Croatia is a country at the crossroads of Southeast and Central Europe, which shares a coastline along the picturesque Adriatic Sea. This country has a beautiful overall climate, with more than 2,500 hours of sun per year, picturesque ports, stunning cities, hundreds of islands, and the most beautiful coastline in Europe.
Croatia is known for its scenic pebbled beaches, lavender fields, Pag cheese, and Ancient Roman Ruins, as well as being one of the locations where Game of Thrones was beautifully filmed. You could see or experience these and more if you stay for 3 weeks in Croatia.
>> ALSO READ: Affordable destinations for a 3-week trip
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO CROATIA
In December 2022, Croatia was accepted to be part of the Schengen State (although it has been part of the EU since 2013). There will be some changes to its rules, specifically in travel. These pointers are essential to consider before travelling to avoid any mishaps or hassles and will also help you write your own travel itinerary.
When is the best time to go to Croatia
The summer season is from June to September, perfect for swimming, sailing, and island hopping and is what Croatia is famous for. Those months are also the country’s peak season, while its winter season is from December to February. Its rainiest month is January.
The low season in Croatia is from October all the way to April. To those who are not looking to get on the water that much, you might want to avoid the high cost of peak season and travel during these months.
Are 3 weeks enough for Croatia
You can see and explore many places in Croatia in 20 days, but it all depends on what you want to do and planning your trip. If you want to travel slowly, you can visit 3-4 cities and take your time exploring. Then 3 weeks might be sufficient.
But if your goal is to see as many places as possible, either check if you can extend your stay or expect that you will be spending most of your time on your feet and making sure that you don’t miss any train, bus, or flights.
One smart way to make the most of your time in Croatia is by listing a few key areas in mind. For example, list the top sites highly related to the country’s history if you love history. If you want to do lots of water activities, list the excellent places for this plan.
This will allow you not to feel rushed and make sure you see the places that matter most to you. Overall, 3 weeks in Croatia is a reasonable amount of time, especially if you visit during the off-season when the queues are not too long.
What to pack
What to pack for Croatia differs a lot on a few things. Due to its location, the temperature can vary greatly depending on the season. If you plan to visit during peak months which is the summer, everywhere in Croatia gets pretty much warm.
During that time, you want to make sure that you pack enough sunscreen, a hat, and breathable clothing. Bringing reliable walking shoes or sandals is also a must since holidaying in Croatia means hours of being on your feet while exploring.
But for those who decide to visit in the winter, springtime, and autumn seasons, it’s best to plan to do some layering to stay warm. Don’t plan on bringing thick and heavy jackets, as they will take up lots of space in your luggage.
Finally, if you have been prescribed medicine, bring enough with you. You should also pack the prescription letter with you. Although it’s not 100% that you can refill it in Croatia, it’s better to have the prescription letter. We have a general packing list for a 3-week trip or you can also check out our summer packing list.
How to get around
Driving is the best way to get around Croatia as it is convenient and flexible. The roads are also wide, modern, and easy to navigate. Croatia acknowledges driving licenses issued by most countries, including the EU, North America, Latin America, Africa, Oceania, and some parts of Asia.
However, most cars for rent in Croatia are manual (just like in France and Spain). Make sure you are comfortable driving a manual transmitter. If you have an IDP (International Driving Permit), that is also acceptable in Croatia.
Public transport is more appropriate if you are either a solo traveller or budget conscious. However, some destinations have limited bus lines, and inter-city transport takes time. You can use Flixbus to book your bus and get a digital ticket.
Carpooling is another option if you have a tight budget and want to visit more than one place. Otherwise, you can opt for a private transfer if you prefer not to drive and are willing to splurge on transportation costs.
Language and currency
Croatia’s most spoken language is Croatian, followed by Bosnian and Serbian. Aside from that, English is also widely spoken and taught throughout the country, along with German and Italian. Many Croatians are actually bilingual or multilingual.
The current currency in the country is the Croatian Kuna. However, starting January 2023 will begin using Euro since it’s been accepted to be part of the Schengen State. Major debit and credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants, but it’s also better to be prepared and bring cash.
Average travel cost for Croatia
The average travel cost for Croatia will depend on a few factors. This includes the season you plan to go, how many people are going, and what kind of trip you have in mind (tight budget, mid-range, luxury). We also have an article of itineraries if you want to do Europe on a budget for 3 weeks.
Accommodations in Croatia, in general, are decent. For two people, a mid-range double room should cost around $45 per night. A bed in a hostel dorm room is approximately $12, while a luxury hotel room is about $100.
Transportation and food are also relatively cheap. Flights getting to Croatia could be the most expensive on your list, especially if you travel from the Americas or Asia. From Europe to Croatia, you should be able to find flights as cheap as $70 for one way.
For 20 days in Croatia, the average cost is about $1,500 per person, excluding the flights. If you plan to stay in hostel dorms, you can make the trip for under $1,100.
Visa and COVID-19 protocol
Croatia is part of the EU which means it implements the same visa policies as the other European Union members. In general, travellers with passports issued by most countries in the Americas (except Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guinea), New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK can enter and stay in Croatia for up to 90 days in a 180-day calendar. Travellers with passports issued by an EU member have the freedom of movement in Croatia.
Starting January 2023, Croatia will be part of the Schengen States. This means that there is now an open border policy between Croatia and the other 26 other European countries. If your passport is from the mentioned countries under the 90-day rule, you can only stay for 90 days in the area of Schengen States (not each country).
Croatia started to welcome international visitors again in June 2021. As of writing this article, there are no restrictions at the moment. It is required to wear masks in closed spaces such as public transportation. However, rules can vary. You don’t need to show COVID-19 vaccination card or antigen test to enter Croatia.
Other travel tips
To make your travel planning a little easier, here’s a quick list of the travel services I personally use. These travel sites have wide selections suitable to everyone regardless of your travel budget, as they offer options for those on the budget, mid-range, and people seeking luxury.
I also enjoy that many travel booking sites allow me to cancel my reservation even at the last minute. This means you can book in advance, choose the best hotels, and then cancel later if your travel date changes without losing too much money.
PINNED MAP OF MUST-SEE PLACES IN CROATIA
Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google
3 WEEKS IN CROATIA ITINERARY
Croatia is a must-visit country not only for its scenery but also for the abundance of activities that you can do here. These include diving, sailing, hiking, ziplining, water rafting, and canyoning. You could also quickly go island hopping by sailboat or even kayak, as there are islands that are very close to each other, making it easy to explore.
Below are some places where you’ll see tons of amazing sights during your 3 weeks in Croatia and try out new and exciting things. The itinerary below could also be done the other way around, such as starting in Dubrovnik and ending in Zagreb.
Zagreb for 3 days
Zagreb has fewer tourists than other more famous places in Croatia, but it doesn’t mean it has no charms. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Zagreb is filled with historical sites comparable to a hybrid version of Budapest, Vienna, and Prague.
The cost of living here is super affordable by European standards, and it is a perfect starting point as there are tons of available day trips. Even flights from here to neighbouring countries are super cheap. If you plan to travel with a vehicle, pick up your car rental in Zagreb and make sure you can drop it off in Dubrovnik.
Things to do in Zagreb
- Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke day trip – check tour reviews and the priceSee Zagreb Cathedral up close – join a city walking tour
- Take a look at the Museum of Broken Relationships – book your skip-the-line ticket
- Climb Lotrscak Tower
- Nikola Tesla Museum – read reviews and buy a ticket
- Visit Art Pavilion and Mestrovic Gallery
- Sign up for a tasty food tour
- Take a stroll through Zagreb Botanical Garden
- Museum of Illusions – get your ticket in advance
- Watch a performance at Croatian National Theater
- Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke day trip – check tour reviews and the price
- Day trip to Slovenia: visit the capital city and the stunning Lake Bled – check the tour price
Accommodations in Zagreb
- Affordable: Apartments Lucky Place or Main Square Hostel
- Mid-range: Manda Heritage Hotel or Pod Zidon Rooms
- Luxury: Hotel Le Premier or Esplanade Zagreb Hotel and Sheraton Hotel
Istria Peninsula for 3 days
Istria is the village that has the most stunning hilltop villages, filled with old stone houses, cobblestone streets, quaint little shops, medieval churches, and endless vistas over the sea and the countryside. Truffles, an expensive food throughout the world, are abundant in Istria. This means that when you come here, discover why truffles are finally worth the fuzz.
The fastest way to get to Istria is through driving, which takes around 3 hours. Another alternative option is via train, which takes approximately 5 to 6 hours, covering 196 miles through the Zagreb Glavani Kol. to Rijeka route. Pula is the ideal place to use as your home base while in Istria Peninsula.
Things to do in Istria Peninsula
- Walk through the Medieval Rovinj – check the tour price
- Snorkel and swim at Rabac’s Beaches
- Go kayaking in Pula – book a tour for convenience or kayak at night for the magical glow
- Truffle hunting and cooking – sign up for a tour
- Visit Hum, the smallest city in the world
- See dolphins on a cruise – book one with dinner and drinks
- Medieval Castle tour in Pazin
- Visit the ancient Arena in Pula – enjoy with a local guide
- Day trip to Venice, Italy – you can do a one-way or a day trip from Pula
- Join a yummy food tour
Accommodations in Istria Peninsula/Pula
- Affordable: Polesana Rooms or Hostel Antique
- Mid-range: Hotel Milan or D&A Central Apartments or Hotel Scaletta
- Luxury: Adrion Aparthotel or Ribarska Koliba Resort
Plitvice Lakes National Park 2 days
If you have 3 weeks in Croatia, you definitely have to visit this incredible national park. Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s largest national park, spanning almost 30,000 hectares. UNESCO considers it a world heritage site with forests, meadows, waterfalls, and other watercourses. The forests here are home to bears, wolves, and a couple of rare birds.
The travel time from Istria to Plitvice Lakes lasts almost 12 hours, covering a distance of 663 km via train. Other alternative options include riding the bus, which has a travel duration of 14 hours or flying and then boarding the night bus, which has a travel time of 10 hours.
TIP: If you want to save some time, you can book a day trip to Plitvice Lakes from any major city, such as Zagreb, Zadar, and Split.
Things to do in Plitvice Lakes
- Make sure to get your entry ticket in advance if you are planning to drive there on your own
- Grabovaca Cave Park
- Kayak on the Mreznica River – sign up for a tour
- Horse ride at Ranch Terra
- Visit Ranch Deer Valley
- Book a full-day guided tour, including a walking trip and boat ride – read reviews and check the price
Accommodations in Plitvice Lakes
- Affordable: Apartment Pavlic or House Zupan
- Mid-range: Ranch Jelov Klanac or Villa Park Plitvice or Apartment Marija Zupan
- Luxury: Plitvice Village or Lakeside Hotel Plitvice
Zadar for 3 days
While staying for three weeks in Croatia, you should consider staying in Zadar for at least 2 days. It is the oldest consistently inhabited city in Croatia. It is well-known for its beautiful sunset. Other unique things in Zadar are Hitchcock, a giant public solar-powered dance floor, a big harmonica, and other installations that could only be found here. This city also has tons of music festivals all year round.
The journey from Plitvice Lakes to Zadar lasts almost 2 hours and covers 133 km via bus. Another alternative option is to drive with nearly the same travel duration.
Things to do in Zadar
- Sign up for a city walking tour with Pag cheese tasting – read reviews and check the price
- Museum of Illusions
- Day trip to Zrmanja/Kastel Zegarski – where you can do kayaking or white rafting
- Kolovare Beach
- Dugi Otak – boat tour of the best islands
- Zadar Archipelago day trip
- Kornati National Park – book a full-day sailing trip
- Visit The People’s Square
- Day trip to Krka Waterfalls – including a food and wine-tasting tour
- Check out the Sea Organ and The Land Gate
- Enjoy a sunset boat tour
- Spend an afternoon at Plaža Borik
- Day trip to Ugljan – sign up for a self-guided bike tour
Accommodations in Zadar
- Affordable: Vila Siega or Sweet Studio Mare
- Mid-range: Tinel Superior Residence or Apartments Marina or DeZign Superior Apartments
- Luxury: Villa Sky or Bastion Heritage Hotel
Split and Hvar for 5 days
Split and Hvar are two of the most popular destinations on the Dalmatian Coast. Split is well-known for its historical buildings, vibrant nightlife, and world-class museums, while Hvar has landmarks considered UNESCO world heritage sites. In fact, it’s the only island in the world with 4 UNESCO world heritage sites – this is why you need plenty of time here.
Visit Split for its galleries, palaces, and Roman monuments that everyone can enjoy. It is also a great base to go island hopping. On the other hand, Hvar has scenic beaches, lush vineyards, secluded coves, and quaint coastal towns.
The bus ride from Zadar to Split is about 3 hrs and 35 minutes. Another option is driving, with a travel duration of 1 hr and 45 min. If you want to go to Hvar, the travel time is 50 min via ferry and 2 hrs and 16 min via car ferry.
Things to do in Split and Hvar
- Day trip to Krka Waterfalls – book a guided tour with a boat ride
- Blue Lagoon Shipwreck and Solta tour
- Old Town and Diocletian Palace walking tour – check the reviews and the tour price
- Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower
- ATV quad safari tour – book your guided tour
- Book the famous 5 Islands tour with a stop at Blue Cave – more info
- Spanjola Fortress
- Sail on a Catamaran to Hvar
- Blue and Green Caves boat trip
- Sign up for a food tour and/or a cooking class
- Lavender souvenir shopping
- Go white rafting and cliff jumping at Cetina
- Day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park from Split – check the price
- Day tour from Split to Mostar and Herzegovina – look at the available schedule
Accommodations in Split
- Affordable: Downtown Hostel or Guesthouse F
- Mid-range: Hotel Slavija or Luxury Rooms Pino or Valenti Rooms
- Luxury: Hotel Globo or Apartments Tudor
Dubrovnik for 4 days
Dubrovnik is among the most prominent destinations in the Mediterranean. It is even dubbed as the pearl of Adriatic. Hence, you should stay here for at least 4 days if you’re planning to stay for 20 days in Croatia. This city is well-known for its marble pavings, medieval architecture, rich history and culture, and stunning landscapes.
Split to Dubrovnik covers a distance of 230 km and can be reached through 3 modes of transportation. The travel time via bus lasts 4 to 4.5 hours, 4.5 to 6 hours via catamaran charter, and 3.5 hours via private transfer.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
- Start with the Old Town walking tour – go with a local guide
- Game of Thrones – book the ultimate and most-reviewed tour
- A cable car ride to Mount SRD – get your ticket in advance
- Rector’s Palace
- Blue Cave – don’t miss this must-see location in Croatia
- Sea Kayaking and snorkelling tour
- Fort Lovrijenac
- Lokrum Island
- Elafiti Islands – book a fantastic cruise
- Day tour to Kravica Waterfalls, Mostar, and Pocitelj – check the available dates
- Countryside and Arboretum ATV tour
- Sign up for a food and drinks tour with a local guide
- Day trip to Montenegro or Montenegro with Bosnia
Accommodations in Dubrovnik
- Affordable: Guest House Bradas or Hostel EuroAdria
- Mid-range: Hotel Adria or Scalini Palace or Royal Neptun Hotel
- Luxury: Rixos Premium or Hotel Dubrovnik Palace
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS IN CROATIA ITINERARY
Croatia is full of historical sites as it has more than 2,000 years of cultural history. Dubrovnik city walls, Pula Amphitheater, and St. Mark’s Square are some of the historical places you could visit here. It also has numerous museums and churches.
For nature lovers, you’ll be ecstatic to know that it has eight national parks that are all worth visiting and foods that you wouldn’t be able to forget. Overall, Croatia is a stunning and fascinating country with something to offer everyone.
3 weeks in Croatia will be filled with visiting old towns, understanding the country’s history and culture, taking fun photos at Game of Thrones filming locations, visiting national parks, endless days on the beach, fantastic cruises, and lots of tasty food to try. I hope this itinerary for 20 days in Croatia has helped you plan your own trip.