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Croatia and ?? (Venice, Venice and Dolomites or Slovenia)

So....my husband and I are trying to nail down our itinerary for a 2 week trip to Croatia in June (approaching rapidly). My husband is really set on going to Croatia, but he's not a big fan of beaches, so I was hoping to split the trip with a week in Croatia and a week somewhere nearby (either Italy or Slovenia). We went to Rome and Florence on our honeymoon 5 years ago, but just did a day trip to Venice (so would love to go back there. I'm hoping we can fly into Dubrovnik, Croatia and out of either Venice or Zagreb, Croatia.

Can anyone give feedback on the itinerary below? I'd welcome advice on the first half of the trip, but I'm more interested to hear which of the last three options you would choose and why? I'm not sure we will ever get back to this region and we don't mind some travel time between site. Thanks in advance.

Fly into Dubrovnik

Days 1-3: Dubrovnik

Take Ferry to VIS or HVAR on Day 3

Days 3-5: VIS or HVAR and Islands Tour
Take Ferry to Split on Day 5

Days 5-7: Split
Pick up Rental Car in Split and drive to Plitvice Lakes on Day 7

Day 7-8: Plitvice Lakes

From There: (Days 8-14)

Option 1: Explore Istria and Take Ferry to Venice
Drive to Rovinj, Croatia on Day 8
Days 8-11: Explore Rovinj, Pula and Surrounding Area
Drop rental car in Rovinj and take Ferry to Venice
Days 12-14: Explore Venice and Fly Home

Option 2: Go to Slovenia and Fly out of Zagreb
Drive to Ljubljana on Day 8
Days 8-13: Base in Ljubljana and explore, Soca River Valley, Lake Bled and Julian Alps
Day 13-14: Drive to Zagreb, Croatia and fly home

Option 3: Take Ferry to Venice and Explore Bolzano
Drive to Pula on day 8 and spend the night
Day 9: Travel Day
Take ferry to Venice on Day 9
Get rental car at Venice Airport and drive to Bolzano Region
Days 10-13: Road trip to Verona and the Dolomites
Days 13-14: Return to Venice and Fly Home

Posted by
39 posts

I've basically done Days 1-7 of your trip, and am planning a future trip that combines Istria and Slovenia.

My instinct would be Option 2 (biggest variety of landscapes, and not as beachy, per husband's preference).
then 1 (still pretty compact geographic area, Rovinj gets a lot of positive reviews)
then 3 (most travel time, plus it seems like other than the Roman ruins, a lot of people aren't impressed by Pula)

Posted by
3931 posts

I understand why you want to stay in Hvar because it is always in the news as a go to place. But if your husband doesn’t like the beach why go. It is a party island. Laying in the beach during the day nursing your hangover, partying at night. I know other posters will tell you you can go to the other side of the island where it is quiet, but why bother when there are other island choices. Vis hasn’t much to see, it is one of those off the beaten track places. It was an old military base. Besides, you have to change catamarans in Hvar, there isn’t a direct ferry. If I was going to an island I would choose Korcula. Much more to see, the old town is car free, and the island’s other towns are fun to explore by bus or taxi. Blato has a nice winery. You take the same ferry, just get off in the next stop. What Americans don’t know about the islands along the coast is that they are all similar - Brač, Mljet, Pag, Rab, Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Olib, etc. Europeans, as well as Croatians go to these islands for a seaside, restful vacation, not to sightsee. Many rent the same B&B every summer for the same week or two. It would be like us renting on the Jersey Shore. We’ve been to many of these islands and feel that at least Korčula has more to see.

Posted by
3931 posts

I wanted to answer the second part of your question. I also would choose #2 and stay with the theme of Croatia. Slovenia is very beautiful. In fact, we are taking some family to Croatia in June and visiting Istria, Rijeka, Ljubljana p, and Zagreb with a few small towns thrown in. And I disagree about Pula. We love pula. The colosseum is very well preserved and you can walk around and inside, not like in Rome. They have a very impressive museum and you can go down into the old wine cellars. There is a beautiful cathedral also and a Korso (street) with shops and restaurants and no cars. One day is sufficient.

Posted by
3 posts

So Barbara, do you suggest we skip and island stay in Croatia and maybe spend some time in Istria before heading to Slovenia? I will look into the island you mentioned as stop. We definitely want to avoid party beachgoers where possible, but I love coastal scenery and just enjoying nature. Have you done any of the 5 islands boat tours?

Thanks for your input. I truly appreciate it. I'm a bit out of my element.

Posted by
4286 posts

Well, first, as far as what you see, none of those are bad choices. But if it were me, I would choose Option 2. Slovenia was an unexpected, wonderful surprise for me last year. The countryside was gorgeous - and very different from what I was seeing along the coast in Croatia - and the people were so nice. In addition, most travelers are more likely to get back to parts of Italy in the future. Ljubljana is not at all a bad drive from Plitvice.

The only thought I might have is whether you choose to base for the whole week in Ljubljana. It’s not a bad idea but as you get further into your planning, you might want to consider two places. Also, in case it matters, I found lodging in Bled to be far cheaper than Ljubljana.

I actually loved the vibe in Pula on a day trip and could easily have overnighted there. But I was staying 5 nights near Rovinj, which made a great base for Istria (but any number of other places would as well). I love Venice but have not yet visited your latter options in #3. So no wrong choice but if your husband wants non-beach, I would go with #2.

*edit. I took too long to write, but I am in the Korćula camp with Barbara. I enjoyed Hvar, but liked the “small-town” relaxed atmosphere of Korćula. Both are beautiful. I did not check out the boat trips from there as I had just done a full day Blue Cave trip from Hvar. It was a really fun day, as was the full day winery tour on Korćula.

Posted by
1652 posts

I would choose Option 2 as well because that is basically what we did, except we only had 3 nights in Slovenia and I wish we had more. It's so easy to get to from Plitvice. Why add on unnecessary travel time? We did the opposite of you, though. We visited Zagreb from Plitvice, then visited Ljubljana, and flew home from there. I think either way is fine, unless one city has better flights going home.

While we were in Ljubljana, we rented a car for a day and drove over the mountains (a stunning scenic drive) to Lake Bled. Ljubljana is beautiful! And the scenery is so different from coastal Croatia. We also enjoyed Zagreb, which is very different from Ljubljana and the places we visited in Croatia, such as Dubrovnik, Split, and Hvar. So you will get a lot of variety with this option and it's so easy to get there from Plitvice.

Regarding Hvar, we took a day trip from Split to Hvar Town and loved it. It is so beautiful! We were there in September and it wasn't too crowded and definitely not a party vibe during the day. We are in our 70's so not interested in partying. June might be different than September, though. I have heard nice things about Korcula but we didn't have time to visit.

Posted by
3931 posts

You could spend 2 nights on Korčula and add a day to Split or elsewhere. From there you could spend a day visiting Trogir, either by bus or ferry. I would always choose a ferry over the bus. Check crostiaferries.com for timetables and prices. We did a cooking class in Split which was so much fun. And I have a great guide you can hire for a city tour. He is very reasonable and is a native of Split. Krka National Park is a lovely day trip from Split too. If you look on line at a map of Croatia there are many small towns to stop at - opatija, Karlovač (where they make the local beer) etc. while driving to Slovenia then Zagreb. And….if you or your husband are Game Of Thrones fan there are many tours all around the area if Split and Dubrovnik. To me there are 4 cultures in Croatia - Dubrovnik is medieval, Split is Roman, Istria has an Italian influence and inland, Zagreb is more Germanic. Think Austrian-Hungarian. So if you hit a few places in each area you have covered the country. If you need more clarification just ask.

Posted by
18504 posts

I would save Italy for an Italy trip. You are in the Balkans and there is a lot to see there and the COVID restrictions are slight compared to Western Europe. So, that's your Option 2. Depending one where you are coming from and the airline, I would consider flying into Podgorica and spend the two weeks going north through Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. For me two nights in Dubrovnik and one night in Split were more than enough (really disappointed with Split) and Plitvice lakes was a stop over on the way from Zagreb to Split and that worked out just fine (4 hours of walking the lakes was more than enough for me).

Posted by
4830 posts

I would go with option 2. If you have a hotel in Ljubljana with parking, I would split days 8-13 between Ljubljana and a 2nd stay, perhaps Lake Bled.

In that scenario, since you'll be renting your car in Croatia and driving into Slovenia, be sure it is either equipped with (seems unlikely) or you purchase separately a Slovenia "vignette" for driving on their motorways, so as to avoid a hefty fine. At my most recent check, I believe the cost of the vignette had increased to 30 Euros for a 7 day pass. I recall purchasing mine at a petrol station shop prior to the border crossing.