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Itinerary Help Croatia October 2019

We are thinking of a driving tour & to save money & drop off car charges, we'd arrive & depart from Zagreb, Croatia with 2 to 3 nights per stop; thinking of:
Arrive Zagreb, Croatia 2 nights
Sarajevo; Bosnia & Herzegovina; ?
Kotor, Montenegro; ?
Dubrovnik, Split, Plitvice Lakes, Postojna Cave, Croatia; ????
Bled & Ljubljana, Slovenia, stay in Ljubljana & tour Bled???
Zagreb 1 night then depart.
We really don't have a time issue.
Would you add or delete stops; which ones???
Thanks all,
Jean

Posted by valadelphia
627 posts

How much time do you have (i.e., enough to put three nights per stop)? What month?
I would plug it all into google maps so you get a realistic picture of driving times.
What some people do is fly between Dubrovnik and Zagreb (fairly cheap on Croatia Air if you book in advance)--it could possibly help reduce driving required and eliminate the need for splitting time in Zagreb.

Posted by jean.h3131 OP
288 posts

Hi Val; I've edited my questions related to your answer but didn't think of flying between Dubrovnik & Zagreb, thank you...so you would pass up Bosnia?

Jean

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3217 posts

I covered most of these places on my 2015 driving tour of Croatia and Bosnia (I have been to Slovenia separately on other trips).

Here's how you might do it, similar to my trip:
Fly into Venice, immediate transfer to Ljubljana (or same from Zagreb if that's an easier airport for you than Venice)
Ljubljana, Bled, etc. - maybe rent a car for a few days.
Train to Zagreb, pick up car, drive immediately to Plitvice.
Plitvice
Split
Dubrovnik
Kotor
Sarajevo
Zagreb, drop car, spend a few nights and home

-

This avoids needing to split your time in Zagreb. And you don't really need a car in Ljubljana the first day or two, except for day trips. The town has big pedestrian-only areas and is very walkable. You can rent a car just for the day if need be - I have before - without the need to pay to park it.

If you have more time, I'd look at adding Istria - Piran (Slovenia) and Rovinj (Croatia) are lovely towns. Croatian Istria has some neat interior towns. In that case, you could drop the car near Piran and take a bus or GoOpti transfer down to Croatia and pick up the Croatian car there. Also, between Sarajevo and Zagreb there are some interesting Bosnian towns like Jajce and Travnik that aren't very touristy (in big contrast to everywhere in coastal Croatia). And I would stop in Mostar, maybe for a night, between Sarajevo and Kotor.

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
2315 posts

You may have problems trying to take a car out of the EU (Bosnia and Montenegro).

When are you travelling?

Two nights is only one day. You are planning on lots of driving and missing most of Croatia other than through a car window at speed. This has the feel of a 3 week trip? No Istria?

Posted by valadelphia
627 posts

If you've got the time, I would do it all! I do like the idea of flying so you can do a one-way driving trip.
If early October, I might try to slip in an island stopover. It might be nice to start in Dubrovnik and move north for getting the good weather in earlier (I'd rather see the coast in nice weather, whereas Zagreb's city attractions do not call for sun as much).
Kotor was not a highlight for me, not that that truly means anything, but if you wanted to cut something...and I have a suspicion that Montenegro's marvels are in its mountainous interior.
If you wanted to add something, Istria is reportedly very nice in October--truffle season and such, and it could break up your drive.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3217 posts

The Bay of Kotor was most definitely a highlight for me - incredibly scenery along the bay, plus the mountain drive from Kotor to Cetinje offered breathtaking scenery down on the bay.

But the city of Kotor itself? No, not really a highlight for me either. Was OK.

The problem with the one-way trip option from Dubrovnik to/from Zagreb is that you either miss inland Bosnia or coastal Croatia. If you have time, I would most certainly do both. I found driving very easy in both Croatia and Bosnia (roads are fine in Bosnia but better in Croatia).

Posted by valadelphia
627 posts

Good point Andrew (on coast and interior)--I think much depends on what part of October (early/late) and how the weather shakes out. I'm starting to think that since jean has time at her disposal, that maybe splitting time in Zagreb is not such a big deal after all, and a very large loop might be the best plan.

Posted by jean.h3131 OP
288 posts

Flying from Dubrovnik would save a lot of time especially if I cut Kotor; I think at least 3 days in each would be great; I'll look at driving to Istria, Piran & Rovinj on the way to Plitvice Lakes. The weather is still very pleasant in Dubrovnik late Oct. Probably leave mid-Oct. from Toronto. The suggestions made are great, thank you all!

Jean

Posted by jean.h3131 OP
288 posts

Would you add the smaller coastal cities and cut Bosnia? Is Split worth staying at?
Thanks again,
Jean

Posted by valadelphia
627 posts

Split is the only place I'd call a city on the coast--it has a fascinating history, but up to you what is of interest.
You need not omit Bosnia: Korcula would work well either before or after Mostar.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3217 posts

Jean, only you know what's important to you. The coastal Croatia experience very different from inland Bosnia. Some people want to be on the water (and would include an island or two though October is end of the season, by end of October the islands might be pretty dead). I did the "loop" with both coastal and inland on my second trip; the first time, I did Zagreb to Dubrovnik with stops in between.

I wouldn't say I fell in love with anything in Bosnia, to be quite honest (even Sarajevo didn't charm me as much as it seems to others). But in many ways it was refreshing compared to touristy coastal Croatia. It's nice to explore real towns that are not just tourist traps. The mobs of tourists wear me down after a while. (In early October tourism should be winding down in Croatia but still going; that's when I first visited.)

If you love history, Sarajevo is a must at some point, I'd say. Try reading the book "The Trigger" by Tim Butcher. It's a retracing of the steps of the assassin Gavrilo Princip, who famously shot and killed Austrian Arch Duke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 to "trigger" the catastrophic first world war. Butcher also comments on the modern country, which he covered during the Bosnian war in the 1990s. You might find Bosnia more intriguing in general after reading this book.

But if this kind of history is kind of a shrug for you? Then yes, I'd probably skip most of Bosnia, except perhaps for Mostar which is an easy detour between Split and Dubrovnik.

Posted by jean.h3131 OP
288 posts

Hi Andrew, I love history and know a lot of the World Wars so that would be of interest. This gives me a lot to think about when planning this all out!
Many thanks,
Jean

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
3217 posts

Jean, after reading "The Trigger's" detailed description of the Arch Duke's motorcade route the day he was shot, I was able to stand there on the Latin Bridge for a while and just imagine it all unfolding in front of me. In some ways, Sarajevo from that vantage point isn't all that much different 100 years later.

I also boned up on the Bosnian War by watching a BBC documentary on it that's available on YouTube. There's some great stuff on YouTube about this. One is an old Frontline about the "Romeo and Juliet" of Sarajevo, a Muslim and a Serb couple who were both killed during the siege, which gives you some human perspective on that terrible war.

If you like wrecked fortresses, there is one at the top of both the towns of Travnik and Jajce. Travnik was the last Ottoman capital of Bosnia, and Jajce was the old capital when Bosnia had a king. Jajce in addition has a beautiful waterfall below the town.

Croatia has history, too, but it tends to get overshadowed by the sun-and-fun touristy stuff.

Posted by Digbydog
Cincinnati
71 posts

We really enjoyed Kotor and Perast in Montenegro. We had lunch in Kotor and then hiked up the Ladder of Kotor for fabulous views. We spent the night in Perast, which is tiny but charming. In the morning we took the boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks. We had beautiful weather, so maybe that influenced our enjoyment. It is no problem taking a car to Bosnia or Montenegro. You just need to tell your rental car company so that you can get a green card.

We had an open jaw flight into Dubrovnik and out of Zagreb, which saved backtracking and some money.