Croatia’s more than 1,100 miles of breathtakingly beautiful coastline is the stuff of travel dreams. While you will likely need a lifetime to explore everything that the lovely Croatian coast has to offer, you can visit some of the most beautiful towns (and even a couple of islands) on this Croatian coast itinerary.
While the scenery and the beaches are spectacular, Croatia’s coastal towns are not wanting when it comes to history, culture, and architecture. Featuring lovely old churches and forts to charming narrow medieval streets, the historic centers are truly a joy to explore.
The Croatian coastline features crystal clear blue waters, thousands of idyllic islands and islets lying offshore, and opportunities to relax at numerous pristine beaches. Before you are done with your Croatian coast holiday, you’ll be planning a return, guaranteed!
12-Day Croatian Coast Trip Itinerary
It’s difficult to choose among the many stunning coastal towns and islands you can visit in Croatia, so count on coming back to explore further. But if you have 12 days on your first foray into this utopia, here’s how to experience the best the region has to offer.
Day 1: Explore the Istrian coastal town of Rovinj
Day 2: Travel to Zadar, tour Zadar
Day 3: Explore Old Town Zadar
Day 4: Visit the historic city of Sibenik
Day 5: Travel to Split, see Primosten and Trogir en route
Day 6: See the best of Split
Day 7: Do a day trip to Hvar Island
Day 8: Discover Omis and Makarska
Day 9: Travel to Dubrovnik, visit Korcula and Ston en route
Days 10 and 11: Explore Dubrovnik
Day 12: Return home or travel to your next destination
Day 1 – Rovinj: An Istrian Gem
Rovinj, in Blue Istria, is arguably the most picturesque coastal town in all of Croatia. Colorful houses cascading down a hill against the sparkling blue of the Adriatic Sea, with the graceful tower of Saint Euphemia’s Church rising up into the sky: it makes for the perfect picture postcard.
Top Things to Do in Rovinj
Wander the cobblestone streets of the town. Admire the colorful facades and browse the little shops, and people watch in the lively squares. Or join a guided walking tour, to learn about the town and the region as you stroll.
Visit the Church of Saint Euphemia on the hilltop. The beautiful Baroque basilica, with its Venetian-style campanile, is large, and stands in its own square. Admire the paintings inside and enjoy the views from the square.
Spend some time by the waterfront. Walking to the ends of the harbor will reward you with nice views of the town, and it’s a great place for a drink or a meal in the evening.
If you have an extra day to spend in Rovinj, do a day trip to explore the villages of Green Istria. You can go on your own if you have a car, or do a guided tour. This private tour takes you to Motovun and Groznjan, two of the prettiest Istrian hilltop villages.
Or you can spend your extra day exploring two other coastal towns with must-visit sights: Porec, to the north of Rovinj, is home to the Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And Pula, to the south, is home to the only Roman amphitheater with the full circular wall still standing. Each is about a 40-minute drive from Rovinj.
Where to Stay in Rovinj
We stayed at the Spirito Santo Palazzo Storico, a lovely bed and breakfast in the historic center. If steps are not a concern, ask for the penthouse room: it comes with access to a little terrace from where you can watch the sun set.
Our room was gorgeous, with nice furnishings and a super comfortable bed. And there’s a fabulous restaurant just steps from the hotel: Restoran Giannino. Finally, the service was exemplary from check-in to check-out.
Book a stay here
Days 2 and 3 – Zadar: Home to the Sea Organ
Zadar is one of my favorite coastal Croatian towns. It has everything you could ask for: a beautiful Old Town with great architecture and streets made for strolling, a sea front with two contemporary must-visit exhibits, beautiful beaches, and a lively vibe. Its relative proximity to some of Croatia’s most beautiful national parks means that you can do some fabulous day trips from Zadar as well.
Top Things to Do in ZADAR
On a nice day, make your way to the waterfront just before sunset, to sit on the steps and hear the sounds of the famous Sea Organ as you watch a blazing Zadar sunset. Then walk over to the Salutation to the Sun, and wait for darkness to see it light up.
Do a self-guided walking tour of beautiful Old Town Zadar, with its Roman ruins, many churches, squares with old wells, and atmospheric alleys. Or join this highly rated guided walking tour to see the best of Zadar in an efficient manner.
Zadar’s open market is the best one we found in Croatia. Make sure you browse the stalls in the morning for fresh fruit, cheeses and other yum snacks.
Climb to the top of the bell tower of the Zadar Cathedral, to enjoy panoramic views over the rooftops of the old town, across to the new city, and the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
If you have one or two extra days, you’ll be spoiled for choice with regards to day trips from the city. Zadar is the ideal place from which to explore the stunningly beautiful Kornati archipelago. Enjoy a full day boat trip to Kornati National Park, or a full day sailing trip to Kornati if wind conditions are right.
Read more: The Best Things to Do in Zadar in One Day!
Where to Stay in Zadar
We stayed at the lovely Art Hotel Kalelarga, located on the main street in Old Town Zadar and very convenient to most sights in the Old Town. The penthouse room in which we stayed is large, with solid furnishings and a roomy sitting area.
The bathroom is luxuriously large and well-appointed, with skylights. The bistro on the bottom floor features fabulous desserts and a great breakfast.
Book a stay here
Day 4 – Šibenik: History and Architecture
Not only is Šibenik a must-visit destination in its own right, it is also close to Krka National Park, with its wonderful waterfalls and serene natural beauty. Šibenik, unlike other historic centers along the Adriatic, was founded by Croats. Its pretty squares and medieval alleys are a joy to explore. If you enjoy architecture, you will find a lot to keep you engaged in the stone city!
Top things to do in Sibenik
Visit the Cathedral of Saint James, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Game of Thrones location. It’s an enormous structure built entirely of stone. A blend of Renaissance and Gothic, the church features beautiful detail, especially at the entrances.
Wander the streets and alleys of the historic center, to view other churches, lovely facades, and lively squares. Although the town is hilly, with lots of steps, its alleys are worth exploring. Don’t miss the 16th century Town Hall with its arches.
Climb the hill in the historic center to Saint Michael’s Fortress for breathtaking views of the rooftops of Sibenik and the Adriatic Sea beyond. The open air stage at the top hosts concerts. Saint Michael’s is one of four medieval fortresses in the city.
Take a trip to Krka National Park, just a few miles from Sibenik. Here you will find Skradinski buk, a wide waterfall with a lovely blue-green plunge pool, and the picturesque Visovac Island, which houses an old monastery.
Where to stay in Sibenik
We didn’t overnight in Sibenik, but Heritage Hotel Life Palace is where I would choose to stay! A 15th century palace with a super convenient location, the hotel offers lovely rooms with exposed stone walls and pleasing furnishings. Pick a room on a higher floor with a view of the rooftops and the water!
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a stay here
Day 5 – Primošten: Pretty as a Picture
Today you’ll travel from Sibenik to Split, taking in two picturesque Croatian coastal towns along the way. Primošten is small, so it doesn’t require a lot of time, but it has some beautiful beaches if you want to relax for a bit.
Top things to do in PRIMOSTEN
Walk through the town up to the Church of Saint George at the top of the hill. The walk itself through the town is lovely. Don’t miss the stone roofs on some of the houses in the town!
Admire the statue of Our Lady of Loretto at the top, and walk around the cemetery. From the grounds, you get fabulous views of the water.
Walk the waterfront, stopping to admire the statue of the fisherman and the cat, and take in the beautiful views of boats bobbing on the water.
Spend some time at the beach, but make sure you have water shoes to protect your feet. There are many beaches and coves in the area to choose from: we strolled the gorgeous Velika Raduča beach, which features crystal clear blue water.
Day 5 – Trogir: A Dalmatian Gem
The historic (and very pretty) town of Trogir definitely deserves a spot in your Croatia itinerary. The historical center is compact and it only takes a few hours to visit the major sights at leisure, and to enjoy the ambience of the waterfront and the streets of the town. Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Top things to do in Trogir
Walk the waterfront to take in the beautiful boats and the views across the water. Visit the stunning 14th century Kamerlengo Castle. If you climb the walls, you can take in fabulous views of the harbor and the town rooftops.
Admire the fabulous Saint Lawrence Cathedral, with its entrance flanked by two lion statues. Step inside to view the paintings, and then climb the bell tower for panoramic views over the rooftops of Trogir.
Wander around the town to take in the splendid architecture: the Cipiko Palace, the Clock Tower, and the many other beautiful buildings in the historic center will wow you! Or take a guided walking tour, to learn more about the history of Trogir!
There are many beaches around Trogir as well, if you want to enjoy the sun and the water for a bit before you drive on to Split (or Sibenik if you are doing this itinerary from south to north), where you will spend the night.
Day 6: Split, Home to a Roman Emperor’s Palace
The historical center of Split is very impressive, and unmissable if you are visiting Croatia. It also has a lively waterfront, a great dining scene, and hiking, biking, and water sports opportunities. Moreover, Split’s central location makes it the perfect base from which to do several lovely day trips.
Top things to do in Split
Wander through the 4th century Diocletian’s Palace, which now houses hotels, shops, and restaurants. The cellar of the palace was a Game of Thrones location, and the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Climb to the top of the bell tower of the Split Cathedral for panoramic views over the city rooftops. The stairs are narrow and can be claustrophobic, so go early in the day to avoid crowds.
Walk the cobblestone alleys of the historical center of Split, and relax with a drink at Narodni Trg, the main square. Strolling the town is especially lovely at night, once the lights come on. Strolling the Riva (the waterfront promenade) is fun as well.
Take in the views from Marjan Hill viewpoint, just a few minutes walk from the historic center. The Marjan Peninsula has several walking and biking trails.
Join this highly rated guided walking tour of Split that also includes Marjan Hill! Or this Game of Thrones locations tour: walk in the footsteps of the stars of the show and learn about Split’s history while you walk.
Where to stay in Split
We stayed in the beautiful Palace Judita Heritage Hotel, right within Diocletian Palace. Housed in a 16th century palace, the hotel features elegantly furnished rooms, some with views of the Old Town. Historic, romantic, and luxurious… Judita Palace is perfect for that splurge on your Croatian holiday!
Paid parking is available at a public parking lot nearby, since the Old Town is a pedestrian zone. The hotel offers an electric cart service from the parking lot to the hotel at check-in and check-out.
Book a stay here
Day 7 – Hvar, the Crown Jewel of the Croatian Islands
Hvar is one of the best Croatian islands you can visit. Although you can overnight on Hvar, or even spend a few days exploring the island, a day trip to Hvar from Split by ferry is super convenient.
From the ferry, you’ll get the opportunity to see the beautiful island from the water as you approach. On a day trip, you should spend your time in Old Town Hvar, where the catamaran docks.
Top things to do in HVar OLD Town
The walk up the hill to Španjola Fortress should be at the top of your list of things to do in Hvar. There are some steps at the start, but the rest is a gradual climb along a switchback path. The views of the rooftops and the Pakleni Islands from the fortress are spectacular.
Visit Hvar’s cathedral, a blend of Renaissance and early Baroque, dedicated to St. Stephen. Step inside to view the lovely paintings an d sculptures, and the gorgeous stained glass windows. Admire the graceful bell tower.
Stroll Saint Stephen’s square, one of the largest in Dalmatia and bustling with shops and restaurants. Wander the narrow streets of the town to soak in the atmosphere and charm.
Walk the waterfront: from the edges of the walkway, you can get great photos of the Old Town, and the water with boats bobbing up and down.
Prefer a guided tour? This full day tour takes you to five islands in the Adriatic Sea, including Hvar, and the extraordinary Blue Cave.
Where to stay in HVAR
If you decide to overnight in Hvar, consider the Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel, overlooking the bay and convenient to most sights. With contemporary furnishings, an upscale spa, and an excellent restaurant, this hotel is the perfect choice for your Hvar stay.
Book a stay here
Day 8 – Omis, Beautiful Views of River and Sea
Today you will visit Omis and Makarska, and spend the night in Makarska. Omis has fewer accommodation options, so if you are planning to travel south to north, drive on to Split for the night, after you are done in Omis. Omis has a stunning location at the place where the gorgeous Cetina River meets the Adriatic Sea.
Top things to do in Omis
Wander the streets of the old town, and admire the charming architecture. Browse the quaint little shops or relax with a drink at one of the many cafes. Visit the Parish Church of Saint Michael, built in the 17th century, and the lovely square over which is presides.
Hike to the top of the Fortress Mirabella…you can follow signs from the town. There is a small entrance fee to go up to the top, and the steps (and ladders!) are steep, but the views from the top are fabulous.
Walk the waterfront for stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. We visited on a bright beautiful day, and the views of the crystal clear water just blew us away.
Pick an adventure activity to enjoy, or pack a picnic lunch to enjoy by the Cetina River. Choose from biking, hiking, paragliding, river rafting, ziplining, and rock climbing!
This 3 to 4 hour river rafting tour comes with spectacular views of the Cetina River Canyon and the opportunity to swim under waterfalls!
Day 8 – Makarska, A Beach Resort with a Fabulous Location
With the beautiful beaches of the Makarska Riviera and a pretty historic center, Makarska makes for a lovely stop on your Croatian coast road trip. The open market, laid back nightlife, and beautiful views in every direction make Makarska the perfect place to relax.
Top things to do in Makarska
Spend some time strolling Makarska’s old town and beautiful main square, Kacic Square. Visit St. Mark’s Church with its graceful bell tower and browse the nearby green market.
Enjoy quality beach time at one of the many beautiful beaches in the area (check before you go, some are nude beaches). If you visit when it’s too cold for swimming, as we did, enjoy a walk along the shoreline. Pathways lined with pines offer spectacular water views.
Drive the scenic road leading up Mt. Biokovo, part of the Biokovo Nature Park. Stop at the various viewpoints for stunning views over the water. You can also hike up one of the paths for views over the town and the water.
Walk the pretty harbor promenade, lined with palm trees. The waterfront is also a great place to relax with a glass of wine in the evening. Take a boat ride, or explore the sea in a submersible.
Where to stay in Makarska
We stayed at the Villa Jadranka, located right on the water. The outdoor swimming pool is gorgeous, and a sun terrace allows for lounging. Our room was spacious, with nice furnishings, and had a separate seating area. Paid parking is available.
Book a stay here
Day 9 – Korcula: Charming South Dalmatia Isle
Today you will travel to Dubrovnik, but en route, stop to tour the lovely island of Korcula. We parked in Orebic and took the foot passenger ferry across to Korcula Old Town, but car ferries are available as well. Korcula Old Town is picturesque and well worth the time and effort!
Top Things to Do in Korcula OLD TOWN
Since you will be in Korcula for just a few hours, stay in Korcula Old Town. Called “Little Dubrovnik,” the charming town, with its orange rooftops, is great for wandering, and there are many fun things you can do in Korcula.
Visit the Cathedral of St. Mark, a beautiful blend of Renaissance and Gothic. Step into the Marco Polo House, reported to be where the famous explorer was born. Even if that isn’t fact, the view of the Old Town from the house is fabulous.
Walk the waterfront from end to end for beautiful views of the town from both ends. We had a lovely lunch at Aterina. It has outdoor seating, and several vegetarian options.
Day 9 – Ston: Town Walls and a Charming Church
The area between Orebic and Ston is known as the Peljesac Peninsula. It is known for its vineyards, oysters, and salt, and for the beauty of its coastline. While not as hugely popular as the larger cities along the Croatian coast, the area is nevertheless worth exploring if you have the time.
Top Things to Do in STON
Walking the walls of Ston will give you bragging rights, because the walls are 4.3 miles long, arguably the longest in Europe. They offer panoramic views of the water and the coast. Even if you do not walk the entire length, you might want to walk some of it.
The little town of Ston is charming. Spend a few minutes walking the alleys, and admire the Church of Saint Nicholas. A wedding was in progress when we visited and we stopped to take in the events outside the church.
Drive to Mali Ston nearby to sample the famous oysters and to taste the local wine. If you are a vegetarian, you can order cheese or pasta. Pick up a packet of local salt to take back.
Days 10 and 11 – Dubrovnik: Pearl of the Adriatic
The Old City of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Game of Thrones filming location. Breathtakingly beautiful, Dubrovnik can get extremely crowded in season, especially when cruise ships are docked here. Time your visit wisely and you will have a much more pleasant experience.
Top Things to Do in Dubrovnik
Walk the City Walls! Absolutely the top thing to do in Dubrovnik is to drink in the spectacular views from the iconic city walls. Go early in the day to avoid the worst of the crowds, and take a hat and drinking water. You’ll want to stop often for photos, so budget at least 3 hours.
Walk Stradun, the marble-paved main street in the Old City. Step into the Rector’s Palace, tour the Franciscan Church and Monastery, admire all the beautiful architecture, and people watch!
Visit the Dubrovnik Cathedral, and browse the open market near the Rector’s Palace, open every day of the week except Sunday. Climb the many steps to wander the alleys of the Old City.
Walk the beautiful waterfront. Take a panoramic boat tour, or take the boat to Lokrum Island, where you can walk the trails and admire the beautiful peacocks that inhabit the island. We did a sunset cruise as well, and it was amazing.
Take the cable car up to the top of Mount Srd, where you can enjoy a drink or a meal at the Restaurant Panorama while you take in the magnificent views of the Old City down below. If the cable car is not running when you visit, take a panoramic tour of Dubrovnik to get up to the viewpoint, or drive up.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, take a Game of Thrones tour to visit the many filming locations in Dubrovnik.
Take a kayak out into the bay, or explore Fort Lovrijenac. Lots of stairs, but the views are awesome! If you want beach time, Banje Beach is just outside Ploče Gate. Be warned though that it gets super crowded in season.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
We stayed at Villa Dubrovnik, a few minutes’ drive from Old Town Dubrovnik. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to and from the Old Town. The hotel is simply gorgeous, and our room had lovely water views. Rooms are elegantly furnished and bathrooms beautiful. The breakfast was outstanding.
Book a stay here
Day 12 – Fly home or travel to your next destination
Your Croatian coast road trip is at an end, but you will amassed many treasured memories from your time here. Return home, or travel on to your next destination.
Structuring your Croatian Coast trip
This itinerary for the coast of Croatia is written from north to south, but you can also do it in reverse, from south to north. Although targeted primarily at first-time visitors to the region, you could do this trip multiple times and find new places to explore each time, or return to old favorites, or do a mix.
If you are an international visitor and wish to do this route from north to south, you can fly into Zagreb Airport or Pula International Airport within Croatia, and then drive to Rovinj. If you plan to do it from south to north, Dubrovnik has an international airport.
Renting a car for your Croatian Coast road trip
Croatia is a wonderful place to do a self-drive road trip. The highways were in excellent shape when we visited, and even mountain roads were well-maintained and not too narrow.
And this trip begs for a car, because there are so many places where you will want to pull over to drink in the views!
Discover Cars offers you the ability to compare availability and prices across many major car-hire companies. Pick the car that best meets your needs!
The highways in Croatia are toll roads. While you can drive the more scenic coastal road, which is not a toll road, be aware that it will be somewhat slower. The best of both worlds is to do some stretches on the coastal road and the rest on the highway.
To drive in Croatia, you’ll need your driver’s license from your country of residence. I could not find definitive information on whether an International Driver’s Permit is required, but I would get one and take it along to be safe.
Also keep your passport and any other travel documents handy at all times when traveling. On this route, you will encounter border checks at Neum (a part of Bosnia).
Find your rental car for Croatia at Discover Cars: check prices and availability now!
If you do not want to drive
Can you do a coastal Croatia trip if you do not wish to drive? Yes, absolutely you can, with a mix of buses, ferries, guided tours, shared shuttles, and private transfers, if you are okay with the expense.
We took the bus a few times in Croatia, and we found them clean and comfortable. Do this guided tour from Dubrovnik to Ston and Korcula, it’s much more efficient than trying to visit independently. The other mainland coastal towns and cities on this itinerary can be accessed by bus.
To book bus (and train) tickets for Europe in advance, consider Omio. I found the booking experience easy and hassle-free. They do charge a nominal service fee but I thought it was well worth the convenience! Plan out your itinerary and book all your tickets at once and you’ll pay the fee just once.
You will need to take a ferry to the Croatian islands you plan to visit. We used Krilo to travel between Split and Hvar and booked our tickets in advance.
We used the foot passenger ferry service between Orebic and Korcula, and bought our tickets on the spot in Orebic. You can find information on both the foot passenger ferry and the car ferry schedules here.
Planning a shorter Croatian coast trip?
If you have fewer than 12 days for your road trip, you can modify this itinerary to focus on the destinations that appeal to you the most.
It takes about four hours to drive from Zadar to Rovinj, so you could shave a couple of days by skipping Istria, although Rovinj is so pretty that it’s worth the extra time and effort.
7 day Croatia Coast Itinerary
Here is a sample 7-day itinerary that covers many of the most popular destinations, and you can do it in either direction:
Day 1: Explore Dubrovnik
Day 2: See more of Dubrovnik
Day 3: Travel to Split, explore Split
Day 4: Do a day trip to Hvar Island
Day 5: Visit Trogir and Sibenik en route to Zadar
Day 6: Explore Zadar
Day 7: Travel to your next destination or return home
5 day Croatia Coast Itinerary
If you have just 5 days planned for the Croatian coast, see the best of Dalmatia with this whirlwind itinerary:
Day 1: Explore Dubrovnik
Day 2: Travel to Split, see Split
Day 3: Do a day trip to Hvar
Day 4: Do a day trip to Trogir or to Krka National Park and Sibenik
Day 5: Travel to your next destination or return home
The best time to visit the coast of Croatia
If you want to swim, pick September or October: the water will still be warm enough and the weather pleasant, but you will enjoy the fabulous towns of Dalmatia and coastal Istria without the crowds of summer. Plus, accommodation prices will be lower.
June is another shoulder month option, with the water warm enough to enjoy and ferries operating at full schedules. May is very nice as well, but you may not find the sea warm enough for swimming. We visited in the second part of May and it was perfect, with mostly bright and sunny days and pleasant temperatures.
Many of the places on this itinerary are on cruise ship schedules. Know that the historic centers will be extremely crowded if you visit on a day when cruise ships are in port.
You can search online for the cruise ship schedule for the year you plan to visit, if you want to know the busy days in advance. You can still enjoy the towns in relative quiet early and late in the day.
Don’t forget to pack these items for your Croatia coast trip!
Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance. It’s not super expensive, and the peace of mind from knowing that you are covered if a mishap does occur is immeasurable. If you are looking for travel insurance, check out World Nomads!
Water Shoes: Croatian beaches are stunning, but by far the vast majority of them are pebbly, not sandy. So please do not forget to pack a pair of water shoes: your feet will thank you. Check out this lightweight pair with great grip, available on Amazon!
Rain Gear: It’s good to hope for bright sunshine every single day of your holiday, but prudent to be prepared for rain. This jacket, available on Amazon, is lightweight, extra long, packs well, and looks stylish!
Reusable Water Bottle: Carry a reusable insulated water bottle and stay hydrated while traveling responsibly! This sleek bottle, available on Amazon, is BPA free, suitable for hot and cold drinks, and comes with a lifetime guarantee!
Travel Adaptors: Visiting from outside Europe? Remember to pack adaptors! This two-pack of Type C adaptors is highly rated on Amazon and will work in most of Europe, including Croatia.
Cross-body Anti-Theft Bag: A day bag is super useful and I never travel without my Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-body bag. In classic black, with a side pouch to hold a water bottle, enough room for one day’s essentials, and lots of convenient pockets, this bag will become your constant travel companion! Get it on Amazon now.
So there you have it: the ultimate itinerary for your Croatian coast trip. Have you visited? I would love to hear your thoughts if you have! Comment below to respond.
And if you have not yet visited, I hope I have inspired you to start planning a visit. Check out all our articles on Croatia in our Croatia guide, for ideas and tips as you plan your Croatia trip!
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