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Advice needed for our Croatia & Slovenia Itinerary in May/Jun 16

Hello!

My husband and I will be in Croatia and Slovenia from 26 May to 9 Jun 16. It's our first time in these countries so we are not very confident of our itinerary. Appreciate your help and advice on making our trip a perfect one! :)

Background:

-We are not skilled drivers, so will not risk renting a car. Public transport the way to go
-Aims for this trip: soak in the nature and scenery, do some water sports, paragliding, chill at cafes/restaurants, visit local markets
-We want to try tandem paragliding, but so far unable to find a place which is near the places we listed, and we're unable to squeeze famous paragliding spots like Rijeka into our draft itinerary.

Draft itinerary:

Day 1, 26 May: Arrive Dubrovnik Airport from London at 6pm. (Flight booked, cannot be changed)

Day 2, 27 May: Dubrovnik -old town, cable car,

Day 3, 28 May: Dubrovnik -Day trip to Lokrum or Mljet

Day 4, 29 May: Dubrovnik -Day trip to Montenegro

Day 5, 30 May: Dubrovnik --> Mostar --> Split

Day 6, 31 May: Split -day trip to Brac or Trogir

Day 7, 1 Jun: Split -day trip to Hvar or Korcula

Day 8, 2 Jun: Split --> Plitvice Lake

Day 9, 3 Jun: Plitvice --> Zagreb --> Ljubljana

Day 10, 4 Jun: Ljubljana --> Lake Bled (join 2D1N Julian Alps hiking tour which starts at 8am)

Day 11, 5 Jun: 2D1N Julian Alps tour till 8pm, drop off at Lake Bled

Day 12, 6 Jun: Lake Bled --> Ljubljana

Day 13, 7 Jun: Ljubljana

Day 14, 8 Jun: Ljubljana -day trip to Postojna Cave, Predjama Castle

Day 15, 9 Jun: Depart Ljubljana to London at 11am (flight booked, cannot be changed)

Our main concerns are Day 8 and 9. We would hopefully like to spend 1 night in Zagreb but not sure where to cut short to fund this night. And we need to reach Ljubljana on Day 9 as our Julian Alps tour starts at 8am the next day.

Any kind soul to give some advice on our draft itinerary? Much appreciated!! :)

Posted by
4373 posts

My main thought is that this itinerary will be very challenging without a car. This part of Europe is not well served by public transport and I am concerned that you will spend the whole day getting to all of your day trip ideas. If it helps, the roads in Slovenia and Croatia are excellent, well marked. Trust me that the trip will be 100% better with your own wheels.

Posted by
971 posts

Emily I disagre, the places on this itinerary are all connected by busses, trains or ferries, so if the OP does not feel like renting a car, there is absolutely no need for it.
As already stated, day 8 and especially 9 are a bit cramped (and would be even with a car). My advice would be to take an afternoon bus from Split to Plitvice and spend the night there. Go see the park in the early morning before the day trippers from Split, Zadar og Zagreb arrive (I saw it in high season on a day trip from Zadar and it was terribly crowded, the lakes are stunning though). Then take an afternoon bus to Zagreb and spend the night there. This thread on LP covers this somewhat, you might want to post there, since the poster Flumy usually gives great advice on public transport in Croatia. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/europe-eastern-europe-the-caucasus/croatia/zagreb-plitvice-lakes-zadar-in-one-day

This leaves you one day short on your itinerary if you have to get to Lubjana and bled on day 10, so you need to find an extra day somewhere else. I would sagrifice one of your day trips, either Lokrum/Mljet, Montenegro or Hvar/Korcula, even though this can be difficult. Of the towns and islands you mention, Korcula, Hvar, Kotor (I assume this is what you want to see in Montenegro) and Trogir are all somewhat similar, so it could be one of them that gets to go.

Posted by
1425 posts

I agree with Morten. I'd shorten your stay in Dubrovnik by one day or your stay in Split by one day in order to do everything else on your itinerary and get to Ljubljana on day 9.

The alternative is to keep things as they are and skip the overnight in Zagreb. You might not hit horrendous crowds at Plitvice on the afternoon of June 2, as that is still fairly early in the season. I was in Plitvice in mid-May in the afternoon, and there were a lot of people, but it was not as bad as it would be in peak season. That still gives you a long day of travel on day 9, and no real time to see Zagreb. So you'll need to cut something. I think my choice would be to cut a day from Dubrovnik. You might still be able to get to Lokrum on day 2, as after you get back from Montenegro on day 3, you'll still have the evening available to enjoy the old town of Dubrovnik (and it is at its best in the early evening).

Enjoy!

Posted by
19161 posts

I traveled that area (minus the islands) last year, via public transportation. It's doable, but your schedule is tight and you must allow time for checking bus/train schedules at each stop. Local tourist offices usually have up-to-date schedule information, but I'm always a bit nervous until I've confirmed bus times at the station.

Obviously, accurate info on the transportation links getting you from Plitvice to Zagreb to Ljubljana will be critical. I found it just a bit tricky to locate the right bus stop for the Plitvice-Zagreb leg, and the buses (though frequent in August) didn't seem to be following the expected schedule. Don't cut your Plitvice departure too close. If you plan to hike in the park on the same day you travel to Ljubljana, you should probably buy the (extra-cost) trail map in the Plitvice gift shop, just to be sure you know exactly where you are at all times. Try to get the salesperson to mark the Zagreb-bus pick-up points on the map for you. If you're going to take one of the mapped-out routes, I'd suggest asking how accurate the time projections are. It took me much less time than expected to do the loop I chose, despite the extremely crowded conditions in late August. I could probably have done a longer loop.

I suggest cutting one of your day-trips so you have some breathing room. I'd nominate Montenegro because there's much to see in that country, and it deserves a much longer visit. That said, if you decide to proceed with that trip, May 29 looks like an ideal day for it, because there's no big cruise ship scheduled to dock in Kotor that day (if internet info can be trusted). Kotor is beautiful, but it's a more pleasant destination when there's no behemoth in port.

I'd try to do Plitvice on Thursday rather than Friday. If you're stuck with Friday, definitely get an early start in hopes of beating the crowds. The place was unbelievably crowded on a Friday in late August, but I assume June will not be quite so bad.

Zagreb is a very, very nice city and worth a visit. Actually, it's worth multiple days.

If you're into natural sights, you might like to know that some locals consider the Postojna Caves very commercialized (colored lights, etc.). I saw them 20+ years ago and enjoyed them, but on last year's trip I opted for Skocjan Caves instead. Even they were very busy on a Tuesday in mid-August. Both cave systems are worth seeing, but you should definitely expect a touristy experience.

You're visiting many great destinations. I know it will be a wonderful trip.

Posted by
13 posts

Emily, thank you for your concern! A car would definitely make things easier but we rarely drive, probably about 1-2 a year only! To make things a bit easier, we may be engaging a tour guide for one of our day trip eg. When we go to Montenegero. :)

Posted by
13 posts

Morton, thank you so much for the link to the informative thread, and also the reassurance that we can possibly do the trip using public transport!
I guess we're a little too ambitious, and there are simply so many places and things to see! Dilemma indeed. And yes, we're now thinking of cutting one day in Dubrovnik.

However, we're still torn between Mostar/Kotor/Hvar/Korcula! Any further advice or any of your person favourite? :-p

Posted by
13 posts

Lane, thank you for the advice. We're thinking of following ur suggestion and staying a night at Plitvice. Do you happen to have any accommodation to recommend? :)

Posted by
13 posts

Acraven, thank you for the detailed info! And we will be sure to watch out for the bus timings man! For ur hike in Bled, how long did u take and which route? Was it manageable on ur own or we should join a hiking tour? We don't have much experience in hiking, but like exploring the nature!

Posted by
19161 posts

In Bled I just walked around the lake. Didn't try any mountain walking due to a gimpy ankle, the result of a foolhardy decision to walk down a steep path in the Dolomites without hiking boots.

I don't know how essential it is to take a tour if you want to hike the Julian Alps. I can tell you that last August there was frequently a taxi or two hanging out at the Bled bus station (the one near the lake), looking for passengers. You'd probably be able to negotiate a reasonable fare to wherever you wanted to start hiking. The drivers seemed to speak English as well as several other languages.

There were many young people on the buses I took, as well as in Ljubljana itself. You might conceivably meet hiking companions on your way to Bled. And the Ljubljana tourist offices were extremely helpful to me. It's a very relaxing country to travel in because it's generally very easy to get the information you need, since English is so widely spoken.

Posted by
334 posts

The thing that I notice here is that you don't seem to have a slow day in the middle of your trip. You're either always on the move to a new destination or taking a day trip. Whether it is Split, or Plitvice, or Ljubljana, you should make one day a "do nothing" day just to recharge. On each trip I take, I plan a similar looking schedule and by about Day 8 or 9, I'm ready to crash.

Posted by
971 posts

Between Mostar, Korcula, Kotor and Hvar, my least favourite was Hvar.
Mostar is quite different from the rest of the places you visit, the Dalmatian towns are very mediterranean, whereas Mostar is distincly Muslim and Balkan. Plus it's recent history is still very visible and poignant.
Korcula and Kotor are both walled venetian towns like Dubrovnik, but are nice in their own way.
Hvar is nice, but i felt it was mainly a jet set destination where rich people could show of their yachts.

Posted by
13 posts

Lane, thanks! The place u stayed at looks gorgeous indeed! But as you pointed out rightly it's a little out of the way so I will look at the places in your second link instead :)

Posted by
13 posts

Hi Morton, thanks for your opinion of the different places! Mostar stands out indeed. I think I would go there too!

Posted by
13 posts

Hi all, thanks for all the advice. We have modified our itinerary a little in view of the comments. Have cut a day from Dubrovnik so that we can reach Ljubljana on Day 9 comfortably. So now, it looks something like this! Any comments? I hope it looks better!

Draft itinerary v2:
Day 1, 26 May: Arrive Dubrovnik Airport from London at 6pm. (Flight booked, cannot be changed)

Day 2, 27 May: Dubrovnik -old town, cable car

Day 3, 28 May: Dubrovnik -kayaking

Day 4, 29 May: Dubrovnik -Day trip to Montenegro/Mostar/Lokrum/Mljet

Day 5, 30 May: Dubrovnik --> Split

Day 6, 31 May: Split -day trip to Brac/Trogir/Hvar/Korcula

Day 7, 1 Jun: Split --> Zagreb (flight)

Day 8, 2 Jun: Zagreb -day trip to Plitvice

Day 9, 3 Jun: Zagreb --> Ljubljana

Day 10, 4 Jun: Ljubljana --> Lake Bled (join 2D1N Julian Alps hiking tour which starts at 8am; able to do white water rafting and tandem paragliding during our 2D1N tour)

Day 11, 5 Jun: 2D1N Julian Alps tour till 8pm, drop off at Lake Bled

Day 12, 6 Jun: Lake Bled --> Ljubljana

Day 13, 7 Jun: Ljubljana

Day 14, 8 Jun: Ljubljana -day trip to Postojna Cave/Predjama Castle/Skovjan

Day 15, 9 Jun: Depart Ljubljana to London at 11am (flight booked, cannot be changed)