Without a doubt, taking a Croatia road trip is the ultimate way to see the country. Croatia is easy to navigate, there are tons of accommodation options, and it can be very a budget-friendly travel destination.
I’ve spent about a month in Croatia to date and, in that time, have seen a lot of what it has to offer.
I can promise you, taking a Croatia road trip will be a breeze — you’ll have a great time and driving will give you the freedom to see some of the best things to do in Croatia that you wouldn’t be able to any other way.
So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate Croatia road trip guide!
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7 Day Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Based on my experiences in the country, I’ve put together this 7 day Croatia road trip itinerary that will help dip your toes in the Croatian waters, so to speak.
This particular post is geared around a Croatia driving itinerary, but for a full 7 – 10 day overview of planning your trip to Croatia more generally, I highly recommend checking out our full Croatia itinerary.
Day 1 – Dubrovnik
With its famous city walls, gorgeous turquoise waters, and jaw-dropping old town, Dubrovnik is the perfect city in which to start your Croatia road trip.
Dubrovnik is situated right along the coast of the Adriatic, and the sea views you’ll get from the city will be top-notch.
However, because Dubrovnik is one of the most popular Croatian destinations, I highly recommend timing your visit appropriately. As mentioned above, you’ll definitely want to visit in a shoulder season, as the old town gets packed in June and July. Additionally, Dubrovnik is firmly on the cruise ship route, so if you get there before the ships arrive (before noon), or after they take off again for the day (roughly 5 pm), you should be good to go.
As for things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia this city honestly has enough to keep you busy for a week or more.
However, with just a day in Dubrovnik, I recommend you walk the city walls, take a cable car ride up Mount Srd, relax in Gradac park, go kayaking on the Adriatic Sea, and take a Game of Thrones tour (many scenes were filmed here)!
👉 Planning to rent a car in Dubrovnik? The best place to look is Discover Cars, which is a search engine that will compare several Croatia rental agencies. You see easily see customer reviews of the agencies (some are downright sketchy), and compare prices for things like Croatia car rental insurance.
Day 2 – Mljet Island
For stop number two on your Croatia driving itinerary, I recommend heading over to Mljet Island.
Mljet Island, just an hour and a half ferry ride from Dubrovnik, is a quiet oasis. Some of the best things to do are explore Mljet National Park (which covers the entire northwest part of the island), hike to Odysseus Cave, kayak the inland saltwater lakes, and visit St. Mary’s Island.
It’s much more chill than Dubrovnik, and you’ll have a relaxing experience filled with local charm.
Though there are car rentals on Mljet, if you’re traveling in the summer I recommend bringing your car with you. You’ll need a car to see the best sites on the island, and it can be hard to nab a rental in the high season.
👉 Pro Tip: Especially when bringing a car with you, book all your Croatia ferry trips well in advance and show up early. Some lines only run in the high season and tickets tend to sell out. The process is very easy, and there will be attendants aboard to help you figure out where to go and what to do.
Day 3 – Hvar Island
Next stop on your Croatia road trip itinerary — Hvar Island!
To get from Mljet to Hvar you’ll have to take the ferry. A nearly two-hour journey, the only ferry company that services this route is Kapetan Luka and, once again, book in advance.
As for what to do on Hvar Island, don’t let the island’s small size fool you – there are tons of ways to fill your itinerary.
Hvar Island may have a reputation as a party destination, but there is so much more to this quaint island. While there are certainly some clubs, there are also sprawling lavender fields, pristine beaches, quaint medieval towns (visit Stari Grad – I beg of you), and towering fortresses.
I recommend splitting your time between all of these activities, for a truly well-rounded view of Hvar Island.
Day 4 – Split
Next up on your Croatia road trip itinerary, it’s time to head out of Hvar and, uh, hop on another ferry.
From Hvar, Split is about a 1 hour and 40-minute ferry ride, and there are upwards of 15 trips between the two places per day.
Split, Croatia is where to come to get a perfect mix of modernity and antiquity, nature and city, and sea and mountains. It’s Croatia’s second-largest city and the hub of Croatian culture.
While in Split, I recommend taking a tour through Diocletian’s Palace, checking out some more Game of Thrones locations, exploring the Old Town, hiking Parka Suma Marjan, visiting the Cathedral of St. Dominus, climbing the bell tower, strolling along the promenade, and visiting Froggyland (a museum home to over 500 stuffed frogs).
Day 5 – Blue Cave Tour
Though I realize the point of this post is touring Croatia by car, I actually recommend leaving your car at home on day 5 and taking a Blue Cave guided tour!
The Blue Cave (or Bisevo Cave, as it’s located on the east side of Bisevo Island) is one of the top things to do in Croatia for a reason.
As its name suggests, this cave shines a deep blue due to eroding limestone and the way the sun shines in through the cave opening. It’s completely mesmerizing and great for photos.
However, you pretty much have to take a tour to get there, and they book up fast. Book this 5 Island boating tour to go to the cave, Hvar, and 5 islands from Split all in one fell swoop. Be sure to book in advance, as it’s definitely among Viator’s most popular tours in Croatia!
Day 6 – Krka National Park
On day 6 of your road trip around Croatia, it’s time to head to Krka National Park.
It’s pretty much a given that you’ll visit a national park while on your Croatia road trip and, while there are other notable ones such as Mljet and Plitvice Lakes National Park, none is closer to Split than Krka.
Krka National Park features 142 square kilometers of stunning waterfalls, boardwalks, wildlife, and hikes.
There are beautiful swimming spots (the one at Skradinski Buk is famous) and some pretty mysterious caves here as well.
While you can definitely road trip to Krka National Park from Split, getting a tour guide for a day trip is also a great idea. This Krka National Park tour is not only highly-rated, but it will also give you round trip transportation to the park, feed you lunch, and give you a bit of a guided tour.
However, if you do plan on road-tripping to Krka National Park, rest assured that there is plenty of parking and the roads leading into the park are all well-marked. There are plenty of accommodation options close to Krka that make this road trip a breeze.
Day 7 – Zadar
On day 7 of your Croatia driving itinerary, we’re going from Krka National park to the historic city of Zadar. From Krka, this is about an hour’s drive.
Though right on the Dalmatian Coast, Zadar is a little more laid back than other seaside cities such as Dubrovnik and Split, but it still has a ton on offer.
While here, be sure to marvel at the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun, check out the National Museum, visit the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, check out the museum of ancient glass, and stroll the Roman Forum.
7 Tips for Your Road Trip in Croatia
Tip #1 – Drive On The Right
For our UK, Irish, Australian (etc.) friends out there, it’s important to keep in mind that Croatians drive on the right-hand side of the road, as they do in most of Europe.
If you’re used to driving on the left, then driving through Croatia on the other hand side of the road will take some getting used to. Just remember to factor this in before you start planning your Croatia road trip itinerary.
Tip #2 – Carry a Reflective Vest
Did you know that carrying a reflective vest in your car is mandatory in Croatia?
It’s true – and this law is in place so that, in the off event your car breaks down or you need to pull over on the side of the road at night, other drivers can see you well in advance.
Generally, there will be a vest available when you rent a car in Croatia, but it’s good to double-check on this – you could get a fine if you don’t have one.
Tip #3 – Carry Your Passport
As a foreigner, carrying your passport at all times while driving is a must. Generally speaking, your passport will contain your visa and it’s the first thing a police officer will want to see if they pull you over.
Additionally, be sure to always have your license and registration in the car with you while driving, including your International Drivers License. Though using an International Drivers License in Croatia isn’t mandatory for all nationalities, I recommend using this service to determine if you’ll need to secure one before your road trip.
Tip #4 – Bring Cash in Croatia
There are a few toll roads in Croatia, such as the E71 between Zagreb and Split, and E59 and E70 in and out of Zagreb.
To make your life easier on your Croatia road trip, make sure you have plenty of Kuna in various denominations, or plan your road trip itinerary to avoid these toll routes.
This is pretty good practice even aside from driving though, as many vendors in Croatia are still cash-only.
Tip #5 – Know Your Emergency Numbers
In the event you need to call somebody for emergency assistance in Croatia, keep a list of emergency numbers on hand. Good ones to know are the general emergency number for Croatia, your car rental company phone number, and your insurance provider number.
👉 Pro Tip: The general emergency help number in Croatia is 112.
Tip # 6 – Don’t Fret About Fueling Up
I don’t know about you but, in my travels, paying for fuel at gas stations has often been an adventure in and of itself.
Truthfully, I always have a bit of anxiety before fueling up abroad. However, after filling up my car with gas on my trip to Croatia, I can assure you that the process is no big deal and is just as easy as at home. Nobody will try to rip you off, you can pump the fuel yourself (at most major stations), and many gas stations take both credit cards and cash.
Tip # 7 – Know How to Navigate
This tip seems like a no-brainer for anyone who has ever been on a road trip, but to make sure you don’t spend too much time lost or wondering where to go next, plan out your navigation in advance.
My number one way to navigate and how I planned my trips around Croatia, is to use Google Maps.
Simply save a map for your country onto your phone in advance (to do this, simply search for a destination, click “more” at the bottom of the page, and then select the Offline Map option. Additionally, I highly recommend purchasing a physical road map of Croatia once you get to the country.
This will help navigate you through any updates that Google has yet to make, keep you only on the major routes, and provide you with a backup in case your phone battery dies.
👉 Want more tips for Croatia? Be sure to check out my post on what to know about Croatia travel.
Croatia Road Trip Important Info
How to Rent a Car in Croatia
If you’re searching for a rental car, the first thing you should do is run a search on Discover Car Hire, which will fetch quotes from many different rental agencies. The site is great for seeing reviews of the agencies (important in a foreign country), and easily comparing the true cost of quotes between agencies, including factoring in car insurance.
How to Rent a Campervan in Croatia
If you would rather rent a campervan or RV, then I recommend using Motorhome Republic. It’s a similar search-engine-style site, but for RVs. It will search a pretty decent pool of motorhome inventory in Croatia, though of course bear in mind that there are fewer RVs available than cars.
👉 Pro tip: Through this process, it’s good to keep in mind that most Croatia rentals (and European rentals for that matter) are manual transmissions. If you don’t know how to drive a manual car, then make sure you specify at the car rental agency that you’re looking for an automatic when booking.
The Best Time to Road Trip Croatia
Generally speaking, the best time of year to go on a Croatia road trip is in the late Spring and early fall. Tourism in Croatia slows down a lot in the Winter, meaning not all the attractions, ferries, and tours run, and summertime sees hoards of people flooding the country.
So, for the best prices, options, and peace of mind, I recommend that you road trip Croatia in May / June or September / October. Personally, I spent the entire month of June on a Croatia road trip and it was perfect. The crowds were manageable, the weather was warm, and I was able to do the trip on a budget.
Do you need car insurance to go on a Croatia Road Trip?
100% Yes. Car insurance is a non-negotiable when going on a road trip abroad. While getting general travel insurance for travel is usually a good idea, driving a rental car abroad ups the financial stakes quite a bit.
You might fancy yourself a good driver, but that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen or you can account for other people on the road. Personally, I recommend getting World Nomads car insurance before you start your Croatia road trip. Not only will World Nomads provide general travel insurance based on your specific needs, but they also have a plan that covers your vehicle insurance as well.
If you plan on driving a car abroad and aren’t using a trusted provider like Discover Cars to find your car, it’s definitely worth considering third-party insurance like World Nomads.
In fact, many car rental places require you to have insurance in order to book, and booking with World Nomads might end up saving you some money rather than going through their own insurance company. I’m not saying don’t do your research and get quotes and price comparisons (here is a good site for comparing policies), but World Nomads has never steered me wrong. If you do purchase car insurance in advance, then be sure to have your documents printed out when you get to Croatia and pick up your rental car.
How to Have a Safe Road Trip
In case you are wondering, it is very safe to drive through Croatia. Many of the driving rules in Croatia are much the same as those in North America and the rest of Europe, drivers adhere to these laws, and roads are (for the most part) very well marked. I had no troubles driving through Croatia so, if you’re a smart and experienced driver, I’m positive you won’t either. Just be sure you have Croatia travel insurance coverage for your rental!
As for safety in Croatia in general, I felt very safe traveling through the country. Tourism is a major driver of the economy in Croatia, and you’ll find that the locals are more than hospitable to visitors.
However, I would recommend that you pay extra attention to your day bag while in crowded areas (this Osprey Daylite day bag is great for security purposes), but that’s pretty standard for most of Europe.
Where to Stay on a Croatia Road Trip
Best Hotels for Your Croatia Road Trip
Hotels are abundant throughout Croatia, and you’ll be able to find some great ones on your road trip around Croatia no matter your trip budget.
Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Croatia’s major cities:
- Dubrovnik: Hotel Adria is a 4-star hotel close to the Old Town that offers free parking. However, if you want to keep your wallet a little more tightly-strapped, then Hotel Petka is great if you have a mid-range budget.
- Hvar: Villa Nora Hvar is a beautiful bed and breakfast that features on-site parking and free wifi, while Hvar Riva Rooms is a conveniently-located luxury property (although offers no on-site parking).
- Split: Both Hotel Slavija and Hotel Prima Luce are highly-rated options in Split that offer parking and free internet. Keep in mind that there is no parking in Split’s Old Town.
Best Hostels for a Road Trip Around Croatia
Croatia is a great place to backpack through, and as such there are tons of amazing hostels to choose from.
Here are some of the top-rated hostels in Croatia:
- Dubrovnik: Hostel Petra Marina is located 2.5km from the Old Town, offers onsite parking, and has free wifi. Meanwhile, Hostel Angelina is located in the Old Town and is set in a gorgeous historic building (although there is no driving – or parking – in the Old Town).
- Hvar: Hvar Centre Dorms is located right downtown Hvar – it doesn’t have onsite parking, but there is plenty nearby.
- Split: Downtown Hostel is located right in Split’s Old Town and features air-con and a 24-hour desk. As mentioned above, there is no onsite parking in this area of the city, but you can park your car in a lot nearby.
Camping in Croatia
If you’re looking to stay in the best of Croatian nature, then plan yourself a camping trip! There are tons of great campgrounds all throughout the country, all with varying degrees of amenities. This is easily the best way to go on a shoestring budget Croatia road trip too, as there are both dispersed and designated campsites to be found.
Just be sure to always pack out!
Alternatively, if you’re into something a little more luxe than on-the-ground camping, try Glamping. Medora Orbis is a popular glamping spot near Split, while Beach Camp Adriatic is a popular spot in Dubrovnik.
👉 Pro tip: If you’d like to save money on your road trip but still have the comforts of home, then check out popular (and safe) house sitting site Trusted House Sitters.
Croatia Road Trip Essentials
Trying to figure out what to pack for a Croatia road trip? Let’s go over some essentials:
Camping Gear– If you plan on camping your way around Croatia, then I recommend bringing along camping gear such as a sleeping bag, a pillow, a tent, etc.
Travel Backpack – Whether you’re traveling by bus, cruise ship, or car, I always recommend bringing along a trusted travel backpack. The Tortuga Setout Backpack is perfect for a road trip through Croatia as it’s waterproof, comes in different sizes and is affordable. That said, if you’re the kind of person who likes to do their research before you buy, then check out our guide to the best travel backpacks for Europe!
Car Safety Gear – going on a Croatian road trip, while undoubtedly the most freeing way to explore, also means you’re taking on the responsibility of a car. To make sure you have all you need with you before setting off into the great unknown, I recommend buying a small car roadside emergency kit. An emergency kit should have a multi-tool, a small first-aid kit, self-powered flashlight, work gloves, rags, duct tape, a caution triangle, and a warm blanket. Sure, it’s not the most convenient thing to travel with, but it could be worth it in the event of an emergency. Chances are, you’ll have access to roadside assistance with your car rental company (or they may even provide a small kit of their own), but if not, add this to your packing list.
That’s it for our Croatia Road Trip Guide!
I hope this answered a lot of your questions about going on a road trip around Croatia and gave you some inspiration for that big road trip on Croatia’s coast!
For more tips on traveling through Europe and going on road trips, check out some more of our guides:
Have fun while you road trip Croatia!