10 Days in Croatia – A Road Trip Travel Guide to the Croatian Coast
In April 2017 I, Sarah, visited Dubrovnik, Croatia and loved it so much I went back again this year. This time bringing my husband and cramming in as much of Croatia as we possibly could. The main attractions being Split, Krka waterfall park, LOTS of castles (card-carrying Historic Scotland members here), beautiful islands and revisiting Dubrovnik.
I don’t like to sit around, I am not good at relaxing. Especially in beautiful foreign lands, there’s just so much to SEE and DO. But I have to admit; I probably did try and fit too much into our 10-day Croatian road trip. So here I am to tell you what worked and what we could have skipped. If you’re travelling to Croatia soon or considering it for your honeymoon, I hope you’ll find this helpful!
Season: Mid May 2018
Flights: Glasgow to Split with Jet2.com
Accommodation: Various Airbnbs (6 to be precise) We love using Airbnb and renting apartments in the heart of our destinations. The only drawbacks being you usually have to set up a meeting time to be checked in by your host. Croatian’s, in particular, are very welcoming and would probably think it rude not to meet you to go over everything. So hotels can be more convenient if you are coming and going at odd hours. You do get amazing hospitality from Croatian Airbnb owners it seems, we were spoiled! Welcome beers, welcome rakija (the local aperitif) welcome chocolates and wine, goodbye magnets and thank you lavender bags – we were thrilled!
Car: Hertz at Split Airport (they don’t charge you for crossing the Bosnia and Herzegovina border at Neum corridor, unlike most other car rental companies!)
Day 1/2/3 Split
First stop from the airport was the UNESCO heritage island town of Trogir. It’s really cute and gives you a good idea what the rest of Croatia’s medieval towns will look like (they all kinda look the same tbh) but it’s definitely worth checking out!
Then it was onto something even older, the Roman ruins of Salona! I love me some Roman ruins. Google maps definitely took us up the ‘locals only’ entrance and it was a slightly scary single track road but we got there fine in the end. So maybe follow signposts rather than GPS for this one (Or choose the right entrance on the GPS!) We didn’t have too long to have a look as we had agreed to meet our Airbnb host at a certain time. The ruins are vastly spread out but there’s not much left, still an interesting jaunt. Unfortunately, we never made it as far as the amphitheatre as we were pressed for time, boo! Also, it was boiling and we craved the cars AC – we are Scottish after all.
On our first evening, we did a 2-hour walking tour of Split city centre booked via Viator. I love going on walking tours as you get all the interesting facts and history of where you are and what it is you’re looking at, then you can look like a smart ass when you retell them – like now ;) Split old town is built within the walls of the 2000-year-old retirement palace of Roman emperor Diocletian. Sounds nuts? It is! It’s unbelievably cool. You could wander for hours marvelling at how it’s been repurposed over the years. Our guide told us that only 30 years ago this was the ghetto of Split, a place no one would freely walk at night. Can you believe? One evening we sat outside drinking wine as the sun went down and a cute couple danced to the live music in the square.
On day 2 it was Split’s festival day and we were advised not to leave the city as we’d have trouble with traffic and parking so we ended up wandering around the city and down into the subterranean levels of Diocletian’s palace instead. These were completely filled with rubbish and waste up until quite recently when they were thankfully cleaned out, very cool both temperature wise and visually, I do love exploring old buildings!
In the evening we hiked up Hill Marjan which is just a short walk from the centre of Split. A short walk to the bottom – not to the top. That was a long(ish) slog. But there’s a bar, Vidilica, halfway up so we stopped there on the way back down as a reward ;) The view from the top was beautiful. My husband is not a photographer though so he doesn’t let me get too caught up in photographing before he wants to move on or else I’d be there all day! Sunset with drinks again at the bar on the way down! We’re on holidaaay!
Day 3 saw us out on a day trip to Krka Waterfall Park via actual Mereen from actual Game of Thrones. Oh yeah did I not mention, TONS of GoT stuff was filmed in Croatia, yassss! Klis is a HUGE fortress on the side of a hill, very epic, very impressive and has great views of Split below.
Krka Waterfall Park might be the highlight of the trip for me, it was just gorgeous! Usually seen on lists like ’30 places to go before you die’ they’re not kidding when they say it’s worth seeing. The park has a guided trail through it and over many many waterfalls and pools filled with all kinds of wildlife that takes about 1-2 hours to walk. It also has some public swimming at one of the waterfall pools. I got in up to my knees, that was plenty for me. It looked great fun though! It is well organised but busy with tourists and that was in low season, I’d be frightened to see it in high season!
Best sights: Diocletian’s Palace, Krka Waterfall Park, Klis Fortress
Best eats: To Je Tako (amazing Mexican food)
Best drinks: Vidilica (Marjan Hill)
Day 4 Hvar
Croatia’s islands are well connected by car ferries but some of them only run twice a day and it’s first come first served for spaces so if it’s full when you get there you have to wait for the next one. We got there so early we were about 4th in the queue! Turns out you don’t need to get there as early as we did, about 1 hour before departure is probably plenty. They start loading 10 to 15 minutes prior to departure. And so off to Hvar we went!
On the way to Hvar town we stopped off at an abandoned village –Malo Grablje – for a nosey around, it was pretty cool! There’s a restaurant there, that’s the only building in use so it would be quite cool to dine there but being a vegetarian it was all traditional fare i.e. nothing for poor veggie Sarah!
Hvar also has a very cool fortress on the side of a hill, not as impressive as Klis but worth a look nonetheless! If not just for the lovely views over Hvar and the Adriatic Sea. I’d read about a vegetarian-friendly café (in Croatia this is rare) in Hvar so we had to check it out. Ran by an American, Fig Café was just adorable and the food was delicious!!
Hvar has a reputation for being the posh party island so we were a bit worried we wouldn’t fit in! We needn’t have though, the old town of Hvar is much like other Croatian towns, medieval and traditional. It’s further towards the beach where the party is at, with it being low season though it wasn’t too busy. We did find a cool beach bar to hang out in for a bit though! We also had one of the best meals of our trip in Hvar at Dalmatino. I won’t spoil all the surprises but I will say it’s worth visiting just for the service alone.
Best sights: Hvar Fortress, Walk along the promenade
Best eats: Dalmatino, Fig Cafe
Best drinks: Hula Hula Beach Bar
Day 5 Korčula
Korčula is known as little Dubrovnik and once you get there you can see why. A miniature walled town on the coast, it’s cute as heck and had lots of lovely wee alleyways, shops and restaurants to explore. It took 3 ferries to get here from Hvar but it was worth it! Korčula was a nice chilled place and a good bit of respite before actual Dubrovnik which is quite busy with cruise ship tourists.
We had an excellent Asian street food meal at Silk and next door was a cocktail bar called Arsenal that had live music outdoors on the battlement next to cannons – very nice. We then drunkenly decided to run up St Marks tower to try and catch the sunset light… which we somewhat managed.
Best sights: Korčula Old Town
Best eats: Silk Asian Street Food
Best drinks: Arsenal
Day 6 Mljet
On the way to Mljet we visited Ston and Mali Ston which are two towns connected by an absolutely whopping great wall. Honestly, it’s so impressive it’s hard to take in from photos just how big it is!! We walked the lower half of it, it was SO hot so it wasn’t an easy walk but it wasn’t that long either. Worth it!
Mljet is definitely the most rustic Island we visited on our travels. We were going as we’d heard about Odysseus Cave and the national park looked interesting too. Honestly though, if I could do the trip over I’d have skipped this island entirely. Maybe when you have Loch Lomond on your doorstep the Mljet National Park just doesn’t seem that special. Also, we never made it to the cave as we’d heard it was a long walk to it and a bit treacherous, we were too tired for that adventure. There were amazing stargazing opportunities though as there’s hardly any light pollution on the island, its population is only 1000.
Also, our Airbnb did have goats – so it had that going for it!
BONUS! More goats we saw on our walk around Mljet National Park
Best sights: The goats, the stars
Best eats: There were none!
Best drinks: There were none!
Day 7/8/9 Dubrovnik
Off to the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ we go! I wish I’d taken a video of our Airbnb host parking our car for us, they have to reverse their cars down the side of a hill to get to their parking spot. Words can’t even explain how hair-raising this was, and I wasn’t even in the car! Thank god he did it for me! Then they cracked open two cold beers for us at the apartment. Again, Croatian Airbnb hosts are the BEST.
We had to chug them rather quickly though as over-scheduler extraordinaire here had us booked onto a walking tour. Down the hill we went to the old town. Perks of being on the side of the hill –
Cons of being on the side of the hill, the steps up and down to the Old Town. Oh man, it felt like a slog. I mean it probably wasn’t all that bad but it was hot! But the views and location of being so close to Old Town made it worth it.
We ended up doing 3 walking tours with Dubrovnik Walking Tours over our stay and we thoroughly enjoyed them all! The first evening was a general tour of Dubrovnik old town. I had done the tour before last year but I still managed to learn new things as it was a different guide than I had before.
Day 2 we went on tour no 2, the Game of Thrones tour! You can’t come to Croatia or Dubrovnik and not do something GoT, it’s everywhere. They also seem to be running Star Wars tours even though only 1 scene was filmed there so I’d maybe avoid those. GoT though has SO many filming spots all over Croatia. You see the big scenes that Dubrovnik was used for, basically, all of King’s Landing was filmed in Dubrovnik. There’s even the walk of shame steps, with nearby cafes selling walk of shame cocktails! I really love looking behind the scenes of TV shows so I loved this. They use picture books to remind you scenes from the show and where they were filmed, it’s great. You can even recreate them if you wish to!
We then took ourselves up on the city walls, it’s not cheap (£18pp) but it’s worth it. Great views of inside and outside the old town. A lovely breeze that’s worth the payment alone. Some parts of the wall might be a little scary for anyone with a fear of heights (as I discovered last year when a member of our group had a slight freak out atop the wall). There are also cafes and bars on the way round so you can have a lil wall crawl while you’re at it if you fancy!
After so much walking we headed to the best bar and view in Dubrovnik for a seat and a beer, Buza Bar. It can be tricky to find but once you do, wow. You won’t be leaving in a hurry. This might be my favourite place to get a beer in Croatia.
Our last day in Dubrovnik got off to a rocky start when our Sea Kayaking tour was cancelled, the water was quite rough that day as it had been thundery while we were there. So we were at a bit of a loss what to do. I had been before so had seen all the usual tourist sights and we were both pretty tired from the previous 8 days of galavanting. So we decided to do another walking tour! Haha. This time it was one on the Homeland War. A really interesting subject. The tour guide was really great, she was born during the war and her mum had quite the time of it so she was well versed in all that had gone on and how things are now within the former Yugoslavic countries. Definitely an interesting one for history buffs! My husband said this was his favourite tour of the 3 of them.
And we ended the day with pizza, beer and Eurovision 2018 in our Airbnb as we were completely done in, bliss.
Best sights: St Lawrence Fortress, City Walls
Best eats: Lajk, Café Festival
Best drinks: Buza Bar
Day 10 Makarska
En route we stopped at Trsteno Gardens which GoT fans might recognise as the Red Keep gardens. Where the badass Lady Olena did most of her plotting and lemon cake eating during her time in King’s Landing. A lovely little place to walk about, quite small though, not worth the trip unless you’re passing by anyway I’d say.
We’d heard Makarska was a great place as a stop-gap on the drive back to Split, unfortunately, the whole time we were there it was pouring rain! So I think we maybe didn’t get the good of it as I’ve heard high praise. We did manage a little walk around before the heavens opened and it looked a great place for families. It has a huge beach/promenade area with lots of play parks and activities on offer.
We did run out in the rain in the evening to a little rock bar I’d seen online, Rockantansky. It was deserted, we were the only people there but nonetheless, it was a cute bar I’d happily recommend for any rock fans looking for a temporary home!
Best sights: Promenade
Best eats: Nothing I could heartily recommend.
Best drinks: Rockantansky
Day 11 Driving back to Split
There was still time to cram in some more sightseeing! (I told you I over scheduled). I just love a waterfall so when I saw there was one vaguely en route we had to go via it. Not too far out of the way is Cetina Gorge, a winding serpentine road up a mountain takes you to it and it’s worth the detour. I quite like getting ‘lost’ down quiet wee roads that can lead you to beautiful places like this.
The Croatian coast is very mountainous so if you’re not hugging a coastal road you’re either going up a mountain or down one. So there’s gorgeous scenery wherever you go! Car for scale…
We then went onward to Omis which had some fortresses and I love a fortress so up we went! I declined to go to the very top as you had to climb a ladder up and down to get to it. My husband did though and took some photos from the top. Definitely worth checking out if you are passing by.
And then it was goodbye Croatia. I’m not sure we’d go back again, I think we managed to fit in very nearly everything we wanted to see and do. I’d highly recommend it to any couple or family that likes to have an adventure though. A lovely but tiring adventure.
I hope this mini guide has been handy, you can see my uber scheduled colour coded Google map for all the Croatian hot spots (well, my version of hot spots) here:
Images were taken on my holiday camera: Sony Cyber-Shot RX100
Do you have a Croatian travel tip? Let me know what it is in the comments!
Or check out more personal posts here.