Croatia has come a long way since I (Dana) was a kid. Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, we used to spend every summer on the Croatian coast – Dalmatia. As a kid, I remember my parents bringing extra medicine with us because not every town had a doctor’s office, but nowadays the Croatian coastline is bustling with tourists almost year long and has any and all amenities desired. One thing that has not changed over the years is its beauty. It is equally stunning now as it was 30 years ago and 2 weeks in Croatia is not enough to explore this beautiful place.
This ultimate guide to 2 weeks in Croatia for wine lovers covers all the wine regions and some of the best locations to visit and explore in Croatia. The best way to do this is by renting a car. Starting in Zagreb and ending this trip in Dubrovnik covers all the exciting spots.
Croatia is slowly but surely becoming a popular wine region. The beauty of Croatian wine is that the quality is comparable with the Old World Wines at half the price. In Croatia, some of the best wineries are located close to some of the best beaches and you enjoy both beautiful coastline and delicious wine!
Wine Regions in Croatia
There are four main wine regions in Croatia:
Eastern Continental Region – Slavonija, the most common white variety in this region is Graševina, the one region we will not be visiting in this itinerary. However, if you have more time than two weeks it would be a good addition to your itinerary.
Croatian Highlands Region – North-Western part of the continental Croatia, Plešivica is part of this region and one of the places we recommend visiting. Mostly a white wine-producing region.
Istria and Kvarner Bay Region – Istrian peninsula and northern islands. The most common varieties in this region are the white Istarka Malvazija and the red variety Teran.
Dalmatia Region – Starts north of Zadar and includes all the land and islands South-East from there. The Plavac Mali and Babić red grape varietals are the best known in this region.
Things to Know About Croatia
Croatia was in a civil war, as was the rest of former Yugoslavia, in the 1990s. It is still a sore subject and it is best not to be the one that brings up the war. If someone brings up the conversation it is best to stay neutral, as everyone has different views on it.
The language that is spoken in Croatia is called simply Croatian. The language of former Yugoslavia used to be Serbo-Croatian, meaning that even though with different dialects Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro pretty much speak the same language. Most younger people speak multiple languages including English.
As of January 1st, 2023, EURO is the official currency of Croatia (UPDATE). Most banks in the US will be able to make the exchange for you, or there are exchange places once you arrive in Croatia. Credit cards are also widely accepted throughout the country and we never had any problems getting cash from an ATM.
Power in Croatia is like the rest of Europe – 220V/50Hz so you will need power adapters.
Getting to Croatia
With Croatia becoming more and more of a popular summer vacation destination, international flights are available to pretty much all the bigger cities along the coastline: Pula, Split, and Dubrovnik. However, the most convenient way to get in and out is the capital Zagreb. That is where this itinerary begins. Croatia is part of the European Union now and a visa is not required for those traveling with a US passport.
Getting around Croatia
Croatia has an intercity bus system that is fairly reliable, however, to make the best use of your time we suggest renting a car. Even when you get to the location where you are staying, to visit any of the wineries you will need some means of transportation.
You may be able to hire a driver or a private tour, but that is always a lot more expensive than driving yourself. Croatia has many modern roads and highways connecting the major cities. Everything you need to know about renting a car in Europe you can find in our post – Tips for Renting a Car in Europe.
The Ultimate Guide to 2 Weeks in Croatia For Wine Lovers
Day 1 – Arriving in Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia it has a lot of character and is definitely worth a visit. For wine lovers, while in Zagreb it is a must to visit Vinoteka Bornstein, a wine bar in a 200-year-old brick cellar just steps from Zagreb cathedral. It has a great selection of international and Croatian wines, a great-tasting menu, and an amazing atmosphere.
For the rest of the day explore the historic cobblestone streets on foot and finish with dinner at Konoba Didov San, close to 13th-century St. Mark’s medieval-style church, to enjoy traditional Slavonian food.
The next morning rent a car and head out to Croatian Tuscany, Istria.
Days 2 – 4 – Istria
On the way out of Zagreb, about 30 miles west is a picturesque alpine village on the border with Slovenia, Plešivica. On the Plešivica wine road, known locally as “Little Champagne”, you will find beautiful green hills, vineyards, and small chalets, taste excellent sparkling wine, and great traditional food. On the wine road, there are over 40 wineries and the biggest names of the region are Tomac, Šember, and Korak.
Not to take anything away from the most popular wineries, but some others we recommend are Vinarija Jagunic, Griffin Ivančić Winery, and Vina Šember. After spending a morning in this beautiful village, head south to Istria, about a 3-hour drive.
The Istrian peninsula is the most northern wine region of Croatia. It takes less than 10 hours to drive the perimeter of the peninsula and it doesn’t matter which city you decide to stay in, but our recommendation would be Pula because it is the most centralized location, Rovinj and Poreč are great options too.
The Istrian wine regions are divided by the color of the soil that grapes grow on:
Red Istria is named after the terracotta-colored soil and is mostly found in the central and western coastal zones.
Grey Istria is in the central part of the peninsula, and White Istria is in the east part of Istria. The two main grapes of Istria are Malvazija Istarska, a white grape varietal that makes up 60% of the total plantings in Istria, and Teran, a red grape varietal often blended with Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to tame the wild side of Teran.
If staying in Pula, we recommend that the first afternoon you spend exploring the city or catching rays at the beach. The next day is for visiting wineries on the western part of the peninsula and some coastal cities. Stancija Collis and Villa Dobravac are both close to Rovinj and are both excellent choices for a visit.
TIP: Stancija Collis does sell donkey’s milk, yes you heard it right! If that is something you would like to try, that makes this decision easy.
After visiting one of the wineries and spending some time exploring Rovinj, head further north toward Motovun. Motovun is a captivating little village in the hills and home to some of the best wineries in Istria. On the way out of Rovinj you can make a stop at Matošević Winery or Damjanić Vina and once close to Motovun take your pick between Vina Desković, Cosseto Vina, Roxanich Winery, Benvenuti and Frank Arman Wines.
In Motovun stop at one of the local konobas (traditional Croatian restaurant) for a great traditional meal before heading back to Pula.
The next day you can either choose to relax on one of the beaches and explore the city some more or visit more wineries. If you choose the wine route again, a couple of wineries close to Pula we would recommend are Trapan and Medea Wineries, both excellent. While in Pula, if possible, try to catch a live performance at the Arena.
Other than wine, and donkey’s milk, Istria is known for its truffles, olive oil, and pršut (prosciutto). Make sure you sample some of each while here.
Days 5 – 7 – Islands Krk and Rab
The next couple of days takes us to the first of many Croatian Islands, the golden Island Krk which is connected to the mainland by a bridge.
Krk Island is home to the Žlahtina grape, a white varietal and Vrbnik is the wine capital of the island. Žlahtina, a grape indigenous to Croatia and almost exclusively to Krk, by appearance, looks different than most other grapes. The leaves and berries are much larger and all the harvesting is done by hand. The wine from this grape is bright yellow and crisp with a low alcohol content of ~ 11%, which makes it a great summer drink to go with local seafood (oysters!) or local lamb in peka (traditional way of cooking lamb).
Krk is also known for ‘Champagne from the Sea’ where the sparkling wine Valomet is aged underwater for several months. It provides a semi-dark atmosphere, peace and quiet, consistent temperatures, and higher pressure for perfect aging.
On Krk Island you can stay in Vrbnik, Krk City, or Baška. All the cities have beautiful beaches and are only about a 20-minute drive from each other. As mentioned before, Vrbnik is where most wineries are located, and if that is the main objective of your stay on the island, that would be the place to call home for the next couple of days.
Island Rab, only a car ferry ride from Krk, is worth visiting for its beaches if nothing else. The ferry from Valibska, Krk Island to Lopar, Rab Island is about 1.5 hours and during the high season, it runs four journeys per day.
Rab island is known for its world-renowned Rajska Plaža (Paradise Beach), one of the few sand beaches in Croatia. Here you can spend a day just relaxing on the beach and enjoying the refreshing clear and cool Adriatic water. If you happen to be here the last week of July, you’ll be able to enjoy the Rapska fjera festival, a reenactment of the island’s history for tourists. You can also visit the highest point of the island, Kamenjak for some great views of the island.
From the Island of Rab, on day seven of your journey, you can take a car ferry from the port of Mišnjak to Stinica, on the mainland, and from there drive to Primošten, about a 3.5-hour drive south.
In Primošten, we recommend stopping for lunch either in the town center or visiting one of the wineries where you can try a wine made from the Babić grape – a little black giant, another indigenous Croatian grape. One of the more popular wineries is Testament Vinarija where the grapes are grown completely organically, but some others are Matošen Vino, Prgin Winery, and Vinrija Mi Maja.
After lunch head further south to Split where you will embark on another car ferry over to Hvar Island.
PRO TIP: Since the cruise ships started stopping in the port of Split and filming of Game of Thrones in Diocletian’s Palace it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia, but for locals and most of us from this region, it was never really considered a vacation spot. It was considered a port, an industrial city and home of Hajduk (local soccer team). We have not included it in this list since there are so many other more beautiful places to see, but if you have more time by all means don’t hesitate on staying here longer.
Days 8-9 – Hvar
Central and South Dalmatia are where many of Croatia’s most popular wines are made. Plavac Mali (Little Blue) is the king grape of the region, an offspring of Zinfandel. Zlatan Otok winery in Sveta Nedjelja is probably the most popular winery to visit, due to the unusual underwater aging process, similar to what we talked about in Krk Island.
Tomić Vinarija is another popular winery and both have the quality to back up their popularity. Some others to pick from are Duboković Vinarija, Vina Pinjata, Ahearne Wine, and Vinarija Braća Plančić.
Winemaking is not the only point of interest here, Hvar is simply a stunning island where you can get lost searching for the most amazing views, beaches, food, and wine. It is more of a party island, with great sailing options, kayaking, hiking, biking, and rock climbing.
TIP: We are not visiting Brač in this itinerary, but it is another island, next to Hvar, worth visiting if you have more time. Its beach, Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn) is another one of the World’s Best Beaches and you may be able to squeeze in a day trip from Hvar by renting a boat, as there is no direct ferry line between the two at this time, even though they are next to each other. If not, Hvar has plenty to offer on its own.
From Hvar, we recommend making your way to the Pelješac peninsula, the home of Dingač and Postup, Croatia’s first wine appellations.
To get to Pelješac from Hvar you can either take the same car ferry back to Split or a different ferry from Sučuraj to Drvenik and drive to Pelješac. Getting to Pelješac by land, you will have to cross the Bosnian border in Neum and cross back into Croatia. To avoid making these two border crossings, which can be very slow at times, you can take another ferry from Ploče over to Trpanj, Pelješac.
Day 10 – 13 – Pelješac
Pelješac is not crowded by visitors like other parts of Croatia, which gives this hidden gem even more charm. The peninsula is full of hidden bays and beaches where only locals hang out, excellent seafood, oyster farms with some of the tastiest raw oysters in the world, and of course excellent wine.
Both appellations Dingač and Postup are located in Pelješac and wines from those two regions are considered premium quality wines. The symbol for Dingač is a donkey because it is impossible to get to some vineyards any other way, which means all the pruning and harvesting are done by hand.
The grapes grown in Dingač are said to get Three Suns: direct sun rays, the sun reflected off the water, and the sun reflected off the stone which gives it that high sugar content a.k.a. high alcohol content. Most Dingač wines are 14.5-15% alcohol. Mali Plavac tannins are very strong and need to be softened in oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months.
You can stay at any or all of these little hidden gems: Ston, the medieval town with the longest stone walls in Europe and the most delicious oysters from Mali Ston bay;
Žuljana – a hidden village with beautiful beaches.
Drače – another beautiful gem that Edivo Vina made more popular with Croatia’s first underwater cellar.
Potomje – village with some of the most picturesque vineyards and drive through tiny Dingač tunnel.
Podobuče – an ideal place to disconnect from everything surrounded by beautiful beaches and wines.
Orebić – the biggest town on Pelješac and probably the best known to tourists, also according to my parent’s the place where I took my first steps.
Wherever you decide to spend most of your time exploring Pelješac and its charm you will not be disappointed. From Orebić you can also make a day trip over to Korčula for some more wine tasting. It is also rumored to be the true home of Marco Polo. Pošip is the grape of Korčula, a white grape with a big body and a distinctive mineral undertone.
Day 14 – 15 – Dubrovnik
We are finishing this trip in beautiful Dubrovnik, a place everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. Dubrovnik is only a couple of hours’ drive south from Pelješac. Dubrovnik most recently has become even more popular with tourists because of Game of Thrones, but it has been “the pearl of Adriatic” for many centuries.
From Dubrovnik, you can drive back to Zagreb for a flight out or fly out of Dubrovnik, depending on what works best for your schedule.
Other places to add to this 2 Week Guide in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Krka National Park, not on Krk Island
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina