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Northern Greece & Croatia in April - May 2022

Northern Greece & Croatia in April - May 2022

Old Nov 15th, 2022, 12:45 PM
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Northern Greece & Croatia in April - May 2022

I am looking for feedback and suggestions for our trip to Northern Greece and Croatia. I need the most help with the Greece portion. We will be landing in Thessaloniki on the afternoon of April 24. I would like to explore Thessaloniki, the Zagori region (definitely Vikos Gorge and surrounding area, maybe Ioannina too), but am looking for ideas on how long to spend at these places and where else we should consider visiting. I will need to be in Athens on May 7th evening. We will return our rental car and spend the night close to the airport in preparation for an early morning flight May 8 to Croatia.
After Thessaloniki and Zagori region, do we drive over to Igoumenitsa to take the ferry to Corfu and spend some time there? I'm not sure if I'll have enough time to do it justice. Or should we stop somewhere else between Zagori and Athens or somewhere down the west coast of the mainland? There are two of us. We have already seen and explored Athens, Naxos, Santorini, Meteora, Trikala, Monemvasia, Nafplio, Delfi. We will be staying along the coast in Croatia and really want to see the mountains in the Zagori region but we love staying along the coast in Greece, too. We like culture, history, ruins, nature, hiking. I'm finding it hard to find sources on hiking/exploring around the Vikos Gorge and Zagori region. We don't want to hike through the entire gorge but if feasible it'd be fun to hike down into it and back out. More information about this would also be super helpful!

If anyone has input on Croatia, I would also welcome suggestions. We arrive May 8 morning in Dubrovnik and our plane leaves Split the morning of May 17. My rough idea is to spend our first few days in Dubrovnik, then ferry to and stay in Korcula for 1-2 days, then ferry to and stay in Hvar for 1-2 days, then ferry to end in Split for a few days. I am guessing that we will need to get a rental car in Split because I'd like to see Plitvice National park. Is Krka national park worth going to as well? It sounds like it is busy and less impressive than Plitvice NP, but maybe it is less busy in May.

Thanks for your help!
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 02:48 PM
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Surely you mean 2023. I can't help you with northern Greece at all, sorry. But here's an idea: Since your main reason for going to Athens seems to be the flight to Dubrovnik, have you considered dropping your rental car in northern Greece and going directly to Croatia from there?
One reason I suggest this is that I think two days in Dubrovnik are plenty and that a day in Kotor (Montenegro) would be well worthwhile. Rome2Rio shows several ways to go from Corfu to Kotor or Dubrovnik. All ways are a full day of travel but you would avoid an overnight in Athens.
Go to Plitvice NP for sure. It's beautiful. And yes, you'll need a car to do that. You really have 8 days in Croatia. How does this sound for a trial itinerary:
-- 2 days in Dubrovnik, one of them in Kotor
-- 3 days on an island, Hvar or Korcula
-- 3 days in Split, get a car, one day for Plitvice NP, one day open
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 02:57 PM
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Haha, yes! I meant 2023. I will try to edit that. Thank you for your advice on Croatia. I think that sounds great! Would you recommend Korcula or Hvar over the other?
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 04:09 PM
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I cannot help with northern Greece, either, but I can help with Croatia. So, you have 9 nights on the ground in Croatia. I plan by nights, not days. I absolutely recommend visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is beautiful and very unique. You can visit Plitvice as a daytrip from Split. That is what my daughter did. However, I personally think it's better to spend one night in Plitvice. This way you can visit the upper lake, for instance, in the later afternoon, starting around 3 or 4 to avoid the crowds. And then visit the lower lakes the next morning, making sure you are on the trail by 9am. Or vice versa.

So, a possible itinerary could be:

Option 1:
Dubrovnik - 3 nights if you want to visit the Bay of Kotor as a daytrip from Dubronik
Choose one island, Korcula or Hvar, for 3 nights
Plitvice Lakes NP - 1 night
Split - 2 nights

Because your flight leaves on the 17th in the morning, obviously you need to be back in Split the night of the 16th. So perhaps drive from Split to Plitvice when you arrive on the ferry from Hvar or Korcula. Spend one night at Plitvice. Then spend your last 2 nights in Split. But this will only work depending on what the ferry schedules are, meaning what time will you arrive in Split from your island visit.

Option 2: (if you think it's easier to visit Plitvice as a daytrip from Split)

Dubrovnik - 3 nights
Korcula or Hvar - 3 nights
Split - 3 nights with a daytrip to Plitvice

We visited Hvar Town as a daytrip from Split and we loved it. This was in September 2019 and it wasn't oppressively crowded and we were not surrounded by partygoers. I think May will be quiet, too, so that shouldn't be a problem. We didn't visit Korcula so can't comment.
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 01:54 AM
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I don’t know much about northern Greece, but I wouldn’t miss Meteora. Other places I would consider are Ioannina, Vergina, and Philippi (if interested in biblical history). You don’t need to go to Corfu when there are so many seaside places in Halkidiki. On the Ionian side I would look at Lefkada as an alternative to Corfu.

Last edited by Heimdall; Nov 16th, 2022 at 02:21 AM. Reason: Correct spelling
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 03:28 AM
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I am going to disagree with MichGuy (sorry MichGuy) - a bus journey from northern Greece to Kotor would be grueling in one day. I don't think I would even want to do it in two days. If you have cash to burn, you could get a driver from the Albania/Greece border to Kotor, even that would take a really long time. It takes forever to drive through northern Albania, don't let google maps fool you with it's timing. However, you CAN get a private driver to do this journey for about the same as two plane tickets.

Spending three days on one island, I recommend having a car, to explore. Hvar, with a car is a bit easier logistically since you can take a short ferry journey from the mainland to the eastern end of the island, have a fun journey driving across (not for the squeamish, the first hour at least,) Base in Hvar Town or Stari Grad, and then take the car ferry to Split from Stari Grad. But with no car, you can do the catamaran from Dubrovnik and then just rent a car on whatever island you end up on. There are a lot of hiking trails on Hvar and they are well marked, but you often have to drive to get to them.

Plitvice is a bit of an outlier since it takes three hours to get there from Split but if you really want to do it, there are a lot of agencies that do day trips so you could just relax on a bus rather than renting a car just to get there. Of course, if you have a car on Hvar you could just keep it and go to Plitvice in your own vehicle. I would not go to both Plitvice and Krka with the time you have,

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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 02:27 PM
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Obviously you will get differing opinions on where to go and how much time to spend there. I can only give advice on Croatia. I realize you have limited time there but I was there last May and spent 5 nights/6 days in Dubrovnik and could have stayed there forever. I did go to Montenegro on a day trip and would recommend that but I would allow at least 2-3 additional days in Dubrovnik. Perla Adriatica has lovely van tours from Dubrovnik to Montenegro and also to Bosnia.

Both Plitivice and Krka are worth visiting but I agree with Rialtogirl that with limited time you should choose one. Plittivice is much larger and is spectacularly beautiful but Krka was a lovely day trip from Split.

I disagree that a car is necessary for Plitivice. I went by bus from Zadar and stayed at a place right near the bus stop and very close to the park, which was reached by a hike through the woods. I spent two nights in Plitivice but I had plenty of time and like to travel leisurely. But you can do it with just an overnight. The Flix buses are very reliable, and very clean and comfortable. I went on to Zagreb by bus from Plitivice.
I liked Split but I didn't love it and I think 2 nights there are more than sufficient. I think you will find that early May is delightfully uncrowded throughout Croatia. Split was the most crowded place I visited in 3 weeks there.
I took a local bus to Trogir from Split one afternoon, which was a lovely excursion, an easy one hour ride each way.

I don't know if you are interested in cruising but I took a 7 day small yacht cruise from Dubrovnik to Split, which was just wonderful. For me it was the easiest way to get to see as many islands as possible and not have to schlep my suitcase around. We stopped at a different island every night, including Korcula and Hvar, had swim stops, delicious meals and lovely hours of sailing each day. Check out Ambassador Travel, Croatia. They have a fleet of yachts of varying sizes. I was on the Splendid, which held 32 passengers. On the week I went there were only 9 of us so it was like having your own private yacht. Of course, if you are looking to spend several days on two islands, the cruise would not work for you.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 01:11 PM
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I'm sure that rialtogrl is right about a bus trip from northern Greece to Kotor. I've never done it. But my Rome2Rio comment referred to Corfu to Kotor or Dubrovnik. R2R shows some ferry connections that looked worthwhile to check into.
When we visited Plitvicki NP we went by car. Even booking ahead we had trouble finding a place to stay and ended up a few km from a park entrance. We saw plenty of tour buses but I know nothing about public buses. A day tour by bus from Split would be fine but if you want to overnight a car sounds a lot better.
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Old Nov 19th, 2022, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Heimdall View Post
I don’t know much about northern Greece, but I wouldn’t miss Meteora. Other places I would consider are Ioannina, Vergina, and Philippi (if interested in biblical history). You don’t need to go to Corfu when there are so many seaside places in Halkidiki. On the Ionian side I would look at Lefkada as an alternative to Corfu.
Thank you! I think we’ll definitely stop at Vergina. I think we’ll also likely go to Ioannina while we are around the Vikos gorge area. Lefkada sounds like it could be a good place to stop between our time in Zagori region and heading to Athens.
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Old Nov 19th, 2022, 11:03 AM
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You are all super helpful!! Thank you!

MichGuy, rialtogrl, KarenWoo - From what you are all saying, we cannot miss Plitvice. And I think we’ll enjoy it more if we spend the night there so we have more time to explore. I’ll have to think about whether we want to rent a car to make this happen or use public transport. I think we’ll probably rent a car. We will skip Krka.

Panecott- I have a feeling that we’ll really enjoy Dubrovnik, so hearing that you stayed so long and would have stayed longer, I think we’ll probably add nights there. We’ll have to decide whether we want to just do day excursions to the islands or still spend a couple nights on either Hvar or Korcula. The cruise you mention sounds lovely but I think we’ll run out of time.
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Old Nov 20th, 2022, 07:31 PM
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For what it's worth, I went to Greece earlier this year (several of the islands and Athens) and struggled to decide if I should visit the Monasteries of Meteora from Athens . Finally decided to do it even though it was a long train ride. It was the best part of the trip! Really glad I went. Should be fairly easily accessible to you from the north. Would recommend doing it with a tour (lots of bus tours available).
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Old Nov 22nd, 2022, 09:44 AM
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I was in Northern Greece Sep 19 - Oct 1st this year but not in the NW area so not sure how helpful I can be.
My focus was history and archaeological sites, and I'm not a hiker. I don't drive when I'm on holidays and I used the services of a licensed tour guide to come up with an itinerary tailored for me, and then bumped around on my own for the rest of the time (which was easy to do).
The best guide book I found was Bradt's "Northern Greece", authored by the excellent Dana Facaros.
I'd been to Athens, the Peloponnese and Crete before which I really liked but N Greece was... spectacular.
I was based in Thessaloniki the entire time with 3 nights in Kavala.
My itinerary, in brief-
D 1 Arrive Thessaloniki
D 2 Pella
D 3 Thessaloniki
D 4 Thessaloniki
D 5 Xanthi, Philippi, Kavala
D 6 Thassos Isl incl Aliki
D 7 Vergina, Veria
D 8 Thessaloniki
D 9 Dion, Mt Olympus
D 10 Dispillo, Kastoria, Dragon's Cave
D 11 Depart
My length of time in Thessaloniki was perfect for me - lots to see and do.
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Old Dec 1st, 2022, 02:14 PM
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eltonj - We saw Meteora (through an e-bike tour) last time we were in Greece and I agree, it was fantastic!
BowenLinda - That is super helpful for helping me decide what we want to do in and around Thessaloniki. I just purchased that guidebook and wow, it is fantastic! Anything we should absolutely see or things we can skip out on in/around Thessaloniki?
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Old Dec 1st, 2022, 04:43 PM
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It's a relatively small geographical area mybprimary focus was different than yours.
If you are in Thessaloniki for only a few days, don't include Kavala and Thassos this trip (although I really enjoyed both). Walk Thessaloniki and its neighbourhoods and be blown away by the archaeological sites round almost every corner and the amazing churches. Go to Ano Poli. I didn't get a chance to but walk the Jewish walking tour and find out why Thessaloniki is so important to that faith.

Do visit Philippi and Vergina if you are pressed for time but each and every site/town I saw was special.

I loved N Greece and can't wait to return.

Last edited by BowenLinda; Dec 1st, 2022 at 04:54 PM.
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Old Dec 16th, 2022, 09:53 AM
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BowenLinda - you are making me so excited for our visit to Northern Greece!

Does anyone have any recommendations for rental car companies? We will need a rental car while in Northern Greece (we loved Athens Rental Car company in Athens but they are not in Thessaloniki) and maybe one in Croatia if we decide to drive from Split to Plitvice NP. We would pick up the car in Thessaloniki for Northern Greece and Split in Croatia. Thanks!
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Old Dec 16th, 2022, 11:26 AM
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In Dalmatia I always use MACK for car rentals.
https://mack-concord.hr/
In Split they have an office in the Hotel Park which is super convenient.
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 04:27 PM
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Okay, I'm trying to figure out my Croatia itinerary... Help appreciated.

How hard should I try to plan around avoiding cruise ships in Dubrovnik? I can easily get days in Split without cruise ships but I'll only have one day cruise ship-free in Dubrovnik (the day we arrive, and luckily we arrive early).
Should I spend a night (or 2?) in Hvar?
How many nights would you suggest I stay near Plitvice Lakes NP? I want to stay at least 1 night but do I bother staying 2 nights? We like to hike but if we only need 2 days to hike then perhaps just staying one night is enough?
Anything you would add, remove, or change in this itinerary?
Is my marathon day trip to BH and Montenegro too much? (I'm okay with driving and exploring all day, but I want to have enough time to enjoy the places I stop)

Tentative itinerary so far:
May 8 - Arrive Dubrovnik, this day will be cruise ship free so we'll probably walk the walls and enjoy the town.
May 9 - Maybe rent a car to visit Kotor area. I'm not sure if I'm crazy for wanting to stop in Trebinje (Bosnia & Herzegovina) then take the M6/P11 scenic route down into Kotor (Montenegro), then explore around the area before taking the coastal route back to Dubrovnik. Can anyone comment on this?
May 10 - Dubrovnik 2nd day to explore (but there will be multiple cruise ships docking this day).
May 11 - Take a ferry to Hvar to spend a couple nights there?
May 12 - Rent a car to explore more of Hvar? Spend another night here? Are there automatic rental cars easily available on Hvar?
May 13 - Get a morning ferry to Split, pick up a rental car in Split from MACK, then drive to Plitvice Lakes NP.
May 14 - More Plitvice Lakes NP. Either spend another night here or drive back to Split?
May 15 - Split
May 16 - Split
May 17 - Leave early morning.
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 06:56 PM
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I think this itinerary looks great. One night in Plitvice is enough but two allows exploration on the way there, the way back, and a whole day in the park. Especially if you come from Hvar.

I love Hvar and early May can be so fantastic.. except the catamaran either leaves at 7 am or 4.15 pm. And takes some hours. You could rent the car in Dubrovnik on your way out, instead of the catamaran and take one of the car ferries to Hvar. You can get one day automatic rentals in Hvar, no problem.

for the trip to Montenegro, why not hire someone to drive you? It might not be that much more expensive than a car rental for a day and then you can just sit back and enjoy.

if you want to ditch the cruise people, it’s easy.. just climb up some stairs or go into a museum. And go on the walls around sunset.. usually they are all back on the boat by then.
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Old Jan 5th, 2023, 06:53 PM
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My husband and I were in Northern Greece last June. We rented a car from an agency called Golden Rent and had absolutely no problems. We needed an automatic and that was not a problem though I did do everything months in advance. What was unusual and a little uncomfortable for me was the fact there was no written confirmation of our rental; just a verbal agreement over the phone. I thought it was odd and was so worried we wouldn’t get our car as promised and would periodically call and make sure they had our reservation. In the end, we had no problem at all except the pickup at the airport was a little confusing . We couldn’t find the pick up area and had to call the company because we missed our shuttle to the car lot off airport. Use caution if driving in the city of Thessolaniki. No one follows any rules and we almost had 2 accidents in the space of a few minutes! Outside the city, driving was fine and roads are good.
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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 01:06 PM
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I’ve done some re-arranging of our trip! Here it is in its current iteration:
April 25-27, 2 nights: Thessaloniki, pick up a rental car for the rest of Northern Greece…
April 27-30, 3 nights: Litochoro/Mount Olympus region
April 30-May 2, 2 nights: Ioannina
May 2-5, 3 nights: Monodendri. Will be hiking the Vikos Gorge and exploring the various villages of the region.
May 5-7, 2 nights: Thessaloniki. Return rental car and explore the last bits of Thessaloniki that we missed. Early morning flight May 7.
May 7-9, 2 nights: Fly into Split, Croatia in morning and pick up rental car to spend these days at Plitvice Lakes National Park.
May 9-12, 3 nights: Split. Will likely take early morning ferry from Split to Dubrovnik May 12.
May 12-17, 5 nights: Dubrovnik. Will spend one day on a day trip to Montenegro. Likely will visit at least one island from here as well. Flight back home departs early morning May 17.

I ultimately decided not to stay overnight on Hvar or other islands (this trip) as I didn’t want to keep hopping around every 1-2 nights. We will simply have to return to see more!
Any suggestions on must see/do or other tips for our current itinerary welcome. If someone would more strongly recommend the bus from Split to Dubrovnik instead of ferry, we would consider that.
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