It has almost been a year that San and I bought a campervan. In this time, we have driven around Europe in our van from east to west and covered many countries. We have driven in 11 different countries on our campervan, that includes three national parks, mountains, beaches as well as two music festivals.
With very little knowledge at the start of our first trip, we made a few rookie mistakes. Nothing serious but we laughed a lot at our stupidity and eventually learned how to explore Europe in our campervan like pros. A lot of information that we needed about traveling Europe in a campervan wasn’t really available online because most of the website focused on living in a van, versus traveling in one.
Anyway, before we share our essential tips for exploring Europe by camper van, we’d like to discuss a few things to help you decide if van-life is really for you, and if it is – then what kind of van you really need.
Why Should You Consider Traveling Europe by Campervan?
Us with our van in Bosnia and Herzegovina
I’m sure you know how a typical first timer’s Euro Trip looks like. A little bit of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, London, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest and Prague – usually all on trains and buses. Guess what, these are really the most expensive European destinations. Moreover, the train transportation is expensive in Europe, especially in Western Europe.
If you’re on this page already, then I’m sure you’re looking for something different. Maybe you’re looking to explore the lesser visited and under the radar places in Europe that you can’t easily reach by trains or buses.
The best part about travelling around Europe by campervan is that you can go literally anywhere you want. You don’t have to worry about high internal transportation costs, schedules, and connections. It makes your itinerary super flexible and as a result, an entire layer of possibility opens up for you.
Scenic camping spot in Geirangerfjord, Norway – Traveling Europe by Campervan
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,
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
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 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
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
The best part of “VanLife” is actually sleeping in your own little home on the road and waking up to an amazing view. In reality, you won’t have an amazing view everyday, but you can at least try.
Van Life Sleeping Essentials
There are many van life aspects where you can be cheap, but your mattress shouldn’t be one of them. Invest in a comfortable mattress otherwise you will hate your van. If you’re not able to find a compact mattress that is easy to travel with for the size of your van bed, then just look for a mattress topper.
Tips for Sleeping in the Van
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!
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
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
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
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
Getting the Most Out of Google Maps on your Road Trip
It is the most obvious app to use for road trips but not many people use all the awesome features to maximize their experience. If you know how to use Google Maps really well, you don’t need any other app. Really.
Find anything around you, not just restaurants or gas stations but also camping spots. Although there are many dedicated apps for finding campgrounds in Europe, we end up using Google Maps more than anything. Just type “camp” or “camping” in the search box and you will get a list of suggestions. You will also be able to usually see pictures, read reviews and see the prices of the camping spots.
Do you know you can search for waterfalls on your way to your destination so that you can make an epic stop? Try it. Just put “waterfall” in the search box and you will be amazed to see the result. Similarly, you can just find anything anywhere.
Want to save money and avoid toll? Set your Google Map’s navigation setting to avoid tolls and highways. It is as simple as that. As a result, your route may end up being a bit longer but will be cheaper and more scenic.
ADAC Membership will Save Your Life
ADAC is the largest automative club in Europe and it was founded in Germany. They have a massive fleet of mechanics on the move that help motorists. They also provide air ambulances in urgent needs.
I do not know of any single camper van or a caravan owner here in Europe that doesn’t have an ADAC membership. Not just for vans, but is for any kind of automobile as the organization helps the members in case of needs and emergencies on the road. If you sign up for a “plus membership” (ADAC Plus-Mitgliedschaft), you get services all over the world.
I am not affiliated with ADAC in anyway, but I’d just like to share their details with my readers because I truly see a value in this membership. You can check more details here on their website.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 4: Finding Camping Spots
Our camping spot in the Netherlands – A typical campground
While traveling in Europe on a campervan, there are three kinds of camping spots that you will find:
Paid Camping Spots
An awesome thing about traveling in Europe on a campervan is that there is no shortage of decent camping areas. Almost every town or village has a paid camping area that’s specifically designed for motorhomes and tents. and include shared toilets, kitchen, bar, restaurants, a small supermarket, toilet disposal unit for vans,
Free Camping Spots
Yes, it is possible to find free camping spots too. Keep in mind that these “free” camping spots aren’t exactly beautiful. These are usually in gas stations parking spots or in rare cases, even supermarkets.
As you drive along the highway in most of the countries in Europe, you will see many resting spots along the way. Usually there is a sign that says what all you can expect in that resting spot. Some of them have a fast food restaurant, a paid toilet, an overpriced gas station shop, or even a children’s play area.
Finding these resting spot that you can use for parking are very easy because they’re well marked on the road. In any case, you can use Google Maps and park4night app to find them.
On all our road trips in Europe, we did not do find much of free camping spots that were picturesque. We mostly spent a little money to park in a scenic spot and enjoy our evening in a proper camping area with all the amenities. Only the times when we had to drive till the night was when we slept in our van in the fuel station parking.
Wild Camping in Nature in Europe – Is it Possible?
Our Camper van parked near a yellow flower field in Germany
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
The best part about traveling on a campervan is being outdoors. It is about finding a scenic spot, setting up the camp and enjoy being outside instead of the comfort of a hotel room. This is why I make an effort to find the best spots in the area while traveling on our campervan.
I use a combination of Google Maps, CamperContact and Booking.com apps. Yes, booking.com also has camping spots.
I prefer Google Maps because I can zero down on an area, search for something that’s next to the river or lake (based on the satellite image), read reviews and see pictures.
Many Campgrounds in Europe are Closed During the Low Season
How to save money while travelling Europe? Travel off season. Ironically it doesn’t quite work out like this because most of the places are closed during the low season.
Many campgrounds close operations towards the end of September and at the beginning of October. We got a big shock while we were driving in Spain, Portugal and France in October. We knew things would be closed during the low season but we didn’t know it would so much. There were days where every campground that we drove to was closed for the season. That’s when we decided to just park our van in the parking area of a fast food place on the highway.
If you’re traveling in Europe with your campervan during the low season, then be sure to call your camping spot in advance to see if they’re open.
VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 5:Avoiding Costs – How to Make Your Van Life Affordable
How to Avoid Toll in Europe
I had no idea how expensive the toll fee can end up being while road tripping in Europe. There are some countries where the toll is super high (like France), and the others where it is non existent (like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands).
There was one particular day as we drove from Normandy (France) to Bordeaux (France), we paid total toll of close to 100 Euros.
It is easy to avoid the toll most of the times – just change the setting of your in your car’s navigation system. You can set up your navigation settings on Google Maps app to avoid tolls and highways.
When in Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia, make sure you buy vignettes as soon as you enter. Vignettes are road tax stickers that are prepaid. They are mandatory in these countries.
Just go to any gas station and ask for a vignette. You can find one based on the number of days you’re going to spend in that particular country. If you ever get caught without a vignette, it is going to be super expensive for you. I know a friend who paid EUR 200 in Austria for this.
Lower Fuel Costs
Somewhere in Portugal – Van Life Europe tips
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 Bosnia’s Una National Park – Free of Cost
I have said this before and I will say this over and over again. The Balkan countries are beautiful and affordable. The difference in costs is significant and should be enough for you to pick where to go.
Big Cities = Parking Problem
Skip the likes of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Belgrade, and all the big cities. First, parking will be difficult to find and expensive. Second, most likely there will be traffic and it will kill your mood. Third, everything is usually expensive in the big cities.
Save Money on Camping when You Can
Save Money on Camping – Traveling Europe by Campervan
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
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.
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 roads are very good in the Netherlands but expect congestion in summer near beach destinations such as Zandvoort. When driving in towns and cities on smaller roads, always give priority to the cyclists. For affordable parking near cities, look for “P + R” (Park and Ride) signs. You can park your van here and use the public transport to enter the city. Of course, if you’re including a busy city like Amsterdam in your itinerary then this is where you can park and get inside Amsterdam using public transport.
Out of all the countries that we have road tripped in, France has the most expensive toll. There are really good resting stops along the highway with free toilets. France is one of the few countries where the toilets also featured a super tiny WC for the toddlers. It was adorable and thoughtful.
When entering the highway, you will get a entry ticket at the toll station which you will have to present later at the exit toll station and make a payment. If you lose your entrance ticket, then you will be charged for the longest length – so keep it safe.
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.
Our van in Spain – Europe by Campervan Tips
Many travel guides mentioned that driving in Spain can be nerve wrecking and many roads are “one-way”, but we did not face any challenge. With the help of our GPS and Google Maps, we thoroughly enjoyed driving in Spain. Not just along the coast but the landscape was spectacular even in the middle of the country.
While in Spain, we loved stopping in small Spanish towns and visiting the coffeeshops / bars for a quick snack and drink. Eating and drinking in Spain was generally affordable for us as compared to France and Germany.
We were warned by many about watching out for erratic driving behavior in Portugal but we did not encounter any. The experience of driving through small Portuguese towns, from the mountains to the coast was beautiful. When in Portugal, make sure you stop at smaller road side bakeries and try the famous custard tarts / egg tarts (pastel de nata).
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 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.
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 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
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 route from Normandy to Bordeaux in France is lovely and you will get to see some amazing natural and architectural attractions. You don’t necessarily need to stop at the starting and ending big cities. Instead, make a stop at Etretat, Honfleur, Mont Saint-Michel, and a few other small towns of your choice along the way.
Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Driving along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is surely the best route in the country for a road trip. The best part is that it can be modified in many different ways. We did a road trip that started in Kerry, then went on to Westport, Achill Island and Ballina in Mayo County.
East Bohemia in the Czech Republic
Prague isn’t the only destination in the Czech Republic but there are many other picturesque smaller towns, castles, and natural attractions that are worth a visit. Start at Pardubice, then head to Sec to relax in the nature and enjoy the viewpoints, next – head to Litomysl and explore the art scene and end your trip in the magical Svojanov where you can get a break from camping and sleep in a castle.
Tuscany to Selento (Italy)
Drive from Central Italy to South Italy’s beaches. Start in the Tuscany region, which is known for picturesque landscapes and historical art scene. It is where the Italian Renaissance art scene began and spread all over. From here, you have an option to drive to Rome or head to Monti Sibillini National Park and move towards the coast. We recommend the latter because the more you drive, the more you would want to avoid entering big cities.
From the Sibillini mountains, you can make your way to Selento by making stops at small fishing villages on the way such as Termoli, Trani – or find your own new destination.
The Dolomites in Northern Italy
Drive around Northern Italy’s little villages up in the Dolomites. You can start this trip in Verona and make your way up to Trento, Alpe Cimbra, Val di Non. This area looks really beautiful in spring because of apple flowers. You can also stop at the lovely Lago di Tovel – a stunning clear lake that’s surrounded by the mountains.
Many Italians say that North of Italy isn’t the “real Italy”, but this trip is about nature. To enjoy the best of Italy’s culture, make a trip to South of Italy.
Austria & Slovenia
Explore the Alps and spectacular alpine lakes. Start in Austria’s Salzburg from where you can go to Mondsee or Ebensee lakes. Next, visit Hallstatt, then Slovenia’s Lake Jasna, Lake Bled and finally Lake Bohinj. Lake Bohinj is spectacular and you can camp right next to it in Camp Zlatorog Bohinj.
Final Thoughts about Travelling Europe in a Van
Living in Europe, we have tried multiple ways of exploring this continent. We have used buses, trains, hopped on to budget flights and also backpacked across Europe, but nothing compares to road tripping. The experience of travelling around Europe by campervan opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of accessing destinations that are not served by public transport.
Greg Anderson said that one should focus on the journey and not the destination. This quote applies really well to the Van Life experience. It is truly about the journey.
Did follow our campervan travel tips or are you living the Van Life?
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Croatia Road Trip Itinerary to help you plan your trip.
How beautiful is Croatia! There are clear blue lakes, medieval walled cities, amazing beaches, and stunning natural beauty. After two road trips in Croatia, we can confidently say that this lovely country in the Balkans can WOW every kind of traveler.
The first time we visited Croatia was on 2016. Back then, we didn’t do any research and did not have any idea about what to do in Croatia. Those were our carefree backpacking and hitchhiking days and we did not have any time constrains. Our Croatia travel itinerary had nothing on it but Plitvice Lakes and many extra days for spontaneity. I still remember how unreal it felt when we saw Croatia’s natural beauty – especially clear rivers and lakes.
Our second trip to Croatia was in 2019 and it was on our own camper van from Slovenia. We had a better idea about how we wanted to spend our time and where to go in Croatia. During our second trip, we had limited time and we wanted to spend it well. We saw different places on both these trips and have a lot of tips to share.
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.
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.
If you’re able to find cheap tickets to Croatia where you land on any other airport, then by all means get those. In that case, you can start your Croatia itinerary from another place such as Split or Dubrovnik and do a circle from there.
In case you’re driving to Croatia from one of the nearby countries, then it makes more sense to start your trip from one of the destinations that’s near the border. We want to make sure that you’re making the most of your travel time by sharing the best routes and stops.
If you’re driving into Croatia from Slovenia, then you can skip Zagreb and start your road trip from Pula instead. However, if you’re driving in from Hungary then it makes more sense to start your trip from Zagreb. Budapest to Zagreb is only 3 – 4 hours by driving.
In case you’re starting your trip from Montenegro or Serbia or Bosnia & Herzegovina – then just do this itinerary in reverse and make Dubrovnik your starting point. From Bosnia-Herzegovina, you can also start your Croatia road trip from Plitvice Lakes.
Our first road trip to Croatia was from Hungary and the second one was from Slovenia. Both these trips had different starting points – Zagreb and Zadar.
Croatia Itinerary: Best Places to Visit in Croatia
We have included many different kinds of places to visit in Croatia that will appeal to all kind of travelers. Our Croatia travel itinerary has beaches, national parks, historical towns, small towns, and party places. You can edit and modify this itinerary to skip some places to make your trip shorter.
Croatia Road Trip itinerary suggested route – Map
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 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 – CC0 via Pixabay
While in Zagreb, book an apartment for yourself and park your car because the city’s public transport is awesome and affordable. There are trams (ZET – Zagreb Electric Tram), buses and historical rails. Get a single day tram ticket so that get on and off as you explore the city. Alternatively, you can get a Vrijednosna Karta that can be used for both trams and buses. Zagreb has Uber too, and it is super affordable.
So wondering how to spend one day in Zagreb? Start at the Upper Town (Gornji grad) and gradually make your way to the Lower Town (Donji grad). You can walk and enjoy the most of Zagreb. As per Lonely Planet, Zagreb is made for strolling. Oh, and there’s free WiFi that’s available around the national theatre in the main city square – how cool is that!
Upper Town is the main old town of Zagreb with medieval architecture. While here, walk around in Strossmayer Promenade, see the Old town gate, relax in Ribnjak Park, see the Neo-Gothic style cathedral in the Upper Town, look at St. Mark’s Church and the Sebian Orthodox Church.
With such a rich history in this enchanting capital, it’s a great idea to take a walking tour in Zagreb to really soak in all of its wonders before you start your road trip.
Jarun Park, Zagreb – Croatia Itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay
When you get bored of being a tourist in Zagreb, head over to Jarun Lake and relax on one of the bars. You can eat lunch here or have a few sunset drinks to end your day early.
If you’re visiting Zagreb on a Sunday, then take out time to check out Hrelić flea market that’s a little out of the city.
Places to Stay in Zagreb
If you want to stay in Zagreb city centre, then check out Zest and Nest boutique Apartments. The apartments here have everything – kitchen, living room, toilet with all the appliances.
If you know for sure you won’t be cooking your meals and you’re looking for something fancy, check out Hotel Jägerhorn. It is an award winning hotel with a view of the town. It isn’t as pricy as other hotels.
The Rocky beaches of Pula, Istria – Croatia Itinerary
If you’re driving to Croatia from Slovenia or Italy, it makes total sense to start your trip in Pula and skip Zagreb. Pula is the biggest town in Istria and should be a part of your Croatia itinerary if you want to cover this particular part of the country.
It is a beach destination BUT is more than just pretty beaches, Pula has a lovely old town too. Believe it or not, it was built 3000 years ago by the Illyrians! You can see fascinating landmarks to visit and some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. It is like mini Italy within Croatia.
Pula old town centre at night – Croatia itinerary
Pula has Rome’s Colosseum look alike – it is called the Roman Arena. Guess what, it is the 6th largest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world. The entry is 20 Kunas, which is a 3 Euros.
San and I on the streets of Pula, Croatia Itinerary
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
While we were in Pula, we spent most of our time on the beaches. The beaches aren’t sandy but are pebbeley. Head to Stoja – the beach here was my favorite. Stoja isn’t a single beach here but many of them together next to a campsite. If you see google maps, you will notice how this part looks triangular with multiple beaches. If you’re road tripping on a van or are carrying a tent, then you can just camp right here in Camping Stoja.
Pula beach sunset – Croatia Road Trip itinerary
Apart from Stoja, there’s also Valkane beach, Ambrela beach, Hawaii beach and many other beaches. Most of the beach looked similar but Stoja stood out for me.
FKK in Pula
Pula has some naturalistic beaches that are a little outside the city and are marked FKK. Free body culture exists and it isn’t just for the hippies. Go, shed your clothes and sunbathe naked in Pula’s FKK beaches.
Where to Stay in Pula
We stayed in a place called Riva Hostel and we loved it. The dorm rooms were excellent and so was the outside sitting area. We were not close to the beach but the pier, so we could see the water from our windows. The Roman Amphitheatre (Arena) was very close to our hostel.
As mentioned in the section above, the campsite in Stoja is beautiful and is on the beach. You should definitely consider it if you’re looking for a campground in Pula.
Plitvice Lakes National Park – 2 Days
Plitvice Lakes – one of the three viewpoints over the big waterfall that shows the cascades
Imagine 16 clear water lakes, all arranged in different levels (like steps) with cascades and waterfalls between them – that’s Plitvice Lakes. This world-renowned national park truly the best natural wonder in Croatia. It will make your jaw drop and leave you with incredible memories.
San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is awesome but gets super crowded. Read our guide to the Plitvice Lakes for some useful insider knowledge about tips for avoiding crowds, costs, hiking routes, photo spots and more. It is best to drive through in the early afternoon as it’ll take around 2 hours to drive here from Zagreb, whereas it’ll take 3 and a half hours from Pula.
Once you arrive, set up for the night so you can be there to enjoy the park early before it gets crowded. Book an apartment that’s nearby and get some rest the night before because you will have to walk a lot inside the national park. We stayed in Bungalows and Camping Korana, that’s 5 KMs away.
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
Grab the chance to go for one of the world’s best walks as you breathe in the fresh air and admire the limestone canyon before your eyes. This is a truly remarkable area that attracts travelers from all over the world. The entrance fee is only €25 – €30 (180 Kunas).
Where to stay near Plitvice Lakes
There are three hotels inside the Plitvice Lakes National Park and they are a little more expensive than the others. If you stay inside the national park, you will not spend on your internal transport and will also not wait in the long line.
We stayed in a place called Campsite and Bungalows Korana, which is only 5KMs away. Not into camping? No worries, they have bungalows too. It is one of the few places that’s recommended by the National Park and they also run a free shuttle to and from the park everyday.
Rastoke, Slunj Day Trip – 1/2 Day [Extend if you like]
Mini Plitvice Lakes – Waterfall in Slunj, Croatia Road Trip – CC0 via Pixabay
Did you know there is a “mini Plitvice Lake” in Croatia? It is in Slunj town, that’s not far from the National Park. The complex is called Rastoke and is a good place for a day trip if you want to get off the tourist trail in Croatia.
Rastoke, Slunj in Croatia – Road trip itinerary – CC0 via Pixabay
While you’re here, you can stop in Slunj town for lunch. It is a nice town with helpful locals. I have visited it a few times over the last few years because of Modem music festival.
If you have some more time and would like to experience the “real Croatia” without tourists, then by all means spend some more time in Slunj town. The locals here speak decent English and you won’t have any communication problems. Honestly, I’d rather spend more time in a small town like Slunj and skip other places if I’m visiting Croatia during one of the busier months.
Zadar – 1 Day (Optional)
Zadar is near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Zadar is an optional stop, because this itinerary already includes similar (and more beautiful) historical coastal destinations like Dubrovnik and Split. If you have time, then by all makes stop here because it is close to Krka National Park and can be a good stopping point for the night. We stopped in Zadar for one night before driving to Krka National Park.
If you do decide to stop in Zadar, then go explore the old town that has 34 churches. The beach that’s closest to the city centre is Kolovare. You can also visit Vitrenjak Beach and Borik Beach.
So what’s unmissable in Zadar? The Sea Organ – it is really cool. There are tubes that are installed under marble steps that play music with the sea waves.
Where to Stay in Zadar
We stayed in a place called Apartment Maruna that had everything we needed. Our rooms were air conditioned, which was a blessing considering the summer heat. Our apartment had a nice and compact kitchen and a toilet. We also had a sitting area that was outside. It was the perfect place to stay for us.
Krka National Park – 1 Day
KRKA National Park in Early Summer – Croatia Itinerary – 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.
People swimming in Park’s Main Waterfall – Skradinski Buk – from up above – Croatia Itinerary
In order to enter the national park, you can either hike for 3.4 KMs, or take a ferry from Skradin to Skradinski Buk Ferry Pier. The hiking path isn’t shaded with threes so in summer you will literally die if you decide to hike. You can also cycle through. During summer, taking a ferry is the easiest option and the ferry is free if you have your park tickets.
In order to take the ferry, you have to reach Skradin and you can park your car nearby, the parking spot is marked as Parking Skradin KRKA on Google Maps. Parking is super expensive! I think we paid 1 euro per hour.
Please note, that the ferry from Skradin to enter Krka National Park only runs from April to early November. Be prepared to hike to cycle for 3.4 KMs if you’re visiting during other months.
The ferry queues were long in August but they’re pretty normal during other months. Before you stand in the queue for the ferry, you need to also buy the Krka National park entry tickets. Thankfully the staff was pretty efficient and the ticket queues mover very fast. There is also a toilet in this area, not far from the ticket booth.
The ferry ride lasts for 20 minutes and is fun because you get to see the beauty of Krka River and the bridge.
Views of Krka River from the ferry that goes to Krka National Park, Croatia – 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
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
We visited in August and it was very crowded. The only time where we could enjoy the waterfall without people was during late afternoon. My friend Selin [Sollunatic Photos] visited a month before us and Skradinski Buk waterfall looks so empty in her photos.
Unlike Plitvice Lakes, you don’t need to walk that much inside Krka National Park. If you’re doing this trip with a baby in a stroller, then Krka National Park will be an easier destination and you should skip Plitvice Lakes.
One of the smaller waterfalls inside Krka National Park, Croatia Road Trip itinerary
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
Get a waterproof case for your camera or a GoPro to create memorable photos as you spend your day swimming in Krka National Park. Apart from that, there’s so much to explore here, so let your free spirit go wild as you find hidden gems scattered within the park.
After you take a long walk through the park, refresh yourself in the crystal clear blue waters of the waterfalls. We suggest you spent a night at nearby accommodation, or book a tent and camp the night at the camping facilities 2KMs away. This is a fantastic way to embrace the wonder that makes Croatia’s indigenous landscapes renowned.
Where to stay near Krka National Park
San and I in Camp Marina near Krka National Park – Croatia Road Trip itinerary
We camped in Camp Marina, one of the smaller campsites near Krka National Park. This campsite was perfect for us because we found a place in the corner with the view. It is 5 KMs away from the main parking area that’s close to the ferry pier. This campsite has rooms too, so you can book a room if you’re not up for camping.
Another option is Rooms Ive, a great spot for the night. It is 6 KMs away and you can enjoy barbecue facilities, free parking, privacy, and air-conditioned rooms. Have a comfortable night’s rest before continuing on your Croatia road trip.
Split – 2 Days
Sunset in Split town – Croatia Road Trip
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
This coastal urban city is never short on incredible sights and sounds, and it’s an exciting place to enjoy on a Croatia road trip. The city boasts still waters that reflect the shimmering sun and makes for the most wonderful place to go on a Croatian cruise.
Split has amazing beaches so make sure you spend some time soaking up the sun. Fill the day with a boat ride to the blue lagoons and sightseeing ancient architecture like Diocletian’s Palace. You can also taste world-class cuisine with Italian influences or visit the charming Old Town.
This is a fabulous spot on our Croatian road trip itinerary to grab some souvenirs and have a sundowner whilst gazing over the dazzling Adriatic Sea. One of the best ways to enjoy the local vibe and feel the hum of Split’s city life is to take a stroll through the scenic Riva Promenade.
Split town at night – Croatia Itinerary
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
C’mon you’re in Croatia so you’ve got to visit at least one island! One cannot travel this country without island-hopping and making time to see the famous Croatia scenery of the cities that lay just off the coastline.
Although you won’t be able to drive to Hvar, you’re able to take your car on the ferry. The ferry costs are around €17 (127 Kunas) and you can catch one at 7:30, 10:00, or 16:30 daily. During peak months [summer], the queues are annoyingly long for ferries so try your best to take the earliest one.
Hvar Island Sunset – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
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
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
Another unmissable thing to do on a Croatian road trip would be to visit the enthralling and extravagantly beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Highly touristy so make sure you thoroughly read this post before.
To get to Dubrovnik, you’ll need to leave Hvar and catch the 7:30 am ferry back Split. Your tickets will likely cost around €17 (127 Kunas). After you return to Split from Hvar, the drive to Dubrovnik is around 3 and a half hours. Seeing as this is a long drive, stop off and have a bite to eat at Kapetanova kuca on the way for some local cuisine.
Dubrovnik – King’s Landing in Game of Thrones – Croatia Itinerary
Dubrovnik is thriving with historical hubs, museums, restaurants, and shops. It also fronts the dreamy Adriatic Sea. There is plenty to do here, and riding through the quaint streets will be a venture in itself.
The city has also become synonymous with Game of Thrones TV series, as it’s where some of the most iconic scenes of King’s Landing have been shot. You can learn more about this on a Game of Thrones tour. The series showcases the captivating, 16th-century walls that make up the border of Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
Dubrovnik viewpoint – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
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
Similar to Split, Dubrovnik also has a hub for locals and travelers to get together and take in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of this Croatian city. In the morning, venture to Stradun, where you can walk on limestone paving and enjoy the unique city life. Choose from any one of the many restaurants and have a delicious breakfast, and then spoil yourself in one of the shops.
Where to stay in Dubrovnik
Why not splurge for your night in Dubrovnik with a stay at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik? Enjoy a night of luxury and rejuvenate at the onsite spa. Alternatively, for a more low-key evening at a budget-friendly rate, spend your night at the comfortable and beautiful Hotel Vis.
Kravice Waterfall Day trip from Dubrovnik [Bosnia & Herzegovina]
Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans
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
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
You can go on one of the walking trails that will show you insurmountable natural paradises. Afterward, wash off and rejuvenate in the inviting water pool created from the Kravice Waterfall.
This is the perfect way to wrap up your road trip!
Where to stay near Kravice Waterfalls
Extend the time of your stay and enjoy this location for a whole day by booking into the Apartment Kravica. This ideal accommodation spot provides a way for you to stay only 400 meters from the waterfall itself. Relax knowing there’s no more driving involved for the day, and kick back here for the night.
Brela – [Optional Stop on your way back]
Brela Stone – the iconic sight of Brela – Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
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.
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.
Driving to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb or Zadar, Croatia
Here are some basic tips that you need to keep in mind while driving in Croatia:
If you have driven in any European country, then driving in Croatia isn’t any different. When in Croatia, you drive on the right side of the road.
The emergency number for road assistance in Croatia is 1987.
As in most of the European countries, you are required to drive with the headlights during the day in winter months.
The roads are well maintained in Croatia. The Croatian motorways are not always wide, they can be winding and narrow.
An amazing thing that I noticed about driving in Europe is how other drivers flash their lights at you to let you know that there’s traffic police nearby.
You need to pay a toll fee on the roads that connect Zagreb with Zadar, Split and Rijeca.
If you’re planning to enter any of the non EU countries on the same car from Croatia, then make sure your car has a “green card”. Our rental car from Serbia had one.
The maximum level of permitted alcohol level in blood while driving is 0.5% in Croatia.
I have a detailed post about road tripping in the Balkans that contains tips. Be sure to check that out too.
Best Time to Go to Croatia
Croatia is at its best in summer and autumn. August is the busiest month for Croatia [and most of Europe] and isn’t the best, so avoid that month.
Is Croatia cheap to travel? Our Budget & Mistakes
Back in 2016 when we first visited Croatia, we expected it to be very cheap. No that wasn’t the case. The thing is, Croatia isn’t expensive when you compare it to the Western European countries but is expensive as compared to the nearby Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
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 possible to find one for as low as EUR 25 for two people. Most apartments include a kitchens too. Of course, the prices go high as you get closer to the popular destinations.
Our mistake – we spent too much money on eating out even though we had the ability to cook our own meals in our van. While we were in Zadar, we rented an entire apartment that included a kitchen. We did not eat breakfast before driving to Krka National Park and ended up eating an overpriced meal in a fancy restaurant that’s close to the entry point of the national park.
The entry for Croatia’s beautiful National Parks isn’t cheap, but that shouldn’t be a reason for avoiding them. The most beautiful place in Croatia is the Plitvice Lakes National Park – please don’t skip it.
While planning a budget for your Croatia road trip, keep in mind the toll costs, national park entrances and parking fee among all other things.
Is Croatia Safe to Travel Alone?
Croatia is very safe. In our two visits to this amazing country, we met many travelers and a majority were traveling solo in Croatia. We did not hear about even a single incident that would make us doubt the safety aspect here.
If you’re a solo woman traveler and are planning a trip to Croatia then you will be happy to know it is one of the safest countries for you. As a thumb rule, be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings safe when you visit crowded areas.
Where to go After Croatia?
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans
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 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.
I have been to Hungary only once, and I spent most of my time in Budapest and then I went for S.U.N. Festival towards the country side. I did not find Hungary to be as beautiful as the nearby countries, maybe because I did not get a chance to explore it. If you like to party, then Budapest has one of the craziest party scenes in this part of Europe.
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.
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.
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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:
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
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
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
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
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.
It has been a little more than a year since I’m living in Europe and my best travel experience has been our Balkans road trip. While most of the travel destinations in Western and Central Europe have been cursed with “over tourism”, the Balkan countries are still relatively unexplored.
Simply put, the Balkans are colorful, affordable, offbeat, and the natural scenery is breathtaking.
While your typical Euro trip may burn a deep hole in your pocket, you can actually travel the Balkans on a tight budget. But hey, for that you may have to skip one or two countries in this suggested route.
The Beauty of Driving Around in the Balkans – around Zlatibor in Serbia
Here’s the thing, the recommended road trip through the Balkan countries took me as more than three different trips to complete due to time limitations. But I couldn’t help thinking how amazing it would have been if San and I had a month to ourselves for this ultimate Balkans road trip.
Many places on this list are much easier to reach with a car (you can rent one for cheap) because this list contains a few national parks. We have done this trip on our camper van as well as a rented car. In additional to this, I have also traveled in the Balkans without San and without a car.
Based on our experience, the best way to travel the Balkans IS by road tripping, especially if you want to see natural landscapes. Even though we have our own camper van, we did most of our road trips in the Balkans with a rental car. At times It just makes things much easier! Want to do this too? Get yourself a travel credit card, rent a car and start exploring the Balkans.
If you’re a nature lover like us, then you’d love to travel to the Balkans by car so that you can visit the places that YOU want to see, instead of making a mandatory stop in big cities. In case you’re looking for a country specific guide, then check out our awesome Croatia road trip itinerary.
Which countries are the Balkan countries?
The Balkans is a region in Europe, which is towards the southeast part of the continent. There are many different definitions of the Balkans with slight variations. Each once has evolved over the time and has been modified. Countries like Italy, Turkey, Slovenia and Greece are not 100% geographically in the Balkan Peninsula.
For the sake of travel, the below countries are collectively considered Balkan countries:
If you see the suggested route map for this road trip through Balkan countries, you will notice that you can do this trip in many different ways. You can do just a part of the trip and include just 2 or three countries or remove a few destinations.
You can start this trip in Zagreb in Croatia or Sarajevo in Bosnia or even Belgrade in Serbia. You can pre book a rental car at any of these places and move ahead from there. Book your rental car in such a way so that you can pick and drop it in different locations. In case that’s not possible or affordable, you can just slightly alter this route to make it circular and pick and drop your car at the same place.
Apart from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia are the best countries to rent a car and start your trip. So go head and modify this flexible road trip itinerary through the Balkans to suit your needs. You can make it a 3 week Euro trip itinerary by adding a few Western European cities or just let it be 2 weeks or 3 weeks in the Balkans itinerary. Our Balkans road trip was one of the best Europe road trips for us. What’s on your Europe bucket list?
Balkans Road Trip Route Map
Before you start planning your road trip through the Balkons, please read some important tips that are at the bottom of the post. Here’s a suggested map with trip route map which will give you an idea of the itinerary.
15 Spots on Balkans Road Trip
1) Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
I will start with one of the most visited countries in the Balkans – Croatia. This itinerary includes many under the radar places but Plitvice Lakes National Park is not one of them.
The super clear water of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is perhaps the most visited destination in Croatia but is totally worth the visit because it is spectacular. We had seen pictures of the lakes and the waterfalls of Plitvice National Park before but were not prepared for the vivid color of the water and the clarity.
The Plitvice Lakes national park is huge and there are many walking trails for different lengths. We took the one that is for 18 KMs and did not regret it. We were able to do this trail within a day but you have an option of purchasing a multi day ticket. We’d recommend you to start early here to avoid the long queues at the entry point to save time.
One of the many stunning viewpoints inside Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
The entry is €25 – €30 per person or 180 Kunas, which felt a little high because we were on a tight budget. However after seeing the beauty of this place and how well maintained it is, we think this price totally makes sense.
San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is close to Croatia – Bosnia border, so it makes sense to make it your first destination on your Balkans road trip. I have a detailed post about visiting and avoiding crowds in Plitvice Lakes – check it out.
Where to stay near Plitvice Lakes:
You can’t stay inside Plitvice Lakes National Park but will have to stay in one of the nearby villages. We found a place called Camping Korena, which was just 5 KMs away from the national park entry gate. They have bungalows too, you can find out about this place here. and they have a free shuttle service to the park. We paid just EUR 3 per tent but we were carrying our own. The toilets and showers are very comfortable and clean. There is a river behind the campsite where you can chill – it is Korena River.
Optional Stop: Una National Park, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Una National Park is just 30 KMs away from Plitvice Lakes and is a natural wonderland that includes Una River and its tributaries – Krka and Unac.
Us three in Martin Brod – Milančev Buk waterfall – Una National Park, Bosnia-Herzegovina
We visited Una National Park on a separate trip in 2019 with our 8-month-old baby and loved it as compared to Croatia’s crowds.
2) Split, Croatia
On your way from Plitvice to Bosnia, the route goes from Split and is a very obvious stop. Split is Croatia’s famous beach destination where you can experience both history as well as modernity. You can check out the historical buildings as well as spend many lazy hours on Bačvice beach.
Old Town in Split, Croatia – travel the Balkans – CC0 via Pixabay
While you’re in Split, you should also check out the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. If you need a break from history or busy beaches, you can head to the Marjan Nature Park. Here you can climb Telegrin peak and get a panoramic view of Split.
If you have a little more time on your hands, you can park your car in Split and take a boat to the nearby Hvar Island. You can also make a side trip to the lovely Krka National Park where the entry is 30 Euros per person.
3) Kravice Waterfalls and Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Kravice Waterfalls are insanely gorgeous and reminded us of Plitvice Lakes’ waterfalls – except less crowded and you can actually swim in them!
Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Balkans Road Trip itinerary
We didn’t expect the waterfalls to be so massive and our jaws literally dropped when we caught the first sight. The best part is that these waterfalls form a big natural swimming pool. Carry a mat and your swimming gear so that you can set up a small base near the pools and go for a swim.
Kravice Waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina – travel the Balkans
There are 3 – 4 bars and restaurants that are right next to Kravice waterfalls where you can get food and drinks. If you walk further along the Drina river, you will see some lovely places and a smaller waterfall, which is called Small Kravice.
Please note that the Kravice waterfalls are also called Kravica waterfalls. To make matters more confusing, there is another destination in Bosnia called Kravica. I wanted to let you know so that you don’t by mistake put that in your GPS navigator and end up at the wrong place. Kravice waterfalls are near Studentski.
The entry fee to Kravice Waterfalls is €7.5 per person, which is quite cheap as compared to Croatia’s National Parks – Plitvice and Krka.
Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina – Travel to the Balkans – CC0 via Pixabay
Kravice waterfalls are 50 minutes drive away from the main Mostar city. Mostar is famous for its historical bridge, which is Ottoman style. This city has a sad history and was heavily bombed during the war in 1992 and 1993.
Where to stay near Kravice Waterfalls:
If you want to stay in Mostar, try Apartments Konak or Old Bridge Terrace Apartments – these two places are right next to Mostar’s famous Old Bridge. We stayed in the nearby town Medugorje, which is closer to the waterfalls and boked a place called Guest House Robi, that was simple yet comfortable. We paid 20 euros for the night for a room for two of us.
4) Dubrovnik, Croatia
If you’re thinking that this route is going criss-cross – you’re wrong. If you go in a straight line from Split in Croatia to Dubrovnik, you will drive very close to the Bosnia and Montenegro borders and it makes sense to go to the spectacular Kravice waterfalls, and then enter Croatia again.
Dubrovnik – the Walled city in Croatia – Balkans Road Trip – CCO via Pixabay
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones series, then most likely you know about Dubrovnik already. This is where the scenes of King’s Landing and Qarth were filmed.
The walled city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO world Heritage site and cannot be compared to other beach or historical destinations because it is like none other. While you’re here, walk around the old town and get lost in the maze like streets. Get lazy on Lapad beach or Banje beach which can get really busy during summer.
5) Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Dubrovnik is very close to Montenegro and we highly recommend you stop in the spectacular Kotor bay. Kotor bay is very close to the border and has many different options of places to stay.
Kotor Bay viewpoint, Montenegro – Balkans Road Trip
If you don’t like busy destinations, then you don’t have to stay in the main Kotor town. San and I found a small fishing village that is just at the start of the Kotor bay and is called Denovici.
Enjoying an ice cream in Denovici, Kotor Bay in Montenegro
Kotor Bay is often called one of the most beautiful bays of Europe. If you look at a satellite image of this bay, it looks like a 3-pointed flower. I have never seen a bay like this! The seaside has many turns and you can see other villages on the other side of the water.
More than the seaside, San and I really enjoyed the viewpoints that we came across as we drove along the bay. There were places to stop where we could park our car and enjoy the view.
Black Lake – Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro
Zabljak was very cold when we visited, even in the peak summer time, so I’d recommend you carry warm clothes. If you like to hike, there are several amazing hiking trails in Durmitor National Park.
You’re going to love the Black Lake in Durmitor National Park and we highly recommend you walk all around it. It won’t take more than one hour. It is called black but the water is bluish-green and clear.
Tara River Canyon near Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Another spectacular place that you should not miss here is the Tara river canyon. It is the deepest and biggest river canyon in Europe and some say it is the second biggest after the Grand Canyon. The easiest way to see this is by going to Tara Bridge. You can also go for rafting on Tara river or zip over the canyon to enjoy the view.
7) Visegrad, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Visegrad is a riverside town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is on the banks of the River Drina. It features a historical bridge, which features in the award-winning novel – The Bridge over the Drina.
the Bridge over the Drina in Visegrad, Bosnia & Herzegovina – travel the Balkans
Visegrad is one of those places where you can be lazy and just enjoy the lively atmosphere. Walk over the romantic bridge and see how blue the river looks when the sun shines. You can also go to Visegrad spa, which is just 5 KMs out of the city.
There is an excellent riverside restaurant here where you must treat yourself to a good meal. The restaurant is called Anika and we had the best meal of our road trip here. The meal was so good that we even crossed the border one day from Mokra Gora in Serbia to just eat in Anika restaurant in Bosnia.
Where to stay in Visegrad
We stayed in a place called Harmony apartments where we paid 20 euros for an unbelievably squeaky clean apartment that had a kitchen too!
8) Mokra Gora and Tara National Park and Zlatibor, Serbia
Mokra Gora is an adorable little village in Serbia where you’d love to spend more than just a few days. From here, you can drive to the nearby Tara National Park and Zlatibor.
The most amazing thing about Mokra Gora is that it is still under the radar and not much visited by the tourists and same for Tara National Park. Hardly anyone speaks English in the village and you will need your Google translate app to communicate.
Riding the Nostalgia Express train in Mokra Gora, Serbia
While you’re in Mokra Gora, ride the “Nostalgia Express”, which is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. It is a narrow gauge train with old-fashioned compartments and what looks like a steam engine. This little train ride reminded us of Sri Lanka.
You can even rent a room in Drvengrad and stay here overnight. Some parts are covered with artwork and this village is often the location for cinema workshops and movie festivals. For more information, read this detailed post about Drvengrad.
Drvengrad – the wooden village in Mokra Gora, Serbia
Spend a day or two in the nearby Tara National Park. This is where Drina river (the same one in Bosnia) makes a very deep gorge and creates a dramatic view. You can also see the Tara mountain here. You will be so happy that you have a car because if you start hiking here, it will take you many days to see some important places in the national park.
Banjska Stena, Tara National Park, Serbia
After seeing the beauty of Mokra Gora and Tara National Park, Zlatibor is nothing but an extremely busy town. I didn’t like the town but I liked the grassy hills around it.
Where to stay in Mokra Gora:
We stayed in two places here – Apartment Matogi and Apartment Mateja. As the name suggests, both were more than just rooms but were like little houses. In both these places, we had our own gardens, kitchens and living rooms.
9) Belgrade, Serbia
I have mentioned this many times and here it goes again – San and I hate big cities. The reason why some big cities like Belgrade are here on this list is because you will eventually have to pass through some of them for the ease of route.
Bridge over Danube river in Belgrade, Serbia – CCO via Pixabay
Belgrade has a lot of history but lately it has become more famous for its party scene. They say Belgrade is the new Berlin! Attend one of the typical floating river parties while you’re here.
10) Sibiu, (Transylvania) Romania
From Belgrade, head to Romania and go straight to the Dracula’s area – Transylvania. Believe it or not, Sibiu was voted as “Europe’s 8th most idyllic place to live” by Forbes magazine.
Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania – Travel to the Balkans – CCO via Pixabay
Sibiu is one of those destinations which will be liked by both history or nature lovers. The town looks really beautiful with the backdrop of Transylvanian Alps. Walk around in the old town and see the Citadel of Sibiu. Hike the nearby Cindrel and Fagaras mountains and enjoy the dramatic viewpoints.
Dracula’s Castle is not in Sibiu but 2 hours away and is called Bran Castle. Believe it or not, this castle has nothing to do with the book writer or Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Dracula) but is a lovely place to visit nonetheless.
Bran Castle – Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania – CC0 via Pixabay
11) Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest is one of those few cities where I actually enjoyed myself a lot. It is a very big city and with a lot of old buildings that have a story to tell. Even if you’re not into architecture or history, you will find these aspects of Bucharest interesting.
Bucharest’s Pretty Umbrella Street, Romania
Firstly, there are many old churches that are definitely interesting from the outside, but you’re in for a surprise when you step inside. The details in most of the churches are astounding. Secondly, the old government buildings are super impressive, such as the house of the parliament, the Roman Athenaeum, etc. Moreover, the party scene is really good. Stay in Bucharest’s old town area and see how it livens up as the sun starts to set.
Inside Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest- the most beautiful bookstore in the world
Like seeing ancient ruins? You can see them in Sofia’s city center. This vibrant city in Bulgaria with a backdrop of Vitosha Mountain can be your spot for a couple of days.
Sofia in Bulgaria – Travel to the Balkans cc0 via Pixabay
Apart from the historical buildings, you should spend some time in Sofia’s many parks and vibrant cafes. Head to the Lover’s Bridge where there’s usually an exhibition going on.
13) Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
The Seven Rila Lakes are near the Rila Mountains. As the name suggests, these are seven lakes of different shapes and sizes that are connected with a series of streams and waterfalls. It will take you 2 hours to drive here from Sofia.
Seven Rila Lakes National Park in Bulgaria – Travel to the Balkans – CC0 via Pixabay
The shallowest lake out of the Seven Rila Lakes is Ribnoto Ezero, which is also known as “the fish lake”. This is where you will need to stop and find a place to stay in order to explore the area. Many people just make a day trip to these lakes instead of staying here overnight.
Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria – Balkans Road Trip – CCO via Pixabay
Please keep in mind that the only way to enjoy the Seven Rila Lakes is by hiking. There is a chair lift too but is not usually open in summers, but only in winters during the skiing season. You may hike for 40 minutes to a few hours or even days – depending on how many lakes you want to see.
The Seven Rila Lakes are frozen from October to early June, so dress in warm clothes. For more information, you can read what other travelers have to stay about the Seven Rila National Park.
14) Mavrono National Park or Lake Ohrid or Skopje, Macadonia
Macedonia is a very small country and I will give three options of places that you can visit for different kind of travelers. Beach lovers should head to a lake side town called Ohrid, history lovers should head to Skopje and Nature lovers should go to Mavrono National Park, which is between Ohrid and Skopje.
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia – Travel to the Balkans – CC0 via Pixabay
Lake Ohrid and the town Ohrid is a UNESCO world heritage site. In early Greek documents, it was called “the city of light”. Lake Ohrid is so big that it looks like sea. In fact, there are a few rocky beaches here that will make you forget you’re next to a lake.
Skopje is the capital city of Macedonia and you can see a lot of historical buildings and landmarks here. You can head to Macedonia Square to see the statue of Alexander the Great, walk on Skopje’s stone bridge, check out Kale Fortess and see how Porta Macedonia shines at night.
Not many who visit Macedonia end up seeing Mavrono National Park, the biggest national park in the country. Check out the Mavrono Lake that’s inside the national park and semi submerged church. In winter months you can also ski here.
15) Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania
Valbonë or the Valbona Valley National Park is a lovely natural paradise which is located in the Albanian Alps in Northern Albania. The river Valbona forms many waterfalls and natural pools, so the resulting landscape is gorgeous.
Valbona Lake in Albania – Travel the Balkans – by Robert Figgen
Just like Serbia’s Tara National Park, even the Valbona Valley National Park borders two other countries – Montenegro and Serbia. The highest peak here is Maja Jezercë which has a few active glaciers.
The craziest part is that the Albanian Alps are connected with the Himalayas through the Atlantic Ocean and they form the Alpine-Himalayan Orogenic belt.
Where to stay in Valbona, Albania
While you’re here, go stay for a few days in a typical alpine inn in Valbonë village, that’s inside the national park. We recommend Hotel Rilindja, which also has a hostel and is next to a lovely lake. Alternatively you can check out Jezerca.
Optional Balkans Road Trip detours in Romania, Bulgaria and Albania
16) Constanta, Romania
Alice and I on Tuzla Beach in Constanta, Romania
Constanta is a beach destination in Romania, which is by the Black Sea. I just spent a few days in Romania and a lot of those days were spent in Constanta. This area has resort destinations like Mamaia or offbeat hippie villages like Vama Veche. Vama Veche is just a couple of kilometers away from Bulgaria border. It is so close that one of my friends actually walked to Bulgaria from Vama Veche.
17) Varna, Bulgaria
Varna is Bulgaria’s hipster beach destination that’s very easily accessible from Romania’s Constanta. During summer, Varna is highly visited for its beaches and parties.
18) Skadar Lake, Albania and Montenegro
The biggest lake in the Balkans, Shkodër Lake (a.k.a. Scutari, Shkodra) is between Albania and Montenegro and you can visit it from both the countries. If you’re entering from Montenegro, you will have to visit the lake from Skadar Lake National Park. From Albania, you need to go to Shkodra town to visit the lake. This lake is really big and you can go for a boat ride on it. You can also take the Lake Koman Ferry
Few tips to keep in mind for driving in the Balkans
I will write a detailed post about this but just for now, here are some quick tips that you must keep in mind when you travel the Balkans by driving:
Our Rented Car in Montenegro – Travel to the Balkans – Balkans Road Trip itinerary
1) If your rented car doesn’t have an EU number, make sure your rented car has a green card, else you can’t cross the border.
2) Most car rental companies will not let you take your car to Kosovo because of just one or two cases of car bombings. I have heard Kosovo is beautiful but we did not end up visiting.
3) We crossed many traffic police checkpoints but most of them were in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many check points were hidden in the mountainous regions where they frequently stopped others for over speeding. Thankfully, San and I were never stopped.
4) Google Maps app will be your best friend and you will end up using it all the time. Make sure your rented car has a USB charging spot for your phone. Download a part of your trip on offline maps every few days.
5) For the sake of traveling easy, we have included a few big cities in this itinerary. We’d recommend you spend less time in them and more in the nature. More than anything, driving and parking in big cities is going to be a big pain the bum!
6) As much as we tried, we couldn’t find a single cellular operator with 3G that covered all the countries. We had to buy a SIM card in every country that costed 5 euro and had at least 10 GBs of date. If you find a single SIM then comment below and let us know!
7) If you are tight on budget, you should consider skipping Croatia entirely and start your trip from Bosnia or Serbia.
8) Yes, you can rent your car from one place and return it at a different place – but it depends on the availability and car rental company.
How to Travel to the Balkans: the Ultimate Balkans Road Trip Itinerary [+ Route Map]
Travel the Balkans: the Ultimate Balkans Road Trip Itinerary [+ Route Map]
Offbeat Balkans – Travel the Balkans_ the Ultimate Balkans Road Trip Itinerary [+ Route Map]
Have you ever traveled to the Balkans? If yes, let us know about your favorite destination in the comments below.
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.
Are you planning to visit Europe this summer and not sure which country to spend most of your time in? We highly recommend the Netherlands. It is the land of old school windmills, waffles, Gouda, tulips, bicycles, canals and is one of the most liberal countries in the world.
Gouda Cheese and a bicycle – typical sight in the Netherlands (CC0) via Pixabay
The Dutch love their bicycles and literally all the destinations in this lovely country are bicycle friendly. However, exploring the entire Netherlands on a bicycle may be a little too extreme for many, so our first tip for you is to use a rental car. Depending on how you plan, you can pick up your car at the start of your journey in Amsterdam and drive your way around the country.
We’ve created a one-week itinerary for you to explore the Netherlands on your own by car. Depending on your pace of traveling, you can make this journey in 5 days or 7 days or even 14 days. When San and I travel, we usually travel slow and spend a long time in each destination to get a feel of it. However, if you’re short on time, you don’t have to stay overnight.
Amsterdam, the city of Sins
Amsterdam Looks Stunning at Night
Amsterdam is not just one of the most visited cities in Europe, but in the entire world. It is famous for its canals, narrow houses, coffeeshops, red light district, some of the best museums in Europe, and a crazy nightlife. While you’re here, don’t miss Amsterdam-Noord. Because of its liberal nature, some people also call Amsterdam the city of sins. It is very easy to reach Amsterdam from any part of the world by catching a flight to Schiphol Airport, or by train or bus from most of Europe.
Spend a day in Amsterdam and be sure to read our travel tips, which will help you save money here. Go visit a few of the art museums in Amsterdam. Do keep in mind that parking charges in Amsterdam are very expensive, so it makes sense to rent a car after you’ve already spent a day here. Be sure to check out our amazing itinerary for Amsterdam for ideas.
While you’re in Amsterdam, you can rent your own bike and cycle around at your own pace. If you’re not very confidant about cycling in Amsterdam and want to brush up on your skills, then I have handpicked a few cycle tours for you that you can check out:
If you arrive in Amsterdam without a booking, you may just get the biggest shock when you find how expensive the rooms (and even hostels are). You can check our curated list of places to stay in Amsterdam for every budget. If you plan in advance, you can find a decent place to stay here which is affordable. From here, you can pick up your rental car and move to the next destination.
Lisse, the largest garden in the world
From Amsterdam45 minutes, 35 kilometers
Keukenhof Garden in Lisse near Amsterdam – Netherlands Itinerary One Week (CC0) via Pixabay
We did mention that the Netherlands is famous for its tulips. One of the main tulip attractions in Holland is the Keukenhof Garden which is at Lisse, an idyllic little town. This garden has over 800 varieties of tulips. In 32 hectares you can find artworks, events, flower shows, inspiration gardens and much more. The Keukenhof is one of the largest gardens in the world and will give you an experience you’ll never forget. You don’t really need to stay here for the night but you can directly visit the next destination on the itinerary.
Here are some of the top tours that I have handpicked for you so that you can skip the line and enjoy the beauty of these colorful tulips:
Please note, that the Keukenhof Garden isn’t always in full bloom. Usually the best time to visit this place is in April, but we recommend you check the local tourism website before you go. Here’s an amazing guide which will tell you the best way to do the Tulip Fields in the Netherlands.
On your way to the next destination – Kinderdijk, you can consider making a stop at Den Haag. It is much cheaper and relaxed in comparison to Amsterdam. Here’s a guide to free things to do in Den Haag.
Kinderdijk windmills – Netherlands Itinerary for one week (CC0) via Pixabay
The mill complex in Kinderdijk is quite a unique sight. The Netherlands is partly under sea level. These mills with pumps combined with the dikes at the sea dries a big part of the land so people can live there. If they would let nature run its course, 40% of the Netherlands would be flooded! For nearly a thousand years, the Dutch have been smartly dealing with the surrounding water using wind and steam energy to keep the Netherlands above water. It’s really impressive to see these nineteen big windmills from the UNESCO World Heritage.
Veluwe, heathlands that changes by season
From Kinderdijk 1 hour and 14 minutes, 110 kilometers
Veluwe – Forest destination in the Netherlands (CC0) via Pixabay
The Veluwe is a beautiful nature reserve to drive through. Expect so see shifting sands, beautiful forests, colorful heathlands, sheep and gently flowing streams. Apart from the natural beauty, Veluwe also has museums, historic towns, culinary enjoyment.
Giethoorn, little Venice
From Veluwe1 hour and 10 minutes, 110 kilometers
Giethoorn – Little Venice in the Netherlands – One week Itinerary (CC0) via Pixabay
Giethoorn, also called Dutch Venice, is perhaps the prettiest destinations in the Netherlands. This typical Dutch town shows perfectly how Dutch people love to work with and at the water. Sail in a typical ‘Punter’ boat at the little canals through the bush, reedlands, past the old farms and under the many old wooden bridges.
Want to visit Giethoorn on a day trip from Amsterdam?
From Giethoorn 1 hour, 80 kilometers (depends on which island)
Choose one of the five Wadden Sea Islands to leave the crowds behind you. Time to relax and de-stress. The trip on the boat is already an impressive experience. Take a close look at the ‘Wad’, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a group of chilling seals. Take a long walk on the beach or go ‘Wad-walking’ and find treasures in the sand and mud. On one of the Islands, Vlieland, your car is not allowed. But obviously you don’t need your car there, when you want to enjoy and relax in the nature. You can park your car at the harbor.
Schiermonnikoog – The Wadden Sea Islands in the Netherlands (CC0) via Pixabay
The Dutch Wadden Sea Islands, Schiermonnikoog (pictured above), Ameland, Terschelling, Vlieland and Texel, are the five pearls of the North of the Netherlands. They are all worth the visit because they differ a bit from another; each Island has its own style and culture. Read more about the differences between the Dutch Islands.
Cross the Afsluitdijk
Afsluitdijk pier – the Netherlands itinerary one week (CC0) via Pixabay
This 32 kilometers long dike connects two parts of the Netherlands is an important traffic link between the two provinces. This exceptional feat of civil engineering is an amazing system that controls the water level on both sides of the dike and protects the Dutch from floods. At the middle of the Afsluitdijk there’s a viewpoint. Take your time to soak up the view.
From The Wadden Sea Islands1 hour and 20 minutes, 120 kilometers (depends from which island)
The adorable fishing village Volendam in the Netherlands – CCO via Pixabay
A typical Dutch food is ‘Hollandse nieuwe haring’ or Dutch raw herring with onions. You eat it by holding the fish by the tail and allowing it to gradually slide into your mouth. You may like it or not, but you have to try this raw herring!
Herring is not the only special thing in Volendam. This charming village is characteristics with small houses, canals and drawbridges and the most idyllic view. Dress up in a typical Volendams costume and have your picture taken. Don’t forget to visit the wooden shoe factory! It will complete your outfit. These wooden shoes are called klompen in Dutch or you can just call them clogs.
Try Dutch Clogs – Wooden Shoes – Itinerary for the Netherlands – (CCO) via Pixabay
Volendam has a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. Eat at the nicest restaurants at the waterfront. Try Dutch stroopwafels, speculaas cookies, try mini pancakes called ‘poffertjes’ or eat some more fish! As the Dutch say: ‘lekker’! What do you find the tasties?
Hope you enjoyed our suggested Netherlands itinerary for one week. This trip can also be done without a car, but we recommend you rent one so that you’re not dependent public transportation. Moreover, the highways in The Netherlands are easy to drive and free to use. Also the secondary roads are good to ride, and they take you along the prettiest villages and stunning countryside views. You can stop wherever you want (as long as you’re not on the highway) and enjoy the view.
It was summer of 2016 when San and I traveled around Europe on our friend’s campervan to attend a few music festivals. Our friend’s name is Davide and he had named his campervan Pippo.
Originally from Italy, Davide spent the year before that exploring Australia on a campervan. While we drove from Portugal to Spain, he shared many anecdotes of the time he spent driving around in Australia.
As we sat on the roof of his campervan to watch the stars, he compared it to Australian night sky. It was at that moment, that San and I held hands and decided to (someday) explore Australia on a campervan. Here’s why:
Update: we did actually end exploring most of Europe in a camper van that we bought. We did it with our 6 month old baby to begin with and we STILL have this van with us. Maybe someday we will eventually get to Australia on it.
Here’s the thing, the air tickets to Australia are generally more expensive from Europe (that’s where we’re currently living) than most of the countries because it’s on the other side of the planet.
A trip that lasts for less than a month doesn’t really make sense when the cost to fly to Australia is so much higher. Adding hotel room costs per night and internal transport, the cost of traveling to Australia can really go very high.
Australia has a low density of population compared to most of the countries. As a result, the country is known for its wide-open spaces. The road system is generally well maintained and easy to follow. Australia is also known for its spectacular natural scenery that can be enjoyed so much more if you’re traveling by road. Moreover there are so many amazing landmarks in Australia that are unmissable. Click here to read tips for planning a trip to Australia.
Based on our driving history, Australia seems to be is the perfect place for us to drive. They drive on the left – which is great because I have driven on the left side for 10 years in India. IDPs (International driving Permits) are usually accepted. Oh and there’s no toll in Australia outside the cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney. We love this East Coast road trip Itinerary in Australia – been there?
Kangaroos in Australia – exploring Australia on a Campervan
So you want to visit Australia and spot a Koala? I hate to break this to you but it is not so easy to do that because Koalas are shy and difficult to spot.
Australia, however, has many other animals can aren’t particularly shy. If you’re driving in rural areas, we’ve been told that these animals often wander onto roads.
Australia is the land of animal encounters and we want to have our fair share too. We’d love if we spot kangaroos hopping across the road or emus running around.
By the way, if you’re still hung up on spotting a Koala in Australia, you can try the Otway Coast on the Great Ocean Road.
Visiting Australia’s Red Centre and seeing Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Uluru in Australia’s Red Centre
Did you know that Australia’s southern desert region is the heart of outback? It’s called the Red Centre and the most famous natural landmark of the country is here – the Ayers Rock, a.k.a. Uluru, a 348 meters high rock that’s a sacred site.
Apart from this, this part of Australia also has Alice Springs, which is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. The easiest ways to explore this area is on road.
Spotting “the Big Things” in Australia
One of the funniest things that our friend mentioned about road-tripping in Australia is spotting the “big things”. These are just generic everyday things that have been built on an enormous scale. In fact, there is a Wikipedia page that’s just dedicated to these big things and where each one is located. Isn’t that hilarious?
Sitting on the Roof to Watch the Stars and then the Sunrise
Starry Sky in Australia over Crag Formation
Let’s go back to the time when San and I decided to explore Australia on a campervan – it was while we were stargazing. We want to experience the vanlife in Australia and sit on the roof to watch the stars.
Considering the fact that urban areas are scattered and there are many uninhabited zones, we can know from before that the city lights will not dampen the stargazing experience. Australia’s desert area is world-famous for stargazing and we’d love to make the most of it when we’re there. If possible, we’d like to sleep under the stars and wake up just before the sunrise to watch it.
Visiting Famous Aussie Natural Sites like the Twelve Apostles
Twelve Apostles in Australia
Australia has a lot of natural sites that are famous all over the world apart from Uluru. Of course, we cannot see all of them, but we’d like to see at least some of them. The best thing about road tripping is that the plans can be flexible and we can stop wherever we want to smell the roses.
One such natural site that’s on our wish list is the Twelve Apostles by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria on the shore of Port Campbell National Park. It is a collection of limestone stacks out of which only 8 are left.
Going to a Music Festival in Australia on our Campervan
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, then you know for sure that San and I love attending music festivals. In fact, the first time we met each other was in a music festival and we’ve been to so many of them in different countries.
Australia has an amazing party scene and we’re eying two psychedelic music festivals there that we’d love to attend – Earthcore festival and Rainbow Serpent Festival. Campervans are perfect for music festivals so of course, this is on our big Aussie road-trip wish list.
Have you ever explored a new country on a campervan? If so, we’d love to know more and hear your stories. Leave a comment and share your experience.
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