plitvice lakes
Croatia,  Hike

7-day Croatia Itinerary for nature lovers

It´s been 3 months since we returned from our spring break. August has arrived and those who are going to Croatia might need some ideas for their summer vacation.

Blogging on a rainy evening…in my memories returning to beautiful Croatia – 7 beautiful, long and sunny days started with a hectic morning – 2 short layover flights through Brussels. Our plan was to spend as much time as possible by nature and try to see a couple of national parks. This was a backpacking trip which required long bus trips and changing the accommodation. The most exciting or for some people – scariest part was that we might not have reached our destination and potentially ruin all the holidays (Spring trip to Balkans – why Croatia?). So no matter how hard I try, plan or book in advance I will always find a way to make my trips unforgettable. With that being said, let me introduce you with spontaneous vacation master, Kristine.

For Day 2 and Day 7 I have prepared a guide for those who want to explore Croatia´s national parks. In total there are 8 stunning National Parks in Croatia, 2 strict reserves and 11 nature parks. We managed to include three of them. 7 days is obviously hardly enough to get an impression about any country, but thanks to its compact size I think we managed to experience enough of both – cultural/historical city and on the opposite – nature, countryside, and wilderness.

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

7-day Croatia itinerary

Day 1 – Base in Zadar

Day 2 – Hiking in Starigrad Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Day 3 – The pearl of the trip – Plitvice Lakes National Park

Day 4 – by bus to Split, meet our Croatian host

Day 5 – Split sightseeing

Day 6 – Beach day

Day 7 – Trekking in Omiška Dinara – peak Kula, Croatia

Day 1 – Base in Zadar

Not the typical tourist choice (we are not typical tourists) it was a strategic choice. When you are backpacking you need to calculate well how to get where you want without too long bus rides. It is especially important if you want to do Nature tourism – hiking, adventurous activities etc. For the first 3 nights, we were based in Zadar and visited two National parks.

Day 2 – Paklenica National Park (Starigrad-Paklenica)

Being only 47km north (northeast) from Zadar it´s a must see. The Park is south of the Velebit range of mountains (the largest in Croatia) and covers an area of 95 square km and consists of 2 dolomite limestone canyons called Velika (big) and Paklenica & Mala (small).

Did you know that The Velebit is part of the Dinaric Alps which also runs through other Balkan countries and reaches its highest point in Bosnia and Herzegovina? It has a mixture of high peaks with stunning views, deep gorges and beech and pine forests. The Park is an ideal place to visit for the adventurous – well known between alpine climbers and hikers. They even have an annual speed climbing competition on 1st of May, we were a few days early.

The bus took us along the coast until we reached a city called Starigrad – the nearest coastal town. We hiked and hiked along  a refreshing river stream, until we reached a place to have rest and eat something. Then, unfortunately, we turned around, had to catch a bus back to Zadar. In the end we managed to hitch-hike a car of park rangers until the main road. Bingo! Saved 20 min of feet pain. Before you go – take some hiking shoes, you will thank me after.

Day 3 – The pearl of the trip – Plitvice Lakes National Park

Stunning natural landscapes, turquoise-coloured waterfalls and paradise-like pictures appeared when I first searched for nature destination in Balkans. I contacted my friends and when asked if it really is as beautiful as in the photos – they answered – photos are not even close its actual beauty. And once I got there I got it. You must feel it with all 5 senses to really see it.

In 1979, Plitvice National Park became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites, and ever since then, the tourists have been pouring in. This area once a war zone between the neighboring Serbia and Croatia. In the end what was blooming and rapidly developing was the Croatians tourism. Last year, the national park was seen by over 1 million visitors.

Click here to book Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour

It is located about 100 kilometres south of the capital Zagreb. What is astonishing is that most of the park remains undiscovered by tourists. Also here you can see one of Europe’s last virgin forest, Čorkova Uvala a 80 ha forest among limestone and dolomite structures with trees as old as 300 years.

Expences: +/-25 eur bus (from Zadar) + 15 eur entrance
(prices are different in low and high season)

Days 4, 5, 6 – Discovering Split, staying with a host from Couchsurfing

After a long 3 hour bus ride we reached Split – for some it is just a passage on the way to Dubrovnik. But for us it was our last stop and chance to stay with a local Couchsurfing host, Dragan (was difficult to remember his name, it sounds like Dragon). From this point we were introduced to Croatian history and their way of living.

Read more: The secret of travelling on budget with Couchsurfing

Tip: Split is bigger than Zadar and is full of young people so you have big chances to find a host here!

Split is home to Diocletian’s Palace, built for the Roman emperor in 305 CE, the city was founded as the Greek colony of Aspálathos (Aσπάλαθος) in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. After that it was controlled by Byzantine Empire, Venetians, Habsburg Monarchy, then finally Yugoslavia (Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). In 1991 they declared their independence.

Click here to book an adventure in Split

Three days is enough to see the main sights and even go to the beach. If you wish to see the islands, you definitely need more time.

Visit Split in three days

1. Diocletian’s Palace and the old town – a scent of history

Save! Mostar and Kravica Waterfall Small-Group Tour from Split or Trogir

It can be entered through four gates, all named after four different metals.

  • Bronze gate
  • Golden gate
  • Silver gate
  • Iron gate

Our host said that august becomes extremely crowded – the 2m wide labyrinths become almost unpassable and restaurants are always full. We were lucky to still have some air to breath since we came in the low season.

2. Riva – Split waterfront

Riva, a Split waterfront is an iconic place and a favourite meeting point. The best place to see the best of Split and to be seen. Everything is going on here from summer or New Eve celebrations, sport events, protests, and strikes.

3. Climb the Marjan hill

Only 187 m high climb with beautiful views. You can even explore Marjan park through its many paths and hide from the summer heat.

4. Discover Urban beaches on foot

Our recommendation – go as far as you can to avoid tourists. For example Kasuni Beach.


Where to eat and drink in Split?

Recommendation from a local: Konoba Fife. Split is known to be a bit pricier than the north of the country. We asked our host where to find a good and cheap restaurant.

Konoba Fife. Split is known to be a bit pricier than the north of the country. We asked our host where to find a good and cheap restaurant.

Day 7 – Visiting Omis

After passing a few days in the city it was time to escape the civilization and discover some hiking trails near Split. I was lucky to find a trail in Omis. 870 steep hike lasted for 6 hours but was totally worth it! Look at these views! Read about it more in my last post. (click on the link below)

On the summit - vrh Kula
On the summit – vrh Kula

If you are not ready for this, you can see the fortress, which is at the beginning of the trail.

Other activities and sites in Omis:

Croatia has so much to offer for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Countless islands, the sea on one side – mountains on the other. You cannot fit it all in one week. In this itinerary, we discovered the interior of Croatia, next time we will visit the islands and enjoy more summer related activities! If you need any other tips, drop a comment below! 

Did you like my post? You can pay me a coffee! I am just kidding. Sort of. But here’s my Paypal donate button if you’re keen to help keep this blog up and running. (I won’t judge if you skip it.)

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