When we decided to visit Croatia in June 2016 it was difficult to narrow it down to one place to visit. So that’s why we decided to hire a car and stay in 7 different towns on and around the Dalmatian Coast! Here’s A Brummie Home and Abroad’s Guide to planning a 2-week road trip in Croatia.
Croatia is an Eastern European country with a beautiful coastline on the Adriatic and a fascinating history. It borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, yet still has the longest coastline of all the Balkan countries. Much of this dramatic coastline is in the southern region of Croatia, Dalmatia, where coastal mountains sweep down towards shimmering turquoise waters. There are also hundreds of islands, from trendy hotspots to quieter and more secluded getaways.
We hired a car from Avis, picking up from Čilipi Airport in Dubrovnik. A car is not needed in Dubrovnik itself unless you’re planning on doing day trips from the city, so we picked up the car on day three of our trip. The coastal roads are well maintained and hug the Adriatic around sweeping bends with gorgeous scenery. The motorways are also efficient, with a great toll system where your fee is dependent on far you travel – such a great idea.
We visited in June, before the hordes of tourists descended. Croatia is also a big favourite with Italians; it’s just a short journey across the Adriatic. After a few cloudy days in Dubrovnik, and an extremely drizzly day in Montenegro, the weather got considerably warmer with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s for the remainder of our trip.
From the Dalmatian Coast it’s also easy to hop over the border to visit one of Croatia’s neighbouring countries. We took a coach trip booked through Viator to Montenegro from Dubrovnik, and it’s also possible to take a daytrip to Bosnia & Herzegovina – many people choose to visit the town of Mostar with its famous bridge. If you’re driving the D8/E65 Adriatic Highway, you’ll have to cross the border into Bosnia briefly for around a 9km stretch – don’t forget to notify your car rental company before you travel.
- 3 Nights in Dubrovnik
- 1 Night in Makarska
- 3 Nights in Zadar
- 1 Night in Radonic
- 2 Nights in Split
- 3 Nights on Korcula
- 1 Night in Cavtat
This is approximately 810km – not taking into account the 240km driving to and from Plitvice National Park from Zadar.
Dubrovnik: The Pearl of the Adriatic
Dubrovnik was the perfect starting point for our Croatian break. Breathtaking vistas, a stunning coastline and a beautiful old town within the city walls. And of course, you can reenact your favourite Kings Landing scenes from Game of Thrones; I particularly liked whispering “Shame” behind anyone descending the Jesuit Staircase. It’s also easy to make a side trip to Montenegro from Dubrovnik, and the lovely Trsteno Arboretum is a short drive away, although we did this on the way back through Dubrovnik at the end of our trip.
You can read about my guide to spending just 24 hours in Dubrovnik here.
Makarska: The Croatian Riviera
Makarska was just added in to the itinerary as a stop between Dubrovnik and Zadar, but we ended up falling in love with this seaside town, with its beaches, palm-tree lined promenade and stunning mountain backdrop. You could easily spend more than one night here.
Zadar: Home of the “Hitchcock Sunset”
We took something of a circuitous route to Zadar from Makarska but eventually we arrived at this ancient Roman stronghold, with its straight narrow streets leading all the way from parkland to the top of the peninsular Old Town. Our final night in Zadar yielded us this stunning sunset, famously called “the most beautiful sunset in the world” by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964.
Krka: Don’t forget your swimsuit!
Everyone’s heard of Plitvice, but Krka is just as spectacular as it’s more famous neighbour. A stunning cascade of waterfalls, ending in a pool in which you can take a dip. Scenic boardwalk paths meander through lush trees. And the town of Skradin, gateway to Krka, is a lovely little town to explore too.
We spent the evening in the wonderfully rural Agrotourism Kalpic, a guesthouse in the middle of countryside with a pool and the most amazing home cooking. It was truly wonderful waking up to the sounds of the farmyard animals and it was a wrench to leave after just one night.
Split: Life inside a Roman palace
It’s the second largest city in Croatia after the capital Zagreb, yet the Old Town of Split – largely within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace – is extremely walkable, whilst it’s waterside location and beaches make it the perfect destination to relax too. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb Marjan Hill for panoramic views across Split and across to the nearby islands. There’s also a ferry port here which is handy if you want to visit any of the islands – which leads us nicely to our next stop…
Korcula: birthplace of Marco Polo. Maybe.
We stayed in Korcula town, on the north-east tip of Korcula island, and this was a perfect place to spend a couple of chilled out days. It’s famous for its vineyards, and tiny fishing villages, but apart from one long, hot walk to Lumbarda we were content to relax on our apartment’s private beach, eat seafood and gelato, and climb up a rickety ladder in order to get a cocktail with a view at Massimo.
Cavtat: Car Park for big boats
Cavtat is lovely down in the harbour, but there’s a huge great big hill to get down to it – be mindful of this when booking your accommodation… This was our final stop, located just east of Dubrovnik and handy for Čilipi Airport. As with most towns in Croatia, it’s full of narrow streets, beautiful architecture, terracotta rooftops and splendid places for seafood and gelato.
So that’s A Brummie Home and Abroad’s suggestion for a 2-week Dalmatian Coast Road Trip! There’s so much more to discover in Croatia, and I think its safe to say that we’ll be back to explore more very soon!
All photos were taken by Mr Fletche – CPF Photography (apart from Split and Cavtat, taken by yours truly)