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Croatia and Slovenia in September

Hi everyone
My husband and I are travelling to Europe in September and we are looking forward to exploring Croatia and a little of Slovenia. We are comfortable (ok, my husband is) with driving in Europe and plan to hire a car for part of this leg of the trip.
We enjoy walking tours, exploring, eating local and interesting food, photography and learning about the history of where we are visiting.
We would appreciate feedback on our itinerary, as it is still flexible and we can add a few days in if we want to along the way. We'd rather not be rushed. On previous trips we have enjoyed having a private guide for a few hours in new places - any recommendations would be wonderful. We would also love any recommendations for small hotels or bed and breakfasts as well.

As it stands:
Day 1: Early direct flight to Dubrovnik (from Amsterdam) - day and night in Dubrovnik
Day 2: Dubrovnik
day 3: Pick up car - Dubrovnik -Split (car) - visit Trojir on way
Day 4: Split
Day 5: Split or a day trip to Hvar
Day 6: Split until early afternoon, drive to Plutvice to arrive early evening, sleep there
Day 7: spend the day in Plutvice National Park (we take lots of photos so we will take our time here) - drive to Rovinj late afternoon
Day 8 / 9 - explore Pula, Rovinj, Motohun - anywhere else we should look at? End day 9 - either drop car and take bus to Ljubjana or drive, depending on car drop off fees
Day 10 - Ljubljana
Day 11 - Hire a car, day trip - Lake Bohinj, Bled
Day 12 - Another day to explore this area
Day 13 - Ljubljana - Skojcan caves, Lipica Stud Farm - to Trieste and a late train to Venice. If we still have a car we'll leave it in Trieste and if not we'll go the expensive route and use Ondaytrip.

Thank you for any advice!

Posted by
11107 posts

If you have time while in Istria, I also recommend Porec (touristy but colorful and pretty), the tiny coastal spot of Vrsar and Groznjan in the interior.

I think an extra day or two would be nice. I'm nearly certain you're going to find that you need two separate car rentals, which will cost you a bit of time. You've sketched out some days that seem likely to be long ones, such as Plitvice with a lot of photography followed by drving to Rovinj.

Posted by
111 posts

Would you think staying in Plutvice that night would be better then driving on in the morning? Where would you add in a couple of extra days?
Thanks for the suggestions of other places to explore. :-)

Posted by
3400 posts

As photographers (I am also), you MUST stay over at Plitvice so you can get into the park at 7am (or close) when it opens! Otherwise, those pesky tourists will ruin your shots - trust me! If you plan to shoot waterfalls with a tripod to do long exposures, as I did there, by mid-day tourists even approaching behind you going thump, thump, thump on the boardwalks will shake your tripod and frustrate the heck out of you!!! Get in at 7am and you have an hour or two without so many people.

If you arrive early enough the first evening, you could start your visit then. If you stay in one of the overpriced but convenient hotels that are right in the park (run by the park), they can stamp your park ticket from the previous day to allow you to enter again the next day without paying again - FYI. Otherwise, there isn't much to do in the area at night, really - not much of a town nearby, which is the downside of staying at Plitvice.

Trogir isn't "on the way" to Split FYI - you'd drive back to Split after Trogir, and that may take more time than you'd expect. Map it out on Google Maps to see what I mean. Unless you plan to use the car while in Split, I suggest not hiring it until you leave Split - and take a catamaran or bus up to Split instead. No point in just parking it in Split. You can take a passenger-only catamaran to Hvar, though some people may like having a car on Hvar I guess. (I haven't been there.)

You could drop the car in Rovinj and take the bus to Slovenia - or drop it in Rijeka (about an hour drive backtrack) and take a direct train to Ljubljana. Instead of dropping the Slovenian car in Trieste, maybe drop it in Koper, Slovenia, and take a bus or GoOpti transfer north to Trieste/train to Venice.

Driving from Ljubljana to Bled, consider the scenic detour via the town of Skofja Loka (worth a stop) - and the drive from Skofja Loka through the mountains, through Jamnik and Kropa, is really scenic and beautiful.

Posted by
3400 posts

If you have more time:
- stop in Sibenik and/or Krka National park north of Split
- in Slovenia, drive the "Julian Alps loop" via the Vrsic pass - maybe add a night near Bled with the car.

Posted by
111 posts

Hi Andrew! Thank you so much. As a photographer, how much time would you recommend (roughly) for Plitvice? How early can we get in there in the morning? If we have already paid, can we get in before the payment place opens? Tourists banging on boardwalks..... arghghghg!!!! Tripod nightmare! Is there a route you'd recommend for walking around the park? I have looked at the website and there seems to be several options. We want to see it all!
Also, can I ask... how long were you in Split for?
Thanks for your clever ideas re car drops - much appreciated. I'll look into Trojir more as well.

Posted by
11107 posts

I am not a photographer, but perhaps this kernel of information may help you: The next-to-longest of the labeled paths is the one I took in 2015. I think I beat the projected walking time by a bit over an hour. I didn't make many stops except for 10 minutes or so to eat some yogurt, but on the other hand my speed was significantly affected by the massed humanity on the walkways, and I had two sprained ankles and was trying to avoid reinjury. (I arrived at 10 AM and spent an hour in the ticket line. Don't make that mistake.) So I think you can assume that the park's walking-time estimates are very conservative, though you'll need to pad them significantly to allow for taking pictures.

There are some paths that aren't part of the labeled routes. I'm sure they're much less busy, but I assume they tried to incorporate most of the very best view points into one or more of the labeled paths. The map you get at the ticket booth is a tiny little thing, perhaps just printed on the ticket itself. I recommend spending the 3 euros (as of 2015) for a larger map of the park area. It wasn't available at the ticket booth when I visited, but rather in the small shop nearby. I think it would be helpful if you venture off the labeled routes. The shop also was selling a bit of food, but all I really remember seeing was packaged cookies.

Posted by
3400 posts

Cathy, I'm sorry, I really don't remember the routes very well at Plitvice - my last visit was in 2015, when I stayed away from the park at a B&B and got up early and parked at the entrance #2 parking lot and bought my ticket there, then walked into the park. I think it opens at 7am in September.

Entrance #2 is near the Upper Lakes trails and two(?) of the park hotels - I stayed at one, the Hotel Plitvice, in 2009. I personally found this part a tad more picturesque but it's all pretty nice. Honestly, you could see the gist of the park in 6-8 hours. At some point you reach kind of a saturation, where you've seen dozens of beautiful waterfalls - OK, that's plenty! It's amazing, but after a while it gets kind of redundant.

One possible reason for a photographer to do an extra day in Plitvice wouldn't be so I could see more of it - it would be to hike the park in the opposite direction to get it in different light. But with limited time in Croatia and Slovenia, I'd probably spend the extra time seeing somewhere else. (E.g. Krka as I mentioned above.)

On my first trip, I spent two nights in Split (no day trips); on my second trip, I spent a night in Trogir. I didn't really fall in love with Split - maybe my expectations were too high, and maybe the weather turning cold and rainy (mid-October) put a damper on things. Many people like Split more than I did. Trogir a few years later felt much more charming (and smaller) than Split but, paradoxically, much less interesting.

You can see my pictures on my website(s) if you like - click on my name to read my profile.

Posted by
2506 posts

You may wish to consider taking the Krilo catamaran or bus to Split, as you don’t need a car for that element and parking is difficult there.

It would make more sense to visit Trogir (not Trojir) on the way to Plitvice to avoid doubling back. A half day is sufficient here.

A couple of extra days if you can manage it would be great for Istria, otherwise this is a bit rushed.

Posted by
111 posts

Thank you so much for all of the replies.... I really appreciate them. Plitvice seems like it is a beautiful place. I think we will get the ferry to Split so we save on driving.... thank you for that thought.

Posted by
111 posts

Hi again everyone - I have reworked the itinerary based on your ideas. Any thoughts appreciated!
I cant begin to tell you how helpful this forum has been :-) Such generous and knowledgeable people.
I am planning a trip to Europe (from Australia) and this is the Croatia leg, which sits in the middle of our holiday. I have reworked it several times and dropped places in order to see the places we are going in a little more depth. This itinerary is where I am at and I would love feedback- questions are in brackets.
I have dropped the Opitja peninsula off for this trip as we'd be too rushed.

day 1 - direct flight at 7:30am Amsterdam - Dubrovnik - afternoon / evening in Dubrovnik
day 2 - Dubrovnik
day 3 - Morning /lunch in Dubrovnik then 4pm ferry to Split (Am I allowing enough time in Dubrovnik to see the sights but also have some time to 'breathe' and take it all in a bit?)
day 4 - Split
day 5 - Split - maybe a boat trip to Trojir (We could add a day in Split to have two full days in Split itself and then on the third day venture to Trojir)
day 6 - Pick up rental car. Drive late afternoon to Plitvice National Park to arrive early evening
day 7 - early as we are allowed start (seems they open at 8) in Plitvice National Park - drive to Ljubjana (3 hours). (Not sure if we are better to sleep near the park and then drive in the morning, or drive to arrive early evening. Is it an 'easy' drive on main roads, or more of a twisty tiring drive?)
day 8 - Ljubjana
day 9 - Ljubjana - explore the area nearby, eg Lake Bohini, or Vintgar Gorge - not sure yet
day 10 - to Lake Bled for the day (thinking we would base ourselves in Ljubjana and travel to Lake Bled for the day as it isnt far away, to save on moving and packing - or would you recommend 2 nights in Lake Bled? We want to see the lake, castle, eat cream cake ...we could also extend a day and stay longer in Lake Bled)
day 11 - leave Ljubjana - visit Skojcan caves and Lipica Horse Stud- drop car in Trieste and get late train to Venice. (Do you know of any car rental places let you drop the car at the train station? I see it come up as an option when searching for rental cars but cant find a company that actually does it!)

One last question... through this forum we found a brilliant sounding bed and breakfast in Bruges. Could you recommend any accommodation in any of the places we are visiting? Looking for central, very clean, up to around 150 euros per night.
Thank you for any recommendations.

Posted by
49 posts

I will suggest for all other staying on Korcula Island as a base and go visiting Dubrovnik as a day trip. You will save money and have more time for lovely beaches and taste much better local cuisine.

Slovenia is very popular duo Malenia. I must admit she is the extraordinary woman. Renting car your route is manageable. If you have space to add Plitvice Lakes and stay one night there you will be naturally energized. Lika region with Plitvice lakes is the birthplace of NIkola Tesla - great inventor.