Croatia has a lot going for it, beautiful national parks, ancient history, and fantastic cuisine. But, perhaps most spectacular of all is Croatia’s thousands of kilometers of coastline and the countless islands beyond.
It is here, by the sea, where you will discover quaint fishing villages, beautiful, pebbled beaches, and the ancient, fortified cities standing watch along the dramatic coastline. It is also here, where you can set sail, into the impossibly blue water of the Adriatic to explore the bays, beaches, and coves of the islands that form Croatia’s archipelago.
Croatia has many celebrated hero destinations, famed cities like Dubrovnik, dazzling islands such as Hvar, and famously photogenic national parks like the stunning Plitvice waterfalls. However, there are plenty of equally spectacular destinations that are often overlooked, especially in a short, week-long itinerary like this one.
This is an alternative seven-day coastal Croatian itinerary designed to shine a light on some of the lesser-known treasures of the Adriatic.
This summer itinerary begins and ends in Split, the gateway to the Dalmatian coast, home to some of Croatia’s prettiest islands, sun-soaked beaches, and charming villages.
7 Day Croatia Itinerary
Day 1: Split
Arrive in Split, a seaside hub well serviced by flights from most major European cities, a reliable bus network, and one of the busiest seaports in the region.
Before setting off, take the time to explore this grand and ancient city, one which enjoys a UNESCO World Heritage Listing thanks to its beautifully preserved and historic old town. So beautiful and well preserved is the old town of Split that it has appeared in a number of international films and television shows, most notably, providing many of the locations seen in the famous HBO series Game of Thrones.
One of the best ways to explore Split is on foot, getting lost in the winding cobbled stone streets that hide palaces, cathedrals, and many other remnants of a time long gone by.
To get some context into the rich history of the city, sign up for a free walking tour. Along the way learn the history of the ancient walled city, the famed Diocletian Palace, and ordinary life in Split throughout the ages.
Occupying the perfectly preserved stone building of the old town, visitors can expect to find trendy shops, delicious restaurants, character-filled bars, and night spots that party until the wee hours.
Of course, you don’t want to get too carried away, because Split is just our stepping-stone to some of Dalmatia’s lesser-known treasures.
Day 2 – 3: Island Hop
No trip to Croatia is complete without visiting at least one of the thousands of islands that make up the impressive Croatian archipelago. Split is the perfect place from which to explore some of Croatia’s most beautiful islands in the central and southern coastal region known as Dalmatia. Which island you choose really depends on what you’re looking for, however, if we had to recommend one, it would be Vis.
Those who prefer to get further off the beaten path should continue out past the famous island of Hvar toward the outer island of Vis. Reaching Vis will take a bit more time (2 hours and 20 minutes by ferry) but that also means you will be sharing this authentic Croatian island with fewer tourists.
Similar to Hvar, the sprawling island of Vis has a charming old town, stunning beaches, and a surprisingly vast interior dotted with villages, farmland, vineyards, and even a cricket pitch!
Be sure to check out the town of Komiza on the western side of the island for one of the most lovely villages in all of Croatia. Another Croatian destination making an appearance in international films, parts of the island were used as the setting for the Hollywood film Mamma Mia 2.
Consider hiring a car to explore the beaches and coves of Vis, or perhaps join a boat tour to explore Vis by sea, visiting its more isolated beaches and the mesmerizing Blue Cave found on the small, nearby island of Bisevo.
Vis also has a fascinating history. The story of human settlement on Vis stretches back to the 4th century BC. An important strategic outpost in the middle of the Adriatic Sea it has played a key role throughout various conflicts that unfolded in southern Europe. Consequently, it has changed hands many times.
History and war buffs will enjoy uncovering the many relics, remnants, and ruins strewn across the island. From ancient buildings left behind by the Illyrians to more modern reminders including submarine bases, secret underground tunnels, and Tito’s Cave, where the Yugoslavian president hid for months during WWII. A war tour with a local guide is the best way to discover the history and the mysteries of Vis.
Day 4: Primošten
We are heading back to the mainland in search of Croatia’s prettiest seaside village.
Primošten is not only Croatia’s prettiest town but is also home to some of Croatia’s magnificent beaches.
What makes the village of Primošten stand out from other villages in Croatia is its unique and striking architecture with the entire old town being built entirely upon a tiny island. The mound of an island precariously balances a jumbled assortment of old stone buildings which seem to have been piled on top of one another, sitting atop it all, the modest town church takes pride of place. The island, once only connected to the mainland by a draw bridge, has since been reconnected via a man-made isthmus.
Stretching away from the old town of Primošten are beaches that are routinely recognized among Croatia’s most beautiful. Mala Raduča is consistently ranked in the top ten best beaches in Croatia and this town beach is just the beginning. One of the best ways to explore the eight kilometers of pristine Primošten beaches is by bike. Pass pebbled beaches, rocky coves, and mesmerizing blue waters as you follow this stunning coastline.
Another unmissable thing to do in Primošten is to visit one of the local wineries. Babic, an indigenous grape varietal, calls the rocky coastline of Primošten home. This particular grape is grown in the harshest conditions along the rocky seashore just outside of Primošten. In fact, the fruit and the way it is cultivated are so unique that the beautiful stone lattice vineyards producing Babic are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 5: Šibenik
A Croatian destination sometimes spurned in favor of port cities like Dubrovnik or Split is the fortress city of Šibenik. However, missing this incredible medieval city would be a mistake. Interestingly, it was one of the only major coastal cities to be built by Croats.
Sitting at the mouth of the Krka River, Šibenik enjoys a prime position perched high on a hill with expansive views out past the river mouth to the Adriatic Sea. A key military holding for many centuries, four impressive fortresses stand guard around the ancient city.
It is not hard to understand why the location was chosen, the city is connected to the river mouth by a narrow channel with high cliff walls that opens into a wide estuary, forming one of the most well-protected ports in the Adriatic. Its stunning setting makes it one of our favorite Croatian cities.
From the city, you can walk down the river along the St. Anthony’s Canal Hiking Trail to see the fortifications that guarded the entry to the Krka River for centuries. The hiking trail traverses a beautiful nature reserve. Along the way, experience fabulous views back over Sibenik, beautiful bays and beaches, as well as submarine bases and other hangovers from the various conflicts that have plagued the Adriatic.
Back in town, one of the best ways to discover Šibenik is simply wandering the old town, getting lost in the warren of narrow cobblestone streets. Highlights include tunnels, arches, squares, medieval churches, and of course the four fortresses. Like Split, the charming and historic old town now accommodates plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, and museums.
Day 6: Krka National Park and Skradin
The coastal alternative to the famous Plitvice waterfalls, the waterfalls at Krka are incredibly impressive. Less than an hour away from Šibenik (or 1.5 hours away from Split), these falls are easily reached for a day trip. However, if you wish to extend your trip you can stay in the neighbouring historic village of Skradin, which is worth a visit in its own right.
From Skradin, jump aboard the national park ferry or hike the 5-kilometer trail that will take you further up the Krka River into the national park.
The centerpiece here is the Skradinski Buk an impressive series of 17 broad, stepped falls that cascade down into emerald pools.
The circuit trail allows explorers to see the falls from a variety of aspects before taking you above the falls where the wide river meanders through soft glades sheltering schools of fish, frogs, and water birds.
For those willing to go a little further, a series of less well-known falls, and attractions wait to be explored via 47 kilometers of hiking trails and hundreds of kilometers of biking trails across the park.
Day 7: Split
On your final day, return to Split to soak up the last of Croatian culture. Enjoy a final coffee (or three) at one of the world-class cafes found within the Diocletian Palace complex.
Shop till you drop for souvenirs from the variety of stores in the old town. And, of course, enjoy one final dinner at one of the many local traditional taverns or konobas, in town. Get your fill of freshly caught fish or grilled squid washed down with carafes of local white wine.
Where to Next?
If you enjoyed this itinerary of Croatia’s coastline the good news is there is plenty more to see and explore not only along the coast and throughout the islands, but inland to ancient cities and beautiful national parks.
From Split, you are perfectly located to reach anywhere in Croatia. Head to Zagreb the nation’s historic capital, to world-famous Dubrovnik in the south, and the walled city of Zadar in the north. Alternatively jump aboard a boat and head into the islands to find medieval outposts like Korčula, the undisturbed paradise of islands like Miljet, or the innumerous tiny unnamed islets and their hidden coves, bays and beaches.
Croatia is a place of endless adventure waiting to be explored!
Eddie is a part-time teacher, part-time blogger, former van lifer, and now living full-time aboard a boat named Whisper. Together with his partner Kelli, they have been traveling the globe and working remotely since 2018. Their blog, The Vanabond Tales, focuses on self-guided travel and self-directed adventure, covering topics including van life, sailing, off-the-beaten-path destinations, and epic journeys.