Croatia absolutely stunned me with its breathtaking mountains and turquoise seaside, its warm and welcoming people, and, most importantly, with its dog-friendliness and vegan accessibility! While doing a roadtrip through Croatia (as a vegan) for 1 month with 2 friends and a van, we definitely fell in love with this country and will be back for sure!
Before I dive into our roadtrip through Croatia, giving you all the must-do’s and must-see’s, let’s look at a few general topics. While we traveled around with a camper van, there simply wasn’t enough space for 3 people and 2 dogs to sleep inside so we opted for airbnb’s most of the time. We were traveling quite early (late March til late April) but I’d definitely recommend traveling to Croatia off-season (April-May or September-October) to avoid crowds and higher prices. Especially if you plan on traveling with a dog it’s way more comfortable and fun to be surrounded by less people.
In general, we found that accommodation was relatively cheap. Our goal was to not spend more than 20€ a night (per person) and we mostly achieved to stay below that limit. I’ll link the Airbnb’s we liked and recommend below. Driving with a camper van through Croatia was great, the roads are in good condition, yet if you opt to drive on the new highways you’ll have to pay toll that’s relatively expensive. Regarding camping I can’t say much in this article as this will still have to be tested! 🙂
I was in Croatia once or twice while growing up, but I mostly staid on camping sites in the norther regions and didn’t explore much of the country. All I remembered from the country itself was crystal clear water, lots of sea urchins, a tasty fruit brandy called Slivovitz and that was about it. What I apparently didn’t remember was that Croatia has absolutely breathtaking nature. An incredible coastal scenery of mountain ranges leading into the sea, as well as the UNESCO world heritage site Plitvice Lakes.
What stood out the most to me personally, however, was how incredibly dog-friendly and loving the people were. I haven’t quite figured out yet why, maybe Croatians simply grow up with more dogs, but everywhere we went our dogs where met with welcomes, treats and cuddles. People all ages would come up to us in the streets and ask to pet them, smile at them, and always extend their hands for a quick cuddle or lick.
Below you’ll find all the details about my roadtrip through Croatia (as a vegan). We covered a few more smaller towns or cities but I decided to only include the ones we liked the most and would go back to!
Rijeka was our first stop as it’s located close to the border. We drove straight from Munich and it took us around 6-7 hours. The older parts of the city are very charming and it’s a great destination to spend 1-2 days if you have a few weeks planned in the country.
What to do?
For a nice walk and sunset overlooking the city, I’d recommend walking up to Trsat Castle. There are many tiny staircases hidden between the stone houses below which make the climb really lovely and a great workout.
One of my favorite activities when arriving to a new country is checking out the local farmers market to see what are the staples, seasonal produce, as well as snacks. We ended up buying fresh olive oil, veggies and fruits from old grandmothers who didn’t speak a word English but always find a way to communicate with you! 🙂
If you stay more than a day and want to explore some of the stunning surrounding nature I recommend driving a bit north to the Učka Nature Park (Park Prirode Učka). We had a lovely circular hike there to a beautiful waterfall (not the one pictured but 10 times the size) and really enjoyed the nature.
Where to eat?
bio&bio – is a nation wide health store with tons of great vegan items. If you’re looking for vegan seitan sandwiches, vegan ice cream, milks, spreads, smoked tofu or anything else – you’ll find it there. 80% of our trip we home-cooked combining cheap local produce with more expensive vegan foods from the health store.
Makrovega – is the only vegan restaurant I’d recommend in Rijeka. We also tried a vegan burger place that was very disappointing, but this vegan place, run by 2 lovely ladies is not only macrobiotic, but there is usually a daily menu with a variety of home-cooked dishes such as soups, lasagna, pizza, pasta, vegetables, cereal, legume, cakes, and crepes. We took a daily menu for takeaway and sat in a nearby park to devour the feast,
While we only stopped on Krk for half a day on our way to Zagreb, we really liked the beauty and quiet of this place. In general, we didn’t explore the Croatian islands too much which will definitely be on the agenda for the next trip!
We first drove to Vbrnik which had a lovely old town with narrow streets and great beaches/bays. The other side of the island suddenly looks very different as you’ll see mountains pop up out of nowhere with kite surfers enjoying the winds. While there are not fully vegan or vegetarian places on the island, there are a few restaurants who gladly accomodate vegan food requests.
Bistro Bukarica – serves some vegetarian options like pasta or pizza which can be made vegan on request. Also has a vegan salad with falafel and couscous with vegetables. Has soy milk for hot drinks.
We decided not to skip on the capital, despite the fact that it is located away from the coast, a bit out of the way in the north of the country. Personally I always feel like you understand the vibe of a country more by seeing the capital and experiencing how the locals live in a buzzing city. If you’re on tour with dogs driving into the city might not look like the best option, but we found plenty of beautiful big park and wherever we sat down, waiters would immediately bring water for the doggies.
What to do?
Walk around the city, enjoy a coffee and explore the local markets, as well as vintage stores! We were lucky to be in Zagreb when the lovely magnolia trees were blooming which made the spring vibes even more special. Croatias vintage stores were a real gem! We found quite a few lovely pieces at super small prices. Favorite second hand stores in the city:
Ulični Ormar & La Roba
Where to eat?
Zrno Bio Bistro – organic vegan restaurant that is based on macrobiotic principles with vegetables sourced from its own farm as well as other local producers. This place came highly recommended by many followers and it did not disappoint. Example of dishes: quinoa salad, bbq seitan cordon bleu, penne pasta, falafel, and baked tofu, smoothies, tea, coffee, ice cream, cakes and other desserts. We had a delicious caesar salad, soup and an amazing brown rice stir-fry.
Vegehop – offers daily menus with soups, pastas, seitan, tofu, tempeh, curries, house-made bread, various salads, and raw and gluten-free dishes, as well as sweets and cakes. Serves eco wine and beer, coffee and tea, as well as freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.
Where to stay?
We stayed at this lovely Airbnb in close vicinity to the Art Park in Zagreb. It’s a lovely 2 floor maisonette with a very cozy rustic feeling.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
A definitive must-see when in Croatia are the Plitvice Lakes which are one of the oldest and largest national parks. In this park you’ll find a breathtaking combination of of tufa lakes and caves, connected by waterfalls. I’d recommend checking tickets before you go here, because we were told that in summer the tickets are usually sold out weeks before. Tickets are around 20-30€ and can be purchased online.
When we were there only the lower lakes were opened for visitation. If you can, make sure to also visit the upper lakes. You can easily spend a full day inside the park, hiking or taking the bus/boat from site to site. We stayed for one night in a guesthouse in one of the villages close to the lakes which gave us enough time to eat and rest before checking out the park.
Taking your dog to the park is not a problem. Luna loved walking around the water and became a huge tourist attraction as she posed on a rock in front of the waterfall:
Also here I’d recommend not visiting during high season and to come as early as possible to avoid the crowds as it can get quite tight on the wooden walks. We had early breakfast at the guesthouse and brought our own sandwiches, leftover dinner and snacks for during the day.
This must have been my favorite coastal town in terms of overall charm and beauty. Unlike other cities along the Adriatic coast, which were established by Greeks, Illyrians and Romans, Šibenik was founded by Croats. It has a beautiful old town with tiny stone alleys and beautiful colored doors, a lovely sea promenade and several fortresses overlooking the city.
We stayed in this beautiful Airbnb, which is a lovely stone apartment, located directly in the center of town about 10 second away from the sea. The interior is super lovely with Moroccan-inspired bathroom tiles and a vintage-design fridge. We staid here for one night, which was the right amount of time to walk the city and hike up to the fortresses, before continuing to Split.
Split is probably my new favorite city in Croatia. It combines the best of a vibrant beach city, stunning nature, and laid back vibes! We staid in and around Split twice during our trip, one the way south and back up north and with each time I liked it even more. If you go to Split I’d highly recommend booking this Apartment:
This stunning old-town apartment is located just next to the beautiful park forest Marjan. The hosts are absolutely lovely and welcoming and even helped us carry our luggage inside and find a parking spot for our van. It’s about 5-10 minutes walking to the sea side and just a few minutes from a few great vegan places.
What to do?
Go for a long walk in the nearby Marjan forest park. It has great views of the entire city if you walk high enough and beautiful lush greenery. From there you can continue your walk down to the old part of the city and explore the buzzing stone streets and buildings. Get yourself a scoop or two of vegan ice cream at one of the local shops (many times the fruit sorbets + 2-3 additional flavors are vegan) and wander around. Stop by the local market and check out seasonal spices and produce.
Where to eat?
VEG – this fully vegan cafe quickly became one of our go-to places as it was right around the corner. They offer both cooked meals as well as raw food, smoothies and raw cakes, including tofu scramble, chia pudding, avocado burger, veggie burrito, and cabbage & tofu fried balls. @veg_st
Pandora Greenbox – ended up having dinner in this fully vegan restaurant and we all really enjoyed the food! We had burgers, homemade truffle pasta, smoothies, soup, risotto and starters and it was delicious. Prices are a little bit higher than usually but it’s perfect for an upmarket dinner.
Kat’s Kitchen Deli – perfect little cafe for a relaxed breakfast or brunch/lunch. Serves vegan granola bowls, tofu brekkie wrap, spelt pancakes, toast with avocado and hummus, salads, veggie burgers, and daily lunch plates/bowls with proteins like falafel or tofu. We especially loved the little tacos and toasts with toppings, as well as the fresh juices! @kats_kitchen_deli
Upcafe – deli-style veggie cafe that offers prepared savory dishes as well sweets displayed in cases. Uses seasonal and mostly organic ingredients. Location is ten minutes on foot from the old city.
Superfood Healthy Food Factory – offers healthy food and drinks including vegan ones which are labeled: pizza with vegan cheese and veggies, tapas, salad, rice bowl, pasta, day’s soup, smoothie bowl, smoothies, and raw cakes.
Zdrawo – dessert shop specializing in raw vegan cakes. Offers also smoothies, chia pudding, overnight oats, energy bars, cold-pressed juices.
The island of Hvar will forever hold a place in my heart. We ended up staying here for 5-6 whole days and enjoyed every minute of it. The island and its nature is just unbelievable. As I was sitting at the sea one morning, just next to our beautiful beach house a huge 1,5m big tuna jumped out of the water a few feet away and decided to say hi!
We found this incredibly gem of a beach house with a garden, hammocks, terrace seating and a private walk down to the sea, which became our own slice of heaven for these few days. The house is located in the small lovely town of Sveta Nedilja, surrounded by incredible mountains, beaches and vineyards.
I could have easily stayed here for 2 weeks, just relaxing by the beach, reading a book in the hammock, bbq-ing outside, going for hikes in the surrounding areas and take a dip in the sea. From the seaside we’d walk up to the village and from there hike up the mountain to explore some caves.
The beach house is owned by a Croatian family who uses it themselves for holidays, so it might not be available to book too often during the year, but I’ve found 2 great similar houses in the same town which should be equally great: Apartmani Marija & Casa Fortuna.
On the way south we were driving past by so many picturesque coastal towns, but eventually we decided to do a two-nighter in Brela, which completely surprised us with its unexpected beauty. Surrounded by mountains and crystal clear turquoise water Brela is as picturesque as it gets. We stayed in this lovely Airbnb, which was perfect for our needs and quite close to a bigger supermarket.
It’s a super charming holiday town, with beautiful small beach bays, long promenade walks, a handful cafes and great surrounding hikes. One particular hike I can recommend is climbing up the mountain to reach the nearby Sv. Nikola church. It’s not an easy hike, but the views are absolutely worth it.
The last stop on our roadtrip through Croatia (as a vegan) is Dubrovnik. This city got famous as the filming location for the King’s Landing in the popular TV series Game of Thrones. Accordingly it is absolutely swarmed with tourists for most parts of the year. Also here I wouldn’t visit during high season but rather wait for March/April or October to avoid the crazy crows.
The old town of Dubrovnik is definitely the more interesting part. Small alleys in a beautiful stone town, built just on top of the rocks, next to the crushing waves. We found this gorgeous 300-year old apartment right in the old city with beautiful interior and and terrace. The photos don’t really do the apartment any justice, but we really loved the spacious place just 200m from the sea.
What to do?
You can spend vast amounts of money in Dubrovnik if you’re not careful, so here are some things that are (almost) for free. Get yourself an ice cream and wander through the many streets of the old town. Every alley holds another picturesque corner, or secret exit to the sea. As there were many stray cats in Dubrovnik that are being cared for by the inhabitants as is seemed, I wouldn’t say that the town itself is dog-friendly. Unless your dog doesn’t have a problem and isn’t crazily afraid of them like Luna! 😀
Instead of taking the cable car I’d recommend hiking up mount Srd. It’s for free, gives you great views over the city and let’s you take the secret hidden path back down to the town center (see first photo).
Where to eat?
Urban & Veggie – a vegetarian place offering smoothies and desserts in addition to daily chef’s special and an array of starters and mains like hummus, bread, burger, and fries.
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