For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind when one says Croatia, is Game of Thrones. But there is much more to Croatia. And not just Croatia, the Balkans are under-rated. We got the chance to explore Serbia & Bosnia a bit as well and felt that we should definitely visit them again for a longer period to explore the unexplored natural beauty. Our Balkan vacation was fun and relaxing with no aim. We went on a 10 days road trip in July 2018 and due to the peak season, were a bit disappointed by the overcrowded cities but it was still worth the experience. We rented a Opel Cascada convertible to live our movie dream and did the Europe road-trip the right way.
Croatia is a perfect amalgamation of beautiful old towns, cobbled streets, breathtaking views, scenic drives, beach parties, and great food. We even got lucky to watch Croatia win the semi final of FIFA World Cup. That became the highlight of our trip and for us Croatia was not just Game of Thrones but a football experience as well.
1. Itinerary and Trip Details
Sharing our brief 8 nights and 9 days itinerary. We rented a car from Belgrade in Serbia, drove via Bosnia to enter Croatia in Dubrovnik. Then drove from Dubrovnik to Zagreb, exploring Split, Hvar, Krka, and Plitivce; before finally driving back to Belgrade. We chose Belgrade round trip flights since they were cheaper and we wanted to explore the other parts of the Balkans as well.
Day 1: Flight from Delhi, India to Belgrade, Serbia; explored Belgrade and stayed overnight
Day 2: Drive from Belgrade to Foca, Bosnia; stayed overnight at a cottage along Drina river
Day 3: Drive from Foca to Dubrovnik, Croatia; explored Dubrovnik and stayed overnight
Day 4: Drive from Dubrovnik to Split; enjoyed the scenic drive with multiple stopovers to appreciate the beauty (via Trsteno, Maharska); stayed overnight
Day 5: Explored Split (witnessed Croatia winning the FIFA semi final); stayed overnight
Day 6: Ferry from Split to Hvar (via Klis Fortress); partied at Hvar and stayed overnight
Day 7: Ferry from Hvar to Split and then drive to Krka National Park (via Trogir, Sibenik); stayed near Plitvice at night
Day 8: Enjoyed Plitvice National Park. Drive to Zagreb, explored the nightlife stayed overnight
Day 9: Early morning drive from Zagreb to Belgrade. Flight back to India
I have also captured the detailed itinerary with awesome photos on Tripline. Do check out if you are planning Croatia or Balkan road trip.
2. Game of Thrones Destinations
Croatia trip is incomplete without Game of Thrones tour. For all the GoT fans out there, there are various GoT spots in Croatia. Starting from the most famous King’s Landing at Dubrovnik to the New Throne in Sibenik, sharing a few of the places:
- Dubrovnik – King’s Landing, Red Keep (Lovrijenac Fortress), Historical stairs (Walk of shame), Walls of Dubrovnik
- Trsteno – Gardens of Red Keep (en route Dubrovnik to Split drive but paid entrance)
- Maharska – Journey to Mehreen (en route Dubrovnik to Split drive)
- Split – Diocletian Palace, Cellars, Klis Fortress
- Hvar Island – Slaver’s Bay
- Trogir – Qarth
- Sibenik – New Throne
Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar are must visit for the fans! There are multiple walking tours in all of these cities and I recommend taking at least one paid (although expensive!) tour in Dubrovnik or Split. And then continue to enjoy self walking tours in other areas.
3. Beaches and Nightlife
Croatia is a great place to enjoy the beaches, and calm turquoise waters. You can take a swim in the sea and party at one of the many beach bars. The party continues from the afternoon to the night. Hvar Island is the most popular party destination in Croatia and the crowd ranges from young 20s to mid 30s. Sharing the best destinations we visited in Croatia, along with a bonus destination, Belgrade.
- Hula Hula Beach Bar, Hvar, Croatia – Must Visit for all party people and to enjoy beautiful sunsets
- Buza Bar, Dubrovnik, Croatia – Amazing views with cliff jumping
- HotMess, FreeStyler, River Open Air Nightclub (Riverside pubs), Belgrade, Serbia – All night huge party places
4. Local Food and Drinks
Definitely enjoy the amazing Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian cuisine. Balkan cuisine is quite different from European cuisine.
- Amazing desserts that I have never ever had anywhere and couldn’t even find anywhere else, still crave for some of them. Kremšnita became my favorite and is highly recommended
- Enjoy the local drink Rakija to start the party
- Chill with Local beer
- Refresh yourself with freshly squeezed orange juice
- Satisfy the glutton in you with rich flavored ice creams
- Start the day right with freshly brewed coffee (Zagreb is the coffee city)
5. National Parks
Plitvice and Krka national parks are the most famous national parks in Croatia. It is difficult to choose between the two of them. We visited both and they both have their own charms. Plitvice is a UNESCO heritage site with gigantic waterfalls and huge lakes. While Krka is the place to go if you want to enjoy swimming in the lakes and bathing under a waterfall.
- Plitvice National Park – Start from the uncrowded entrance 2, take the bus to the highest point and walk back down to save time, energy, and avoid crowd
- Krka National Park – Definitely enjoy swimming and bathing in the waterfalls (not allowed at Plitvice)
6. Travel Tips
6.1 Road Trips
- Most scenic drives – Dubrovnik to Split (take the coastal road), Belgrade to Dubrovnik (via Foca, Bosnia)
- Apply “Avoid highways and tolls” filter on Google Maps while driving to not only find the most scenic routes but also to avoid the heavy toll charges
- You might face a few issues driving a Serbian car in Croatia and vice-versa because of their war history (we faced a few problems ourselves)
- Avoid driving in the cities and check about parking availability beforehand
- Beware of long waiting times at border, especially Croatia – Serbia border
6.2 Flights and VISA
- Look for alternate round trip flights near Croatia for cheaper options such as Belgrade (Serbia), Sarajevo (Bosnia), and Ljubljana (Slovenia)
- Indian nationals don’t require any VISA for Serbia
- Croatian VISA is accepted in a few neighboring countries (Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania)
- Apply for multiple entry Croatian or Schengen VISA
- Stay at Airbnbs in the center of the cities to easily explore everything by walking
- Stay at Hotel Bellevue to explore Plitvice National Park at leisure and enjoy the mesmerizing sky amidst nature at night
- Carry cash, preferably local currency (or Euros)
- Definitely carry sunscreen, hat, wind cheater, rain coat, sun glasses, summer dresses, and comfortable shoes (heels can be avoided)