Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Exeter Essential Croatia for Families

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

natural beauty, Croatia has much to offer those who are traveling as a family, even those traveling with young children! From biking through the beautiful roads and towns of the Istrian Countryside to exploring the historical sites in Split and Dubrovnik, to enjoying the sun and water at the numerous islands and National Parks, Croatia has something to suit all tastes.

Visit Istria and fall in love with its landscape and hill-top towns. Here you can learn the secrets of fresco painting in the small town of Roc and even create your own! You can go to Livade and go on a hunt for truffles with an expert and his trusty dogs. Get active and enjoy some biking and hiking through the countryside or hop on a boat and make your way to Brijuni National Park.

The Dalmatian coastline brings plenty of historical and cultural sites to explore. Spend time wandering through the historic Diocletian’s Palace in Split or walking along the city walls of Dubrovnik. Visit the countryside or venture off on a boat to the many islands off the coast! Each island has its own distinct character and are ideal places for relaxation and fun in the sun for the kids!

For those families that enjoy nature and are active, Croatia has many National Parks. Two of the most popular ones, Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park are easily accessible from some of the major cities. Both are great places for families to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and emerald-green lakes. Some of the other outdoor activities that can be arranged are biking and hiking tours, white water rafting and ziplining at Cetina River, kayaking along the seaside in Dubrovnik or in Hvar, and of course plenty of swim and snorkel in the sparkling Adriatic!

Cooking classes are also a favorite amongst families and can be arranged in many of the destinations in Croatia. So, if interested, roll up your sleeves, join in on a cooking class and learn about the local ingredients and traditional dishes this destination has to offer.

With its varying landscape and mixture of history and unspoiled natural beauty, Croatia has something to offer each member of your family. So, give this destination a chance and plan your next family vacation with Exeter International!

Download a PDF itinerary here.

Day 1
Arrival | Rovinj

Arrival into Venice You will be met by your private driver, who will be waiting for you just outside of customs, after you pick up your luggage.

Your drive today is just approximately four hours to Rovinj. Along the way, you can stop in the town of Porec, where a local guide will meet you.

An extremely important town during Roman times, it was later sacked by the Goths, conquered by the Byzantines, and gifted to the Patriarchate of Aquilia by the Franks. During medieval times, it opted for Venetian rule but again faced attack from the Genoese and the Austrians not to mention being inundated by plague and pirates! The tumult of influences has resulted in one of the most beautiful destinations on the Istrian peninsula, splitting at the seams with its fascinating history.

Your guide will take you on a visit to the famous Basilica of Euphrasius. This magnificent church dates back to the 6th Century AD and some of the original mosaics still exist inside its walls. Decorated in Byzantine fashion, all the mosaics are on an exquisite gold background and beautiful Greek marble columns support the walls. The Basilica was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1997.

Continue on to Rovinj and enjoy your evening at leisure.

Exeter Services: Arrival Transfer; Guide in Porec (3 Hours)

Hotel: Grand Park Rovinj

Day 2
Rovinj & Brijuni | Rovinj & Brijuni Slavinia - Rovinj, Croatia

This morning your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a stroll into town. Today you’ll have an introduction to Rovinj. Your guide will take you to visit the Church of St. Euphemia. The Venetian Baroque structure dominated the Old Town center of Rovinj and is dedicated to St. Euphemia, the patron saint of the city.

Afterward, you will drive to the ferry port to meet one of the boats to the island of Brijuni. The Brijuni archipelago is made up of 14 islands, some of which have been inhabited since Paleolithic times. In antiquity and the Middle Ages, the islands were mainly known for their quarries, the stone of which was used to build many of the buildings and bridges in Venice. Later, the Austrians fortified some of the larger islands to support their naval base in Pula. It was not until the 19th century that the islands’ potential for tourism was realized. A Viennese entrepreneur bought the whole archipelago and developed an exclusive resort with hotels, restaurants, a casino, and a marina which became the playground for European and American celebrities and aristocrats. After the Second World War, Josip Broz Tito, the leader of communist Yugoslavia, declared the island a restricted zone and made it his summer residence. It was only after his death that the Brijun Island was opened to visitors as a national park. Today you will explore the island via private golf cart.

On the western coast of the island, you may see the extensive ruins of a Byzantine castle complex as well as those of a Roman villa from the 1st century. You will also see the fenced-off White Villa – a former Venetian residence which was restored in the early 18th century and again in the 1950s to become the summer mansion of Marshal Tito during his reign as the president of the former Yugoslavia. Tito used this villa to receive various foreign dignitaries and delegations and many formal receptions and important events took place here. Among the island museum’s best exhibits is the ‘Tito on Brijni’ which features a huge collection of photos of the former Yugoslav leader and offers an insight into the life and political career of this Communist dictator.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Driver (4 – 5 Hours); Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Grand Park Rovinj

Day 3
Istrian Countryside | Istrian Countryside Istria, Truffles, Croatia

Meet your guide and driver for your day in the Istrian countryside. The interior of Istria, with its rugged and hilly terrain, is very different from its coast.

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In the center of north Istria, 1,140 feet above sea-level, you will visit the tiny village of Roč famous for their beautiful 11th century frescoes. Here you will meet Hari, an art teacher who holds the key to the local church. He will tell you all about the frescoes and then, after plying you with some local cherry grappa, will teach you how to paint your own!

There are many picturesque villages in this area, such as the artist colony of Groznjan and the medieval town of Motovun. Your guide will discuss with you which villages you would like to visit, based on your interests.

The artist colony of Groznjan was all but deserted after WWII until being revitalized as a center for artists.  Groznjan is also a favorite of musicians, as the International Cultural Centre of Young Musicians has its seat here.  You will have time to wander the twisting streets, filled with shops from local artisans, or perhaps to take in an impromptu music or drama performance in the main square.

Motovun is an excellent example of the ancient townships that dotted the Istrian peninsula long ago. We think it’s worth the long trek up to the top of the hill, so eat a hearty breakfast!  Motovun is a medieval city that dates back to the 12th century, which thankfully remained intact owing to its hilltop location and walled fortifications.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Grand Park Rovinj

Day 4
Pula & Villa Meneghetti | Pula & Villa Meneghetti Pula, Istria, Croatia

This morning, meet your driver and guide and then head to the town of Pula. Pula became famous under the Romans during the 2nd century BCE and became an Episcopal seat during the 5th century. It was ransacked by the Ostrogoths but regained power under the Byzantines as a naval port during the 6th and 7th centuries. It fell into decline until the Austro-Hungarians gained power and established their naval fleet here. The ancient barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still house Croatia’s naval forces.

Upon arrival, your guide will take you on a walking tour of Pula. You will start at the historic center of the city at its most famous landmark, the Pula Amphitheater, which dates back to the 1st century – one of the best- preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Today it is Pula’s main cultural venue and is known for its music and film festivals.

Continue to visit the Golden Door at the Temple of Augustus, built between 2 BCE and 14 CE, which is dedicated to the goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus. You will also see the City Hall with its blend of architectural styles, the Hercules Gate and the fragments of the city walls, as well as the Forum, the central square of classical and medieval Pula.

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This afternoon your guide and driver will take you to the tiny village of Bale, not far from the Adriatic. Today your destination is the Relais & Chateau Villa Meneghetti, known for its vineyards and olive oil. This gorgeous estate is your stop today for a wine tasting of local specialties followed by a light luncheon. While enjoying a wine tasting, the kids can enjoy some time in the villa’s pool.

Afterwards, head back to Rovinj and the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Monte Mulini

Day 5
Rovinj to Plitvice | Rovinj to Plitvice Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Enjoy your last morning at leisure in Rovinj. Upon check-out time, your driver will meet you for your drive to Plitvice Lakes. The duration today is approximately four hours.

Your destination today is a new rustic-luxury resort located in the heart of Plitvice Lakes National Park. You are surrounded by forest and plains and the resort is made up of traditional wooden houses.

If you get an early start today, you can get a head start on exploring Croatia’s most famous national park. Some of the activities offered by your resort include Nordic walking, trekking, archery and more. Your driver will give you your multi-day national park tickets.

Exeter Services: Transfer from Rovin to Plitvice

Hotel: Fenomen Plitvice Lakes

Day 6
Plitvice to Split | Plitvice to Split Split, Croatia

This morning, you have private park guide to take you through Plitvice Lakes National Park—one of the most spectacular national parks in the whole of Croatia.

The park is located in the very heart of the country, where an area of over 100 square miles is covered with lakes, waterfalls, and forest, now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage. It contains 16 lakes, separated by natural dams, which can be explored on foot. In addition, electric buses and boats take visitors around the area following fixed routes.

The lakes are famous for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue, and which change constantly depending on the concentration of minerals or micro-organisms in the water and the angle of the sunlight. The whole plateau is densely forested, featuring a mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean vegetation, and is the home to a variety of animal and bird species.

Please note that all of the touring at the Plitvice Lakes National Park is on foot and involves walking on uneven paths and surfaces. Please wear comfortable footwear.

This afternoon, meet your driver for your transfer to Split.

Exeter Services: National Park Guide (3 Hours); Transfer from Plitvice to Split

Hotel: Briig

Day 7
Split & Trogir | Split & Trogir Trogir, Croatia

This morning, meet your guide to explore the cities of Split and Trogir, including the ancient Diocletian Palace and sites from Game of Thrones

Begin with a short drive to Trogir – a treasury of cultural and historical monuments dating as far back as the 4th Century BC. Set on a small island just off the mainland, Trogir was first settled by the ancient Greeks, before falling under the Romans and later the Byzantines. Destroyed by the Saracens and abandoned in the 12th Century, thanks to its strategic location the town was soon revived and became an artistic and cultural center under the Austro-Hungarians and later the Venetians. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Town Trogir is surrounded by a fortress wall with two gates and is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

Your guide will show you the Gradska loza (the Old City Hall) from the 15th Century, the city walls, and the Kamerlengo Castle, which was once the residence of the Venetian governor. On the seaside of the island, you may see the Sea Gate, which was built in the 16th Century, and the nearby old fish market, located in an open loggia, surrounded by a colonnade.

Before heading back to Split, stop by the medieval fortress of Klis. It has a long, 2000-year history, but is, perhaps, best known from season four of Game of Thrones. It’s where Daenerys overthrows the Meereen. Your guide will show you the Game of Thrones filming sites.

Diocletian’s Palace, facing onto the Split harbor, is one of the most impressive Roman architectural monuments in the world and is protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Roman Emperor Diocletian, noted for his persecution of early Christians, was a native of nearby Salona before rising through the Roman military ranks to be eventually crowned emperor by his legions. He ruled for 20 years before abdicating and retiring to this palace. After his death, the palace was abandoned until the 7th century when refugees from the surrounding areas, fleeing foreign invasions, sought shelter within the palace’s protective walls. In the following centuries, the population outgrew its capacity and the town sprawled outside the walls. Today, Split is a major port and industrial center, as well as a perfect base for day trips to nearby attractions.

You will have the chance to explore with your Exeter guide the more than 200 buildings within the boundaries of the Diocletian Palace complex, many of which are still homes, while others house cafes, restaurants, and shops. Like a typical Roman fort, in its original form the palace had a square layout and was surrounded by a thick wall with gates and watchtowers. Some of the best-preserved sites you can visit are the Vestibule, the Temple of Jupiter, the Peristyle, and Diocletian’s Mausoleum – now the Cathedral of St. Dominus.  Your guide will also point out Game of Thrones sites as you’re walking.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours); Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Briig

Day 8
Vis Day Trip | Vis Day Trip Daksa - Dubrovnik, Croatia

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This morning, meet your skipper and guide for a trip to Vis Island and Bisevo. Your day begins with a two-hour cruise on your yacht through the Adriatic. Vis is the most outer-lying large Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. Its turbulent history dates all the way back to the Neolithic times, through the period of Ancient Greece and to the time when Venice was governing the island.

Begin by experiencing the beauty of the Blue Cave on Bisevo Island. Thistinyislandisjustabout5nauticalmiles from Vis and it’s known for its Blue Cave, very much reminiscent of the one on the island of Capri. Only official boats can take you inside, so your skipper will get you in line for this. When it’s your turn to enter you will be able to spend five minutes in the cave (on an official boat) before departing.

You can then head to the island of Vis. One of the reasons for Vis’ uniqueness lies in its 500 years of isolation as a military island where time has essentially stopped. Today, Vis’ exclusiveness lies in the island itself; its untouched nature and the people that haven’t been exposed to over-commercialization but who are hospitable in an authentic, “native” way.

Komiža is the second largest town on the island of Vis. About 1500 people live in the village. The first written documents originated from the twelfth century. It’s the first place that was visited by Pope Alexander III in 1177. Until recently, the village of Komiza was supported by the efforts of fisherman and, to a lesser extent, agriculture. Tens of thousands of descendants of Komiza have pioneered fishing communities along the west coast of the United States – from tuna fisheries of the south to salmon in the north.

As time allows, have a relaxing swim at the Stiniva beach on Vis, often considered one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Exeter Services: Boat, Skipper & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Briig

Day 9
Cetina | Cetina

This afternoon, your driver will take you on an approximately 45-minute ride along the Dalmatian coast to the Cetina River Valley.

Today you will meet your private guide for a zipline adventure. After getting outfitted and some instructions, you will have eight ziplines with lengths of up to 2000 feet and heights of up to 500 feet off the ground. While you’re ziplining you will have gorgeous views of the Cetina River canyon. Note: ziplining has weight restrictions.

Exeter Services: Vehicle & Driver (4 Hours); Zipline Guide (2 Hours)

Hotel: Briig

Day 10
Hvar | Hvar Hvar, Croatia
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This morning, your driver will meet you for the short drive to meet your skipper where you will board your private motorboat for the transfer to Hvar Town on Hvar Island. Pack a day-bag of swimsuits, water shoes, towels and, most importantly, sunscreen!

Your first stop today is the town of Hvar, where you’ll disembark for a bit of exploration. Your private guide will meet you for an off-road tour of Hvar including some of the spots rarely visited by tourists. Your exploration of the island will include historic villages, a journey up to the island’s highest point for sweeping views and a stop for a traditional local lunch, payable locally.

After returning to the town of Hvar, meet your skipper and explore some of the coast of Hvar as well as the neighboring Pakleni Islands. These islands face the town of Hvar and are uninhabited and mostly woodlands. They feature a myriad of small secluded beaches. You can stop as you desire for swimming or snorkeling.

Exeter Services: Boat & Skipper (8 Hours); Off-road Driver-Guide (4 Hours); Two port transfers

Hotel: Briig

Day 11
Split to Dubrovnik | Split to Dubrovnik Juice Bar, Split, Dalmatian coast Croatia

This morning, your private driver will meet you in the hotel lobby to take you south along the Dalmatian coast toward Dubrovnik. You will cross the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina, which, together with Croatia, was once part of the Yugoslav Federation.

Early this afternoon you will reach enchanting Mostar, the unofficial capital of Herzegovina, which is situated on the Neretva River. Mostar was named after its famous UNESCO-protected Old Bridge (Stari Most) and the towers on its sides, known as the ‘bridge keepers’ (mostari). Before its destruction during the Bosnian war in 1993, people from around the world came to see the 500-year old bridge, a trend which now continues after it was rebuilt in 2004 and again connects the banks of the Neretva River.

Upon arrival in Mostar, your local guide will meet you and will take you on an overview walking tour of Mostar’s Old Town (it is largely pedestrian-only). You will, of course, walk along the Old Bridge and to Mostar’s cobbled Ottoman Quarter, which houses the city’s artists and craftsmen, as well as beautiful 16th – century mosques, museums and cafes. It is believed that before the Ottomans occupied this region in the 15th century, Mostar was only a small settlement with a suspension bridge over the river. Thanks to its strategic location, Mostar soon became an important Ottoman military and administrative center. In the following centuries, the town grew and prospered from the trade with the nearby Dubrovnik. At the end of the 19th century, the Austro- Hungarians briefly annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina and some examples of Viennese architecture still can be seen around Old Town.

Continue this afternoon with your journey to Dubrovnik. Upon arrival, your driver will take you to your stunning, seaside hotel. The remainder of your evening is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Transfer from Split to Dubrovnik; Guide in Mostar (3 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 12
Dubrovnik & Lokrum | Dubrovnik & Lokrum City Walls - Dubrovnik, Croatia

This morning, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an overview walking tour of the historic center of Dubrovnik, which is protected as a UNESCO Heritage site, along with the neighboring island of Lokrum.

Begin by taking a public ferry to Lokrum, a small island located just across from Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Today it is a special forestry reserve under UNESCO protection. Lokrum is also the exotic and mysterious venue of many legends and stories. A small lake on the island called Mrtvo More (Dead Sea) is a must-see. You can walk to the highest point of Lokrum, the elevation with the star-shaped Fort Royal, built by the French in 1806. The place offers a magnificent view of  Dubrovnik, Cavtat and the islands. Today you’ll visit all the spots from season 2 of Game of Thrones.

Afterward, head back to Dubrovnik’s main square, the Loggia Loza, situated at the eastern extremity of the Stradun—the centuries-old promenade which runs through the walled city from East to West. You can visit all the spots where Game of Thrones was filmed including the city walls, Lovrijenac fortress (evil exploits of King Joffrey) and the Rector’s Palace. Your guide won’t just focus on Game of Thrones but will also tell you some of Dubrovnik’s long and important history. Make sure to see the Franciscan monastery of the “Order of Minor Friars” which includes one of the three oldest pharmacies in Europe, still serving customers. Part of the Franciscans’ mission was to take care of the health of the local residents, so they opened the pharmacy in 1317 and it has been in operation ever since. The monastery contains numerous medieval pharmacists’ tools and medical books which belonged to the English kings’ physicians, as well as 10th-Century manuscripts.

If you are interested, and if time allows you may take a walk atop the fortress walls surrounding the Old Town. Just over a mile long, this stroll usually takes about an hour and will help you get your bearings and enjoy the splendid views of the historic Dubrovnik and the sea. The fortification includes several bastions, the tallest of which is the Minceta Tower, located just near the Pile gate in the north-western part of the town.

Note: All touring today is on foot on cobblestones. Please wear appropriate footwear.

Exeter Services: Guide (6 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 13
Elaphite Islands | Elaphite Islands Private Boat, Croatia
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This morning, your skipper will meet you for a full-day private tour, on a private boat, of Sipan and Kobas on Peljesac Peninsula. These two islands are part of the beautiful Elaphite archipelago dotted with pine forests, picturesque villages, and bays.

Lopud offers some of the finest examples of medieval architecture – fortresses, monasteries, churches, and the Rector’s Palace with valuable paintings by masters of the Dubrovnik school. Your guide will show you the main sites and then you can enjoy the island’s promenade at your leisure.

Next, you will visit the largest of the Elaphite islands – Sipan – that has been inhabited since the days of the ancient Roman Empire. The island was renowned for its wineries and in the 15-th and 16-th century many noble families from Dubrovnik built their summer homes here.

Today is a day for swimming, enjoying nature and the calm waters of the Adriatic!

Exeter Services: Yacht & Skipper (8 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 14
Dubrovnik & the Peljesac Peninsula | Dubrovnik & the Peljesac Peninsula Sponza Palace - Dubrovnik, Croatia

This morning, meet your guide and driver for the short journey to Trsteno. Today’s destination is the arboretum. This is the oldest renaissance garden in Dalmatia and it now features many ancient stone sculptures and fragments. You can explore a bit of the historical gardens which were used as the King’s Landing palace gardens.

Afterward, head deeper into the Peljesac Peninsula, which, similar to other coastal settlements, was first colonized by the Greeks, later by the Romans and Byzantines, and in the Middle Ages often changed hands between the Venetian and Ragusan Republics. It is best known for its vineyards featuring Plavac Mali.

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Today’s destination is one of our favorite family-owned vineyards. Today you will have a private tour and tasting of the best of the region.

This afternoon head back to Dubrovnik and enjoy your last day at your leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: Excelsior

Day 15
Departure | Dubrovnik Restaurant 360 - Dubrovnik, Croatia

Today after check-out, meet your private driver for your transfer to the airport and your flight onward.

Exeter Services: Departure Transfer

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