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Itinerary advice - Dubrovnik to Slovenia to Zagreb

Just booked my longest trip ever at 15 nights (a birthday treat!) Would love some feedback, particularly managing days around Ljubljana/Bled. This is in high season, end of June into July. I fly out of Zagreb, best I could do. I plan to use public transportation exclusively.

Dubrovnik - 3 nights (arrive on a Thursday)
Korcula - 3 nights
Split - 2 nights
Plitvice - 1 night
Bled - 1 night
Ljubljana - 3 nights
Zagreb - 2 nights

I feel pretty good about this through Plitvice. Not sure about Slovenia portion. Do I flip Ljubljana & Bled? Split the nights 2/2? Would you move day anywhere here? Thanks in advance, this is a tough but to crack!

Posted by
5223 posts

What do you plan to do in these places? Enjoy the weather and the beach e.g. three nights in Korcula? Dubrovnik is lovely, but unless you have things planned during the days e.g. day trips, it's a very busy/mobbed place during the day, and I would imagine it's even worse in summer. Do you need three nights? Maybe - but I would want to know what you are planning to do during the days. There are beaches - if that's your plan that's fine.

I don't see the point of spending a single night in Bled. Visiting the lake an easy day trip by bus from Ljubljana. Plus, your're making your long day getting from Plitvice to Slovenia even longer by ending in Bled.

So you could do four nights in Ljubljana including a day trip to Bled...or cut a night from Ljubljana (which I love) and add it elsewhere. Depends what you want to see in Slovenia. Ljubljana itself is small and doesn't need much time, but it's a lovely place to come back to at night. (The town of Bled not so much - but the lake is beautiful.)

Posted by
421 posts

Zagreb to Ljubljana is about 3 hours by train so its not a huge deal - but its a pain that you have to back track.

We skipped Plitvice in the end - but I got as far as looking at connections through Istiria e.g. Rjeka or Piran.

We travelled 6 weeks in Balkans - all on public transport - but hired a car for a few days in Slovenia - because the country is soo much easier without relying on buses /trains (with the exception of the Ljublyana/Zagreb train).

The country is tiny and with a car we easily covered Lake Bled, the Julian Alps and back to Ljublana with a 4 day hire (it could have been 3 days). . The capital is fine but I'd spend more time in the country if you can afford it (and the car, hired a few weeks prior was only around Euro25/day)

Zagreb doesn't really need 2 nights - it has some fantastic museums, but they are all closed (regardless of what Google says) because of a major earthquake in 2020 - unlikely to reopen any time soon.

Posted by
1105 posts

We spent 3 nights in Dubrovnik and did not regret our decision. It gave us time to walk along the walls, visit a monastery, and the Photo Limited War Museum which I highly recommend. Took the cable car to the top of Mt. Srd and had drinks overlooking Dubrovnik and the Adriatic. We also hired a driver and took a day trip around the Bay of Kotor. One of the best days of our trip. We visited Budva, Kotor, and Perast, which was our favorite.

We also spent 3 nights in Ljubljana that included a day trip to Lake Bled. I agree with Andrew that Ljubljana is a lovely city to come back to at night after sightseeing. We took a “free” guided walking tour which was a lot of fun and very informative. And enjoyed strolling around, taking photos, etc. Our drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled was gorgeous. Over the mountains, stunning scenery. I am sure it would be nice to stay in the countryside, too, but we didn’t have time for that.

We also really enjoyed spending 2 nights in Zagreb but that was before the earthquake so we did visit one museum and then spent our time strolling around the city, taking photos and visited the market. Zagreb is very, very different from Dubrovnik and Split so it gives you nice diversity.

Posted by
3136 posts

I have a fixation on doing one country/area--it's just a personal preference. But it's also based on experience, and no matter how lovely Slovenia is, leaving the coast/skipping all those islands in summer could be painful. But then hiking to a beach is just as spectacular to me as a museum/city.
Of course if you are traveling solo, a faster pace is expected and reasonable. I think your allotment of nights is perfect.

Posted by
3859 posts

What a great birthday treat! We traveled to Slovenia and Croatia on a tour in Sept. 2018. Started in Ljubljana and ended in Dubrovnik. I would agree with Andrew and make Lake Bled a day trip. We spent 4 nights in Ljubljana and didn’t want to leave! The city is magical at night. Our favorite island was Korcula. This is ideal for beach time, historical sights, and wonderful cuisine. I think a couple nights in Zagreb would be great prior to departure for home. Enjoy your planning!
Edited to add: If interested in an art museum in Split, I highly recommend the Ivan Meštrović Gallery. We spent a couple hours viewing the magnificent Sculptures. In addition the building is surrounded by a Mediterranean garden and a stunning view of the sea & central Dalmatian islands. It ended up being a relaxing time. Our favorite unique restaurant was Perivoj. It is set in a lovely garden & beautiful architecture from the period of Art Nouveau Movement.

Posted by
587 posts

Thanks for responses!
@Lissie
I had no idea about the museums in Zagreb! Thanks! That’s unfortunate, but yeah hard to justify 2 nights especially at the end of the trip. Feels like I might get waiting-room-syndrome.

@Andrew H
This trip is a departure from my usual European adventure, short on museums, long on relaxation. So yeah, on Korcula at least basically beach/relaxation. Agree Dubrovnik on the face of it sounds like it could be straight up miserable. But I arrive late afternoon on day 1 and then an early ferry out, leaves only two full days. Given the excursions available, I’m actually tempted to add a night there. Cavtat sounds like a relaxing day. If I leave Dubrovnik for the evening hours, it feels more attractive. Is day-tripping to Bled easy/cheap enough to consider multiple day trips? I was interested in biking a bit, maybe to Vintar Gorge. Perhaps this option lets me play that by ear.

@kmkwoo
Would 4 nights in Dubrovnik (with multiple excursions) seem crazy? Given the museums are closed in Zagreb, would you give it one night or does it still have enough going on to justify a full day versus Ljubljana/Bled?

Also interested if anyone has stayed in Bled, and if they would recommend staying over day-tripping for reasons other than convenience (i.e. crowds, evening views, atmosphere.)

Posted by
2865 posts

Agree with most posters, go to Bled as a day trip. Ljubljana is a lovely city, but small. The Enthographic museum in Zagreb is the only one open in the lower town but the museums in the upper town are open. (we were there in June) Oh, in June the 3 churches in the upper town were also closed. You can easily be busy for 3 days in Dubrovnik. People overlook spending a lovely day on Lokrum Island, a 10 minute ferry ride from the pier. You can swim, bring a picnic, or eat at the one cafe there, hike up to the old fort built by Napoleon, see Game of Throne sites and a small museum.

Posted by
5223 posts

I'm not sure it's worth doing two day trips to Bled, though it is cheap to get there by. There are many daily direct buses. (Some are express buses with fewer stops.) You could actually take the train too and take a bike with you from Ljubljana. (Not all trains permit bikes.) The train is less convenient than the direct buses, but there are two stops near the town. Lesce Bled is a few km from the town so not practical for walking passengers but might be OK with a bike. You can also connect at Jesenice to another train that takes you to Bled Jezero station - it's a station just above the lake opposite of the town. It's again an option with a bike. There's a train stop at the town of Vintgar as well. I don't think you can ride your bike through the gorge, though. But some apparently hike through it all the way to the town.

Three or four nights in Dubrovnik is fine if you have your daytime plans worked out. It is a lovely place to come back to at night when it's much quieter.

Posted by
2440 posts

Also interested if anyone has stayed in Bled, and if they would recommend staying over day-tripping for reasons other than convenience (i.e. crowds, evening views, atmosphere.)

I stayed at Lake Bled for 3 nights in Sept. 2021 and enjoyed it. However I don’t think my experience is relevant for your question since all of Croatia was less crowded and I have no experience with day tripping. Still, somewhere closer to the natural beauty of Slovenia would appeal to me personally for 2 of your 4 Slovenia nights. I would probably love Ljubljana for slow travel - but that’s not what you have. Plus I had a car so am unfamiliar with the public transportation routes and what you could see.

Posted by
22481 posts

I stayed in Ljubljana and took day trips to Bled, Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj (combining the last two, I think). Lake Bled is really small; you can walk all the way around it in two hours. At the time of my 2015 trip, there was a taxi hanging out at the Bled bus station right before buses were due in. Rates to Lake Bohinj, the gorge, and back to Ljubljana were very reasonable if you had others to share with (which was often possible). On that trip I was really surprised at how reasonable the taxi rates were. I have no idea how much they've increased in the meantime.

Posted by
1105 posts

awrzesinski,
Because the museums in Zagreb's upper town are open per Barbara, I would then definitely stay 2 nights in Zagreb. We visited the Museum of Naive Art and really enjoyed it. The expressionistic paintings are done by untrained peasant artists. Very unique and memorable. We took our time wandering through the market and exploring upper town and lower town and taking lots of photos. We really enjoyed Zagreb. Reminds us a little bit of a smaller and less crowded Prague. And as I said before, it's very different architecturally from Dubrovnik and Split so you get some nice diversity.

Regarding Dubrovnik, I don't think 4 nights would be too long. There are other day trips in addition to the Bay of Kotor, such as Lokrum. And it's a lovely city to return to at night just like Ljubljana is. Personally, we didn't find the crowds to be horrible but we were there in September 2019. Perhaps June/July is more crowded. And I always believe you get more enjoyment by not only seeing the sights but exploring the back lanes and such, and finding lovely nooks and crannies. For example, our favorite restaurant in Dubrovnik is Kopun, located at the top of the baroque Jesuit steps, across from the Jesuit church. This location is lovely, and we accidentally found Kopun by just wandering around.

In Split I recommend visiting the Ethnographic Museum. It's very interesting and was not crowded when we were there. We also hired Maja Benzon, who is recommended by Rick, for a 2-hour private tour of Diocletian's Palace and the Old Town. She was worth every penny!

Posted by
587 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback and suggestions. You can always count on the folks on this forum! Since I arrive late in the day and will be leaving early, I have decided to add a night to Dubrovnik and take that from Zagreb. It’s doubtful I’ll see this area again, so am keen to give it extra time. It seems I’ll have a pretty full day in Zagreb, and possibly a few hours transferring between Plitvice and Ljubljana. I figure I’ll just stay 4 nights in Ljubljana and day trip to Bled. No one seems to think 4 nights in Ljubljana is crazy. I have to admit it may be the place I am most looking forward to, as everyone seems to love it. There’s only tough choices here it seems, so thanks again for helping me make some of them.

Posted by
5223 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback and suggestions. You can always count on the folks on this forum! Since I arrive late in the day and will be leaving early, I have decided to add a night to Dubrovnik and take that from Zagreb. It’s doubtful I’ll see this area again, so am keen to give it extra time. It seems I’ll have a pretty full day in Zagreb, and possibly a few hours transferring between Plitvice and Ljubljana. I figure I’ll just stay 4 nights in Ljubljana and day trip to Bled. No one seems to think 4 nights in Ljubljana is crazy. I have to admit it may be the place I am most looking forward to, as everyone seems to love it. There’s only tough choices here it seems, so thanks again for helping me make some of them.

Some people love Zagreb and think it deserves more time than you are giving it. We all have different tastes. But it's not a favorite place of mine. I just returned for a single night after not having visited Zagreb for 13 years. I wondered if I hadn't given Zagreb a fair shake the first time. And I was happy to visit again...but one night back was plenty. I liked my return visit but really wouldn't have wanted to spend any more time than I did. It just isn't the kind of place that grabs me. It is pleasant but not especially charming.

I've been to Ljubljana a few times and love going back. But I hope your expectations aren't too high. (Sometimes high expectations are too hard to meet and have left me disappointed in a place more than once.) While Ljubljana has some museums, there aren't many, and I don't think any of them are exactly world-class. It's not exactly a cultural must-see capital of Europe. (I'm not much of a "museum person" though.) Ljubljana is not very big and there's not a whole lot to see. But it's really pretty and charming, and while there are tourists for sure now, it's just not overwhelmed with them the way so many European cities seem to be. (Split seemed pretty touristy by comparison on my recent return visit there.)

Ljubljana is a great place to come back to at night. So if you have worthy day trips lined up, four nights is not too much time. Many people do a day trip to one of the caves an hour or two from Ljubljana. There are also some neat little towns nearby like Skofja Loka and Kamnik you can easily reach by bus (or maybe train to Kamnik, but I wound up driving there on one visit.) Depending on your day plans for Bled, you could start the day with a stop in the old town of Radovljica (easy train stop) and take a bus (probably) or train from there to Bled. Bled offers some diversions besides just walking around the lake e.g. take a pletna boat ride out to the island/church (never done it myself). You can also hike up from the lake through the woods to the castle, if you want to hike, or hike nearby Vintgar Gorge.

Posted by
77 posts

with your original plan as posted, I would cut one night from Korcula, I think 2 nights there would be relaxing and plenty, and add a night to Lake Bled. We stayed in all of these places on a 31 day trip in Sept/Oct 2021, and think you have a pretty good plan. Both Bled and Zagreb were surprises that we fell in love with (like, we are planning retirement travel around how long can we stay in Zagreb...). OK we loved Ljubljana too :) And Dubrovnik. Anyhoo... you've got a good plan. You can see my trip report from Oct. 2021 to see how we traveled from Split early morning to Plitvice, did most of the day around the lakes and waterfalls, then got dropped off at our stay in Zagreb. One long day but worth it, we thought. Happy trip planning!

Posted by
89 posts

I like your itinerary for the most part

IMO, 2.5 days on Dubrovnik isn’t too much at all. The walls and city center do fill up btw 1030-1700 but the city is amazing and you can spend noon up at the war museum or a short cab/boatride down the coast if you want to get away. And the city is spectacular in the morning and evening

Some people like Split, but I found it about as charming as Newark.

Korcula is perfect for 3 nights.

Bled makes a nice overnight, imo. Again, you can get an early boat out to the island and beat the crowds by being close. We actually spent 2 nights.

Ljubljana is fine w only 2 nights if you want.

An overnight near Plitvice is really important for beating the crowds

Zagreb… I dunno.