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Croatia Travel Guide with Zadar To Dubrovnik 10 Day Itinerary

croatia flat on sunny day with croatia travel guide title text

Wondering where to go on your next European holiday? Consider a trip to Croatia, where you can enjoy stunning natural scenery, a varied and rich history, delicious food, and all for an affordable price without compromising your experience. Read on for a complete Croatia travel guide with things you should know before heading on your trip, and a 10 day itinerary to take you down the coastline from Zadar to Dubrovnik.

Like many people, we usually take one big trip a year. We find a destination to spend around 2 weeks holiday where we like to mix relaxation and down time with sightseeing and typically touristy activities.

When looking for our most recent trip, we had a few requirements in mind:

  • Affordable for 2 people on a low-medium budget
  • Somewhere in Europe
  • Likely to be sunny and beach-friendly in September
  • Somewhere with historical sites to visit
  • Has natural beauty and easily accessible national parks
  • Accessible by public transport between destinations
  • A country neither of us had been to before

When we looked at our options and brainstormed ideas, it became clear that Croatia was a top option! If you’re unsure about where to go on your next European trip, this criteria might apply for you too.

couple swim at banje beach dubrovnik

Things to know about travelling to Croatia

When to visit Croatia

September was the perfect weather to visit Croatia for our 10 day trip. The prices were slightly cheaper and there were fewer people, and the weather was pleasant but not scorching hot

Generally people say that the peak season between June – August is going to be most expensive and hot. Added to the influx of visitors at this time, you might want to steer clear during these months.

May is also considered a preferable month to visit Croatia. The weather is warming up, and you’re likely to benefit from there being fewer visitors.

I would highly recommend going to Croatia during these shoulder seasons. You’ll have an overall better experience in almost every aspect. The only downsides I can think of is that the weather might not be perfect all the time, expect some cloud and maybe rain.

The other disadvantage could be that there are fewer buses, ferries, and tours operating outside the key months for business. If you can work around that by being more flexible, you’ll do fine!

Of course, you can also visit Croatia in other months too. The national parks are particularly stunning in all seasons. Be aware that if you do choose to visit Croatia in autumn or winter, there may be fewer activities available and limited opening hours for attractions.

view over plaza banje dubrovnik

Getting Around Croatia

You’ve seen Croatia on a map, right? It’s a long skinny country, with over 1,000 islands (48 of which are inhabited).

So, unless you intend to stay in one location, you’re gonna need a way to get around.

Flying

If, like me, you’re coming from far away to visit Croatia you’ll likely arrive and depart by plane.

There are several airlines that fly in and out of Croatian airports. Many are budget European airlines that won’t cost an arm and a leg, but you might sacrifice comfort.

The flight between London and Croatia is around 2.5 hours. This makes it the perfect getaway destination that’s far enough to feel exciting but not too far to limit your holiday time.

My biggest suggestion with flying to and from Croatia is to arrive and depart from different airports if you’re planning to see multiple destinations.

This way, you can see the Croatian coastline like we did! We flew into Zadar and made our way over land to Dubrovnik. But, you could easily arrive into Zagreb or Pula instead, or even start from Dubrovnik and head up the country.

It’s not worth flying between cities in my opinion. There is a domestic airline for flights from Zagreb to other cities in Croatia with flight times ranging between 35-80 mins. But, who wants the hassle of lugging through an airport just for a short flight like that? Not to mention how incredibly bad that would be for the planet. Nah, stick the overlanding or sailing around Croatia. I promise it’s way better, and cheaper!

Buses

Travelling around Croatia by bus is the easiest way to get around.

You can book your tickets well in advance online with Get by Bus or Flixbus (we used the former). If you’re a planner like me you’ll be grateful to lock in those buses well ahead of time to get it out the way. But, if you prefer to be a bit more spontaneous you can also book buses closer to the time. You could even book on the day right at the bus terminal!

Normal bus etiquette applies like other European countries. Don’t be an idiot, respect other passengers, that sort of thing.

Catching buses around Croatia will certainly save you money and hassle with other transport options.

When catching buses around Croatia there a a couple of things to note:
  1. There are a lot of independent bus companies. Who you book with can be confusing especially when multiple buses run to the same place at the same time! Check which bus company you’re booked with from the ticket sent to you via email. This is the easiest way to confirm that you’ll be aiming for the right bus stop.
  2. Day trips can also be booked through Get by Bus or Flixbus. The system works much the same as booking buses between cities.
  3. These buses aren’t always just for tourists. Our bus from Split – Dubrovnik picked up (seemingly at random) locals for shorter trips too.
  4. There might be additional charges on the day. Check your ticket for luggage allowances. If you don’t have luggage included expect to pay around 20hrk extra in cash.
  5. You can’t eat or drink on the buses so fill up before you go!
  6. There might be the odd toilet/snack break to break up the longer coastal journeys.
  7. Tickets might allocate you a seat but oftentimes it’s first come first serve. The driver might also ask you to move back if you’re right at the front, to accommodate the local passengers.
  8. Sometimes tickets bought on the day won’t guarantee you a seat, especially for popular tourist spots. We had people on our bus to the Plitvice Lakes who were sitting in the aisle!
  9. The cities will also have a metro bus system to use locally. These might not run on a reliable like the intercity buses, but they’ll get you where you need to be.
  10. Enjoy the scenery on your drive! Croatia’s highways take you through some beautiful pieces of land. It’s a great chance to see the surroundings on your journey.

view of dubrovnik old town and city walls

Car Hire

A road trip around Croatia has several advantages:

  1. Freedom to explore more out of town destinations.
  2. Independence from bus timetables that may have cancellations or delays.
  3. More flexibility to plan activities around your own schedule.

Plus lots more! driving around Croatia is a popular way to see the country. However, it can be costly. You could be paying over £200 for a 10 day car hire in shoulder season (September/May) and double that in the height of summer. Of course, if you find a good deal and it works out more affordable to share car hire costs, then go for it!

Aside from a higher cost, you might encounter other challenges. Accommodation in Croatia do not always have parking on site. These ancient cities certainly won’t allow for cars to be in the middle of them, so you’d be staying a bit further away to compensate the car. As you’ll be spending your sightseeing time walking, it might feel a waste of money to have a car sitting unused for part of the time.

Lastly, a car hire can sometimes feel like a burden. Not only are you battling parking spaces, tickets, and making sure it’s not damaged, you’re doing it while driving in a foreign country! If you’re not used to driving on the right or the winding coastal roads put you off, hiring a car will end up being more stress than it’s worth.

Boats

Remember those islands I mentioned? Well, how else will you see them if not by boat?!

Boat travel in Croatia is very popular. It’s a reliable way to get around as all the harbours in Split in Dubrovnik have plenty of offers and companies vying for your attention. There’s always a deal to be had!

This makes it ideal for last minute bookings too. You simply need to walk along the waterfront and see what the best deals are looking like.

If you like to book ahead, use Viator MedSailors, or similar companies for organised tours that are booked in advance. This way, you can scope out reviews and assess if it’s got the right atmosphere for your interests. Be mindful that this may not be the most cost-effective approach compared to overland and last minute transport.

If you’ve got dreams of sailing on the waves for your whole trip, you can do that!

There are overnight boat tours you can take which will provide accommodation, transport, food, and some activities. Think of it like an organised group tour with less of the pressure, as you can select a short overnight tour of just 1 or 2 nights if you prefer.

Remember you’ll spend a lot of time on the water. If attractions on the mainland are your primary interests, this might not be for you!

plaza banje clear water overlooking old town dubrovnik

Walking

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you walk from Zadar to Dubrovnik, well, unless you want to.

However, walking is going to be an important part of your Croatia travels too.

The cities are very walkable. In fact it makes the most sense to walk around them to see and do as much as possible. Not to mention that transport is often not actually allowed within the city walls. So you should definitely expect and get used to the idea of walking yourself around!

You can make it fun, too. Give yourself a walking tour (or join one!), make a treasure hunt of sites you need to find, get a bit lost in the maze of side streets… I’m a big advocate of walking around cities and would always recommend this mode of transport on a local scale.

Another benefit to walking is you save money, and might experience the unexpected. When we chose to walk up Mount Srd rather than catch the cable car we were thrilled with a private spot to enjoy a romantic sunset picnic. And it didn’t cost us a thing! We saves over £30 by walking instead. Win!

While walking is both great for you, great for the planet, and great for travelling, it’s not always easy. Cities in Croatia such as Dubrovnik can be very crowded, so walking at a snails pace behind a massive group tour can be tedious. Be patient if you can, and try to get the bulk of your walking done before the rush of tourists arrive.

Also note that while most cities are well paved, they might not be flat. Walking around Dubrovnik will give your calves a damn good work out going up and down so many steps!

view of fortress in dubrovnik

Food in Croatia Travel Guide

Croatia’s cuisine is varied. Each region has its particular dishes and styles, but generally speaking you can expect a similar range of foods that you’d find elsewhere in nearby European countries. Mainland Croatia has a largely Slavic influence, and coastal cuisine is typically more Mediterranean.

Meat and seafood play a big part in Croatian dishes. We found it tricky at times as vegetarians because the options for non-meat eaters were limited on menus and in shops. It’s doable though!

There’s lots of love for wines, cakes, cheese, citrus fruits, olives, tomatoes, pizza and pasta. There’s a particularly strong Venetian influence on food along the coast, likely due to the country’s proximity to Italy. We love pizza and pasta so were in our element!

We found a lot of similar dishes in each of the cities we visited. Most notably in Zadar we discovered an abundance of white truffle products. It’s a speciality of the northern part of Croatia, so you might want to give it a try if you haven’t done so before. I did so at Bon Appetit in Zadar and loved it!

Eating out

Eating out in Croatia is fairly inexpensive, but in the old towns and city centres such as Dubrovnik you might get a fright with higher prices.

We did a lot of research to find places that would suit our style. A lot of restaurants won’t have a website or menu online. Use Trip Advisor and Zomato to help find prices, menus, and reviews of restaurants nearby. As veggies on a budget, we like to know what we’ll end up with!

For dessert, ice cream is our go-to! Remember that in the larger cities a scoop will probably be more expensive. We paid 10 kuna (£1) per scoop in Zadar, 10-20 kuna in Split, and 20+ in Dubrovnik.

hand hold ice cream with chocolate

Groceries

I’d suggest planning a few meals to eat out but also consider cooking at home. This will depend on your accommodation type of course, but if your budget can’t stretch to dining out every day then it’s worth spending a little extra on accommodation that has at least a kettle, toaster, and microwave!

We would buy groceries at Spar supermarkets where available, and failing that, Tommy’ supermarkets. Either of these had all the ingredients to enjoy an easy home cooked meal.

A simple dinner of salad, crackers, and hummus served us perfectly well. We even cooked fresh pasta and sauce on a couple of occasions! We enjoyed grabbing some fresh produce as often when travelling you end up relying on dry, portable foods. It’s a good idea to mix up your diet when you can.

You can also save money by bulk-buying breakfast and snacks. Croissants and carrot sticks were easy and cheap to buy, or maybe some fruit for a healthier and cost-efficient alternative to heavy breakfasts.

Money While Travelling in Croatia

No Croatia travel guide is complete without talking about the facts regarding cold, hard, cash.

Visitors to Croatia can easily go on a shoestring budget. Like lots of popular destinations in Europe there are plenty of hostels and cheap buses to get around for less. Flights with budget airlines aren’t the most comfortable but it’s only a short flight so it’ll serve its purpose.

On the other end of the scale, there are also some beautiful hotels and luxury experiences (private yacht anyone?) if you’re splashing out.

We chose to budget for comfortable but affordable travel. We stayed in Airbnb’s and only ate out a handful of times. You could plan activities that are low cost, and take a couple of day trips at a higher price.

As you can see, Croatia travel can be done at any scale that suits your budget. Don’t be put off by claims that the cities like Dubrovnik are too expensive, there are ways to visit more affordably if you’re smart. Stay further from the city centre, shop at grocery stores, and carefully choose the attractions you want to visit.

Cash or card?

We used mostly cash while in Croatia. Shops and restaurants take card, but some attractions are cash only. It’s best to have at least some cash on you in case card isn’t available. Furthermore, cash will make sure you stick to your budget!

The currency in Croatia in Croatian Kuna, with an exchange rate of around 1 GBP : 9 HRK

We drew out £170 in cash (1,500 kuna) and used it all up. I also had my Monzo card to hand for fee-free withdrawals and card payments.

croatian kuna coins and notes

Cost of 10 days in Croatia

Transport
  • Flight London to Zadar: £51
  • Flight Dubrovnik to London: £135
  • Intercity buses: £55
  • Local buses & airport shuttles: £121
  • Airline add ons: £38

Total: £400

Food
  • Eating Out: £146
  • Groceries: £41
  • Ice cream: £22

Total: £209

Accommodation
  • Zadar apartment 3 nights: £139
  • Split apartment 4 nights: £244
  • Dubrovnik apartment 3 nights: £310

Total: £693

Activities
  • Zadar activities: £3
  • Plitvice Lakes Day Trip: £104
  • Split activities: £16
  • Hvar Boat Trip: £154
  • Dubrovnik activities: £45
  • Lokrum Island Trip: £34

Total: £356

Miscellaneous
  • Airport snacks: £16
  • Cough medicine: £17
  • USB cable replacement: £7

Total: £40

GRAND TOTAL FOR 10 DAY CROATIA TRIP FOR 2 PEOPLE: £1,698

10 Day Croatia Itinerary – Zadar to Dubrovnik Coastline Adventure

Day 1: Exploring Zadar

  • Walk around the Old Town to see the markets, Roman forum, and admire the architecture.
  • Climb the Bell Tower for the best views of Zadar from up top!
  • Listen to the Sea Organ. This unique art installation will be a memorable moment as you enjoy the atonal melodies caused by the sea’s waves.
  • Swim at Kolovare Beach and cool off after sightseeing with a dip in the Adriatic Sea.
  • Sunset dinner at Bon Appetit. Book an outdoor table for views over the ocean as the sun lowers into the horizon.

Day 2: Plitvice Lakes National Park day trip

  • Catch a bus from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • Amble along the wooden boardwalks with cascading waterfalls and turquoise waters all around.
  • Climb through the caves to reach higher viewpoints over the lower lakes.
  • Hop on the ferry to cross one of the lakes and walk the perimeter of the waters.
  • Admire the incredible views and get up close to the waterfalls!

Day 3: Travel to Split & get to know the city

  • Catch a bus down the Dalmatian coastline to the historic city of Split.
  • Settle in with a walk around the Old Town and shopping district.
  • Spend some time resting and planning the next few days of activities.
  • Stock up on groceries to save money on eating out.

Day 4: Historic sights of Split & Salona Roman Ruins

  • Walk around Diocletian’s Palace to see all the popular historic sites.
  • Climb the Bell Tower for unrivalled views over the harbour, mountains, and rooftops below.
  • Hop on a local bus route 6km inland of Split to visit the Salona Roman Ruins including the remains of the amphitheatre, baths, and more.

Day 5: Marjan Park and Beach day

  • Hike up to the top of Marjan Park for an aerial view of Split.
  • Zigzag your way down the hillside, passing by the hermitage caves and churches.
  • Relax at Kasjuni Beach and enjoy the still, clear waters.

Day 6: Day trip to Hvar and Pakleni Islands

  • Join a full day boat tour to Hvar. 
  • Stop off at Brac island for a swim.
  • Continue onto Hvar Old Town to explore the cobbled streets and reach the Spanish Fortress.
  • Rejoin the catamaran as you enjoy a complimentary lunch.
  • Have a last swim at the Pakleni Islands. 

Day 7: Travel to Dubrovnik & Walk the City Walls

  • Catch the bus from Split to Dubrovnik old town, around 4.5 hour journey.
  • Walk the city walls of Dubrovnik to fully appreciate the beauty of the city.

Day 8: Explore Dubrovnik Old Town & Climb Mount Srd for sunset

  • Explore the Old Town of Dubrovnik early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
  • Visit Fort Lovrijenac for views of the Old Town from across the rocky coastline.
  • Take a quick swim at Plaza Banje for ocean views combined with city views at the beach.
  • Hike the track of Mount Srd just before sunset to enjoy a romantic picnic overlooking Dubrovnik and beyond.

view over dubrovnik old town and lokrum island

Day 9: Half Day Trip to Lokrum Island & time at Plaza Banje

  • Join the ferry to Lokrum Island to explore natural and historical sites.
  • Swim in the Dead Sea lake and walk along the coastline.
  • Explore the grounds of the old Benedictine Monastery.
  • Admire the majestic peacocks and adorable rabbits who freely roam the island.
  • Walk to the highest point of Lokrum Island for views over Croatia’s coastline from an abandoned fort.

Day 10: Travel to Dubrovnik airport and fly home

  • Depart Dubrovnik with a shuttle service to the airport.
  • Give plenty of time for passport control and security at the airport.
  • Fly back home!

So there we have a full Croatia coastline travel guide! I hope this information will help you plan your trip and know what to expect. Our itinerary covered all of the main sites around the three cities we visited. We managed to pack a lot in while also have time to relax!

Are you planning a trip to Croatia soon? If you’ve got any questions about travelling the coastline of Croatia I’d love to help!

 

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