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Critique Please

Hi,
My husband and I are planning a trip to Croatia and Slovenia this summer. I enjoy reading all your ideas. Just a few things about us. We hate to shop but love nature, architecture, people watching and museums. I have never done this before but here I go...

Paris- 3 nights- we have a lay over so what the heck we plan on staying for a few nights. We all need to adjust to the time change and Paris seemed like a perfect spot to do this, right?

Dubrovnik-3 nights

Korcula-1 night, take ferry from Dubrovnik.

Split- 3 nights (pick up car the last day to go to Plitvice).

Plitvice National Park- 1 night- My hubby is a PHOTO NUT and wants to take pictures at sunset and sunrise, so we will be staying. We also love the US National Parks so this is right up my alley.

Zagreb- 1 night (my sister-in-law loved this town. Do we need more than one night?) We will be dropping of the car.

Ljubliana-2 nights

Lake Bled- 1 night (pick up car and drop off at the airport)

Last night-stay close to Ljubliana airport for an early morning flight. Any suggestions on where to stay by the airport?

What do you think? Add, subtract if so where? Thanks

Posted by
1425 posts

I think you're basically okay with this itinerary, but I think you have too much time in Split and too many 1-night stays. I'd suggest cutting Split to 1 night and adding a second night in Korcula and a second night in Zagreb. I'd also suggest you stay four nights in Ljubljana and make Bled a day trip, and then you can also do a day trip through the Julian Alps, and don't worry about relocating closer to the airport for your last night.

Are your flights already purchased? Because if not, you could fly out of Zagreb instead of Ljubljana; then you can keep the same car from Split all the way until you leave. Go from Plitvice to Ljubljana, then end in Zagreb.

Whatever you decide, it's a beautiful place to visit, and you'll have a wonderful time!

Posted by
1814 posts

I like Lane's suggestions, and would like to add one of my own.

Instead of staying in Dubrovnik, stay in Cavtat and visit Dubrovnik as a day trip. Cavtat is a gorgeous little fishing village near the Dubrovnik airport. So you get off the plane from Paris and a half hour later you're checked into your hotel and eating gelato along the waterfront. Great place for a photo nut. Pretty little harbor ... we love sitting by the sea at sunset and watching the yachts dock. You can take a boat (about 40 minutes) or a bus (15 minutes) into Dubrovnik, walk the walls, and see what you need to see in a day. Staying in Cavtat also allows you to check the Dubrovnik cruise ship schedule so you can plan your visit for the day with the fewest cruise passengers. (I linked to the August 2015 calendar ... 2016 is not available yet.)

I also highly recommend you spend one of your Cavtat days visiting Montenegro. The Bay of Kotor is absolutely gorgeous and again, paradise for a photographer. There are lots of bus tours, which will pick you up in Cavtat, or you could rent a car or hire a driver. Google Cavtat and read Trip Advisor reviews.

Posted by
4700 posts

Yes, I loved my brief visit to Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, too. I didn't care for the city of Kotor itself that much, though the views ABOVE the city are amazing if you can handle the steep climb up the "walls." Your hubby would want to do this early in the day, though, to get the best pictures, otherwise he is going to be shooting into the sun.

Maybe you will like Zagreb as much as your sister-in-law, but I wasn't so crazy about it myself. It's OK but I was done in half a day of sight seeing.

Three nights in Split seems too many to me - another town I also wasn't crazy about, but I can see two nights there. I liked tiny little Trogir nearby a little better.

I'm not sure sunset and sunset at Plitvice will be so amazing for photography. It's really more important to get into the park super early to avoid the tour groups especially in peak season in the summer - it opens at 7AM and I would get there that early if you can. Otherwise, your husband will have to shoot those amazing little waterfalls with groups of people in his shots. And if he likes to use a tripod like I do to get long exposures of the waterfalls, it will be nearly impossible with groups of people walking by him shaking the boardwalk his tripod is steadied on. But at 7AM, the park is still pretty empty.

I've been to Plitvice twice. Once I stayed at one of the park hotels - overpriced for what you get but very convenient, as staying this close allows you to walk right down into the park first thing. I thought the light in general was best in the morning anyway shooting either the upper or lower lakes, but I liked the upper lakes trail scenery (closer to entrance #2) a little better.

Keeping the Croatia car for Slovenia is not a bad idea, if you can fly out of Zagreb. You might find flight arrangements out of Zagreb are better anyway - Ljubljana's is not a big airport.

If you've not been to Paris before, then three nights there to start is a great idea - I love Paris. If you've been before, I'd consider cutting a night and spending more time in Croatia. Consider adding a few nights in Istria. I absolutely loved Rovinj. It could be done as a detour as you drive north from Split.

Posted by
4700 posts

As for Slovenia: one suggestion, if you are driving from Ljubljana to Bled is to detour via the pretty little town of Skofja Loka on the way to Bled. The town is nice and worth a stop if you have time, but the scenery driving through the hills from Skofja Loka to Bled is breathtakingly beautiful. I considered this drive one of my highlights of my visits to Slovenia.

Posted by
12550 posts

Dubrovnik-3 nights

I would go nuts in Dubrovnik for 3 nights. But I was glad I stayed two nights inside the walls. The town is beautiful in the evenings. All you need in this stunningly beautiful tourist trap is one full day. After than the Disneyland claustrophobia closes in and crushes the magic of the place. Kotor? Imagine a half scale version of Dubrovnik. But Montenegro in general is beautiful and on Kotor Bay we enjoyed Perast. Great town.

Posted by
4700 posts

To be fair, regarding three nights in Dubrovnik: that is an arrival day, and who knows how early the ferry might leave that last day for Korcula? So it might really be only two full days. Two nights could mean only one full day. But I know what you mean - Dubrovnik isn't that big and itself doesn't require much time to see, unless day trips are added.

Posted by
544 posts

Check out Rick's Adriatic tour. It was absolutely incredible and hits all the spots you're looking at. Plus you get door-to-door transportation arranged on a half-full bus.

Posted by
334 posts

My wife and I both also fall into the photo nut and nature lover categories. Plitvice was the highlight of our time in Croatia. You may want to move a night from Split to Plitvice. Two full days in Split is enough to see Old Town, Diocletian's Palace, and the museums within it. Split also had the best people-watching of our trip. I'm thinking of something like this:

  • Two days Split, rent car at end of second day
  • Drive to Plitvice, Night in Plitvice
  • Full day at Plitvice, Night in Plitvice
  • Morning at Plitvice (if necessary), Drive to beautiful Rastoke (photo opportunities abound!!), and then on to Zagreb

If you love of nature/photography also extends to the beach, work in a day trip to Montenegro while in Dubrovnik. Mostar in Bosnia is also a beautiful location with the famous bridge over the turquoise water of the Neretva River. You may want to consider one of these side trips as you can see the highlights of Dubrovnik in 1 or 2 days depending on your pace. I can't speak to the museums as we skipped those during our time there.

Finally, while beautiful, it doesn't take long to see Lake Bled. With a car, I hope you're planning on driving through some of the Julian Alps.

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks for all your help and guidance. By jove I think I've got it.... well at least this latest revision.
Fly to Paris for a few days-must see the Versailles Fountains

Fly to Dubrovnik-arrive 2:20PM (3 nights) we are staying just outside of town in what looks to be a charming villa (airbnb)
Possible side trips-Bay of Kotor, Mostar

Ferry to Korcula (2 nights) arrive around 10:35AM

Ferry to Split-(3 nights ); arrive in late afternoon; on our way out pick up car

Plitvice National Park (1 night-Arrive in early afternoon and do some hiking and then hike the next morning and leave in afternoon

Ljubljana-(3 nights) side trips to Lake Bled and maybe Julian Alps

Zagreb (2 nights)

Fly home (boo hoo)

What do you guys think? I am a little nervous about driving in Croatia and Slovenia. Those of you that have done it please give me an idea of the roads? I am a Nervous Nellie (poor hubby) through mountains and busy city driving. My hubby drives it and I keep my eyes closed and pray (Yosemite during a snow storm; the Pan American Highway through Ecuador; NYC anytime). It does not stop me from the adventure but gives me fuel for thought. I was hoping for more public transportation to avoid this but we want to see too much to be hampered. Again, thanks for all the help!

Posted by
1425 posts

You new itinerary is a big improvement. It appears you have added a day, and great plan to end in Zagreb.

I'm curious why you are still planning on three nights in Split. I think it's much too long to spend there. Maybe cut it to 2 nights there and add a 4th night in Ljubljana.

Driving in these countries is easy. I'd say the highways are in better condition than most US highways, and when I was there (in May of 2014) there was very little traffic anywhere (except the wait to cross the border on the highway connecting Zagreb and Ljubljana).

Make sure you pick up a vignette when you cross the border into Slovenia. (In Croatia there are toll booths; in Slovenia the vignette covers your tolls.)

And remember that you will need your passport crossing all the borders in this regions (unlike most of the rest of Europe). If you take a day trip to Kotor or Mostar (both highly recommended), don't leave your passport behind.

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks Lane,
I have been checking for the fountains and it appears to occur on Sundays, thus being in Paris over a Sunday and leaving on Monday since so many sites are closed. We will be coming in one day early. We have been to Paris several times so we don't feel pressured to do many of the things first timers do. I have taken the boat ride along the Seine but Tony has not, so that is on the list as well as actually going into Notre Dame this time (crowds and lines have kept us away but not THIS TIME). I also thought doing the Midnight in Paris on Wheels (Travel Advisor) sounds like fun and some great photo ops. Has anyone done this one? We HAVE to do the top of Montemartre or it wouldn't be a trip to Paris. Thanks for looking out for us.

Posted by
681 posts

I'm curious why you are still planning on three nights in Split. I think it's much too long to spend there. Maybe cut it to 2 nights there and add a 4th night in Ljubljana. We will be arriving in late afternoon or early evening as with all trips with someone it is all about compromise and this is Tony's BIG place along with the National Park. So there you go. Mine is staying outside Dubrovnik along the beach with a pool and several beach side restaurants. My little piece of heaven from the pictures

Driving in these countries is easy. (Thank God!!!) I'd say the highways are in better condition than most US highways, and when I was there (in May of 2014) there was very little traffic anywhere (except the wait to cross the border on the highway connecting Zagreb and Ljubljana).

Make sure you pick up a vignette when you cross the border into Slovenia. (In Croatia there are toll booths; in Slovenia the vignette covers your tolls.) Good to know I read that somewhere but it is always nice to have reminders
And remember that you will need your passport crossing all the borders in this regions (unlike most of the rest of Europe). If you take a day trip to Kotor or Mostar (both highly recommended), don't leave your passport behind. Also good to know. Not sure I would have thought of it and no one would be happy turning around and going back for it. Any suggestions on tours for the day trips to the Bay and then Mostar? I think I would be happier having somebody else drive and I sooo want to hear the history and background. I will probably post that question and I do have RS book as a backup. Tony also wants a guide for Split.

Posted by
681 posts

Yea! I just talked Tony into 2 days in Split and 2 days in Plitvice National Park.

Posted by
12550 posts

I refuse to drive on vacation so I cant help you there. But:

Possible side trips-Bay of Kotor, Mostar

We haven't been up the coast from Dubrovnik, but we did travel south through Montenegro a couple of months ago. The bay of Kotor was stunning. The town of Kotor it's self is just a miniature Dubrovnik in just about all ways. The town of Perast on the way to Kotor was well worth a couple nights stay. We loved Montenegro and will be heading back.

Posted by
334 posts

The highways in Croatia are well-maintained and clearly marked. Traffic was only within certain parts of the bigger cities. Once you were outside of town, it was fairly easy to drive and navigate. However, we were not on the smaller, off the beaten path roads, so I can't comment on those.

Posted by
4700 posts

I did find driving in Croatia (and Slovenia) quite easy, despite being nervous about it the first time I did so. The first two times I did not even have a GPS, though I did last time and always will in the future (or use my phone as a GPS).

I think American drivers may be confused at first by the different philosophy of navigation on roads in those countries vs. America. In the US, we may expect the name of every road we are driving on to be well noted and announced by signs. This is US Route 20 or County Line Road or something. You may navigate knowing that if you are on US 20 you will have to turn on County Line Road to get to your destination. But in Croatia or Slovenia, the roads aren't so well marked this way. When you get to an intersection, you may not see any signs indicating what road you are intersecting! Instead, you will likely see a directional sign showing which towns are in that direction. Once I got used to this idea of navigation, I found it fairly intuitive. Knowing what towns are on the route to your destination helps. In Slovenia, I had only a free tourist map that noted these towns and that was enough, seeing what towns were on the way to the place I was headed, to navigate.

If you have no GPS device, having such a map or at least some printed maps and directions from Google Maps or Michelin or something would be pretty important. I remember that on my first trip to Croatia I bought some big detailed driving map and barely used it, but on that trip I barely deviated from the main roads. I just followed the directional signs.

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks for all the help regarding driving. I feel a little better. We have driven through Ireland and hubby only almost got us killed a couple of times. I kept yelling "YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY" as we saw cars coming toward us. After the initial day or two we were fine... No killing each other and we are still married. But Ireland is pretty flat and the roads are definitely interesting. Croatia and Slovenia have a few mountains so that should be fun?! We will be driving from Split to Plitvice National Park. How was the drive? We will have our GPS with us so we should be fine, right?

Posted by
4700 posts

I drove the other way (Plitvice past Split), and that drive should be very easy. Some of it is on a high speed expressway, the A1 (a toll road). This part is very easy. You have to get off the A1 to get on the slower D1 closer to Plitvice - only a two lane road but still in good condition as I remember.

Make sure your GPS has maps for Europe, though if you used it in Europe before I guess you are good now.

Remember: no right turn on red in Croatia!

Posted by
334 posts

We have driven through Ireland and hubby only almost got us killed a couple of times. I kept yelling "YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY" as we saw cars coming toward us.

I think of Ireland as more difficult if only because of the left-hand driving on the British Isles. Everywhere else in Europe is right-hand drive. Just remember to familiarize yourself with the rules that differ from America (e.g. no right on red, default speed limits if you don't see a specific sign, etc)

Posted by
681 posts

Hey great helpers,
Just a couple of questions now that we have decided to keep the car and drive around both Croatia and Slovenia. We will be picking the car up in Split and dropping off in Zagreb. My hubby drove a stick shift in Ireland (and we lived to tell about it) but he thought I would feel better if he drove an automatic this time around any thought or insight? I figure that the stick will be much more reasonable in price. Also, what car company did you use and how did you find the experience? Thanks

Posted by
334 posts

If you think you'll be more comfortable with an automatic, then it's worth it. An automatic usually costs a good bit more. Just run the numbers and see if the price difference is worth it. Unless you are really wanting to pinch pennies, I'd recommend doing what makes you comfortable -- you'll enjoy your trip much more! Regarding car rental companies, you're probably better served by searching for specific reviews online (TripAdvisor, etc). That will be a little more comprehensive than the few of us here on the RS forums.