5 NZ National Parks Road Trip on Campervan (Itinerary)

5 NZ National Parks Road Trip on Campervan (Itinerary)

What’s the first image that comes to your mind when I mention New Zealand? I’m sure you’re thinking of stunning green landscapes and little hills. That’s how New Zealand is!

New Zealand, often referred to as the ‘Green Heart,’ is a splendid canvas painted with sprawling national parks that form the core of its natural beauty.

If you are a nature lover, then you will love New Zealand and its breathtaking national parks. From the far-reaching fjords in the southwest to the volcanic wonders of the North Island, each park offers a unique slice of Kiwi wilderness. 

For the adventurous soul or the peaceful nature lover, these sanctuaries promise an escape into lush and diverse landscapes. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

Engaging with New Zealand’s national parks is more than a visit; it’s an immersive journey through the soul-stirring majesty of nature.

Why You Should Explore NZ With A Campervan

One of the best ways you can explore the stunning landscape of New Zealand is by driving. Sure you can drive in a rented car, but a rented campervan will give you the freedom to create a personalized itinerary.

With a rented campervan, you decide when to start the day and where to conclude it, all while nature’s splendor surrounds you. Here’s how to maximize this experience:

  • Comfort: Enjoy the comforts of home on wheels. From a cozy bed to a kitchenette, your needs are within reach, simplifying mealtime and rest.
  • Accessibility: Campervans allow for exploring off-the-beaten-path locations that might otherwise be inaccessible, bringing you closer to hidden gems.
  • Economy: Save on accommodation costs without sacrificing your travel experience. Overnight campervan stays let you wake up right at nature’s doorstep.

By choosing a campervan, you’re not just planning a trip; you’re scripting an unforgettable adventure through New Zealand’s natural grandeur.

Starting Point for NZ National Parks Road Trip

Auckland - Starting Point for NZ National Parks Road Trip
Auckland – Starting Point for NZ National Parks Road Trip via Unsplash

I’m assuming you don’t live in New Zealand and you are arriving here by air. In that case, it makes sense to start your itinerary in Auckland, the most populous city in the country. No, it isn’t the capital, Wellington is.

Arrive in Auckland and take a break here for a day or two. Rent a campervan from here when you’re ready and then start your self-driving adventure from North to South as you discover 5 national parks of this lovely country.

Drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park

The drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park is around 300 – 400 kilometers and will take you around four hours.

Put “Whakapapa Village” on your GPS because it is the getaway to Tongariro National Park.

1) Tongariro National Park: Venture Through The Volcanic Landscapes – 4-5 Days

Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Wanganui, Nuova Zelanda
Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Wanganui, Nuova Zelanda via Unsplash

Tongariro National Park boasts a dramatically different landscape and is the oldest national park in the country. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This region is steeped in both geological and cultural significance. Here’s what to do in Tongariro National Park:

  • Experience Geological Wonders: Witness the park’s three active volcanoes—Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu—which dominate the landscape with their impressive stature.
  • Embrace Maori Culture: Recognize the area’s deep Maori heritage, as these lands hold great spiritual significance to the local iwi (tribes).
  • Trek Iconic Trails: Challenge yourself on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, renowned for its otherworldly terrain that takes you past vibrant, desolate volcanic features.

This adventure offers a profound connection to New Zealand’s raw volcanic power, echoing an ancient narrative under your feet.

2) Abel Tasman National Park – Unravel The Magical Coasts – 3-5 Days

Driving to Abel Tasman National Park from Tongariro National Park isn’t easy. It is 550 kilometers and can take more than 10 hours. It is recommended that you stop in the middle of this route for a night and then drive to the Totaranui camping site in order to explore Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand
Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand via Unsplash

In the Abel Tasman National Park, you’re treated to a natural mosaic of shimmering coves and sprawling beaches:

  • Golden Sands: The park’s beaches are famed for their golden sands—perfect for sunbathing and relaxation.
  • Kayaking: Glide across the clear, azure waters by kayak, a serene way to discover hidden inlets.
  • Hiking Trails: The Abel Tasman Coast Track offers scenic walks with captivating vistas. Don’t miss out on this ‘Great Walk’ of New Zealand.

Every trail and tide in Abel Tasman National Park promises an unforgettable encounter with nature’s artistry.

3) Mount Cook National Park – Bask In The Greatness – 3-4 Days

The journey from Abel Tasman National Park to Mount Cook National Park is a long one and I highly recommend you break your journey in the middle and stay somewhere for a night.

Since this complete drive can take more than 10 hours, you should consider stopping at Hanmer Springs, Punakaiki, or Kaikoura for a night.

In order to reach Mount Cook National Park, you need to drive on State Highway 80. The most scenic drive is from Lake Pukaki up to Mount Cook village, which is 56 kilometers of scenic drive.

Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand - campervan
Mount Cook National Park in New Zealand – campervan via Unsplash

Mount Cook National Park invites you to marvel at landscapes shaped by the forces of ice and time:

  • Tallest Peaks: Witness the towering heights of Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, which offers challenging climbs and breathtaking vistas.
  • Accessible Trails: Embark on trails like the Hooker Valley Track, offering rewarding walks with stunning views, suitable for various fitness levels.
  • Stargazing Extravaganza: Due to its dark skies, the national park is an International Dark Sky Reserve, perfect for stargazing.

With these activities, you’re set to experience the awe-inspiring environment that Mount Cook National Park provides.

4) Fiordland National Park – Discover The Diversity – 3-4 Days

Fiordland National Park in New Zealand
Fiordland National Park in New Zealand via Unsplash

The drive from Mount Cook National Park to Fiordland National Park is 412,7 kilometers and can be done in half a day with just a small toilet break in the middle. It will take around 5 hours for this drive.

Drive to Te Anau – that’s the gateway to Fiordland. From there you can explore the National Park further.

Fiordland National Park is a spectacle of nature’s artistry, a place where the raw power of the elements is on grand display. The following highlights offer a glimpse into this park’s diverse offerings:

  • Majestic Fjords: Venture into the heart of the park to witness Milford Sound, a world-renowned fjord framed by steep cliffs and dense rainforests.
  • Abundant Wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for native birds like the cheeky kea and the shy takahe, which find sanctuary in this untouched landscape.
  • Waterfalls: Scores of waterfalls and natural pools, including the iconic Bowen and Stirling Falls, add to the park’s mystique, especially after a heavy rain.

This exploration reveals a landscape of contrasts and extremes, from the reflective waters to the rugged peaks.

5) Rakiura National Park – Encounter The Untouched Wilderness – 4 Days

In order to reach Rakiura National Park from Fiordland National Park / Te Anau, you have to drive to Bluff in the Southland region. This is a short drive and will take you just a bit over 2 hours.

Stewart Island, Stewart Island / Rakiura, New Zealand
Stewart Island, Stewart Island / Rakiura, New Zealand

From Bluff, get on a ferry to Rakiura. Set your sights on the serene Rakiura National Park, a place of tranquility at the world’s edge. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Wild Seclusion: Amidst the dense forests, you’ll find tranquility as the world’s bustle fades away, leaving only nature’s chorus.
  • Night Skies: Listen for the call of the native kiwi and gaze up as dusk falls to possibly catch the ethereal Southern Lights.
  • Conservation At Heart: This park is known for numerous endemic species, and conservation strives to maintain the balance in this pristine ecosystem.

The preservation of this unblemished environment rests in the hands of each visitor. So, tread lightly and leave no trace.

Closing Thoughts: NZ National Parks Road Trip

With the earthy scent of ancient forests, the green heart of New Zealand beckons. Don’t just dream of this wild, untamed paradise—embrace it. Book your journey, grab your gear, and set out to explore the national parks of New Zealand. The adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you.


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The Ultimate Italy Road Trip: 2 Weeks Itinerary (with Amalfi Coast)

The Ultimate Italy Road Trip: 2 Weeks Itinerary (with Amalfi Coast)

How can anyone not fall in love with Italy? Not only it is picturesque, but there’s so much more to it that just the visual beauty. It is the feeling one gets when they visit this country which makes it special. Italy is romantic, culturally beautiful, and offers delicious food.

There is a reason why some of the most famous books and movies are set in a backdrop of famous Italian towns. Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples – some of the most famous historical cities and towns in the world are in Italy. Not just that, Italy also has the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and a massive coastline on three sides! Yep, it has it all.

The Stunning Positano on Amalfi Coast, Italy via Unsplash

The first time I visited Italy, it was just North Italy. We landed in Venice and drove to Trentino in our rental car. The second time was in South Italy where we spent one entire month in Puglia. We actually drove from Germany to Puglia but realized it would have been easier to just fly to Bari or Brindisi and drive a rental car from there.

For the purpose of travel, it is important to understand what are the regions of Italy. You can pick and choose some of them or get a taste of them all. Here are the regions in Italy that you can visit –

  • Northeast Italy, (the Dolomites, Trentino, Venice and Bologna)
  • Northwest Italy, (Cinque Terre, Milan and the Alps)
  • Central Italy, (Tuscany region and Rome)
  • Southern Italy, (Naples, Puglia, Amalfi and Capri)
  • The islands – Sicily and Sardinia.

If you ever see the list of the most visited countries in the world, Italy usually is in top 5 year after year. It is because there is so much to see & experience in every single region of Italy.

Keep in mind that to properly explore each region of Italy, you would probably need at least two weeks each. However, this itinerary focuses on the entire Italy, so I will help you move from one region to another and tell you the best of each. That’s the difference between a region-specific itinerary and a country-specific itinerary.

Matera in Puglia, Italy road trip two weeks itinerary – via Pixabay

If you think you will get to visit Italy multiple times, then by all means pick just one region or maximum two for each trip. If you’re going to visit Italy just once or twice in your life then I suggest you visit more than just 2 regions because they all have something to offer.

Don’t try to cover it all, it isn’t possible to do so. Instead, pick a few destinations and spend some quality time in each place that you visit so that you don’t feel rushed or drained out.

Starting Point for Italy Road Trip:

So where should you start your epic Italian road trip? It depends on a few things. The starting points will change based on how you enter Italy – flying or driving.

Italy road trip itinerary Map for Pinterest
Italy road trip itinerary Map for Pinterest

Italy has many airports from the North to the South. If you want to start your trip in North Italy then I suggest you fly to Venice or Verona and rent a car from there. You can also fly to Naples or Bari to start your trip from South Italy and make your way to the North. Or fly to the middle – Rome, Florence, or Pisa and just do the North or the South for your Italy road trip 2 weeks.

Alternatively, you can also pick a section of Italy and do a smaller road trip that focuses on just that area. For example, the North Italy road trip would include the top three points that I have mentioned below, the middle would include Tuscany and Rome and South Italy road trip would include Rome and below like Puglia and Amalfi Coast.

For ease of understanding, we have created this route that starts in Venice. It is very easy to rent a car from Venice airport and drive from there. We did that already!

Circular Italy or Straight Route for Italian Road Trip?

If you’re driving to Italy, then it will make a lot of sense for you to follow a straight route. You can enter Italy from the North and move to the South. Or the other way around.

If you are able to rent a car from one place and return it to another, then I highly recommend you go for a straight route. It will save you a lot of time. However, this option isn’t usually available, so most of you will end up following a circular itinerary.

How to approach this itinerary?

This is a fast-paced itinerary that includes a lot of destinations within Italy. Some of them are optional, so you can figure out which ones to leave and skip. For example, you can pick one out of the Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast and spend a long time in other destinations.

Hotels in Italy are expensive but if you’re a seasoned road tripper, then you most likely have a tent with you. All the below destinations have camping spots. Park your car and pitch your tent there. You can take the public transport to explore the cities.

1) Venice (and Burano) – 2 Days – the Canals of Italy

Grand Canal in Venice - Northern Italy by Train
Grand Canal in Venice – Northern Italy by Train

You can’t drive inside Venice, so why is it a part of this itinerary? Because Venice is the most romantic city of Italy and it needs to be a part of this epic itinerary.

If you’re flying to Italy and renting your car, then I suggest you rent your car on the day you leave Venice to save money. You can check for prices here or book one and pick it from Piazzale Roma. However, if you’re driving to Italy from another country then you will have to park your car in one of the below options.

In order to visit Venice, you will drive to the entrance of the city Piazzale Roma or Tronchetto, and park your car there. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of space and it is Europe’s largest car park. Yes, it is expensive to park here because it is EUR 30 per 24 hours.

[Box] Want to save some money? Park your car near Mestre Railway Station and take a 10-minute train ride to Venezia St.Lucia. This way, your parking costs, and journey will be less than 5 euros. [/Box]

There aren’t any roads beyond Piazzale Roma, so you will have to continue by walking or by getting on a boat.

A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy
A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy

I have included two days in Venice but if you want, you can take half a day to explore Burano. It is smaller, colorful, and very close to Venice. Here’s what to do in Venice:

Walking is the easiest way to explore Venice. The most popular spots in Venice are around St. Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge. However, I suggest you get lost on purpose and explore the narrow alleys. Here you will find the best photo spots because of fewer tourists. If it gets sunny, cover your head and eat gelato to beat the heat.

Sunset Gondola Ride:

Gondola Ride in Venice- Italy road trip via Pixabay

You can’t visit Venice and not do a Gondola ride. Yep, Gondola rides are super expensive so you make the most of it by doing it at the most romantic time – the sunset. The point of a gondola ride isn’t transportation but enjoyment.

You can save money by doing the Gondola ride with 1 or 2 other people and doing it before the sunset time. Here are the options I have handpicked for you:

Find a restaurant with a view:

Most of the restaurants with nice views are going to be very expensive but I can help you find a moderately affordable one. To actually get a table with a view, you need to always book in advance. Once you’re here, try the squid ink pasta. Try one of the following:

  • Trattoria Altanella in Giudecca,
  • Gianni in Giudecca,
  • Da Fiore in Campo S. Polo,
  • Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro.

See Scala Contarini del Bovolo

The view from Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice via Unsplash

Climb the spiral stairs and click a few photos of the view from the top. It is a famous building that was once a gothic palace.

Visit Rialto Food Market

Venice is touristy but visiting a famous food market will give you somewhat a local experience. The locals come here to buy fresh fruit, veggies and fish. It is best to arrive here early because the market hours are 7:30 am to 1 pm.

Campo Santo Stefano

Find an outdoor cafe on Campo Santo Stefano and enjoy your afternoon or evening with cicchetti & Spritz. Cicchetti is a small snack plate. You don’t need to order cicchetti, but the servers will bring it for you if you order your drinks (Spritz).

See Doge’s Palace

the Chamber of the Great Council in Doge’s Palace Venice via Unsplash

Doge’s Palace is an important historical landmark in Venice. This was once an official residence for the Doge of Venice (the elected leader of the historical Venetian Republic). It was originally designed to be a residential palace for Nepolean.

Doge’s Palace is an interesting spot for those who like history, but it is also a photographer’s dream because of its stunning interiors, especially in the Chamber of the Great Council. Believe it or not, the world’s largest canvas painting is located in this room. But remember, you can’t use flash when you photograph this.

Book Your Entry for Doge’s Palace

While inside the Doge’s Palace, you should also walk on the iconic Bridge of Sighs, which is located here. You will also see St. Mark’s Square and Correr Museum.

I have handpicked two entry ticket options for you for Doge’s Palace:

  • Doge’s Palace Entry Reservation Ticket: This is the official ticket and costs EUR 28 in May 2022. It is a “skip-the-line” ticket.
  • Doge Palace with Terrace Access: This is also a “skip-the-line” ticket but it also includes an expert guide, who will not just take you to Doge’s Palace but also St. Mark’s Basilica. Please be aware that the entry to St. Mark’s Basilica is free but this tour includes the access to the terrace of the Basilica for the views. The cost is EUR 79 in May 2022.

Scuola grande di San Rocco

See the interiors of Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Your jaw will actually drop when you see the grandeur and the arty details.

Day Trip to Burano

Burano (Italy)
Burano (Italy)

Burano is a cute little canal-side town with stunning colorful houses. It has become popular over the recent years because of Instagram.

You can prebook your boat ticket for Burano for a day trip from Venice and the boat will also take you to the nearby Murano and Torcello.

How to save money in Venice?

Eat in Pizzeria ae Oche – a chain with affordable pizzas. Don’t eat or drink in the main touristy areas, head to Dorsoduro for cheaper eateries and buy your own supplies from bakeries and supermarkets to save money. Another way to save more money is by skipping the Gondola ride.

2) Cinque Terre – 2 days – the Colorful Fishing Villages

The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy – CCO Image by heidi_ziller from Pixabay

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso are five colorful fishing villages that are collectively called the Cinque Terre. The entire Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In order to arrive at the Cinque Terra, you can drive to Riomaggiore, Manarola, or Monterosso and park your car there. If you’re nervous about driving in this hilly terrain, then park in La Spezia and take a train from there. In any case, if you want to move from one village to another, the best way to do it is by train. It is easy and affordable.

Remember – don’t get your car inside the Cinque Terra. Leave it outside and take the train.

Five villages at on cliffs and little hills, so there’s a lot to do in the Cinque Terra. Don’t get overwhelmed by the list of things that you can do. Just pick 1-2 villages and enjoy your time there.

Here’s a bit of an introduction about the five villages, so that you can pick the one that suits you and book a room there.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre - Northern Italy by train
Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre – Northern Italy by train

It has a fun vibe for nightlife, unlike a few others on this list. Riomaggiore is closest to La Spezia so it can sometimes feel crowded. It has budget accommodation options. It is as stunning as Manarola.

There’s a lot to do in Riomaggiore – you can do cliff jumping, enjoy the bar scene or just go for a stroll and get lost. The main street is called Via Colombo, and that’s where you will find everything. You can also check out the ancient Castello, which is one of the monuments of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.

If you’re into hiking, then hike to Monte Nero, which is right above Riomaggiore. This hike takes around 50 – 60 minutes. Here’s some information about it.

You can also hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola – these two are actually the most famous villages of the Cinque Terre. This hike should take you normally 15 minutes but check the information because sometimes this path is closed.

Manarola

Manarola, the Cinque Terra Italy via Pixabay

Manarola is quieter and is normally visited by couples and photographers. Out of them, the one the most photographed one is Manarola because of the above-pictured sunset spot. But don’t underestimate the beauty of the other 4.

Make sure you click epic sunset photos while you’re in Manorala. No, I don’t mean photos of the sun when it is setting, but the golden hue on Manorala’s pastel houses on the cliff. You will find this spot as soon as you’re there. Photographers line up here with their fancy gear and tripods at sunrise and sunset time.

If you like swimming, then you can find some caves and swimming holes on the Blue Trail in Manarola. To access all of it, you will need a swimming pass. But there are some you can do without the pass too.

Corniglia

Corniglia, the Cinque Terra, Italy road trip via Pixabay

It is the highest village and is therefore famous for its views. You need to climb 365 steps in order to reach Corniglia – yes one for each day of the year. There’s a bus that’s run by the Cinque Terre National Park that takes people up to Corniglia and back. 

Corniglia is less visited as compared to the other four but is popular amongst hikers. It is possible to find budget accommodation here.

While you are in Corniglia, hike the Blue Trail, and you will find a stone beach with easy access to water. Doing the entire Blue Trail can be challenging but if you do, you will arrive in Vernazza.

Vernazza

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italian Road Trip itinerary via Pixabay – road trip Italy 2 weeks

Vernazza is often called the most beautiful of the five Cinque Terre villages. It is also visited by a lot of photographers and couples. If you visit Vernazza then spend some time enjoying the stunning views that this village is famous for.

If you arrive in Vernazza from Corniglia by hiking, then you will cross Prevo – it has a stunning viewpoint that overlooks Guvano Beach. At 208 meters above sea level, it is the highest spot of Sentiero Azzurro.

You will be surprised to know that Vernazza has a great bar scene. It also has a small sandy beach, which makes sense for family travelers to visit since it is comfortable for children. There are two clock towers in the town and the maze of small streets will be a delight to anyone who loves getting lost in small places.

While you’re in Vernazza, visit Franco’s Ristorante “La Torre”. It is in a castle on the trail to Corniglia.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare, Italy – via Pixabay

Monterosso has a proper big sandy beach and fancy hotels. It is a bit flatter compared to the others so is a good option for those who have mobility issues and families with small children.

Monterosso is actually two towns – Old Monterosso and New Monterosso (Fegila). The big sandy beach is in New Monterosso. The new town is flatter but the old town has that typical Cinque Terre looks and vibes.

You can walk from one village to another – check the list of walking trails here + useful information.

Where to stay in Cinque Terra:

3) Tuscany – 2 days – Art, Culture, and the rolling hills

Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is romantic, arty, historical, and naturally beautiful. But wait, isn’t most of Italy? True but Tuscany is special because the Renaissance art movement began and flourished before it moved on to most of Europe.

Being a nature lover, I’m also interested in the other side of Tuscany – the rolling hills. So, when you visit Tuscany, drive around here and see the small villages because here you can truly admire the natural beauty of Tuscany. Get yourself a nice villa, see the vineyards and castles.

Tuscany's famous rolling hills - Italy by train
Tuscany’s famous rolling hills – Italy by train

Honestly, if I were visiting Italy for the first time and I wanted to just focus on one area, I’d do a Tuscany road trip. There’s everything in Tuscany that Italy is famous for – historical buildings, art, nature, castles, and vineyards. On top of that, Tuscany is a little laid back.

Here’s what you can do while you’re in Tuscany. You can pick and choose some of the activities that I have mentioned below.

Visit one of the Old Cities – Florence / Lucca / Siena

Florence, Tuscany – Italy Road trip itinerary

Tuscany’s old cities are stunning for art lovers because of the Renaissance art and sculptures. Out of all of them, I suggest you pick just one to keep your itinerary easy. For that purpose, I suggest Florence.

See the Statue of David by Michelangelo in Florence

Michelangelo’s Statue of David is a Renaissance masterpiece and shouldn’t be missed while you’re in Tuscany. This 17 feet marble statue is the star of Florence, the way Mona Lisa is to Paris.

Michelangelo’s Statue of Liberty is located in Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. This museum also has some other pieces by Michelangelo and many other Florentine artists.

Art lovers would enjoy Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, Uffizi Gallery, and Museo Galileo

Val d’ Orcia – the Rolling Hills

Val d’ Orcia, Tuscany, Italy – via Pixabay

Tuscany’s most famous landscape are the rolling hills and one of the best way to see them is by driving to Val d’ Orcia. The rolling hills landscape is not just Instagram famous but also depicted in many Renaissance paintings.

Val d’ Orcia is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a 2 – 2.5 hours drive from Florence. You can stay in Florence during the entire time of your time in Tuscany, or split your time between Val d’ Orcia and Florence.

Pienza is the place that you would want to check out in Val d’ Orcia. This village is situated very high so you can get a good view of the rolling hills from here.

Saturnia Hot Springs or Terme di Saturnia

Saturnia Hot Springs in Tuscany via Pixabay

While in Tuscany, visit the stunning thermal springs of Saturnia. They are actually 3 hours away from Florence city, so it makes sense to visit this place on your way out of Tuscany but before you arrive in Rome. Alternatively, if you decided to stay in Val d’ Orcia, then Terme di Saturnia is just 30 minutes drive.

Believe it or not, there is no entry fee and these thermal springs are open 24 hours a day every day. It can’t get better than this. Just find the parking spot and put it on your navigation system to arrive here. Spend half a day here or more, depending on how much you love being in the water.

The best time to reach Saturnia hot springs is before 9 am so that you can miss the majority of crowds.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy via Pixabay

Visiting the leaning tower of Pisa is on many people’s bucket lists because of the Leaning Tower. Yes, it is a very touristy thing to do and there’s nothing else to do in Pisa BUT that shouldn’t stop you from visiting it if you really want to. After all, it is just 45 minutes from Florence by car or train!

Pisa is a small city, and you can cover most of it by walking. Most of what you would want to see is situated in Campo dei Miracoli. It is a student town and as a result, the nightlife is fun.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is called Torre Pendente in Italian. Go ahead and click a super silly touristy picture here. Believe it or not, you can actually climb the tower but you need to reserve your tickets in advance.

If you’re in Pisa in the middle of June, you can actually stay to watch the stunning Luminara festival. Thousands of candles are lit at sunset time along the Arno River. Watch this spectacle if you can.

Hike to Lake Calamone

If you’re not visiting Terme di Saturnia, then you can consider visiting Lake Calamone. It is located in the TEA National Park, at the base of Mt. Ventasso.

To start your hike to Lago Calamone, park your car at Bar il Faggio. The walk from there to the lake is just one hour. For more information, check this page.

4) Rome – 1 day

The bejeweled Rome in Italy
The Bejeweled Rome in Italy

Rome can’t be fully explored in a day, but also Italy can’t be explored in 2 weeks!

Honestly, it makes more sense to do Rome properly on an entirely separate trip. It isn’t the best Road trip stop because of the parking, so if you want to skip Rome, then you should. I just wanted to include Rome for those who would want to do it anyway, considering it is on the way when you move from Tuscany to Amalfi.

Rome is high-priced in terms of stay and food, therefore it gets expensive to stay here longer. But if you can afford it, extend your trip by all means. Did you know there are more than 900 churches in Rome?

Saint Peters Basilica Rome, Italy road trip – via Pixabay

Honestly, I wouldn’t even include the Vatican City and the churches in this itinerary because of time constraints. But just so you know, the most famous one is St. Peter Basilica. To enter this, one has to walk up to the Vatican and stay in a long security line.

Like many other famous cities (Lisbon, Moscow, Porto, Pula, Istanbul, San Fransisco, Edinburgh, etc.), Rome is built on seven hills. It means, there are plenty of viewpoints that can be found. Also, unlike most touristy European cities, Rome is massive. The entire historic center of Rome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the fashion capitals of the world with an amazing shopping scene and buzzing nightlife.

If I were to spend just one day in Rome, I’d forget about the top things to do, and just walk around because there are interesting sights everywhere.

Trevi Fountain 

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy road trip itinerary via Pixabay

This is probably the busiest part of Rome and yet it is a legendary landmark. This fountain is in modern Rome, right next to the main train station. Walk around here but keep your belongings close to yourself because Rome has many pickpockets.

Explore the ruins of ancient Rome – Colosseo

The most obvious thing to do in Rome is to explore ancient Rome, it is the area around Colosseo. For this, get via dei Fori Imperiali Street and everything you would want to see is on both sides of this street.

Start with the Colosseum, then move on to Piazza Venezia. Next, you can check the Roman Forum, Trajan’s Forum, Arch of Constantin, and Flavian Palace.

Old Rome – Pantheon

Pantheon dates back to 125 AD. Of course, if you’re a Dan Brown fan then you would have probably read about all these places in the book called Angels and Demons. Yes, the book does make sightseeing more interesting but remember, it is just fiction.

There are other attractions that are nearby, like Castel Sant’Angelo – but I don’t want to include too much in the list because it will just overwhelm you.

South Rome

You can skip South Rome but if you have time, then you can check out the Baths of Caracalla, Rome City Walls, and the Circus of Maxentius.

Viewpoints in Rome

Since Rome is built on seven hills, there isn’t a shortage of viewpoints. You can look for Janiculum hill in Western Rome, the Pincio at the end of the Borghese Gardens, Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia, and Zodiaco in Monte Mario.

Campsites Near Rome

Let’s face it, you shouldn’t enter Rome in your car because of parking problems. Instead, find a camping spot that’s just outside Rome and then explore the city by public transport. Here are two camping spots that I recommend:

  • Happy Valley
  • Camping Tiber

Check this post for a list of places to stay in Rome.

Optional: Stop in Naples for a pizza on your way

Pizza quattro formaggi – Napoli style in Puglia, Italy – road trip Italy 2 weeks

The Pizzas of Naples are world-famous. If possible, try to stop here for a meal or a snack on your way to the next spot to experience a legendary Neapolitan pizza. It is essentially Margarita Pizza that’s made with a particular kind of tomatoes and mozzarella.

The Napoli Pizza follows the guidelines of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. It has the protected status granted by the Italian Standardization Body.

I won’t go into the technicalities but keep your mind open and embrace the simplicity of this pizza. The beauty of the taste of this pizza lies in the best quality ingredients and an amazing base.

5) Amalfi Coast – 3 days – Positano

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy via Unsplash

How can you visit Italy and not see the most praised coastal area – the Amalfi Coast? Keep in mind that it tends to get very busy even during the shoulder months because of its popularity. Amalfi Coast is an expensive destination because it attracts mostly high-income travelers.

The Italian road trip itinerary is designed in such a way that you can skip a part of it. If you think Amalfi Coast is blowing up your budget, then feel free to skip it because the other destinations are equally stunning too! Honestly, if you are visiting the Cinque Terre or Puglia, then you can safely skip the Amalfi Coast.

Ever seen pictures stunning coast with colorful houses, bougainvillea flowers, and low-hanging lemon trees all around? That’s Amalfi Coast. It actually is a group of 13 fishing villages, all of which are collectively UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Whether you decide to stay here or not, make sure you experience driving on the “Amalfi Drive”, which goes along the coast from Vietri sul Mare to Positano.

In order to explore the Amalfi Coast, we suggest you make your base in Positano. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to see even half the villages, just focus on one or two and enjoy your time there.

See my post about exploring Sorrento and Pompeii on a day trip from Amalfi.

Positano

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy road trip via Unsplash

Positano is situated horizontally on the face of cliffs that face the sea. It is a better idea to find a place to stay here instead of in Amalfi Town. From here, you can visit Amalfi Town by ferry.

The two beaches of Positano are Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo. Spend some lazy hours here to enjoy the landscape.

Do the Path of the Gods hike that is from Bomerano to Positano with stunning views. You can reach Bomerano on a bus from Positano to start the hike.

While in Positano, try the Limoncello. It is a locally-produced lemon liqueur.

Where to Stay in Positano?

Consider booking the picturesque Villa Rosa in Positano, which is 150 years old. This luxurious villa has epic views of the sea and lovely terraces.

Amalfi Town

The World Famous Amalfi in Italy via Pixabay

Amalfi Town is the heart of Amalfi Coast. Take a ferry from Positano and spend a few hours here to see what the buzz is all about. The main Amalfi town beach gets crowded but you can spend some time here to enjoy the vibe.

Where to Stay in Amalfi Town

Amalfi is expensive but if you can afford it, then you should consider Locanda Costa D’Amalfi, which is a seriously stunning hotel with a private beach.

This property faces the sea and some rooms also have a view of the water. The rooms feature terraces with panoramic views.

6) Puglia – 3 days – Bari, Matera, and Polignano a Maren

The stunning Sant’Andrea beach in Puglia, Italy

Having spent a month in Puglia last summer, I can claim that this is a place that you wouldn’t want to leave. There are stunning beaches, old cities, the Instagram-famous Alberobello village, and Florence of South – Lecce city. The seafood in Puglia is mind-blowing!

Puglia was once Italy’s secret but has come up with a bang in recent years. It has risen to prominence in popular culture.

The 2021 James Bond movie (No Time to Die) was shot in Puglia’s stunning Matera. Moreover, the Red Bull cliff diving championship took place in Polignano a Maren. Of course, people googled the location for the next days and Puglia went high in Google searches!

Honestly, 3 days are not enough for Puglia, but if you want to include it in your Italian road trip itinerary, then I will tell you exactly where to go.

You can’t do them all, but pick just 2-3 places and enjoy your time well.

Bari

The Streets of Bari, Puglia via Unsplash

Bari is Puglia’s largest city and it has a stunning old town. Sure, this itinerary already has many old towns but this one is very different because it is in South Italy.

Bari’s old town is called Bari Vecchia. It was the heart of the city even in pre-Roman times. Explore the maze of narrow streets here and enjoy the sights.

Many people make Bari their base as they explore the nearby destinations of Puglia. But I don’t suggest Bari as your base, check the next point.

Polignano a Maren

Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy

Instead of Bari, I suggest you make Polignano a Maren your base. It is a stunning beach town with historical buildings that are situated on the cliffs. You can just cover almost the entire city on foot because it is small.

Polignano a Maren, Puglia, Italy road trip itinerary via Unsplash

Almost every restaurant or bar in Polignano a Maren faces the sea.

Alberobello

Trulli Village – Alberobello, Puglia in Italy

Alberobello is just 30 minutes from Polignano a Maren. It is a Trulli village and is a UNESCO world heritage site. So what’s a Trulli? It is an architectural feature of Puglia, a unique way of building temporary or sometimes full-time houses.

You won’t need a lot of time for Alberobello. Just arrive here and spend 1 hour walking around to see the Trullo. You can combine Alberobello with 1-2 other places that are in your South Italy road trip itinerary, like Matera or Lecce.

Alberobello is unique! You won’t see a place like this in all of Italy, so try to include this in your Italy road trip itinerary if you can.

Matera

Matera, Puglia, Italy itinerary via Unsplash

If you thought Alberobello was unique, wait till you see Matera. It has rock-cut settlements and they are well-preserved. These settlements are a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Matera’s cave houses are called Sassi, and they are dug into limestone rocks. Yes, a little like Turkey’s Cappadocia. They are believed to be some of the first settlements in the Italian peninsula because some of them date back to 7000 BC.

While in Matera, see Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano. This is where you will see the loveliest landscape. Matera was the main shooting location for the James Bond movie – No Time to Die.

Sant’Andrea

The Arche and Rock Formations of Sant’Andrea – I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea – Puglia

Drive to Sant’Andrea from Bari or Polignano a Mare to visit my favorite beach in Italy. The drive will take you around 1 hour 45 minutes so leave early.

Torre Sant’Andrea beach is stunning and it has many sections. There is a nice sandy part that’s perfect for families and several rocky parts that are super stunning.

Make a day trip here and spend a few hours here exploring this area. You can also cliff jump here.

Lecce

Exploring the Historical Lecce city in Puglia, Italy

Lecce is called the Florence of the South. It is an ancient city that I absolutely fell in love with! All the buildings here are beige and it is amazing to walk in Lecce’s old town. It definitely isn’t as busy as Florance.

Lecce has its own style of Baroque architecture, it is called Barocco leccese (Lecce baroque). Be sure to see Basilica di Santa Croce. It looks like it is right out of a Dan Brown book, and as per Marchese Grimaldi it looked like a lunatic was having a nightmare. Makes you curious to see it?

I have an entire post about visiting Lecce, be sure to check it out.

If you do end up visiting Lecce, walk around here and enjoy the stunning old town. Get a table outside in one of the restaurants and enjoy Lecce’s famous foods – Cozze Gratin, Frutti de Mare Pasta/risotto, or Pizza and Pasticciotto.

Tips for Italy Road Trip:

  • Keep a small overnight bag ready in your car for places where you need to park your car and move further by train, like the Cinque Terre or Venice.
  • You will find free water in designated water fountains in every single town or village in Italy. Make the most of it and drink this water.
  • Parking can get very expensive in famous cities like Rome, Venice, etc – so feel free to skip them. More than just difficult, sometimes it isn’t possible to find a parking spot at all.
  • Observe the traffic rules, even if the locals around you aren’t doing so. The fines are heavy and sometimes people also receive a 1-3 day driving ban.
  • The alcohol limit is 0.50g/L and is zero for those who are under 21 or have a driving license that’s not older than 3 years.

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10 Tips for Traveling With A Dog (Long Term)

10 Tips for Traveling With A Dog (Long Term)

Is it possible to be a pet owner and still get to travel long term? Yes and no – because it depends on your way of traveling and your budget.

No, you can’t go for a backpacking trip with a dog (obviously), but you can do other kinds of trips with your pet. After all, why should you get to see the world, but your best friend has to stay home with a sitter? If you’re looking to hit the road with your furry friend beyond a weekend getaway, you need to be prepared. 

Before you even start to follow these tips you may consider how to register an emotional support animal that will give your best friend more respect and visibility in busy areas. Proper paperwork and an obvious vest will save you from needing to convince others how necessary your dog is.

So let’s jump right into it and get you on a vacation with the whole family this time.

1) Crossing Borders? Get Ready!

Every country has unique rules and regulations for allowing pets in. For example, the European Union requires all dogs to be micro-chipped and almost all countries require proof of a recent rabies shot.

Actually, if you live in EU, then traveling to other EU countries with a dog is much easier than traveling to other continents. Here’s a simple checklist for those who travel with their pets within the EU. Just to summarize, here’s what you will usually need:

  • A valid pet passport, and / or an animal health certificate,
  • Having microchipped,
  • Proof of your dog being vaccinated against rabies,
  • Proof of treatment against the tapeworm if the destination is free from tapeworm.

If you enter a new country, be sure to declare your animal at the border. It can be easy to forget if you have a small dog asleep in a carrier, but a hefty fine will come after you if you accidentally sneak your dog into a foreign country. 

2) Are You Flying? Think Twice

Flying with a dog can be a very stressful experience for both you and your pooch. I would tell you to avoid it and look for other options if you can. If you can’t, then opt for the shortest journey possible.

If your buddy is too big to fit underneath the seat in front of you, you will be required to put your dog in the cargo area with the luggage.

Airlines refer to this as “shipping an animal” and it is by no means a pleasant experience. Dark, crowded, loud, and lonely, some dogs will really suffer after extended hours in this environment. Some vets will recommend an approved sedative to make the journey calmer or even sleep through it.

If you plan on taking your pup on an airplane, always check with your vet and your airline, so there are no surprises when you show up at the airport.

3) Instead Go on a Road Trip

The best way to travel with a dog is by road. We have a detailed post about traveling on a van in Europe, be sure to check it out.

A classic trip across the open road can be a dog’s dream vacation — if you plan it right.

Give your pooch an area they can call their own. You wouldn’t make your kids crowd in if there were not enough seats, so give your dog enough space to be comfortable.

Plenty of room to take a nap, look out the window, and relax will make the trip much easier and smoother for everyone involved. Always keep a small bowl of water in the back though, your dog shouldn’t have to wait to have a drink.

4) Get A Good Road Trip Routine Down Before You Go

Spend a few weeks or months before you set out getting your pup used to all the aspects of a road trip. Drive around the neighborhood and practice everything you’ll be doing when it’s go-time.

That means practicing timed bathroom breaks when humans are ready, and meal times only when stopped.

5) Never Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car

Leaving your pet (or just anyone) in a locked car can be fatal, especially in summer months. I remember seeing something on Oprah Winfrey Show about a baby dying in the car because the father forgot to take him out when he went to work.

You may think that you will return in just 2-3 minutes back to your car but if you spend an extra few minutes than the situation can turn into a nightmare..

Believe it or not, it takes just seven minutes for the heat in your locked car to turn deadly. This happens because of the greenhouse effect inside a locked car.

6) Consider Train Travel

Pets are allowed on trains in most of the countries. There are some train operators such as Eurostar that don’t allow pets but there are always other options.

Keep in mind that if you have a large sized dog then some train operators may not allow them on the board. In some countries like Spain, there is a weight restriction of 10 kgs for pets.

Most of the train companies let small dogs travel for free and charge a child fare for large dogs. Cute – because sometimes dogs are like children.

As a dog owner, you should always clean up after your pet. If you’re traveling on a train then start small and do a shorter journey instead to begin with. Carry a pet carrier because that’s mandatory on some trains if you’re traveling with your dog.

7) Feed Less or Skip a Meal on the Day of Travel

Sounds harsh? But this was recommended by many veterinary doctors.

Dogs get anxious and it results into stress diarrhea. Even if they don’t appear stressed, but just motion sickness can cause an upset stomach.

Feed them less food or skip an entire meal on the day you have to take them on the train or car or even an airplane. Don’t keep them hungry throughout the day but skip just the last meal that you would normally give them just before the journey.

8) Keep the Well Hydrated & Give them Enough Toilet Breaks

If you’re traveling by road, then try to find a way to attach the dog’s water-bowl to their crate. Dogs can get dehydrated very quickly on journeys.

Give them enough toilet breaks if you’re traveling on car. If you’re on a train then arrive early at the station so that they have enough time.

9) Carry a toy to keep them occupied & Pack their Familiar Things

Even gave your dog one of those toys with a treat inside that he has to work hard for? Find one and carry it for your dog to keep him occupied. Don’t overdo things by carrying too many toys. Carry just one or two toys and let them be the good ones.

Pack your dogs favorite blanket, bowl and bed with you to keep them calm. When things are familiar, then it will help them with their anxiety.

10) Be Ready For Bursts Of Play

10 hours on the road is tough for humans, but an energetic dog will start to go crazy without letting off some steam. Invest in a chuck-it, Frisbee, or even a reliable ball that you quickly play with at rest stops. Your dog deserves just as much exercise as they would get during a day at home.

Plus, you don’t want to be ready for bed when your dog is eager to go on a run. A successful day on the road ends when everyone (human and animal alike) is exhausted and quickly falls asleep before doing it all over again.

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

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

It has been a few years that we bought a campervan. In the time, we have driven around Europe in our van from east to west and covered many countries.

We drove to 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.

[toc]

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, Porto, Lisbon, 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 just 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!

Google Maps will help you 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.

2021 Update: Our ADAC membership saved us. In 2021, we did a road trip to Italy and towards the end of the trip, my husband had a cliff jumping accident in Puglia. It was a very difficult time but thankfully ADAC coordinated everything for us.

They arranged for my husband’s surgery in Italy, they flew our family of 3 back to Germany for free, sent a car for us to reach the airport, and also got our car back from Puglia and delivered it right at our doorstep with all the luggage inside.

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 includes 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 in a majority of countries.

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 some places would be closed during the low season but we didn’t know everything would be. 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.

I did write a very detailed Balkan road trip itinerary, and our favorite country for a road trip in that area is Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you are lucky, you may just find a beautiful camping area here like we did, and it was for free.

I also like the ease of road tripping in Croatia, as well as Montenegro. For me, the most interesting was Serbia because it is so offbeat, pretty and mysterious. 

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. Even if you have not consumed drugs on the same day but consumed a week before, you can be in trouble.

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 in the Netherlands, 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. The only other one I saw was in Belgrade, Sebia.

When entering the highway, you will get an 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 ever.

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. 

Spain completely lifted our spirits up when we arrived here form dull France. The weather was petter, people had massive smiles on their faces, the food was more flavorful, and things were affordable.

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.

Pastel de Nata on Dona Ana Beach, Lagos, Portugal

When in Portugal, make sure you stop at smaller road side bakeries and try the famous custard tarts / egg tarts (pastel de nata). I talk about the egg tarts in almost all of my blog posts from Portugal.

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.

So, are you interested in driving around Europe in a van too?

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.

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 and a total of 4 trips here, we can confidently say that this lovely country in the Balkans can WOW every kind of traveler.

The first time we visited Croatia was in 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 constraints.

Back in 2016, 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.

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia - Road Trip Itinerary
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia – Road Trip Itinerary – Photo from my friend by Sollunatic Photos

Our second trip to Croatia was in 2018. It was a part of our Balkan road trip from Bosnia. That trip was done in a rented car that we picked up from Serbia. I was pregnant then and had an amazing time.

The third time we road-tripped in Croatia 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 third trip, we were with our 8-month-old baby. We had limited time and we wanted to spend it well.

We also visited Croatia in 2022 but that wasn’t a road trip each time we saw different places and also some same places, so we had 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.

The Lovely Waterfront Houses of Rastoke, Croatia

If you’re able to find cheap tickets to Croatia where you land at 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, the second one was from Bosnia, and the third from Slovenia. All these trips had different starting points – Zagreb, Dubrovnik, 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 kinds 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, and look at St. Mark’s Church and the Serbian 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 in 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 time to check out the Hrelić flea market that’s a little out of the city. 

Places to Stay in Zagreb

I stayed in two different hotels in Zagreb in 2022 and I loved both of them. The first was Hotel Orient and we booked a suite that had a separate small room for our daughter too.

Hotel Orient was super comfortable in terms of location and everything. We paid EUR 72 for a night here. I think this was a very good value for money because it wasn’t just a bedroom but a suite with AC. Believe it or not, AC rooms aren’t so common in Europe, unlike Asia or the Americas. Overall, it was perfect for a small family like ours. 

The location of Hotel Orient is perfect because there’s a decent parking place so it is perfect for road trips. Also, the main train station was 500 meters away and the bus station was 1.5 KM away. 

The second hotel that I stayed in Zagreb was Hotel Europa. I paid the same for this (EUR 72), but it wasn’t really a suite with two rooms. Instead, it was a massive bedroom with an extra single bed for our little girl. This worked out really well too. There was a shopping mall that was less than a kilometer away from the hotel where we went for lunch.

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 a 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 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 pebbly.

Head to Stoja – the beach here was my favorite. Stoja isn’t a single beach here but many of them are 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
Sunset view from Zeppelin bar that’s in Saccorgiana cove in Verudela, Pula- Croatia Road Trip itinerary

Another beach that stood out to me was Saccorgiana Cove in Verudela. For me, it had everything I needed – peace, nice spots for sitting, and a fun beach bar – Zeppelin.

Apart from Stoja and Saccorgiana Cove, 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 to 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 on different levels (like steps) with cascades and waterfalls between them – that’s Plitvice Lakes. This world-renowned national park is 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, which is 5 km 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 every day. 

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 Rastoke Slunj, Croatia Road Trip – CC0 via Pixabay

Did you know there is a “mini Plitvice Lake” in Croatia? It is in Slunj town, that is 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 the 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 center 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 km, 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 moved 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 the 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 we could enjoy the waterfall without people was during the 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; its 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 spend 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 a view. It is 5 km 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 km 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 of 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 to this country without island-hopping and making time to see the famous Croatian 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.

To get to Dubrovnik, you’ll need to leave Hvar and catch the 7:30 a.m. ferry back to 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 the 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 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 by 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 which has a view of the sea.

Is it safe to drive around Croatia?

Driving to Rastoke Slunj, Croatia

We didn’t just drive around Croatia only once but three times. We also visited Croatia with our 8-month-old baby and later when she was 3 years old. We never felt unsafe here and found everything here to be very easy.

Croatia is one of the few countries where it appeared that the locals respected and followed the rules, which made driving easier than some other countries. The roads, toll situation, parking situation, etcetera were easy to understand.

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 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 are traffic police nearby.
  • You need to pay a toll fee on the roads that connect Zagreb with Zadar, Split, and Rijeka.
  • 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. Early summer time is perfect for enjoying the waterfalls that Croatia is famous for, beaches, and over all natural beauty. September and October are decent months too, because they aren’t as busy as summer months.

Is Croatia cheap to travel to? 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 it in 2019.

The thing is, Croatia isn’t expensive when you compare it to the touristy Western European countries (like France, and 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 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 fees 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 to the S.U.N. Festival in 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.
5 Great Adventurous Road Trips in Australia

5 Great Adventurous Road Trips in Australia

Australia is the land of wide spaces and spectacular natural sites. Some of the most amazing natural wonders in Australia can only be reached by road. Hence, best way to see the real Australia is to travel by road. There are so many diverse places to visit in this vast country that you are spoilt for choice.

Rent a car or even better, a camper-van to see Australia at your own pace. We highly recommend DriveNow Website, to find a vehicle for your trip and take a look at these adventurous options for an Australian road trip to remember. Seriously, exploring Australia on a camper-van is supposed to be one of the best ways of experiencing this spectacular country.

The most amazing road trips in Australia:

[toc]

Brisbane to Sydney along the Pacific Highway [5+ days]

Highlights: Byron Bay, Grafton, South Coast, Coff’s Harbour, Blue Mountain National Park, New Castle and a bit of Central Coast.

Cape Byron Lighthouse - Road Trips in Australia - Byron Bay

Cape Byron Lighthouse – Road Trips in Australia – Byron Bay

The Pacific Highway is one of the most famous roads in Australia. You can travel along it, and visit two colourful and diverse cities. Along the way you can stop off to explore some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You can also book on a trip to see humpback whales during their migration.

If you chose to fly between Brisbane and Sydney you would miss all of this natural beauty. It should take at least 5 days to make this trip but you will probably need twice as much time as that if you really want to enjoy yourself. Check out this post for information of things to see in Byron Bay.

The Great Ocean Road [3+ days]

Highlights: the 12 Apostles, Bells Beach, Anglesea, Lorne, Port Fairy, Great Otway National Park, Grampians National Park and Lake Elizabeth

The Great Ocean Road is another of Australia’s famous highways. This is a route that many daytrippers take but in reality you should allow at least 3 days to explore the area between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Twelve Apostles in Australia

Twelve Apostles in Australia

This exploration should include viewing sites such as the Twelve Apostles and spending time looking for the local wildlife such as koalas and kangaroos.

Adelaide to Perth [10+ days]

Highlights: Wave Rock, Dundas Nature Reserve, Nullarbor National Park, Barossa Valley, Ceduna, Ecula Sand Dunes, and Port Augusta

This is a long road trip which should take you at least 10 days to complete. It’s worth taking your time, so that you can fully appreciate experiences such as crossing the Nullarbor Plain and Wave Rock.

Wave Rock - road trip from Perth, Australia

Wave Rock – road trip from Perth, Australia

This area is one of the harshest pieces of outback in the country. It’s a treeless plain but it’s still a place where you can spot plenty of wildlife including dingoes, emus and wedge-tailed eagles.

The Ocean Loop in Tasmania [10 – 12 days]

Highlights: Cradle Mountain, Swansea, Wineglass Bay, Bay of Fires and Freycinet National Park

You may need to get to Tasmania by ferry, but then it’s all about hitting the road. The Ocean Road takes you past many of the beautiful beaches that fringe this island state. This is a road trip that you should not rush.

A beach in Tasmania Australia - Road Trips in Australia

A beach in Tasmania Australia – Road Trips in Australia

Take your time admiring the beautiful landscapes on view and give yourself around 10-12 days to complete the journey.

Perth to Broome [12 days]

Highlights: the Pinnacles, Jurien Bay, Kalbarri National Park, Coral Bay, Shark Bay, Karijini National Park, Millstream Chichester National Park, The Simpson Desert and Eighty Mile Beach

This is the ideal road trip for anyone who wants to escape the normal holiday hotspots and appreciate the natural splendour of this part of Australia. This is one of the least visited parts of the country which means that you get to spend time on deserted beaches and in tranquil national parks.

At either end of the journey you have the cosmopolitan city of Perth and the beach resort of Broome where you can ride a camel at sunset. Allow yourself at least 12 days to complete this trip if you want to be able to appreciate your environment.

 Hopefully, you will have taken inspiration from these adventurous road trips and be ready to head off on an adventure of your own.

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