Are you ready for an incredible road trip along Croatia’s Adriatic coast? This 7 day Croatia Itinerary covers the best places to see, from charming coastal towns to mesmerizing beaches and from ancient historical sites to vibrant local culture.
We highly recommend a tour of the coastal hotspots as a great way to experience the best of what Croatia has to offer, especially if you have limited time to explore. While there are amazing inland attractions, such as the breathtaking Plitvice Lakes National Park and the vibrant city of Zagreb, the Adriatic coast has more than enough to see and do during a short trip.
Starting at the southernmost tip of the country to the Istrian region in the North, you’ll get to experience the unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that makes Croatia truly special.
Unfortunately, if you only have a week in Croatia, you simply won’t have time to visit any of the islands on this trip, as ferry transfers can take up a significant chunk of your day. So, you’ll have to save Hvar, Brac, and the almost endless number of other island gems for your next Croatian adventure. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to see and do along this stunning coastline of Croatia!
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7-Day Croatia Itinerary [Adriatic Coastal Whistle-Stop Tour]
Arriving in Dubrovnik (Two Days)
We recommend that you start in Croatia’s most famous and most southerly city, Dubrovnik, the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ as it was dubbed by Byron.
You can fly direct to Dubrovnik from all over the world, including the US, so it’s a great place to start your trip.
There’s no need to hire a car for your trip yet (do that as you leave at the start of your third day), as Dubrovnik is pretty much a pedestrian city. So, for now, get a taxi or bus into the city from the airport and spend two days getting to know the place.
Dubrovnik is a captivating city overflowing with rich history, striking architecture, and picturesque coastal scenery. With two days to explore, you’ll have ample opportunities to discover its many wonders. Kick off your adventure with a stroll around the ancient city walls, where you’ll be treated to incredible views of Dubrovnik and the sparkling sea beyond.
As you meander along the walls, don’t miss the chance to stop by the renowned Buza Bar. This cliffside gem offers breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea, making it the perfect spot for a refreshing drink.
After that pit stop, make your way to Stradun, the vibrant main street of the old town, lined with charming shops, cozy cafes, and impressive historical buildings. Pop in to see the Rector’s Palace as well, a stunning Gothic-Renaissance building that now houses a fascinating museum.
Image Credit: Luciann Photography – pexels.com/@lucianphotography/
For an unforgettable panoramic view, hop on a cable car up to Mount Srd’s summit, where you’ll marvel at the cityscape and surrounding countryside.
If you’re looking for a fantastic place to stay, consider Hotel Excelsior, conveniently located just outside the city walls. This elegant hotel boasts incredible sea and old-town views. Treat yourself to delectable Mediterranean cuisine at the hotel’s Prora Beach Restaurant, the ideal spot to unwind and soak in the gorgeous surroundings.
On your second day, take it slow and savor the city’s atmosphere. Stroll through the streets, explore the harbor and old port, and revisit any sights you might have missed.
Before bidding Dubrovnik farewell, indulge in a memorable meal at Nautika. Secure an outdoor table for a stunning view of the Adriatic and the old town. The elegant and refined ambiance, coupled with the delicious locally inspired cuisine, make Nautika one of Croatia’s finest dining experiences. Savor every moment as you enjoy a farewell dinner in this enchanting city.
Head to Split and Trogir (Day Three)
Now’s the time to get that car hired. Have it set up so that you can make an early start on your third day. The one thing this tour does have is a few days with 3 or so hours of driving, so early starts are the order of the day.
That said, visiting Trogir and Split in one day is definitely achievable. The scenic drive to Split may take between 3 and 4 hours, but it’s well worth the journey. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to cross the impressive Pelješac Bridge, which opened in July 2022. This remarkable feat of engineering allows you to bypass the previous requirement of crossing the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina, making your trip smoother and more enjoyable.
Split is the largest city on the Adriatic coast and boasts a rich history and a stunning seaside promenade.
The iconic Diocletian’s Palace, once an ancient Roman fortress, now serves as a lively cultural hub, complete with museums, galleries, and delightful restaurants. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll find many familiar scenes as you explore the city. Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll along the Riva promenade, where you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the sea and nearby islands.
Image Credit: Archana Reddy – unsplash.com/@archana_reddy
The Palace is the main thing to see, but you don’t so much visit it as simply be ‘in it’ as you wander the city’s streets.
Beyond Diocletian’s Palace, Split offers a variety of other exciting activities to enjoy. Visit the picturesque Marjan Hill, a lush green oasis perfect for a bracing but quick hike, and enjoy panoramic views of the city and coastline. If you have time, a visit to the Archaeological Museum lifts the lid on the city’s amazing history. Finally, indulge in local flavors at the bustling Green Market, where you can shop for fresh produce and traditional delicacies.
After exploring Split, head to Trogir, which is about another 30-minute drive away.
Trogir is a charming town, home to an incredibly well-preserved historic center recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you meander through the narrow streets, you’ll be enthralled by the remarkable architecture, which showcases the influence of the Venetians during the Middle Ages. While there are numerous sights to see and activities to enjoy, the true essence of Trogir lies in leisurely strolling through its streets and soaking in the enchanting atmosphere rather than focusing on a single, standout attraction.
Following a day spent exploring the enchanting streets of these two historic towns, you’ve certainly earned a lavish dinner and a cozy place to unwind. We recommend heading back to Split as it’s so nearby and staying at the elegant Hotel Vestibul Palace, a beautifully renovated 18th-century palace located within the heart of Diocletian’s Palace. Treat yourself to the delightful Dalmatian cuisine at the hotel’s exceptional restaurant, Diocletian’s Wine House.
Sibenik and Zadar (Day Four)
Head out of Split in the morning and head toward Zadar, but stop off in Sibenik on the way. You’ll make it in just an hour.
Sibenik is a charming coastal town. Make the most of your quick stop by visiting the St. James Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and marvel at its exquisite architectural details. Then, wander through the charming old town, with its narrow cobblestone streets and picturesque squares, admiring the historic stone buildings and lovely courtyards.
Grab a coffee or a light breakfast at one of the quaint cafes that you come across on the port side, and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere. If time permits, take a leisurely stroll along the Riva waterfront, enjoying the beautiful sea views and the town’s serene ambiance.
Image Credit: Assedrani Official – pexels.com/@assedrani-official-177638678/
Hop back in your car and head to Zadar, another city rich in history and culture with its stunning seafront promenade and Roman-era forum.
You have an afternoon and evening to spend uncovering its many charms. Be sure to visit the captivating Sea Organ, a one-of-a-kind musical instrument powered by the sea’s waves. Sit on the steps and lose yourself in the haunting melodies produced by the shifting tides – a truly unforgettable experience.
As you explore Zadar’s Old Town, wander through its narrow, winding streets and marvel at the historic buildings. Discover the Roman-era forum, admire the St. Donatus Church, and peruse the delightful shops and boutiques along the way. For a relaxing break, indulge in the inviting atmosphere of the charming cafes and restaurants that abound.
When it comes to your overnight stay, we highly recommend the stylish Almayer Hotel in a beautifully restored historic building in the heart of the Old Town. As for dining, treat yourself to a sumptuous meal in the secret garden of the hotel’s Corte restaurant, a local favorite and regularly held to be the best place to eat in Zadar.
Novalja – Party Time! (Day Five)
The drive to Novalja will only take an hour and a bit. Within twenty minutes or so of leaving Zadar, you’ll get on to Pag Island with its unique moon-like landscapes.
Upon arrival in Novalja, spend some time unwinding on one of its many pristine beaches, such as Zrce, Strasko, or Caska. Soak up the sun, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and recharge for an exhilarating evening ahead.
As the sun sets, head for a delicious meal at Restaurant Bazilika, where you can savor a variety of local and Mediterranean dishes in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Sit on the terrace upstairs and look out over the harbor.
After dinner, prepare for a night to remember at the world-famous clubs on Zrce Beach. Dance the night away at renowned venues like Papaya, Noa, or Aquarius, where you can enjoy music from international DJs and a fantastic party atmosphere, all in a series of incredible open-air nightclubs. What’s on will depend on your time of visit but rest assured that this party beach offers a great night out for young clubbers to those of more advanced years who want to see what the fuss is about! It really is a unique experience.
After a thrilling evening, head back into town to grab some sleep at the stylish Hotel Loza, which offers modern amenities and a convenient location near the town center.
Rijeka and Pula (Your Last Two Days)
You’re going to be tired if you try the clubs. So, today is about a leisurely drive to your final stop in Pula, with a stop-off in Rijeka and Rovinj.
The first part of the drive to Rijeka will take about two and a half hours, but the coast road and view are spectacular, with the shimmering clear sea on your left side all the way. As you drive, make a random stop to find a beach for a swim. Pretty much anywhere you choose is likely to be perfect!
The vibrant port town of Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city, boasts a rich cultural heritage and a lively atmosphere. Make your first stop at Trsat Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the city. This historic fortress offers panoramic views of Rijeka and the surrounding sea, setting the tone for your day of discovery.
After soaking in the stunning vistas, make your way to Rijeka’s charming Old Town. Stroll along the winding streets, admiring the historic buildings, quaint squares, and bustling shops. Be sure to visit the iconic City Tower, a landmark that provides another dose of breathtaking views of the cityscape. Another must-see attraction is the Ivan Zajc Croatian National Theatre, a stunning example of Art Nouveau architecture.
Conclude your morning visit to Rijeka with a walk along the harbor, taking in the sights and sounds of this bustling port town. A great spot for lunch is Cafe Bar Botel Marina, a lovely café on a boat in the harbor, where you can sit out on the deck and take in the views while eating your lunch.
Hope back in your car, but before you reach the end of your journey in Pula, loop around further to the north to another beautiful town perched on a hill over a bay, Rovinj.
Image Credit: Pixabay – pexels.com/@pixabay/
Rovinj is yet another gem. You’re now in Croatia’s Istria region, which boasts a rich Italian heritage. A seaside haven for Italians since ancient times, Rovinj captivates visitors with its charming old town and scenic harbor.
As you wander through the heart of the city, you’ll find yourself navigating a maze of cobblestone alleyways that lead to quaint bars and restaurants perched right over the sea. These delightful spots offer the perfect opportunity to savor the delightful fusion of Croatian and Italian influences that make Rovinj so unique.
Rovinj’s enchanting Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets adorned with lovely art galleries, boutiques, and cozy cafes. Make your way to the town’s most iconic landmark, the Church of St. Euphemia, which sits atop the rocky town and boasts stunning views of Rovinj and the Adriatic Sea from its bell tower.
After visiting the church, meander down Grisia Street, Rovinj’s main thoroughfare, which is lined with unique shops and galleries offering local art and handicrafts, and pick up a souvenir or two. Finish your leisurely stroll by taking in Rovinj’s picturesque harbor.
Head into Pula at the end of the day and check into the Villa Brandestini. This is a very simple but excellent small hotel right in the heart of the city. Just be warned that you are in the heart of late-night eating and drinking at the neighboring bars, which is great but can be noisy!
Head out to one of the many excellent restaurants in the town squares. A great pick is Bistro Alighieri, very popular with locals and visitors alike.
The next morning you’ve got a lot to pack into your final day.
Pula, the capital of Istria, is home to some of Croatia’s most remarkable Roman ruins, including a beautifully preserved amphitheater that’s definitely worth exploring. You might even be fortunate enough to catch a concert (ranging from modern pop and rock to classical events) during your visit, making for a truly magical experience that aligns with your stay.
Once you’ve delved into Pula’s ancient wonders, meander through the picturesque old town, featuring centuries-old buildings and streets constructed with local Istrian stone. While the Roman ruins may be the main attraction, taking a leisurely walk around the town allows you to fully absorb the relaxed ambiance and beauty of this enchanting destination.
Image Credit: Derek Sutton – unsplash.com/@dereksutton
To round off your trip, head out to the peninsula and have a lazy last afternoon at one of the many beach bars on the peninsula south of town. We love the quirky Safari Beach Bar at Premantura, but there are loads to choose from. Take your time and have a final dip in the warm Adriatic and get a drink before heading back to Pula to make it to the airport.
Pula’s airport is just 9km out of town. It’s a tiny but well-serviced airport where you can get a local European flight to any of the main international hubs.
What a way to wind up your coastal whistle-stop tour before heading home. So rest easy. Next time you come to Croatia, you can do the national parks and tour the islands by boat!
Featured Image: Image Credit: Marco Mons – unsplash.com/@markomons
About the Author
Dexter Jones is the founder and editor of the Croatian travel site, Novalja Local. He lived and worked in Ibiza for more than a decade before relocating to Croatia and the party destination of Novalja and Zrce Beach. He regularly travels the Balearic and the Adriatic coast and is an expert on travel in the coastal hotspots of Europe.
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I hope you find this one week Croatia Itinerary helpful when planning your trip, it covers some of the best places to visit in Croatia!
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