The Croatia road trip tackling the A1 motorway, or Dalmatina, is extremely popular among tourists as it easily runs along Croatia, connecting Zagreb to Ploče. In the winter months (November-March), you’ll be treated to snow-covered landscapes. However, plan for journeys to be interrupted by road closures. The summer months (July-August) will allow you to take full advantage of the pretty landscapes and stunning beaches, but it comes with the increased price tag of peak season. Consider taking around 10 days in the shoulder season of April to June, or September-October, to explore this part of Croatia. You’ll still get all the best bits without it being so busy. It’s possible to land at the capital city of Zagreb and collect your hire car from the airport. Due to the landscape, you might find it preferable to pay a one-way rental charge to return the vehicle in Dubrovnik.
Top tip: Consisting of the E65 and E71 roads, ensure you have plenty of cash for the toll gates. Payments by card are often accepted.
Dubrovnik. Photo by: Emi Cristea/Adobe Stock
Known as the city of museums, there’s lots squeezed into this one area. Along with art galleries and quaint cafes, you’ll be able to while away time here before setting off on your road trip. It’s worthwhile spending a few hours getting culturally acclimatised to the area to get in the mood for the journey ahead. Highlights include Crkva sv. Marka (St Mark’s Church), with its brightly-tiled roof, and for an interesting take on break-ups (and museums), visit the Museum of Broken Relationships. This physical and virtual space allows people to express their heartache in a creative way. You should consider your current company and situation before attending though as it won’t be suitable for all… Alternatively, visit Jarun Lake and if the weather smiles in your favour, try a water sport or swimming.
Head out of Zagreb on the E65 to Karlovac.
Not everybody may choose to stop here but should you wish, pop along to the oldest monument in the town, the castle Dubovac, and visit the City Museum. History buffs should definitely make time for the Turanj Military Complex.
From Karlovac, switch to the D1 and you’ll be on track for Plitvice.
Take a stroll around Plitvice National Park. Photo by: Onokung/Adobe Stock
This National Park consists of 16 interconnected lakes. Explore all the mountains and waterfalls here with a few hours. The micro-climate can be unpredictable so try not to be too disheartened if it rains. If the weather stays clear however, this is sure to be one of the highlights from your visit.
Continue along the D1 and connect to the E71 via D522. Head towards the coast and Zadar.
This ancient capital of Dalmatia has plenty of roman ruins to discover. The waterfront area is the real attraction here. Catch the sun as it’s setting for a truly picturesque moment. Locate the Sea Organ to hear the sea playing its own musical instrument. On top, this appears as a series of steps, but below the water’s surface are 35 pipes which create noise as the waves push air through them. Nearby, the Sun Salutation, created from photovoltaic plates that store solar energy, switches on at night to create a fantastic LED light show.
Take the coastal road southeast to Murter.
Sun Salutation installation at Zadar. Photo by: lexlero/Adobe Stock
Murter Island is the largest within the Šibenik archipelago and is armed with plenty of beaches and coves to explore. The island is easily accessible by car as it connects to the mainland by bridge. There are numerous cafes and restaurants around the island so you can sample some of the very best Dalmatian specialities. Spend some time relaxing on the beaches or hiking around the island to build up an appetite. It’s said that the old World War II base located here is haunted – will you spot any ghosts? Take a trip out from the island to explore the Kornati National Park. Participate in diving or snorkelling around some of the 89 islands.
Krka National Park
Back inland, head to Lozovac to enter through the main entrance to Krka National Park. This 100-square kilometre area contains over 800 different types of flora and fauna and should not be missed off your Croatia itinerary. Visit the beautiful Skradinski Buk waterfall, the largest in the park, and swim in the waters. Take along a picnic in your hire car and spend a relaxing few hours meandering the park. Consider also taking a boat trip, such as to the Krka monastery, to explore the area further.
Krka National Park. Photo by: anshar73/Adobe Stock
From Lozovac, take the E65 toll-road towards Split. If you have time on your hands, take the coastal route, D8. The second largest city in Croatia successfully combines traditional architecture with a modern approach. The city lays nestled between dramatic mountains and the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. The Diocletian’s Palace from the 4th century houses Roman ruins within its walls and is one of the star attractions here. Soak up all the historical influences Split has to offer with a stroll around the museums and ruins.
Bear in mind that if you’re travelling to Dubrovnik, you’ll need to take your hire car through Bosnia & Herzegovina so be sure to have your passport.
Remember- Not all suppliers will allow vehicles to be taken into another country. When making your car hire booking, on Step 1 of the booking process you’ll be asked if you wish to take the vehicle into another country. You must click ‘Yes’ and select ‘Bosnia & Herzegovina’ from the list available. There may be a fee for this. Should this option not show, return to the quotation page and select an alternative vehicle from a different supplier. For advice, please don’t hesitate to contact our Reservations Team who will be more than happy to assist you.
This city was famously described by George Bernard Shaw as ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ and it’s not difficult to see why. The stunning architecture and walkable city walls are a joy. Becoming ever increasingly popular among fans of the hit TV shows, Game of Thrones, the city jostles with fans taking advantage of the many tours on offer. If that’s not your style, consider hiking or taking the cable car to Mount Srđ, or taking kayaking on the sea. Relax at a charming café in the Old Town, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and watch the world go by.
Explore the Game of Thrones filming locations in Dubrovnik. Photo by: hramovnick/Adobe Stock
Book your hire car
Zest currently work with the suppliers Last Minute, AvantCar and Oryx Rent a Car who allow a border crossing into Bosnia and a one-way rental from Zagreb Airport. Vehicles from Hertz and Alamo are also available at Zagreb Airport.
Your Croatia road trip
Are you planning to travel to Croatia soon? Which sights are you hoping to catch? If you’ve travelled this route before, what highlights would you add in- let us know in the comments.
Written by Jessica Juby.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Want our blogs emailed direct to you? Sign up below to get updates featuring our blogs and car hire top tips. Receive the best deals on car hire straight to your inbox.