You could spend over a month exploring Croatia, but two or three weeks should be fine to see the country's major attractions. I've spent 16 days travelling Croatia in September, but I would recommend adding a few more if you enjoy slow travel. The distances between places are not too large, and perfectly doable by car, or also -as I did- using public transportation and hitchhiking.
Because our methods of transportation were mostly improvised, we spent a bit more time on the road than you would if you had a car. Probably renting a car is a more relaxed way of getting around, although less adventurous and more expensive.
Day 1: We arrived in Zadar late in the evening and had arranged with a hostel owner to pick us up and bring us to his guesthouse in Bibinje, a little coastal village close to Zadar. Before hitting the sack, we strolled along the Adriatic coastline, occasionally dipping our feet in the water while fully enjoying the warm climate.
Day 2: It was only the morning after that we realised how crazy blue the sea water was. We had breakfast with our feet dangling in the water, then made our way to Zadar. It's a nice city overall, but we were especially excited about the music produced by the sea organ. At the end of the day, we took the bus to Plitvice and slept in a guesthouse close to the national park.
Day 3: We walked the entire day through Plitvice National Park, which is won-der-ful with all its little waterfalls and blue lakes. It was only day 3 and I had already fallen in love with Croatia. We slept in the same guesthouse as the night before.
Day 4: Mostly hitchhiking, we made our way to Rijeka, an important seaport town. We walked through the Korzo (the major pedestrian shopping street) and climbed the 561 steps of the Petar Kruzic stairway up to the Church of Our Lady of Trsat. We spent the evening with our super welcoming Couchsurfing host.
Day 5: The day after, our host took us to Krk, an islet close to Rijeka where, after some sunbathing and swimming, we had loads of fun on the mud beach. *Mud fight!*
Day 6: Having hitchhiked from Rijeka to Pula, we explored this city that is rich in historical monuments and landmarks. There is even a roman amphitheatre you can visit. We found a hostel to spend the night here.
Day 7: From Pula we made a day trip to Rovinj, a little coastal village with charming houses and small cobblestone alleys, that became one of my favourite places in Croatia.
Day 8: From Rijeka we took the train to Ljubljana, where we explored the historical city center and climbed the hill to Ljubljanski grad (a medieval castle) for a view over the entire city. We found a place to stay via Couchsurfing.
Day 9: From Ljubljana we travelled to Zagreb where we met up with another couchsurfing host who showed us around the cool neighborhoods in town.
Day 10: The day after, we went to Zagreb, which felt a bit too big and unpersonal to our liking, so we didn't mind continuing our trip far away from the capital city; Late in the evening, we took the night train to Sarajevo
Day 11: Early in the morning we arrived in Sarajevo and felt as we had arrived in a completely different world. All of a sudden, we were not able to communicate anymore in any of the languages we know. We strolled around the Bascarsija -the old bazaar- in the old historical center filled with many mosques. In the afternoon, we went to Mostar, famous for its old bridge. In the evening, we hung out with other couchsurfers and discovered some Bosnian nightlife, then spent the night in a cheap hotel.
Day 12: From Mostar we travelled to Dubrovnik. Nowadays, this city is overloaded with tourists because of the Game of Thrones hype, but back then (2011) we had a quite relaxed experience while visiting. We explored the old walled center, which was very beautiful, but a little too perfect and almost artificial. To me, it felt a bit like a huge open air museum.
Day 13: The next day, we took the boat to Lokrum, an islet in Dubrovnik's bay where we visited a Benedictine monastery and swam in a natural pool. As cars are not allowed on Lokrum, it was very quiet and peaceful there. Back on the mainland, we climbed the old city walls, which offered some nice views over Dubrovnik's center with all its terracotta red rooves.
Day 14: From Dubrovnik we went to Split. Having been under the rule of many empires, including Roman and Austro-Hungarian, Split inevitably reflected on their culture, architecture and mentality. We visited the Diocletian palace and compared our tiny feet with Gregory's (a huge statue outside the entrance of the palace). In the evening, a Couchsurfing host welcomed us in his home.
Day 15: We went to Sibenik from where we made an excursion to the Krka waterfalls. You need less time to visit than for Plitvice because it's actually just one series of waterfalls that are situated in the same spot. They're pretty and quite impressive, but I still prefer Plitvice. (Sorry, Krka.)
Day 16: On our last day we returned to Zadar, from where our plane departed late in the evening, back to Brussels.
Finally, I have to mention that the pictures in this article date back to times when I wasn't really into photography and still borrowed a compact camera from my father for the trip. My apologies for the bad quality. The photos here don't do justice to these beautiful destinations, so you better hurry and go find out for yourself.
On the map:
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