Photos: Biggest Road Trip Mistakes Made On Solo Trip In Croatia – Insider




A blonde woman taking a selfie in front of red roof buildings in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I took a solo 2-week road trip through Croatia this year.
Wendy Rose Gould

  • I booked a two week solo road trip in Croatia that started in Zagreb and ended in Dubrovnik.
  • I made mistakes like renting too big of a car and opting for the scenic route that took too long.
  • I also wish I would have timed the trip a little differently.

I spent two weeks in Croatia on a solo road trip, and it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. But if I could go back and do it again, there are a few things I would do differently.

A blonde woman with her back to the camera standing at a railing looking at a view of red roof buildings and the sea.

I planned a road trip for my first visit to Croatia. It was also my longest solo getaway.
Wendy Rose Gould

From a young age, travel has been essential to my personal growth and I’m lucky to have seen many parts of the world. So after several years of being unable to scratch my travel itch thanks to the pandemic, I set out to plan a grand, solo adventure.

I knew that I wanted to visit somewhere with fewer crowds, where I’d feel comfortable as a solo female traveler, and a place that could provide me with a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. 

My research led me to Croatia, a crescent-shaped country that hugs the Adriatic sea in Southeastern Europe with medieval architecture, a bounty of magnificent national parks, and a diverse range of experiences. 

I decided on a road trip so I’d be able to maximize my time while operating on my own schedule. My itinerary involved landing in Zagreb and then slowly making my way down to Dubrovnik over the course of two weeks.

It would be my first time in Croatia, my longest getaway by myself, and also my first solo road trip abroad. The trip was nothing short of magic, and I know I’ll be back, but I did make a handful of mistakes that I’d redo if I could. 

I went in October and while it was gorgeous, I wish I’d gone a few weeks earlier.

Side by side images of a charming European street and a woman posing in front of a waterfall.

From big cities like Zagreb to outdoorsy spots like Plitvice Lakes National Park, crowds in Croatia were minimal during my visit.
Wendy Rose Gould

Weather is one of the first things I consider before splurging on a plane ticket. Contending with the rainy season or walking long distances in hot, muggy weather just doesn’t appeal to me. I also try to vacation during shoulder seasons to avoid peak crowds and more expensive rates. 

My trip to Croatia took place from mid to late October, when the weather was a consistent 70-degrees Fahrenheit and the summer crowds were long gone.

However, I found myself at the beginning of the country’s low tourism season. Prolific travel guru Rick Steves says that the high season in Croatia runs from July through August while the shoulder season ends right around early October, noting that some small towns are “dead as a door nail” on the off season. 

I experienced this first-hand. During my trip, some vendors I wanted to visit were closed for the season, while others either opened late in the day or closed early.

I also experienced canceled tours that I’d booked weeks and months prior because not enough people signed up. One kind guide in Split kept my history tour on the schedule even though I was the only person in attendance. A one-on-one tour was a pro for sure, but since most tour guides cancel tours if they don’t reach their minimum attendance, it felt like an instance where I just got lucky. My guide mentioned that if I would have arrived a few weeks earlier, I would have had a bit more company. 

I was also the only person in attendance for my truffle hunting experience in the Motovun forest. It was a cool tour, though the guide let me know that if I’d arrived a few weeks earlier we’d have been able to find more truffles.

After stress-inducing scenarios, like being unable to maneuver out of parking spaces, I wish I booked a much smaller rental car.

A white car parked next to green trees.

My car rental was fine in countryside areas, but was too large in cities.
Wendy Rose Gould

I reserved a midsize rental car for my road trip, which would have been perfectly fine if I was road tripping in the United States. However, I quickly realized that a smaller car is a must in certain parts of Croatia due to narrow roads and small parking spots. 

Though my car rental initially seemed fine to me, it was apparently considered large by the locals. I had someone comment on my “big car,” which I didn’t think much of until I found myself in a few pickles. One generous Airbnb host helped me extract my car from a teeny-tiny parking space in an ordeal that took roughly 20 minutes.

There was also a moment when I got stuck on a narrow, dead end street in Split and had to do a stressful 42-point turn that involved getting out of my car and moving a bistro table out of the way. 

A smaller rental car would have saved me a lot of grief navigating the narrow roads in bigger cities. 

Croatia is known for its beautiful islands, and I missed the boat.

A blonde woman takes a selfie in front of the sea.

This was about as close as I got to the water.
Wendy Rose Gould

Since I opted for a road trip through Croatia, and because I traveled later in the year, I completely dismissed anything to do with boating or water. 

This is one of my biggest regrets. Croatia is renowned for its stunning islands and water activities like snorkeling, exploring caves, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, and rafting. During the high season when it’s warmer, there are also gorgeous beaches to enjoy.

During my visit, I thought it was too cold to get in the water or sunbathe, so I opted out of all water activities, but I wish I had either visited when it was warmer or island hopped by boat, even if I wasn’t actually going to enter the water.

If I had a do-over, I’d spend more time in the Istria region in northern Croatia. I thought it was magical.

The coast of a city at sunset.

I chose Rovinj as my home base in the Istria region and it felt like I was living in a fairytale.
Wendy Rose Gould

Many tourists in Croatia head to cities like Split, Pula, Zadar, and Dubrovnik.

The Istrian peninsula, meanwhile, is tucked high in the northwestern part of the country, making it not as convenient to get to, especially if you don’t have a car. 

Even while Istria is a little out of the way, I think it is an absolutely stunning part of the country. To me, it felt greatly influenced by Italy with family-run wineries, olive mills, forests, and quaint, teeny medieval towns. I penciled in three days in Rovinj, a sea town with winding cobblestone streets but would have loved to spend two or three additional days exploring the area, as it was easily the highlight of my entire trip. 

I thought Rovinj was the stuff of fairytales with its candy sunsets, flowing wine, and centuries-old streets. From there, I was able to tour a small family olive mill and even adopted a tree while I was there. To this day, the host sends me pictures of my tree and bottles of olive oil.

I loved my time here. I just wish I had more of it.

I wish I’d researched more pit stops to help break up the long-distance drives.

A cobblestone square with old-looking stone buildings.

Every road trip needs plenty of pit stops along the way. This is Hum, known as “the tiniest city in the world.”
Wendy Rose Gould

For the first half of my road trip, I did a good job of researching roadside attractions. For example, driving from Zagreb to Rovinj, I stopped to visit Hum, the “world’s tiniest city,” which helped break up my three-hour drive. The small size made it a great one-hour stop and I was able to buy some fresh truffles.

That said, I missed out on some cool road trip stops during the latter half of my trip where some drives were even longer. A few more hours of research looking into driving routes could have presented additional memorable pit stops and helped make longer drives more fun.

For instance, on my way from Rovinj to Plitvice, I wish I would have swung through Opatija, a 19th century resort town with Hapsburg-era architecture, or spent time checking out Trogir, a history-rich town about an hour north of Split. 

On my trip, I discovered that while the scenic route is beautiful, it’s not always the best choice.

Rolling green hills and countryside.

I thought Croatia’s scenic route was often more windy and not as easy to navigate as the main highways.
Wendy Rose Gould

After a couple days driving on concrete highways without a lot of scenery out the window, such as from Zagreb to Rovinj and Rovinj to Plitvice, I decided I was going to take the scenic route from Plitvice to Split. 

While I thought the views were heavenly, I found that the never-ending zig-zag roads were difficult to navigate, and that some drivers were aggressive. I had a couple close calls with drivers passing in blind zones and my heart rate spent much of the drive well above its resting pace. 

Not to mention, I found the endless winding roads to be tedious after about an hour, and I really couldn’t enjoy the views that much since my eyes were firmly focused on the road. Plus, the scenic route took longer than if I had opted for the more direct route. 

My stay in Dubrovnik was too short — there was so much more to explore.

A blonde woman smiling at the camera in front of arched stone walkway.

I fell in love with Dubrovnik the second I arrived.
Wendy Rose Gould

I have a habit of ditching bigger cities ASAP when traveling under the assumption that I don’t need much time in them.

So I only planned two nights and one full day in Dubrovnik. My goal was to have a nice landing pad before my flight back home. However, the second I arrived in the stunning medieval city, I knew I’d made a mistake. 

There’s a ton to see and do within, and outside of. those medieval walls, such as walking the walls, top-notch dining, and historic tours. It’s also a great home base for venturing to nearby destinations such as Mljet National Park, the countryside, a number of Croatia’s beautiful islands, and the country of Montenegro. I could have easily spent four or five days exploring Dubrovnik versus the two I had. 

To be honest, I could have explored the whole of Croatia much longer — a month, at least.

A blonde woman taking a selfie outside next to trees.

I’ll definitely be back to Croatia.
Wendy Rose Gould

There’s always next time.

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