We travelled in Croatia, Montenegro & Bosnia for 10 perfect days. This itinerary will take to the best places in the Balkan from stunning Plitvice lakes national park, medieval city walls of Dubrovnik, spectacular landscapes of Kotor bay in Montenegro to iconic Stari Most (old bridge) in Mostar, Montenegro.
This is a road trip itinerary and hiring a car is recommended. Driving in Croatia was almost like driving in any other European countries. There are toll highways which are the fastest way to get to a destination and slower coastal scenic roads without tolls passing through beautiful small towns and panoramic views over Adriatic sea.
Driving in Montenegro can be a bit dangerous, and you need to be extra careful there, the drivers are impatient overtaking without looking at the traffic coming from the opposite direction. I had a couple of close encounters. While in Bosnia, the roads were often empty and we didn't have any problem, it was very comfortable to drive in Bosnia.
Here is the 10 days Balkan Itinerary
The old town of Zadar is actually quite beautiful, stroll around in the old town. Check out the people square and walk from here to the St. Mary's Church. We loved to just sit around watching people walking by. One of the biggest tourist attraction in Zadar is the Sea organ at the edge of the old town. The sunset from this place is really special.
If you are not jetlagged or tired, I would highly recommend driving to Plitvice lakes so you can be inside the national park around 7 am before the crowds arrive.
This national park is known for 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, those extend into a limestone canyon. There are scenic walkways, hiking trails, and an electric boat links the 12 upper and 4 lower lakes. The latter is the site of Veliki Slap, a 78m-high waterfall. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most crowded national parks I have ever been to. It is highly advised to be there very early (park entrance opens at 7 am so be there before 7 am) to avoid being stuck behind crowds on the narrow walking paths.
The historical old town of Split is one of the most beautiful old towns and the highlight of the relatively small old town is to visit the Diocletian's Palace. This huge, fortress-like palace served as a residence for a Roman emperor & the military garrison. Admission to the church, crypt, and baptistery worthwhile. The bell tower is currently closed for renovations. Watch for the crowds. Best to go early before cruisers and tourists buses arrive.
Due to the limited time, you should decide which Island you want to visit, both can be easily visited either by taking a return ferry from Split without taking the car on the ferry. We visited both Hvar & Brac by taking the ferry from Split to Hvar and next day took another ferry from Hvar to Bol which is near to the iconic Zlatni Rat beach and hike to Vidova Gora, for the best views of the iconic beach.
Dubrovnik is known for its distinctive Old Town which is encircled with massive 16th century stone walls. Its well-preserved buildings range from baroque St. Blaise Church to Renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector's Palace, now a history museum. Paved with limestone, the pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with shops and restaurants. First thing you should do in Dubrovnik is to walk on the impressive walls with spectacular views over the old town and Adriatic sea and spot the spaces you want to visit later during the day or next day. During the day the old town is packed with tourists especially due to cruise ships. At night it is more peaceful and spectacular to walk around.
Montenegro is spectacular and Bay of Kotor is in the heart of the Adriatic Sea in southwestern Montenegro. The bay looks fjord-like with historic old towns and spectacular scenery of mountains and sea. Our first stop was in Herceg Novi at the entrance of Kotor Bay, a small town is well worth a stop. We continue further to the ancient town of Perast which is a fabulous tiny town closest to two tiny islands of Saint George and Our Lady of Rock. The boat tours to Saint George and Our Lady of Rock leave from Perast regularly.
Kotor is amazing and one of the most beautiful towns in the Balkan. Characterized by winding streets and squares, its medieval old town has several Romanesque churches, including Kotor Cathedral. There are cats everywhere in the town and also a symbol of the town. Hike the Ladder of Kotor to San Giovanni castle for the best views of the Bay and Town.
From Kotor to Mostar, the drive takes around 3 hours. It is a very scenic drive and especially after crossing the border into Bosnia, the traffic is very light and very comfortable to drive. Mostar on Neretva River is known for the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a reconstructed medieval arched bridge. The nearby alleys are full of shops and market stalls, and the Old Bridge Museum explores the bridge's long history. The old town is small and can be easily seen in few hours but stay here at least a day. Visit Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque, a narrow staircase leads up to the Mosque's minaret for panoramic city views and numerous viewpoints of the Stari Most (old bridge).
Mostar to Zadar is almost 3½ hours drive and along the way, you can visit 3 most visited places in Bosnia. First, visit Blagaj Tekke few centuries-old monastery built under very high rocks, at the base of a river springs, then visit the historic village of Počitelj and the last stop will be the Kravica waterfall along the Croatian border. After entering Croatia stay on the toll highway which is the faster way to take you back to Zadar. It is a very comfortable day trip to visit all these places before getting back to Zadar.
From April to May or September to October, it is not very hot and very pleasant during the day. It is also not crowded during these months, prices are low for accommodation. June to August is the peak season and also very hot.
We visited at the end of October and we had perfect weather, around 25-30 °C during the day and very pleasant evenings.
We followed this itinerary, and I was the only one driving and at times I felt we spent more time on the road than sightseeing and it was tiring to drive. Depending on how flexible you are, the changes I would recommend are