Best Croatia Road Trip for Sea, History and Culture Lovers

An epic 10-day Croatia road trip should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Seriously, this country is full of charming cities, breathtaking beaches, and fascinating cultural landmarks. 

Car rental is relatively simple, and you should have no problem driving around the country. It is also the best way to pack in as much fun as possible!

Below is a sample itinerary for how to break up your time. Starting in Dubrovnik in the south, working your way north is a logical way to travel. Of course, the itinerary can be done in reverse as well. Either way, it is laid out to reduce driving time between cities and maximize your time in Croatia. 

Croatia Road Trip Itinerary 

View of sea from Old Town Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik: 2 days

You can rent a car directly from the Dubrovnik airport or from one of several rental companies around the city. However, you don’t need a car for the days you are staying in Dubrovnik. It’s a very walkable city.

Known for its fantastic location on the Adriatic Sea and the plethora of Game of Thrones filming locations, this medieval town is the perfect place to begin. 

Spend your time wandering around the Old Town within the city’s ancient walls. Here you can take a guided tour to learn more about the city’s fascinating history and its connection to the TV series Game of Thrones. 

Red roofs of Dubrovnik, Croatia

You’ll want at least two days in Dubrovnik to see the Old Town and enjoy the crystal clear waters just beyond the city walls.

One of the best ways to enjoy the sea and the area’s history is to explore Lokrum island. Here you’ll find a Franciscan monastery and plenty of opportunities to go swimming. 

Split: 2 days

Boats on the Spilt, Croatia shoreline

Split is located 230 km (~143 miles) north of Dubrovnik. This three-hour drive will take you to a totally different vibe in Croatia. 

It’s an excellent little port city and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian’s Palace. In the late 3rd century, the palace was the home of a Roman emperor, but today houses plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops in addition to the historic ruins.

Stone walls of Hvar, Croatia

Use one of your days in Split to explore the beautiful islands in the Adriatic. Ferries are available to Hvar, Vis, Korčula and Brač. Brač and Vis can easily be visited on a day trip. Hvar and Korčula are a little more of a commitment, and you may want to plan to stay overnight.

Zadar: 1 day

Zadar is one and a half hours north of Split. This cute city along the Dalmatian coast is worth checking out for a day or so. There are plenty of Roman and Venetian ruins for the history buffs to explore and great cafés for people watching.

Pro Tip: On your way between Split and Zadar, stop at the Krka Waterfalls.

Waterfalls in Krka National Park

Zagreb: 1 day

Art Palace in Zagreb

Croatia’s capital is so underrated. There are so many unique things to do in Zagreb, and it’s only a three-hour drive from Zadar. Be sure to visit the Museum of Broken Relationships and St. Mark’s Cathedral!

Pro Tip: About halfway between Zadar and Zagreb is the stunning Plitvice National Park. Definitely plan to stop for a few hours to see the gorgeous lakes.

Plitvice National Park in Croatia

Poreč: 1 day

Inside the Euphrasian Basilica of Porec

Poreč is the first city you’ll visit in Croatia’s Istria region. It is a summer resort town and is the perfect place to camp or relax on the beach.

Poreč is also home to some impressive gem-studded mosaics and the beautiful Euphrasian Basilica.

It is definitely worth the three-hour drive!

Rovinj: 1 day

View from above Rovinj, Croatia

The fishing port of Rovinj is only thirty minutes south of Poreč. You could plan to stop here for lunch on your way down to Pula, but it really deserves a full day of exploration.

Rovinj’s Old Town is arguably the prettiest in the entire country. The winding maze of cobblestoned streets give the city an undeniable charm, and its location on the water is breathtaking.

If you want to take in a view from above, head up to St. Euphemia’s church. You’ll be treated to a bird’s eye view of colorful Rovinj.

Pula: 2 days

Pula amphitheater in Croatia

Located thirty minutes south of Rovinj, Pula is one of Croatia’s hidden gems. Packed with ancient ruins and one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world.

It is worth staying in Pula for two days because it is home to delicious Croatian wine. Tour some vineyards and sample Istrian Malvasia, one of the best red wines in the world!

Pula is the largest city in the region and the biggest tourist hub, providing more options for food and accommodation in addition to the tourist attractions. 

Of course, if you are short on time, you could base yourself here in Pula and take day trips to Poreč and/or Rovinj.

This is a LOT to pack in, but each city is absolutely worth visiting. It would certainly be better if you had more time, allowing two-three days per city and more time to stop along the way. However, we don’t always live in a perfect world! If you only have time for a 5 or 7-day trip in Croatia, choose your favorite of these options and add the rest to your bucket list for next time.

Pro tip: If you’d rather not travel by car, these are all the places in Croatia we can take you.

Where to Next

Venice from the water with a boat in the foreground

After you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy your road trip to the max, consider heading on to a new European destination.

Venice is the perfect place to keep the energy and excitement going. If you finish your trip in Rovinj or Pula, there are ferries that go directly to the Floating City.

Tickets from Rovinj to Venice are around $75 per person, and from Pula to Venice, they start around $85. The journey is about four hours so being on a nice boat is key! And believe me when I tell you that the Venezia Ferry Line is a comfortable way to travel. 

If you’ve already been to Venice or are looking for something a little different, consider Slovenia. Ljubljana is only a two-hour and 45-minute bus ride from Zagreb. Better yet, tickets for the ride are about $12 per person, making it an easy (and cheap!) way to continue traveling.  

No matter where you choose to go, you’ll be able to cap off the end of an epic Croatia road trip!

FAQ

What do you need to rent a car in Croatia?

You will need a valid driver’s license from your home country. An international license is only required if your license is printed in a language that doesn’t use the standard Latin alphabet (think Greek or Chinese). You will also need a credit card to pay the rental deposit, typically between €500-1,000 ($507-1015).

How old do you have to be to rent a car in Croatia?

You can legally rent a car once you are 18 years old. However, you will get a better rate if you are between 22-70 years old.

What do you do if you need roadside assistance in Croatia?

While Croatian roads are pretty safe and easy to navigate, it is always a good idea to have emergency numbers, just in case! If you run into a problem while driving, you can dial 1987 to speak with someone in English. You can also look for the HAK App, which will give you the most up-to-date information on gas prices and petrol stations, tolls, and road conditions.

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