If you only have 7 days in Croatia you will be hard-pressed to enjoy all this beautiful country has to offer. There is a ton to see and do with a variety of activities appealing to so many different interests. With dazzling coastlines, preserved ruins, ancient old towns, expansive National Parks, an explosive culinary scene, and vibrant nightlife, it is easy to see why Croatia has become a top European destination.
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Although I recommend at least two weeks in Croatia for a first-time visit, 7 days in Croatia will allow you to see some of the country’s best highlights and keep you coming back for more. You will have enough time to visit either the northern or southern coastal areas or the inland rural areas.
I spent 18 days exploring Croatia on my first visit and easily could have stayed longer. I spent my first week in Croatia island hopping from Dubrovnik to Hvar and then I road-tripped from Split to Zagreb with lots of stops in between. I strolled through the Old Towns took pictures in front of historic landmarks, walked through the boardwalks of Plitvice Lakes National Park and took a boat ride down the Krka River before watching a world-famous sunset in Zadar.
In this 7-day Croatia itinerary, I’ll give you plenty of ideas to help you build your own itinerary perfect for your interests. To get the most out of your short stay, I recommend taking it slow and enjoying fewer areas more thoroughly than skipping to a new town each night. It is best to fly in and out of different cities to maximize time or base yourself in one town and do day trips from there.
Know Before you Go
When is the best time to visit Croatia?
The best time to visit Croatia is in the summer months, June to September for the best weather. The high season is July and August which has increased crowds, increased prices, and hot and humid temps. I went in early June and temperatures along the coast were very warm but the crowds weren’t too bad.
How to get to Croatia?
There are many international airports in Croatia including Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Pula, and Zagreb. Choosing destinations based on where you fly in and out of will help you make the most out of your 7 days in Croatia.
How to get around while visiting Croatia
Taxis, Ubers, and ferries are convenient along the coast and in tourist towns for reasonable prices so you do not have to rent a car to get around. A car is recommended if you want to go outside of the city centers into rural areas.
Many of the “old towns” in the most popular cities, such as Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, and Zagreb are walking only. There are very few parking options so if you do rent a car make sure to stay somewhere with parking.
Additional tips for visiting Croatia
English is widely spoken in all tourist towns.
Currently, the currency is the Croatian Kuna. In 2023 they are preparing to convert to the Euro.
Tipping 10-15% or rounding up a bill is standard practice while dining in Croatia. Bring cash as many restaurants do not add a tip option to the final bill.
Most of the beaches are pebble or rocky beaches so bring a pair of water shoes to help protect your feet from the pain of walking on rocks.
Island hopping is the most popular thing to do in Croatia. You can transfer between islands using speed boats, ferries, or catamarans.
Ferries and Catamarans
There are two main types of ferries in Croatia. The term ferry refers to car ferries and catamarans refer to passenger boats in Croatia. Both are great options for island hopping. Multiple operators offer car ferries and passenger catamarans but timetables can be limited outside of the high season (July and August) and change frequently so make sure you plan your route ahead of time.
Booking online is ideal as some routes will sell out and some ports do not have offices where you can purchase day-of ferry tickets. During high season there can be long queues. For car ferries, it is recommended to arrive 2 hours before departure time. For passenger ferries, an hour is best.
The national operator for car ferries is Jadrolinija.
CroatiaFerries.com is a really helpful website with a ton of information pertaining to all the operational ferry routes in Croatia across all lines.
I used the above website to check the times and routes but booked my tickets directly on the ferry company’s website. It is recommended not to use a third-party website to book ferry tickets as some sites do not have updated booking schedules or sell invalid tickets.
Where to visit on your 7-day Croatia itinerary
With only 7 days in Croatia, how do you choose where to go? There are a lot of great options but you will want to make sure you are not spending unnecessary time traveling from place to place to make the most out of your short stay. If it is your first time in Croatia and you want to explore the coast and walk through the best old towns I recommend starting in Dubrovnik or Split and spending a few days island hopping. Both locations offer convenient ferry routes to multiple islands with plenty of day trip options.
With 6 nights and 5 full days, you may be a little rushed but will still have time to visit 2-3 locations depending on where you fly in and out.
Below is a breakdown of the most popular towns and islands to visit in Croatia. This list will help you narrow down where you want to go so you can tailor an itinerary to your interests, budget, and time.
Further down in the post is my exact itinerary listing how I spent each day and how I would change it up for next time.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a living UNSECO world heritage site. It is a very touristy area and pricier than other Croatian towns but is an absolute must-SEE! It is famous for its walled city, walk-able walls, and historic landmarks including the Medieval Franciscan Monastery, St. John’s Fortress (Mulo Tower), and St. Blaise Church. It is also known as King’s Landing in the popular HBO series Game of Thrones and the old town was used as a filming location for Star Wars: Episode VIII. It has beautiful views of the Dalmatian coast, delicious restaurants, and pebble beaches and makes a great base for multiple-day trips. The top sights can be seen in a full day but I recommend two or more days in Dubrovnik to enjoy the Old Town, watch a sunset on top of Mt. Srd, relax at a beach or take fun day trips to locals islands and neighboring countries such as Montenegro or Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Similar to Dubrovnik, Split is another popular coastal village known for its Old Town with landmarks dating back to the Roman Empire. The UNSECO site, Diocletian’s Palace sits at the center of town surrounded by charming streets, community squares, and plenty of shops and restaurants. The world’s oldest Catholic Cathedral, St. Domnius lies within the palace and has a climbable bell tower giving an incredible view of the town below. Split is also a great base for many day trips including Krka National Park, Trogir, and the famous Blue Cave. The medieval Klis Fortress is just outside the city and is another filming location for Game of Thrones. Split is great for those seeking culture, ancient history, and a bit of nightlife. Ultra Europe hosts its premier Music Festival in Split every July.
Split and Dubrovnik both are port towns and welcome many cruise ships in the summer. Their walking districts get packed with tourists in the high season. Avoid the crowds by exploring before 9 am.
Trogir was one of my favorite day trips with its picturesque streets and historic buildings. It is a small village 30 mins from Split Airport that only takes a few hours to see. It has a well-preserved (walking only) town center with cathedrals, fortresses, and towers in Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles. The small island dates back to the 3rd century BC. There are plenty of restaurants, lounges, and cafes scattered along its narrow cobblestone streets. Trogir was also named the best city-island in the world by National Geographic in 2015 and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sibenik is the oldest native Croatian town on the shores of the Adriatic sea located between Split and Zadar. It’s known for its Klapa music, a form of traditional a cappella singing which can be enjoyed from June through mid-September during various concerts. Its old town can be explored in a day which includes St. Michael’s fortress, St. James Cathedral, and dozen more historic landmarks. Sibenik makes a great base for a day trip to Krka National Park.
Mljet is a beautiful unspoiled island known for its low-key nature and National Park. Anyone who loves nature, bike riding, or swimming will love this island. It is located 1.5 hours away from Dubvronik via ferry that runs 2x a day during high season only. You will need transportation on this island as there are no buses and limited taxi service (that is quite expensive) but there are plenty of electric bikes to rent. Skip this island if you do not have a car or if hiking and biking aren’t your ideal way to spend the day. One full day gives you enough time to see the highlights of the island (if you have a car) but depending on the ferry schedule you may have to spend the night.
I was excited for Mjlet after how beautiful I heard it was but I ended up a little underwhelmed. I would skip this island if it is your first time in Croatia. I love nature but the hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and monastery that the island is known for did not deliver. I would highly recommend a car to make the most of your time on Mljet.
Brac Island is great for families and those looking to relax in a calm low-key atmosphere. The island is known for the world-famous Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) Beach and is the longest and tallest island in the Adriatic thanks to its highest point Vidova Gora. Brac also has a good wine and food scene, and many small villages worth exploring. A car is the most convenient way to explore the island but if you don’t have a car opt to stay in Bol where ferries and the most amenities are located for tourists.
Hvar would be the island of choice for those looking for a bit of luxury and nightlife. It is known to be the most expensive port island in Croatia but still has something for everyone and every budget. The Spanish Fortress and the Napoleon Fortress offer spectacular panoramic views of Hvar and distant islands. It is a popular port for yachties and many boating excursions including those to the Blue & Green Cave. It’s known as the party island of Croatia and offers live music, beach bars, and plenty of people watching. But it also has a calmer side in Stari Grad and a lovely rural area where you can find wine tastings, lavender fields, biking and hiking routes.
Vis is another small and relatively untouched island known for its serenity and winemaking. It was also a shooting location for Mamm Mia: Here we go again. Vis is the furthest away from the mainland making it harder to reach and thus less touristy. The best things to do while visiting Vis is a boat tour around the islands and a guided tour through the military cave tunnels that shut down over 20 years ago. It is also home to Stiniva beach, a pebble cove beach known as one of the best beaches in Europe.
Korcula is widely regarded as the best wine island in Croatia with a wine region that produces two unique local wines Grk and Posip. It also has a thriving old town, lots of historic sites, tasty restaurants and cafes and a lot of activities to keep you busy for a week. It is less popular than neighboring Hvar and is less expensive and crowded. You will enjoy this island if bike riding through vineyards, eating delicious food, and getting to relax in its calm atmosphere sounds good to you. It is well connected by passenger ferry to many islands and the mainland making it a great choice for first-timers who only have a week in Croatia.
Zadar is another port town best known for its striking sunsets, historic ruins, Roman and Venetian-style Old Town and waterfront promenade. It is famous for its art installations: The Sea Organ, a hidden musical instrument played by the crashing waves, and The Greeting to the Sun, a solar-powered illuminated floor representing the solar system. You will see modern-era buildings next to towers and cathedrals dating back to the 9th century in its old town. It is only 1.5 hours away from the world-renowned Plitvice Lakes National Park and is a great jumping-off point for island hopping through its local islands and some that are in the Kvarner archipelago all the way to Pula and Rijeka.
Zadar’s Old Town was very crowded during my visit in June and I didn’t find it very charming. I had a pleasant stay and ate some good food but the old town was more modern than expected and a bit run down. The sunset was pretty but the thick and loud crowds really took away from what the experience could have been. I’d recommend planning some island hopping from here to Zadar’s local islands for a better experience and visiting in the off-season to avoid the chaotic crowds.
Zagreb is the capital city and transportation hub of Croatia located in the northwest of the country. It has a ton to see and do and is a great place to visit for culture, sightseeing, and gobs of entertainment. The city’s hilltop medieval old town is a highlight along with the Austrian-Hungarian architecture, unique museums, parks, and lively squares. Zagreb is great for those who love a busy city vibe and a night out. Its walkable Main Street is filled with cafes, shops, and restaurants. Zagreb is also the home to a one-of-a-kind museum, the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Pula is a seaside town with a protected harbor located on the tip of the Istrian Peninsula in northwestern Croatia. It is well known for its preserved Roman ruins including the Pula Arena, the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four side towers entirely preserved. It also has wineries and beautiful coastal beaches with clear water. It is a great town to stop if you are planning to visit the north but is a little out of the way for first-timers that want to visit the more popular southern areas of Croatia on a 7-Day itinerary.
How to Plan a 7-Day Croatia Itinerary
In this 7-day itinerary, you won’t need a car but will use the ferry system to do a bit of island hopping. There are many different routes and island options but this route works well if you only have 7 days in Croatia.
I choose to start in Dubrovnik and end in Split because both of these mainland locations are convenient to many islands with multiple ferry routes, both have an International Airport, and are exciting to explore on their own with tons to see.
With 7-days in Croatia, you will have enough time to visit at least one island. Hopefully, now you have an idea of what you are looking for and what island(s) will be best for you.
This 7 day Croatia itinerary is for the following route:
Dubrovnik (2 Nights)-Hvar (2 Nights)-Split (2 Nights)
I chose to head to Hvar during my week in Croatia because many people raved about it but Korcula is another Island that could easily replace Hvar as it is on the same ferry route and it is also great for first-time visitors.
Hvar was festive and beautiful and while I did enjoy Hvar and would absolutely go back with friends, I think the less expensive, less touristy and more laid back Korcula would have been a better choice for me, as a solo traveler with little interest in nightlife.
Day 1: Arrive in Dubrovnik
Arrive at Dubrovnik Airport and head to town. Use an Uber or Taxi to get to town if you do not rent a car. It will be around $25-30 USD to get to the old town from the airport and about a 30-minute ride.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
With only two nights, staying in the heart of Old Town is a great idea. It will be more expensive and you will have to carry your luggage through the cobblestone streets and possibly upstairs but the convenience of being able to walk to everything, easily escape the heat or crowds, and have more time to explore is worth the cost.
There are also a number of hotels and home stays right outside of the center. I recommend anything that is within walking distance to the center as you will most likely spend your time in this area while exploring Dubrovnik.
There is a luggage holding facility near the Polce Gate, visit BaggageandSmile.com for more information. You can also hire a porter to transport luggage within the walking-only Old Town. I used Left Baggage to store my large bag (I was traveling for two months) during my stay in Old Town which made checking in and out of my Air B&B with all its stairs so much easier.
On my first trip to Croatia, I stayed in the heart of the Old Town at La Vita E Bella’s Place (Bella’s Suites) through Air B&B. Despite all the stairs I had to climb, I had a great stay. It was a beautiful space in a great location, perfect for a solo traveler. I also stayed in the Babin Kuk area at B&B Boutique Eluize Dubrovnik. The hotel was modern, clean, comfortable, and had free parking but I did not love the area.
Babin Kuk is known for its sandy beaches. There are a lot of beach resorts in the area but not much else. It is about a 15 min drive from Old Town Dubrovnik and costs about $8-$10 USD in transportation each way.
With only a few days to explore it is best to stay in the area, you will be exploring the most to avoid extra time and money commuting. I recommend staying within walking distance to the Old Town in Dubrovnik if you want to explore that area.
Day 2: Enjoy Dubrovnik
With only two nights and one full day, I recommend enjoying the old town as that is what makes Dubvronik so unique. With 3 days or more in Dubrovnik, you can hang out on the beach, take a ferry to Lokrum, go for a sunset kayak cruise or visit a neighboring town but the old town highlights can easily be explored in one full day.
Best Things to do in Dubrovnik:
- Walk the City Walls– Enjoy panoramic views of the Adriatic sea from the defensive stone walls dating back to the 15th century. It takes around 2 hours and costs around $35 USD. The views are stunning, go right when they open to avoid the crowds. There are a few areas along the way with cold drinks and snacks for sale.
- Walk through Old Town– Enjoy the ancient architectural landmarks including the Pile Gate, Bokar Fortress, Sponza Palace, Orlando’s Column, The Church of St. Blaise or the Franciscan Monastery.
- Visit the Old Town’s Farmers Market (behind the church of St. Blaise)- Open six days a week with jams, honey, fruits, spices and oils.
- Take the ferry to Lokrum-If you love Game of Thrones, you will want to visit Lokrum to sit on the actual Iron Throne. There is also a monastery, hiking trails, swimming areas, and a restaurant on the island.
- Enjoy gelato at Peppino’s Gelato Garden– after trying four different spots this was by far the tastiest and they even allowed samples.
- Watch a sunset from Mount Srd– Hike, drive or ride the cable car up to the best sunset viewing area in Dubrovnik. The restaurant at the top is a great dinner spot too.
- Visit Dubrovnik Cathedral– Enjoy the grandeur of this baroque cathedral featuring artwork dating back to the 1000s including a triptych by Titian and other works by Italian masters.
- Visit Lovrijenac Fort– A historic Fortress with panoramic views dating back to the 16th century.
Day 3: Dubrovnik to Hvar
Book a ferry to Hvar (or Korcula if you like a more laid-back vibe).
The TP Line ferry has a daily route from Dubvronik that takes about 3.5 hours. Book ahead of time if you can. Ferries and catamarans often sell out during the high season.
Spend 2 nights in Hvar.
Where to Stay in Hvar:
Accommodations in Hvar range from 5-star boutique hotels to comfortable home stays and budget hostels. I stayed in a homestay called Apartmani Ivanovic for 50 euros a night. You can book the property on Expedia.com if you are interested. The owner was very nice and offered a car ride to and from the Old Town which was very helpful. This homestay was a 10 min walk into town, 20 mins to beaches and breakfast spots, has a full kitchen, and was also airconditioned.
Day 4: Enjoy Hvar
Hvar is known as the most expensive Croatian island where the rich and famous can be seen sipping cocktails on their yachts but this island has something for every budget. With only two nights you will have to pick and choose what to do as you will need a few more nights to enjoy everything Hvar has to offer.
For a full day, I recommend joining a tour or renting a car and exploring the villages of Stari Grad and Jelsa. Stop for a wine tasting at the Dubokovic Winery in Jelsa and make your way back to Hvar to enjoy a delicious dinner after a walk to the Spanish Fortress for sunset.
Best things to do in Hvar
- Walk through the old town– Enjoy renaissance architecture and charming streets full of shops and restaurants.
- Tour Hvar’s historic landmarks– Visit the Franciscan Monastery, Hvar Public Theatre, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Arsenal, or the Tvrdaji Castle.
- Take a boat tour- Boat trips to the Green and Blue caves, one of the most popular things from Hvar, are offered daily.
- Tour the island by car- There is more to see just a short drive from Hvar Town. Explore other villages such as Jelsa or Stari Grad and see the countryside for a different feel.
- Walk to the Spanish Fortress– The views and history are worth the trek and entrance fee.
- Enjoy a day at the beach– There are many pebble beaches to enjoy around Hvar the most popular ones being Pokonji Dol Beach, Mekicevica Beach and Bonj Beach.
- Take a hike– The 45 min incline hike up to the 1812 Napolean Fortress has rewarding views that go for miles on a clear day.
- Sail through the Pakleni Islands-Sunset cruises and full-day adventures with snorkeling and swimming are offered by many local tour companies.
- Go wine tasting– You can book a guided tour or call ahead to schedule your own tastings at the many family-owned wineries around the island.
- Scuba dive– The water is incredibly clear and there are a number of shipwrecks and ocean life to explore.
You may have heard Hvar is known for its lavender fields that bloom in early summer. Hvar was once bathed in the fragrant bushes but now there are very few fields left due to fires destroying the land. It took too long for farmers to recover after the lost crop so there are very few fields left. There is no one saturated area for viewing or photo taking. Hvar is not a good destination if you are looking for lavender fields.
Day 5: Hvar to Split
Book a ferry to Split.
The TP Line ferry has a daily route Hvar to Split that takes around an hour. Book ahead of time if you can to ensure availability.
Spend 2 nights in Split.
Where to Stay in Split
Similar to the other locations on this 7-day Croatia itinerary there are accommodations options to fit every budget.
I stayed at the Royal Suites Boutique hotel, located a 10 min walk from Old Town. The room was comfortable and the service was pleasant. It came with a small breakfast and was in a great location for sightseeing.
For an upscale experience in the heart of Old Town check out the Palace Judita Heritage Hotel. I have not stayed there but I know people who have and really enjoyed their stay.
Day 6: Enjoy Split
Split is a fun and lively port town that gets busy in the high season and welcomes many cruises in July and August. There is enough to see in the Old Town to make a day out of it. I also think it is worth renting a car to go to Trogir and Kils Fortress. Trogir is one of my favorite towns in Croatia. It is small but is well preserved and offers a mix of cafes, lounges, harbor views and historic landmarks.
Best things to do in Split
- Explore Diocletian’s Palace-Bult for an Emperor in 300 AD it is the focal point of Split’s Old Town.
- Visit St. Domnius Cathedral– Climb the bell tower for fantastic views
- Walk along the waterfront promenade– Enjoy the views, harbor, snack stands and entertainment that pops ups weekly along the promenade.
- Hike up to a viewpoint or observation deck- Vrh Telegrin, Vidikovac, Marjan Hill, or Prva Vidilica Na Marjanu are some of the most popular.
- Visit Trogir– Only 30 mins from split by car this charming historic town with shops, restaurants, lounges, historic landmarks, and festive town squares makes a great day trip.
- Explore Klis Fortress– A medieval fortress just outside of town, known as a filming location for GOT, and has wonderful views.
- Go on a boat tour– Rent your own boat or join a group tour to cruise through local islands, head to the Blue Lagoon and even visit the Krka Waterfalls.
Day 7: Depart
It is the end of your week in Croatia. Depending on what time you fly out you may have time for a stroll along the marina, or a morning hike up the stairs to the Marjan Hill Overlook.
I recommend flying out from Split so you do not have a far commute to the airport.
Alternative Routes for a 7-Day Croatian Itinerary
Like I said earlier there are SO MANY routes you could take that will work with a week in Croatia. Here I’ve listed ideas for towns and areas to visit that make sense with only 6 full days to explore taking into account travel time.
If you want to visit an island (or two) you may have to give yourself a buffer day to travel back to the mainland before flying out depending on ferry schedules.
- Mljet Island- 2 hours by catamaran
- Korcula Island-1.5 hrs by catamaran
- Hvar Island-1.5 by catamaran
- Brac Island- 4 hours by catamaran
- Split- 3 hours by car
- Brac Island- 1 hour by ferry
- Trogir- 30 mins by car
- Sibenik- 1 hour by car
- Zadar- 1.5 hours by car
- Split Airport to Hvar- 1.5 hours by fast ferry
- Split Airport to Bol, Brac-2.5 hours by fast ferry
Zadar is in the northwestern area of Croatia and offers convenient access to its local archipelago spanning over 250 km. You won’t be able to take a ferry to the islands located in the southern area but there is still a lot to explore in the northern region. Take a look at the map below to get an idea of possible island hopping routes from Zadar. Use either bookaway.com or Croatiaferries.com to check routes before booking directly with the ferry company (I was told there can be issues with 3rd party tickets such as overselling or wrong times so booking direct is best).
There are a number of National Parks that are located close enough to Zadar that easily fit in on a 7-day itinerary along with a few major towns.
- Krka Lakes National Park- 1 hour by car
- Plitvice Lakes National Park- 1.45 mins by car
- Northern Velebit National Park- 1.5 hours by car
- Sibenik- 1 hour via car
- Trogir- 1.5 hours
- Split- 1.5 hours
Zagreb makes a great base for visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park and smaller Croatian villages such as the charming waterfall village Rastoke. It is a bit far north making it more of a trek from the most popular tourist towns but it is convenient to neighboring countries like Slovenia which is also a popular area to visit with 7 days in Croatia.
- Varazdin- 1.5 hours by car
- Trakoscan Castle- 1 hour by car
- Samobor- 30 mins by car
- Ljubljana, Slovenia- 1.50 mins by car
- Plitvice Lakes National Park- 2 hours by car
- Krka Lakes National Park- 3.5 hours by car
Croatia had been on my bucket list for years before I finally made the trip. I loved the majesty of the towering waterfalls of Plitvice National Park and the historic Old Towns that transported me back into time. I would love to go back to Croatia to do more island hopping and to enjoy the beauty of the Dalmatian coast as that was the highlight of my time in Croatia.
I hope you have a great visit to Croatia, and now have a better understanding of how to spend 7 days in Croatia for the best possible experience. Please leave a comment if you have any questions and check out my two-week Croatia road trip itinerary for more insight on how to enjoy this special country.
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