From Z to A: The Croatia Road Trip from Zagreb Along the Adriatic Highway
This 11-day Croatia road trip starts in the capital Zagreb and takes in stunning fortified towns along the iconic Adriatic Highway en route to Dubrovnik. While on the road, hike in Plitvice and Krka National Parks, walk around Zadar and Diocletian's Palace in Split, and kayak to islands off Dubrovnik.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Explore the underrated Croatian capital, Zagreb
- Hike the trails of Plitvice National Park and Krka National park
- Visit the roman forum in Zadar
- Drive the beautiful Adriatic Highway
- Sample some of the world's finest oysters in Ston
- Enjoy a private guided walking tour of Diocletian's Palace in Split
- Explore Dubrovnik, the 'Pearl of the Adriatic'
- Kayak from Dubrovnik to nearby Lokrum Island
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Day 1: Fly to Zagreb
Your Croatia road trip begins with a two-and-a-half-hour flight from London to Zagreb, the Croatian capital.
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your city centre hotel in time for an evening's exploration of the cobblestoned streets of the Upper Town. Our clued-up local Concierge will be on hand to recommend and reserve the best restaurants in town and point you in the direction of fun bars if you want to elongate the evening.
Day 2: A Walking Tour of Zagreb
After breakfast at the hotel you will be met by your guide for a private walking tour of the much-underrated Croatian capital.
Start in Zagreb's historic Upper Town, home to the elegant St. Mark's Square, Stone Gate and fortified Lotrscak Tower, learning about the city's past while wandering along its streets. Then switch to Downtown Zagreb to visit Jelacic Square, the Cathedral and the fun Dolac farmers' market.
This evening, enjoy a second and final supper in Zagreb, with
our Concierge again on hand to make recommendations.
Day 3: Your Croatia Road Trip Begins in Earnest
After breakfast this morning head to the hire car depot to pick up your car for the rest of your Croatia road trip. Your first destination is Plitvice National Park, some two hours' south of Zagreb.
You will be staying at a lovely wood panelled lodge that
actually sits inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site park. Once you
have checked in and enjoyed lunch you'll be met by your guide for
an afternoon's private hike along the trails through forests and
past lakes and streams that cascade over a series of
Head back to the lodge for a well-earned dinner and early night.
Day 4: Cycling, Caves of Barac, and Zadar
After breakfast it's time to head to the nearby Caves of Barac where you will meet your guide for a gentle cycle ride this morning, followed by an exploration of the mysterious Caves of Barac on foot. As you wander through these stalactite-filled caves, hear stories of heroic resistance by the locals during the Ottoman era, and legends about the bears who once inhabited the cave system.
Then drive on to your next stop on this Croatia road trip - the pretty fortified port of Zadar, your first glimpse of the beautiful Adriatic Sea. The journey takes a couple of hours, so you'll arrive in time for an early evening passeggiata (stroll) along the waterfront. Our Concierge can recommend the best seafood restaurants and bars in town
Day 5: Wine Tasting and Zadar Walking Tour
After breakfast this morning hop in the car to visit a local family-run winery. Learn about Croatia's distinctive grape varietals and the winemaking process at this admirably organic wine producer, and - of course - sample some of the end product alongside local cheeses and hams.
Head back into Zadar (it's a half-hour drive) in time for lunch
on the terrace of a waterfront restaurant before you meet your
guide for a gentle walking tour of Zadar. Hear about the town's
history from its Roman beginnings - most strikingly apparent in the
Forum - to the Venetian era, which saw much of the town's finest
architectural additions. All of this led to Zadar's almost
inevitable UNESCO World heritage Site listing, but one of the
absolutely highlights of the tour will be one of Zadar's more
recent additions. As the sun begins to set, your guide will take
you to sit on the steps that make up the contemporary sculpture
known as the Sea Organ. Here you can watch the sun sinking in the
sky while the tide or waves from passing ferries pushes into the
structure below you, creating a series of calming noises. The
effect of this entirely natural musical instrument is wonderfully
Suitably becalmed, you can head out for a last dinner in one of the fine restaurants in town.
Day 6: Split for Split along the Adriatic Highway
After breakfast it's time to hit the road again - destination Split - on a day that will be one of the highlights of your Croatia road trip.
The journey would only take a couple of hours along the D8 (more
romantically known as the Jadranska Magistrala or Adriatic Highway)
without stops, but we can guarantee that you will want to make
stops, and often, because this is - in our humble opinion - one of
the most beautiful stretches of road in the whole of Europe.
Heading south-east from Zadar you can look out to sea on your right and see the beautiful low-slung islands of the Kornati Islands National Park. Then sneak a few miles inland to the pretty town of Skradin, which sits on the banks of the Krka River at the gateway of the beautiful Krka National Park.
This is the ideal spot to stretch your legs, so we recommend walking the one-and-a-half-mile round trip Skradinsnki Buk trail to see waterfall. This is a lovely place to go for a walk before having lunch in one of the many fine regional speciality-serving restaurants overlooking the river. Our Concierge can recommend and reserve the best in advance.
Next, head back to the coast and the Adriatic highway again, stopping again if you want at the pretty town of Trogir to admire its lovely Renaissance and Baroque buildings and 13th century cathedral.
Your final destination and home for the next two nights is Split, and a lovely hotel in the heart of the city. You'll be here in time for a wander along the seafront and supper in one of the many restaurants in the Old Town.
Day 7: Exploring Split & Diocletian’s Palace
You will be met by your guide after a leisurely breakfast, ready for a fascinating walking tour of Split. The obvious starting point, just a few minutes' walk from your hotel, is the magnificent Diocletian's Palace. Ignore the misnomer, because this 'palace' is really a huge 600ft by 600ft block including several streets encompassed within defensive walls that makes up roughly half of the Old Town. Your guide will explain how this complex was built for the fourth century Roman Emperor Diocletian, and how it remains one of the most remarkable and intact examples of Roman architecture anywhere in the Mediterranean.
After you have admired the iconic Peristyle, the Golden and
Silver Gates, the Cathedral and Jupiter's Temple, go for lunch to
let the grandeur of the setting sink in. After lunch you have the
afternoon at leisure to explore more of Split beyond the
This evening you can sample the wares at another of the city's fine restaurants.
Day 8: Oyster Tasting in Ston, and on to Dubrovnik
Today on your Croatia road trip sees you leave Split and head further south-west along the Adriatic Highway in the direction of Dubrovnik.
En route to Dubrovnik you will enjoy more wonderful sea views out to your right, and after a couple of hours you will turn off to the tiny village of Ston, which sits at the head of a fjord-like sliver of sea. This charming location has created the ideal conditions for another highlight of this trip, the world famous Ston oysters and mussels.
You will be taken out by boat to the oyster beds to see how they
are grown and harvested, before stepping onto a floating pontoon to
sample these delectable local delicacies, washed down with a crisp
Croatian white wine from the nearby island of Korcula. Then for
lunch, served at a table on the pontoon (weather dependant), you
will be treated to a local speciality - bouzzara - made
from mussels (from Ston, naturally) with lashings of white wine and
Back on dry land, you can sample more local wines and olive oils, before heading on (you do NOT want to be the designated driver this afternoon) to Dubrovnik, which should take an hour.
You are staying in a hotel outside Dubrovnik, but within easy reach of this famous walled city, the so-called 'Pearl of the Adriatic'. Head in this afternoon, after the day-trippers and cruise ship passengers have left and enjoy a guided walk around the cobbled streets and battlements, hearing how Dubrovnik rose to prominence as the capital of the republic of Ragusa.
After bidding farewell to your guide, our trusty Concierge can then recommend the finest restaurants and bars in the city itself.
Day 9: Kayaking to Lokrum Island
After exploring Dubrovnik on foot the afternoon before, now you get to see the city from a different perspective - the sea. Kayaking is a superb way to explore this stretch of the Adriatic, and you will meet your kayak guide in the bay beneath the famous Pile Gate. After a brief introduction (kayaking is very easy to pick up) you'll be off and paddling in no time, and crossing the narrow stretch of water between the city and nearby Lokrum Island.
Paddle along the shoreline of this pretty islands to a hidden
cave and beach where you can jump out relax on the beach, or go for
a swim in the extraordinarily clear waters of the Adriatic. Next,
paddle back across to the city, kayaking along in the shadow of the
huge city walls to the port, where you will disembark in time for a
You have the afternoon to explore more of Dubrovnik, or to take the cable car up the escarpment behind the city for yet another perspective on the city.
Day 10: Culture in Konavle
Konavle is a coastal region just to the south-west of Dubrovnik and home to a couple of villages where traditional Croatian trades such as silk production are still practiced.
Visit one local workshop, where you learn about the silk making process, including witnessing silkworms in all their phases. Then see expert craftspeople using the resulting silk to create embroidery and pieces of national Croatian costume. Stay for lunch in a charming local restaurant before a quick visit to Sokol Tower, a 14th century citadel and then return to Dubrovnik.
This evening you can celebrate your Croatia road trip with one last dinner in Dubrovnik.
Day 11: Fly Home
Enjoy one last breakfast at the hotel before driving to the airport and bidding farewell to your car, which has been with you for the 500 or so miles of your Croatia road trip.
The flight back to London takes just under three hours, arriving in the early afternoon.
Arran and Charlotte H are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.