We explored Croatia from north to south, using just public transport and backpacks. This is our ultimate guide to Croatia, featuring places to visit and the best activities. An itinerary through Croatia backpacking, visiting the most incredible cities, like Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb and some interesting little towns. Backpacking in Croatia guide is perfect to work out your budget, check the best website to book transport and activities, get visa information and many other tips.
Croatia is a diverse country with engaging activities. There is always something fun to do in Croatia. The country washed by the Adriatic Sea is one of Europe’s most visited backpacker destinations. Through our guide, you will discover how to travel in Croatia on a budget, following our tips and tricks on how to cut down costs. In fact, you should know that Croatia is not cheap as it used to be about ten years ago.
Follow along our journey to discover where to go backpacking in Croatia, the best accommodation and suggested Croatia Itineraries.
Useful information backpacking in Croatia
What you should know about Croatia
Visiting Croatia on a budget sounds like a great plan, but to fully enjoy this experience, you have to know a few things about the country you’re visiting and its history, and I’m here to help you! So here are a few facts about Croatia’s history that you should know.
The Duchy of Croatia and the Duchy of Pannonian Croatia first formed the nation known as Croatia. Later, they were united into the Kingdom of Croatia, which lasted from 925 until 1018.
Following the First World War, Croatia was incorporated into Yugoslavia. Later on, after Germany invaded Yugoslavia in the Second World War, the independent Croatian state was established.
It’s fantastic to think about all the things that Croatia went through, and yet, nowadays, it’s one of the most developed countries in Europe.
Croats, also known as Croatians, are some of the friendliest people in Europe. They’ll do anything in their power to help and warmly welcome you to their country.
If you ever get the chance to be invited inside a Croatian home, you’ll notice that the host will offer you only the best food and drinks. This is because they just want to ensure that you feel comfortable and well fed in their home.
Croatians are also very proud of their traditions. You’ll notice that there are many traditional festivals around the country and the locals are super-excited to attend them.
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Travel to Croatia tips
Usual phrases in Croatian
Like many European and Balkan countries, Croatia is a land of multiple languages. Most Croatians, particularly the younger generation, are fluent in English; you shouldn’t have any problem travelling around and speaking with people in the main cities and among tourist spots.
Although it is not easy to find people speaking good English elsewhere and more inland, it is part of the adventure. It’s worth knowing that part of the population speaks German (33% of Croatian, which is a lot), and 23% also speak French fluently.
While visiting a new country, it is always good to prepare some essential phrases. Sometimes locals are impressed by a foreigner saying even a few words, and it’s the perfect ice-breaking situation. These common words may come in helpful while backpacking around Croatia; take a note and save them on your phone.
How long are you staying in Croatia? Jump to one of the following itineraries!
Croatia visa information
If you are an EU resident, or hold an EU passport, you do not require a visa to visit Croatia. If these conditions are satisfied, you can remain for up to 90 days in any six months. While travelling through Croatia as an EU resident, you only need a valid ID card and not necessarily a passport.
Visitors from foreign nations must have a current passport. It’s crucial to know that Croatia is not a member of the Schengen Zone. It is essential to contact your local authorities for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements in Croatia.
Best time to visit Croatia?
The weather in Croatia changes depending on the area you are visiting. Generally speaking, the inner side is often colder than the coast side, which is instead windy. Visiting Croatia in winter will experience harsher conditions inland, with possible snow. Although the weather is typically milder towards the country’s coasts, the South (From Split to Dubrovnik) is definitely warmer and perfect for hitting the beaches since May.
Winter in Croatia
In the coastal part of the country, the weather is relatively warm but not warm enough to swim or get a tan. However, this might be the perfect time for you if you’re on a strict budget. The prices hit rock bottom from November until April, and you can easily enjoy a luxurious vacation at an affordable price.
Spring in Croatia
By the middle of March, spring has sprung. In our opinion, spring is the right time to travel to Croatia. It is the side season when prices are still affordable, and there are not many crowds in the iconic landmarks of Croatia.
Spring is also the perfect season for outdoor adventures, like cycling, kayaking and going for a hike. The temperatures in spring are perfect, warm and dry, with some spells by the end of the season that will let you enjoy a few days on the beach already.
Croatia in summer
Summer is the busiest season in Croatia. The weather is warm to hot, there are many tourists, and almost every destination is packed with people. Even though the water is perfect for swimming, and you might be tempted to travel to Croatia in June, July or August, you must remember that this is when the prices are the highest.
Expect to pay more for accommodation, food and pretty much any kind of service related to tourism.
Autumn in Croatia
These are the best months to backpack in Croatia. The weather is warm enough to enjoy the beaches, and there are almost no crowds. Also, the prices are lower, and you can easily travel on a budget.
Budget backpacking in Croatia
Croatia is the perfect country for backpackers in Europe; even though it is not the most expensive, we can’t classify it as the cheapest one. Our trip to Croatia cost more than we thought, but not more than what was budgeted.
We saved money by taking a few places as a base, where the accommodation was cheaper than others. Also, we travelled by bus, ferries and trains to reduce the costs, and a couple of times using night buses.
On our road trip through Croatia, we spent about £80/$100 per day, including accommodations, food, activities and transport. This budget in the shoulder season or winter is enough and doesn’t compromise much.
If you stick with local food at the markets, shops, bakeries or quick bites, you are fine with about £20/$25 a day. If you are sitting at a restaurant, this will raise the price to the same price for one meal, which is acceptable. The portions are large, and you will get full enough.
Public transport is very cheap. We took the overnight bus from Zagreb to Dubrovnik for about £30/$38, which traverses the entire country from North to South. You can travel to Croatia on a budget, but exploring the coast or in high season is impossible.
We found interesting the fact that on the coast everything almost costs double compared to the inland towns. Dubrovnik is very costly, and in some parts, we found it a mere tourist trap.
Tips to save money in Croatia
If you want to keep your budget in check while backpacking in Croatia, below are a few tips and tricks that will help you save lots of money.
- Travel on night buses | Night buses are ideal for staying on a budget. The transport will take you from one place to another and in the meantime cut costs on the accommodations. Of course, it will not be as comfy as your bed, but you are backpacking in Croatia, which is part of the adventure.
- Avoid the high season | Summer in Croatia is crazy busy and is the season where the local business makes money. The busiest period gives high prices for accommodations, but also for touristic places the prices change as it’s mainly for foreigners as locals go elsewhere.
- Stay away from touristy areas | Everything comes to cost, and staying outside the touristy areas will help you to stay on a budget. Check out where locals hang out and discover hidden gems.
- Go on a free walking tour | Travelling everywhere, we always look for free walking tours. Locals often run these, and we love interacting with people from the places. This costs nothing to you, but donations are welcome. Check out some free tours in Zagreb.
- Check for Grocery stores | We always buy essentials at grocery stores, mostly water, food and snacks. This lets you stay on a budget, as buying to bars and often touristy spots you will definitely pay more for the same product.
- Book in advance your transportation | While travelling through public transport, we found it easy to book it in advance and organise our trip accordingly. However, sometimes you have to go with the flow.
- Book the accommodation outside the city centre | Often you can save $20/$30, walking 5 minutes more, taking accommodation outside the walls, or taking a bus (that costs just a few cents).
How long should you spend in Croatia?
We find that 10 days in Croatia is the perfect amount of time you need to explore the country. Croatia is incredibly diverse in culture, traditions, landscape, food and people. You will discover everything from north to south just by spending 10 days in Croatia.
If you are not lucky enough to stretch to this number of days, plan at least a lifetime journey through Croatia in 7 days. Your time will be stretched, and you might rush from one place to another, skipping some attractions. The more, the better, as you know. Croatia is the perfect location for a workation in Europe, so why don’t you pack your laptop and take time to explore when off duty?
How to get around Croatia backpacking?
Public transport in Croatia
Even if you’re travelling by car, you’ll still need to use some kind of public transport at one point or another. For example, when visiting the islands, you’ll need ferries or when visiting smaller cities, you’ll need buses.
If you don’t have a car, the cheapest way to travel in Croatia is by bus. In the following section, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about each form of public transport in Croatia.
Travelling by bus in Croatia
We loved our backpacking trip in Croatia by bus; we travelled through hidden gems and remote places, which was impossible if jumping from one place to another just for the taste of a holiday in Croatia. Croatia backpacking was our return to the travelling feeling after a long time due to the pandemic, and it was a blast.
The buses are the most popular way to get to places in Croatia, and these are more reliable than trains. The local buses reach remote areas and sometimes save your ass while in the middle of nowhere. Some local buses you can pay on board, so have some cash on you while travelling. Some others, mostly for long distances, you have to book in advance.
Flixbus is the most popular and often collaborates with local companies to serve small distances. Again, you have to book your seat in advance, as it gets sold out quickly, especially travelling in Croatia in summer.
How much does it cost to travel in Croatia by bus?
Travelling by bus in Croatia is the most sustainable way to enjoy the country. This way of exploring is also, in some cases, cheaper and more fun. We loved our night bus from Zagreb to Dubrovnik (Yes, you can do this long-distance with Flixbus), but it also saved us when our ferry from Dubrovnik to Hvar was cancelled.
To give you an idea, a bus ticket from Zagreb to Dubrovnik costs between 190 and 230 kn, even booking it in advance. Also, a bus ticket from Split to Dubrovnik will set you back somewhere between 100 and 130 kn. Of course, in the high season, the prices might be different.
Travelling by bus in Croatia is comfortable. Most buses are modern and have air conditioning. There are also a few night buses that can help you save some money (you won’t have to pay for accommodation for that night).
Good to know | – You might be asked to pay extra for your luggage (5-10 kn). If using
Trains in Croatia
Trains are comfortable and affordable, but few connections are available, making travelling by train in Croatia not the best option. Also, the trains are pretty old and slow. It’s more reliable if you plan to get into Croatia by train from other nations. The capital, Zagreb, is well-connected to Ljubljana in Slovenia, Budapest, Salzburg in Austria and Munich in Germany.
We recommend using the bus system if you just have a few days in Croatia. Trains take longer, and you may have to change trains and platforms and wait for hours. As we said, there are some parts where there are no connections, and this is the case of Split to Dubrovnik, where you can either take the bus or the Ferry. Because there are few trains available, you’ll need to adapt your Croatia itinerary accordingly.
When it comes to prices, the trains are quite affordable.
Zagreb to Split – 8h 40 min | Average Cost: £20/€20.50/$25/Kn 180
Zagreb to Rijeka – 2h 40 min | Average Cost: £12/€14/$15/Kn 105
Domestic flights in Croatia
The quickest way to jump from place to place is by flight. Domestic flights are popular in Croatia, and many backpackers will go from Zagreb to Dubrovnik within the day. The routes are perfectly linked between the cities and perfect if you don’t feel comfortable staying for hours on a bus.
You can take the plane between Zagreb, Split, Zadar, Pula, Rijeka and Dubrovnik.
However, the tickets are more expensive than alternative ways of travelling across the country. Therefore, travelling through Croatia in Summer you should book the tickets in advance to save some money.
Travel by ferry in Croatia
The most efficient way to travel in Croatia is by ferry; you can jump from one island to another. So create the perfect Croatia Itinerary mixing bus routes with ferry trips. For example, the ferry is ideal if you are going from Split to Dubrovnik. Instead of spending a lot of time on the short border between Croatia and Bosnia on the way to Dubrovnik, you can cut off the hassles and jump on the ferry.
On the way to Dubrovnik, you can spend a few days on Hvar Island and Korcula, having the best experience around the Dalmatian islands.
Also, have you ever considered a day trip to Venice from Croatia? You can get a catamaran trip to Venice from Pula, Rovinj or Porec and visit two countries at once.
Rent a car in Croatia
We did hire a car on some parts of our trip. As public transport is sometimes unreliable, we had to hire a car, and you should too. While exploring Istria, we wanted to visit Pula and Rovinj, but the connections with buses are loose and not many.
We figured out that taking the taxi would cost us a fortune, so we booked a car for the day after. We got a nice car and drove through some of the best scenery in Europe. We don’t want to say that it seems like the Amalfi Coast Cliffs while driving to Positano but more like driving around Lake Garda in Northern Italy. Driving in Croatia is easy and perfect for making your journey in the country more adventurous.
On the same trip, we were able, in only one day, to explore Pula, Rovinj and Porec, and it was fantastic. With all the insurance for peace of mind, we paid €78, which is a bargain. Check out Discover car to find the best price too.
The best Croatia 2 weeks backpacking Itinerary
Our backpacking Itinerary Map
Best destinations to explore backpacking in Croatia
Start your trip in Zagreb
Zagreb seems like the perfect city in Croatia to start your trip. We loved the country’s capital so much and believe it is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe.
Not only that, Zabrab is affordable and, compared to the coastal towns of Croatia, is one of the most budget-friendly destinations to visit. The locals are friendly, and you can quickly adapt to the lifestyle in a big city like Zagreb.
Also, check out the position of Zagreb, which is perfect for reaching by flight, crossing the border by Slovenia, landing in Ljubljana and travelling by bus or train. If you are backpacking in Croatia in winter, expect cold temperatures in Zagreb; however, in summer, it is more moderate and perfect for a few days. There are many reasons why Zagreb is perfect for your backpacking trip in Croatia and is an unmissable destination.
Enjoy the local bakeries, walk up to the hill to enjoy the landscape, wait for midday when the cannon fires as per tradition and read our guide on the best things to do in Zagreb before your trip.
Why you have to go Backpacking in Zagreb
A good backpacking trip means getting into the skin of a country and making the best of a lifetime opportunity. Of course, our backpack was heavy, but still, our goal was to have a 360 view over Croatia, more than just hit significant places and the beaches.
Also, Zagreb, as said above, is affordable. Think that a ticket to the city centre costs us just 7 KN, from the airport, which is less than £1. As backpackers, these are some of the expenses we look in deep to avoid paying a lot for public transport. The must-see attractions in Zagreb are the Cathedral, the daily Dolac Market, Jelacic Square (the main square), and Tkalciceva Street.
Zagreb is a bustling city with a growing expat and digital nomad community. As a result, there are many hostels attracting backpackers to Croatia, and the one we found very cheerful was the Swanky Mint Hostel, about 5 minutes walking from Jelacic Square.
Day trips from Zagreb
- Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke (With skip the line ticket) | Book now!
- Ljubljana and Lake Bled (11 hours tour – All inclusive) | Check availability!
- From Zagreb: Guided tour of Plitvice Lake and Split with Transfer to Split | Bargain to travel through Croatia while exploring. Book before is gone!
Backpacking Plitvice Lakes
One of the most beautiful places in Croatia is Plitvice Lakes. The wonderful area features gorgeous waterfalls and wooden bridges crossing over, creating a fantastic atmosphere. Reconnect with nature by visiting Plitvice Lakes, the second spot to visit on a backpacking trip in Croatia.
The thick forest will take you away for about 2 to 3 hours walking through the enchanting places. The National Park is easy to reach from Zagreb, and many tour guides will take you there hassle-free. The entrance fee is 200 KN per person, and many trails, from complex to easy ones.
Where to stay near Plitvice Lakes
Plitvice Pension Perisic, Korenica | The guesthouse is just 7.5 miles away from the entrance of Plitvice National Park. You will be surrounded by nature. The structure offers a local traditional restaurant, outdoor facilities with a barbecue, and a stone fireplace free to use.
Enjoy a bit of relaxation away from everything else to reconnect with nature. Book now!
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular cities in Croatia; the old town is beautiful and used as a setting for legendary movies. However, we have to be honest that it is expensive, and mostly for day-trippers exploring the city off the cruise ship.
However, Dubrovnik is unmissable on your Croatia itinerary. The breathtaking architecture, white palaces, Seaview, the history and legends will attract you to Dubrovnik.
We loved to travel from Zagreb to Dubrovnik by overnight bus, it took about 9 hours, and you had to pass a short border with Bosnia. Dubrovnik is on a short stretch of land, not continuous with the rest of Croatia. The alternative way is to stop at Split and take the ferry.
Dubrovnik is perfect off-season and offers exciting day trips. You can take a break from Dubrovnik and visit Cavtat by public transport, spend the afternoon hiking Mount Srd, or go on a guided tour to Mostar or Kotor.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
LAPAD – DUBROVNIK COAST | BED AND BREAKFAST
The studios of Villa Misita offer all the comforts you need while staying in Dubrovnik. Located on the Lapad Peninsula, the accommodation is just about 5 minutes walking from the main beach. Every room has its balcony or good-sized terrace. So enjoy a stay in Dubrovnik without breaking the bank.
Day trips from Dubrovnik
- From Dubrovnik: Montenegro day trip | Book now for €50
- Elaphite Islands – Book here!
- Mostar and Kravica Waterfalls | Reserve your spot now!
Split | Perfect city for backpackers
Split is one of the best cities in Croatia; the popular location impressed us greatly. We stayed in Split for three days and explored the city and the surrounding area with a few day trips to Krka National Park and Hvar Island.
The Old Town is relatively small and completely walkable, making it easy to explore on foot in just a few hours. The most popular landmark of Split is Diocletian’s Palace, an astonishing location featured in the popular tv series Game of Thrones.
Take time to see Diocletian’s Palace early in the morning with nobody around, but also at sunset, enjoying a drink on the stairs. Another unmissable place in Split is the fantastic promenade with many bars to take a drink and serve food at night, or just enjoy an ice cream while watching the sea and the ferries leaving the harbour.
We found Split ideal to use as a base for your trips around the area, with many opportunities to discover Croatian hidden gems like Sibenik and Trogir, Unesco World Heritage.
Best tours in Split
- Split and Trogir | Private Guided Walking Tour in 1 day
- 5 islands and Blue Cave day trip
- Split Entry ticket to the Cellars of Diocletian’s Palace (Book now only €6,00)
- Half-day Blue Lagoon and nearby islands | Book now for €60
Where to stay in Split
Backpacking in Zadar
Zadar is a small city on the coast of Croatia, often left out of the itineraries. The city is located on a beautiful peninsula and is mostly busy during summer. The city is overshadowed by other major and attractive cities and is not often considered for holidays in Croatia. However, while backpacking in east Europe, you have to check most of the places, and Zadar is worth a stay, even for a few days.
The city is calm and relaxing and offers the perfect gateway to the Adriatic vibes. Even though less touristy the city preserves the charm thanks to the countless historical sites.
The location of Zadar is interesting, and it is on the coast and midway between Split and Zagreb, perfect for reaching by bus and breaking down the length of the trip if you are not used to many hours on a bus.
The most interesting attractions in Zadar are the Archeological Museum, the Sea Organ (check out at sunset), People’s Square and the Old town of Zadar.
Where to stay in Zadar
APARTMENT / PERFECT view
MAGIC VIEW APARTMENTS
Amazing stay with a gorgeous view of the city. Don’t miss this opportunity and book your next stay in Zadar!
Day trips from Zadar
Croatia backpacking itinerary – 5 days
Even though 5 days in Croatia are not enough, you can still have the best experience in one of the most beautiful countries in the Balkans. So we suggest you fly into Dubrovnik and make your way up the coast.
A Croatia 5 days itinerary is perfect for seeing some of the best cities and exploring the iconic islands, and why not roam around the most famous film locations of Games of Thrones?
Travel to: Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, Krka National Park or Trogir and Sibenik
Start your trip in Dubrovnik and get lost in the maze of little alleys and steep staircases. Around lunch is the perfect time to take the cable car to the top of Mount Srd, have a drink, and unwind. At sunset, we suggest setting yourself aside at Buza Bar.
The iconic location is the perfect sunset spot in Dubrovnik. Book your trip to Split the day after by bus. The journey will take about 4 hours and a half and spend around 150 KN. Split is a beautiful coastal town with plenty of things to do (Check out our guide).
Enjoy fresh catch on the Riva, or spend the night in one of the many clubs. The third day is perfect for organising a day trip to Hvar. The beautiful island is just 2 hours away, and there is a direct ferry from Split harbour. In one day in Hvar, you can explore the fabulous old town, stay on the beach, hike to the Spanish Fortress or explore the oldest town in Croatia, Stari Grad.
Your 5-day itinerary in Croatia backpacking is almost to the end. However, another adventure awaits you. You can decide to have a day trip to the Unesco World Heritage sites of Trogir and Sibenik, or a whole day exploring Krka National Park.
We had a bit more time and did both, and not sure which to suggest. However, both suggestions are worth it, and it might be the occasion to stretch your time a bit in Croatia.
One Week Croatia backpacking itinerary
The second itinerary we suggest for backpacking in Croatia is a bit hectic if you see its complexity. However, it is doable and perfect for moving to 8 places in 7 days.
If you plan to backpack in Croatia for one week, we suggest travelling during the night (which will lower your costs) and researching what you want to visit before your trip. Check out all our guides about Croatia.
Travel to: Zagreb, Zadar, Split, Hvar, Krka National Park, Trogir, Šibenik and Dubrovnik
Your trip through Croatia in one week will take you to start the journey in the Capital, Zagreb. The fascinating history, bustling places and tasty food are among the best things to check out in Zagreb.
You will head to the coast the day after your arrival, visiting the underrated Zadar. The trip just takes about 4 hours by bus and will split your journey nicely while heading south. On the third day on the road in Croatia is time to explore Diocletian Palace, the promenade of Split and check out some beaches. Split was our favourite location in Croatia because it is central and perfect for organising a few day trips.
Find the best accommodation in Split and be ready to explore the surrounding area the following day. The best trips to organise from Split are the waterfalls of Krka National Park, the cute Hvar island and the Unesco World Heritage sites of Trogir and Sibenik. We are reductive when it is said that these two towns are an underrated off the beaten path destinations in Croatia.
Go with the flow and explore the extreme south of Croatia. Our suggested route is taking the ferry to Hvar from Split, spending the night on the fabulous island and taking another ferry the day after to Dubrovnik. Check out some of the best things to do in Dubrovnik.
10 Days Croatia backpacking itinerary
In our opinion, 10 days in Croatia backpacking are a perfect choice. Spending over a week in Croatia can give travellers some free time, perfect for unwinding and enjoying the places thoroughly. So if you are looking for the perfect 10-day Croatia itinerary, this is the right place.
While on a Croatia itinerary for 10 days, you will discover all the above and beyond. You can start your journey in Dubrovnik or Zagreb and travel all the way around. We suggest you arrive in Zagreb. Exploring the city in just a day is possible and moving on the day after.
To maximise our schedule, we travelled at night, making the best of the connections by bus. Travelling by bus in Croatia is not just an easy way to get around but also the most budget-friendly solution, perfect for backpackers.
Suggested Itinerary: Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, Rovinj, Zadar, Split, Trogir, Sibenik, Hvar, Dubrovnik
Your itinerary backpacking in Croatia for 10 days will start from the north and head south. It is the most convenient way, as there are short distances between the locations suggested in the north to start your trip efficiently, gradually increasing the stress of movements.
However, you can customise the trip the other way if it suits you better and comes at a lower price for flights and accommodations. Usually, backpackers travelling around Balkan Area arrive in Zagreb by land from Ljubljana and continue the trip south to explore Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania.
The 10 day itinerary will see you visiting some of Croatia’s hidden gems like Rijeka (Fiume), Pula and Rovinj. It is possible to see the three cities in one day, even if you are stretching the itinerary a lot. Pula and Rovinj are unmissable and essential for us while exploring Croatia.
Rich in culture, history and architecture, both cities are difficult to explore on your own using public transport, so you have only two alternatives, renting a car or booking a group tour. Often the tours take you to Porec, further north and beautiful as well.
The rest of the trip is mostly similar to the one-week itinerary in Croatia, so follow the step-by-step guide above. We suggest spending more time in Split than the other, and maybe base yourself there as it is cheaper compared to Dubrovnik.
Croatia backpacking itinerary – 2 weeks
Two weeks are wonderful if you can afford it. However, Croatia can be very challenging to budget, with inland locations very affordable and coasts super pricey. Dubrovnik is, of course, the most expensive city in Croatia for tourists, but you can balance living on a budget in Zagreb and Split.
For your 2 weeks itinerary in Croatia, we suggest a mix of all the itinerary without leaving anything behind.
In 14 days of travelling around Croatia, you will explore two national parks, Krka and Plvitce Lakes. Your trip will be based on four cities, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Rijeka. Even if it seems very hard, it was fantastic travelling during the night, optimising the movement and saving some money.
On the trip, you will also have time to explore some hidden gems in Croatia like Stari Grad, Korcula, Cavtat, Trogir, Sibenik, Porec and Skradin.
Suggested Itinerary: Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, Rovinj, Porec, Zadar, Split, Trogir, Sibenik, Hvar, Stari Grad, Korcula, Dubrovnik, Cavtat
This 2 weeks itinerary backpacking in Croatia will start by staying one day in Zagreb and taking the bus to Rijeka the day after. From Rijeka, check out the best Istria tour, visiting Pula, Rovinj and Porec in one day. On the third day, chill out in Rijeka and prepare for the trip to Zadar. It is a 6 hours journey, best to do it during the night so you will save some money.
Arrive in Zadar and breathe the fresh sea breeze, enjoy the best of the city and spend the afternoon watching the sunset on the seaside. On the fifth day on your Croatia itinerary, backpacking is time to explore Plitvice lakes from Zadar or Split.
For the following, three to four days, base yourself in Split, explore the city and plan a few day trips to Trogir, Sibenik and Krka National Park. On day nine is time to take the ferry to Hvar Island and explore the cute old town. If you arrive early in the morning, take the local transport and visit Stari Grad, the first city in Croatia.
After lunch, head back to Hvar town and explore the Spanish Fortress. One day in Hvar is enough to get the best out of the town; after, take the ferry to Korcula, just two hours away and closer to the final destination Dubrovnik.
On day 10, explore Korcula; if you want to stay more in Dubrovnik (expensive), you can take the ferry early in the morning to the island and sail late in the afternoon. We suggest spending more time in Split, Hvar and Korcula than Dubrovnik.
The last destination of the two weeks roaming around Croatia with a backpack is Dubrovnik. One to two days are enough to explore the famous old town. If you can afford to stay longer, we suggest a trip to Cavtat (reachable by bus and perfect for exploring in 2 hours) and pass the border for a day trip to Mostar in Serbia or Kotor in Montenegro.
Best islands to backpack in Croatia
If you’re looking for the best beaches in Croatia, we can suggest a few islands that are well known for unspoiled coasts and beautiful blue turquoise water. Some of the islands we suggest are also well known for their lively nightlife; we are talking about Hvar and Pag. We haven’t visited the islands because of the clubs, but we can indeed confirm that summer in Croatia gets crazy around there.
Well known as the party island for younger generations, Pag is a mecca for clubbing and the cheapest alternative to Ibiza and Mykonos. However, there is a beautiful natural island to discover away from the wild music clubs.
Enjoy summer in Croatia by sunbathing on the sandy beaches, watching endless sunsets sipping a drink with other backpackers. One of the most famous beaches on the island is Zrce with bars and facilities to make your day the best.
Another hidden gem in Croatia, Krk Island, is the most fabulous Island in the country. So often overshadowed by other better-known islands, Krk is still pristine and, in some ways, wild. While backpacking in Croatia, hop on an adventure on Krk Island and enjoy a few days throughout the little villages and stunning beaches.
We always suggest leaving some space for adventures like this while on a backpacking trip in Europe, as many places are not well advertised and still little known. Go Island hopping in Croatia can open a world and give you great memories back home.
Korcula island is still little known among tourists, but it is definitely going to explode in tourism in the near future. The little island is midway between Dubrovnik and Split. The best thing you can do in Korcula is to get lost in the cosy town and explore the villages of Lumbarda and Blato.
Vis Island is a great place to get away from the rush and bustle of Croatia’s tourist sites. If you are looking for a more slow backpacking trip in Croatia, Vis is perfect for staying a few days surrounded by unspoiled beauty and only locals.
Think about walking to cobblestone streets where locals know each other, taking freshly baked bread every morning, or waking up for coffee at the bar in the main square where the barista knows your name. It is a dream that you can live in Croatia, and Vis is perfect for budget travellers.
Hvar is one of our favourite islands in Croatia. The beautiful and unique piece of land, a couple of hours ferry from Split, is the perfect place to visit while discovering Croatia. We had the pleasure to discover it in late spring. The good season was just starting, but the island was still waking up from the long winter.
We had friends living on the island for quite a while, and they told us that it was a quaint experience. However, the island beat our expectations.
So prepare yourself to discover unspoiled beaches, stay quiet in little towns and just a few kilometres away, get wild and crazy parties. This is Hvar, one of the best places to visit in Croatia backpacking and admiring the Dalmatian islands from the top of the Spanish Fortress.
Best food to try | Backpacking in Croatia
The food in Croatia is excellent! The melting pot of cultures that influenced the traditions and lifestyle also mixed the flavour, inspiring the local cuisine.
Here are a few delicious delicacies you must taste while travelling around Croatia by backpack.
- Black Risotto | We tried this in Rijeka, where the seafood is perfectly cooked. Black risotto is a famous food in Croatia and is called crni rizot. It is usually made with cuttlefish or squid. However, this comes mainly from the Italian influence over the Istria region.
- Brodetto | This is another traditional dish of Istria. The soup is made mainly of the day’s catch, and you can find variations through Dalmatia, Kvarner and Istria. Fishermen traditionally made the dish in the Italian coastal regions of Abruzzo and Marche. Also known as brudet, the dish is now very common throughout coastal Croatia.
- Buzara | Not a traditional dish unique to Croatia but worth a try. The Buzara is simple steamed mussels. It is widespread to find this on the table of locals as it is affordable and tasty.
- Fritule | This pastry is a traditional dessert in Croatia. If you have travelled through Italy, it might remind you of the zeppole, which is usually served during holiday celebrations. The ingredients are egg, yolk, lemon or orange rinds, rum or local liquor, citrus zest, and sometimes you will find a variation with fruit and candied.
- Istrian Ham | ham is fantastic, especially in Dalmatia and Istria. We prefer the Istrian ham and cheese, usually with pork, sea salt, several herbs, and pepper.
- Wine Malvazija | Most Croatian cuisine pairs nicely with Malvazija, an Istrian white wine.
- Peka | A meat and vegetable dish called ispod crepnje, which translates to “under the bell,” is the most representative of Croatian cuisine. It is prepared over blazing coals while being covered with a terracotta or iron lid. The procedure is called peka; the meat can be anything from the unusual octopus or veal to chicken or lamb.
- Truffles | Although they may not have the same character as their Italian counterparts, black truffles or Tartufo have a more robust aroma. They are also less priced than similar products in France or Italy. Definitely, something to try while backpacking in Croatia, and why not take it back home as a souvenir from Croatia, as we did.
Workation in Croatia
Today more and more people decide to work away from the main cities, which means a less chaotic lifestyle and more pleasure over time with families and loved ones. We are pleased to say that Croatia is perfect for a workation in Europe.
While travelling through Croatia with our backpacks, we had to stop on the road to catch up with work. So it was pleasant to deal with our business duties while on the road and with a fabulous view. I mean, the Adriatic blue turquoise water was inviting but also so inspiring while writing this post.
Internet speed is fast enough to do your job easier, and every hotel we have been to offers a reliable wi-fi connection. Even in Dubrovnik, we were in the university just 5 minutes walking outside the old town using fast internet.
Also good to know that most of the main cities in Croatia offer free hot spots in the main squares. In Dubrovnik, like in Split, we were with our laptops. While taking the night bus from Split to Rijeka, we were catching up with work at the bar near the bus station, which was fantastic.
However, the only problem is avoiding tedious roaming charges. The best option is to have an EU sim card, but you can also rely on an affordable e-sim, ready to give you the internet when you arrive in a new country. Check some options for E-sim in Europe.
Which backpack choice for the trip?
We travelled around Croatia for two weeks with a 30 litres backpack and a 40 litres backpack as a couple. We ended up just doing one wash in Split in the middle of our trip. Croatia is a country ready for backpackers, so you will find automatic laundry everywhere, which is very affordable.
If you are backpacking in Croatia, there is no other choice than a suitable lightweight but comfortable backpack. The journeys are long, but you will never carry your bag for long. Apart if you take a cheap accommodation in Dubrovnik on top of the stairs.
Avoid carry-on bags as the streets in Croatia are not perfect for wheels. Always pack an extra bag, leave for the excursions, and remain your main backpack in your accommodation.
What to pack for a Croatia Backpacking Trip
Depending on your travelling style, we always suggest preparing minimal clothes as you can always buy on the spot. The well-known brands, Zara and H&M, are everywhere and if you are in doubt if taking a piece or not, leave it; you can buy it in Croatia. These are our best pieces of souvenirs and remind us of our adventures.
Since the summertime temperatures might soar, I advise wearing loose, comfortable clothing.
Always carry a scarf to protect your shoulders when you go out. I assure you that you do not want to stroll outside in the sun with a temperature of 40 degrees. Also, remember to pack plenty of sun creams and a hat. Alessia got sunburned, yes, once again, so be mindful.
Festivals and events in Croatia
If you enjoy music and have a good time, carefully plan your trip to Croatia.
This is our guide to the best festivals in Croatia:
- Croatian World Games in Pag (July) | This yearly occasion takes place in Pag Town and includes a variety of sports, including basketball, football, volleyball, and more. Anyone interested in sports should attend this event because it brings together some of the top athletes in the world.
- Ultra Europe in Split (July) | An estimated 150,000 people arrive in Split to get the best of the summer in Croatia and dance to the performances of some of the most well-known DJs in the world. Check the program.
- Love Week Festival on Pag Island, in Novalija | The party in Pag lasts a week and is one of the coolest outdoor festivals in Europe, where you can camp, make friends, dance, and enjoy the freedom.
- International Film Festival in Zadar (July) | A wide variety of films from around the world are shown at the Zadar film festival, which is held in the city in the centre of Croatia. The festival, which focuses on independent and experimental film, offers something for everyone.
- Summer Festival in Pula (July) | One of the most well-liked summer festivals in Croatia, it offers a variety of musical acts as well as theatre, dance, and visual arts presentations. Typically, arenas all throughout the city host events like this.
- MoDem Festival in Plitvice Lake (July) | This yearly festival, which takes place in Plitvice Lake, presents a variety of electronic music. Given that it lasts all night, the MoDem Festival is a fantastic event for everyone who enjoys dancing.
- Makarska Jazz Festival in Makarska Riviera (July) | This festival, which takes place every year in Makarska, has a variety of jazz acts. Anyone who likes jazz music will enjoy this event because it brings together some of the top musicians in the world.
Our trip through Croatia in two weeks was planned; However, we left something to the adventure. One thing was a certainty, and these are the locations where we will set as a base to discover the surroundings. We set the first length of the trip in Zagreb because it was the cheapest airport to arrive. There are many day trips from Zagreb, as you can discover Ljubljana, Plitvice Lakes, Karlovac and many others. Next, we moved south and stayed in Dubrovnik for 3 days.
To be honest, that was a lot, but if you are planning a slow journey, it is needed after a long overnight bus. Split was the third location we used as a base to travel around Croatia. So far, this was our favourite. Thanks to the central location and easy access to public transport, Split is the perfect place to base yourself while backpacking in Croatia. We could have stayed more and planned in the future to return for longer.
The last location we stayed in Croatia was in Rijeka, perfect to chill and unwind after a long period of travelling around. Rijeka, the biggest city in Istria, offers the perfect getaway to Pula, Rovinj and Porec.
Travel Insurance for Croatia
Nowadays booking travel insurance is becoming part of the travelling plan. It’s just a precaution and you should consider it even if you are an experienced traveller.
Planning a backpacking itinerary in Croatia which includes activities like hiking and some other sports, it’s essential to have travel insurance. However, this is not just indicated because medical problems might occur, but also if your luggage gets lost, the connection between train and flight. Many Rental car agencies will lower the cost of car insurance if you have your Travel insurance, or this might cover entirely the costs of car accidents or damage to the car. For us, having Travel Insurance is the way to enjoy our vacation with peace of mind.
SafetyWing | COVID-19 coverage, comprehensive travel & medical, and insurance can be purchased while travelling for digital nomads.
Q&A Backpacking in Croatia
Is Croatia safe?
Yes. While exploring the country, we never felt unsafe. However, we always aim to stay on guard and don’t relax too much while exploring a new country. Use common sense, and you will be right.
Some advice we feel to give is to be careful of your belongings in crowded cities like Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, especially on public transport where pickpockets are ready to get you. If you are going to the beach, remember to have valuables with you all time and don’t leave anything unattended on the beach.
Why visit Croatia?
Anyone should plan a backpacking trip in Croatia. The country in central-eastern Europe is beautiful and diverse. You will change scenery every 100 kilometres, with differences in traditions, cultural heritage and people from coastal towns to inland locations.
Visit Croatia for the beautiful and unspoiled beaches, the island hopping tour, the endless beauty of the waterfalls, or just for the cultural heritage of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split and many other stunning places.
How much does it cost to visit Croatia?
Croatia was over the budget we expected. However, this is just partially true. While visiting inland locations, you can feel that they are very affordable, but the prices are double on the coast. Surprisingly we found Split very affordable and pleasant to stay for extended periods. However, Dubrovnik is highly overpriced.
Is Croatia worth visiting?
Yes. Croatia is a beautiful country full of tradition and culture. We loved our trip through Croatia, enjoying the diverse landscape, smiling people and tasty food. From north to south you will have different experiences, having the best either if you are visiting the coastline or the inland.
Are you planning to visit Croatia soon? Where to go next?
Every time is good to travel and make new experiences. As London based travel bloggers, it’s easy to find cheap flights and explore new places even just at the weekend. Within a couple of hours, we reached Croatia and had the best time ever. From the beautiful capital Zagreb to the coast side, Croatia will surprise you!
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