* Part 1 of our 3 part series on driving through Croatia. Part 2 features the drive through Central Dalmatia and Part 3 covers the drive from Split to Dubrovnik .
A road trip through Croatia lives up to one of the greatest clichés about road-trips; here the thrill is indeed in the journey, not the destination. We flew into the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, and drove down to the southern tip of the country. The route? A 700 km drive from Zagreb to the city often referred to as the jewel of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik via Plitvice Lakes National Park, Zadar, and Split. In less than a fortnight, we drove through natural wonders, wide expanses of agricultural hinterland, fairy-tale villages, and medieval cities.
We spent the night in Zagreb, and left for the Plitvice (pronounced “pliht vitch uh”) Lakes National Park early next morning.The park had been on our travel wish-list forever. In fact, it prompted our road-trip to Croatia in the first place. Naturally this was our first stop in the country. It is only a two-hour drive from Zagreb.
We got our first glimpse of the unspoiled Croatian countryside almost as soon as we left Zagreb. The drive took us through stretches of agricultural land and small villages, which would not be out of place in a fairy tale. The highlight, for us, were the innumerable slanting rooftops sending billows of smoke through their rustic clay chimneys.
Breakfast in Zagreb
Driving through the Croatian hinterland- love the chimneys!
Pit-stop in Slunj en-route to Plitvice
One of the many surprises Slunj had to offer
On reaching Plitvice, we checked into our cozy B&B tucked in a village near the National Park. Early next day, we left for the Park, ready to be amazed by the flora and fauna. But nothing could’ve prepared us for the beauty that confronted us.
The park is frequently touted as one of Europe’s most beautiful nature reserves and boasts of some spectacular walks with fabulous views. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it consists of sixteen emerald lakes, connected by cascading waterfalls. Photographs are unable to do justice to the real thing; the flora and fauna surrounding it amplify the rare natural beauty of the lakes. We spent the whole day observing the changing colours of the lakes. They changed from emerald to turquoise to navy depending on the intensity of sunlight. We’ll let the pictures do the talking:
Turquoise lakes at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Glistening Waterfall at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Fairy-tale streams at Plitivice Lakes National Park
The Plitivice Lakes National Park
There’s no shortage of waterfalls at Plitivice Lakes National Park
Clear waters at Plitivice Lakes National Park
Funky fungi at Plitivice Lakes National Park
Bruised Passports’ Tip
If you ever find yourself in Plitvice, refresh yourself with a typical Croatian meal. In northern Croatia, food boasts of Slavic influences. We suggest the Ćevapčići, a unique grilled-meat dish served with fried flatbread, chopped onions, and sour cream and freshly boiled Žganci. Finish the meal with Zagorski Štruklji for dessert. Savour these delicacies, as it is hard to find them in the southern parts of the country.
As for accommodation, we suggest renting an apartment via AirBnB – there are plenty of beautiful apartments very close to the entrance of Plitvice National Park.
Need help planning a road trip to Croatia? Have a look at some sample itineraries
51 thoughts on “Roadtrippin’ Croatia: Plitvice Finally!”
It’s just gorgeous! Makes me wanna pack my bags right away and hop on a plane to plitvice 🙂
Come come- we’ll join you 🙂
Awesome pictures, wish we could go back to Croatia, such a stunningly rustic place.
Thanks 🙂 We absolutely loved Croatia- want to go back and explore the islands
I always wanted to go to Plitvice ever since I got to know about them.Thanks for the awesome shots. Now my motivation has become stronger to make the trip
Divya you must, must, must go – it’s gorgeous (to say the least) 🙂
I would recommend the following islands in Croatia from my many trips there. In the North the amazing islands of Krk, Rab and the amazing towns Mali and Veli Losinj and Rab town.
In central Dalmatia one should not miss Kornati islands(hundreds of them- its a national park) Then a little further south you have Krka national park which is stunning whilst staying at the stunning town of Sibenik. Also nearby you have the gorgeous towns of Vodice, Tribunj island, the Island of Murter (connected by small bridge) and the town of Promosten(island- connected to mainland)- stunning.
Enough is said about Southern Dalmatia, however a week on the islands of the coast of split is a must, At least 3 days in Hvar (base in town hvar), at least a day in neighbouring islands such as Korcula(hone of marco Polo, Vis Island with the towns of Komiza and Vis and a day tip to biokovo island to see the mazing Blue and green caves. The island of Brac(Pucisca town and the town of Bol are stunning and Golden Horn Beach in Bol is amazing) Each of these island is worthy of at least a week with many other towns on them to explore but then you will never leave Croatia- trust me I live in Australia and I met many Aussies during my travels who had come to Croatia for the first time thus were only going to stay three days as had not heard of the places before. Once there they are blown away by the beauty and most if not all had thrown their travel itineraries into disorder as the majority had extended their stay in Croatia to weeks rather than days.
People my advice would be spend at least three weeks in Croatia and really soak it in. I have never seen a country with so much to see . there are other countries in Europe that are stunning but per square km Croatia would have to be the most stunning. A ripper of a little country
Simply gorgeous; How will i focus on work for the rest of the day, after reading this. Never thought Croatia would be this picturesque !
Croatia is such a gem and a road trip in Croatia is absolutely unforgettable Nakul 🙂
Senj seems very out of the way based on your route. Do you mean Slunj? 🙂
Indeed. Thanks for pointing that out 🙂 Corrected it now.
I enjoyed your trip report. My husband and I will be going in the beginning of October. I’m wondering what month you went. Thanks
Thanks Josie. We went in mid-October 🙂
My family and I are going to croatia for 9 nights. Can you suggest a place to stay at plitvice for 2 nights.
Ps we are traveling with a 6 month old and doing the exact same itnerary as you 🙂
That’s so cool – you’ll love Croatia. We stayed at a B&B called House Janja which was 4 kms from the entrance of the park. The room was basic but sufficient. If you want, there is a hotel right at the entrance of the park but we were too lat in booking and the rooms had all filled up. It’s called Plitvice Hotel I think.
Have a great trip 🙂
Absolutely loved this place! Croatia is so underrated!
Hi me and my friends are visiting Croatia in MArch. We are planning Zagreb, zabar, split, Bol, Hvar and Dubrovnik before returning back. Also can we do Plitvice national park as a day trip. Also we are planning to hire a car from Auto Europe. How is that? Do we need an international driving licences or Indian will do?
Your Indian license will suffice!
You can so Plitvice as a day trip from Split, but highly recommend staying at Plitvice for one/two nights so that you can dedicate more time there. Auto Europe is good for car rentals – we have rented from them plenty of times. Keep in mind that the car will be provided by another provider – Auto Europe simply collates all the options for you.
Have a great time in Croatia!
Hi, I am thinking of doing a road trip through Croatia but only have 5 days, do you have any recommendations as it will be our first trip over there.
Forgot to say it will be in late May
We’d suggest flying into Split and make that your base for 2 nights. On one of the days, make a day trip to Plitvice National Parks. On the 3rd day, drive to Dubrovnik (spare the day for the drive – you’ll really enjoy it and feel like stopping every 10 minutes for pictures :))
Spend 2-3 days in Dubrovnik and fly back from there.
Hope this helps.
Hi. i just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. Planning my road trip to Croatia and believe me, your blog has simplified my task. Can I ask you guys for more help?
Hey Neha – that’s so good to know. You’ll find most of the answers in our 5 part series on Croatia. I’d suggest reading the articles and the comments section as well. If you still have more questions, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll try to answer them ASAP 🙂
Hey guys, love the work you do. Visiting Croatia in July for the yacht week followed by a week on land. We have hired a car from split, will be covering plitvice and Dubrovnik after. Since a few of us have Indian passports was wondering that on your drive from split to Dubrovnik did you cross into Bosnia and Herzegovina? And if so what visas did they require? So most of my friends are getting the Croatian visa since they are flying into Croatia and back home from there. I would be getting a multiple schengen visa, that should cover me for Both correct?
Hey Dhruv- absolutely. You should have no trouble at the border and while crossing Bosnia and Herzegovina. Happy travels. Do send us photos from Croatia 🙂
Hey guys! I am visiting Plitvice in June last week and I am thoroughly confused about which lakes to visit in the morning and which one in the afternoon. I have read several reviews and they have been of no help and confused me further. I will be reaching Plitvice at 7 a.m in the morning so have about 2-3 hours before the crowd starts pouring in, what do you recommend: Lower lakes in the morning and upper lakes in the afternoon or take a bus from Entrance 2 to the top of the upper lakes in the morning and wander back down to the shore of Kozjak then take A boat from there to the lower lakes.
Would trust whatever you guys suggest 🙂
We’ll be very honest with you – we didn’t think so much about the timing. We reached the park early and just decided on one of the trails which took us around to the waterfalls, the lakes, the viewing points. Trust me, the area is gorgeous in all kinds of lighting throughout the day 🙂
I read your blog and it was a relief to know that the Indian Driving License shall suffice and I wont require an IDP. Can you tell me the name of the car rental agency from whom you hired ? And how are the driving conditions in Croatia ? Also, can journeys be undertaken at night ? Are the highways illuminated ??
Lots of questions in one message …. lol. Plz do answer them all.
Thanks and regards
We rented from Unirent. Driving conditions were absolutely fine in Croatia. We usually try not to drive at night.
Although no one asked us for an IDP, but we have heard from some other people who rented that some traffic police officers did ask for an IDP.
Have a great trip 🙂
We are going as a family of 3 to Croatia in March 2017. Will get the Croatian visa here in India. Do we need the Bosnia/Herzogovinia visa if we are merely driving thru from Split to Dubrovnik? Or will it be sufficient to show our passports and travel plans?
Do reply since you’ve done the trip youselves.
When we did the trip, we did not need a visa for Bosnia/Herzegovina to pass through the small stretch. However, it’s always advisable to check with the embassy since rules might have changed.
Have a great trip
Your driving trip in Croatia sounds like a perfect itinerary for us and our 15 year old granddaughter. I was looking for some guidelines and happened upon your blog. Thank you for the detailed information.
So glad you found it helpful Madeline – have fun in Croatia and do send us photos from your trip 🙂
Wonderful pictures and description. You have a great website and your travels are awesome. Going to Croatia for 12 d , driving from Rovinj to Dubrovnik in June . Rovinj – Plitvice – Zadar – Korcula – Dubrovnik – Venic – Back to US. Really looking forward to it
Thanks a lot – hope you had a great trip to Croatia 😀
Love your blog!
Visiting Croatia this fall and would like to know the accommodations you used through out your trip. Our travel style seems pretty similar so hoping to follow without doing much work ?
Thanks a lot!
Hey Anita we visited Croatia before we started blogging so didn’t really jot down the names of hotels we liked and the ones we didn’t. But would strongly recommend you to choose B&Bs in Croatia.
Hello guys. You & Your blog is amazing ( to say the least) I have been following it since forever it seems & had done a few trips based on it like Peru, English road trip etc. Planning to do Croatia, Bosnia & Albania this summer. Can you suggest me places to stay in kotor & budwa also pltsvice 1 night is decent enough or we require two.
PS: Savi & Vid you both are adorable & so are your pictures
Thanks a lot for your generous compliments 🙂 We haven’t been to Kotor or Budwa so can’t really comment on where to stay. As for Plitvice, 1 night should be fine but 2 nights will be better since you’ll get one full day to explore the area.
Thanks once again
Hi Savi ,
This Is Ragini. We are planning to go to Croatia . But we can go for 4-5 days max. We are in London now. I read your article and it made me feel I have very little time as Croatia has lots to offer. Your article was very helpful. What do you suggest for a 5 days trip. Driving and accompanied by a 3 yr old naughty boy.
I was thinking of Going to Dubrovnik from London . Staying in Dubrovnik for 2 days . Then driving to Slit and staying one day in Split. Next day driving up to Zadar and back to Dubrovnik. Next day flying back.Please suggest if you have any suggestion for us.
Why don’t you fly out of Zadar instead of driving all the way back to Dubrovnik – that way you’ll have some time to squeeze in a trip to Plitvice National Parks which is an absolute must-do 🙂
Hello! Great post. Was wondering, would we be able to hire a car somewhere at Plitvice? we want to drive to Split after a one-night stay, and we’re 6 people so thinking to rent a car might be best. Thanks!
I don’t think there is a car rental agency at Plitvice – your best bet would be to rent a car at either Split or Zagreb 🙂
Hi Savi & Vid, Great post- inspired me to do this trip 🙂 !! We are planning a 2 week trip in June to Croatia. My son is 4year old. We plan to do a road trip travelling through Slovenia and Croatia, we plan to land at Zagreb, do Slovenia and then do rest of Croatia – plitvice, Hvar, Dubrovonik. Is there anything other than Lake Bled that we should explore in Slovenia with a 4 year old? We are planning to do glamping for 1 night, and then stay in a hotel in Lake Bled?
Also, considering we are driving from Lake Bled to Plitvice(4 hour drive) , should I plan for 2 or 3 nights in Plitvice? What are the timings for the National Park?
Slovenia has some amazing places – you could also drive to Piran 🙂
2 nights at Plitvice will be enough – you can see most of the park in one full day. Opening hours change as per season so best to check their official website 🙂
Have a great road trip through Slovenia and Croatia. For someone else looking for Slovenia, here is our article: https://www.bruisedpassports.com/wheres/alpine-dream-itinerary-gorgeous-roadtrip-slovenia
You and Vid are such amazing and pure people. I always run to your blogs to read about any country we think of visiting.
Croatia seems such a wonderland from your blogs! We did read the best time to visit Croatia is in summer months but me and my fiance plan to go for our honeymoon roadtripping to Croatia and Slovenia during December (mid dec until after christmas). Could you please suggest if it would be a good time to visit these places?
We are not a fan of crowded places, but we read that a lot of places around the coastal area (Split, Dubrovnik etc) are closed in off season, could you please suggest? We are really confused as to whether to go on with it or not.
Hey Ria – thanks for the kind words. Yes that’s right – a lot of Croatia’s seaside towns are quite deserted during winter months. However Slovenia is a great option during winter, especially if you manage to get snow. Lake Bled and the countryside are gorgeous when laden with fresh snow 🙂
What a wonderful trip! Thanks so much for your posts and amazing pics.
We have 5 days in Croatia. We would fly from Rome and plan on renting a car. We hope to visit Plitvice, then down the coast to Dubrovnik.
Your suggestions to Sarah earlier in this thread seem excellent and we would follow this, but would you recommend flying into/starting the trip in Split or Zagreb?
Thanks so much in advance!
Hey Time Since you have just 5 days, it would be a great idea for you to start your trip from Split 🙂
Hi Savi & Vid,
My wife & I are BIG fans! Your New Zealand Itinerary was our holy grail when we went for our honeymoon road trip in Jan & we had the time of our lives! :)))
We are planning to visit Croatia or Slovenia (Slovenia is higher on the pecking order, all thanks your photos and description) in November first half. Would it be a good time or should we consider another destination for the November trip. I read you guys visited Croatia mid October so just wanted to know if things change drastically at the start of November.
Yes November might not be the best idea for Croatia as a lot of places also close during that time. Same for Slovenia I guess. You could perhaps look at Iceland or Finland 😉