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Advice/Feedback on 16 day Itinerary

Hi all! My wife and I are headed to Croatia (+ a bit of Slovenia) from August 23rd through September 8. This forum has been amazingly helpful and we'd love some advice on our itinerary.

For some context about us:

  • We're in our early 30s with no kids
  • Much of our travel revolves around food and wine
  • Don't typically do beach-y vacations, but am excited to take advantage of the coast on this trip
  • Travel style is more fast than slow
  • DON'T drive (native New Yorkers)
  • Enjoy hiking

Here is our rough itinerary. We fly into Dubrovnik and fly out of Ljubljana:

  • Day 1: Get into Dubrovnik
  • Day 2: Explore Dubrovnik
  • Day 3: Explore Dubrovnik
  • Day 4: Day trip to Mostar or Kotor
  • Day 5: Dubrovnik → Hvar
  • Day 6: Hvar
  • Day 7: Hvar → Split
  • Day 8: Explore Split
  • Day 9: Split → Plitvice
  • Day 10: Plitvice → Zagreb
  • Day 11: Zagreb → Rovinj
  • Day 12: Rovinj
  • Day 13: Rovinj
  • Day 14: Rovinj → Ljubljana
  • Day 14: Ljubljana
  • Day 15: Lake Bled
  • Day 16: Fly out of Ljubljana

We'd love some feedback on a couple of things:

  • Given that we don't drive and won't have a car, does it make sense to do Istria on this trip? I've read that Rovinj is beautiful and charming, but to explore Istria, you need a car. Given that, is it too far out of the way?
  • If we cut out Rovinj, what would be your top choice to fill that time? Spend a few days in Brac/Bol, more time in Plitvice, head to Slovenia earlier and hit the Julian alps?
  • We have ~2.5 days in Hvar – are we missing out on not staying longer?
  • How much time would be the minimum you'd spend at Plitvice NP?
  • Is it worth staying overnight in Trogir, or would a day trip suffice?

Overall itinerary feedback is also more than welcome!

Thank you so much in advance!

Posted by
19188 posts

I spent time in Istria--based in Rovinj--in 2015 without a car. There was public-bus transportation to Porec and the little coastal town of Vrsar. Also to Pula (I didn't go there) and to one of the inland towns (Motovun or Groznjan--I don't remember which). I'm sure there must be transportation to Pazin as well; it's the administrative capital of the area. I saw a zip line in Pazin.

I took advantage of a one-day bus tour that ran only on Wednesdays at the time; I think you can find it via Google. I think it was called "Inland Istria". It got me to both Motovun and Groznjan, a small ethnographic museum in Pazin, and a winery. I don't like wine so cannot provide details, but there was a tasting, and other tour members were buying bottles. The Istrian countryside is pretty and makes a nice change from the coastal scenery that will dominate most of your trip.

I think you can take the longest marked-out walk at Plitvice in considerably less time than the posted information indicates, so I doubt that you need a full day, though there are additional paths in the area where you could use extra time if it is available. What is critical, though, is that you do as much of your walking as possible outside of day-tripping hours. They've recently changed their entry procedures (check official website for details), but I have no idea how many tickets they'll be selling. It is a rare tourist attraction indeed that is not willing to sell so many tickets that the experience is seriously marred. It was grim at mid-day in 2015, and I have to doubt that the powers-that-be are interested in seeing the park's revenue plummet. If you see part of the park late on the day you drive there and the rest early the next morning, you should have a very nice visit.

Posted by
151 posts

Don't miss Istria, there is a good bus service between towns and distances are not great between them. When in Rovinj, day trip to Pula and Kamenjak nature park for hiking, boat trip to Lim canal and trip to inland village if you can fit it in. Best of all, Istria is top for food and wine.

Posted by
3112 posts

I think your itinerary looks quite reasonable. I'm not sure how efficient public transportation is between Zagreb-Rovinj and Rovinj-Ljublajana as I had a car, so it might involve extra travel time as opposed to driving. I think 2.5 days on Hvar is plenty. It will be lively that time of year, so consider Korcula instead if you want a more subdued island experience. If you decide to skip Istria, I would add one day each to Split, Zagreb and Ljubljana. I think a half day is desirable to explore Plitvice. Some posters have reported using the same ticket to visit part of the park the evening they arrive and then visiting the rest of the park the following morning, but I'm uncertain whether that's still possible under the new ticketing system. Hopefully a recent visitor will weigh in on that point. Also note that you may have to adjust the day of your trip to Mostar or Kotor if using a group bus tour, as those may not run daily.

Posted by
2 posts

These are amazing answers – you all did not disappoint. Thank you!

@acraven, @frank – re: Plitvice, do you think getting into the park in the evening, staying overnight, and getting an early start would be good too? Do you think we could get a really early start and then head on over to Zagreb in the afternoon?

I'm not sure how efficient public transportation is between Zagreb-Rovinj and Rovinj-Ljublajana as I had a car

Unfortunately, I could not find efficient transportation between Plitvice and Rovinj but it seems like Zagreb has good buses to go there. Same for Rovinj to Ljubljana

IF we skip Istria, how many days do you think would make sense for Zagreb? What are your top recommendations for Zagreb?

Thank you all again!

Posted by
19188 posts

Yes, i think if you spend the night near the park and get inside just as it opens you'll be able to head for Zagreb in the afternoon. Do check and re-check the bus departure time and the pick-up point, My policy is never to plan on taking the last bus of the day.

Zagreb is museum-rich for its size. Check your guide book and Trip Advisor's Things To Do list to be sure you don't miss something you'd especially enjoy. The Museum of Broken Relationships is a lot more fun than it sounds and is definitely recommended. The Museum of Naive Art is quite small but very, very good. In 2015 the tourist office (then located at the bus station, probably with a second location in the historic area) had a handy brochure about all the local museums. It wasn't on display; you had to ask for it. I think 1 or 1-1/2 days would be fine for a tourist not much interested in art. Many folks probably spend only half a day there, but I'd consider that inadequate. The bi-level historic center is good for many hours of wandering. Both of the museums I've mentioned are in that area. The number of museums you want to visit will be a major driver of the time needed in the city.

Ljubljana doesn't have as many museums appealing to me, but there's a castle, and the city itself is extremely engaging. There's just something about a historic district with a river running through it.

Posted by
351 posts

We found getting to Plitvice about 3 pm and getting straight into the park, staying until close, and then going back in the morning, first thing, was just about right. By 10am, we couldn't tolerate the crowds and were ready to move on.

We loved Rovinj, esp. staying right in town and had a couple of great dinners there. We did have a car to visit inland Istria, but if you can figure out transport, it's worth it.

We loved Ljubljana and had some of the best food and wine of the whole trip there. The bike tour of the town was fun.

We ended up renting a car because public transportation was less convenient than in most of our Europe trips. Normandy is the only other place we have done that, so we are totally with you on the preference for public transport. On this trip, we did take the train from Ljubljana to Rijeka because we prefer train to bus, and that was a good train trip, so if it helps your schedule, we recommend it.

Posted by
26 posts

You have 16 days and as you said you prefer fast travel style therefore I believe you shouldn't skip Istria. If you decide to skip Rovinj anyways you can spend one more day in Dubrovnik to do both Mostar and Kotor day trips and add a night or two on Korčula. Krilo katamaran from Dubrovnik connects both Korčula and Hvar so the transportation won't be a problem. I personally think Korčula is one of the most beautiful Croatian islands - far less busy than Hvar and you can try some of the best Croatian wine in one of the family owned wineries on the island. Check more about the islands here.

You wrote you enjoy hiking but I don't see any hiking in your itinerary and Croatia has some beautiful hiking trails. I recommend you visiting Paklenica National Park famous for dramatic canyons carved into the slopes of the mountain, Northern Velebit National Park and take the famous Premužić trail or Risnjak National Park. All three are on your way however you might have problem reaching them by public transport. If you don't like to do these detours or would like a shorter hikes you can have a nice hike from Dubrovnik old town to top of hill Srdj for a beautiful panoramic view, hike up to Medvednica hill above Zagreb and while in Bled take a hike up to viewpoint called Mala Osojnica.

To answer the rest of your questions: 2,5 days is enough for Hvar as is one day for Plitvice Lakes (early morning start is great to beat the crowds) and Trogir is beautiful and definitely worth visiting but no need for overnight (you have good public bus connections from Split and the ride takes around 30 minutes).

Posted by
17 posts

You have a pretty awesome itinerary there. Perfect amount of time for Dubrovnik. I would suggest filling some of those open days with trips to Elephite Islands or Plejeseč. The amount of time for Hvar is just fine. Walk around the old town, maybe take a hike up to the fortress.

In regards to Plivice, you may want more time, especially if you like to hike. I would agree with previous posters and get there for the first timed entry slot in the morning. It gets insane by 10 am. If you can’t get in early first thing or do as others suggested and spend a few hours later in the afternoon, don’t bother going at all. We spent a full day 8 am to about 3 pm and felt quite content. If you’re into hiking, there are many trails off the main walkways that most tour groups avoid so you can get some peace and quiet with the park. Also the countryside surrounding Plivice, like the town of Slunj, oozes with charm and you would be missing out by passing through. I suggest spending one night. Go from Split to your accommodations near the park (I highly recommend an AirBnb or Sobe). Wake up early to get to the park by 8. Spend the better part of a day and then leave for Zagreb.

I would also suggest taking some time to hike. There are some hikes on Hvar that Rick details in his book. Also maybe check out Krka while in Split. There’s much more to Krka than just the main plank walkways and waterfalls; there are many hidden corners and gems in the park for those who like to hike. While in Split check out Marjan. It’s a nature park but a nice way to spend the afternoon to grab some great sunset views of the city.

Have the best time! Croatia is magical :)

Posted by
55 posts

Wow sounds like a great trip. I only have a few comments as follows:
1. if you cut Rovinj and aren't into beachy vacations, then I would switch Bol/Brach for Korcula. Bol/Brach is pretty much about the Zlatni Rat Beach and the small .
2. I liked Rovinj and Trogir. They are beautiful ancient cities ut I didn't think it was more than a day trip for each. If you want to go to Istria, I would choose Opatija over Rovinj. You can visit Rovinj from Optatia and I think as New Yorkers you would like the Austrian Riviera (Opatija) over Rovinj . Opatija would make for an easier trip to Lake Bled and Ljubljana too.
3. Plitvice Lakes is georgeous but I wouldn't spend more than a night there. When I was there, there was only one large old hotel and nothing other than the park around it.
4. Split is a large city. The main draw is Diocletian's Palace and Trogir on the other side of the bay. We stopped at Trogir on the wa to Split and spent 2 nights in Split which was maybe one too many. We took the ferry from Split to Brac. Brac is famous for the Zlatni Rat beach at Bol and its stones. The White House stone came from Brac.
5. Explore Dubrovnik early and late. As for late morning and afternoons it is packed with the cruise ship tourists. We walked the wall at 8:30 AM and had it mostly to ourselves and ate late dinners at night when the crowds weren't too bad.