If you’re planning your ultimate Croatia road trip, you should definitely read this article. A Croatia road trip is definitely the best way to explore the country. The roads are great and distances are not too long. This makes Croatia one of the best road trip destinations in Eastern Europe. While Croatia is getting more popular it’s still a nice hidden gem, in some ways. With this itinerary for an amazing 2 to 3 weeks road trip you’ll be able to explore the most amazing destinations and places of interest in Croatia.
How to plan your Croatia road trip
Croatia is an awesome destination to discover with your own car or a rental car. There are many airports in Croatia from where you can pick up your rental car and start your Croatia road trip. The best destinations to start your road trip are Pula, Zagreb, Zadar and Split in the south.
Do you travel to Croatia from other parts of Europe with your own car? It’s awesome to start your road trip in the north (Istria) and drive all the way to the south. You could even combine your Croatia road trip with some days in Slovenia and/or Italy.
Before you travel to Croatia it’s good to think about why you wan to explore this country and what you would love to see and do. There are over 1000 island to discover in Croatia, but even the mainland has it’s great hidden gems. Nature wise we have to say that Croatia is one of our favorite countries in Europe, so far, and we’ve seen quite a lot.
Special tips for your road trip
While driving through Croatia I suggest to set your GPS to avoid toll roads. Not because it’s too expensive. Just because by avoiding toll ways you’ll be able to explore the most amazing parts of the country and be able to see places where you would never come otherwise.
The perfect itinerary for a Croatia road trip
We traveled to Croatia at the end of summer 2018 with our own car. We started in Italy (Lake Garda) en drove all the way to Split in the south of Croatia. Our itinerary would be perfect for a 2 or 3 weeks road trip. If you want have that much time, you could choose to either visit the north or the south of the country. Regions which are both awesome, so you would never make the wrong choice.
Day 1 – 6: Northern Croatia – Istria
When you have enough time to visit the north and the south of Croatia I recommend you start in the north, in the awesome region Istria. It’s the first region you will come across when you drive to Croatia from Italy, Slovenia and/or Austria.
Fishermans town Umag
We started our Croatia road trip in Umag. A cute fisherman’s town right next to the azure blue Adriatic Sea. Umag is only small so you will be able to explore the entire town in one full day. Make sure to have a drink – wine will not even cost you one euro – on one of the terraces next to the water.
Explore Istria’s hills
Once you’ve seen Umag its awesome to go on a short road trip to see the beauty of Istria. With green hills, coastal towns and amazing view points you’ll see that this is a perfect start of your great trip. Places you would definitely want to make a stop are Groznjan, Porec and Rovinj. You’ll reach Groznjan within 30 minutes from Umag. This town in the middle of the green hills is famous among artists and hippies.
Discover the romantic city of Rovinj
Rovinj is known as the most romantic city in Croatia and is definitely worth a longer stop. Make sure to spend the night in one of the many guesthouses or bed and breakfasts and enjoy the great atmosphere in romantic Rovinj.
Pula is the biggest city in Istria and while it’s not as romantic as Rovinj, it’s still a great city to explore with awesome cultural highlights such as the Roman amphitheater.
Day 7 – 9: Croatia’s islands: Visit Krk island
From Istria’s coast it’s just a short trip to Croatia’s great islands. Krk island is one of these hidden gems. The island is connected to the mainland by a big bridge. The island is not that big so you would be able to explore the best spots in one day but I recommend to spend at least one night on the island. Our favorite towns on Krk island are Punat, Vrbnik – where you can taste the best wines of the region – and Krk city.
Discover Croatia’s National Parks
After your great small road trip through Istria, the north of the country, it’s time to explore some of Croatia’s natural wonders. Some of the greatest national parks can be found in Croatia. Visit The Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, green – or snowy – mountains and swim next to the most amazing waterfalls.
The best of the south: Dalmatia
From Krka National Park it’s only a few hours drive to one of our favorite cities in Eastern Europe, Split. But Split is not the only great destination for this day. Make sure to make a stop in Sibenik and harbor town Trogir before you make your way to Split.
Split is one of our favorite destinations in Croatia and is definitely worth a stop on your Croatia road trip. Make sure to visit Diocletian Palace and enjoy the view from up the Marjan mountain. Split is not that big so you would even have some time to explore great highlights close to the city such as the Kliss Fortress which is one of the sets for the popular series Game of Thrones and the Solin Ruines.
The end of your Croatia road trip
If you choose to fly out to Croatia you could decide to finish your Croatia road trip in Split. Split has it’s own airport so you would be able to fly back home from here. If you have some time left I recommend you to visit Dubrovnik and/of even extend your road trip by visiting neighboring countries such as Montenegro and/or Bosnia.
Another great destination in Croatia is it’s capital Zagreb. It is quite far from Split, but you could – like we did – drive from Split – or Dubrovnik – to Bosnia (or even all the way up to Macedonia) and drive from there to Zagreb to enjoy a nice city trip at the end of your road trip. Of course it’s also possible to start your Croatia road trip in Zagreb.
We hope you’ll enjoy your Croatia road trip just as much as we did. Enjoy!