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21 nights (ish) in Slovenia and Croatia

Planning a first-time, three week trip for September in Slovenia and Croatia. We like a good balance of moderate hiking/outdoor activities, sightseeing, food, history and culture. Thoughts on the itinerary are appreciated.

Ljubjiana -- 4 nights (arrive from US)
Bled -- 3 nights
Rovinj -- 2 nights
Plivitce - 1 night
Split - 3 nights
Hvar - 3 nights
Mostar - 1 night
Dubrovnik - 4 nights (day trip to Montenegro) (depart to US)

Thanks!

Posted by
17772 posts

I would trade 1 night in Dubrovnik and one night someplace else for 2 nights in Montenegro. Maybe 2 nights Dubrovnik, 2 nights Montenegro, 1 night Dubrovnik. You may not be back to tge area and there is a lot to see.

Posted by
6781 posts

With all that time, you should be able to cover things nicely. That said, I'd adjust things a bit.

Rovinj is lovely, but it's not the only highlight in Istria. Even if you're tight on time, be sure to stop in Pula: the Coliseum there is almost as spectacular as Rome's (no, it's not as big as Romes, but it's relatively empty by comparison, which makes a big difference in your experience).

Tastes vary, but we were not happy at all in Hvar (really disliked the very touristy vibe). Instead, we absolutely adored nearby Korčula. Similarly, we were happy to depart Split (it was so crowded with cruise ship passengers, the streets were difficult to get through). We found the smaller towns along the coast (Trogir, Zadar, Šibenik, etc.), more appealing, with relatively few tourists, they were more authentic and much more charming. We also thought Rab was one of the coolest (and most scenic) places in all of Croatia - take a look and see if you can manage a day there.

Lots to see there.

Posted by
340 posts

In Slovenia, I enjoyed a couple nights in Piran. I don't think you need 3 nights in Lake Bled. I did not get to Lake Bohinj but wish I had.

Posted by
5687 posts

I think I would use the seven nights in Slovenia differently. Ljubljana is lovely, maybe my favorite city in Europe, but it's small and there is not lots to see/do there. It's a good base for day trips. It's actually quite easy to day trip to Bled from there. Lake Bled is lovely, but the town of Bled is ordinary, a convenient base for the area but nothing special. I preferred the nearby old town of Radovljica (where I day tripped vs. spending a few nights in Bled).

You may not really need/want much time at Lake Bled itself. Plan out an itinerary of what you want to do in the area - Vrsic Pass? Lake Bohij? And plan where you stay based on that. I did a few shorter stays instead of having to double back to Bled. I stayed one night in Kobarid (not much of a town but a convenient place to stop).

You don't mention having a rental car for Slovenia, but you will probably want a separate car for Croatia or incur a steep one-way drop fee in Dubrovnik. You could take the train from Ljubljana to Rijeka and pick up a rental car there and drive an hour to Rovinj (this is what I did once). You could take a GoOpti shuttle or a bus (if there is a direct one) from Ljubljana and pick up a car in Rovinj, but there are fewer rental car options in Rovinj (more at the Pula airport).

I did not spent a night in Hvar Town - just a day trip. It was a lovely town but a little too busy and ritzy for me. I liked Korcula better too (did spend nights there). You could day trip by catamaran from Split to Hvar Town easily (no driving directly there - car ferry goes to Stari Grad instead). You could drop your cat in Split and not need one the rest of the way and use catamarans, ferries, and buses the rest of the way. But if you keep the car, you could drive from Split to Korcula (Vela Luka, other side of the island) via car ferry and from there on to Dubrovnik or from Split to Stari Grad (Hvar) and back to land from there via another ferry and down to Dubrovnik on land. Without a car, there are catamaran options.

I might put in a plug for Vis island as well - I visited last fall and it was by far my favorite of all of the islands I visited. It's hard to day trip there from Split and have much time - it's over two hours by ferry each way, a little less by catamaran. There is catamaran service between Vis and Hvar Town in September if you don't have a car, making that connection easier.

I don't think you need three nights in Split, either, unless you have specific plans there. It's a pleasant town and a good base for island hopping but once you've seen Diocletian's (ruined) palace (you walk through much of it), there isn't a whole lot else to see. A stop in Sibenik would be nice, I agree.

Staying overnight in Mostar would be ideal but you could day trip from Dubrovnik instead if you have dropped the car.

Posted by
4010 posts

I am going to agree with much of what has been said.

I love Slovenia but Ljubljana and Bled are only about an hour apart, so I can’t see a total of 7 nights between the 2. I would steal a night from Ljubljana to use elsewhere. Then take Andrew to heart about how to best adjust the 3 nights you have scheduled for Bled. Decide between slow travel, changing lodging, specifically what you want to see, and driving distances.

I did have Split for 3 nights, but arrived late evening from Plitvice, then had one day for Split and one day for a boat trip to the Blue Cave. If not doing a day trip, you could possibly cut Split to 2 nights, leaving late afternoon from Split to an island so effectively having 1 1/2 days in Split. I would be very tempted to take this night and add it to Rovinj for a day in Rovinj and a day for Pula, as David suggested.

I like that you have 3 nights for an island. I spent 2 each on Hvar and Korćula and prefer Korćula - but I think that is a choice you research and decide.

Then you definitely need to keep the overnight in Mostar. But I would join Mister É in recommending 2 nights in Montenegro - drive from Mostar. Perast has my heart; but I also enjoyed Budva’s old town. And beaches were nice, if that matters. Use the extra night from Ljubljana and steal a night from Dubrovnik for these 2 nights.

Then finish up in Dubrovnik with 3 nights.

How to accomplish 2 separate rental cars might make a difference in how you plan. You don’t say where you are flying into. Or maybe you have checked out the drop off fee for a different country and it is acceptable to you. But if you are considering THAT extra expense, you might want to consider a driver for your trip - or parts of your trip. Dijana Krkotic, dijana@docleatravel.com, www.docleatravel.com is based in Montenegro but also specializes in Croatia.

Posted by
6781 posts

We rented two cars. One car for Slovenia - picked up at the airport upon arrival, dropped off in Portoroz (closest town to the Croatian border that I could find). Took a public bus from Portoroz to Rovinj (check details carefully, when we did this buses did not run every day, and we almost didn't make it onto our bus - we got the last two seats available). Rented another car for Croatia - picked up in Rovinj, dropped it off in Split (after driving it all over Croatia, mainland and islands). After Spilt, we were on ferries, boats, private transfers, etc, and did a one-day car rental from Dubrovnik to Kotor. It all worked out fine (and the two-car gambit saved us a huge one-way dropoff fee), but there was a hint of "the Amazing race" to some of the quirkier transportation logistics with switching cars and the cross-border bus and stuff.

Posted by
27004 posts

To amplify just a bit on the above comments:

Lake Bled (the lake) is a lot smaller than one would imagine. You can walk all the way around it in about 2 hours. I wouldn't spend any nights in Bled unless I planned activities beyond that town, such as visits to Lake Bohinj, the Vintgar Gorge or the Julian Alps.

As of 2015 taxis between Ljubljana and Bled were relatively affordable. For the return trip to Ljubljana there was often a capacious taxi hanging out near the bus station, offering seats back to the city for 7 euros. Obviously, the cost would be higher now.

FlixBus operates one bus a day (in November) from Ljubljana to Rovinj. It departs at the sane hour of 9:15 AM and is scheduled to take 3 hr. 40 min. Late purchase of the ticket may bump the cost up to about 35 euros. I imagine the fare would be lower for an early purchase but don't know for sure. Bus service across international borders is usually infrequent, as is the case here. It's best not to wait until the last minute to buy the ticket. 

Posted by
33 posts

We visited Slovenia and Croatia last year and had a great time. We stayed near Lake Bohinj in Stara Fuzina. It was beautiful! We took day trips to Lake Bled and the Vrsic Pass and did some hiking in the area. I would recommend staying there over staying in Lake Bled. We stayed in Ljubljana too and loved it. Four nights might be a little long though. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
1743 posts

You've already gotten some good suggestions which I largely agree with. I'll just throw a few more ideas into the mix. However, you don't mention your plan for getting from place to place, and as someone already mentioned, if you have a rental car, you're going to pay an exorbitant amount to pick it up in Slovenia and drop it in Croatia.

  • Four nights in Ljubljana with a day trip to Bled is plenty. You'll definitely want to do the drive from Ljubljana to Bled via Skofia Loka; the scenery on that route is stunning.
  • Add two nights in Kobarid. Yes it's small, but there's a fabulous hike there (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/slovenia/kobarid/kobariska-zgodovinska-pot) and a small but very well-done museum about that area's involvement in WWI.
  • At some point, possibly on the drive from Ljubljana to Kobarid, stop at the Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica.
  • The drive over Vršič Pass (on the drive from Ljubljana to Kobarid) is one of the highlights of Slovenia.
  • Add a night in Rovinj so you have time to visit some of the great hill towns. My favorite was Grožnjan.
  • Instead of staying in Split, stay in the nearby town of Trogir. One night there is sufficient, but you could do two if time allows.
  • Head to Split early in the morning from Trogir and spend the day at Diocletian's palace. Then get an afternoon ferry to Hvar. Try to drop your car in Split. You won't need it for the rest of your trip.
  • By cutting time in Split, that gives you a couple of extra days to head to another island. Vis or Korcula maybe.
  • Do Mostar as a day trip from Dubrovnik. I do think it's better to stay overnight there, but the logistics are tricky. You could do a ferry/bus combination from the islands to Mostar, but it's a long day.

You don't have to take all my suggestions, but I hope some of them prove valuable.

Have a great trip!!!

Posted by
869 posts

It’s crazy that three weeks looks so short at a glance. There’s so much to see here, and you can’t go too wrong. I’m jealous!

I’m with others on Lake Bled. It’s beautiful, but three days is a lot. I was fine with a day trip. Not that you couldn’t make more of it, but I think those days are better spent elsewhere. I loved Ljubljana and 4 nights went fast, but 4 is about right. Since you’re following the coast, I like the idea of a couple nights in Piran or nearby to explore the Julian Alps. (It’s a pity to miss underrated Zagreb, but understandable.)

I loved Split, as much as Dubrovnik maybe. Some may disagree, but I think three nights are good. I was a big fan of Korcula. I did not stay in Hvar. There was a good mix of things to do around Korcula. At some point, you might get a little beached out. You can at least see some wine country for a day here.

Now, Dubrovnik. If you were doing this trip in reverse I think 4 nights is good. This being at the tail end of the trip, three might be plenty. It’s great, but it’s a crowded, touristy place. You’ll have already visited beaches/coastlines that beat anything Dubrovnik has. So, with that aside you might tire of the sights quicker than most. It can be an exhausting place at times, and you may find yourselves a bit underwhelmed after everything else on the trip.

P.S.- Invest in some top-notch water shoes. You absolutely will need them. I got ones from Olukai and was ever thankful I had them with me.

Posted by
1189 posts

Don't ignore Ptuj, Slovenia. If you rent a car in the capital, the drive to Ptuj is quite lovely. The air and water is so clean in this country it is to be admired.

Did I miss your time in Zagreb? The Museum of Broken Relationships. The Museum of Primitive Art. And their Cevapi, a coarse ground burger of pork, beef, lamb, and GARLIC with red or white sauce. Go to the daily market especially the portion that is underground creating natural cooling.

Oh, golly the Julian Alps! and the WWI cemeteries. Much of WWI was fought in this area.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
5687 posts

Ptuj is a lovely little town, the oldest in Slovenia I think. Very few tourists if any others, at least when I visited in 2011. Beautiful castle up on the hill. I will say though that despite a pretty bridge, the river area near the town was a bit trashy and neglected while I was there - hopefully it's since been cleaned up. You would never see this in the center of the town at the river in Ljubljana.

It's also an easy train ride to Ptuj if you want to do a day trip. It's not a big town so won't take a lot of time to explore. The train ride is pretty too as I recall.