you have the following:
- Valid driver’s license. Depending on your country of origin, you might need an international driver’s license, so make sure you get that in advance.
- Travel insurance. You never know when the unexpected hits. I hope it will not happen, but the cost of having this insurance is much lower than the risk of not having it.
- Roaming data on your smartphone. I always make sure I have an active internet connection when I land. I strongly recommend the Airalo eSIM.