We went for a Balkans road trip and visited the countries on the Adriatic Coast on the western Balkans. We drove through Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. We’ve visited Dubrovnik, Kotor, Mostar, Korcula Island, Zagreb and many more places on our epic Balkans road trip. In total, we drove about 1000 km (600 miles) of which 620 km were around Dubrovnik and 370 km were around Zagreb.
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Summary of our Balkans road trip
Dubrovnik Airport (Croatia) – Kotor (Montenegro) – Mostar (Bosnia Herzegovina) – Korcula Island (Croatia) – Dubrovnik (Croatia) – Dubrovnik Zagreb flight – Zagreb (Croatia)
We planned our Balkan itinerary as two parts, both starting and ending in Croatia. First, we started from Dubrovnik, Croatia and rented a car from the Dubrovnik Airport. Then, we drove to Kotor – Montenegro and Mostar – Bosnia Herzegovina. Following these, we came back to Croatia and visited Korcula island and Dubrovnik old town.
For the second part of our itinerary, we flew to Zagreb and visited the capital city of Croatia. We rented our second rental car there and drove to Plitvice lakes. After our trip to the lakes we drove to Zagreb Airport, checked out our rental car and flew back to our home country from Zagreb.
Our Balkans itinerary for 5 days
- Day 1: Arrive in Dubrovnik airport. Drive to Kotor and spend the day there. Drive to Mostar and stay in Mostar for the night.
- Day 2: Explore Mostar Old Town and places worth visiting near Mostar. Cross Croatian border, catch a ferry to Korcula Island and spend the night there.
- Day 3: Explore Korcula Old Town. Visit some interesting places on your way to Dubrovnik. Spend the night in Dubrovnik Old Town.
- Day 4: Spend time in Dubrovnik Old Town. Board to your Zagreb flight at Dubrovnik airport. Spend the night in Zagreb.
- Day 5: Drive to Plitvice Lakes. Explore the lakes all day. Late in the evening go to Zagreb Airport and board to your flight back home.
Despite it looks like a tight schedule, it is totally doable and a perfect trip for the first timers. In addition, the driving times are quite short in spite of the fact that crossing multiple borders. Besides, you can always add a few more days to your Balkan itinerary and enjoy the places you visit more. For inspiration, I would note at the itinerary below, where I would rather stay more, if I had the time. Also, I would add all our driving times and cross border waiting durations to help you plan your own Balkan itinerary.
Places to visit and the route on our Balkans road trip
- Dubrovnik Airport
- Montenegro border crossing
- Bay of Kotor
- Kotor old town
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bosnia and Herzegovina border crossing
- Mostar old town
- Places to visit near Mostar
- Blagaj Tekija
- Kravice waterfalls
- Croatia border crossing
- Ploce (for fewer border crossings you can catch a ferry to Orebic from here but we missed the ferry and had to drive through Dalmatian coast)
- Dalmatian coast
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bosnia and Herzegovina border crossing
- Neum (There is the coastal resort city of Neum, a Bosnia and Herzegovina land, between the lands of Croatia on the southern Dalmatian coast.)
- Croatia border crossing (you drive only 9km on Bosnian lands and then cross back to Croatia)
- Piljesac penisula
- Korcula Island
- Ston and Mali Ston
- Dubrovnik old town
- Dubrovnik – Zagreb flight
- Plitvice Lakes national park
- Zagreb airport
For detailed information about places to visit on our Balkans road trip, check my blog post:
When is the best time to visit the Balkans?
The high season to visit Dalmatian coast, Croatia and the Balkans is July and August. Actually, the weather is great for a vacation from June to September. For us, we preferred to travel in shoulder season in mid September for less crowds and more affordable prices.
Where we stayed on our Balkans road trip?
Normally, we book all the places we would stay in ahead of our trips. Yet at this trip, our Balkan itinerary had lots of cross border passings. Moreover, we planned multiple road trips in different countries that we didn’t have an idea of the road conditions.
We couldn’t predict at which part of our itinerary we would be for each day and left the hotel bookings for last minute. (Don’t worry, I would note all durations and road conditions below, which was the crucial information we couldn’t find before our trip. Thus you can plan more accurately and book your hotels before your trip.) As a result, during our Balkans road trip we stayed in Mostar, Korcula island, Dubrovnik and Zagreb.
Do you need a car in Croatia and the Balkans?
Before our trip we searched for public transportation between the places we wanted to visit. Hence, we had found bus companies connecting the major cities even with border crossings. When we looked into the schedules and the travel times of the bus trips, we realized no way we could fit all places we want to visit at that short amount of time. So, we decided to rent a car. As a result, renting a car turned out to be the best way to explore beautiful Croatia and the Balkans deeply.
Can you cross the borders in the Balkans with a rental car?
In order to cross the international borders with a rental car, you need an international car insurance known as “green card”. You can get a green card from the car rentals during renting your car. At our case, some companies charged green cards as a fixed total price, others offered green cards per day. We opted in for a daily charged green card and crossed Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina borders without an issue.
Renting a car in Dubrovnik Airport
There are many car rental companies in Dubrovnik Airport, both international known brands and local ones. From our past car rental experiences we know that renting the cars previously online is always cheaper than renting one from the actual offices. This was proved once more when we saw the prices in car rentals at Dubrovnik Airport.
We wanted to return our rental car not at the same place but in Dubrovnik city centre. Since we didn’t want to pay high parking prices in Dubrovnik old town, we left Dubrovnik as the last stop on our trip. After we returned our rental car in Dubrovnik city center, we explored the old town on foot.
Sixt rental car company had the option to return at city center and had affordable prices, so we chose to rent from them. They had a base renting price and you needed to add all the insurances you want to get to that price. As a precaution we got a few more insurances for the rental, eventually they upgraded our car.
What documents do I need to rent a car in Croatia?
You should be older than 18 and should have a valid driving license for at least two years. You don’t need an international driving license if your regular one is written with Latin letters. Also, you would need a personal ID like a passport and a credit card (not debit card) to be able to rent a car. Drivers below 22 and above 70 years old can be charged for extra fee.
How are the road conditions in Croatia and the Balkans?
All the roads we drove through this Balkans road trip were at great condition. They were all newly asphalted and well maintained. Mostly, we drove through two lane roads with very few cars around. Only the traffic in Dubrovnik city center was quite crowded. We drove though freeways and tollways in all three countries, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In some parts they were only two lane roads, at others the usual multilane ones. Also, all of the toll roads were well maintained. The tolls were paid directly at toll gates on the road.
Day 1: Dubrovnik – Kotor – Mostar
We arrived early in the morning at Dubrovnik Airport on our first day in the Balkans. After renting a car from one of the car rentals in the airport, we were ready to kick off our epic Balkans road trip: first a day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor.
Trip from Dubrovnik Airport to Montenegro border
Trip Duration: 20 minutes
As soon as we started driving through Croatia, we were surrounded by an incredible natural beauty. Tall trees, green hills were all around. Everything was so pristine and untouched. After a short drive through well maintained roads, we reached Montenegro border.
Crossing Croatia – Montenegro border
Crossing Duration: 45 minutes
From our previous land border crossing experiences from Turkey to Bulgaria, we knew that it could take quite long. Hence, the most unknown part of this trip was how long would the crossings take. In this case, we crossed Croatian border easily in just five minutes. But, when we reached to Montenegrin side of the border, we realized that the crossing won’t be as fast. The line of waiting cars got longer and longer. We had to wait for forty minutes for the same work of just checking and stamping the passports at this side of the border.
Trip from Montenegro border to Kotor
Trip Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes
We drove through Dalmatian coast of Montenegro. There were quaint towns and villages with very few people around. The coast of this part of Montenegro was so pristine, no big resorts or huge hotels at all. There were only a few people enjoying the great weather of mid September and crystal clean waters of the Adriatic Sea.
After a while, we reached to the beautiful Bay of Kotor. The bay was surrounded with rugged cliffs and rocky mountains. The color of the calm bay waters was so pretty with its turquoise green blue hint. There were tens of mussel farms here and there throughout the bay. The Bay of Kotor, along with Kotor Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Kotor Old Town
Kotor Old Town, really surprised us. I was expecting a quaint little town with a few historical buildings, but I found a much better and prettier place. All of the town was well preserved and beautifully restored. Gorgeous stone buildings were spread along the cobbled streets. Churches like, St. Nicholas’ Church, St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and St. Luka’s Church were adding to the character and architecture of the historical town. Cafes and restaurants were settled on the cute streets and the lovely piazzas of the old town. All was so beautiful to eyes!
For detailed information about things to do in Kotor, check my blog post:
Where to stay in Kotor
We didn’t stay in Kotor since we had a lot to do at our Balkan itinerary. We’ve found a wi-fi and made our hotel bookings to spend the night at our next destination: Mostar and hit the road from Kotor to Mostar. However, if you have the time, Kotor Old Town and the attractions around there definitely deserve a day or two more to be enjoyed deeply.
Boutique Hotel Hippocampus (Booking.com score 9.3 /for more than 300 reviews) looks like a great choice in the Old Town of Kotor only steps away of St Nicolas’ Church and a terrace overlooking San Giovanni walls.
Apartments Magic Sea View (Booking.com score 9.7 /for more than 170 reviews) is another choice close to the Old Town with great sea views that can accommodate 4 people and has a free private parking.
Generally speaking, accommodation at all the places we visited during our Balkans road trip were quite affordable. We managed to stay around 50€ for two people at all places we stayed (except for Dubrovnik) during our trip.
Trip from Kotor to Bosnia and Herzegovina border
Trip Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
We drove to Bosnian border through a newly asphalted, well maintained road. We climbed from sea level to quite high in the mountains. We kept driving between the mountains and reached at the end of the road where we needed to pay 3€ toll for the toll road. Actually, it was a simple two lane road nothing like a freeway, but it was for a fee. Even at this state it wasn’t crowded at all. We met only a few cars during our journey.
Crossing Montenegro – Bosnia and Herzegovina border
Crossing Duration: 3 minutes
When we reached to Bosnian border there wasn’t even a single car waiting to cross the border. We noticed “Montenegro Goodbye” and “Welcome to Republika Srpska” signs. We were totally confused seeing “Republika Srpska” on our way. Oh no, did we come accidentally to Serbia border instead of Bosnia? We passed our passports to the border officer and asked: “Where are we, where are we crossing to?” :)))). We were very relieved hearing her “Bosnia and Herzegovina” answer.
For a note, later we have learned that Republika Srpska is not the same as Serbia. Actually, it is one of the two semi-autonomous entities that make up the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is located on the north and the east of the country.
Trip from Bosnia and Herzegovina border to Mostar
Trip Duration: 2 hours
We crossed Bosnian border just after sunset and drove through Trebinje and Ljbinje on our way to Mostar. Compared to Montenegro’s rocky coast, everywhere was so green around. We drove through mostly straight, narrow and well maintained roads. There were many villages and towns on our way to Mostar.
Just after dusk we reached the city of Mostar. I was very surprised seeing that Mostar is a huge city spread at a quite large area. On the contrary, Mostar Old Town was very compact and very walkable. We checked in our hotel and were ready to explore things to do in Mostar.
Where to stay in Mostar
Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Cuprija (Booking.com score 9.4 / for more than 990 reviews) is a perfect choice for a memorable accommodation in the middle of the Old Town, just steps away from the Old Bridge. It also offers a great breakfast and quadruple rooms for the ones who travel as a family.
Hotel Almira (Booking.com score 9.1 / for more than 460 reviews) is another choice in the Old Town which is quite a budget friendly accommodation. It offers breakfast, free garage parking and has many triple and quadruple room options as well.
Day 2: Mostar – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Korcula
On the second day of our Balkan itinerary we planned to enjoy the beauties of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After a day of exploration of Bosnian lands, we would cross back to Croatia and try to catch the ferry to the island of Korcula before dusk.
Mostar Old Town
Mostar is a beautiful, historical old town with distinctive Ottoman and post-medieval architecture. Undoubtedly, The Old Bridge of Mostar (Stari Most) is the highlight of the city. It is an iconic structure in the Balkans and was a symbol of 1992-95 Bosnian War. The Old Bridge, originally 16th century Ottoman structure, was fully destroyed during the Bosnian War. In early 2000s it was beautifully reconstructed and was inscribed on Unseco’s World Heritage List along with the Mostar Old Town, because of its symbolic value of reunification.
For detailed information about things to do in Mostar, check my blog post:
Road trip from Mostar to Blagaj Tekija
Trip Duration: 35 minutes
We were back on the road to explore places to visit near Mostar, after half a day exploring the Mostar Old Town. (To enjoy Mostar old town more, it is worth to add one more day to your itinerary there, if you have a longer vacation.) We drove through roads surrounded by fertile lands, orchards and vineyards. The beautiful, green colored Neretva River, the one that flows through Mostar city, was powerful enough even in late summer to irrigate all the green lands around. All the roads we drove through to the Tekija were in good shape.
Visiting Blagaj Tekija
Blagaj Tekija is a Dervish Tekija, a kind of Islamic monastery, in an incredible surrounding nature. The Tekija is built on a solid rock at the point where Buna river is sourced out of an under mountain cave. A very high rock cliff stretches just above the tekija. The complex which dates back to 17th century can be visited by tourists. Or you can just go and take in the surrounding incredible nature and sit at one of the restaurants on the banks of the river.
Road trip from Blagaj to Pocitelj
Trip Duration: 25 minutes
We kept driving on our Balkans road trip, accompanied with beautiful Neretva at some parts. After a short trip, we arrived to a well preserved, historical village of Pocitelj.
Pocitelj Historic Village
Pocitelj is a historic village with a well preserved Ottoman architecture on the bank of river Neretva. It is an open air museum and a protected National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a delightful, refreshing stop there, on our Balkans road trip. We walked around the village and saw the mosque and the clock tower. Looked at the handcrafts sold by local salesmen. All were nice and cute…
Road trip from Pocitelj to Kravice Waterfalls
Trip Duration: 1 hour
Lastly, we wanted to visit the famous Kravice Waterfalls on the Bosnian leg of our Balkans road trip. The waterfalls weren’t directly on our way, but we made a detour to visit them. Thus, we passed through newly constructed multi lane Bosnian tall road. However, when we reached to Kravice waterfalls signed place on our maps, we figured out that we were at the opposite banks of the valley. Maybe, you could hike to the waterfalls from there but we didn’t have the time. Obviously, the main gate to the waterfalls wasn’t close around. For a note, be sure of the location of the main gate to the waterfalls on your road trip.
Eventually, we drove half an hour more, passing through many villages on our way and found the parking place of the waterfalls. There were many cars and tour buses parked around. Obviously, we were at the right place this time.
Kravice Waterfalls are pure heaven for nature lovers! There are tens of waterfalls all pouring from a large limestone onto the lake bellow. Even in late summer water flow of the waterfalls was quite strong. At time of our visit, people were swimming in the lake, having a picnic at the shores and enjoying the nature. It was definitely worth all the struggle we had on our way to find the waterfalls.
Trip from Kravice waterfalls to Croatian border
Trip Duration: 15 minutes
Croatian border is very close to Kravice Waterfalls. After a short drive through many villages in Bosnia we were already in the border.
Crossing Bosnia and Herzegovina – Croatia border
Crossing Duration: 5 minutes
We crossed the border in very short time, adding one more stamp to our passports, that filled up with border stamps in just two days. We hoped that it was the last border crossing on our Balkans road trip but soon we would find out that we were wrong.
Trip from Croatia border to Ploce
Trip Duration: 30 minutes
After crossing Croatian border, we drove through plains and between mountains on our way. We couldn’t see the sea until we passed the last mountain and reached to seaside town Ploce.
Normally we were planning to catch the ferry from Ploce to Orebic where we would catch another ferry to Korcula Island. Unfortunately, because of the extra time we spent trying to find Kravice waterfalls, we missed the ferry in Ploce. So, we had to drive all the coast to Orebic. This meant, two more border crossings, since there was city of Neum, a Bosnia and Herzegovina land, between the two parts of Croatia lands on the Dalmatian coast. Indeed, it was a good opportunity to enjoy the beautiful views on our way through Dalmatian coast.
Trip from Ploce to Neum border
Trip Duration: 35 minutes
Neretva River had accompanied us at most of the parts of our Bosnia and Herzegovina journey. Thus we thought, “Oh my, what a great river it is this Neretva!” Again, we met once more Neretva river now in Croatian lands near the city of Ploce. It is the place where Neretva is pouring into the Adriatic Sea forming the incredible Neretva Delta.
The greatness of the road trips are, sometimes you have no idea the existence of some beauties on your route before your trip. During your journey, you literally discover them by yourself and get amazed with the beauties on your sight. Your journey expands into full other perspective with the things you discover on your trip.
If I knew about Neretva Delta before, I would definitely stop for a short break to enjoy it more. During our road trip I was impressed with the view of the delta with its canals and shores. Fertile lands with tangerine orchards, fruits and vegetable plantations were set just behind the delta. There were local fruits and veggies sellers all through our way.
With a quick search after my trip I learned that, Neretva Delta is under protection and an internationally important wetland. Bird watching, kite surfing, swimming in its sandy beaches (which is quite rare in Croatia) are some of the attractions at this beautiful delta. You also can walk on the sandbars into the sea there for hundreds of meters with seawater only ankle hight.
Neum Corridor passing
Trip Duration: 10 minutes (including border crossings)
We were very hesitant about Neum passing because of its multi border crossings. During our trip, we found out that there was nothing to worry about it. Actually, there was the Neum Agreement between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina that granted free passage of Croatian transit traffic between the two territories of Croatian lands.
While entering the Neum Corridor, only Croatian border checked our passports. Afterwards, we drove very shortly on Bosnian lands and we already were at the exiting border. There should be some kind of automatic scan there as no-one checked our passports at the exit. We were just allowed to cross without any border examination.
On the other hand, city of Neum is the only town on the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 25 km coastline. (The road between the two checkpoint borders is much shorter) It is also the only access of the country to the Adriatic Sea. That makes Neum a huge touristic resort. There were many big hotels and touristic places on our way through Neum.
Trip from Neum to Orebic
Trip Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
After a short trip from Neum, we left the Dubrovnik road and turned into Peljesac Peninsula. The ferry to Korcula Island was departing from the little seaside town of Orebic, which was located by the end of the peninsula. We drove through the winding roads of Peljesac peninsula just before sunset. The sun, turned into a golden ball, was just setting in front of us, blue waters of Adriatic Sea by our side; it was incredible!
It wasn’t long that we noticed we were going through a gorgeous place. There were vineyards all around with grape bunches hanging on the vines. Later, we’ve learnt that actually we were at the heart of Croatian wines there. Also, there were olive trees orchards and pine forests throughout our way. Cyclist were all around, enjoying a ride in this incredible nature.
Ferry crossing from Orebic to Korcula
Trip Duration: 15 minutes
Ferry crossing from Orebic to Korcula Island takes only 15 minutes. During summer, ferries run many times during the day. We considered leaving the car at a parking place in Orebic and going to the island without car. After a quick search, we’ve found out there wasn’t convenient public transportation from the ferry port to the Korcula Old Town. So, decided to take our car with us. (Definitely, ferry tickets change according you are with or without a car.) We booked a good place to stay at walking distance to the old town that had a free parking space. And off we go, lets explore Korcula!
Korcula Old Town is a beautiful, fortified town on the east coast of the island of Korcula. The old city is surrounded by historic walls all around. The town plan of the old town itself is very interesting and unique with all the streets arranged in a herringbone pattern, allowing air circulation and protection at the same time. St. Mark’s Cathedral, House of Marco Polo and Land Gate are some of the places must not be skipped in a trip to Korcula.
We loved getting lost in the narrow streets of Korcula Old Town. Morning strolls among the colorful cafes facing the sea and the walls were so delightful. Dining on the historical streets with local Dalmatian cuisine was a blast!
Where to stay in Korcula?
We stayed one night in Korcula Island for an exploration trip but we would love to come back and have a longer summer vacation in the future. It’s certainly worth to spend at least three – four days (or more) there and enjoy all it has to offer deeply.
Aminess Korcula Heritage Hotel (Booking.com score 9.0 / for more than 350 reviews) is the oldest hotel in town which offers a delightful stay with some awesome sea views. This prestigious hotel is just at the heart of the old town and includes an excellent breakfast.
Apartments Milion (Booking.com score 9.3 / for more than 170 reviews) and Guest House Dijana (Booking.com score 9.1 / for more than 80 reviews) are some budget friendly accommodations set in the old town of Korcula.
Day 3: Korcula – Dubrovnik
After some delightful time on Korcula Island, we were ready to catch the ferry back to Orebic and Peljesac peninsula.
Trip from Orebic to Ston and Mali Ston
Trip Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
We drove all the stunning way back to the starting point of the peninsula and found the little villages Ston and Mali Ston. Mali Ston and its larger sister village Ston are located where Peljesac meets the mainland Croatia and are less than an hour drive to Dubrovnik. We’ve heard about Mali Ston on a Rick Stein BBC show where the Mali Ston locals insisted that they have the best oysters in the world. The bay of Mali Ston has a unique mix of freshwater and saltwater, making it ideal for oyster farming.
We definitely feasted with some oysters and loved all the sea food dishes we had in Mali Ston. It was the best meal we had on all our Balkans trip, for sure.
Trip from Mali Ston to Dubrovnik – Mount Srj
Trip Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
After a quite a long D-tour through the cities and countries surrounding Dubrovnik, it was the time to explore Dubrovnik itself. First, we drove to Mount Srd for some breathtaking views of Dubrovnik old town. We climbed to the top of the mountain, going through some narrow and steep roads at some parts. Nevertheless, the view of red tiled old city of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea was definitely worth it!
Trip from Mount Srj to Dubrovnik city center
Trip Duration: 10 minutes
After we came back from the mountain we returned our rental car in the branch in Dubrovnik Rixos Hotel and were ready to explore the old town on foot. Walking the short way from Rixos Hotel to Dubrovnik Old Town, we noticed some cute coves with people sunbathing and swimming in the coves. Obviously, Dubrovnik was a great city with plenty to offer and it definitely was “the pearl of the Adriatic“!
Dubrovnik Old Town
Dubrovnik is one of the worlds best protected walled cities with a great medieval architecture. It is situated on Dalmatian coast overlooking the calm blue Adriatic Sea. Old City of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful preserved city walls, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. It is one of the most prominent touristic city of the Mediterranean. Walking through the streets of Dubrovnik Old Town would certainly transfer you to the medieval times!
For detailed information about things to do in Dubrovnik Old Town, check my blog post:
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
If you are planing to stay in Dubrovnik Old Town, obviously the accommodation prices can be quite expensive, especially during high season. But, by booking in advance or just booking at last minute as we did, you can still find some affordable places to stay.
Dominus Little Palace (Booking.com score 9.4 / for more than 200 reviews) is located in old town, just steps from Stradun. It offers renovated rooms in great location, in close walking distance to all the places you would want to visit in Dubrovnik.
La Vita e Bella (Booking.com score 8.7 / for more than 240 reviews) is a more affordable accomodatiation in old town, again just few steps from Stradun. It is in a perfect location in old town, with restaurants and things to do all around.
Pearl of Adriatic (Booking.com score 9.8 / for more than 160 reviews) is an affordable priced, recently renovated apartment, 8 minutes walking distance to Dubrovnik Old Town. The apartment has furnished terrace with great sea and old town views and is big enough for a family of four.
For more choice and prices of places to stay in Dubrovnik, please click here.
Day 4: Dubrovnik – Zagreb
We’ve spent 24 hours in Dubrovnik and visited most of the main attractions there. Honestly, that amount of time for Dubrovnik was pretty enough for us. We even had some time to have some drinks and people watch. Or have a meal at a historical touristy piazza watching the crowds go around. If you want to experience the beautiful historical city even more deeply maybe you can add one or two more days to your itinerary.
Aerobus trip from Dubrovnik old town to Dubrovnik airport
Trip Duration: 30 minutes
After exploring the lovely Old City of Dubrovnik, we were ready for our next destination. We got on Aerobus to Dubrovnik Airport at the bus stop outside the walls (just near the cable car to Srj hill). We boarded to our flight to Zagreb, and off we go, we were in Zagreb in just a few hours after we left Dubrovnik Old Town.
Trip from Zagreb airport to Zagreb city center
Trip Duration: 30 minutes
We tried to rent a car from Zagreb airport but none of more than ten car rentals there had any cars to rent. So we left renting the car for the next day and went to the city center with the airport bus.
Zagreb is the capital city of Croatia and has more Slavic atmosphere compared the Dalmatian city Dubrovnik. Honestly, we spent just one night in Zagreb. We visited there basically for its proximity to Plitvice Lakes and since we had found cheaper return flights from Zagreb. At a more relaxed schedule, it would be great to spend one more day in this capital city.
As soon as we checked in our hotel close to city center, we started exploring Zagreb at the only night we had. Actually, we were quite lucky, because there were three different festivals at different parts of Zagreb downtown that night. We entertained with locals in a beer festival, watched some folkloric dances at another.
Where to stay in Zagreb?
Manda Heritage Hotel (Booking.com score 9.3 / for more than 1200 reviews) looks like good choice located just in the center of Zagreb, very close to Zagreb Cathedral and the museums. It offers a good breakfast and some family rooms as well.
Pod Zidom Rooms (Booking.com score 9.4 / for more than 600 reviews) is another affordable choice centrally located steps from Zagreb Cathedral and with an exceptional breakfast. It is also close to many restaurants, cafes and bakeries.
Sheraton Zagreb Hotel (Booking.com score 8.7 / for more than 3000 reviews) is a well known choice in the heart of Zagreb. It is an elegant 5-star hotel very close to the train station and 0.6 mi from the Main Square.
Day 5: Zagreb – Plitvice Lakes
On the last day of our Balkan itinerary we rented a car from a car rental close to our hotel. We checked out of our hotel in Zagreb and headed to the last road trip of this itinerary, the world renowned Plitvice Lakes.
Trip from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes
Trip Duration: 2 or 3 hours
We drove through a toll road to Plitvice Lakes. Everywhere was like a pastoral painting around our way on the freeway. Assuming we would be closer to Plitvice lakes, we chose to exit the freeway not from the first exit of Karlovac (the usual exit for Plitvice lakes) but from the second and more further one from Otocac. It was a mistake and costed us one more hour driving time. In fact, we were surrounded with a nature like Swiss Alps all around but reaching to Plitvice lakes took us whole three hours.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
The Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest national park in Croatia. It is an exceptional natural beauty with 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes cascading one into the next at different elevations. The lakes end with impressive waterfalls, creating a pastoral masterpiece altogether. Plitvice Lakes natural park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a bucket list destination for many nature lovers.
We arrived early in the morning to the park and were absolutely awed with all the beauty the Plitvice Lakes has to offer. Lush forests surrounded lakes were in unbelievable azure color! Even in the late summer there were many waterfalls everywhere.
Trip from Plitvice Lakes to Zagreb airport
Trip Duration: 2 hours
At the end of a full day of hiking, exploring and traveling we went back to Zagreb. This time went through Karlovac and reached Zagreb in only two hours. We found Zagreb airport and returned our rental car there.
After five well spent days in the Balkans we were blown away with all the things we experienced there in such a short amount of time. I hope my detailed Balkans road trip can help you plan your dream trip to the Balkans!
My other related post :