Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2 weeks (14 days) – by WS
Discover Southeastern Europe (Balkans) with this ideal road trip itinerary through Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2 weeks (14 days). It is a dense program but nonetheless very realistic. Based on your own research and preferences you may also decide to skip a destination to have an extra safety day.
Although renting a car may be costly it’s highly recommended if you don’t want to worry about losing precious time with hazardous bus routes. You will still have to deal with your share of bus anyway to cross borders like between Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Herceg Novi (Montenegro), and between Podgorica (Montenegro) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
It’s also possible to lengthen this trip and visit Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in three weeks by visiting an extra national park in Croatia like Krka (Sibenik) or Paklenica (Zadar) and spending a bit more time in key destinations like Hvar, Dubrovnik and Sarajevo – check out the other itinerary I posted: Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 3 weeks (20 days) – by WS
Step by step
Day 1: Zabreb, Croatia
This trip itinerary through Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2 weeks starts with Zagreb. Croatia's capital can easily be covered in one day although you may want to stay a bit longer if you need to rest from your flight.
Days 2-3: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The next day pick-up the rental car to be used until Dubrovnik and head towards Plitvice Lakes National Park (about 2 hours 30 minutes). It is the oldest national park in Southeastern Europe but also the largest in Croatia. You can spend the night in one of the many B&Bs and hostels around the park.
The next day (#3) is certainly one of the main highlights of this trip; make sure you enjoy to the fullest the magnificent natural wonders that offers Plitvice Lakes National Park. It should take you about 3 hours to complete the main hiking route that goes to the waterfalls. The journey then continues with Split which is a 3-hour drive from Plitvice.
Day 4: Split, Croatia
Split is the largest city of Dalmatia region and, besides its rich history (Split dates back to the Roman Empire in 300), it is famous for being one of the sunniest cities on Earth with 2,800 hours of sunlight every year. Visit the historical centre with the Diocletian's Palace, which is a UNESCO heritage site, and St. Duje's Cathedral (St. Domnius).
You could then have a walk in Getski vrtal which is inside the the Diocletian's Palace and then follow Riva which is the main city promenade. Other interesting spots are Marjan hill where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Split (174 meters high) and the Green Market.
Day 5: Solin & Trogir, Croatia
Drive to Solin to visit the Roman ruins where once stood the ancient town of Salona which was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia and the birthplace of Emperor Diocletian. Continue your day trip to Trogir which also has a rich history going all the way back to 300 BC. The main places to see in Trogir are the historical site and its Central Square.
Day 6: Stari Grad & Hvar
Continue your trip to reach the island of Hvar by car ferry (about 2 hours - check carefully the schedule as there are only a few departures per day). The first destination on the program is Stari Grad (litterally Old Town), the oldest city in Croatia. The most ancient part of Stari Grad (Stari Grad Plain or Starogradsko polje) is a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site that you should definitely visit along with the other archeological sites around the town like the Old Town Walls (fortress). There are also many churches like the Church of St Peter (Petar) and the Church of St. Luke (Lucije).
Then reach the city and port of Hvar.
The main sightseeing spots in Hvar city are the Cathedral of St. Stephen (Sv. Stjepan), the main square 'Pjaca' (Piazza), the Franciscan Monastery, the town walls and Fortica (the fortress also referred to as Tvrđava Španjola or Spanish Fort).
After that it's time to leave the island of Hvar to return on the mainland and go to Dubrovnik. There is car ferry going from Stari Grad to Dubrovnik directly but you may as well go back to Split instead. This will allow you to enjoy the very nice coast drive from Split to Dubrovnik where you can spend the night.
Day 7: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is for many people the highlight of any trip in Southeastern Europe/Balkans. Dubrovnik, also referred to as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic', has been a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site since 1979. For your first day there you could already visit the main attractions like the Sponza Palace, the Rector's Palace and the St. Saviour's Church.
Have a look also at the massive Walls of Dubrovnik that surround the city for about 2 km and are up to six metres thick. If you are looking for a nice walk in the sun or a swim in the Adriatic sea, check out Lapad Beach located about 3.5 km from the old town.
Day 8: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This day is dedicated to the visit of a beautiful city, Mostar, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Herzegovina region) about 3 hours away by car from Dubrovnik. It may actually take a bit longer because you need to cross a EU border so it's really advised to leave early in the morning. Mostar is especially famous for its Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva which was built in the 16th Century by the Ottomans and is considered nowadays one of the most spectacular pieces of islamic architecture in the Balkans.
Besides the Old Bridge and its surrounding area (Old City of Mostar) you should also have a look at the Partisan Memorial Cemetery and the Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque (oldest mosque in Mostar - built in 1617). Finally, if you still have time and like nature you can try to check out the Kravice Falls on the Trebižat River (about 40 km south of Mostar) on the way back to Dubrovnik.
Day 9: Kotor, Montenegro
Drop off your rental car before taking a bus to reach Herceg Novi in Montenegro (about 1h30). There pick up the rental car and after quickly visiting the city (if you wish to) head to Kotor (1-hour drive). Kotor is a superb coastal city located in the Bay of Kotor. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor'. You should visit there the Old Town of Kotor and the City Walls. It's highly recommended to climb up to reach St. Ivan's Fortress (280 metres / 918 feet high) where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Kotor and the bay.
This requires some hiking but the view at the top is definitely worth it and altogether it shouldn't take you more than 2 hours and a half for the round journey. Also, don't miss the Chapel of our Lady of Salvation on the way to St. Ivan's Fortress.
If you still have time after this, head to Perast (a village 15 minutes away from Kotor by car) and take a boat to reach Our Lady of the Rocks, a little islet in the Bay of Kotor where you can see the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. For the night you can either sleep in Kotor or proceed to the next destination: Budva.
Day 10: Budva, Montenegro
Budva is a small town (18,000 inhabitants) located about 23 km / 14.3 mi south east of Kotor. It is especially famous for its nightlife so you may want to spend at least one night there. Apart from this you should visit the Stari Grad (Old Town) and its Citadel at the southern part as well as the many churches like Saint John, Holy Trinity and Saint Sava.
Budva is one of the oldest town of the Adriatic coast and goes back to 500 BC so if you are interested in history and archeology you may want to visit Budva Archeology Museum.
Day 11: Sveti Stefan, Bar, Rijeka Crnojevića, Podgorica (Montenegro)
This day is a busy one, it covers not one but three spots! First, Sveti Stefan, an islet and luxury resort. Access is restricted to hotel guests but the beaches located north and south of the island are open to public. Then, continue with Bar and especially its Old Town (Stari Bar). Other interesting sights are the port of Bar, Bar Fortress and, last but not least, the oldest Olive tree in the world.
The next destination is Rijeka Crnojevića, a small historical city located on the oldest trade route that goes through Montenegro. The most interesting things to see are the old bridge of the town and the fortresses. The Lake Skadar on which Rikeja Crnojevića is located is also a beautiful sight.
Finally, spend the evening and night in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. The main attractions there are the Old Turkish town (Stara Varoš) and the Ribnica Bridge (Adži-paša's bridge / Most na Ribnici).
Day 12: Durmitor, Montenegro
It is now time to have another taste of nature and experience the beauty of a wonderful national park – Durmitor – that doesn't have anything to envy of its Croatian counterparts like Plitvice. Durmitor is a montainous area (massif) that holds the highest peak of Montenegro (Bobotov Kuk at 2,522 meters).
This itinerary dedicates only one day to Durmitor and Žabljak, a town at the center of Durmitor situated at 1,456 metres which makes it the highest town on the Balkans. If you would like to have time for activities like hiking, biking or rafting on the Tara River (Drina) (UNESCO World Heritage Site), you may want to skip one of the previous destinations to enjoy two days in Durmitor.
Days 13-14: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This is almost the end of this itinerary. Say goodbye to Montenegro and drop off the rental car back in Podgorica before taking a bus to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bus departs from Lukavica station and the ride takes about 7 hours but the surrounding nature on the way is so beautiful that you will not be wasting your time at all.
Sarajevo is a very interesting town and one could spend easily a full week there just to explore the different museums so at this stage of the itinerary it is really up to you how long you want to stay there. In any case, be sure not to miss the Old Town and its bazaar (Baščaršija), the Latin Bridge (where World War I started with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914) and Gallery 11/07/95 which is a memorial to the Srebrenica massacre.