You’re preparing a roadtrip in Croatia in campervan… In our mind, Croatia was one of the Top 3 for summer destinations in Europe. Sun, beautiful beaches, waterfalls and roman ruins… Enough to party, sunbath, visit and eat… that’s right. However you should know that there are pros and cons. Especially when traveling in Croatia by van during high season.
Super spots, must-sees, things to avoid … we give you here our experience after 3 weeks of road trip in Croatia in campervan.
Visit Croatia in campervan
To help you organize your roadtrip in Croatia, you will find here all our must-sees and tips to visit Croatia by van. We were there at the beginning of the big tourist season (from mid-June to early July), certainly not the best time. But surprisingly, still acceptable … depending on where we went.
1/ Our itinerary and stops in Croatia
Croatia roadtrip itinerary. Find below the map of our roadtrip in Croatia in campervan.
Just for information, even if Croatia is part of the European Union (OK for our French mobile phone), they use Kuna (HKR) and not Euro. In October 2018, 1 € = 7.43 HKR.
Stop 1.1/ Risnjak Natural Park and the Kupa river
Shortly after the border, arriving from Slovenia, we stopped at the edge of the Risnjak Natural Park, in the Gorski Gotar region. A beautiful park with dense flora and fauna. There is an entry ticket of 30 HKR (~ 4/5 €) for an adult (half for children).
Hiking, biking, animal watching… there is plenty to do here.
We started with the small hike to the source of the Kupa River, a beautiful start for our Croatia summer roadtrip. We followed our “Maps” app but the paths are also on NP Risnjak’s official website. Starting from the Razloge village to the source of Izvor Kupe, the walk lasts 30 mins for 1,5km and 200m of negative elevation (but you have to come back of course!).
We then went for the “Leska” educational trail to the west of Crni Lug village (Leska Education Trail: 4km for 1 hour). 23 information signs about geology and wildlife, very interesting and easy as it’s all flat.
We thought to climb the Mount Risnjnak (1528m), the highest in the park, but after 2 days, we had to move forward! Just for information, the park and its summit take their name from the Croatian word “Ris” which means lynx.
1st Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: In nature, 51317 Zelin Crnoluski – GPS : 45.410099 / 14.6829
Stop 1.2 / A nice stop, the Lokvarsko lake
Just 1h15 south of Risnjak Park, we stopped at the Lokvarsko Lake. Very nice stop… Possibility to swim or walk around the lake (be careful, it takes about 16km to go all around…) the northern part is nicer.
2cd Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: A small parking South-East of the lake.
51316 Homer, Croatia GPS : 46.362598 / 14.7197
Stop 1.3/ A beer in Karlovac city
Yes, Karlovačko is one of the 2 iconic beers of Croatia (with Ožjusko, whose region is situated north-east). So even if we had not planned a stop before Zagreb, a short break to drink this beer in the city from where it comes has emerged.
Apart from his beer, the city is worth a stop. Nicknamed the 4 rivers city, it’s nice to walk there. A nice city center with its small streets and historic monuments … If you drive close Karlovac during your roadtrip in Croatia by van, do not hesitate to stop!
Stop 1.4/ Zagreb, a colorful capital!
Zagreb, the Croatian capital, is worths a detour. Small metropolis full of charm, we liked to stroll in the city. 2 days were enough, finally 3, but we spent a full day at Jarun Lake, further south.
Stroll in the Dolac Market Square, with its fruits, vegetables and some craft stalls… close to Kaptol Square and the famous Cathedral of Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary. Walk the lively and colorful little streets… with their bars and restaurants.
In the Upper Town, have a look to the Museum Of Broken Relationship (25HKR) and the impressive St. Mark’s Church… especially its roof’s tiles that seem straight out of a box of lego.
We were in Croatia during the Football World Cup, and had the chance to watch a match of the Croatian and the French teams at the Zrinjevac Park in the Zagreb Football Zone.
3rd Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: At the Jarun Lake Park south of Zagreb. A really cool spot for a place close to the capital. Great lake where you can swim, BBQ, shower, toilet… perfect for vanlife. You have to pay to park here… but for a van it’s the car price. Other tip, we said that we were going to stay only 1 day, and stayed 4 days for the same price (5 €) . GPS: 45.780201 / 15.9373
Stop 1.5/ Plitvice lakes, N°1 tourist attraction in Croatia
How to go to Croatia and not discover the beautiful Natural Park of Plitvice Lakes? Indeed, it is really a beautiful place. In the park, you’ll get around on foot, by boat, on small wooden paths on stilts over a turquoise blue water so crystalline that the fishes seem to be in suspension (ok, I maybe get carried away…). There are just 16 lakes connected by 92 waterfalls, yes that’s it!
However…what you need to know:
- During the high season, it’s like Disney Land. Even if you arrive 1st, get ready to have only 1/2h, 1h of calm, then it’s the crush. You will stand in line on the wooden paths, even if you don’t want to stop to take a picture.
- Prices change A LOT depending the season. From 55 HKR in low season (8 €) to 250 HKR (34 €) for an adult (including bus and boat shuttles, not available in low season).
- There are 8 different hikes (4 starts per parking), depending on the time you have to visit the parc and how much you love to walk!
- There are 2 parkings (not FREE, 70 HKR/day or 7HKR/hour), chose your parking depending on the walk you have choosen.
- Find all the useful info on the park website (prices per season, parking, hours, differents hikes…).
Concerning us, we chose the K2 path (from the 2nd car park, the one more south) which is about 18 km. But we adapted it with an early shuttle bus to the most northwestern lake (Proscansko) and the boat shuttle (which runs all the Kozjak lake), It took us 6 hours including picnic and photo stops. And no problem, the trails are clearly marked.
4th Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: Before arriving to the lakes we slept approx. 40 mins north from the 2cd parking 2, in the nature, close to a small church. Zero people. GPS : 45.211201 / 15.5385
Stop 1.6/ The beautiful but touristic Zadar
Zadar is a beautiful city, its town center (old town) is very small. One day is enough to visit it on foot without any problem. Prepare to meet a lot of people in season!
Enter through the pretty Porte de Terre-Ferme and its Venetian winged lion. We loved strolling in the alleys and its colorful market where you will find your happiness in fruits, vegetables, homemade olive oil… You will see, there is also a crowd of restaurants, bars, ice cream makers, shops …
Take time to stroll along its beautiful seafront and discover the iconic Nikola Bašić’s chef-d’œuvres, a Croatian architect. The Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun. These creations use Nature (ocean current made by waves for the Organ and the sun energy for the 2nd) to produce music and light… Personally, I was particularly touched by the Sea Organ. But we decided to put a picture of the Greeting to the Sun because it’s more visual!
For a view of the whole old town, you can climb the St. Anastasia Cathedral’s tower for 2 €. The view must be nice as Zadar is really a little piece of land that plunges into the Adriatic Sea. But it’s forbidden to doggies.
5th Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: Small parking near a small beach with shower and toilet (only open the day)! Be careful, the parking empties at the end of the day but fills up at 7am. GPS: 4.105828 / 15.23401
Stop 1.7/ Green & Blue, the KRKA Natural Park
It seems that Croatia is full of Natural Park, and still, we didn’t visit them all. But just for your info, there is always an entrance fee (more or less reasonable price), but get ready. KRKA Park be compared to Plitvice … translucent lakes and beautiful waterfalls.
If we had 1 to recommend… it’s hard, but it would be Plitvice. Why ?
- It’s more impressive and bigger.
- Bus and boat shuttles are included in the Plitvice entrance fee (in high season). The only boat included in KRKA ticket is the one to get to Lozovak if you begin from Skradin (we went directly to Lozovak to arrive earlier).
But on the other hand:
- KRKA entrance fee is a bit cheaper AND the parking is Free.
- You can swim in KRKA (not in Plitvice).
- You can go off the beaten track (a bit more than in Plitvice where you can not leave the path).
6th Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: it is certainly our favorite for the spots of dodo in nature in Croatia in van (off island), it is to say to you. Posed at the edge of Lake Visovac and in front of the small island of the same name … A superb moment! GPS: 43.864399 / 15.9612
Stop 1.8/ Split, a town that smells Croatia
We didn’t have any particular expectations for Split but we really enjoyed the city. The context probably helped… the Football World Cup (with a good French team), very nice meetings, evenings that end at 5am on the beach…
Split is the 2nd largest city of Croatia but its old town is really charming and its seafront is just great. Here, the Adriatic is turquoise blue and the water a must in summer.
Our tops: stroll through the Diocletian Palace… no it’s not a museum, just a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
An open-air museum with Roman ruins, narrow streets inside old walls containing bars, restaurants and shops. Go and have a look on the Jupiter Temple guarded by the sphinxes.
The entrance to the Cathedral of Saint Domnius is free. And if you leave the old town by the big northern gate, you will face with the Gregorius of Nin statue.
And except the many very nice Split’s beaches (see our Sleeping spot for example), if you need to get out of the city, hike to the top of Marjan Park (in the morning). It’s a nice walk, without being a must do in Split. But if like us, you have a dog that is tired to walk around town, it’ll be perfect.
7th Sleeping Spot in Croatia in campervan: A small car park west of Split, about a 30-minute walk from the Diocletian Palace (via the nice waterfront). And 3 minutes from a small rocky beach (turquoise water) with shower, continuing further to the west there is also a sandy beach: GPS: 43.504501 / 16.4212 (24 Setaliste Ivana Mestrovica 21000 Split).
Stop 1.9 / Brac Island, great destination
We spent 4 days and 4 nights on the Brac island. Find all information to visit this Croatian island (with or without a campervan) in our next article “Visit the Croatian Brac Island” (LIEN very soon). Most of our best sleeping spots on Croatia seafront are here in Brac… doest it sounds good enough for you?
Stop 1.10/ Makarska and its crazy beaches
Last stop before Bosnia… very very nice beaches (but too touristic during high season). Worth the trip if you’re around… or out of july-august.
We were supposed to visit Dubrovnik after Bosnia, but a new change in our program guide us direclty to Montenegro… maybe one day!?
> Here our travel in Montenegro with a van!
2/ Vanlife in Croatia
What you need to know to prepare your roadtrip in Croatia in campervan.
2.1/ Wild camping in Croatia
Wild camping is forbidden in Croatia, and like for Slovenia, we were told (and we read) that the authorities were hunting wild camping and that it was very complicated. Again, and while we were almost in high season (mid-June to early July), we didn’t faced any problem with our van in Croatia. Of course, we tried to be very discreet.
(> Here our article to prepare a van roadtrip in Slovenia.)
2.2/ Croatian’s roads
There is no need for a sticker/vignette but motorways are not Free in Croatia. However, we avoided them as the roads are in very good condition. The secondary road network we took during these 3 weeks roadtrip in Croatia in campervan was good enough. Take a look at this site to get an idea of highways’ prices and other useful info.
2.3/ Finding water in Croatia
Regarding hygiene, everything depends on the period. But in this season (end June-early July) we had no problem in Croatia in campervan. Most beaches have showers. Just be careful not to use soap if the water flows directly into nature. A solar camping shower is also perfect if you’re not on the coast.
To get water for our van, it was the same. We always found water easily. Shower, faucet, on the coast, in town. The “Maps” mobile app (with a “drinking water” search) helps a lot too.
2.4/ Visit Croatian islands with a van
As we had just 3 weeks in Croatia, we only visited Brac island. Except ferry price (not that expensive) it was easy to plan to visit a Croatian island, event at the last moment. Ferries are frequent and if you do not exceed 2m high, you’ll pay the car price. Once there, we found very good spots for our van and had no problem with the locals.
> Find here our itinerary on Brac island with a van!
GET INTO THE CROATIAN MOOD
Discover our playlist 100% Croatian on our Youtube channel.
>> You don’t have your own camper van? You can rent one from Balkan Campers. They are renting 13 legendary old school VW buses and 6 newer ones. They are based in Slovenia but deliver the vans to Croatia too!
Do not hesitate to write us if you like this article or if you need more info to prepare your roadtrip in Croatia.
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