Renting a car in Croatia is the best way to see this beautiful country. A countrywide highway system was constructed after 1991 and it’s an amazing piece of engineering which means its easy and fun to drive.
Car rental pickup is available at all the major airports; Zagreb, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik so starting your adventure is easy! If you are planning on driving from Zagreb to the coastal area of Dalmatia, a perfect detour from the main motorway is the world-famous Plitvice Lakes national park. It’s renowned for its lakes arranged in cascades and are all interconnected and separated by natural dams of travertine.
The coastal area of Croatia is known as Dalmatia and is the most popular destination. Having your own car means you can discover the cities, villages, islands and beaches at your own pace and schedule. Exploring the islands is easy as the government run car ferry service is efficient and economical.
Once on the coast, taking the main motorway will get you where you want to go quickly, but if you want to take your time enjoy the view of the Adriatic Sea, take the coastal road. It winds its way through coastal villages where you can stop and enjoy the amazing local seafood or stop for a swim. Getting back onto the main motorway is easy through various access points.
Starting in the north, the city of Pula has the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Take a day trip to the Brijuni National Park which features a sightseeing tour of the island and entrance to a safari animal park. Pula is also great starting point for the short one-hour drive to the 2000-year-old towns of Porec and Rovinj.
Driving south take the motorway to the next city on the coast; Zadar which is over 2500 years old. Many of the Roman and Venetian buildings and relics are preserved in the center of “Old Town”. With it’s narrow stone streets and outdoor dining and café’s it’s a pedestrian only zone and a perfect spot to enjoy the local food and people watch. There is a large public parking facility nearby where you can safely leave your car. Booking a boat excursion to the Kornati Islands National park is a great day trip, most tours include food and drinks – a great way to get out on the water and see the islands.
Driving south from Zadar the coastal road winds its way through numerous towns and villages. The village of Tisno is ideal for an alfresco lunch right on the water. One hour and a half south of Zadar is Krka National Park. It’s a magical place of waterfalls and gorges as well as fresh water swimming holes. This national park has 5 entrances, at Skradin, Roški Slap, Krka Monastery, Lozovac and Burnum – all are accessible by vehicles.
There is public parking at the village of Skradin and this village should not be missed. It’s right on the water, but it’s freshwater and a favorite spot of the yachting crowd. Waterfront dining is a must among the yachts. From Skradin, you can get back onto the main motorway and be in Split in less than two hours. The city of Split is famous for being built around the ruins of the Roman emperor Diocletians’ palace.
The center of the main town is still within the walls of the palace ruins so it’s best to find a parking facility and walk or Uber to the old town. There are numerous excellent AirBNB options right within the walls of the palace and in the evening the town comes to life with plenty of outdoor dining options and live music. The waterfront (Riva) is an excellent spot to spend a few hours over lunch or coffee and watch the busy port and people.
Split is the perfect starting point to discover some of the islands as it is the main ferry port in Croatia. There are numerous choices of islands to discover. Most of these islands are more than an hour ride, so an overnight trip at the least is your best option. The island of Hvar is very popular with the international celebrity crowd and there is always an impressive collection of multi-million-dollar yachts on display. Take the car ferry to Stari-Grad and drive to the town of Hvar, which is less than an hour away from the ferry port. There are numerous public beaches and beach clubs along the waterfront and at night the town has many amazing outdoor restaurants where you can enjoy the proverb: “Fish, to taste good, must swim three times, once in water, once in butter, once and in wine”.
Once back on the mainland in Split, you can jump back onto the motorway and head south toward the “Pearl of the Adriatic” Dubrovnik. The motorway is only completed part of the way to Dubrovnik, the rest of the way is by scenic coastal road, so you will get the best of both worlds on your three-hour drive. At one point the road crosses into Bosnia-Herzegovina and then back into Croatia so make sure you have your passport with you.
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular tourist destinations and the old town is an ancient and walled, so be prepared to find parking outside the old town and walk or taxi into the center. There are numerous guided tours available including the newest one the Game of Thrones’ Tour.
Hiring A Car In Croatia
If you want to travel Croatia at your own pace then hiring a car is the best way. Speak to our reservations team who will be happy to find the right package for you. Call us on 0113 88 00 408, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with us online.
There are numerous petrol stations and rest stops that offer great food to go or sit-down meals on the main motorways as well as on the smaller roads. The Croatian Auto Club has a great smartphone app that can help you plan your perfect trip Michelin has a great app that will even estimate your petrol usage. Enjoy Croatia with the freedom of your own vehicle!