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Discover Croatia: A 1-Week Itinerary Featuring Zagreb and Dubrovnik

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How do you like to spend your summer? Full of excitement and adventure in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun? Full of romance on beautiful secluded beaches? Free and surrounded by unspoilt nature? Imagine a summer escape where the Adriatic Sea’s waves kiss the shorelines, where culture weaves through every street, and where ancient cities captivate your imagination. Welcome to the Balkans, a must-see destination that blends natural beauty with rich history and exclusive allure. With this week-long Croatia itinerary, you’ll leave with more than just photos and souvenirs— a journey that you will smile about long after you’ve gone home, from Zagreb’s cultural treasures to Dubrovnik’s enchanting islands and hidden delights.

However you like your summer, Croatia offers the best possible version.

Day 1: Zagreb

Begin your Croatian adventure in Zagreb, a hidden gem of a European capital full of culture and charm. Start your day by fighting jetlag with a well-deserved coffee at Quahwa, a local institution – or better yet get one from the pop-up cafe stalls within the verdant Zrinjevac square, a major hang-out during sunny summer weekends. Then visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships, a quirky and poignant collection of mementos from failed love affairs. Then stroll through the Art Pavilion, an architectural and artistic delight showcasing contemporary and classic works.

In the afternoon, explore the Dolac farmer’s market, often referred to as the ‘belly of Zagreb’. This bustling marketplace is a feast for the senses with fresh produce, cheeses, meats, delicacies and even handicraft from all over the country. This is a great place for an inexpensive midafternoon bite!

Day 2: Zagreb and mountains

Crkva - one week Croatia itinerary - une semaine en Croatie
Photo credit: T. Šklopan © Croatia Full of Life

Spend your second day immersed in the legends of Zagreb. Start with a visit to Zagreb Cathedral, a neo-Gothic masterpiece with a rich history. Nearby, you’ll find St Mark’s Church, with its distinctive tiled roof depicting the medieval Croatian coat of arms.

In the afternoon, take the Medvednica cable car for a 15-minute scenic ride up to Sljeme, the mountain’s peak. From the top you’ll have uninterrupted views of Zagreb to the south, framed by the valleys that run down the mountain, the Zagorje region to the north and, on a clear day, Slovenia in the distance. A perfect way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds Croatia’s capital.

Day 3: Day trip to Plitvice Lakes

Take a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its breathtaking beauty and diverse ecosystems. Just two hours from Zagreb, this natural wonder features a series of 16 terraced lakes connected by cascading waterfalls, all surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant flora. The park is a haven for nature lovers, with wooden boardwalks and hiking trails winding through this stunning landscape.

Remember that sustainable tourism is essential to protect Plitvice’s fragile ecosystems and ensure that future generations can enjoy its splendour. Stay on marked trails to avoid damaging the fragile environment, avoid disturbing wildlife and always be aware of litter.

And offset your carbon emissions if you can!

Day 4: Arrival in Dubrovnik

Travel to Dubrovnik, the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ at the southernmost point of Croatia. Nestled between the international borders of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, Dubrovnik was once an independent republic and is now the beating heart of an exciting region.

As the 10-hour bus ride from Zagreb to Dubrovnik will take up most of your day, get to know the city better with a leisurely sunset stroll through the old town and harbour, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The whitewashed medieval walls offer breathtaking views of terracotta-roofed buildings and the sparkling Adriatic Sea, creating a scene straight out of a fairy tale. The golden glow of the sunset, the gentle sea breeze and the mesmerising panorama of the historic city are all yours for the night.

Day 5: Lokrum Island adventure

Photo credit: Julien Duval © Croatia Full of Life

Take a 10-minute ferry ride to the tiny island of Lokrum (just 2 kilometres wide), a nature reserve just off the coast of Dubrovnik’s old harbour. A tranquil contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, this island getaway is perfect for nature lovers and history buffs alike. There’s no bucket list of things to do in Lokrum – but here’s what you can’t miss:

  • Explore the botanical gardens with over 800 species of plants from around the world
  • Relax by the salt water lake known as the Dead Sea, framed by aromatic cypresses
  • Take in the panoramic views from Fort Royal after a short hike
  • Visit the ruins of a Benedictine monastery and sit on the famous iron throne from Game of Thrones.

Soak up the natural beauty, leave the hustle and bustle behind and take a lavish swim in the turquoise waters without a care in the world. There is virtually no accommodation on the island, making it the best day trip from Dubrovnik.

Day 6: Day trip to the Elaphite Islands

Spend a day sailing around the Elaphite Islands, a largely car-free archipelago northwest of Dubrovnik. Imagine an island paradise dotted with centuries-old olive groves, surrounded by translucent turquoise waters, framed by dramatic rocky cliffs and hidden beaches, marked by the aromatic scent of the pine forest and enlivened by untouched villages that make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. This is definitely off the beaten track of Dubrovnik’s most popular day trips, ensuring an authentic, unspoilt experience off the coast.

You can either take the ferry to your favourite island and explore it in depth, or book an island tour with a professional skipper who will take you to all three islands in one day, showing you their secret spots – and making new friends along the way. The choice is yours!

  • Šipan: The largest of the three, it has a much more developed infrastructure for those looking for good seafood restaurants, wine tasting and upmarket hotels. For a truly special experience, book a 40-minute catamaran ride from Dubrovnik to Šipan. You can thank us later!
  • Lopud: This is a great choice for history buffs, as the island is famous for its Roman ruins and numerous 15th century chapels. The best way to get from the main town to the beaches? Lopud is car-free, so make the most of it and hire a bike.
  • Koločep: This is the closest to Dubrovnik of the three islands, and also the smallest, with just 300 year-round residents spread across the two picturesque traditional villages of Gornje Celo and Donje Celo. It’s a great destination for outdoor activities with plenty to do – easy walks through the lush vegetation, diving in the Blue Cave and swimming in the turquoise waters.

Day 7: Dubrovnik

Spend your last day discovering more of Dubrovnik’s hidden gems. Walk along the city walls again, but this time with a fresh perspective. Bear in mind that the city is not immune to overtourism and gets quite busy during the day with cruises and day-trippers – the city council has even made a whole video on how to be a less disruptive visitor.

Why not book a themed tour or try something different instead?

  • Discover your own cave beach
  • Hike to the top of Srđ hill for stunning panoramic views at an altitude of 412 metres.
  • Find an open-air cinema for a magical evening under the stars
  • Sample local wines or Croatian craft beers at La Bodega
  • Take a sunset kayak ride around the city walls
  • Visit the War Photo Limited exhibition to better understand the Balkan War of the 1990s
  • Dive into a cooking class to master traditional Croatian cuisine

For an overview of the classic things to do in Dubrovnik, you’ll need to visit the Rector’s Palace, the Sponza Palace, the Onofrio Fountain, the City Walls and Pile Gate, the Franciscan Monastery, to name but a few. And of course, if you’re a hardcore Game of Thrones fan, there are dozens of guided tours of filming locations to choose from.

Dubrovnik, with its pristine marble exterior, holds secrets and surprises that will blow your mind if you take the time to look.

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