Traveling Europe by Campervan: Our Tips for “Van Life Europe”

Traveling Europe by Campervan: Our Tips for “Van Life Europe”

It has almost been a year that San and I bought a campervan. In this time, we have driven around Europe in our van from east to west and covered many countries. We have driven in 11 different countries on our campervan, that includes three national parks, mountains, beaches as well as two music festivals

With very little knowledge at the start of our first trip, we made a few rookie mistakes. Nothing serious but we laughed a lot at our stupidity and eventually learned how to explore Europe in our campervan like pros. A lot of information that we needed about traveling Europe in a campervan wasn’t really available online because most of the website focused on living in a van, versus traveling in one. 

Anyway, before we share our essential tips for exploring Europe by camper van, we’d like to discuss a few things to help you decide if van-life is really for you, and if it is – then what kind of van you really need.

Why Should You Consider Traveling Europe by Campervan?

Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina

I’m sure you know how a typical first timer’s Euro Trip looks like. A little bit of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, London, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest and Prague – usually all on trains and buses. Guess what, these are really the most expensive European destinations. Moreover, the train transportation is expensive in Europe, especially in Western Europe. 

If you’re on this page already, then I’m sure you’re looking for something different. Maybe you’re looking to explore the lesser visited and under the radar places in Europe that you can’t easily reach by trains or buses.

The best part about travelling around Europe by campervan is that you can go literally anywhere you want. You don’t have to worry about high internal transportation costs, schedules, and connections. It makes your itinerary super flexible and as a result, an entire layer of possibility opens up for you.

Scenic camping spot in Geirangerfjord, Norway - Traveling Europe by Campervan

Scenic camping spot in Geirangerfjord, Norway – Traveling Europe by Campervan

Europe is one of the best continents for road trips because of super easy border crossing. For instance, if you start driving in Belgium, you can be in Germany or France or Luxembourg or even the Netherlands in just a matter of 2-3 hours, and you won’t even realize that you’ve crossed the border because there aren’t any check points. 

Just to recap, the below points summarize why exploring Europe by campervan is awesome. 

  • Public transport cost, 
  • Super easy border crossing, 
  • Flexible itinerary
  • Access to smaller towns, natural sites and offbeat areas

Camper van vs Normal Van vs Caravan

Wild Poppy field on Rugen Island and a car with a caravan in the background

Wild Poppy field on Rugen Island and a car with a caravan in the background

Many people interchange these terms but they aren’t the same. We all know what a van is, but let me define a camper van for you.

A campervan is a van that’s specifically made for camping with a sleeping space inside. Or, a normal van converted into a campervan. Apart from a place for sleeping, ideally a campervan also has a place for cooking. Some camper vans also have toilets inside. 

A caravan parked next to a lake in Slovenia

A caravan parked next to a lake in Slovenia

A caravan also has all of this inside or even more, but it isn’t a camper van. Just for clarification – a caravan is a wagon what you attach onto your car and drive. You can’t drive a caravan without a car that tows it.

What Kind of Van do You Need?

If you’re a couple on a budget that loves adventure, then get yourself a small campervan. A smaller vehicle will give you an advantage of letting you enter smaller lanes. Moreover, the cost of camping, toll and parking is much lower for smaller vans. 

On the other hand if you’re a family with more than one kid, then it makes more sense to get a bigger campervan so that you have the space and comfort you need. These are the typical RVs (Recreational Vehicles) that you see in American movies. These are further divided into Class A Motorhome (looks like a big bus), Class B Motorhome (looks like a cargo van, bigger than a truck) and Class C Motorhome (looks like a moving truck house). Normally the Class C Motorhomes are the most common campers that you see on European roads. 

If you’re enjoying your retired life with your partner and driving around Europe, then get yourself all the comforts you need. Get a spacious campervan that has a nice bed, kitchen and sitting area.

Van vs camper van vs Motorhome vs Caravans - Tips for Van Life Europe - Infographic

Van vs camper van vs Motorhome vs Caravans – Tips for Van Life Europe – Infographic

Renting a Van in Europe vs Buying

Should you buy a camper van for the purpose of exploring Europe on it, or should you just rent one? The answer depends on many factors.

If you’re visiting Europe for a few weeks or a few months, then obviously you will rent a camper van and not buy one. However, if you’re going to travel on the van for a longer period of time (say a 6 months or a year), then renting can end up being expensive. In that case, buying makes more sense. You can find vans to rent on this car rental search engine

Buying a campervan isn’t as easy as renting one. Below are the points you need to consider before deciding whether you should rent a camper van or buy one. 

  • First, you need to have enough money. Campervans aren’t cheap and even if you look for a used one that’s very old, be prepared to spend at least ten to fifteen thousand euros.
  • Second, buying a van comes with the hassle of paperwork.
  • Third, buying makes sense as long as you’re sure you will actually end up using it enough and as long as you can sell it back when you’re done.
  • Four, buying comes with an expense of insurance and repair costs – keep all of that in your mind.

If you’re a total van newbie and would like to just get a glimpse of VanLife to determine if it is really your thing, then just rent one. This will also give you an idea about what kind of van you actually need.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 1: Sleeping in the Van

Our camping set up - campervan tips

Our camping set up – campervan tips

The best part of “VanLife” is actually sleeping in your own little home on the road and waking up to an amazing view. In reality, you won’t have an amazing view everyday, but you can at least try.

Van Life Sleeping Essentials

There are many van life aspects where you can be cheap, but your mattress shouldn’t be one of them. Invest in a comfortable mattress otherwise you will hate your van. If you’re not able to find a compact mattress that is easy to travel with for the size of your van bed, then just look for a mattress topper.

Tips for Sleeping in the Van

Tips for Sleeping in the Van

Carry your pillow as per your sleeping habits. Make sure you’re carrying thin as well as thick blankets so that you are good to go for different weather conditions. European summers can be strangely hot and suddenly very cold in a matter of hours or days. 

You will also need to get insulated covers to stop the condensation on the windows when it is cold, and also to keep the insides of the van cool during summer. A silver thermal insulated window screen will also act as a black out curtain so that you can peacefully sleep after the the sunrise. [Btw, the sunrise occurs around 4:30 am in most of Europe during summer.]

Don’t have an air conditioner in your van? Neither do we. We do however have a battery operated Makita fan that works for 10 hours after a full charge. I highly recommend this fan to you if you want to sleep comfortably during Europe’s summer heat. Summer means mosquitos, and Citronella mosquito repellant stickers will keep you safe. Plus they’re natural!

  • Mattress or Mattress topper
  • Pillows, blankets, bedsheet.
  • Insulated window covers / Silver thermal window screen
  • Makita Fan
  • Citronella mosquito repellant stickers

 

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 2: Cooking in a Campervan 

Outdoor camping cooking set up - Van Life Europe

Outdoor camping cooking set up – Van Life Europe

Apart from sleeping in it, another amazing aspect of traveling on a camper van is cooking your own meals on the road. No, you won’t cook while you’re driving but at parking places or camping spots. We have a lot of information to share about cooking on a road trip outside and inside the camper van, so we decided to create an entire section about it. 

Do You Really Need a Kitchen Inside the Van?

Not Really. If you have a travel stove and a small cylinder, you can cook outside. We have both – a stove inside the van and a smaller portable stove but we cook most of our meals outside. 

Why? Well, because baby K was usually sleeping inside when we cooked our dinner and it made more sense to cook outside. It was generally more convenient to cook outside after spending most of our day inside the van.

Van Life Kitchen Essentials

If you’re building your van and converting it yourself into a campervan, then here are a few things we have in ours that are essential for any motorhome kitchen. 

Van Life Kitchen Essentials - Traveling Europe by Campervan

Van Life Kitchen Essentials – Traveling Europe by Campervan

You will need a small countertop stove, a slot for the cylinder that’s preferably built into one of the kitchen cabinets, a sink, a small refrigerator, and multiple kitchen cabinets to store things. It will make your life simple if you have one drawer that’s just for the cutlery, a hanging bag for plates, cutting board, cooking oil, a kitchen tissue roll fitting and small hooks where you can hang things.

Don’t carry a lot of kitchen dishes but only the basic stuff. Carry at the most two pots – one small and one medium-ish. A small hand sized non stick pan is also a good to carry cookware. A cutting board, a big spatula (or two) for the non stick pan and pots, soup bowls, plates and cutlery and you’re good to go.

I haven’t seen a campervan that doesn’t have a refrigerator inside. In case yours is a van converted into a campervan, then it maybe doesn’t have a place for a fridge. You can buy a small cooling box to store your food and use it as a makeshift refrigerator. 

Your van also needs to have a small exhaust window on the top if you’re planning on cooking inside. If you don’t have a sink, then you can carry a bucket where you can keep your dirty dishes and wash them outside when you’re done. 

Campervan Cooking Equipment

The stove inside your van can be a propane cooktop or even an electric cooktop. If your van doesn’t have one, then get yourself a portable stove and gas.  A camping stove with 2 burners doesn’t cost double but is is surely useful so that you can boil rice or pasta on one and make sauce or curry on the other one. 

If you have electricity in your van then get an electric kettle, it will make your life much simpler. An outside camping grill won’t cost much and it is surely a good to have item.

Campervan Food Essentials + Camping Meals

Simple rule – keep it short, fast and efficient. 

We ended up buying a lot of useless cooking stuff before our first trip but we realised much later that we don’t need it all. We just need enough of the basic stuff when we’re on the road. Some of the easiest meals to make on the road are pasta and rice with daal. 

Our of our camping meals - Pasta

Our of our camping meals – Pasta

Buy premade pesto, sauces and a lot of pasta to shorten your cooking time. Visit local markets and grocery stores to buy fresh vegetables to put in your pasta. You can make a really good pasta sauce using avocados and you don’t need to cook it. Just mash avocado pulp with olive oil, garlic, lime juice, salt and chili. Add this to your hot pot of newly boiled pasta and your epic camping meal is ready.

Cook daal and rice together with salt and a few spices – it is called khichari in India. It is a “one-pot-meal” that’s perfect for camping and it always tastes good. Instead of daal, you can also add vegetables to make fried rice. In that case, you will just have to roast garlic, ginger and veggies for a few minutes in the pot and then add water and rice. 

Just a recap, here are some awesome camping meals that you can cook in a jiffy. Most of them are vegetarian options but you can un-veganize them by adding smoked salmon or eggs or chicken. 

  • Pasta (raw avocado pesto, pre made sauces, or just with veggies)
  • Daal and Rice cooked together (Khichari)
  • Stuffed wraps or Burritos (Get tortilla wraps and stuff them with kidney beans, garlic, peppers, corn, jalapeños, avocado, salmon – try everything)
  • Toast with bananas / eggs / avocados / cheese
  • Bratkartoffeln (as called in Germany) or Aloo ki sabzi (as called in India) – potatoes sautéed in oil, garlic, chili, onions and herbs. You can add spring onion greens on top for the extra oomph. Or, meat eaters can add bacon.
  • Sautéed veggies. Buy or pick fresh veggies and sauté them in a pan with oil and herbs. 

 

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 3: How to Make Your Life Simpler on the Road

Tips for Van Life Europe

Tips for Van Life Europe

Alright, so you have your van, your kitchen is all set and you’re ready to go. What’s next? Most likely you have your destination picked out already. But hey, road trips are more about the journey and not much about the destination. You will end up spending most of your time driving your van, so it makes total sense to consider the apps and tools to make your life simpler on the road.

Invest in a decent GPS Navigation system

Get one that covers all the countries in Europe – at least most of them. You will be surprised to know how some of them don’t. With a decent navigation system like TomTom, you won’t need to depend on your smart phone all the time.


 

Apps for Planning the Road Trip Itinerary and Route

You may have a rough idea of the route already, but you can modify it while you’re on the road using Google Maps, we discuss this in detail in the next point. We also use an app called CamperContact, it has a database of almost every camping spot in Europe and they’re geotagged so it is easy to open the app and find a spot near you. If you upgrade the app to buy a full version, you will be able to view more details about the camping spots.

The biggest headache of driving a van in Europe is parking it. There’s an app called ParkMe, it will sort your life out by helping you find parking spots near you and how much they cost. 

View of the beach from our van in Spain

View of the beach from our van in Spain

Getting the Most Out of Google Maps on your Road Trip

It is the most obvious app to use for road trips but not many people use all the awesome features to maximize their experience. If you know how to use Google Maps really well, you don’t need any other app. Really.

Find anything around you, not just restaurants or gas stations but also camping spots. Although there are many dedicated apps for finding campgrounds in Europe, we end up using Google Maps more than anything. Just type “camp” or “camping” in the search box and you will get a list of suggestions. You will also be able to usually see pictures, read reviews and see the prices  of the camping spots.

Do you know you can search for waterfalls on your way to your destination so that you can make an epic stop? Try it. Just put “waterfall” in the search box and you will be amazed to see the result. Similarly, you can just find anything anywhere.

Want to save money and avoid toll? Set your Google Map’s navigation setting to avoid tolls and highways. It is as simple as that. As a result, your route may end up being a bit longer but will be cheaper and more scenic. 

ADAC Membership will Save Your Life

ADAC is the largest automative club in Europe and it was founded in Germany. They have a massive fleet of mechanics on the move that help motorists. They also provide air ambulances in urgent needs.

I do not know of any single camper van or a caravan owner here in Europe that doesn’t have an ADAC membership. Not just for vans, but is for any kind of automobile as the organization helps the members in case of needs and emergencies on the road. If you sign up for a “plus membership” (ADAC Plus-Mitgliedschaft), you get services all over the world. 

I am not affiliated with ADAC in anyway, but I’d just like to share their details with my readers because I truly see a value in this membership. You can check more details here on their website.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 4: Finding Camping Spots

Our camping spot in the Netherlands - A typical campground

Our camping spot in the Netherlands – A typical campground

While traveling in Europe on a campervan, there are three kinds of camping spots that you will find:

Paid Camping Spots

An awesome thing about traveling in Europe on a campervan is that there is no shortage of decent camping areas. Almost every town or village has a paid camping area that’s specifically designed for motorhomes and tents.  and include shared toilets, kitchen, bar, restaurants, a small supermarket, toilet disposal unit for vans, 

Free Camping Spots 

Yes, it is possible to find free camping spots too. Keep in mind that these “free” camping spots aren’t exactly beautiful. These are usually in gas stations parking spots or in rare cases, even supermarkets. 

As you drive along the highway in most of the countries in Europe, you will see many resting spots along the way. Usually there is a sign that says what all you can expect in that resting spot. Some of them have a fast food restaurant, a paid toilet, an overpriced gas station shop, or even a children’s play area. 

Finding these resting spot that you can use for parking are very easy because they’re well marked on the road. In any case, you can use Google Maps and park4night app to find them.

On all our road trips in Europe, we did not do find much of free camping spots that were picturesque. We mostly spent a little money to park in a scenic spot and enjoy our evening in a proper camping area with all the amenities. Only the times when we had to drive till the night was when we slept in our van in the fuel station parking.

Wild Camping in Nature in Europe – Is it Possible?

Our Camper van parked near a yellow flower field in Germany

Our Camper van parked near a yellow flower field in Germany

Wild camping isn’t allowed in most of the countries in Europe and most likely you won’t end up doing this. You can get arrested for this in most of the instances. So as opposed to what it appears in a typical “VanLife Europe” instagram post, you can’t just stop at any random scenic spot and camp.

Out of all the European countries, there are just a few countries where wild camping is allowed on land that’s owned by the state. These are Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Estonia and Latvia. Even so, it is not easy to find land that’s not privately owned. We don’t encourage this because you can get into trouble for this. 

How to Find the Best Camping Spots

Our camping spot in Croatia

Our camping spot in Croatia

The best part about traveling on a campervan is being outdoors. It is about finding a scenic spot, setting up the camp and enjoy being outside instead of the comfort of a hotel room. This is why I make an effort to find the best spots in the area while traveling on our campervan. 

I use a combination of Google Maps, CamperContact and Booking.com apps. Yes, booking.com also has camping spots. 

I prefer Google Maps because I can zero down on an area, search for something that’s next to the river or lake (based on the satellite image), read reviews and see pictures. 

Many Campgrounds in Europe are Closed During the Low Season

How to save money while travelling Europe? Travel off season. Ironically it doesn’t quite work out like this because most of the places are closed during the low season. 

Many campgrounds close operations towards the end of September and at the beginning of October. We got a big shock while we were driving in Spain, Portugal and France in October. We knew things would be closed during the low season but we didn’t know it would so much. There were days where every campground that we drove to was closed for the season. That’s when we decided to just park our van in the parking area of a fast food place on the highway. 

If you’re traveling in Europe with your campervan during the low season, then be sure to call your camping spot in advance to see if they’re open.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 5: Avoiding Costs – How to Make Your Van Life Affordable

How to Avoid Toll in Europe

I had no idea how expensive the toll fee can end up being while road tripping in Europe. There are some countries where the toll is super high (like France), and the others where it is non existent (like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands). 

There was one particular day as we drove from Normandy (France) to Bordeaux (France), we paid total toll of close to 100 Euros.

It is easy to avoid the toll most of the times – just change the setting of your in your car’s navigation system. You can set up your navigation settings on Google Maps app to avoid tolls and highways.

When in Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia, make sure you buy vignettes as soon as you enter. Vignettes are road tax stickers that are prepaid. They are mandatory in these countries. 

Just go to any gas station and ask for a vignette. You can find one based on the number of days you’re going to spend in that particular country. If you ever get caught without a vignette, it is going to be super expensive for you. I know a friend who paid EUR 200 in Austria for this.

 

Lower Fuel Costs 

Somewhere in Portugal - Van Life Europe tips

Somewhere in Portugal – Van Life Europe tips

A little effort and a few good driving habits can help you save a lot of money on a road trip. Not just with campervans but in general you should pay attention to how you drive and make an effort to lower your fuel costs. 

Too much accelerating and pushing breaks is not good for the fuel efficiency. Drive at 60 as often as you can and on the right gear. Keep checking the air in your tyres frequently. A little drop in the air pressure can significantly increase your fuel costs. 

Whenever possible, hunt for a cheaper gas station along your way and fill up the tank to 90% before it gets close to empty. GasBuddy app is great for finding current fuel costs as per your location and can help you find cheaper gas stations. 

Avoid Gas Stations Along the Highways

Gas stations along the highways are way costlier than the others. A few cents make a difference and can add up to 8 – 10 Euros when you’re filling up your tank. 

Most of the Western Europe is Expensive

Road tripping in France, Switzerland, and Austria is expensive because of the toll, fuel prices and camping costs. If you’re on a budget, then you may want to spend less time here or skip these countries entirely. 

The Balkans are Beautiful and Affordable

Amazing camping spot in Una National Park -Camping & picnic place Lucica

Amazing camping spot in Bosnia’s Una National Park – Free of Cost

I have said this before and I will say this over and over again. The Balkan countries are beautiful and affordable. The difference in costs is significant and should be enough for you to pick where to go.

Big Cities = Parking Problem

Skip the likes of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Belgrade, and all the big cities. First, parking will be difficult to find and expensive. Second, most likely there will be traffic and it will kill your mood. Third, everything is usually expensive in the big cities. 

Save Money on Camping when You Can

Save Money on Camping - Traveling Europe by Campervan

Save Money on Camping – Traveling Europe by Campervan

Camping costs can be very high if you’re traveling with a big van during the peak travel period – the summer. San and I paid normally 20 Euros per night at most of the places with a small van. The cost goes up if you have a bigger van and if you need an electricity recharging point. 

Some of the most beautiful parking locations in Europe are on land that’s owned by farmers or the government. Not many of them will let you park there – unless you’re very lucky.

While I agree that camping at a scenic spot and waking up to an amazing view is the best part of van life, it can turn out to be expensive. If you want to be smart with your money, you shouldn’t aim to find a beautiful camping spot every night. Parking your van near such scenic spots is never cheap!

From time to time, try to find free camping spots such as gas station parking areas along the highway in countries that allow like Germany and Belgium, or supermarket parking in other countries. Of course, you can only do this if none of the travelers need to put up a tent to sleep. 

Save Money on Eating

If you have read this article thoroughly, then you probably know what I’m about to say, but I reiterate here: Cook your own meals to save money. Buy fresh local produce and cook some epic camping meals to make your road trip memorable. Scroll up to the cooking sections to read about easy camping meal recipes. 

Quick Country Specific Tips for Road Trips

Tips for exploring Europe with a Camper van

Tips for exploring Europe with a Camper van

Germany

Germany’s highways are free but most of the toilets along the road are not. If you stop at Sanifair or Serways, the toilets will be extremely clean and will cost from 50 to 70 cents. The parking and resting stops along the highway are really big. You can normally park your van in these spots for the night to sleep.

While driving in Germany, be very careful about the traffic rules and road signs. You can stopped at many random spots for an alcohol or drug test. 

Belgium

Apart from Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp, Belgium’s roads are all toll-free. The signs are mostly in local language. Did you know 60% of Belgium is Dutch and 40% French? So expect to see the road signs in either French or Dutch but not both of them together often. 

The Netherlands

The roads are very good in the Netherlands but expect congestion in summer near beach destinations such as Zandvoort. When driving in towns and cities on smaller roads, always give priority to the cyclists. For affordable parking near cities, look for “P + R” (Park and Ride) signs. You can park your van here and use the public transport to enter the city. Of course, if you’re including a busy city like Amsterdam in your itinerary then this is where you can park and get inside Amsterdam using public transport. 

France

Out of all the countries that we have road tripped in, France has the most expensive toll. There are really good resting stops along the highway with free toilets. France is one of the few countries where the toilets also featured a super tiny WC for the toddlers. It was adorable and thoughtful. 

When entering the highway, you will get a entry ticket at the toll station which you will have to present later at the exit toll station and make a payment. If you lose your entrance ticket, then you will be charged for the longest length – so keep it safe.

Poland

The expressway class S roads, national roads and motorway class A roads are very well maintained in Poland. However, the same can’t be said about the smaller provincial level roads. Certain A level roads are tolled. 

Poland is infamous for reckless and aggressive driving behavior, so watch out when you’re there. 

Spain

Our van in Spain - Europe by Campervan Tips

Our van in Spain – Europe by Campervan Tips

Many travel guides mentioned that driving in Spain can be nerve wrecking and many roads are “one-way”, but we did not face any challenge. With the help of our GPS and Google Maps, we thoroughly enjoyed driving in Spain. Not just along the coast but the landscape was spectacular even in the middle of the country. 

While in Spain, we loved stopping in small Spanish towns and visiting the coffeeshops / bars for a quick snack and drink. Eating and drinking in Spain was generally affordable for us as compared to France and Germany.

Portugal

We were warned by many about watching out for erratic driving behavior in Portugal but we did not encounter any. The experience of driving through small Portuguese towns, from the mountains to the coast was beautiful. When in Portugal, make sure you stop at smaller road side bakeries and try the famous custard tarts / egg tarts (pastel de nata).

Slovenia

Driving in Slovenia was a good experience for us because of the road condition and landscape. Be sure to get a vignette as soon as you enter Slovenia. You can get is from a gas station and it comes out to around 15 euros per week (2019).

Croatia

Croatia has highways that connect the major cities and they are not free. Upon entering the roll road, you will get a ticket. You will need to present this ticket at the time of exiting the toll road. The toll fee isn’t expensive in Croatia. The Croatian highways have frequent rest stops and some of them also have play areas for children.

Austria

When in Austria, you need to get a vignette – failing which, it can get very expensive. The vignettes can be bought in gas stations in Austria as “Vignetten” for 10 days €8.90. If you’re just driving through Austria and not staying, then get a Korridor-Vignette instead. It is valid for a single trip for €2 or a round trip for €4.

If you’re caught driving in Austria without a vignette, it will end up being very expensive for you. It starts with a little over €100 and can go up to €300 on the second day if the fine is unpaid. Post that, valuables can be seized from your car.

The vignette needs to be stuck on the windshield to be valid, preferably in the top centre or the driver side corner. Do not share the vignette with anyone otherwise you will have to pay a very high fine.

Switzerland

Switzerland has some of the most beautiful roads for driving in Europe. Just like Austria, you need to buy a vignette to drive on them, failing which can end up being very expensive for you. 

Watch your speed while driving in Switzerland because there are many areas that have speed cameras after every 2 kilometers. Believe it or not, you can be literally thrown into the jail for speeding. Your driver’s permit can be revoked if you’re caught driving 20 KMs per hour more than the allowed speed limit. 

Bosnia & Herzegovina

We have driven twice in Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H) and it was a memorable experience. While driving in B&H, we have been warned not to leave the paved road for even a toilet break because of the threats of landmines. The country is beautiful and affordable but don’t expect the very good roads. Our best driving experience in B&H was along the river Drina.

Europe by Campervan itinerary ideas – Some of Our Favorite Routes

Tips for traveling by Camper Van in Europe

Tips for traveling by Camper Van in Europe

Nature trail in the Balkans

This is our favorite road trip itinerary for road tripping in Europe and is mostly around the Balkans. This itinerary starts in Croatia where you can start in Zagreb or Pula or Plitvice Lakes. From there, this itinerary goes from one natural paradise to another in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkan countries. This trip also includes many national parks. You can find more details here in my post about this epic Balkans road trip itinerary

Germany’s themed routes

Germany has many themed routs that road trippers will love. There’s the famous “romantic road” that most of us have heard of but do you know there’s also the fairy tale route, a castle road and a wine route? We have a post about Germany’s themed road trips on our website, check it out.

Portugal and Spain

Our second visit to Portugal and Spain was in 2019 with our new camper van. We actually started from Germany and crossed Belgium and France but the best part of our road trip was in Spain and Portugal. We suggest you start in Zumaia (Spain), and from there drive along the coast the Galicia area. Make sure you include Valdovino and Playa del Silenco in your itinerary.

From A Guarda in Spain, you can drive to Portugal’s coast starting from Afife, Porto, Vagos and Figueira da Foz. From there, you have an option to continue along the Portuguese coast to Lisbon, or you can drive to the middle of the country to see the mountains in Serra da Estrela Natural Park. From here, you can enter Spain and spend some time in the Salamanca area.

Check my blog over the next few weeks because I aim to publish an epic Spain – Portugal road trip post.

The Best of the Netherlands

The Netherlands is an amazing country to cover on a road trip, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in your hands. The Netherlands is small as compared to many other European countries. We have a post about amazing places to visit in the Netherlands with an itinerary suggestion that starts from Belgium or France. We have another post with a suggested road trip itinerary for Netherlands that includes a few offbeat places. 

Northern France Coast – Normandy to Bordeaux

The route from Normandy to Bordeaux in France is lovely and you will get to see some amazing natural and architectural attractions. You don’t necessarily need to stop at the starting and ending big cities. Instead, make a stop at Etretat, Honfleur, Mont Saint-Michel, and a few other small towns of your choice along the way.

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Driving along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is surely the best route in the country for a road trip. The best part is that it can be modified in many different ways. We did a road trip that started in Kerry, then went on to Westport, Achill Island and Ballina in Mayo County.

East Bohemia in the Czech Republic

Prague isn’t the only destination in the Czech Republic but there are many other picturesque smaller towns, castles, and natural attractions that are worth a visit. Start at Pardubice, then head to Sec to relax in the nature and enjoy the viewpoints, next – head to Litomysl and explore the art scene and end your trip in the magical Svojanov where you can get a break from camping and sleep in a castle.

Tuscany to Selento (Italy)

Drive from Central Italy to South Italy’s beaches. Start in the Tuscany region, which is known for picturesque landscapes and historical art scene. It is where the Italian Renaissance art scene began and spread all over. From here, you have an option to drive to Rome or head to Monti Sibillini National Park and move towards the coast. We recommend the latter because the more you drive, the more you would want to avoid entering big cities. 

From the Sibillini mountains, you can make your way to Selento by making stops at small fishing villages on the way such as Termoli, Trani – or find your own new destination.

The Dolomites in Northern Italy

Drive around Northern Italy’s little villages up in the Dolomites. You can start this trip in Verona and make your way up to Trento, Alpe Cimbra, Val di Non. This area looks really beautiful in spring because of apple flowers. You can also stop at the lovely Lago di Tovel – a stunning clear lake that’s surrounded by the mountains.

Many Italians say that North of Italy isn’t the “real Italy”, but this trip is about nature. To enjoy the best of Italy’s culture, make a trip to South of Italy.

Austria & Slovenia

Explore the Alps and spectacular alpine lakes. Start in Austria’s Salzburg from where you can go to Mondsee or Ebensee lakes. Next, visit Hallstatt, then Slovenia’s Lake Jasna, Lake Bled and finally Lake Bohinj. Lake Bohinj is spectacular and you can camp right next to it in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj.

Final Thoughts about Travelling Europe in a Van

Living in Europe, we have tried multiple ways of exploring this continent. We have used buses, trains, hopped on to budget flights and also backpacked across Europe, but nothing compares to road tripping. The experience of travelling around Europe by campervan opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of accessing destinations that are not served by public transport.

Greg Anderson said that one should focus on the journey and not the destination. This quote applies really well to the Van Life experience. It is truly about the journey.

Did follow our campervan travel tips or are you living the Van Life?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Ultimate Amsterdam Nightlife Guide: Best Nightclubs + Tips

The Ultimate Amsterdam Nightlife Guide: Best Nightclubs + Tips

Amsterdam Nightlife Guide has been written by our Netherlands content specialist – Alara Benlier, who has lived in the country. 

With its famous canals, legendary coffeeshops, fascinating museums, and its extraordinary nightclubs, Amsterdam is one of the most visited and loved cities in the entire world. If you are looking for an unforgettable night out, this dazzling city offers the best one. The capital of the Netherlands has grown to become one of Europe’s coolest cities to party since Amsterdam clubs are appealing to everyone.  

Nightlife in Amsterdam is not stuck in one place either, there are a lot of nightclubs and bars in every district of the city – and not only the Red Light District. The most known (and expensive) bars in Amsterdam are, of course, in the epic Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas, but you can find other awesome nightclubs in every corner. 

From posh nightclubs to abandoned warehouses, Amsterdam nightclubs are always overflowing with wicked people who like to party. Amsterdam might be a small city, but it has several districts.

Suggested: Amsterdam Weekend guide – itinerary, tips and budget

Every area has a different vibe and different party culture. So, if you don’t want to miss out on any of the hot tips of Amsterdam nightlife areas, here are the best nightclubs in Amsterdam.

Best Amsterdam Nightclubs 

Amsterdam West (Oud-West)

Being known as the most diverse part of the city, the West offers a nice time for every taste. With its busy shops, fine dining, cool pubs, and cozy cafes, this district is always fun, whether it is day or night. 

If you are looking for an epic night out, Oud-West is a great spot to start the party. When the night hits, there’s nothing more exciting than wandering around the streets of Amsterdam West and finding the best nightclub! Here are some of the best nightclubs of the West district!

De School

If you are a techno-enthusiast, you will love De School. This massive club also hosts many incredible concerts, so don’t forget to check its schedule. 

De School is an art cafe, restaurant, night club and also a concert venue. As can be seen from the name, this club was built as a technical school, but later it was converted into a massive nightclub. In this cool club, you can enjoy many local DJs, but international DJs often visit here as well. 

De School is actually in the basement of the school, which has a capacity of 700 people all at once. So plenty of room to let loose! If that is not enough, the club also has a music venue, cultural center, and restaurant!  Another great part of this club is that it has a 24/7 permit, which means that here is open every single time!

VLLA

Club Vlla - Amsterdam Nightclubs and Party Guide

Club Vlla – Amsterdam Nightclubs and Party Guide © Photo courtesy by VLLA.

Club VLLA is notorious for its unique electronic music nights in Amsterdam. This former funeral home offers a small, intimate place, and the best music of all time. 

With its very cool regulars, this place is more “cozier” nightclub option. The best part? VLLA is also budget-friendly. You can find the best cheap drinks while enjoying great music. 

WesterUnie

If you are looking for a very spacious dance hall with epic laser, strobe lights, and excessive light shows, you have to check out the WesterUnie nightclub. This massive industrial-style club is located on the beautiful grounds of Westerpark, and it is one of the most popular clubs for party people in Amsterdam. 

With its over-the-top performances, techno, and house music, WesterUnie is a great club for “hardcore” partying. The interior of the WesterUnie consists of no-frill concrete and brick walls, which gives the club a modern vibe. So, if you are looking for a legendary night out that you will never forget, check out the WesterUnie.

OT301

V.I.V.E.K in OT301 Amsterdam by Rosa Maria Koolhoven (CC BY 2.0)

V.I.V.E.K in OT301 Amsterdam by Rosa Maria Koolhoven (CC BY 2.0) – via Flickr

OT301 is one of the main nightclubs, which is famous for its deafening techno nights in Amsterdam. This former cinema academy is known for its unpretentious and insane cultural events and incredible dance parties. 

It is a perfect fit, if you are looking for a club that you can release the stress of work and meet extraordinary people on the dance floor.

Thuishaven

Want to enjoy a mini-festival during summer and magical wonderland during winter? If your answer is hell yes, then you have to check out the Thuishaven.

Thuishaven is an outdoor & indoor club which is located in the far west of Amsterdam. With its unique program and amazing day & night parties, this club stands out among other clubs in the West district. The site of the club is surrounded by massive oil tankers, and scrap metal yards, which creates such a raw and industrial atmosphere. 

From October till April, you can enjoy the heated tents of the club, and between May and September, you can enjoy the wicked stage performances in the open air! If that is not enough, you can also have a quiet hilarious time at the laughing-gas bar with your friends. 

BRET

BRET is made of bright-red shipping containers, this super cool venue is for people who are looking for not only dance parties but also calm dinner & drinks.

Located right next to the Amsterdam Sloterdijk train station, BRET offers an impressive musical agenda for everyone. Especially on Friday nights, you can enjoy nice, soulful music around 7 pm, and dance like nobody is watching after midnight! If you are into house and techno music, you will love BRET.

Warehouse Elementenstraat

During the 90s, this massive old warehouse has been used for one of the biggest house nights of Amsterdam which is called “Multigroove” for years. Unfortunately, it lost its fame to other amazing industrial nightclubs of Amsterdam. 

Thanks to GZG, who is a young collective of techno artists, Warehouse Elementenstraat is once again home to the biggest techno promoters of The Netherlands!  If you are into techno, house, and other EDM genres, you will love Warehouse Elementenstraat!

De Marktkantine

If you love especially deep-house and other house music genres, you will love this nightclub. Not only that, but De Marktkantine also plays a lot of techno, dnb, and funky music

De Marktkantine is famous for having one of the most original, and high-quality music collectives of the Netherlands, which is called the Gardens of Babylon. With its big and round dance floor, amazing sound-system, and high-end artists selections, here is another popular choice among music lovers of all ages! Just note that De Marktkantine is open every Friday and Saturday from 11 pm till 5 am.

Radion

With its deafening techno nights, RADION is another extremely popular nightclub and cultural hotspot among the young generation in Amsterdam. Here, you can enjoy many occasional concerts, live performances, and incredible exhibitions as well. 

RADION has a 24-hours permit, but the club is closed at 7 am. But don’t worry – this means that you can get to enjoy other cultural activities within this epic industrial warehouse.

Places to Party in Amsterdam East (Amsterdam-Oost Bars)

The eastern part of Amsterdam is also known as Amsterdam Oost by the locals. It has the perfect mix of modern and traditional buildings and places and should be a part of every Amsterdam itinerary. With its more of a hipster vibe, here you can enjoy the fresh air and greenery of Oosterpark, Amsterdam’s beautiful scenery, and of course, the wild nightlife!

Bar Bukowski

Bar Bukowski is just outside the entry of Oostpark and is perhaps the livliest bar in the area. The service is amazing and so is the craft beer. I highly recommend you order “Lellebel” beer from the tap – it is super delicious. So what’s up with the name? It is namded after a writer called Charles Bukowski, and an artwork of his face is on the coasters that are amazing.

I’d like to mention that you can also order plenty of yummy bar food in Bar Bukowski after hours when a lot of restaurants are closed. Yayy!!

Oosterbar

Spacious clubs are cool, but if you are looking for a more friendly and intimate club, you have to check out to Oosterbar. Located under the Generator Hostel, you will have one of the best nights of your life in Oosterbars buddy-buddy basement! 

Here, you can enjoy hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul, and house music in an incredible industrial atmosphere. P.S. Oosterbar also has the best cocktails!

De Tropen

If you are a big fan of collectives like Madness Cr3w, you have to check out the De Tropen Bar at De Tropen Museum! In its elite location, you can enjoy famous DJs playing a wide selection of jazz, future beats, hiphop, and house music! So, don’t forget to wear your best party dress and enjoy the rhythm. 

Amsterdam Roest

Interested in the pool and beach parties during summer, and dance by the water during winter? Then you have to visit the Roest! 

With its industrial hang-out by the water, and epic program varies from reggae, afro beats to house and disco nights, you can dance like an animal starting from 10 pm every weekend!

Panama

Panama in Amsterdam-Oost

Panama in Amsterdam-Oost – © Photo by Panama via Facebook.

Looking for impressive shows, and some sensational beats? If yes, then you have to check out Panama Club in the East district of Amsterdam! In this massive venue, you can get to enjoy the most famous names of house music while gazing at the amazing view of the IJ River. 

Panama Club has a nightclub, concert venue, lobby, and restaurant all in one place. Which means, you can start your evening with a delicious meal, and then let loose at the colorful dance floor while listening to trance, techno, urban, the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

Places to Party in Amsterdam North: Amsterdam Noord Bars

Amsterdam-Noord is Amsterdam North, it was home to craftsmen, merchants, and shipbuilders 300 years ago. This has created a kind of separation from the rest of the city. In today’s date, Amsterdam-Noord is the city’s hipster neighborhood with an amazing art scene. Be sure to check out our post about Amsterdam Noord for everything you want to know about this awesome neighborhood. 

Just like other districts of Amsterdam, here has also great local pubs, bars, and incredible nightclubs. So, here are some epic nightclubs of Amsterdam Noord!

Pllek

Pllek by the IJ in Amsterdam-Noord – July 2021

Pllek was once a shipyard but is now an amazing party venue. There is a massive outdoor sitting area by the beach, so you can enjoy beach parties during summer months. The sunset time in summer in this part of Europe is as late as 9:30 pm or 10 pm, so you can have an amazing beach sunset cocktail scene at Pllek before you start to party.

Pllek is not just a place to party, but is a space for creative minds to come together. The restaurant menu is 75% vegan and delicious. They have a Live Stage with a dance floor, that’s equipped with professional D&B sound. You can enjoy unique musical performances throughout the year here.

 

Café Noorderlicht

Located on NDSM Plein, Café Noorderlicht, aka Northern Lights Cafe in English, is actually a greenhouse with an epic view. In this gorgeous and more chill cafe, you can have great food and enjoy many musical programs all year round. Here hosts many fascinating concerts, music jams, and festivals. Café Noorderlicht also offers you a beautiful outside garden, which you can enjoy during the summer!

Garage Noord

Just behind the Amsterdam Central Station, you will find one of the coolest underground venues called Garage Noord! This nightclub not only has a bomb musical agenda but also has the most delicious food and cocktails. Garage Noord is famous for its electronic music, so if you are into that, don’t miss this club! And also, you have to taste its juicy burgers and Kombucha cocktails! 

Shelter

Located in the basement of Amsterdam Toren tower, Shelter is a 24/7 nightclub that hosts the craziest party people from all around the World! This new nightclub has gained a huge reputation as one of the best clubs in Amsterdam due to its epic music mix of harder genres of electronic and techno music. So, if you are into techno, you have to check out the Shelter!

Bars in Amsterdam Central (including Leidseplein)

And it is time for the legendary Amsterdam Center! Everyone knows that this famous city center offers a one of a kind night out. Europe’s nightlife capital has a lot of options when it comes to nightclubs, venues, and bars. 

The most famous ones are, of course, in the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein area. So, if you are ready to party at the center of the city, here are my favorite nightclubs!

Bitterzoet

Cherry Glazerr in Bitterzoet, Amsterdam by Oscar Anjewierden (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Cherry Glazerr in Bitterzoet, Amsterdam by Oscar Anjewierden (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Being known as a former church, Bitterzoet offers party animals an intimate atmosphere and amazing shows! With its stained-glass windows, and walls full of cool graffitis, this nightclub has a spacious bar and a massive space for dancing. In Bitterzoet, you can not only enjoy epic hip hop battles, and skateboard shows, but also listen to the splendid Afro-Cuban jazz fusion and funk jam! 

Paradiso Noord

Colbie Caillat playing in Paradiso, Amsterdam by Martijn vd - (CC BY 2.0) VIA Flickr

Colbie Caillat playing in Paradiso, Amsterdam by Martijn vd – (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Located in Leidseplein, the Paradiso club is considered as a cultural mecca for art in North Amsterdam. With its spacious dance hall, many small rooms, and exhibition halls, this club has established itself as a community hub! If you want to party while enjoying the waterside terrace, then head to the Paradiso club!

Melkweg

Being one of the best Leidseplein nightlife centers, Melkweg attracts younger crowds with its tasteful program! Melkweg aka milky way in English is one of the most well-known dance clubs in the city center. This former dairy factory -hence the name- is now hosting 2200 people in its epic concert halls! If you want to party while enjoying the famous performers and progressive rock bands, you have to check out Melkweg!

Paradiso

And last but not least, the club Paradiso! This eclectic club is by far the most famous nightclub in Amsterdam. Being a former church, Paradiso has opened its door to the party people in 1967, and since then it has hosted many legendary DJs. 

Due to its beautiful interior with stained-glass windows, and open balconies, Paradiso offers an amazing view and epic parties.

Amsterdam Nightlife Tips

I have shared information about where to party in Amsterdam, but make sure you read THIS section. Here you will find my tips to help you make the most of your party night.

Amsterdam nightlife dress code

Amsterdam’s nightlife scene is pretty simple and casual. A nice pair of jeans, a cool top and comfy shoes is all it takes to make your night epic. 

Normally you can enter most of the nightclubs in Amsterdam wearing casual clothes and sneakers – as long as you sober. Very few clubs enforce a strict dress code. One of them being Jimmy Woo – a high end club with an impressive VIP lounge.

Getting into Clubs in Amsterdam

You yay get turned away if..

  • You don’t look extremely drunk, high and not sober at all. 
  • You arrive in a large group of people that are mostly men.
  • You’re wearing a baseball cap, ripped clothes and like a total mess. 

Carry a Photo ID

If you are at least 18 years old, getting into clubs in Amsterdam is not that complicated. Just don’t forget to bring your ID and you are ready to party. 

What time do Bars Close in Amsterdam?

And you are ready to dance till 3 am during the week and 4 am during the weekend! If you are a laid-down type of person, you can enjoy many cool bars till 1 am during the week and 3 am during the weekend. After you are done partying, you can stay in many budget-friendly hostels or some incredible hotels.

Bars in Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are Expensive

Everything in Amsterdam’s main city centre is expensive and so are the bars. The bars in Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are expensive, so party in the other areas if you don’t want to burn a big hole in your pockets. For more information, check out this page by Amsterdam Tourism board.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam for Nightlife?

If you want to stay and party in the city centre, then keep in mind you can walk and reach everywhere within just a few minutes. Still, if you want to stay right next to a party place, then pick a place to stay near Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein – they’re the party areas. In Rembrandtplein, check out NH Amsterdam Schiller for luxury or Coco’s Outback apartments for an affordable option. In Leidseplein, consider booking American Hotel Amsterdam for a luxurious experience, or Leidse Square City Center Apartments for an affordable option. 

If you want to enjoy the pubs in Noord, then pick a place that’s close to the A’dam tower, like Sir Adam Hotel or ClickNoord hostel. A’dam tower is close to the ferry point that goes to Amsterdam Centraal, so in case you want to visit the city centre during the day, it will be easy. 

Did follow our nightlife recommendations for Amsterdam?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

 

About the writer:

Alara BenlierAlara Benlier

My name is Alara Benlier, and I am a passionate traveler who is in a constant search for delicious foods and historical places. Currently living in Germany, I visited many places in Europe and met lots of lovely people from different cultures. Before Germany, I lived in Rotterdam for a year and traveled all around the Netherlands. I am excited to share all my experiences in Drifter Planet.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Things to do in Pula, Croatia: Travel Guide for the Gem of Istria

Things to do in Pula, Croatia: Travel Guide for the Gem of Istria

Pula is fun, vibrant and historical. It has a bit of everything that Croatia is famous for – all packed in one destination.

Situated on the lower tip of the Istrian Peninsula, Pula is a coastal town with an abundance of distinctive rocky beaches. It is more than just a beach destination, it has a LOT of history too. There is so much more to this charming, medieval town that makes it worth the visit and the perfect destination for you to start or end your adventures in Croatia. 

The rocky coast of Pula, Croatia

The rocky coast of Pula, Croatia

Pula is one of the biggest and most important towns of the Istria region. Due the history surrounding this area, Pula is often viewed as a little Rome with many impressive Roman ruins dispersed around the city. With comfortable, mild weather year-round and an eclectic nightlife scene, you would be remiss to avoid Pula during your travels.

The Shipyard in Pula lights up at night, Croatia

The Shipyard in Pula lights up at night, Croatia

Pula has a massive shipyard that lights up at night with different lights. We saw this view from our hostel window every night and it was unbelievable. 

Where is Pula


Ever noticed on the map that there’s a part of Croatia that’s on the opposite side of the sea as Italy? That’s where Pula is! With Venice just across the Adriatic Sea on the left, Pula is situated on the bottom angle of the Istrian Peninsula. 

If you are planning to visit multiple places in the country, then Pula is the best place to start your Croatia itinerary. Istria is the westernmost county in Croatia which makes it an ideal place to begin your escapades around this mesmerizing country.

A Bit about Istria

The Streets of Pula, Croatia

The Streets of Pula, Croatia

You have noticed how I have mentioned Istria many times while introducing Pula. Well, here’s a little info about it. Istria is a peninsula in the Adriatic sea that’s mostly in Croatia, and some parts are also in Slovenia and Italy.

A big part of the Istria region inside Croatia is called Istria County – so, they’re not the same thing. When someone says “Istria”, they usually mean the entire region that is much bigger than the Istria County of Croatia. 

In the Ancient times, Istria was called Histria and was much bigger than the present day region. This region has a lot of history, but I won’t go into that in this post. You can read about the history of Istria here.

How to Reach Pula?

It is simple to reach Pula by many different ways. We arrived here on bus from Slunj town but below are all the other ways to enter Pula:

Reaching Pula by air – Pula has an International Airport (Zračna luka Pula) which enables travellers to easily access the city from many different parts of Europe. Not just budget airlines but also bigger international carriers like Lufthansa and British Airways fly to Pula too.

Me after getting off the bus in Pula, Croatia

Me after getting off the bus in Pula, Croatia

Reaching Pula by bus – Travelling around Croatia is relatively simple with a reliable amount of train and bus routes that can help you access anywhere you want to go within the country and to its neighbours as well. We arrived here on a bus from Slunj (near Plitvice Lakes) and had to change it in Karlovac. You can arrive here on a bus from Rijeka, Zagreb, Split, Karlovac, Belgrade (Serbia) and Venice (Italy) to name a few. Here’s more information about reaching Pula on bus.

Reaching Pula by sea from Italy – Spending some time in Italy? Pula is nestled up to the Gulf of Venice which means you can ride a catamaran directly from Venice to Pula for a unique experience. Please note, just journey can only be done in summer. 

Things to do in Pula, Croatia

Pula Beaches

The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria - Croatia Itinerary

The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria – Croatia Itinerary – a little ahead of Ambrela Beach

Pula is situated right on the coast of the Adriatic Sea so you can be assured that there is no shortage of picturesque beaches to spend your days here. Go with the family and lounge on the shore or take part in some water sports with your friends. If you are searching for paradise, you will be able to find it.

Pula beach sunset - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Pula beach sunset – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Taking a dip in some of the most popular beaches such as Ambrela Beach, Hawaiian Cove Beach, or Valkane Beach comes as a given that it is one of the best things to do in Pula. We loved Stoja Beach the most and you can even camp here if you are road tripping or camping around Croatia.

Below are some of the beaches of Pula that you should consider visiting:

Ambrela Beach

Me on the crowded Ambrela Beach during the peak season

Me on the crowded Ambrela Beach during the peak season

One of the most popular beaches of Pula, it is a blue flag beach. It is a pebble beach that’s on the Verudela peninsula. The famous Brioni Hotel is on this beach. Ambrela beach is perfect for swimming because the water is shallow and very clear. There are also two floating lines on the water along this beach.

Ambrela Beach tends to get very crowded, so as you move a further ahead, you will notice a few secluded shaded areas where you can enjoy some quiet time.

Stoja Beach

The Lovely Stoja Beach in Pula, Croatia

The Lovely Stoja Beach in Pula, Croatia

Out of all the beaches that I visited in Pula, I somehow enjoyed myself the most on Stoja. It was so because there are a few beaches that are together and you can see them from some spots. There’s the Stoja Beach, Seagull’s Rocks Beach, and the Valovine Beach (see the next point).

Valovine Beach

Valovine Beach is next to Stoja Beach. A very small part of this beach is sandy and most of it is pebbles. This beach has Big Mama Beach Bar, which is a good spot to watch the sunset. 

Valkane Beach

Valkane Beach is near Stoja beaches in the Zelenika Cove. This blue flag beach has two beach bars – Valkane Bar and Sumi More. It isn’t the best looking beach in Pula because it is highly furnished. 

A secluded spot ahead one of the popular beaches in Pula, Croatia

A secluded spot ahead one of the popular beaches in Pula, Croatia

Havajsko Beach

It is a small beach with pebbles. The water is very clear. On one side of this beach are the Verudela Beach Apartments and on the other side is the Verudela Canyon. Park Plaza Arena Pula is behind the beach.

Saccorgiana Cove

Saccorgiana Cove is at the end of Ambrela Beach. It is extremely small and has the Zeppelin Beach Bar on one side of it.

Valsaline-Mornar Beach

Another pebbley beach, Valsaline-Mornar is on Soline cove. 

Sunset view from one of the beaches in Pula, Croatia

Sunset view from one of the beaches in Pula, Croatia

Gortan’s Cove or Gorton Cove Beach

Gorton’s Cove beach is next to the monument of Vladimir Gortan. It is a very small beach and is shallow, so is perfect for swimming. Gorton’s Cove has a small shaded area where you can sit. This beach has Pomidor Bar that has a small children’s play area too.

Felsen Beach or Seagull’s Rocks

Seagul’s Rocks beach is also called Felsen Beach, it is next to Stoja Beach. You can’t just walk into the water here because these rocks are a little high. There are many cliff jumping spots on this beach at different levels. 

Beach Park Plaža

This beach is where the Park Plaza hotel is situated, and this is why it is sometimes called Park Plaza Beach. It is a very small beach.

Another unique experience to enjoy here in Pula is to sunbathe at a naturalist friendly beach (marked FKK). Naturism is a very common movement in Europe and is all about being free and comfortable in your own skin. 

Visit Pula Arena – the Roman Amphitheatre

Aerial View of the Pula Arena, the Roman Amphitheatre

Aerial View of the Pula Arena, the Roman Amphitheatre

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Pula Arena is resemblant of the famous Colosseum in Rome and is one of the six remaining ancient amphitheaters still standing. Constructed in 27 – 68 AD, Pula Amphitheater is the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia. The best part is that, one of its sides faces the sea.

View of the Adriatic Sea from Pula Arena, the Roman Amphitheatre

View of the Adriatic Sea from Pula Arena, the Roman Amphitheatre

Despite it’s cousin in Rome gaining worldwide notoriety, the impeccable restoration work done on this one has developed it into a pristine example of the ancient building style. It is the ONLY remaining Roman amphitheater with all three Roman architectural orders and side towers entirely preserved. 

After arriving in Croatia, you will surely get the Croatian currency from an ATM or a ForEx kiosk. Take out the note for 10 Kunas and flip it over. If you have one of the older 10 kunas, you will see the Pula Arena depicted on the note. Interestingly, the entry to the amphitheater is also 10 Kunas. 

Pula Arena - the Roman Amphitheatre in Pula

Pula Arena – the Roman Amphitheatre in Pula

It was once the setting for epic gladiator fights but nowadays, Pula Arena is still widely used as a key venue for festivals and huge musical performances. International superstars like Alanis Morissette, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Sinéad O’Connor, Elton John, Micheal Bolton, Foo Fighters, Norah Jones, Jamiroquai, Anastacia, Sting and Status Quo have performed in Pula Arena. 

Imagine attending an art or musical performance with the backdrop of Roman ruins – sounds awesome, no? Pula Arena is also the venue for multiple festivals. Scroll to the bottom of the list of things to do in Pula to see the information about the festivals.

Want to see something different? Once every month, there is a small show here that mocks gladiator fights and is funny.

Walk Around in the Old Town

Arco dei Sergi in Pula's old town centre at night - Croatia itinerary

Arco dei Sergi in Pula’s old town centre at night – Croatia itinerary

One of the most interesting things about Pula is that it is filled with Ancient Roman buildings and ruins. The Old Town is the perfect place to wander around and see some of these former structures.

Some of the top sites to check out are all within walking distance of the main square, also referred to as the Forum.

San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary

San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary

Start at the Arch of Sergii (Zlatna vrata); an arch built in 27 BC devoted to three brothers of the Sergius family, a leading house that ruled over the area for a few centuries. 

Then to head the Temple of Augustus. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus, built a series of temples similar to the one you can see in Pula all over the Ancient Roman Empire. 

Walking around in Pula Old Town - Travel Guide

Walking around in Pula Old Town – Travel Guide

Lastly, you don’t want to skip Pula Cathedral. Although built quite a bit later than the other two recommendations and furthermore revised over the centuries, it is still a prime example of Ancient Roman architecture.

Visit the Open Food Market / Pula Fish Market

Cheese in Pula Marketplace - the open food market

Cheese in Pula Marketplace – the open food market

Alright all you foodies and photographers, this one’s for you! While visiting Pula, you have got to take a trip to the Open Food Market that’s open from 7 am to 2 pm. Follow your senses through the aisles of this fresh market as you taste samples from the many vendors selling their homegrown goods.

The merchants are separated with meats and fish sold inside the market hall and produce available outside. You can find things like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey, olives, olive oil, You can also grab a bite to eat, drink coffee, eat cake and enjoy your breakfast on the go. There are breakfast shops that are upstairs, but we recommend eating in the coffee kiosks that are outside.

Meat in Pula Marketplace - the open food market

Meat in Pula Marketplace – the open food market

Get ready to click loads of pictures because this market lis in Pula’s lovely city centre and looks gorgeous outside. You can see merchants lined up on each side of narrow paths – it all makes Pula Marketplace an interesting sight.

My husband, San is half Italian and as per him this market reminded him of Italy. For us, the most interesting part was cheese. We highly recommend a stop here, even just to see and mingle with the local community.

Pula Nightlife & Party Scene

Pula has an amazing party scene

Pula has an amazing party scene

What you are guaranteed to get when searching for Pula nightlife are unique venues and a variety of music. There will be a spot on the beach for you whether you are looking for a high energy DJ to spin you up some house and techno music or a mellow reggae bar. If you are looking for a more chill and alternative vibe, you will find venues in the Old City more your style. 

Visit the Shipyard Bar to enjoy amazing craft beer with burgers, Old City Bar to enjoy your drinks outside or Sunshine Beach Bar to enjoy the view of the sea.

Day Trip to Rovinj

There are many interesting small villages near Pula to take day trips to but Rovinj is a town you don’t want to miss. Rovinj is a harbour town that is lined with brightly, warm toned buildings and cobblestoned streets, featuring a pleasant mix of Italian and Croatian culture. 

Getting there from Pula for the day is also really easy with buses leaving on the 40 minute trip at all times throughout the day and costing only about five euro each way. 

Visit one of the Islands near Pula

Rovinj - an easy day trip from Pula, Croatia

Rovinj – an easy day trip from Pula, Croatia

You could go island hopping all the way from Pula down to Split if you wanted to as Croatia has over 1000 islands off of its eastern coastline. The Croatian Islands offer a much different experience than island life in more tropical climates can give you. Expect a mesh of incredible beachy landscapes with ancient European flavour.

The most popular islands to visit near Pula are the Brijuni Islands. Here you can visit the ruins of a Roman Villa, explore a protected Croatian National park, or even track down some dinos from the cretaceous period.

Take Your Kids to Pula Aquarium 

Jellyfish inside Pula Aquarium

Jellyfish inside Pula Aquarium

If you are travelling with your kids (and lets be real, even if you are not) an exciting thing to do in Pula is visit the aquarium. The setting for Pula Aquarium is unlike anything you have seen before as it is located within Verudela – a 130-year-old fort! So, you pay for the aquarium but get to enjoy the historical fort too.

Pula Aquarium shows, educate, and protect the wildlife that inhabits the Adriatic sea as well as the lakes and rivers around Croatia. Learn about the evolution. Get up close and personal with hundreds of different species of fish and crustaceans. You will see some sharks, jellyfish, octopuses, seahorses, crocodiles and piranhas apart from just usual fish. You will see some beautiful corals too. There’s an Amazonian theme on the second floor, which is lovely.

Inside Pula Aquarium, Croatia

Inside Pula Aquarium, Croatia

The best part is that it isn’t very big so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on something if you have time constrains. It is small enough for you to explore it in 1 or 2 hours, but big enough for you not to be bored. It is one of the best places to visit in Pula if the weather is bad.

While here, make sure you go to the roof to enjoy the panoramic views from there. Pula Aquarium also has a reasonably priced snack bar where you can enjoy a cup of coffee.

Parking outside Pula Aquarium is free, but it may be difficult to find an empty parking spot during busy summer months. If you’re arriving here by public transport, then get on to bus 2A or 3A to Verudela and walk to the aquarium from the bus stop.

Pula Festivals

If you’re visiting Pula in summer, then you may want to check out the below festivals that occur every year at the Pula Arena amphitheater: 

  • Pula Film Festival – July or August 
  • Festival Visualia – mid September, 
  • Dimensions Festival – mid August
  • Outlook Festival – early September

 

Pula Weather and What to Expect

Pula has made it to many travellers itineraries due to the mild climate that is in Istria county year round. The warmest months are from June to September, with temperatures typically being above 20 degrees celsius. With that being said, Pula rarely cools down to below 10 degrees.

One thing you should take into account when planning and packing for your trip to Pula is that it can get very humid. This is expected with its close proximity to the sea, but it can get uncomfortable in August when this region sees its warmest weather. 

Our visit to Pula was in early August. During mid day, the weather was a little too warm for our liking. 

Where to Stay in Pula

Colosseum Garden Studio Apartments

As the name suggests, these apartments are very close to the Pula Arena Amphitheatre. These apartments have a bedroom, sitting area in the garden, kitchen and literally all the appliances that you would need on your vacation.

Click here for more information. Alternatively, you can read reviews about this place here

Riva Hostel

Riva Hostel in Pula - Travel Guide

Riva Hostel in Pula – Travel Guide

We stayed here and loved it! Riva hostel offers clean and comfortable accommodations in close proximity to some major attractions including Pula Arena. The shining feature of this hostel was the furnished terrace; a perfect spot for relaxing after a day of exploring and meeting fellow travellers.

Click here to book Riva Hostel or read the reviews about this place on TripAdvisor. 

Camping Stoja

If you are on a camping adventure and in search of a safe place to stay, this is an incredible campsite right next to Stoja Beach. This campsite is within walking distance of everything you could possibly need to in your little oasis. 

There is also a swimming pool as well as other water sports facilities nearby to give you things to do during the day. At night, enjoy the sunset on the beach and if you are lucky, you will even see some dolphins swimming home.

Where to go after Pula?

Rovinj

We have already raved about taking a day trip to Rovinj, however, if time permits you should stay here for a few extra days. Most people are attracted to Rovinj for it’s dreamy, photogenic scenery but there is so much more to this port town.

For one, the locals are extremely friendly and charming. If you are needing suggestions for a place to eat or thing to see, you can count on the locals to give you a top-notch recommendation with a genuine smile.

Brijuni

The Brijuni Islands are a cluster of 14 islands off the coast of Pula. As mentioned above, a day trip is possible here but it is worth a longer visit if you have time. 

One of the main things to do in Brijuni is to visit the National Park. Depending on how you like to travel you can book either a guided tour, a self-guided tour, or rent a bike and go off and explore on your own.

If you are travelling with kids, they might really enjoy seeking out some dino footprints as there has been over 200 footprints found on Veliki Brijun Island.

To say that there are a ton of things to see here would be an understatement. Brijuni is rich in history which is evident through different sites around the main islands. You can find ancient Roman and Byzantine era ruins dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. There are structures from the Bronze Age that are estimated to be from the 14th century BC.

Plitvice Lakes

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

For those searching for some time to bask in nature, than you need to head to the astounding Plitvice Lakes. Here you will find a collection of 16 turquoise-hued lakes strewn around a limestone canyon and divided by magical cascades. 

At this national park you can expect adventurous hiking trails, unique wildlife and, of course, unbelievable viewpoints. Due to the popularity of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, we highly recommend you spend some time here instead of attempting a day trip from Pula.

We absolutely loved our time here and made a whole guide with tips on how to avoid crowds when visiting this breathtaking sanctuary.

Krka National Park

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Ok, did we grab your attention with Plitvice Lakes? Then you need to also add Krka National Park to your Croatia itinerary. Although it is not as grand as Plitvice, Krka National Park showcases a system of seven stunning waterfalls.

At Krka National Park, visitors are allowed to swim in the inviting pool that is created by the biggest waterfall, Skradinski Buk. There are also some fascinating sites to see here such as Krka Monastery which has been built on some ancient catacombs.

Zagreb

Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

If you are following our Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary, you will already know that we visited Zagreb before making our way to Pula. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to stop in Zagreb after exploring everything that Istria has to offer. 

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, has its own charm with architecture that has been frozen in medieval times. Much like Pula, Zagreb has an intriguing history that you can discover throughout the Old Town quarters. You can take a walking tour around the city to see all of its main sites or wander around the cobblestone alleys on your own.

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Top Places to visit in the Netherlands – Itinerary + Travel Guide + Map

Top Places to visit in the Netherlands – Itinerary + Travel Guide + Map

This post about top places to visit in the Netherlands has been written by an ex resident – Alara Benlier. The suggested Netherlands itinerary and route map has been added by the editor.

What’s the first image that comes to your mind when someone mentions the Netherlands? I bet it’s the colorful tulips, spectacular windmills, delicious waffles, loads of bicycles, gouda cheese, or the narrow canals. Yes, the Netherlands has all of that but also a lot more.

The Netherlands has an amazing art scene, medieval towns, music festivals, a many lovely towns that are along the water. You will fall in love with the old brick buildings, rich history, liberal culture and many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Netherlands is awesome and it will steal your heart. 

Tulips and Bicycles parked along the canal - Typical Dutch Scene - Delft

Tulips and Bicycles parked along the canal – Typical Dutch Scene – Delft

Geographically flat, the Netherlands is the perfect place to bicycle. This amazing country has some of the most bicycle friendly places in the world. Maybe because of this, the Dutch are extremely fit and sporty. In a way, the Dutch are like the Australians of Europe. They’re awesome! Make sure you talk to a few locals and get to know them when you visit the Netherlands.

The most famous destination in the Netherlands is Amsterdam – but you know that already. It is a part of every single itinerary for the Netherlands. But hey, don’t miss out on all the other amazing things to do in the Netherlands just because of Amsterdam.

If you’re visiting this amazing country, then don’t just spend all of your time in Amsterdam. Here are the top places to visit in the Netherlands, check them out. 

Suggested: How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Amsterdam

Places to visit in the Netherlands (+ Netherlands Itinerary Route Map)

Important notes about this itinerary:

  • Before you go further, we’d like to mention that this itinerary has been designed assuming you’re entering the Netherlands from Belgium or Germany. In case you’re flying into the Netherlands and landing in Amsterdam, then you should do this itinerary in reverse. In that case, you will start your Netherlands trip in Amsterdam and end in Maastricht. Be sure to read our detailed itinerary for Amsterdam for an epic trip.
  • Please note that some of the destinations on this Netherlands itinerary are seasonal. The Keukenhof Flower Gardens in Lisse are only open during spring. The beach destinations like Zandvoort and Scheveningen Beach are not worth visiting during winter months.

 

Maastricht – along the River Maas – Day 1

The Lovely Maastricht - the Netherlands

The Lovely Maastricht – the Netherlands

Maastricht is a magical city that stands along the Maas river, which is located in the south of the Netherlands. The city is jeweled with lots of old buildings, splendid churches, restaurants that serve fine cuisine and cute shops.

Maastricht - Places to visit in the Netherlands

Maastricht – Places to visit in the Netherlands CC0 via Pixabay

If you want to experience the whole city in a couple of hours, you have to check out the city center which is called the Vrijthof. The Vrijthof has the most picturesque stops in Maastricht, which include the old buildings and cathedrals, many cafes, terraces, and outdoor events. You can even take a boat tour from here and see the landmarks of the city while sailing on the Maas river. 

Maastricht along River Maas, Places to visit in the Netherlands

Maastricht along River Maas, Places to visit in the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Amsterdam to Maastricht

You can reach Maastricht on a direct intercity train (2981) from Amsterdam. The journey will cost you between 25 – 30 Euros and takes around 2.5 hours.

Maastricht Hotels and Places to Stay

  • Townhouse Maastricht: Situated in the historical part of Maastricht, this hotel has a vintage looking cozy sitting area with tonnes of books. This charming hotel combines ultra modern elements with vintage and the result is stunning. (Read TripAdvisor Reviews here)
  • M-Maastricht: This old school holiday home is located next to St Servaas Bridge and as a result, the views are amazing. Apart from the bedroom and toilet, there’s also the kitchen – so you can cook your own food and save money. 

 

Efteling, Kaatsheuvel – Fairytale Theme Park – Day 2

Efteling Fairytale Theme Park in the Netherlands

Efteling Fairytale Theme Park in the Netherlands

Have you ever dreamed of having no rules in an amusement park when you were a kid? If you did, you were not alone because Dutch people turned that dream into reality, and they called it Efteling!

Efteling is an amusement park from fairytales which is located in Kaatsheuvel, in the Netherlands. This amusement park is massive, it is twice as large as the original Disneyland park in California. There are lots of things to explore, and the park has attractions for both children and adults. From roller coasters to boat rides, elves to dwarves, fairytale forests to haunted houses, Efteling is for everyone.

The most famous attraction in Efteling is the Fairytale forest. In this forest, you can listen to fairy tales depicted in animated houses and statues with music! The Fairytale Forest is a lot of fun for kids and if you like fairy tales, you can also enjoy “experiencing” the fairytales! 

Baron 1898 in Efteling - the Netherlands

Baron 1898 in Efteling – the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

If you want to visit here without kids and love scary rides, you can enjoy the Baron 1898, which is a scary dive coaster. Because this steep coaster dives into a hole in the ground, which is very dark and then comes out from a white fog it makes it quite an experience! If you are with older kids, you can enjoy the coaster called George and the Dragon, which has two wooden coasters (one of them is based on water and the other is on fire) on different rails, that race against each other! 

Fairlyland - Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands

Fairlyland – Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands

One of the most important tips is to take your time and enjoy as many attractions as possible. You can also eat at many restaurants within the park, and also bring your own food and enjoy it in the picnic areas that the park offers. Visiting this amusement park might be very tiring for the young ones, so if you stay late, you can stay in its cozy hotels and even rent a house for the whole family.

Amsterdam to Efteling

From Amsterdam, get on a train to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a.k.a, Den Bosch and from there you will easily find a bus to Efteling. Another option is to take a train to Tilburg and from there take a bus to Efteling. In both the cases, you can buy a combination ticket that includes both train and bus. You can get the ticket in a vending machine at the train station. 

Efteling Hotels and Places to Stay nearby

If you want to spend the night near Efteling, you should book a room in a town called Kaatsheuvel. Below are some places to stay in Kaatsheuvel:

 

Rotterdamthe Cubic Houses – Day 3

Rotterdam's Amazing Skyline - the Netherlands

Rotterdam’s Amazing Skyline – the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

With its modern architecture, old harbor, and dynamic energy, Rotterdam is the second biggest city in the Netherlands. This gorgeous city is surrounded by innovative architectural designs, and one of the best designs is its famous Cubic Houses! These small yellow-grey houses were built in the late 1970s by an Amsterdam architect called Piet Blom, and since then, they are the landmark of the city.

Cubic Houses in Rotterdam - Places to visit in Netherlands

Cubic Houses in Rotterdam – Places to visit in Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

The concept of these houses is very unique just like the houses itself. Every house represents a tree, and altogether they create a forest. You can find the Cubic Houses in the city center, right next to the Blaak tram station. If you would like to stay, you can book your room in the hostel inside the Cubic Houses. 

Rotterdam's cubic houses - the Netherlands

Rotterdam’s cubic houses – the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Amsterdam to Rotterdam

Just like most of the cities in this post, Rotterdam can also be reached very easily on a direct train from Amsterdam. You can get on the intercity train 2274 from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal. This journey will take you a little more than 1 hour. Alternatively, you can also get on to the sprinter train 4085, which will also take you from Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal in 75 minutes. 

Rotterdam Hotels and Places to Stay

 

Delft – Gouda, Ceramics & Historical Canals – Day 4

Delft - Netherlands travel guide

Delft – Netherlands travel guide – CC0 via Pixabay – CC0 via Pixabay

If you are into delicious gouda cheese, gorgeous ceramics & souvenirs, you have to visit the city Delft in the Netherlands! Delft is a cute and small city, which you can easily explore on foot or by bicycle. This city is blessed with the typical Dutch architecture and a splendid canal view, which makes it perfect to take epic pictures.

Blue and White Ceramic Plates in Delft, Netherlands

Blue and White Ceramic Plates in Delft, Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

With its origins from the 11th century, Delft was always well-known for its ceramic pottery industry. This adorable city is also jeweled with plenty of historical monuments and stunning architecture such as the city hall.

Delft - Places to visit in the Netherlands

Delft – Places to visit in the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

The Delft City Hall is the heart of the city and surrounded by cheese shops, Delftware shops, and cute cafes. In the cheese shops, you can try every kind of famous Dutch cheese and also buy them as a souvenir! In the amazing Delftware shops, you can shop for ceramics painted with the famous Delft blue, and of course, you can enjoy your coffee in many cute cafés. So better visit Delft with an empty stomach! Around the city hall, you can also buy other souvenirs and enjoy the sight on the historic architecture. 

Amsterdam to Delft

Get on to the intercity train 2280 from Amsterdam Centraal to reach Delft. The journey will just take one hour.

Delft Hotels and Places to Stay

Here are some places that we have handpicked for you to stay in Delft:

 

Den Haag / the Hague – Town Square and Scheveningen Beach – Day 5

Den Haag or the Hague - Flowers and Architecture

Den Haag or the Hague – Flowers and Architecture – CC0 via Pixabay

With its amazing museums, cool shops, and emerald green boulevards, Den Haag is one of the cities that shouldn’t be missed. Being the third-largest city of the Netherlands, Den Haag offers you to enjoy its beautiful beach along the North Sea. Den Haag is called “the Hague” in English. For the sake of ease, I will use these both the names here in this post.

Mauritshuis - the Hague - places to visit in Netherlands

Mauritshuis – the Hague – places to visit in Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

While you’re in the Hague, you have the option of exploring the old town or the beach. You can start your day in the town, get to the main square in the centre – Plein. Plein is a Dutch word that means square in English. Walk to Binnenhof, click a few pictures of the historical buildings and then make your way to Lange Voorhout. 

Night time in Den Haag - the Hague - Netherlands

Night time in Den Haag – the Hague – Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Lange Voorhout was once the Hague forest but is a square with a lot of trees. If you’re visiting Lange Voorhout on a Thursday or a Sunday, you will find a lovely antique market here. During summer, you can also see a free outdoor sculpture exhibition here, called Den Haag Sculptuur.

Scheveningen Beach, Den Haag - Places to visit in the Netherlands

Scheveningen Beach, Den Haag – Places to visit in the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

After a long day of traveling, you can relax at Scheveningen Beach and enjoy the beautiful sunset. Here is the largest pier in the Netherlands with its 60-meter lookout tower, bungee jumping facilities, casinos, and fancy restaurants. 

Amsterdam to Den Haag 

It is very easy to reach the Hague from Amsterdam on train, it will take you just 45 minutes. Look for a train from Amsterdam Centraal to Den Haag Centraal. 

Den Haag Hotels and Places to Stay

Below are some hotels in Den Haag that we have handpicked for you:

 

Lisse – the Keukenhof Flower Gardens – Day 6

Keukenhof Flower Gardens - Lisse - the Netherlands

Keukenhof Flower Gardens – Lisse – the Netherlands

Lisse is a small town that’s famous for its colourful tulips, mostly in the Keukenhof flower gardens. If you’re traveling to the Netherlands in spring, then you should do everything you can to check out the world-famous Dutch tulips in Lisse.

Even if you have just two days, keep Lisse in mind because it is the perfect destination for a romantic weekend in the Netherlands.

Keukenhof Garden in Lisse near Amsterdam - Netherlands Itinerary One Week

Keukenhof Garden in Lisse near Amsterdam – Netherlands Itinerary One Week – CC0 via Pixabay

With its amazing pavilions that show a fantastic collection of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, and lilies, Keukenhof is the most famous and largest flower park in the world. This gorgeous park has a different theme each year, that’s why Keukenhof attracts over a million visitors. Note that, the flower park is open for just eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May each year. 

Keukenhof - Lisse - Places to visit in the Netherlands

Keukenhof – Lisse – Places to visit in the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

One of the best ways to enjoy the Keukenhof flower gardens is by hopping on to a bicycle. Do the Keukenhof cycle route, which is a marked cycle trail that goes for 30 – 40 kms. If you’re not comfortable with riding a bicycle, then you will be happy to know that you can easily cover the area by walking.

If possible, arrive here as early as 8 am, that’s when the park opens. This way, you can avoid the peak crowd time, which is 10 am. The park closes at 7:30 pm.

Amsterdam to Keukenhof 

Tulips in Keukenhof, Netherlands

Tulips in Keukenhof, Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Lisse doesn’t have a train station, but you can reach here on a bus. Look for Keukenhof Express from Schiphol Airport. Schiphol Airport can be reached by taking a train from Amsterdam Centraal.

There are many day trips from Amsterdam to Keukenhof, below are some that we have handpicked for you. With most of these tours, you can skip the line and enjoy the beauty of these colorful tulips:

Lisse Hotels and Where to Stay

If you’re visiting Lisse, most likely you will make a day trip here from Amsterdam like 80% of the visitors. However, I highly suggest you stay here overnight and explore the smaller villages around where you can see some more tulip fields. Below are the hotels that we have handpicked for you:

  • Hotel de Lis: This hotel is less than 1 KM from Keukenhof. They have spacious rooms and an amazing breakfast spread. (Read TripAdvisor reviews):
  • De Vier Seizoenen Bed and Breakfast: This B&B is 1.5 KMs away from Keukenhof, with cozy rooms and a terrace. (read TripAdvisor reviews here)

 

Zandvoort – the Beaches – Day 7

Zandvoort - beach destination near Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Zandvoort – beach destination near Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Originally a fishing village, Zandvoort is now a beach resort town, and the only one that can be reached on a direct train from Amsterdam. The main town is ugly because of new buildings but the beach is pretty big and sandy. Zandvoort’s racing circuit is very popular, is called Circuit Park Zandvoort. 

While in Zandvoort, make the most of your beach time and try one of the beach sport activities that this town if famous for. You can do kitesurfing or wave-surfing. Don’t go to the main Zandvoort beach but head to Bloemendaal instead, which is towards the north. 

Kitesurfing in Zandvoort, the Netherlands

Kitesurfing in Zandvoort, the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Head to Kennemerduinen an der Nordsee in Zandvoort, it is a nature park with amazing sand dunes. Head to Havana aan Zee for a drink and food – one of the most popular seaside restaurant in Zandvoort. 

Guess what, Zandvoort also has a coffeeshop, it is called Yanks Indian-Club. If you don’t know this already, the coffeeshops in the Netherlands are for coffees but for buying and consuming marijuana. Yes, you can usually get a coffee too but if you want just that, you should look for a cafe instead.

Amsterdam to Zandvoort 

Zandvoort is just 5 train stops away from Amsterdam if you get on to the sprinter train number 5491. You can easily reach here by car too, but keep in mind that the traffic gets a little too much during peak summer season.

Zandvoort Hotels and Places to Stay

 

Haarlem – History, Shopping & Windmill Adriaan – Day 8

Haarlem Windmill Adriaan at night - the Netherlands

Haarlem Windmill Adriaan at night – the Netherlands

Haarlem is just 20 KMs form Amsterdam. It wasn’t one frequently visited by travelers but now that has changed. Back in 1300s, there was a route between Amsterdam to Haarlem with 12 city gates. At the moment only one of the gate still exists, the Amsterdamse Poort.

The Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem - the Netherlands

The Amsterdamse Poort in Haarlem – the Netherlands

A bit like Delft, even Haarlem has a historical town centre that’s beautiful and the town also has canals. Haarlem has a historical windmill called “the Adriaan” that will complete your Dutch bucket list. Originally dating back to 1779, the beautiful Windmill De Adriaan actually burnt down in 1932 but was rebuilt in 2002. 

Haarlem - places to visit in Netherlands

Haarlem – places to visit in Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Another amazing sight in Haarlem is the Vleeshal, it was once a meat market in Grote Markt. Apart from this, the Grote Markt has a lot of old buildings and Saint Bavo Church.  In summer, you can also find outdoor cafes here. 

Windmill Adriaan in Haarlem, the Netherlands

Windmill Adriaan in Haarlem, the Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

Cycle on the Haarlem Dunes Cycle Route to see the amazing dunes of National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. This trail can be from 29 KMs to 40 KMs, depending on the path you pick. 

Amsterdam to Haarlem

It will take you barely 15-18 minutes to reach Haarlem From Amsterdam. Get to Amsterdam Centraal station, from there, there are trains to Haarlem Centraal every 10 minutes.

Haarlem Hotels and Places to Stay

Here are the hotels in Haarlem that we have shortlisted for you:

 

Amsterdam – Canals, Coffeeshops, Red Light District, Museums – Days 9, 10 & 11

Amsterdam's canals, bridges, boats and narrow houses

Amsterdam’s canals, bridges, boats and narrow houses

The best way to end (or start) any trip in the Netherlands is Amsterdam. Amsterdam aka “Venice of the North” can be explained with the Dutch term “gezellig” that can be roughly translated as cozy. If you want to feel the cozy vibes of Amsterdam, just take a walk through its streets covered with bicycles while passing over bridges and follow canals and simply enjoy the light breeze in the air. 

We have a post about what to do in Amsterdam in 2 days, it has the city’s most amazing landmarks and experiences. We also have a detailed guide to Amsterdam’s coffeeshops where you can legally consume weed, and also Amsterdam’s nightlife – be sure to check them out. The city has a lot of must-visit places and it deserves more than one day to travel, but if you are a real city savant, here are some activities that you shouldn’t miss in Amsterdam! 

The Canal tour 

Canal Cruise in Amsterdam on a private open boat by Pure Amsterdam

Canal Cruise in Amsterdam on a private open boat by Pure Amsterdam

With its more than 400-year-old canals, Amsterdam offers you to take a ride through its fascinating history and iconic architecture on a boat. The Canal Ring, which is called Grachtengordel in Dutch, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. 

Taking a canal tour is a must in Amsterdam since it is one of the best ways to discover the city’s main attractions. Most canal cruises take around an hour, which means an hour of learning interesting facts about Amsterdam, taking epic pictures and exploring Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected canal ring. 

There are lots of options for every budget when it comes to a canal tour as well. You can take practical “Hop-On, Hop-Off” boat tours, romantic candle-lit dinner tours which last 3 hours or family boat tours. There is also an option to rent your own boat as well.

  • Small open canal boat cruise: An hour long boat tour that starts at Jordaan near the Anne Frank House. Smaller and open canal boats are much better than the bigger ones with glass windows.
  • 75 minute open canal cruise: Departs from just 1 KM away from the Bloemenmarkt (your next destination) and is also on a small boat that’s open.
  • 1 hour Canal Cruise: Starts at Rijksmuseum, which is only 1 KM away from your next destination – the Bloemenmarkt. This is also an open boat.
  • City Canal Cruise: This is on a boat with glass windows. Booking this tour only makes sense when it is raining and you can’t ride the open canal.
  • Canal Cruise with a native german guide: I have a lot of German readers and I’m sure they’d love to hear stories and anecdotes in German as they ride a lovely half open saloon boat that’s small.

The most popular option is, of course- the “Hop-On, Hop Off” boat tours. With this tour, you can hop on the boat to enjoy the canals and then hop off whenever you feel like visiting a shop, a museum, or eat some delicious Dutch pancakes. However, we highly recommend a private open boat that’s smaller.

After you are done exploring the area on foot, you can hop on again the next boat and continue to sail on to your next attraction while listening to interesting facts about Amsterdam. 

If you want to just sit back and enjoy the fascinating idyllic scenery and Golden Age architecture of Amsterdam, you can take an Open Boat Tour and customize your trip. This tour also offers to show you Amsterdam’s lesser-known sights while getting tips and recommendations from the tour guide! 

Bloemenmarkt to Waterlooplein Flea Markt

Waterlooplein Markt in Amsterdam with canal and Munttoren in the background

Waterlooplein Markt in Amsterdam with canal and Munttoren in the background

Many visitors spend too much time in Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops and the Red Light District (see the next point) and miss out on other things like the open air markets.

If you’re in Amsterdam for even one day, I highly recommend you walk from the flower market (Bloemenmarkt) to the hippie market (Waterlooplein). This walking experience isn’t for shopping purposes but to enjoy the sights and the experience of walking on Amsterdam’s loveliest canals.

Amsterdam has a lovely flower market on Singel Canal, one of the loveliest canals in Amsterdam. Many flower shops are on houseboats and this is why it is also called the floating flower market.  Yes, this market is lovelier than it sounds! You can buy not just tulip bulbs but other flowers too.  

Barely a kilometer away from the Bloemenmarkt is the Waterloo Square. That’s where you can enjoy Amsterdam’s hippie open air flea market. Waterlooplein Markt is one of the most famous open air markets in the Netherlands and is 130 years old. Go ahead and check out more information about this legendary flea market of Amsterdam here.

Coffeeshops and the Red Light District 

Walking around in the Red light district at night - Amsterdam Itinerary

Walking around in the Red light district at night – Amsterdam Itinerary

The real Amsterdam experience won’t be completed until you visit the oldest area in Amsterdam – the Red Light District, as well as one of the many coffeeshops. We have said this before, but in case you missed it – Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops aren’t really cafes but they’re government licensed places to sell marijuana. 

Visit one of the many coffeeshops, get a joint, laugh it out and walk through the Red Light District. No, don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating marijuana consumption but if you ever wanted to try it out then Amsterdam is the best place for it. Wondering which coffeeshop to visit? Check out my post about Amsterdam’s best coffeeshops.

If you’re a newbie and are scared to get high alone for the first time, then check out one of the below tours:

Amsterdam was known to be a major trading harbor since the Middle Ages. During those times, women used to carry attractive red lanterns to meet sailors and entertain them with “the oldest profession” in this district. 

The Red Light District, which is known as De Wallen by locals, is located on the south of the central station and consists of several lovely canals and medieval side streets. Since sex work wasn’t legal until 1810, the area has not only sex shops, peep shows, and window prostitution, but also a lot of bars, art galleries, cafes and coffee shops. 

An important note is that the Red Light District is covered with security cameras and policemen, so don’t try to take a photo or video of the sex workers in this area. There is a high chance of getting your camera taken away from you.

If you want a guided tour of the oldest part of Amsterdam, you will find the Prostitution Information Centre just around the corner. There, you can find lots of information about sex workers and have an informative 90 minute Red Light District walking tours. Below are some of the best tours that we have handpicked for you:

SkyLounge Rooftop Bar 

If you can’t get enough of the spectacular view of the city, you can get some more at the SkyLounge Rooftop Bar while enjoying a drink! This rooftop bar is located at the top of the DoubleTree Hotel and it is the most famous rooftop bar in the city.

Right next to Central Station, you can get an outstanding view of the city and the IJ river. Here lies a picturesque bar but I have to warn you, the prices are a little salty. You can have a cocktail around €16 or a small beer around €5, but don’t worry the view will make up for it! 

Heineken Experience 

One of the most recommended places to visit in Amsterdam is the Heineken Experience. Here, you can get to taste the local beer of the Netherlands, which is the world-famous Heineken beer. The Heineken Experience is very popular since it is the most authentic attraction of Amsterdam.

This old factory, now a museum, has been visited by millions of people from all over the world since 2001. The Heineken Experience offers an interactive self-guided walk through the factory, a delicious Heineken tasting session, and fun information about the company’s history. So, if you are a beer person, you have to check out this cool museum/factory! 

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

  • Pulitzer Amsterdam: (Check deals on Booking.com) This luxury hotel is in Amsterdam city centre but not directly in Dam Square, so you’re in a quieter area but still in the middle of everything. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor)
  • ClinkNoord: (Check deals on Booking.com) ClickNoord is an amazing hostel in Amsterdam’s hipster neighborhood – Noord. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor)

 

Giethoorn – Canal Town with no Streets – Day 11 or Day 12

Giethoorn - Little Venice in the Netherlands - One week Itinerary

Giethoorn – Little Venice in the Netherlands – One week Itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

Giethoorn is unreal. There aren’t any streets here but only canals. These canals are used as the main mode of transport. How cool is that! Apart from the canals, Giethoorn also has walking baths and bicycle paths. Like literally every Dutch town, the best way to explore is by getting on a bicycle. Go ahead and rent one to explore this cute town at your own pace.

Giethoorn - Places to visit in Netherlands

Giethoorn – Places to visit in Netherlands – CC0 via Pixabay

A lot of destinations have been dubbed as Venice of the North, but Giethoorn truly deserves this title. This town is picturesque and has received a lot of publicity from the likes of NatGeo because there aren’t any roads. Because of this, it does get a little busy during summer, but stays peaceful during all the other seasons. Thankfully, it isn’t very easy to visit Giethoorn using public transport.

If you do decide to visit Giethoorn, then most likely a day trip will be enough. However, I highly recommend you make the most of this town’s beauty and stay overnight. Go eat a nice Dutch meal in a canal side restaurant and make your trip epic. Head to De Eetkamer van Giethoorn and after that go get yourself a nice drink in Grand cafe Fanfare.

Giethoorn is close to De Weerribben-Wieden National Park, so you can visit these two destinations together if you have time on your hands. 

Amsterdam to Giethoorn 

Reaching Giethoorn on public transport from Amsterdam isn’t very easy because there isn’t a single direct train or bus. You need to change trains twice and then get on a bus. From Amsterdam Centraal to get on a train to Lelystad Centrum, from there catch a train to Steenwijk. After that, take a bus to Giethoorn.

You can check out this tour that will take you from Amsterdam to Giethroon and it also includes boat rides in both Amsterdam and Giethoorn.

 

 

Giethoorn Hotels and Places to Stay

Giethoorn has decent hotels and a hostel too. Below are some hotels and hostels we have shortlisted for you:

  • Hotel Giethoorn: The double rooms in this hotel are for around 50 euros per night when it isn’t high season. (Read tripadvisor reviews here)
  • Black Sheep Hostel: Solo travelers should check out the Black Sheep Hostel (read tripadvisor reviews here) where a bed is usually for 45 euros. Strangely, there isn’t a price difference between the hostel and hotels during the low season.

 

Netherlands Itinerary Suggested Route [Summary] + MAP

Netherlands itinerary suggested route - Map

Netherlands itinerary suggested route – Map – PIN IT to save

If you’re starting your Netherlands trip in Belgium or Germany, then we suggest the below route map for you to include all of the above mentioned destinations.

If you fly to the Netherlands then your itinerary reverses and you start at Amsterdam, make a day trip to Giethoorn, then carry on to Haarlem and so on. In this case, you will end in Maastricht before heading off to Belgium or Germany.

Day 1: Maastricht

Day 2: Eftelingsestraat Park

Day 3: Rotterdam

Day 4: Delft

Day 5: Den Haag / the Hague

Day 6: Keukenhof Flower Gardens at Lisse

Day 7: Zandvoort

Day 8: Haarlem

Day 9, 10 & 11: Amsterdam

Day 11 or 12: Giethoorn (Day trip or overnight)

About the writer:

Alara BenlierAlara Benlier

My name is Alara Benlier, and I am a passionate traveler who is in a constant search for delicious foods and historical places. Currently living in Germany, I visited many places in Europe and met lots of lovely people from different cultures. Before Germany, I lived in Rotterdam for a year and traveled all around the Netherlands. I am excited to share all my experiences in Drifter Planet.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary: Best Places to Visit + Map

Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Itinerary: Best Places to Visit + Map

Croatia Road Trip Itinerary to help you plan your trip.

How beautiful is Croatia! There are clear blue lakes, medieval walled cities, amazing beaches, and stunning natural beauty. After two road trips in Croatia, we can confidently say that this lovely country in the Balkans can WOW every kind of traveler.

The first time we visited Croatia was on 2016. Back then, we didn’t do any research and did not have any idea about what to do in Croatia. Those were our carefree backpacking and hitchhiking days and we did not have any time constrains. Our Croatia travel itinerary had nothing on it but Plitvice Lakes and many extra days for spontaneity. I still remember how unreal it felt when we saw Croatia’s natural beauty – especially clear rivers and lakes.

Our second trip to Croatia was in 2019 and it was on our own camper van from Slovenia. We had a better idea about how we wanted to spend our time and where to go in Croatia. During our second trip, we had limited time and we wanted to spend it well. We saw different places on both these trips and have a lot of tips to share. 

Check Car Rental Prices in Croatia

If you’re on this page, I’m sure you know already where Croatia is. But still, just for the sake of quick information so that you can visualize the map in your head – it is opposite Italy with the Adriatic Sea separating them. Croatia shares most of its border with Slovenia, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It also shares a small part of the border with Serbia and Montenegro. 

Croatia has everything – mountains, beaches and historical towns so a road trip through this gorgeous country in Europe is a once in a lifetime experience. It still remains one of our favorite countries in Europe.

The Streets of Pula, Croatia

The Streets of Pula, Croatia

Get lost in lush jungle landscapes, stroll streets with charming Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, and enjoy the most pristine beachscapes – there are so many amazing things to do in Croatia. This guide to the most mesmerizing Croatia road trip will ensure that you have an unforgettable adventure.  Soak in the atmosphere of Croatia on a thrilling road trip. Here’s how to do it right.

Starting Point for Croatia Road Trip

So where should you start your epic Croatian road trip? It depends on many factors. The starting points will change based on how you enter Croatia. If you’re flying to the country, then you will most likely land in Zagreb. We suggest you start your road trip in Zagreb if you’re flying into Croatia and renting a car for your journey.

Check Car Rental Prices in Croatia

If you’re doing this journey on a camper van or a van, then be sure to check out our mega detailed post about exploring Europe on a camper van.

If you’re able to find cheap tickets to Croatia where you land on any other airport, then by all means get those. In that case, you can start your Croatia itinerary from another place such as Split or Dubrovnik and do a circle from there.

In case you’re driving to Croatia from one of the nearby countries, then it makes more sense to start your trip from one of the destinations that’s near the border. We want to make sure that you’re making the most of your travel time by sharing the best routes and stops.

If you’re driving into Croatia from Slovenia, then you can skip Zagreb and start your road trip from Pula instead. However, if you’re driving in from Hungary then it makes more sense to start your trip from Zagreb. Budapest to Zagreb is only 3 – 4 hours by driving. 

In case you’re starting your trip from Montenegro or Serbia or Bosnia & Herzegovina – then just do this itinerary in reverse and make Dubrovnik your starting point. From Bosnia-Herzegovina, you can also start your Croatia road trip from Plitvice Lakes

Our first road trip to Croatia was from Hungary and the second one was from Slovenia. Both these trips had different starting points – Zagreb and Zadar.

Croatia Itinerary: Best Places to Visit in Croatia

We have included many different kinds of places to visit in Croatia that will appeal to all kind of travelers. Our Croatia travel itinerary has beaches, national parks, historical towns, small towns, and party places. You can edit and modify this itinerary to skip some places to make your trip shorter.

Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route - Map

Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route – Map

Here’s a map of Croatia with all the suggested places marked for you. You can open this map on Google Maps and on your left you will see an option to send the directions on your phone. Save an offline version of this map on your phone if you have enough space. It will help you when you’re driving.

Here’s our Croatia itinerary, which is actually a combination of two of our separate trips in the Balkans. We’re also suggesting 1 – 2 places that we did not end up visiting but you shouldn’t miss them for your ultimate road trip in Croatia.

Zagreb – 1 Day 

Zagreb town - Croatia Itinerary

Zagreb town – Croatia Itinerary

Zagreb is Croatia’s glorious capital, and one of the best places to start your road trip in Croatia if you’re flying in. Pick up your rental car here and make this your beginning point. No, renting isn’t expensive and can turn out to be even cheaper than driving your own car into the country if you’re crossing too many countries.

Just like a typical European capital city, Zagreb also has a medieval-esque old town with cobbled streets and architecture. It is Croatia’s biggest city but you don’t need to spend more than a day here. In all honestly, you can skip Zagreb if you want to spend more time in nature. It is a suggested starting point because of the ease of starting your journey here.

Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Cathedral and Rooftops in Zagreb – Croatia Road Trip itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

While in Zagreb, book an apartment for yourself and park your car because the city’s public transport is awesome and affordable. There are trams (ZET – Zagreb Electric Tram), buses and historical rails. Get a single day tram ticket so that get on and off as you explore the city. Alternatively, you can get a Vrijednosna Karta that can be used for both trams and buses. Zagreb has Uber too, and it is super affordable.

So wondering how to spend one day in Zagreb? Start at the Upper Town (Gornji grad) and gradually make your way to the Lower Town (Donji grad). You can walk and enjoy the most of Zagreb. As per Lonely Planet, Zagreb is made for strolling. Oh, and there’s free WiFi that’s available around the national theatre in the main city square – how cool is that!

Upper Town is the main old town of Zagreb with medieval architecture. While here, walk around in Strossmayer Promenade, see the Old town gate, relax in Ribnjak Park, see the Neo-Gothic style cathedral in the Upper Town, look at St. Mark’s Church and the Sebian Orthodox Church. 

With such a rich history in this enchanting capital, it’s a great idea to take a walking tour in Zagreb to really soak in all of its wonders before you start your road trip. 

Jarun Park, Zagreb - Croatia Itinerary

Jarun Park, Zagreb – Croatia Itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

When you get bored of being a tourist in Zagreb, head over to Jarun Lake and relax on one of the bars. You can eat lunch here or have a few sunset drinks to end your day early.

If you’re visiting Zagreb on a Sunday, then take out time to check out Hrelić flea market that’s a little out of the city. 

Places to Stay in Zagreb

If you want to stay in Zagreb city centre, then check out Zest and Nest boutique Apartments. The apartments here have everything – kitchen, living room, toilet with all the appliances.

If you know for sure you won’t be cooking your meals and you’re looking for something fancy, check out Hotel Jägerhorn. It is an award winning hotel with a view of the town. It isn’t as pricy as other hotels.

Pula (Istria) – 2 – 3 Days

The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria - Croatia Itinerary

The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria – Croatia Itinerary

If you’re driving to Croatia from Slovenia or Italy, it makes total sense to start your trip in Pula and skip Zagreb. Pula is the biggest town in Istria and should be a part of your Croatia itinerary if you want to cover this particular part of the country.

It is a beach destination BUT is more than just pretty beaches, Pula has a lovely old town too. Believe it or not, it was built 3000 years ago by the Illyrians! You can see fascinating landmarks to visit and some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. It is like mini Italy within Croatia. 

Pula old town centre at night - Croatia itinerary

Pula old town centre at night – Croatia itinerary

Pula has Rome’s Colosseum look alike – it is called the Roman Arena. Guess what, it is the 6th largest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world. The entry is 20 Kunas, which is a 3 Euros. 

San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary

San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary

I really enjoyed walking around in Pula’s old town. There are two gates and one triumphal arch. Zlatna vrata is the arch and it was built in the 1st Century BC. The gates are Dvojna vrata and Herkulova vrata. These are all decent photography spots especially as the sun starts to set. There’s also a street market that we saw here with amazing cheese, salami and more.

Me in Pula - Croatia itinerary

Me in Pula – Croatia itinerary

While we were in Pula, we spent most of our time on the beaches. The beaches aren’t sandy but are pebbeley. Head to Stoja – the beach here was my favorite. Stoja isn’t a single beach here but many of them together next to a campsite. If you see google maps, you will notice how this part looks triangular with multiple beaches. If you’re road tripping on a van or are carrying a tent, then you can just camp right here in Camping Stoja.

Pula beach sunset - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Pula beach sunset – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Apart from Stoja, there’s also Valkane beach, Ambrela beach, Hawaii beach and many other beaches. Most of the beach looked similar but Stoja stood out for me.

FKK in Pula

Pula has some naturalistic beaches that are a little outside the city and are marked FKK. Free body culture exists and it isn’t just for the hippies. Go, shed your clothes and sunbathe naked in Pula’s FKK beaches.

Where to Stay in Pula

We stayed in a place called Riva Hostel and we loved it. The dorm rooms were excellent and so was the outside sitting area. We were not close to the beach but the pier, so we could see the water from our windows. The Roman Amphitheatre (Arena) was very close to our hostel. 

As mentioned in the section above, the campsite in Stoja is beautiful and is on the beach. You should definitely consider it if you’re looking for a campground in Pula. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park – 2 Days

Plitvice Lakes - third viewpoint over the big waterfall that shoes the cascades

Plitvice Lakes – one of the three viewpoints over the big waterfall that shows the cascades

Imagine 16 clear water lakes, all arranged in different levels (like steps) with cascades and waterfalls between them – that’s Plitvice Lakes. This world-renowned national park truly the best natural wonder in Croatia. It will make your jaw drop and leave you with incredible memories. 

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park is awesome but gets super crowded. Read our guide to the Plitvice Lakes for some useful insider knowledge about tips for avoiding crowds, costs, hiking routes, photo spots and more. It is best to drive through in the early afternoon as it’ll take around 2 hours to drive here from Zagreb, whereas it’ll take 3 and a half hours from Pula. 

Once you arrive, set up for the night so you can be there to enjoy the park early before it gets crowded. Book an apartment that’s nearby and get some rest the night before because you will have to walk a lot inside the national park. We stayed in Bungalows and Camping Korana, that’s 5 KMs away. 

Crystal Clear Water - Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Water so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

It isn’t cheap to park outside Plitvice Lakes entry gates so you can take local transport to save money. Our place of accommodation was running free shuttles to the park so we did not have to worry about this.

No doubt the lakes here are super stunning, but Plitvice Lakes National Park is so much more. Some of the viewpoints, waterfalls and cascades here are unbelievably gorgeous. There is also a cave too. Take the winding trails that show off Croatia’s unrivaled natural beauty as you bask in the blissful oasis that is the Plitvice Lakes. 

Mali Prštavac Slap - the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Mali Prštavac Slap – the most beautiful waterfall in Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Grab the chance to go for one of the world’s best walks as you breathe in the fresh air and admire the limestone canyon before your eyes. This is a truly remarkable area that attracts travelers from all over the world. The entrance fee is only €25 – €30 (180 Kunas). 

Where to stay near Plitvice Lakes

There are three hotels inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park and they are a little more expensive than the others. If you stay inside the national park, you will not spend on your internal transport and will also not wait in the long line. 

We stayed in a place called Campsite and Bungalows Korana, which is only 5KMs away. Not into camping? No worries, they have bungalows too. It is one of the few places that’s recommended by the National Park and they also run a free shuttle to and from the park everyday. 

Rastoke, Slunj Day Trip – 1/2 Day [Extend if you like]

Mini Plitvice Lakes - Waterfall in Slunj, Croatia Road Trip

Mini Plitvice Lakes – Waterfall in Slunj, Croatia Road Trip – CC0 via Pixabay

Did you know there is a “mini Plitvice Lake” in Croatia? It is in Slunj town, that’s not far from the National Park. The complex is called Rastoke and is a good place for a day trip if you want to get off the tourist trail in Croatia. 

Rastoke, Slunj in Croatia - Road trip itinerary

Rastoke, Slunj in Croatia – Road trip itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay

While you’re here, you can stop in Slunj town for lunch. It is a nice town with helpful locals. I have visited it a few times over the last few years because of Modem music festival.

If you have some more time and would like to experience the “real Croatia” without tourists, then by all means spend some more time in Slunj town. The locals here speak decent English and you won’t have any communication problems. Honestly, I’d rather spend more time in a small town like Slunj and skip other places if I’m visiting Croatia during one of the busier months. 

Zadar – 1 Day (Optional)

Zadar is near Krka National Park - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Zadar is near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Zadar is an optional stop, because this itinerary already includes similar (and more beautiful) historical coastal destinations like Dubrovnik and Split. If you have time, then by all makes stop here because it is close to Krka National Park and can be a good stopping point for the night. We stopped in Zadar for one night before driving to Krka National Park. 

If you do decide to stop in Zadar, then go explore the old town that has 34 churches. The beach that’s closest to the city centre is Kolovare. You can also visit Vitrenjak Beach and Borik Beach. 

So what’s unmissable in Zadar? The Sea Organ – it is really cool. There are tubes that are installed under marble steps that play music with the sea waves.

Where to Stay in Zadar

We stayed in a place called Apartment Maruna that had everything we needed. Our rooms were air conditioned, which was a blessing considering the summer heat. Our apartment had a nice and compact kitchen and a toilet. We also had a sitting area that was outside. It was the perfect place to stay for us. 

Krka National Park – 1 Day

KRKA National Park in Early Summer - Croatia Itinerary

KRKA National Park in Early Summer – Croatia Itinerary – Photo by my friend Sollunatic Photos

Krka National Park is one of Croatia’s most beautiful and fun at the same time. The drive will likely take you up to 2 hours, so we suggest leaving Plitvice Lakes in time to reach this park in the early afternoon. 

Plitvice Lakes is stunning but you can’t jump into any of the lakes or waterfalls there. On the other hand, you can swim in Krka National Park instead. The waterfall in Krka National park is massive and the biggest waterfall – Skradinski Buk creates a very big natural pool which makes the perfect swimming hole.

KRKA National People swimming in Park's Main Waterfall - Skradinski Buk - from up above - Croatia Itinerary

People swimming in Park’s Main Waterfall – Skradinski Buk – from up above – Croatia Itinerary

In order to enter the national park, you can either hike for 3.4 KMs, or take a ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk Ferry Pier. The hiking path isn’t shaded with trees so in summer you will literally die if you decide to hike. You can also cycle through. During summer, taking a ferry is the easiest option and the ferry is free if you have your park tickets.

In order to take the ferry, you have to reach Skradin and you can park your car nearby, the parking spot is marked as Parking Skradin KRKA on Google Maps. Parking is super expensive! I think we paid 1 euro per hour. 

Please note, that the ferry from Skradin to enter Krka National Park only runs from April to early November. Be prepared to hike to cycle for 3.4 KMs if you’re visiting during other months.

The ferry queues were long in August but they’re pretty normal during other months. Before you stand in the queue for the ferry, you need to also buy the Krka National park entry tickets. Thankfully the staff was pretty efficient and the ticket queues mover very fast. There is also a toilet in this area, not far from the ticket booth.

The ferry ride lasts for 20 minutes and is fun because you get to see the beauty of Krka River and the bridge.

Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia

Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia – Photo by my friend Sollunatic Photos

If you want to compare the beauty, then Plitvice Lakes National Park definitely wins. However, if you want to cool down and take a dip in the waterfall then you will love Krka National Park. Just like Plitvice Lakes, Krka National Park tends to get crowded as well, so visit super early or in the late afternoon to avoid crowds.

Me in Krka National Park - Ultimate Croatia Road Trip

Me in Krka National Park – Ultimate Croatia Road Trip

We found a smaller swimming hole which was near the main Skradinski Buk but was hidden because of the trees. Because of this, not many people were swimming here.

A semi hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

A semi hidden swimming spot in Krka National Park, Croatia

We visited in August and it was very crowded. The only time where we could enjoy the waterfall without people was during late afternoon. My friend Selin [Sollunatic Photos] visited a month before us and Skradinski Buk waterfall looks so empty in her photos.

Unlike Plitvice Lakes, you don’t need to walk that much inside Krka National Park. If you’re doing this trip with a baby in a stroller, then Krka National Park will be an easier destination and you should skip Plitvice Lakes. 

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary

The Krka National Park is home to many outstanding parts of Croatia’s history, including traditional watermills, and the Krka Monastery. Sightsee ancient Roman catacombs, exquisite cascades, and the park’s most popular site; it’s seven waterfalls. 

Take advantage of a Krka National Park tour to see all the park’s attractions and the best trails. The entrance fee is €20 (150 kunas) per person, and it’s well worth it.

KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets - Croatia road trip itinerary

KRKA National Park Entrance Tickets – Croatia road trip itinerary

Get a waterproof case for your camera or a GoPro to create memorable photos as you spend your day swimming in Krka National Park. Apart from that, there’s so much to explore here, so let your free spirit go wild as you find hidden gems scattered within the park. 

After you take a long walk through the park, refresh yourself in the crystal clear blue waters of the waterfalls. We suggest you spent a night at nearby accommodation, or book a tent and camp the night at the camping facilities 2KMs away. This is a fantastic way to embrace the wonder that makes Croatia’s indigenous landscapes renowned. 

Where to stay near Krka National Park

San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park - Croatia Road Trip itinerary

San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip itinerary

We camped in Camp Marina, one of the smaller campsites near Krka National Park. This campsite was perfect for us because we found a place in the corner with the view. It is 5 KMs away from the main parking area that’s close to the ferry pier. This campsite has rooms too, so you can book a room if you’re not up for camping.

Another option is Rooms Ive, a great spot for the night. It is 6 KMs away and you can enjoy barbecue facilities, free parking, privacy, and air-conditioned rooms. Have a comfortable night’s rest before continuing on your Croatia road trip. 

Split – 2 Days

Sunset in Split town - Croatia Road Trip

Sunset in Split town – Croatia Road Trip

Split is undoubtedly one of the most popular cities in Croatia, it also happens to be the largest city in the Dalmatia region. The drive here will take just over an hour, so we suggest leaving Krka National Park in the early morning to enjoy lunchtime in the city. 

The lovely Split town - Croatia Road Trip

The lovely Split town – Croatia Road Trip

This coastal urban city is never short on incredible sights and sounds, and it’s an exciting place to enjoy on a Croatia road trip. The city boasts still waters that reflect the shimmering sun and makes for the most wonderful place to go on a Croatian cruise

Split has amazing beaches so make sure you spend some time soaking up the sun. Fill the day with a boat ride to the blue lagoons and sightseeing ancient architecture like Diocletian’s Palace. You can also taste world-class cuisine with Italian influences or visit the charming Old Town.

This is a fabulous spot on our Croatian road trip itinerary to grab some souvenirs and have a sundowner whilst gazing over the dazzling Adriatic Sea. One of the best ways to enjoy the local vibe and feel the hum of Split’s city life is to take a stroll through the scenic Riva Promenade.

Split town at night - Croatia Itinerary

Split town at night – Croatia Itinerary

For those who enjoy hiking, be sure to have a go at climbing Marjan Hill. Split is the kind of city that has something for everyone.

Where to Stay in Split

Split has so many charming and unique hotels. One of our favorite spots is the Heritage Hotel Antique Split. This hotel combines the old with the new and is an affordable, elegant hotel in Split.

Hvar – 2 Days

Hvar Island from up above - Croatia Itinerary

Hvar Island from up above – Croatia Itinerary

C’mon you’re in Croatia so you’ve got to visit at least one island! One cannot travel this country without island-hopping and making time to see the famous Croatia scenery of the cities that lay just off the coastline. 

Although you won’t be able to drive to Hvar, you’re able to take your car on the ferry. The ferry costs are around €17 (127 Kunas) and you can catch one at 7:30, 10:00, or 16:30  daily. During peak months [summer], the queues are annoyingly long for ferries, so try your best to take the earliest one. 

Hvar Island Sunset - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Hvar Island Sunset – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Alternatively, you can make things easy for yourself and park your car in Split. Book a Hvar island tour from Split, which will cover your transport costs. The ride is likely to take you an hour to two, so take the earliest ride out possible.

The beautiful Old Town of Hvar Island, Croatia Itinerary

The beautiful Old Town of Hvar Island, Croatia Itinerary

This island will take you back in time and teach you about the colorful history of Croatia. While you’re here, make time to appreciate the 13th-century walls and architecture. As well as one of the most popular features, the Renaissance-era Hvar Cathedral. 

However, there is more to this island than its city.  One of the must-see attractions is the enchanting Monk Seal Cave, also known as the Blue Cave.

Take a load off after a long day of traveling around Hvar and laze out on one of the divine beaches, one of the best being Dubovica Beach. Let the day fade and enjoy a night’s stay on the island.

Where to stay in Hvar 

Hvar is renowned for having excellent accommodation options, with plenty of resorts and villas. For the full Hvar experience, look at staying at a beach resort. Our top choice is Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort, but if you’re looking for something cheaper, the Pharos Hvar Hotel will not disappoint.

Dubrovnik – 2 Days

Dubrovnik - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Dubrovnik – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Another unmissable thing to do on a Croatian road trip would be to visit the enthralling and extravagantly beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Highly touristy so make sure you thoroughly read this post before.

To get to Dubrovnik, you’ll need to leave Hvar and catch the 7:30 am ferry back Split. Your tickets will likely cost around €17 (127 Kunas). After you return to Split from Hvar, the drive to Dubrovnik is around 3 and a half hours. Seeing as this is a long drive, stop off and have a bite to eat at Kapetanova kuca on the way for some local cuisine. 

Dubrovnik - King's Landing in Game of Thrones - Croatia Itinerary

Dubrovnik – King’s Landing in Game of Thrones – Croatia Itinerary

Dubrovnik is thriving with historical hubs, museums, restaurants, and shops. It also fronts the dreamy Adriatic Sea. There is plenty to do here, and riding through the quaint streets will be a venture in itself.

The city has also become synonymous with Game of Thrones TV series, as it’s where some of the most iconic scenes of King’s Landing have been shot. You can learn more about this on a Game of Thrones tour. The series showcases the captivating, 16th-century walls that make up the border of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. 

Dubrovnik viewpoint - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Dubrovnik viewpoint – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

The best part about Dubrovnik is that everything is just minutes away from each other by walking. This walled city is the proud home to many well-preserved, ancient structures, such as the St. Blaise Church and Sponza Palace. A walk through the city is a must! 

Admire architecture from both the Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic and Roman styles as you see first-hand the blend of culture that this remarkable city has. After your walk, head over to your accommodation spot for some much needed R’n’r.

Dubrovnik - the Walled city in Croatia - Balkans Road Trip

Dubrovnik – the Walled city in Croatia – Balkans Road Trip

Similar to Split, Dubrovnik also has a hub for locals and travelers to get together and take in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of this Croatian city. In the morning, venture to Stradun, where you can walk on limestone paving and enjoy the unique city life. Choose from any one of the many restaurants and have a delicious breakfast, and then spoil yourself in one of the shops. 

Where to stay in Dubrovnik

Why not splurge for your night in Dubrovnik with a stay at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik? Enjoy a night of luxury and rejuvenate at the onsite spa. Alternatively, for a more low-key evening at a budget-friendly rate, spend your night at the comfortable and beautiful Hotel Vis.

Kravice Waterfall Day trip from Dubrovnik [Bosnia & Herzegovina]

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina - travel the Balkans

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans

While you’re on the road, why not make an extended journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina to see the exceptional Kravice Waterfall (also called the Kravica Waterfall). This will give you the opportunity to see the nearby Koćuša Waterfall. It will take around 2 and a half hours to get here from Dubrovnik, and the drive itself is really enjoyable. 

The entrance fee changes depending on the time of year, expect to pay €3 (6 Kunas) between October to May, €4 (8 Kunas) between June to September and €5 (10 Kunas) between July to August.

Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina - Balkans Road Trip itinerary

Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Balkans Road Trip itinerary

The Kravice waterfall is a jaw-droppingly beautiful sight to see. It originates from the Trebižat River and seamlessly cascades down the crevasses of the jungle. You can ensure that you get to see its sister waterfall, the Koćuša Waterfall, by taking a guided waterfall tour

This outstanding natural attraction is growing ever more popular as an increasing amount of travelers enjoy its magical plummeting. Be sure to visit early, before it gets too crowded.

Eating and Drinking in Kravice Waterfalls Bosnia

Eating and Drinking in Kravice Waterfalls Bosnia

You can go on one of the walking trails that will show you insurmountable natural paradises. Afterward, wash off and rejuvenate in the inviting water pool created from the Kravice Waterfall. 

This is the perfect way to wrap up your road trip!

Where to stay near Kravice Waterfalls

Extend the time of your stay and enjoy this location for a whole day by booking into the Apartment Kravica. This ideal accommodation spot provides a way for you to stay only 400 meters from the waterfall itself. Relax knowing there’s no more driving involved for the day, and kick back here for the night.

Brela – [Optional Stop on your way back]

Brela Stone - the iconic sight of Brela - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Brela Stone – the iconic sight of Brela – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

In case you have rented a car from Zagreb and you have to return it there before you fly off, then you have to drive back from Dubrovnik. There is an amazing coastal destination that will be on your way, is called Brela. It is on the Makarska Riviera.

Brela has amazing beaches with a backdrop of mountains. You can see the Biokovo mountain from most of the beaches in Brela. The most iconic spot in Brela is the Brela Stone. It is perhaps the most photographed part of this destination. Brela Stone is on Brela beach.

Brela’s loveliest beach is Punta Rata, make sure you go there. In pictures Punta Rata looks sandy but in reality it is a pebble beach. 

Brela has nice beaches - Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Punta Rata beach – Brela has nice beaches – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Brela boasts of 6.5 KM long coast. If you’re traveling with small children, take them to Soline Beach because there’s a children’s playground there. The beaches of Vruja are a little secluded and you can avoid crowds there.

Where to Stay in Brela

While in Brela, indulge in a room with a view of the sea. Look at Blueson Hotel on Soline Beach with sea on three sides or Villa Paulina that has a view of the sea.

Tips for Driving in Croatia

Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia

Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia

Here are some basic tips that you need to keep in mind while driving in Croatia:

  • If you have driven in any European country, then driving in Croatia isn’t any different. When in Croatia, you drive on the right side of the road. 
  • The emergency number for road assistance in Croatia is 1987.
  • As in most of the European countries, you are required to drive with the headlights during the day in winter months.
  • The roads are well maintained in Croatia. The Croatian motorways are not always wide, they can be winding and narrow. 
  • An amazing thing that I noticed about driving in Europe is how other drivers flash their lights at you to let you know that there’s traffic police nearby.
  • You need to pay a toll fee on the roads that connect Zagreb with Zadar, Split and Rijeca.
  • If you’re planning to enter any of the non EU countries on the same car from Croatia, then make sure your car has a “green card”. Our rental car from Serbia had one.
  • The maximum level of permitted alcohol level in blood while driving is 0.5% in Croatia.

I have a detailed post about road tripping in the Balkans that contains tips. Be sure to check that out too.

Best Time to Go to Croatia

Croatia is at its best in summer and autumn. August is the busiest month for Croatia [and most of Europe] and isn’t the best, so avoid that month. 

Is Croatia cheap to travel? Our Budget & Mistakes

Back in 2016 when we first visited Croatia, we expected it to be very cheap. No that wasn’t the case. We knew better when we revisited in 2019.

The thing is, Croatia isn’t expensive when you compare it to the touristy Western European countries (like France, Switzerland) but is expensive as compared to the nearby Czechia, Hungary, Slovenia, etc. Croatia is actually getting more and more expensive each year because of tourism.

If you travel smart and buy groceries from a supermarket to cook your own food, you won’t find Croatia very expensive. Instead of booking a room, try to find an apartment on Booking.com. It is sometimes possible to find one for as low as EUR 25 for two people. Most apartments include a kitchens too. Of course, the prices go high as you get closer to the popular destinations.

Our mistake – we spent too much money on eating out even though we had the ability to cook our own meals in our van. While we were in Zadar, we rented an entire apartment that included a kitchen. We did not eat breakfast before driving to Krka National Park and ended up eating an overpriced meal in a fancy restaurant that’s close to the entry point of the national park.

The entry for Croatia’s beautiful National Parks isn’t cheap, but that shouldn’t be a reason for avoiding them. The most beautiful place in Croatia is the Plitvice Lakes National Park – please don’t skip it. 

While planning a budget for your Croatia road trip, keep in mind the toll costs, national park entrances and parking fee among all other things.

Is Croatia Safe to Travel Alone?

Croatia is very safe. In our two visits to this amazing country, we met many travelers and a majority were traveling solo in Croatia. We did not hear about even a single incident that would make us doubt the safety aspect here.

If you’re a solo woman traveler and are planning a trip to Croatia then you will be happy to know it is one of the safest countries for you. As a thumb rule, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings safe when you visit crowded areas. 

Where to go After Croatia?

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina - travel the Balkans

Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans

Bosnia & Herzegovina is the best place to go after Croatia. The country’s natural beauty is stunning. Unlike Croatia, it is yet to be affected by mass tourism. Go visit the Kravice Waterfalls, Una National Park or Vjetrenica cave to see the natural beauty – we loved all of them. If you like historical towns, then explore Mostar or Visegrad. Both these destinations are famous for their Ottoman style old bridges.

Slovenia

Slovenia is a stunning country that will charm you. Spend a few days in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park where you can camp right next to Lake Bohinj. Bohinj isn’t far from the more famous Lake Bled and is more beautiful.

Hungary

I have been to Hungary only once, and I spent most of my time in Budapest and then I went for S.U.N. Festival towards the country side. I did not find Hungary to be as beautiful as the nearby countries, maybe because I did not get a chance to explore it. If you like to party, then Budapest has one of the craziest party scenes in this part of Europe. 

Montenegro

Black Lake - Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro

Black Lake – Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro

Montenegro’s flower shaped Kotor Bay is very close to Dubrovnik and you can visit it very easily after your road trip in Croatia. I also recommend Durmitor National Park, which we enjoyed more than Kotor Bay. Driving in Montenegro is amazing because the roads are winding and there are many viewpoints where you can stop your car and rest. 

Conclusion of Our Croatia Road Trip Itinerary

Pin It - Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route - Map

Pin It – Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route – Map

Road trips are a brilliant way to live in the moment and remember life really is about the journey, not the destination. Croatia is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations and provides the perfect mixture of historic charm and tropical terrain for a road trip you will never forget. 

Our Croatia road trip guide will take you to all of the most awe-inspiring locations throughout the country, and allow you to really feel its unique ambiance. Enjoy all of the must-see attractions and highlights as you cruise Croatia with our itinerary in hand. Appreciate a travel experience that may even inspire you to start your own Croatia travel blog. 

We wish you unending adventures and hope that you’re able to get the most out of your time in Croatia’s flourishing cities and beachscapes on this spellbinding road trip.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
35+ Tips for Traveling with a Baby (inc Flying + Camping + Road Trips)

35+ Tips for Traveling with a Baby (inc Flying + Camping + Road Trips)

A few months back I shared my top tips for traveling while pregnant. This post is a follow up for those who want to continue traveling after their pregnancy and with their baby.

It has been 9 months since my little Karma has entered this world. In this short time, we have traveled extensively in and outside Germany. We have made quite a lot of international trips, crossed continents, visited mountains, beaches, national parks, busy cities and even took her to two music festivals.

Every single time I upload something on Instagram with Karma in a new country, I get contacted by new and would-be moms asking me how I do it. After traveling to India, Poland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina with my little one, I have FINALLY decided to share my top tips for traveling with an infant.

Suggested: HOW to Attend a Music Festival with Baby – We Did and So Can You

I was earlier going to write a post with just a few important points and later create separate posts dedicated to tips for flying with a baby, campervan tips and more. Instead, I have written everything in just one post and create separate sections with sub-points for flying, camping, etc.

The below tips for traveling with a baby are segregated in multiple sections. The first section covers tips for flying with an infant for which I get the MOST amount of questions. The sections after that cover things like packing, planning, baby food, baby sleeping arrangements while traveling, road trips, camping and more.

Change Your Mindset

Change your mindset about traveling with your baby

Change your mindset about traveling with your baby

The first and the most important thing about traveling with a baby is changing your mindset. Sounds like some wise-ass bullshit? It is more than that.

Someone wrote to me on Instagram yesterday saying that I make traveling with the baby appear easy. Well, it is as simple as you make it.. Or as complicated as you unintentionally make it. 

If you think that it will be a lot of work and stress to travel with your baby even before you even try it, then it probably will be. It is simple – everything you do with a baby inside your house, you can also do outside. 

You will be surprised to know that babies adapt much better than you can imagine. Maybe they will cry on their first day but they will accept the new surrounding well on their second day. 

Tips for Flying with a baby

Flying with a baby can be a total nightmare, but there are things you can do to make it better. This below ten points will give you tips for flying with an infant, how you can make things better and have fun.

Avoid Layovers, Book Direct Flights

Direct flights cost a little extra but if you’re flying alone with your baby, I highly recommend you try your best to look for a direct one. Your peace of mind is worth every penny. This is especially if you’re flying alone with your baby. 

In case you’re traveling with your husband or another person, then go ahead and brave an indirect flight. 

Call the Airline and Ask for a bassinet. (and thank me later)

Bassinet for my little one on our flight from Germany to India

Bassinet for my little one on our flight from Germany to India

Call the airline in advance and ask for a seat with a bassinet. It will make your life very easy. Imagine spending the entire flight with the baby on your lap, versus a flight where the baby has her own place for sleeping and sitting.

The reason why I recommend you call in advance is because many airlines have limited bassinets. Karma had her own bassinet when we flew to and back from India. She spent a lot of time playing and sleeping in it. She wasn’t the only baby on the flight but she was one of the few that had a bassinet. 

Bring the Pram to the Airport

Flying with a baby is more than just the actual flying – it is also about moving from point A to B in the airport. For me, the flight was easier than the first hour after landing when I had to go through immigration. Go for an easy to handle pram that collapses easily and folds super small. I have one from Cybex, that I can fold and open with just one hand or foot.

To make your life simple at the airport, fly with a pram (or a buggy). I did that too! I had to call my airline in advance and find their policy about traveling with a pram. I was able to use the pram until the time I boarded my flight.

Baby Carrier or Sling

Baby carrier is a must have while traveling

Baby carrier is a must have while traveling

Baby carrier or sling will save your life when the baby refuses to go in the pram. Sometimes they need to be physically close to you, so wearing them on you will work well. There will be times when the pram will not be available to you and the sling will make things easier.

Even though I had carried Karma’s pram and used it till the time I boarded my flight in Frankfurt, I did not get it when I landed. I had to pick it up from the other checked-in bags. Thank God I had carried the carrier in my cabin bag, else, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to walk 2 – 3 kilometers inside the airport and go through the security and immigration with her on my lap as well as my cabin backpack.

I have a baby carrier from Chicco that can be used for small and big babies. I also bought a sling, but Karma rejected it completely. I know many other babies that prefer slings to carriers. You should try them both at a store, or order both from the internet and return what your baby doesn’t like.

Check-In Early (and also Board your Plane Early)

There is a reason why the airlines always request those who’re flying with a baby to check-in early. It is not just better for them but also better for you when you check-in and board before everyone else does. 

It is always good when your baby adjusts to the seat and the plane before other people arrive. When you check-in early, you can always ask for a seat with an empty seat next to you. Reconfirm at this point about the bassinet, baby food or any other requests that you may have.

Protecting Baby’s Ear While Flying

Flying with baby - tips

Flying with baby – tips

There is so much wrong information on the internet that things can be misleading. Being concerned about Karma’s ears before I was flying to India alone with her, I checked the internet to find out how I can help her avoid ear pain. 

Most of the websites mentioned I should breastfeed my baby during the takeoff and landing so that the sucking helps her ears. I wish it was that easy, but it is NOT ALLOWED to feed the baby during those times as per the safety rules. 

Babies are supposed to be held up close to the chest with their head over your shoulder and your hand behind their backs during take off and landing – it is mandatory. Please follow this rule for your baby’s safety.

In my case, the only things that helped were pacifiers and water sippers. No, I took the safety instructions very seriously and did not breastfeed my girl during take-off and landing. (And it isn’t anatomically possible to do so when you’re supposed to hold the baby’s head over your shoulders.)

Karma has Chicco dummies pacifiers and water sipper. She doesn’t ever take dummies but thankfully took it when our flight took off. I’m happy that I sterilized them and carried them in my hand bag before boarding. During landing, she was close to my chest and was sipping water from her sippy.

 

Please note, that it appears that the airlines no longer allow breastfeeding during take off and landing. There were two incidents where a 4 month old and later an 11 month old died on a flight. It is highly advised by certain medical practitioners not to feed during take off and landing and not to use the bottle. Moreover, always make sure you burp your baby and even more so on a flight. Here are some more safety instructions while flying with a baby by medical experts.

Change your Baby’s Diaper Before the Flight

Just a few minutes before you have to board the plane, change your baby’s diaper. You will not be able to change the diaper during the takeoff, which sometimes can take 15-20 minutes.

Changing Diapers on the Plane

Ask your flight steward to tell you which toilets have diaper-changing tables. Most planes have small (and pretty useless) diaper tables in their already cramped toilets. There won’t be space for you to carry a diaper bag. (I have a detailed point later in this post about ditching diaper bags).

Carry the basics – diaper, disposable sheet, wipes in a small waist pouch so that you can easily manage the stuff in a small airline toilet. Carry a small toy or something that can keep your baby’s hands occupied during the process so that you can be quick. I normally let Karma play with my long necklace, she loves holding the colorful beads in her hands.

Whatever you do, DO NOT FLUSH THE DIAPER DOWN THE TOILET. Believe it or not, someone did it on an American Airlines flight and people were told to pee in a bag because toilets were sealed off!

If the airplane doesn’t have a diaper table, then be prepared to change the diaper anywhere. Ask the airline staff for their best recommendation. When you absolutely have no choice, then you will have to change it on your tray table.

Breastfeeding on the Plane

Don’t be ashamed to breastfeed on an airplane. It is natural and your baby needs his or her meals. Breastfeeding on an airplane is more discreet because the person in front of you won’t be able to see you unless they turn. The person behind will only be able to see your back. The only people that will be able to see you are the flight stewards. Moreover, you will probably get the seats that are right in front because you’re traveling with a baby. 

If you’re regularly breastfeeding your baby, then I highly recommend you invest in at least a couple of comfortable nursing tops and scarves. Wear it on the plane for discreet breastfeeding so that you’re comfortable. 

I have said this before and will say this again, make sure you burp your baby after breastfeeding especially on an airplane to avoid the risk of SIDS.

Let Your Baby Charm the People Around You

When your baby is in a good mood, try your best to let him or her charm the people around you. After all, they may have to listen to her cry (or maybe that has already happened). Your baby’s smile will let you earn some brownie points, it will help you move faster in queues and people around you will suddenly become nicer. Your baby won’t be a small baby for more than 12 months, so use their charm well.

Pick Your Destination Mindfully

Me and the Baby in Bosnia

Me and the Baby in Bosnia

Pick places where you will feel relaxed. Sometimes big cities can stress you and also your baby. While natural sites like lakes, rivers, mountains, beaches can relax your mind. When you’re relaxed, even your baby will. 

When I say pick your destination “mindfully”, I mean pick a place where you can imagine yourself having fun with your baby. There should be enough interesting things for your baby to see around. I don’t mean children dedicated places, but a place that’s not dull for your baby. 

Be realistic and don’t expect to reach places that you have to visit at a fixed particular time. If you’re visiting a highly touristy attraction, then most likely the best time to avoid the crowds will be in the early morning. If your baby doesn’t let you leave at that time, then consider skipping that attraction entirely.

Choose Your Method of Traveling Wisely

As per my experience, the easiest way of traveling with a baby is on a train. Babies sleep well on trains because of the swaying motion. Unlike car [or bus], they don’t need to be confined to a seat. 

Traveling with a baby in a car is easier than by air. Road trips are easy and fun because you can stop when you want to. The only thing that can get a little difficult on a road trip is the time when your baby gets sick of the seat.

Vaccinations

Us with Karma in India - she got vaccinated before the trip

Us with Karma in India – she got vaccinated before the trip

Keep your baby up to date with vaccinations. If you’re leaving for an international trip, check with your baby’s doctor about the necessary vaccinations. Traveling to another country with your baby without vaccination can be life threatening. Please be smart and don’t risk your baby’s life because of some anti vaccination bullshit that exists on the internet. 

Ditch Big Diaper Bags 

Typical diaper bags are big, bulky and useless. You don’t need them. All you need is a disposable waxy sheet on which your baby can lie down, baby wipes and a few diapers. I was able to fit these things in my small waist pouch! 

Ditching the diaper bag may appear to be a counter-productive tip, but it will save time and make it easy for you to move around quickly. Just put the necessities in your own small handbag. Of course, it will work better if you carry a small bag for yourself (hehe). 

Travel Light

Many people told me to carry extra baby clothes, extra diapers, and extra everything. That turned out to be the most useless tip for traveling with an infant. I did carry extra everything but realized how it slowed me down, even though my suitcase had wheels. 

Maybe I overdid it but I did carry 20 onesies but used just half of them. The only things I wished I had carried enough were her bibs because she’s a messy eater. 

The thing about carrying extra diapers is that it is possible to buy diapers everywhere. Carry enough for a few days but you can always buy more at your next destination. 

To be on the safe side, check about the stores and supermarkets, closing days and times. For instance, if you’re traveling in Germany, the supermarkets aren’t open on Sundays so you can’t buy diapers. 

But hey, I have visited a lot of countries with Karma and also a few remote locations, I found diapers everywhere. The only place where I didn’t find was inside a music festival, but I was fully prepared for this. Anyway, festivals are a different ball game and I will write a separate post about taking your baby to a music festival.

About Packing Toys

Carry 4-5 baby’s favorite toys that are small, but don’t overdo it. Carry something that your baby can chew on, a toy with music, a soft book that can keep her occupied for long (Karma has one from Fisher Price and Lamaze) and just something small that he or she likes to hold and play with. 

Be smart and carry the toys that can be attached on to the car seat, pram, or the bed. It helps if you carry toys that can be washed easily. Be aware that battery-operated toys and extra batteries can sometimes not be checked in.

Be Prepared to Breastfeed Everywhere

Me Breastfeeding my baby in Amsterdam's Waterloo Metro Station

Me Breastfeeding my baby in Amsterdam‘s Waterloo Metro Station

Believe it or not, I have breastfed Karma while hiking in the Himalayas, on a train station in Amsterdam, many restaurants all over Europe, and I’m sure more places that I can think of.

Regular breastfeeding is not just good for the baby, but is good for you too. It is the most natural thing and you should not be ashamed of feeding your baby anywhere. It helps if there’s a private spot available so that the baby doesn’t get distracted. Wear a nursing top, poncho or a long scarf to be discreet.

Be Prepared to Change Diapers Everywhere

You may not always find a diaper changing station, so be prepared to change anywhere. As mentioned in my “ditch the diaper bag” point, carry a disposable mat, a few diapers, and wet wipes. 

A disposable mat doesn’t need to be disposed of after every single use. We only dispose of the mat when the baby pees or poops in it. This mat will help you set up your diaper changing spot anywhere – even on the ground. You can buy them in bulk. I bought around 100 but I haven’t even used half of them.

Go Slow

A golden rule of traveling with a baby is realizing that they have their own needs and you can’t travel at a crazy fast pace as before. 

If you’re the kind of person who likes to visit 10 attractions in a day (even if they’re next to each other), then you will have to relax and take it slow because you have no other option. Pick one or two things to do in a day and do them with a lot of love. 

There will be times when you think you’re done and ready to leave on time, the baby will poop or puke right before to make sure you’re late. Accept it with a smile because there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Consider Renting a Car 

Look for options to rent a car on your travel destination, it will make things very convenient for you. Ask for a car with a baby seat. This way, you will open more possibilities for yourself and will be able to travel at your own pace in your own (rented) car.

Car Travel with Baby OR Tips for Traveling with a baby on a Camper van

Our camping spot in Croatia

Our camping spot in Croatia

Travel Car Seat

Invest in a good and comfortable car seat for your baby. You will have to change it depending on their age. A seat for a newborn baby is different as compared to a 6-month-old. Sounds expensive? Look for a second hand one.

There are many things where you can save money, but your baby’s car seat should not be one of them. Safety and comfort are extremely important and are worth the money.

Pram will save your day – Take it Everywhere

Karma in her pram in Amsterdam

Karma in her pram in Amsterdam

Prams are awesome and will save your life. Babies love to be pushed around in their prams as they gaze around. The best part is that they can also sleep easily in their prams as you take them around. 

Get a pram that is foldable and compact so that you can keep it in the boot of your car or travel with it on a bus or airplane. Attach a few of your baby’s favorite toys on the pram, preferably something with music or lights.

Driving Through the Night – Yay or Nay?

Before we started traveling with Karma on our camper van, many people mentioned that we should drive through the night during her normal sleeping hours. 

It sounded very easy but it did not work. We tried it many times. Each time she slept but woke up after a while because she wanted to change her position. I do know that she moves around on her bed a lot even though she sleeps through the night. 

So, the tip about driving at night during the baby’s sleep time did not work for us. Also, when you drive through the night and reach your destination in the morning – you would at some point need to sleep – right? Considering the best situation that your baby actually sleeps while you drive, how will you sleep after reaching your destination if your baby is awake after sleeping through the drive?

Try to Reach your Camping Spot or Destination before 5 PM.

Try your best to reach your camping spot or hotel at least 2 hours before your baby’s bedtime. This way, you can settle her sleep environment, bathe the baby, get food for yourself, etc – before putting him to sleep.

I have intentionally used the word “try” instead of “do”. I understand that the most desired situation may not end up being the actual scenario. Heck, even though we knew that our life’s easier when we find a spot for our van before 5 pm but we did not end up doing it often.

Baby Travel Sleep Options

Baby sleeping in her pram in Slovenia

Baby sleeping in her pram in Slovenia

Sleep is the most important aspect and when it’s nailed, everything falls into place. When your baby is well-rested, he or she won’t be fussy but instead will smile and make you happy.

Sleep Schedule

Try to build a fixed sleep schedule for your baby before you travel. The schedule should have at least two naps during the day and the exact same bedtime each night. If you work hard enough to fix a sleep schedule from day 1, then getting them to sleep while traveling will be much easier. 

Build Sleep Association Before the Trip and Bring The Items Along

It helps if you try to build your baby’s sleep association with a few items. This can be a “sleep toy”, a sleeping bag, blanket or even white noise. Carry them all, it will help your baby sleep faster.

Sleeping Spot and Sleep Environment 

Create a comfortable sleeping spot and environment before their sleeping time. If you do so, then they may fall asleep on their own when their sleep time approaches. Even not, help them a little by rocking them. 

A comfortable sleeping spot doesn’t necessarily have to be a bed, but their pram or car seat or even a picnic mat on the ground can work well.

Ask Your Hotel for a Baby Bed 

Even though we did not stay in luxury hotels, our request for a baby bed was always fulfilled. We booked an apartment in Croatia and a homestay in Bosnia through Booking dot com, and to our surprise, they put a baby bed in our room as per our request. It made things very easy for us. 

…or carry a camping Baby Bed

 

Yes, I did tell you to travel light but this point can work if you’re traveling in a car or a van. Nowadays there are plenty of awesome camping beds on the market that can be folded up small. They are very good to use as travel baby beds.

No, we did not feel the need to carry one because our van has two beds. Karma sleeps on the top bed.

Do Everything You Can to Help them Sleep

I’m all in for teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own, but things are a little different when your traveling. You see, you’re taking the baby out of their usual sleeping spot and imitating it somewhere else. Your baby may need some time to adjust. During this time, don’t hesitate to help them by rocking, feeding or holding them.

Rocking my baby to sleep in a music festival in Croatia

Rocking my baby to sleep in a music festival in Croatia

Normally my little one sleeps on her own on her bed in Germany and doesn’t need a lot of help from me. While traveling, she slept on her own only when we were moving in a car or train or so. At other times, even if I was outside I made sure I held her and rocked her a little during her nap timings. The first day (or even more) weren’t easy but later she slept during her earlier timings.

When your baby’s stomach is full, he or she will sleep better and deeper. Check the next point for food tips on the go.

Baby Food, Snacks and Fluids

If Your Baby is Smaller than 6 Months

If your baby is less than 6 months and is only drinking from the breast, then your life is going to be super easy. If your baby drinks from the bottle, then there is going to be more work for you as you have to sterilize the bottles, prepare the milk and give it to the baby at the right temperature.

If Your Baby is on Solids

Feeding Karma her mixed veg puree in Slovenia

Feeding Karma her mixed veg puree in Slovenia

If your baby has started solids, then try to carry premade puree bottles or easy to prepare porridges. I carry both – normally I just have to add water and milk to her porridge mix. Always carry snacks that your baby loves, like bananas or baby cookies. You don’t have to carry a lot, just carry enough for the way and the next few days. Most likely you can usually buy these things at your travel destination.

I normally buy Hipp’s food for my little one. She loves the Good Night porridge, Multigrain cereal, and Mixed Veg soup. They’re organic and the quality is excellent. 

Moving over to snacks, usually bananas will solve every problem. Carry a few and also buy them fresh at your destination. I also carry Bebivita Baby cookies that Karma loves.

Keep Your Baby Hydrated

When it comes to fluids, please remember it is very important to keep your baby hydrated while traveling, especially when they start eating solids. Before solids, the breast milk takes care of everything and babies normally don’t need water. 

Carry a water sipper that your baby is comfortable using. Wash it regularly and keep changing the water. Give the sipper to your baby often. 

Pack some Snacks for Yourself

Make sure you PACK A SNACK FOR YOURSELF too. Traveling with a little one requires you to be at your most energetic self, so don’t let yourself stay hungry for long.

The More, the Merrier

San's friend with our baby

San’s friend with our baby

Those who know me well will be shocked to see I’m saying this. The thing is, I love traveling solo or just with San. I hate to travel in a group. However, when you travel with a baby, things are so much easier when there are more people. 

Consider asking 1 – 2 or your close friends to accompany you if they’re free. When there are more people around to play with your baby or to carry him or her for a while, you will finally be able to relax and enjoy a few minutes of peace.

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