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Advice on Croatia and Slovenia

Would someone be able to give me some feedback on my proposed itinerary? As a side note, I don't plan to rent a car because I don't necessarily feel confident driving in another country. I've traveled to Europe a few times and am confident using trains, buses, Flixbus, etc.

  • Fly from USA to Vienna, take GoOpti transfer to Ljubljana.
  • 3 three nights in Ljubljana. On one of those days, I will do a day trip to Piran and Skocjan caves via a tour company.
  • 2 nights in Bled, exploring Bled and Lake Bohinj (time permitting)
  • 1 night in Zagreb.
  • 2 nights nearby Plitvice Lakes.

My initial idea was to spend two nights in Zagreb, with the full day being dedicated to taking a trip down to Plitvice Lakes with a tour group. However, now I'm thinking it would be better to shorten my stay in Zagreb to one day only, and then spend two nights outside of Plitvice so I can be there early in the morning. Any feedback on which idea is best? And if anyone has any suggestions for where I should go after, I'd like to hear your ideas.

Posted by
4039 posts

I think my answer would depend on how much time you have in total and where you plan to return to the U.S. from and when you are going.

I really think that one night prior to entering Plitvice is sufficient - but that depends on what is next. I entered about 8:30, finished Route C by 3:00, then drove 3 hrs. to Split. But if you are planning on the bus onward, your choice may be dictated by bus times.

I am not familiar with bus routes, but if you are in Split, then the ferry is easy to use to move elsewhere. If it is summer or early autumn, then an island would be a really nice stop. The ferry also continues on to Dubrovnik.

Your question is a little too open-ended right now for me to feel confident about giving a good suggestion.

Posted by
1743 posts

A few other bits of information would help: What time of year are you traveling? Are you traveling solo? How old are you? And you ask about where you should go after... How much total time do you have besides the 8 nights you've listed?

One thing I will say, though, is that Bled is easily done as a day trip from Ljubljana. Adding a night in Ljubljana and using the extra day for Bled would open an extra day for Zagreb.

And I agree that there's no reason to spend two nights at Plitvice. One night is plenty, and you can see the park in the morning and move on in the afternoon.

Posted by
6 posts

TexasTravelmom, thank you for your response. At the moment, I am still figuring out my itinerary. I have the entire month of June free so I'm pretty open as to when I will leave Europe. I'm thinking my trip will be June 11-21, possibly. You're right, I am beholden to bus schedules and such. I wouldn't feel confident hiring a car so I am at the dependent on the transit system or some kind of private transfer. I haven't bought tickets yet but am considering flying out of Zagreb or Split.

Posted by
6 posts

Lane, thank you for your response. I would be traveling this June, by myself. I am off for the entire month of June so I am open to spending 2 or more additional days. I haven't purchased my airfare yet so I am considering where to fly out of, possibly Zagreb or Split if I can find tickets in my price range.

Posted by
4039 posts

June 11-21 is basically 9 nights, if you leave the U.S. on June 11 and fly home June 21.

As your plan stands now, you have accounted for 8 nights and only have left the night before your flight - either Zagreb or Split. If you are able to manage another couple of nights, it would be good - that would give you time in your final location.

I think it all depends on bus schedules and I don’t have those. Others here have done all of this by bus so you might try a search. It’s doable, but may not be as efficient as if you have a car or use a tour.

I think your end destination after Plitvice has to be where you depart from - unless you can manage even a few extra days. Split would be nice for a couple of nights (bringing you to 10 nights). If you have 12 nights, you could possibly ferry to Dubrovnik for 2 nights and return from there - or you could use those 2 nights for an island stay and return from Split.

Flights and bus schedules are going to be your determining factors.

Posted by
1743 posts

With 10 nights, here's what I'd suggest:

  • 4 nights Ljubljana (allowing time for day trips)
  • 2 nights Zagreb
  • 1 night Plitvice
  • 3 nights Split (with possible day trips to Hvar or Trogir)

This would have you flying home from Split. Hopefully that will work for you.

Posted by
871 posts

If you got days you can add then add them. You need them here. I think Lane’s suggested itinerary is a good one. Lake Bled is imho a total day trip destination. Ljubljana is terrific, 4 nights is not too many. That day trip to the caves AND Piran sounds way long. I would opt for just a half-day to caves if you’re that keen on it. Zagreb deserves a fair shake, two nights is good.

Your big challenge throughout is transportation, starting with your flights. This is all doable by bus, but everything is at least a few hours apart. It’s worth the investment money-wise if you can make your flights work better with your on-the-ground itinerary. Like, given the time and effort it takes for you to get to Plitvice, it’s worth it if you can get a flight out of Split. Is Vienna that much cheaper than Ljubljana or Zagreb? And check this backwards, you might find the order works better in reverse.

Plitvice is the big “problem” on your itinerary. The classic move is to arrive in the afternoon, see one section of the lakes, get up early the next day and see the rest before moving on. This is good and adequate but it takes careful planning. I considered adding a second night myself, but in the end the bus schedule is the bus schedule and I did not ultimately see an advantage. An arranged tour from Zagreb sounds like an option, but that’s also got to be a miserably long day, spent mostly on the road. I think I would avoid that situation.

Posted by
27043 posts

Do not try to see Plitvice on a day trip from Zagreb or Split (or anywhere not very near Plitvice). The park gets unbelievably swamped during day-tripping hours to the point that the experience is massively degraded. That was true in 2015 (I stood in the ticket line for a full hour.) and I'm sure it is even more true today. The situation is probably even worse on weekends/holidays since a lot of the park visitors seem to be Croatians.

The park recommends buying a ticket in advance and warns those arriving without a ticket may not be able to get in. I don't know whether that's an empty threat or not, but I wouldn't take the risk of arriving ticketless. I don't think tickets need to be purchased far in advance at all, but a look at the park website would be prudent.

As of the last report here, the park hotel(s) were validating single-entry park tickets so they could be used again the next morning. That's a nice perquisite since those hotels are somewhat overpriced for what they are, based on visitors' comments.

I agree that one night at Plitvice would be sufficient, but do try to arrive by mid-afternoon so you can see part of the park that day and thereby finish up the next morning before too many day-trippers arrive.

Posted by
15 posts

My personal preference would be to spend as little time in Ljubljana as possible and skip Zagreb unless there is a specific or special reason you want to go to Zagreb. Not everything I recommend below can be done within your travel time. 2 nights in Bled is great, beautiful spot but you could also cut it down to one night and a whole day there. Don't miss a trip up to the castle overlooking the lake and town. It's not too big but very interesting and the views are incredible. Try to spend more time on the Adriatic coast in Croatia or Slovenia. Slovenia has the resort town of Potoroz. Not to far down the coast in Croatia is the beautiful town of Rovinj. From Rovinj you could take a day trip to Pula (great Roman Amphitheatre). You only need 1/2 a day in Pula and for the second 1/2 your could go swimming at the end of the Kamenjak Peninsula - a natural park area with stunning water. I would recommend Dubrovnik but based on the time you have you would likely waste to much time travelling there so my recommendations are located closer to Slovenia and Plitvice Lakes. If you are travelling by car and going to Plitvice Lakes I agree with one other poster that one day is enough. I would suggest going from Plitvice to the coast, you can go via Korenica to Gospic then to Karlobag on the coast and drive along the coast to Zadar (about 3 hours on this more scenic route) or 1.5 hours on a more direct route from the lakes to Zadar. About an hour south of Zadar on the coast is another nice town to stay at called Sibenik. I have been to Croatia and Slovenia on numerous occassions and in my opinion the beauty in both countries lies not in the cities but in the countryside, villages and smaller towns. If you want to stay two nights in Plitvice I suggest that on the second day you drive up to the top of Zavizan Mountain in Velebit National Park - absolutely stunning and not well known to the North American tourist crowd yet. You can hike along the easy trails and get a beautiful view of the coast and islands.